Q&A with Dr. Chad Gestson

Since this website is a case study, we are attempting to tease out of those directly involved in the program at CBHS more information as to how they proceeded in various parts of the project as well as keeping up to date as the programs evolve. Here are Dr. Gestson’s recent responses to four questions about the programs there.

1. On how Dr. Gestson initially aligned the CBHS staff to his vision:

This was a long process that really begins with focusing NOT on buy-in but rather more on empowerment and ownership. Leaders often seek buy-in from their employees – leaders create grand visions and initiatives and then spend time lobbying and politicking their way toward sufficient buy-in. I choose to let our employees help develop the mission, vision, and initiatives. They determine needs and direction of the organization. Then, as a result, they “own” the vision. Their commitment to the vision goes far beyond buy-in. They feel vested in making sure that the mission and vision is realized.

At Camelback, we took months (actually, over a year) creating the mission and vision for Camelback. We started by identifying all of our challenges. We analyzed our data (attendance, achievement, etc.). We then spent months studying research, visiting exemplary schools, and trying to find common links between highly effective schools. We then spent months connecting what we learned from the research and the visits to what our challenges were. We started to flesh out some real possible solutions to our challenges. Then, we began to finalize what our plan would be to address those challenges. Advisory is probably the best example of this. We realized that one of our biggest issues was a largely disconnected student body. Students were anonymous. No adults on campus were responsible for tracking the success (or failure) of students. So, after a lot of work and planning, we implemented an Advisory period to banish anonymity. For the past four years, Advisory has truly been the key vehicle for change at Camelback.

2. On the latest changes to Peer Tutoring program:

peer tutoringTutors at Camelback HS are morphing to mentors.

The Success Is Mandatory tutoring program is evolving into a mentoring program as well with the tutors also being tasked as mentors to the incoming freshmen. Mentors meet with their mentees each week to ensure they are on track in several ways as indicated on this form they fill out at each meeting.

Mentee Weekly Tracking Form (.pdf)

3. On academic rigor improvement efforts:

Increasing academic rigor this year has been successful. It is a work-in-progress and will take a few years to get to the level that we all want. We divided our campus into three large “learning teams.” The teams are:

  • Humanities (English, World Language, Linguistics, Reading, Social Studies),
  • STEM (Science, Business/Technology, GEARS/Engineering, Math) and
  • Kinetic (PE, Health, JROTC, Performing Arts, Fine Arts, Family and Consumer Sciences)

Each team chose their own instructional initiative. They determined their

  • timeline for implementation,
  • need for professional development,
  • accountability structures and
  • measures of success.

At this point the Humanities team is far beyond the other teams. They have already moved onto phase 2 of their plan. The STEM team has made excellent progress but is still on phase 1. Kinetic is still struggling with implementation and is having another training next Saturday to assist with implementation.

4. On tracking the college outcomes for the 2013 gap scholarship recipients:

As of their 2nd semester of their freshman year, we have confirmed that all gap students are enrolled in school and doing well academically, aside from one student. We have not been able to contact one student who enrolled in a community college in central Arizona to play basketball. We continue to try to make contact with this student. Interestingly, to date only two students have asked for the funds for their second semester tuition scholarships. Likely, this is because they have not received notification from their schools that their tuition is due in full. As we have found out with other students, universities often start reminding students of their full tuition payment deadlines a month or so into the semester.