Admin Create Faculty Working Groups

Allision Weiser, Contributing Writer

The Poly Prep administration launched a new initiative for the 2022-2023 school year: faculty working groups. Beginning in October, these voluntary groups for teachers seek to offer recommendations to the administration to improve the school’s academic plan.

Assistant Head of School Michal Hershkovitz first “invited faculty members last May to volunteer for working groups” she noted. It was reintroduced in October when Hershkovitz sent a survey to all faculty members detailing the different groups being offered. Interested faculty members each chose one of the eight available groups: Community Events/Assemblies, Curricular Visions for Equity and Justice, Homework, Social-Emotional Wellness, Multidisciplinary Initiatives, Student Accountability, The Experience of Female-Identifying Students, and Grading Mission Statement/Philosophy. Hershkovitz then sent out the finalized list of members in each group, and some of the groups were given guiding questions to begin their exploration. 

Patricia Tycenski, a health and well-being faculty member, noted her group, which focused on community events, were given the questions: “What would you like to see more of in student programming? How do you create a more engaging student programming and how do you evaluate how things are going?”

Hershkovitz noted the groups are “self-directed” and “the administration has no part in them … It was really important for me to ensure that whatever recommendations the working groups made were not driven by the administration,” Hershkovitz said. Once each group comes up with their bullet-pointed 1-2 page recommendation, it will be delivered to the heads of the Upper and Middle Schools, Sarah Bates and André Del Valle, as well as Hershkovitz, at the end of the semester. 

Different groups took various approaches to their working groups. Stephen Bates, a member of the Community Events working group, noted “I think it’s nice that we have general topics to accomplish but the fact that there’s not supervision in that respect gives us the freedom to give our own suggestions without input from above.” Caitlin Loi, a math teacher and member of the Student Accountability working group, said “I would have preferred some guidance just to get a sense of what the administration wants…the process has not been super detailed I would say.”  

The groups all devised different tactics to face their specific problem. Beth Eby, a history teacher and a member of the Female-Identifying Students working group, said her six-person working group has met three times. Each meeting has been different, she noted. One meeting “was with administration about using some of the data from the youth truth survey,” and “another meeting was trying to understand all the various ways female students at Poly engage with the community and how their activities potentially shape that engagement.”

Other groups have focused more on outside perspectives. According to Loi, the Student Accountability group has put together an anonymous faculty survey to gauge a perspective of teachers about things such as the late penalty and grading policy. Additionally, Lee Marcus, a member of the Social Emotional Wellness group and an English teacher, said that his group has invited faculty into their meetings, including the school counselors. He also noted that the group hopes to work with students next in order to get a broader perspective of what social emotional wellness means to students. 

Faculty saw these groups as a way of being heard by the administration. Bates said that the groups are “a way for faculty to get involved and provide suggestions on things that need improving.” Tycenski said,“I think these committees are a more formalized version of being able to say things and get it on paper so that people will hear.” Marcus said he feels it’s “a chance for faculty members to be involved in school-wide issues.” 

Beyond the final recommendations that will come of the working groups, some faculty have found the process has already resulted in enriching takeaway. “As a new employee it’s been really great just to get to know…people who I might not necessarily have met prior to this and it’s also been really helpful for me to get a sense of how this school works,” said Eby. 

“We teach different topics and we have a very wide range of teaching experience as well so it’s been interesting to discuss what each of our priorities were in joining the group,” said Loi. 

“It’s an opportunity to be involved in the larger Poly community outside of my day to day responsibilities” Marcus noted. Danielle Rauch, a member of the math department and of the Curricular Visions group, noted she enjoyed bouncing ideas off of different teachers from varying departments. “When we talk about social justice in our classroom they manifest themselves in very different ways” Rauch pointed out. 

Hershkovitz also said that 29 faculty members have signed up so far. The groups have to find times to meet during the teachers’ already-packed schedules, and coming from various departments this has often been a challenge. Bates acknowledged that his group “met for 40 minutes cause that’s all that we could find.” Additionally, the curricular visions group has only “met only one time so far,” according to Rauch. Eby mentioned “because it is a six-person group it can be difficult to find a time to meet.” 

The recommendations will be in by January for review. Hershkvoitz and administration will then decide the next steps to take.“I have been so deeply impressed by the energy and the thoughtfulness and the motivation already demonstrated by these groups…It’s the kind of work that I think will make us all better,” said Hershkovitz.