Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Happy Birthday Chets Creek!

Chets Creek adds a candle for each year.
All 18 candles are displayed in the school's lobby.
This year's "The Greatest School on Earth" (right)
was painted by talented  Art teacher, Jen Snead.
Happy Birthday!  Today Chets Creek is 18 years old!    I was watching a video of years past in the lobby with a 5th grader this morning and he said, "Wow!  Do you know I wasn't even born then?"  It was quite sobering to think that every child we are educating today at the Creek wasn't born when the first group of children came over with "Mrs. Fizzle" from three different elementary schools to form that first class in the middle of the school year.  That first group of children are grown now and we have even had second generation children entering Chets Creek. Incredible!

Chets Creek began to build a reputation from those very first days.  I can remember however, that we had very few teachers interviewing at Chets in those early years.  There were rumors that we worked too hard, that teachers were required to work on Saturdays and Sundays, and that the Principal sat in the parking lot with a camera and checked cars coming in and out to make sure teachers came on time and didn't leave early!  Have no idea how those rumors got started but they were so ridiculous.  Instead we were busy building a learning community.  Teachers who didn't feel comfortable being transparent and opening their classroom to others generally self-selected out.  Soon test scores began to verify what we already knew - that something quite extraordinary was happening at this new school. Now we generally have teachers interviewing that say they really want to come to Chets as their first choice because of our reputation with on-going professional development.

Notice the detail in this year's candle
with a nod to the Principal's championship team,
 Clemson Tigers.
After five years the county promoted our founding Principal.  I'm sure people wondered if Chets would be able to maintain - was the school's success due to a single charismatic leader? Some internally may have wondered that too!  Thankfully the county promoted a teacher from within who was familiar with, and had had a pivotal role in, establishing the culture and community.  She was able to continue what had been started - business as usual - which is as hard as establishing the initial foundation. While many schools that opened around the same time that we did have had six, seven, even eight principals in these 18 years, we have had only two.  That stability has been our strength.

As test scores came in this year, Chets Creek ranked second in our large county (behind the gifted magnet) and 36st in the state, but what has been built here is so much more than test scores. We have established a true learning community where children, as well as adults, work together and lean on each other for support. Regardless of the winds of change, we have stood steadfast in what we believe is right for children.  Because we have always had strong test scores, thank goodness, we have been allowed much autonomy in charting our own course.

For 18 year Chets Creek has maintained a solid reputation as an outstanding school, inside and out. What a celebration!  Happy Birthday, Chets Creek.  Just as teacher leaders have continued to exceed the expectations, may they continue to rise to exceed the expectations for the next 18 years!

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