THE ALLIES CORNER
MOVING FROM GOOD MEETINGS TO GREAT COLLABORATIONS
Assistant Principal Adam Boxer is responsible for Administration, Instruction and Support Services at Thomas Edison Career & Technical Education High School in Queens. This Cahn Ally, together with his 2011 Cahn Fellow and Principal Anthony Barbetta, researched, designed and implemented a cultural change for adult learning at Edison with the genesis and design of effective Professional Learning Communities (PLC) titled “Moving from Good Meetings to Great Collaborations.” This multi-year school plan successfully achieved the goals of their 2011 Cahn Challenge Project.
Adam began his career as a Health & Physical Education teacher at an intermediate School in Brooklyn and spent several years at Sheepshead Bay High School, working there as a teacher, dean and soccer and tennis coach. As Coordinator of High School Sports & Athletic Events at the Public Schools Athletic League (P.S.A.L.), he co-led an athletic cultural exchange pilgrimage to Russia. Boxer was also a member of the 2010 Advanced Leadership Program for Assistant Principals (ALPAP).
After completing Year I of Thomas Edison’s multi-year Cahn Challenge Project, how do you feel about the initial stages of this process?
A. We went through many obstacles in the implementation of our ideas to practice, common planning time, union issues and most importantly, changing our mindset into one of sharing and collaboration. Our challenge project was two-fold: 1) to provide an avenue for teachers to share personal best practices as well as proven, successful methods and styles; and 2) to break down the barriers of a school culture with 99% tenured teachers. Efficient collaboration will give Edison’s teachers the avenue to present to each other, while comparing and contrasting their craft with student outcomes being the ultimate goal. We no longer hold traditional monthly faculty conferences, instead we have faculty seminars. This new structure allows administrators to conduct teacher seminars across all departments, which had been rare.
Q. What evidence of change did you see in Year II?
A. The second year of our plan started slowly because my Cahn Fellow and Principal Anthony Barbetta moved his leadership to Townsend Harris High School. I then needed to familiarize our new Principal with plans laid out for this protocol. Together we initiated the continuation of the collaborative seminars as well as the teacher teams within different departments. I also continued with the Staff Advisory Professional Learning Committee begun last year by Principal Barbetta.
Q. What other changes are you planning to make as part of your Cahn Challenge?
A. The biggest adjustment I will make is to conduct a staff survey so that I can receive corrective feedback as to the direction and focus of our professional learning communities.
Q. What are your goals going forward for this school year?
A. I would like to see the Professional Learning Communities evolve to more of a teacher- led collaboration. I would like to personally visit every teacher’s class at least once and continue with observing instruction throughout all the departments. It will give me the focus to address instruction directly with them, and then have instruction act as an underlying thread for future professional learning communities.
Q. What do you foresee as Year II obstacles?A. The primary obstacle is that Edison has many teachers, including the entire C.T.E. department, who teach a sixth-period class which creates a scheduling conflict for common meeting time, especially when the other departments are included.
FROM THOMAS EDISON HIGH SCHOOL TO TOWNSEND HARRIS