Photo courtesy of Zoe Garvey, SHS Student. SAU 39 and SHS Administration and Staff – Left to right: Sally Varanka, Shirley Markwith, Rhonda Pisani, Peter Warburton, Rob Scully, Adam Steel, Natalie Berger, Kelly Driscoll, and Kathy White.
Souhegan High School Earns Principal of the Year Award
• Principal Rob Scully cited for fostering educational innovation at the secondary school level
February 1, 2018//AMHERST, NH — When the New Hampshire Association of School Principals (NHASP) recognized Rob Scully as its high school Principal of the Year, it chose a principal laser focused on the student learning experience. As principal, Scully demonstrates his commitment to providing students with access to creative, engaging, rigorous, and innovative curriculum and instruction.
“This is an individual award that speaks to the efforts and work of the entire school community,” Scully insists. Indeed, Scully doggedly redirects any conversation about his leadership to the work of teachers and students. Whether describing the Ethics Seminar and Forum, or Saber Digital Magazine, or Community Council, or a robotics class, Scully expresses the vision for what it means to have “students at the center.”
In describing the new Robotics course taught by Charlie Swift, Scully seizes on the integration of the engineers, the workplace, and the real world problems to drive the curriculum. “Charlie literally cannot teach the class without the students meeting with the engineers at their facilities in the local tech industry,” Scully says. In fact, students work with a local robotics company to create robots that can meet the design challenges set forth by the company engineers. The students start the course with a tour of the company’s facilities learning about its robots’ features and abilities. This is where the engineers set the real-world problem for students to solve through their robotic designs. The engineers then join students periodically at Souhegan as they are evolving their designs. At the end of the course, student return to the company facilities with their completed robots to demonstrate its ability to address the real-world problem set to them by the engineers.
“The Robotics course is an example of where we are pushing our comfortable limits as a school, as educators – into real world contexts,” Scully says. “We want the classroom experience to trigger ideas for even more authentic and individualized learning. We are pushing our system of deeper learning to require students to apply their knowledge and skill in ways that push students to think critically and solve problems in areas that are important to them.”
While Souhegan is a national leader in fostering student ownership of learning, democratic schools, and performance assessment of competency education, its relentless pursuit of enhancing the student experience through authentic and experiential learning opportunities that blend classroom and real-world learning is what distinguishes Souhegan High School from other high performing districts.
“We are now asking ourselves how to foster the idea of individualized pathways of learning on a systemic level – not just the occasional independent study, or club, or project, but systemically rethinking the role students play in co-designing their learning experiences,” Scully says.
The proof for educational success indeed lies partly in short-term benchmarks like grades, test scores and post-graduate plans. However, the long-term outcomes – ethical and responsible citizenship, productive and satisfying lives, are the greater prize. When schools foster these qualities of productivity and citizenship throughout the learning process, students are engaged in their learning. This engagement is the true measure of success.
Peter Warburton, Superintendent of Schools for SAU #39 says, “Over the years, I have learned that inspiring teachers want to work for an inspiring principal; that outstanding academic communities want and need a leader with a clear vision of excellence for their children; I have learned that great leadership is shared. Rob Scully is that leader.”
If Scully deserves credit for the successes of Souhegan High School, it is clearly in his vision to evolve the student experience to foster greater engagement. Successful innovation, Scully argues, relies on leadership providing the conditions for innovation to thrive.
NHASP announced its Principal of the Year Awards at its Winter Meeting in January; the formal awards presentation will occur at the NHASP Annual Conference and the New Hampshire Excellence in Education (the EDies) Awards, both in June 2018. In September, Scully will also be recognized at the National Association of Secondary School Principals conference and awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Rob Scully, Principal Souhegan High School
Peter Warburton, Superintendent SAU #39
Adam Steel, Superintendent-Elect SAU #39
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