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S E C T I O N 2 Schools N E W S O F L O C A L S C H O O L S , S T U D E N T S , T E A C H E R S , A N D PA R E N T S Hillview Principal Erik Burmeister signs sixth-grader Will Tinsley’s yearbook, center, while seventh-grader Vanessa Williams, right, and sixthgrader Alex Melara, left, wait for their books to be signed on the day before the school year ended. Below, a message from the principal. Photos by Michelle Le/The Almanac Envisioning a ‘frontier of possibility’ Hillview’s principal blazed new trails during first year on the job By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor O n a newly built campus, in a spacious new auditorium, at the start of a school year, a dynamic new principal took the microphone. It was September 2012, and parents of Hillview Middle School students had gathered for Back to School Night to hear what Principal Erik Burmeister envisioned for his first year at the school’s helm. After reviewing four of his top goals for the nine months ahead, he came to his final goal, which, he said, was at the heart of why he “eagerly accepted the opportunity” to lead the school: “This year, we will begin to answer the question, ‘What will an excellent 21st century middle school education look like in 10 years?’ And instead of waiting 10 years to do it, we’re going to start it now, here, at Hillview ... .” The goal was based in part on confidence in the level of support and achievement of staff, parents, and students of the “now.” But looking to the future and to the everaccelerating pace of change in the world, Mr. Burmeister urged parents to consider: “There is a frontier of possibility that awaits our community.” Although change cannot be instantly assessed as successful — or not — the inno- vations put in place at the school during the last year and that are at the ready to launch in August make it clear that empty words are not part of Mr. Burmeister’s lexicon. In January, he introduced an “acceleration” program to support kids who were performing below grade level in reading and math. Participation was voluntary; 30 students were supported in the reading program, and 30 in math, with a few of the students enrolled in both, according to Vice Principal Willy Haug. Mr. Haug said the program has had “astonishing results.” In the math program, for example, “on average, students ... have made one year of academic growth in six months,” he said in an email. Beginning early in the school year the new principal gathered together a team of staff and parents to review and improve the school’s master schedule to accommodate a new approach to teaching and learning. The group was called the Design Team, and used concepts developed by Stanford University’s Design School, called “design thinking.” Applying design thinking concepts — a process beginning with empathy and moving through the brainstorming of possibilities, to the design and testing of prototypes, to the naming of a solution — the team came up with a master schedule that significantly changes the flow of school days at Hillview beginning in August. With the new schedule, there will be three days of 45-minute “direct instruction” periods, focusing on “foundational knowledge and skills,” Mr. Burmeister explained in an interview. The other two days will be broken into 90-minute segments, with the focus on “extended learning ... where students engage in the application of knowledge and skills.” Design thinking will be a key component in the longer classes, with stuContinued on next page June 19, 2013NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN13

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