As I was visiting with the Juniors last Friday in all of their English classes, there was a moment when we were discussing the flow of this most ominous year, academically, in their high school careers. I mentioned the number of school days left (37) for their first semester of their junior year and there was a collective sigh of hope, and astonishment, that was followed by a smile. While visiting with the teachers in our Faculty Meetings during the lunches on Tuesday, I mentioned the number of school days left before Winter Break (35), and there was the same reaction. With both groups, we discussed the importance of staying focused while remembering that there are always end-dates to semesters that mark the passage of significant periods of time. In these moments, with these two distinct groups, there was an instant look wherein each person took themselves to a place of peace and serenity. The message is simple this week for our parents: there are only 33 days left until Winter Break, which really means only 29 regular school days due to our Final Exam Schedule. The old adage is true, “high school is a whirlwind and goes way too fast for a parent”. Hang in there, and let’s all hope, as parents, that we are in a good place with our children and get to be a part of their happy place. The family relationship is of the most importance.
It’s always a great day to be a Chaparral!
One of the greatest joys of serving as an educator is the moment you are reminded of the impact you have had on a child. Whether it comes face to face, from an email, or even a phone call, it is truly a magical event every time you hear positive praise for a job well done. As we head towards Donation Day for the Eanes Education Foundation, we want to share a few of the comments I have received since May about the quality of staff that we have at WHS. One of the most often asked questions is, “Does Mr. (Mrs) still teach at Westlake? They did this _____________________ for me.”
A parent who is a principal at a local private school asked about Mr. Misage, “My son always tells everyone that Mr. Misage made his life easy at MIT.”
A young lady of 25 asked me at a funeral earlier this fall, “Who is teaching at TLC still? If it hadn’t of been for Field, Pascal, Jones and McFarland, I would never had made it through WHS.” This former student now works at GSD & M after graduating the University of Texas at Austin with two degrees.
“Does Mrs. Uselton still teach WHS?” asked a former student who moved to WHS as a sophomore from a very low performing school. “Mrs. Uselton changed my life. I am now a nurse after being a paramedic from the training I got in her class and program.”
“I am now majoring in Journalism at UT. Has Mrs. Brown retired yet? She was the best.” This is from a former student who was cut from her favorite sport at WHS but who found a place to thrive at WHS and gained a new lifelong passion after some adversity.
“Is Coach Grigg still teaching World Geo? He was one of the best teachers I ever had in Eanes. He was a little loud, but he could teach us about places we had never heard of.” This from a former student athlete who is now a dentist looking to work for various groups so he can volunteer his time for folks who cannot afford dental care throughout the world.
We could continue with this process for a long time with our exceptional staff. The amazing reality about teaching, coaching, directing, and sponsoring is that one never knows the impact you will have on a life. We have a wonderful amount of offerings at WHS due to our gaining 13 EEF funded teachers this year. I cannot predict which teacher will ultimately influence and impact a student’s life because each student and teacher’s relationship is so unique. I can confidently state that the chances of this increases with our campus’s ability to hire a staff that offers so many wonderful opportunities for our students.
The Eanes Education Foundation would like to remind you one more time before Friday:
“WHS families, we have 13 short years from K-Graduation and we aren’t done yet. Keep WHS excellent and donate to EEF by going to https://eaneseducationfoundation.org/donate/ or bring/send a check this Friday morning and drop it off with EEF volunteers at carpool lines/entrance at Chaps Court, PAC or Freshman building. Every dollar counts. Every donor matters. “
While we had a unique bell schedule for our students on Wednesday, due to PSAT Testing, we can report that it all went rather well. Our sophomores and junior testers were on time and ready to go. Our freshmen were entertained and educated by Carl Hooker, our Director of Innovative and Digital Learning, as they focused on Social Media. Our freshmen then watched the movie Whale Rider with questions and discussion. Our seniors began their day at noon with the rest of the student body going to 4th Period. Our faculty hoped to see all of their students so we ran a modified schedule where all eight periods of the day did meet. The afternoon was a little lively with lots of class bells and teachers happy to see all their students.
We are looking forward to our Homecoming Pep Rally with actual fall weather on Friday morning! We hope everyone has a safe and cool weekend.
It's always a great day to be a Chaparral!
Next week will be our annual Homecoming week at Westlake High School. According to Wikipedia, “Homecoming is an annual tradition in the United States. People, towns, high schools, and colleges come together, usually in late September or early October, to welcome back alumni and former residents. It is built around a central event, such as a banquet and, most often, a game of football, or, on occasion, basketball, ice hockey or soccer. When celebrated by schools, the activities vary widely. However, they usually consist of a football game played on a school's home football field, activities for students and alumni, a parade featuring the school's marching band and sports teams, and the coronation of a Homecoming Queen (and at many schools, a Homecoming King). A dance commonly follows the game or the day following the game. The tradition of Homecoming has its origin in alumni football games held at colleges and universities since the 19th century. Many schools including Baylor, Southwestern, Illinois, and Missouri  have made claims that they've held the first modern homecoming.” So, that is the historical perspective of Homecoming throughout our country. Homecoming is a unique experience in each state, region, and even city or town. All of our Homecoming experiences are a little bit different. How does homecoming look at Westlake during the week of the 17th-21st?
We have a football game. We have a school and community-wide Pep Rally on Friday morning with alumni. We have a Queen and King with a grade level court. We have a dance on Saturday night. The dance is considered "Sadie Hawkins" where the girls ask the boys. Some dress up, some do not. Some go to dinner, some do not. Some dance, some do not. Mums are available, and they are spectacular (mums can still be ordered until October 17 at 5pm). We have a week of dress up days: Mix it Up Day, Tourist Day, Pajama Day, Sports Day, and Class Colors Day. It is a fun week for our students and teachers. It’s a week of Westlake pride.
We also wanted to remind you of a few events at Westlake High School. Dr. Leonard will be on campus tomorrow for the State of the District presentation. He will be speaking at noon in the PAC Lecture Hall. Since this takes place during a PTO meeting, I will be available in the Lecture Hall at 11 am to visit with any parents. We will have PSAT Testing on October 19th. Please see the AP Corner for all the information. We will also be hosting an event on October 24th on the proposed changes to the WHS GPA System. A flyer will come out next week with all the details. It should be an informative and interactive evening.
Have a safe and relaxing weekend as we head to mid-October! It's always a great day to be a Chaparral!
Time is really moving this year. As we head into our second Early Release Day on Friday, our second three day weekend, and our second No Homework Night, we use these markers to send the message that the days are cruising along this year at Westlake High School. Our first quarter actually ends next week. That is correct; our first grading quarter ends next Friday on the 14th. The ending of a grading quarter can always get a little exciting as it marks time in our minds and finalizes grades on a report card. So, if we compare our school year to a marathon, we have already run close to 6.5 miles or a little over a 10K. After being in classrooms over the last week, I would say we have hit a nice solid stride.
One of the nicest things of working at a secondary campus is the energy that one can draw on from watching our students. The youthful exuberance that our kids can display daily is contagious. One of our events that capture this energy is our college fair. Optimism, excitement, confidence and wide eyes make this day one of our finest mornings. There is a buzz that makes our college fair the model for so many other campuses. And like so many things at WHS, it is our kids, parent volunteers, and staff that make this day so unique. If you have not inquired about this event with your junior or senior, it might be worth asking about as a way to start a conversation about the future.
As part of the Challenge Success program, a small group traveled to Palo Alto last weekend. We had a group of teachers, students, parents, and staff attend the fall conference. As the year progresses, you will receive information from our group as we look at our school culture and how to make this experience the best for our students and staff. One of the thoughts I was exposed to in a break out session was the notion that kids cannot learn how to deal with unhappiness that we all experience without going through unhappy times. This thought was brought back into my mind on Tuesday afternoon...
“I understand a little adversity is good, like you’ve always said, but this may be too much.”
I had the opportunity to be interviewed by a former football player I coached named Matt Nader on Tuesday afternoon. Matt currently works for St. Jude Medical as a territory rep manager. Matt sells cardiac devices including pacemakers and defibrillators. Matt is also in surgeries as part of his daily job description. Matt was interviewing me for a project as part of his MBA program at the University of Texas. I was honored Matt chose me to be interviewed along with the CEO of St. Jude and Governor Greg Abbott as leaders in the community.
“Thanks for pushing me through the good times and the hard times or I never would have made it through the event and the days after.”
Matt collapsed and died on the field at an A & M Consolidated football game in the fall of 2006. Matt was a team captain, a University of Texas football signee, and a tremendous young man. Matt, through the help of his parents, other doctors, and through the Eanes Athletic Dept. AED was brought back to life in a few minutes after his collapse. Matt would be advised a few days later to never play football or any contact sports again due to a cardiac condition. As Matt’s coach for 4 years, you are looked to as someone who has answers to some of the hardest questions during a time like this. I had no pearls of wisdom for Matt, but I did have time to give to him as he worked through this life changing event. Through the support of his parents, sister, extended family, friends, and the WHS community, Matt became an impassioned spokesperson for the use AEDs on all school campuses. Matt spoke to schools and School Boards in Texas and throughout the United States, and as a result, all Texas schools by law must have an AED on campus. While this is an extreme example of taking on some unhappiness, I hope it reminds us that we can all go through difficult times and our kids may benefit from going through the unhappy times with appropriate supports including parents, teachers and friends.
Have a wonderful three day weekend! It’s always a great day to be a Chaparral!
Steve Ramsey: WHS Principal Blog
Principal's Weekly Reflections