By Tina Jenkins Bell
BAPA School Liaison
An entire school community rests on the shoulders of principals and that responsibility can be an isolating affair. When the pandemic hit, that feeling of working in a vacuum intensified as responsibilities, reporting, safety concerns, and other factors piled high, so with BAPA facilitating, principals from Barnard, Clissold, Kellogg, Sutherland, and Vanderpoel pulled together to ensure the progress of their schools. They established a collaborative of educational practice called the Hive.
“During the pandemic, at first, it was survival. We definitely gelled over overwhelming protocols, contact tracing, remote learning and all of the new and unfamiliar elements that came with running a school during a pandemic,” said Margaret Burns, Sutherland principal.
Kellogg’s Cory Overstreet added, “I can honestly say I do not know if I would have made it through to today without this group… I know that I can ask a question in our group chat, and someone will have the answer or know who to ask within the hour.”
Helping each other so that all of their schools excel is the purpose of the Hive. They have surpassed the initial goal of collaborating to get their schools through the pandemic while maintaining academic integrity and informed school communities.
“The mission of all public schools expands well beyond educating children. It is community engagement, healing, service and growth for the future of our city and neighborhood,” Burns said.
Today, the Hive, which Vanderpoel principal Kia Banks refers to as “thought partners,” shares resources, training, materials and best practices to help elevate the excellence of our local public schools in our community, according to Burns. Examples of their collaborations include the high school fair that they held at Morgan Park High School. They also joined a Chicago Public Schools Network 10 initiative called Learning Walks. Learning Walks are held routinely and allow principals from across the Network 10 to gather, visit other schools, observe, evaluate and share ideas about students’ learning performances, SEL competencies and other ploys and initiatives. Hive principals joined the same “Learning Walk” or professional learning community due to their established connections with each other.
“The job of a principal is known as a very lonely profession,” Burns said. “For the first time as an administrator, I feel as though I am part of an active community of talented school leaders who work tirelessly to make their school successful and are equally supportive of the success of my school. It is a rare and beautiful collaboration, and I am honored to work among such incredible colleagues.”