GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- It’s been two months since a new principal has been working at Washington Middle School.
Washington Middle School principal Cindy Olson and her office on wheels (WBAY photo)
Earlier this year, the Green Bay Area Public School District hired a third-party "turnaround partner" and new principal to help the school improve after a teacher resigned last year at a school board meeting. The teacher cited incidents of violence, sexual harassment, abuse and disrespectful behavior.
After two months with students, Principal Cindy Olson sat down with Action 2 News to lay out the changes being made so far this school year.
Principal Olson has a permanent office, but she prefers using a rolling desk so she can interact with students on a daily basis.
“It’s allowed students to see us in a different part of the school and in a different manner,” said Olson. “They are not only seeing us when they make poor choices, they are seeing us as they go about their day.
Olson said it’s just one of the changes she has made since taking over Washington Middle School in July.
“I do know every child deserves a great school and that goes for the students at Washington as well,” said Olson.
Along with a new auditorium, a nearly-finished orchestra room and a state-of-the-art sound-proofing studio, a student’s day also consists of grade-level behavior meetings. Olson said this gives staff and students a chance to talk about expectations.
“This last time we reviewed hallway expectations and then talked about respect. What does it look like, sound like and feel like?” said Olson.
Olson said the schools "turnaround partner," The American Institute of Research (AIR), has helped inside the classroom to “improve instruction so student engagement increases and then increases student learning.”
But what AIR doesn’t focus on is discipline and structure outside the classroom, so Olson said school administration is working on that as situations arise.
“Those we are learning about as we go and realizing we need a system for this, we need a procedure for this or we need a process for this,” said Olson. “One of those is when students come down to office. If an incident happens, we have a process for them to fill out a statement form so they can get back to class.”
Olson said a negative stigma about the school persists in the community, so she sends staff weekly emails to help promote the change going on inside the school.
“So that when someone asks them in the grocery store or has that conversation of ‘Oh, you work at Washington Middle School,’ they have some information to take back and give back about the great things happening here,” said Olson.
Olson admits there is still a lot of work to be done as last year’s state Department of Public Instruction’s report card rated the school as "meeting few expectations."
“I am not going to pretend we are perfect and everything is fixed. We have a lot of work to do,” said Olson.
But she has one simple request as she continues moving forward: “I often get asked, 'What do you need from us, Cindy? What can we do to help make your job easy or to make your job work?' Let us do our job. We will do this, but just let us do Washington,” said Olson. “Let us make Washington a success. Let us do our job. That’s what we need.”
For a look at DPI ratings for all schools across the state, visit https://dpi.wi.gov/accountability/report-cards