Q&A: Havre de Grace High School Principal Jim Reynolds (Part II)
Reynolds sat down with Patch for a Q&A. Part II covers his views on programming, staff and the future of Havre de Grace High School.
Jim Reynolds is excited for what's to come.
At the beginning of the third day of the 2012-2013 school year, Reynolds sat down with Patch editor Sean Welsh for an introductory Q&A.
In Part I, he shared some background about himself and his relationship with the community.
Here's Part II:
PATCH: How was the first day of the school year?
Reynolds: It was seamless. It was great. The kids were excited to be back. The teachers were excited and motivated. The first week back, it’s such an exciting time. Even though the kids are out and they’ll say, ‘Oh, summer is over,’ I really think they want to come back. I think two-and-a-half months, they’re ready. They’re excited to see their friends. Opening day was great. Everything ran smoothly. Teachers were great, kids were excited. Ran like clockwork.
PATCH: Did you hear of the Perry Hall High School shooting during the school day?
Reynolds: Oh, absolutely. Our communications department sends out right away, communicates with us to give us a heads-up. Just some finer points on communicating, letting the parents know that we’re doing everything we can. The doors are secure, the teachers are vigilant. It was an isolated incident, but that doesn’t reduce the fears of the parents here. They want to call and make sure their school is OK. So we fielded a couple of calls, and we double-checked the doors, locked down. We’re aware, we’re vigilant.
PATCH: What's the biggest change you've noticed since you were last here as an assistant principal?
Reynolds: The biggest changes that I’ve seen are the new initiatives that are coming here to the school—initiatives that we didn’t have here in the past. We have the National Math Science Initiative that’s coming in. We’ve sent six teachers to Texas for training to build up AP classes in numbers. With that, there’s more AP classes and students taking Advanced Placement. That is big. The numbers have really grown—almost tripled. I looked at the data from almost three years ago and it’s almost tripled. The AVID program—we attended a conference in Philadelphia. That’s going to be starting next year. We’re building on that. I’m really excited about the bio-med program that is coming. It’s a bio-med signature program. We had it at Bel Air High School. It’s not a magnet—it’s a signature program for the Havre de Grace kids. I’ll tell you: the labs, it’s a partnership with Upper Chesapeake Hospital. It really helps train kids for the middle-class jobs that this hospital can provide when it is built in a few years. It’s great stuff. Some of the stuff I saw in those labs, it’s college level. I’ve heard from parents whose kids have gone through it, the stuff they learn in the lab is on par with college courses.
PATCH: That’s great. It’s starting next year?
Reynolds: Next fall. These are new things that are different—new exciting initiatives that will help prepare kids.
PATCH: How is it different from a traditional magnet?
Reynolds: A magnet is open to everyone. There’s an application process. This signature program is just for Havre de Grace kids. Say there are 25 to 30 slots open for that program, there’s a process and certain classes those kids have to take. It’ll be a good quality, additional program to prepare the kids at Havre de Grace.
PATCH: There's been a generation of legendary teachers that have retired in recent years—Mr. Osman, Mr. Holly, Mrs. Hejl. What has it been like getting to know the new crop of teachers?
Reynolds: They seem like they are very motivated and eager to do a great job in the classroom. They’re very new. They’re fresh. They’re fresh out of college and with that comes in an influx of fresh new ideas and an eagerness to try these new AVID strategies, the new NMSI strategies, project-base learning. Common Core is coming—pretty much that national curriculum and it’s pretty much what our whole state is going to be doing. It brings in teaching strategies that a lot of teachers already do, but it just makes it intentional. It’s an emphasis on project-based learning, collaboration, relevance in instruction, close reading strategies, teaching kids to read difficult material and content. It’s something good teachers do, but it’s a heavy emphasis on that. I’m not saying our older teachers didn’t do that, they did a great job. But you bring in newer teachers that are willing to take on clubs, take on teams. With faculty, it’s important to have that participation in coaching teams and leading clubs.
PATCH: What's one thing that parents may not understand about your job?
Reynolds: The job is a balance of all the policies and regulations that we adhere to. Oftentimes, parents may not know. There’s flexibility. But there’s policy, regulations and procedures that parents may not understand. They’re often brought on by the national, state or local level. There may be questions: why is this happening? These are the things we’re well-versed on because we may have known about it for a while and they may not know about it. If you look at the State of Maryland system, it’s pretty unique. In other states, many other school districts are very small—Havre de Grace would be like it’s own school system. We’re very big and we do a good job of communicating. Some things they don’t know about our job is the vast array of policies and regulations. They may say, ‘What is happening? Why are they doing that?’ Parents may not understand the dress code, and they go to Christiana Mall and spend, $200 or $300 on clothing. And then they get to school and there’s the handbook. That’s the one thing they may not understand: the policies. That’s our job to constantly communicate with the parents using our Blackboard Connect, and have our back-to-school nights.
PATCH: I realize you just started. But flash forward to after your time here at Havre de Grace. What kind of legacy would you like to leave behind? What things would you like to accomplish?
Reynolds: I would like the students that graduate from Havre de Grace High School to be prepared. Every student that graduates from this school will be prepared to be a productive citizen and also to be able to get in the workforce and have a good, solid job and provide for themselves and their family. That’s what I want. I don’t want one kid to graduate from this school and not know what they’re going to do. They may not know what they want to do, but they’ll have the goals to go to a two-year, a four-year, a trade school, and the kids that want to go to work, they’ll have the basic skills in order to work collaboratively with people. I also want Havre de Grace High School to be known as a great school. It does have a great reputation, but I want it to stand out in the county and the state. And that is measured by the quality of the students that leave this school. In short, I want our kids to be prepared for the 21st century.