Andrew Campanella: You’re the largest public charter school in America and you’ve posted incredible student achievement. What is the secret to your success?
Brian Bauer: The most important element is classroom teachers and the impacts that they have with students. That means hiring and supporting the best classroom teachers that we can possibly have. That makes the difference. It allows a student like Julia [Sevilla] to not only succeed academically but to have the confidence to pursue activities that she excels at.
Andrew Campanella: When you hire a teacher, what do you look for to make sure your students and your school can be successful?
Brian Bauer: We look for evidence of how a teacher goes about connecting with students and a willingness to go the extra mile to get to know students – to meet students where they are. We ask questions about how the teacher has embraced adversity, difficulty, challenges, and failure. The ability to collaborate is also important – the willingness to be a part of a team allows teachers to connect with students and be able to deliver content effectively. And, we want teachers to be aspirational for students… to see that the teacher’s not the saint on the stage, the purveyor of all information, but a coach, a mentor, an advisor… someone who inspires.
Andrew Campanella: What would you say that your school does to support your teachers so that they feel inspired and can inspire your students?
Brian Bauer: One, we compensate our instructors very well. I think any conversation about valuing teachers [must] include a recognition of their hard work and a compensation that is more aligned with that work. We recognize also that the teachers require time. So, we’ve built in professional development time throughout the day [and] throughout the week. That allows [time] for them and encourages them and creates a space for collaboration. Our charter status gives us greater flexibility with the same resources as a traditional public school. But there are other factors, as well. For example, we also are frequently reminding ourselves about the power of making connections – extending a hand or a “hello,” or a “how are you” to students on campus.
Andrew Campanella: How do you go about spotlighting the achievement of individual students?
Brian Bauer: We go out of our way to highlight student success. We define success rather broadly. So, it’s not just academic success that we make note of, or success on the playing field, or in an extracurricular club. We highlight students on our campus who do the right things, who hold the door open for another student, or who find a laptop on campus and return it to an adult. I think those things remind us of the importance of making connections, and that further instills a culture of recognition on our campus.
Andrew Campanella: Granada Hills has participated in National School Choice Week for several years now. What is the message that you try to share during National School Choice Week, and how do you do it?
Brian Bauer: We focus on not only the importance of choice with our students but the awareness of the type of school that our students and their families are in – and that is an independent charter school. And so, we do a lot of media and PA announcements during the school day and during the week. We also have a lot of different student service organizations and groups work on community service action projects. A lot of them are very focused on [raising awareness about] school choice and school options.
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