Thursday, October 6, 2011

CHOICE Academy: Highline's Best Kept Secret?

The banner outside of CHOICE* Academy claims this niche school is the district's best kept secret. Well, they shouldn't have invited me, with my camera and blog and whatnot. The secret's out!

*CHOICE stands for Children Having Options in Creating Education. Even I never knew what that stood for, but I like it.

Administrator Mike Sita (left) and longtime teacher George Wheeler
CHOICE Academy is a small school for secondary students (middle and high school grades) who aren't looking for a large school experience, or even a small school experience. At 80 students, CHOICE is like a collection of one-room school houses under one roof. It is a very tight community of students, staff, and parents. One of my professors once advised that education is not synonymous with schooling, and CHOICE Academy is a good example. Students are learning, but in flexible structures that allow students to integrate their out of school learning with their formal education. I spoke with a delightful young lady who volunteers at the Union Gospel Mission, and integrates the project in her journal during advisory. Students taking dance, acting, and other pursuits have similar approaches.

There has always been a strong parent connection with CHOICE. Many CHOICE families are former homeschoolers, so it's a natural transition. While there is no longer a formal "hours" based requirement, CHOICE parents are asked to join one of a variety of roles that support the school in ways that are flexible to parents' interest and availability. I met two parents in the office who are big supporters of the school and were waiting to work with administrator Mike Sita.

Brouchures for a mini-college fair in Ms. Greenburg's advisory
Speaking of Mr. Sita, who is the leader of CHOICE, New Start, and other alternative programs, he toured me around during advisory and the first class of the day. In Kay Greenburg's advisory, students were engaging in a mini-college fair. The night before was the district's After High School Fair, and Ms. Greenburg's advisees were taking notes from college brochures and internet searches. Other advisories featured presentations by students on their out of school learning.

Jennifer (Ramirez) Browning rings the cowbell between classes
I have to tell you about one moment I have never seen in any school. CHOICE, at our old Woodside Elementary site, doesn't have bells to change classes. So at the end of the advisory period, office manager Jennifer (Ramirez) Browning stepped into the hall...and rang a cowbell! Amazingly, the kids just shuffled along to class.

You probably have noticed Highline's new logo, which represents our aim to have a pathway for every student. CHOICE Academy will only meet the needs of a small number of students, but every parent and student I have spoken with about CHOICE can articulate that it feels like the right home for them.

Postscript: After hearing the cowbell that signaled the change of classes, I thought I might be able to help. Several years ago, I was given a beautiful bell by Seattle University for serving on a committee. When I got back to my office, I found that bell. It has been gathering dust ever since, so I'm sending it over to CHOICE Academy to be put to good use!

A new bell for Highline CHOICE Academy

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the bell Dr. Spicciati we need it!