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Getting to Know the Spirit of Rich East with Dr. Albert Brass and Mr. Quincy Owens

Rich East Principal Dr. Albert Brass at work. (Photograph: Gary Kopycinski)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Getting to know the coronary heart and soul of Rich East Excessive Faculty is a process. We start with a joint interview with Principal Albert Brass Jr. and Climate and Culture Coordinator Quincy Owens. As faculty board members of District 227 ponder–once again–restructuring funds and float the concept of closing the REHS, the faculty that existed earlier than the rest of the district, let’s discover what makes this high school great.

We are additionally conscious of the so-called “elephant in the room,” a serious drain on funds for Faculty District 227: Southland School Preparatory Constitution Excessive Faculty, a faculty launched by Faculty District 162. Whereas the accomplishments of Southland college students are many and laudable, the impression on the finances of Faculty District 227 has been vital. The web site for Southland School Prep might stay on Faculty District 162’s area, however the finances come from SD 227.

That’s my addition. Southland School Prep was not part of the dialogue I had with Dr. Brass or Mr. Owens. They didn’t deliver it up in any respect. Their focus?

Telling the Rich East Story

Let’s step inside Rich East Excessive Faculty and get to know the administration, school, employees, and college students. Our first sit down was mid-June, just earlier than I headed to Chicago Rush for my surgery. At the time, Dr. Brass and Mr. Owens extended an invite to eNews Park Forest to attend weekly Wednesday afternoon administrative conferences. According to Mr. Owens, the aim has been to open these conferences up, to hear more voices, and so others at REHS and in the group have a better grasp of the true story, the narrative, or Rich East.

“I think in the past when there has been administrative meetings, generally it was not as open,” Mr. Owens stated. “It was only the administration was allowed and this year we have allowed some of our teachers to come in, we have allowed our union representatives to come in and sit with us as we are going through the planning process because honestly, having them at the table while we are making decisions, it makes sense.”

Rich East High SchoolRich East High Faculty. (Photograph: Gary Kopycinski)

In accordance to Mr. Owens, clerical employees will attend meetings and “let us know when we have planned something, getting their input so we need to take some other things into account. Getting more voices is always important and I think one of, probably, Dr. Brass’ more celebrated voices has been the student council [members] that have come in. They have even not just come in to listen to us as we pitched ideas and going back across the table but come in to present ideas about things that they want to do.”

Final yr for Spirit Week, Scholar Council members pitched what they needed to see for Spirit Day as opposed to administration laying the plan out for them from the prime down.

“They came in with their own plan and they let us know what they wanted to do,” Mr. Owens stated. “We had a nice little spirited debate about what was okay, what was not okay, maybe we could go back to the table, is there something else we can work a little bit differently here for everybody’s safety and everybody’s sanity and the kids responded well to that.”

Mr. Owens paraphrased the scholar response, “Hey, that makes sense, we didn’t look at it that way,” and “students went back to their side of the table to figure some things out and at the end of the day we ended up with a Spirit Week that more students bought into because they felt it represented them, and not necessarily going to be ideas that I am going to even think about. But I am getting there,” and here Mr. Owens laughed warmly.

“You know, I am not going to see it the way they see it, so, it’s important just to have more voices and so, as he is invited you in that is with the same thought,” Mr. Owens stated.

Dr. Brass chimed in, “Normally I would say do not let me know when you are coming but if there is something that you want from us I would say just give us a heads up. I will let the team now and say, ‘Gary is coming,’ let us pull that information together so that you can walk away and capture that moment.”

“I really wish there was a time when you can actually come in the building when the students are here because that is the culture of it, being able to walk around and see the interaction the students have,” Dr. Brass stated.

I definitely recognize the beneficiant invitation and will work on my end to see that that occurs, working to drop by Rich East throughout faculty hours once a month or so.

As we spoke, truthfully, I began to have a way of the richness of this faculty–no pun right here–the welcoming setting that exists inside the walls of this faculty building.

Dr. Brass spoke of the narrative of Rich East in the previous, and his want to open the doors to present the group what truly happens, what life is like at Rich East. Each he and Mr. Owens spoke with enthusiasm. They have been real, eager to share the true story of Rich East High Faculty.

The Coronary heart and Soul

“You know more than I do, then Quincy could probably speak to the narrative that has been shared about Rich East for a number of years,” Dr. Brass began. “Being new to the school and being able to be around the school and being able to be around the community, it’s not true. And I have asked and we have asked people to come in the building, just spend time in our building, walk our hallways, and talk to our students, that is where you get the fabric of what is going on.”

“We do rather a lot of tweeting and my hope it’s going to double next yr. In making an attempt to change that that narrative we’d like individuals to not solely hear it however to see it. I do know, Quincy, we’ve executed some videos of our college however we have now not completed that to the degree that may take it to like, ‘Wow, this is a day in the life of Rich East.’ Allow us to stroll the hallways unedited, let us just see what it appears like. That’s when individuals will start saying, ‘Wow, this is what is taking place.’

“We just got to do more of that and I hope that our partnership will allow that narrative to change, slowly, but also being able to provide adequate and accurate information as well,” Dr. Brass stated.

“Make it work,” Dr. Brass stated. “We will make it work.”

The True Narrative of Rich East

“I want people to know that our students are very successful,” Dr. Brass stated. “As I mentioned earlier than about the $5.6 million that students earned [in scholarships], we had 94% of our students graduate. So, meaning we acquired 6% that we obtained to still discover ways to help them, however out of that 94% we had a number of students go off to four-year schools, two-year schools, to army and many of them went off to the workforce.

Many Rich East College students Walk to Faculty

“We are a community that a lot of our students walk to school. We have nine buses each day that bring our students to and from. That is only– if we want to say– at the most, 45 students per bus, which I do not think that is many. More than half of our students walk to school every day. Still, we had close to 87% daily attendance rate. That is even going through the time and the month of January and February when it’s cold out.”

Rich East College students Are Resilient

“So, our students are resilient,” Dr. Brass continued. “They are looking for opportunities. Despite the odds and what people may say about them, they enjoy coming here each day, they enjoy learning. We have staff that you’ll find here before school and you will find here late in the hours providing support for our students. Even on the weekends, you just find a family. I think the word family is something that we talk about a lot.”

summer basketball camp at Rich East High SchoolSummer time basketball camp at Rich East High Faculty. (Photograph: Gary Kopycinski)

Wherever You Are, Wherever You Go, Honor Rich East. Honor the Rockets

“Our slogan,” Dr. Brass stated, “which you in all probability see on all of my emails is, ‘Wherever You Are, Wherever You Go, Honor Rich East. Honor the Rocket,’ and we say that because we would like our students regardless of who they’re, if they’re an athlete, they are on the chess workforce, debate staff. Wherever they are and wherever you go, whether or not you’re in Park Forest, Matteson, Chicago, Europe, that we would like you to symbolize Rich East.

“One of our alums [Jonathan Vanderbilt] is now our new mayor and he spent a lot of time before becoming mayor coming back to the school and giving back.”

“We put together a video, which I got to think about updating that video, we did an ‘Honor The Rockets’ video that really encapsulated the beginning of the school year and it just kind of talks about what the fabric of who our kids are,” Dr. Brass continued. “A lot of our graduates have done some great, great things. If you have not seen the video I can share it with you, it’s on YouTube, but it just talks about their story.”

“A lot of times, because our school has changed demographically,” Dr. Brass stated. rather a lot of research out there says that students who are at risk who are from low revenue cannot be profitable. And that’s just isn’t true. By no means. These t-shirts, as you see on my desk, I simply came again from Harvard Institute and it was about turnaround faculties, faculty who work with lower-income [students], and how do you turn them around. It actually begins with embracing who you’re, embracing the culture that you are building, but in addition at the similar time have excessive expectations.”

Rich East Students Know They Are Welcome Every Day

“We are very fortunate to have an awesome staff that loves each and every one of our students and we are fortunate to have students every day that trust us, that we have parents who believe in us, that we are doing everything we can for their children. Those are the things that really-really resonated with us is that when the child, when we have Mr. Owens or [Associate Principal of Operations] Mr. Anderson or myself, we are outside every morning and we greet our students at the door.”

Right here, Dr. Brass acquired extra specific.

“Not the door of the constructing however the door of their automotive, the door of their truck, the door of the bus that they get off of and we are giving high fives every morning and we say, ‘Hey, let’s have an superior day. Welcome to Rich East,’ He stated. “Those are the things that folks actually don’t get a chance to see, when Mr. Anderson is out there when it’s 20 under zero you might have mother and father bringing him cups of espresso as a result of his charge was, ‘I’m right here for our youngsters, I’m here to be sure that they walk in this constructing and they know they have a minimum of one caring adult that spoke to them once they walk in the building.’

“So, when they get out the car they have Mr. Anderson right there when they walk in the building they meet Mr. Owens. Every single day is there walking them into the building. So, now every student is guaranteed to have two adults that is going to speak to them and ask how their day is going. So, when you start the day off knowing that you are being cared for and someone is asking how are you doing. And sometimes it’s the things that they do not say that really makes them feel even better.”

For instance?

“It’s that when you have that sad look and they say, ‘Hey, you don’t look the same. What’s going on?’ and you can have an adult pull you to the side.”

We are family right here,” Dr. Brass emphasised. “We breathe family. We preach family. Everything we do is about family. You have arguments with your family but the goal is, more importantly, that you love one another.”

Restorative Practices

“When you consider restorative practices and how faculties will not be utilizing restorative apply, we’re at a spot the place we’re going to proceed to dive deeper into that because we all know that we have now to prepare our college students to give you the option to work not solely with each other or with a employees member but with individuals in the group.

“How do we continue to preach restorative practice to their students so they can be more resilient so that when they walk out into the workforce they are able to then coexists and work with another person and be part of a team? Those are the things that we are really about if you talk about changing the narrative.”

What are Restorative Practices?

“In a nutshell,” Dr. Brass stated, “you and I’ll have a disagreement, Mr. Owens would call you and I right into a room and give us a chance to type of speak by way of that course of and he would give us some instruments that we will then rebuild that relationship.

“The bulk of the time when college students have a problem it exists from something went flawed inside that present relationship, our job is to restore that. It might be from scholar to scholar. We’ve got completed it with scholar to employees member. We’ve also carried out it with mother and father to college students as nicely because we all know in any relationship at any given time there might be a break in that communication.

“So, our job is to allow that communication to flow the way it should flow. So, we do those sorts of things to help support our students because we know after they walk out of our office, they have to then go back into work with that student, whether it’s in class, whether it’s in the hallway, or whether it’s in the community, they have to be able to work with one another.”

Right here, Mr. Owens added extra, “I know this generation probably does not hear this saying enough but when I think about restorative practices I think about the things my grandma always used to tell me, like, ‘Be careful what you do because you don’t wanna burn your bridges,’ and I mean, that is really where restorative practices come into–and that is the heart of it– realizing that no matter what, you have an existing relationship with everybody that you meet, everybody that you saw yesterday, whether they are in your life every day or just some of the time there is a relationship that has been built and that there is a trust that has to be maintained.”

Trust: Mother and father Ship Us the Greatest They Have

“There is a cost to be paid in any event that you violate said trust,” Mr. Owens stated, “or you harm that person. We have to push for people to realize that and when you decide that you want to label a student because they have done something bad you’ve also isolated that student. We have to separate that student’s actions from who they are as a person. We have to save the person because in all honesty, no matter what, every day, parents, they are sending us the best they have, no matter what, they are sending us the best that we have.”

“So, when students make bad decisions, separating the actions from that student,” Mr. Owens continued, “from that individual and saying, ‘Hey, as a person, you know what? You’re a scholar, I’m by no means gonna disown you, I see you, you’re one of us, you’re my household. However this factor that you simply did yesterday or this thing that you simply did as we speak, that isn’t acceptable’

“Whenever you speak to them on that degree and you present them that, ‘I’m not abandoning you just since you made a nasty determination, the truth is, I’m prepared to work with you,’ that is what draws youngsters again that typically are lost to us.

“That is the main push of the restorative practice,” Mr. Owens stated.

These Who Fall and Get Again Up Make a Difference in Our Lives

“We cannot just destroy all these kids because we are going to get brand new ones as soon as we destroy a kid, it just does not work that way,” he continued. “To be honest with you, some of those kids that are a little beat up, some of those kids that have a couple of little issues, at the end of the day, down the line, when we are finished working with them, they will end up being stronger than the kid that never failed because the kid that has fallen and gets up and the kid that will continue to fall and every time they will continue to get up, those are the students, those are the people in our lives that make a difference.”

“Those are the people who drive this world and change it and shape it,” Mr. Owens went on. “We have to realize that a lot of times our problematic students are those special kids that we need to figure out. And that is for the betterment of everybody.”

Dr. Albert Brass Jr. and faculty and staff from Rich East on July 4, 2019Dr. Albert Brass Jr., left, with school and employees from Rich East High Faculty prior to stepping off in the Park Forest 4th of July Parade this yr. (Photograph: Gary Kopycinski)

The Value of a Individual Can’t Be Lowered to One Dangerous Choice

Dr. Brass provided eNews Park Forest the alternative to observe Mr. Owens working by means of that course of and how restorative practices are carried out at Rich East.

“If our students are comfortable enough I would love them to talk about that process because I think sometimes–it’s not a new concept. I never forget this in students who walked across our stage [at graduation] without a process they might not have walked across that stage,” Dr. Brass stated.

Dr. Brass then offered a selected instance.

“We had two senior women. It was in all probability the week before faculty ended, two weeks earlier than faculty ended, the one young woman by accident stepped on her shoe and that they had a light dialogue about it. I stated, ‘Bring the students to my office.’ It may need been a Thursday or Friday because I keep in mind saying, ‘Over the weekend I want you guys to either exchange numbers, talk about this, but when we meet with you senior class on this particular day I want you to talk to your peers about your actions.’

“And they got up on stage,” Dr. Brass stated.

Mr. Owens picked up the narrative, “They talked about the way it affected their relationship with each other, the way it affected their group, their faculty, how it affected their class, what they might in a different way, and what the class and their peers needed to do in a different way shifting ahead. I mean, restorative practices shouldn’t be about the discipline and typically I feel that is where individuals get hung up, they are like, ‘Okay, I need to ding this kid, I need to exact my blood, I need to get back at this child.’

“Children do have to be held accountable for their actions,” Mr. Owens went on to say, “But after that, who do you want that child to be? What do you want them to remember? Now that that child has had that experience and they have done that thing that is wrong, is there a way that we can take advantage of what has been done in the past? Is there something that we can take from that and spin that and use it to go in a positive direction?”

“Because our society does not have to be as punitive as it is,” I provided. “It’s irrevocably punitive.”

However the Rich East narrative is totally different.

The Rich East apply focuses on the entire individual.

Dr. Brass provided again the opportunity to “walk around when the student are in the building and then you can actually meet and interview our babies– we call them our babies– and let them tell you their story. Because from us, I am 46-year-old and he is in his 30s,” Dr. Brass stated referring to Mr. Owens. “It’s a different perspective in regards to what they are experiencing day in, day out.”

The Rich East story.

The Rich East narrative.

The spirit of Rich East.

It’s unique.

It’s real.

The true narrative, the spirit, the coronary heart and soul of Rich East, will come together, turn into extra evident, as we continue to walk the halls, meet college students, school, and employees.

And Honor the Rockets.

Publication of this and other interviews with REHS leaders was delayed by the first half of my hybrid cardiac ablation. Apologies to Dr. Brass, Mr. Owens, and the others who gave offered us entry and insights right into a Park Forest gem.