Editor's note: Megan Caldwell, a graduating senior at , has contributed stories to Novato Patch this year about the happenings and issues on the San Marin campus. Before she graduates and heads off to Penn State University, Megan sits down for an interview with first-year San Marin Principal Adam Littlefield.
Q: As you reflect on your first year at San Marin, what are some things you enjoy most about the school?
A: I would say the most enjoyable aspects of the school this year would have been meeting students, working and learning with them, and certainly working with the staff as well. There is a number of great people who go to this school and work here, and it has been a pleasure getting to know them and continuing next year to work and learn with those that are going to continue to be here.
Q: What are some things that have gone well?
A: I think in terms of things that I have noticed, we have a great student body, and I think that the activities and the events and the sports activities and things that we have going on are positive. I believe that San Marin is a safe campus. That is always the highest priority for me, making sure that it is a safe place. One of the things that I have really worked hard at this year is a model that I have worked on in my previous school district (in Rohnert Park) and that is successful organizations require the combination of three things. One of those is information and how it is communicated, relationships and a common vision. I would say from my perspective that is an area we have worked on this year and it has worked out well. I am really comfortable with how the relationships with the staff and the community that has taken place.
Other things ... we are in the process of starting a science, technology, engineering and math program, the STEM program. There has been an amount of interest, not only from the school community but outside the school community, in building this in the future. So, we will be doing another planning year next year with the intent that we would start this program for incoming ninth graders in the year 2013-2014. So, there has been a fair amount of time and energy that has been placed on that, and I am looking forward to that, seeing that particular program play out.
I would say I have also had a lot of fun. In my previous school we did have as many school activities, so I have really enjoyed that, getting to different activities and events and just watching kids have fun and enjoyed myself doing it, too.
Q: What are some things you hope to improve at San Marin?
A: One of the things I hope is — the staff has identified, even prior to me coming here — how students are engaged in the classroom. And what that means from my perspective is walking into a classroom and seeing kids really interacting with the teachers, in the subject area, in the content, and I think that is an area that we need to continue to work on. Typically the result of that is trying to reduce the number of students earning D’s and F’s, trying to do well on standardized testing, and just being successful at school like getting homework done.
Q: You helped to package the arts program at San Marin into the smARTt program. How is that program going?
A: The greatest aspect of that program has been the collaboration that the teachers have made with each other and the programs within each other to highlight the arts program that we have here. I would say that if we didn’t have that package all of those individual aspects — whether it would be visual arts, performing arts, technical arts and writing arts — those would all be positive things. But, as I have seen them integrating this year and looking at how they can compliment each other, I think that there are some real power in the future. So, I anticipate that will continue.
As I mentioned earlier, this STEM program ... there is also this movement nationwide to include the arts, so instead of STEM, its STEAM. We haven’t decided to include that yet, but I would envision that there might be something that would connect with that. I think when the kids see the meaningful connections at school they are going to get engaged more.
Q: Can you tell me more about this STEM program you mentioned earlier?
A: I would say that we are really in the initial planning stages of that. So, I can share some thoughts about it, but whether or not it goes to fruition I am not sure. I would anticipate including all of our sciences — so, earth science, biology, marine biology, chemistry, physics, biotechnology — and having pathways where students have a particular interest in that would also take courses that were perhaps more technology based or more engineering based that again would compliment the math and science that they are learning. I anticipate those types of courses continuing, with adding some others that would again compliment what we are offering.
Q: What were some goals that you set at the beginning of the year that you were able to achieve?
A: This was more of the staff and students more than me. One of our goals was that we would reduce the number of students receiving D’s and F’s by 10 percent in the first semester, and we did that. That was a good thing. In terms of other goals I would say for me was more from a personal standpoint, which was trying to make that transition from my previous position to this and doing them the best that I could. I haven’t gone to every activity that the school offers, but I feel like I have gone to a number of them that allow me to watch kids, see how they perform, to interact with the community, and to support our students and community, and that is very important to me.
Q: What do you hope to achieve next year?
A: I would say that the planning of the STEM program is a huge one. One of our programs here on campus is the San Marin PLUS program, which is for students who are trying to recover credit. So, there are some things that I would like to work with for that particular program that would continue improving it. We look at a number of different areas for improvement, what I am hoping next year is to incorporate some professional development and technology, so teachers are not only able to integrate that with their instruction and curriculum, but they have it in their classroom.
That engagement piece, as I was mentioning earlier ... some of the engagement challenges can be met by a different delivery of instruction, and one that was successful in my previous school was project-based learning. So, doing more projects ... we are going to try to integrate some of those in the classroom as well. It is not that there aren’t already teachers who are doing some of those things. I think what I would like to do is institutionalize to make it a common practice when it is appropriate.