East Lansing High School principal sets a vision for the new school year

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Ashley Schwarzbek/East Lansing High School Board of Education

The East Lansing Board of Education held a meeting Oct. 23 to review goals put in place. 

Ashley Schwarzbek, the new head principal for the 2023-2024 school year, follows former East Lansing High School principal Shannon Mayfield. Schwarzbek is not new to the school though, she began as associate principal in January of 2020. Following public comment, she spoke on goals for this year.

“We kind of distilled down into these three buckets to say what are the main focuses that we want to have here at the high school this year in order to really make sure we have a fantastic year,” Schwarzbek said.

Schwarzbek’s first goal is about support for students and staff. Schwarzbek emphasizes the importance of feeling supported within the school. Part of this goal included brain research on the effects of structure within these environments. Schwarbek talks about the Restorative Approach which helps students feel connected and accountable to the community. The brain state within this approach is a relaxed alertness. 

“This idea of high support and high structure really certainly wasn’t developed by me, developed by some educational psychologists and restorative practice workers that work specifically with IARP and schools to say what is the kind of ideal environment for students to be able to obtain their highest goals and for them to have the smoothest running school culture,” Schwarzbek said. 

Structures put in place include door and camera monitoring, a true success room, an increased safety team, a cell phone policy, schoolwide pass procedures, and a rave emergency system.

Support systems put in place for this goal include the dean of student success + advocates, community mentoring groups, community in schools partnership, 4 counselors, 2 social workers, multi-tiered system of support process, and transforming research into action to improve the lives of students’ social and emotional learning curriculum. 

The second goal Schwarzbek went into is about Trojan True. Utilizing Trust, Respect, Unity, and Equitym Trojan True is the PBIS initiative, which stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Trojan True values are expected from both students and staff, so everyone feels comfortable within the building. 

“PBIS has been around for quite a long time,” Schawzbek said. “It has really positive benefits for students K-12. It’s really about engaging students so that they feel connected and safe and positively praised for doing well within our environment.” 

The final goal is the Greatest “HITS.” High-impact teaching strategies put in place, setting clear learning goals, instructional pacing and lesson structure, collaborative learning, explicit teaching and questioning, multiple exposures and differentation, formative assement and feedback. 

 “The first two goals really center around climate and culture and those are critical components to making sure that students have a positive experience here,” Schwarzbek added. “We are ultimately an educational institution that wants to provide excellent instruction to our kids.”

Goals are not the only thing in place for the school year. Upcoming are a few programs for the high school, one of which has never been offered before. Ingham Community Health Center will be located within the high school, it is also a community resource. 

“We really acknowledge that the health of students’ physical and mental health is such a critical component to their success in school,” Scharzbek said. “It’s also been a barrier to just the scope of our school. You know we don’t have the ability to provide medical care to students.”

The ELHS After School Program has been in place in the past but has started up again on Oct. 23. Michigan State Students have volunteered to help tutor during the after-school program. This will take place Monday through Thursday from 2:45-3:45 p.m.

“I can speak on behalf of a parent with a child who has experienced many of these supports and I see a difference,” said Board of Education Secretary Tali Faris-Hylen.

With goals in place for the future school year there is still work to be done on everyone’s behalf. The Board of Education acknowledges it is a group effort and everything takes time. 

“We have work to do of course, but we are making continued efforts in the right direction,” said Board of Education President Terah Chambers. 

Terah went on to ask Schwarzbek to take a step back and comment on what she is feeling this year from last year. With many new hires, and implemented supports, there has been change within the school.

“I feel like we’re having a really beautiful school year, were a school community of over 1,300 people with staff and students and there’s not going to be a year where we’re going to have zero with that many human interactions,” Scharzbek explained. “We’ve had a really positive school year I feel like we’ve seen so much growth in many of our students individually.”

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