In the 1990s the Wisconsin State Legislature established laws that would allow the formation of charter schools. A primary purpose of these public charter schools is to creatively focus on a best practice model that differs from traditional schools. Any positive results from these schools can then be used to tweak the mainstream public schools to make them even stronger. The coming year will see this unfold locally in a very direct manner.
We helped open Northwoods Community Secondary School back in 2004, serving hundreds of 6th-12th grade students and their families the last eight years. Our key design components are multi-age advisories, opening and closing our day with circle discussions that students often steer, and letting students develop projects that allow them to have more voice in the topics they study. We’ve also developed strong relationships with so many Rhinelander residents that have served as primary sources for both staff and students. Many local veterans, food panty volunteers, small business owners and civic leaders have become familiar faces to us. For all eight of those years our home has been the old South Park elementary building. This fall that all changes.
NCSS will be housed in the same building as RHS beginning next school year. But the two of us will no longer be a part of the NCSS staff. Laura will be taking the lessons of finding and selecting solid sources to her new position as the district librarian housed out of the current RHS LMC. Wil will be taking his lessons of helping students construct meaning of resources to the 7th grade history classrooms of JWMS. We are both excited for these new assignments, believing that we are acting out the spirit of Wisconsin charter school law. We get to bring the lens we’ve developed the last eight years in a non-traditional classroom to so many more students at JWMS and RHS. The things that work at NCSS shouldn’t be exclusive to just those students if they can work for other students too.
Leaving NCSS is a little bittersweet; there is much we will miss. But we remain excited for NCSS’ next chapter. The potential for greater collaboration and mutual influence will exist between RHS and NCSS staff and students. The students of both RHS and NCSS have a greater potential to seek out the best of both worlds in customizing their education. The essential elements of NCSS will remain in tact in their new location. We invite more students and families to check them out in the coming year.
As for us, we are also excited for our next chapters too. The remodeling at JWMS was done in a way that is quite similar to how NCSS designed their rooms, encouraging a free flow of staff and students, assuming not everyone is working on the same thing at the same time much of the day. Starting next fall, any secondary student at RHS/NCSS that meets with the librarian will be meeting with someone who has been working a model of education heavily rooted in individual inquiry and source analysis.
We want to thank our colleagues who have been part of NCSS over the years. We will hold those enriching relationships dear for years to come. We know that students benefited from our creative arguments, collaboration and regular reinventions. We’ll take the lessons you built with us to new collegial relationships, new classrooms and new students. No matter how unique of a year in Wisconsin this has been in our profession and industry, we count ourselves among the luckiest practitioners of this craft. Thank you.
Finally, we want to wish all Rhinelander area students a safe and enjoyable summer, encouraging all of them to seek out moments of learning in whatever they do.