Deeper work in 2014-15 with Mount Vernon Upper School

One week ago today, we announced at Mount Vernon that I would serve in a more direct leadership role with the Upper School, in deeper collaboration and partnership with Krista Parker and Emily Breite, while our school extends the search for our next Head of Upper School.

What an incredible opportunity for me to work with the Upper School division, faculty, and leadership as we continue to build a program that achieves our vision for being the best at developing and delivering a 21st century learning experience.

Innovative School Seeks Innovative Leader

HEAD OF UPPER SCHOOL
Position Description

Innovative school seeking innovative leader. Mount Vernon Presbyterian School is accepting applications for the position of Head of Upper School (Available June/July 2014). Head of Upper School reports directly to Head of School and collaborates with Chief Learning and Innovation Officer and School division leaders.

Mission and Vision

We are a school of inquiry, innovation, and impact. Grounded in Christian values, we prepare all students to be college ready, globally competitive, and engaged citizen leaders. Established in 1972, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, serving 900 students in preschool through grade 12, is located in the heart of Sandy Springs, Georgia within the metropolitan Atlanta area. Located on the 30-acre Glenn Campus, the Upper School (grades 9-12) student body has more than doubled in size during the last five years and is projected to exceed 300 students in 2-3 years.

We are building something exceptional here. The School is in the midst of a new era of exploration and innovation, under the guidance of an energized staff, Board, and faculty leadership as well as committed and connected families. As an outward expression of our inward passion, the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan is driven by a fundamental MVPS question: How might we innovate school to meet the needs our students and our world? The School has been aggressive in launching key programs to position our students as realizers of our mission: Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation(MVIFI), Mount Vernon Mind, Council on Innovation, Center for Design Thinking, Innovation Diploma, Interim international travel opportunities, transdisciplinary education capstone project, College and Work Readiness Assessment, Write Now, and //fuse to name a few.

Roles and Responsibilities

Amplifying the mission and executing the vision of the School, Head of Upper School plays a creative and collaborative role:

  • cultivating and nurturing strong relationships within the School community–students, faculty, parents and other partners.
  • designing a vigorous, relevant, and innovative learning and assessment map for each Upper School learner–students, as well as faculty.
  • employing a variety of evidence-based and innovative approaches and methodologies in order to engage and motivate students of this generation.
  • exercising an innovator’s DNA–observing, questioning, experimenting, networking, and associating.
  • providing professional learning opportunities supporting individual staff needs/organizational goals.
  • co-chairing Research & Design (R&D) teams.
  • developing partnerships with corporate sector, non-profit community, and civic organizations.
  • researching, identifying, and advancing innovative programs.
  • retaining and attracting high performing teaching candidates.
  • overseeing the day-to-day operations–schedule, meetings, events, calendar, and facility spaces.

Interested candidates should send a cover letter, resume, and link to professional portfolio to employment@mountvernonschool.org.

Real-World Impact: Guest Post @TylerThigpen #MVPSchool #MVIFI #MVImpact

Today, the Upper School parents at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School (where I work, learn, serve, and play) received a letter from Head of Upper School Tyler Thigpen, and I am quoting a significant section of the letter below, with his permission, as something like a guest blog post.

To give just a bit of context, the Upper School students at Mount Vernon experience (and share voice in the iterative implementation of) a very purposefully researched, designed and orchestrated transdisciplinary program. Using MVPS’s developed model of design thinking – DEEP (Discover, Empathize, Experiment, and Produce) – faculty and students focused on discovery and empathy phases in September, October, and November. Then, in the first week of school in January, students engaged in a mixture of content/context workshopping, vigorous presentation production, and iterative pitching to convince expert panels to approve further work on the projects into the experiment and produce phases. Pitches were evaluated on ten comprehensive criteria, and projects were also rated by degree of difficulty.

Okay, now onto the guest-blogging-by-way-of-parent-letter…

Dear Upper School Family,

Happy New Year!

I have been itching to share with you the deep learning, college preparation, and marketplace training that have already occurred this year.

Last week, thanks to an innovative plan crafted collaboratively by both students and teachers, Upper School students positioned themselves to leverage content and skills from their classes to design and pitch capstone projects aimed at real-world impact.

They developed creative solutions, honed their presentation abilities, and used constructive criticism to correct previous knowledge and improve ideas. Examples of diving deep in search of learning outcomes in some of their classes included: students writing algorithms, researching flora and fauna, learning profit maximization, understanding search engine optimization, and performing comparative analyses.

Students received pointers from visiting professionals such as the SVP of Business Operations at Turner Broadcasting, SVP of Communications & Investor Relations at First Data, VP of Marketing at Popeye’s, VP of Financial Planning & Analysis at Manheim, Chief Development Officer at Metro Atlanta YMCA, Councilman at City of Sandy Springs, and numerous others.

The learning that is taking place is truly remarkable.

Colleges appreciate when students come equipped to learn how disciplines overlap and how humanistic and scientific approaches can be applied to real-world issues and challenges. Both emphases were front and center last week. About this approach, a Wake Forest University faculty leader writes:

“Mount Vernon’s innovative move, allowing students and curriculum to cohabit in a learning environment, should serve as a model for all schools. The difference between knowing about and knowing is profound. When students engage the realities of their study–the good, bad, and the ugly– the result is ownership; students become actors who come to believe they can act. The point of education is to sanction agency for students to win their future. Hats off to Mount Vernon.”

– Dr. Allan Louden, Communication Studies Department Chair, Wake Forest University, and Director of United States Grant for the Ben Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Institute

From the private sector, another professional comments,

“Mount Vernon’s transdisciplinary approach focuses on building strong critical thinking and problem solving skills that will better prepare students to compete in a global marketplace.”

– Joanne Burke, Banker, Goldman Sachs; and Member of Board of Overseers, Boston Symphony Orchestra

Lastly, one of last week’s panelists remarks,

“Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of such an exciting experience! Not only was it meaningful to me because I witnessed tremendous growth in the students…but it was also incredible to see students tackling problems that exist in the world outside MVPS, offering significant and relevant solutions. I am impressed with the level of thoughtfulness and detail students put into their projects. Thank you again for allowing me to join!”

In my career I cannot remember seniors, during their final semester of high school, spontaneously celebrating success by running down a hallway and high-fiving classmates because of a school project. But that is what happened.

Levels of engagement, relevance, and challenge are high, and I look forward to sharing more updates as the process evolves.

Tyler S Thigpen

Head of Upper School

Mount Vernon Presbyterian School

“If you would like to help us design school…” #MVPSchool #MVIFI

I love my school for so many reasons. Just this morning, I received an email that provided me with yet another reason. The email was sent to the entire Upper School student body, and I was copied. It was an email rich in design thinking. It was an email full of trust that honors the wisdom of the “student.” It was an email full of promise for the depths of design – at the intersection of creativity and functionality.

Design thinking is people-centered problem solving. It is fundamentally concerned with and connected to the users of the things being designed. It is full of empathy and creative, critical thinking applied to real-world issues and challenges.

The most ambitious school leaders are serious about the design of “school.” How could one not be in our current era – to continuously think, design, and act for the best learning experiences for our learners. To give anything less than such critical attention would be unthinkable. Even if one determined to leave school “as is,” it would be superb if such decision making stemmed from thoughtful research and design, rather than status quo or de facto operations.

So, here’s the email. What a glorious invitation. How grateful I am that such is commonplace where I work and learn!

All,

I hope you all had a great weekend.

If you would like to help us design school for the “Experiment” and “Produce” phases of the projects, we need your ideas and help.

I invite you to join me either for lunch Wednesday or for breakfast Friday (on me) to discuss how we might best design the school day to position you for success.

Click here to sign up. [active link in original email]

There are only 50 available slots this week, and there will [be] more opportunities in the near future.

Enjoy your day,

Tyler S. Thigpen

@tylerthigpen

Head of Upper School

Mount Vernon Presbyterian School