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SHS Assistant Principal O'Gorman Sheds Light on Changes to School

AndreaOGorman 3This past September, Andrea O'Gorman moved up from Director of Counseling to Assistant Principal of Scarsdale High School. In this interview with recent Scarsdale High School graduate Louisa Blatt, O'Gorman discusses upcoming changes at SHS and her new role at the school. O'Gorman has served as a dean and as the Director of Counseling at SHS during her fifteen-year-long career at Scarsdale.

Question: What are your opinions on the upcoming changes to the schedule with the elimination of homeroom and lengthened class periods?

Our new schedule, while a bit confusing to digest at first, is not all that different from our current schedule in substance. It will continue to meet the needs of our students, in that it provides tremendous flexibility and the ability to meet an extraordinary number of course requests. With the loss of homeroom three days per week, it will be an adjustment. We will need to monitor this change in particular, to see if we can work out logistics in some other way. Homeroom has served as both a small break in the day and a chance for certain student organizations to meet more regularly, but also a way to communicate with students in unobtrusive ways. While the extra time added to class periods may seem daunting for students, it is my hope that we will find ways to incorporate ways to use the time for personal interactions and not merely additional "seat time for students." Despite initial feelings about these changes, everyone agrees that we will need time to see it in action and then discuss its effectiveness.

Q: What steps are currently being taken to improve school wellness?

Student wellness has been a topic of discussion for several years now at SHS. This year, the district's compact committees focused on issues of student wellness and our recent Tri States visit studied the work in depth. There are so many initiatives going on and I recommend looking through the self study that was published recently from the office of our Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Ms. Lynne Shain. At SHS, some of our work has been a study of homework, which involved an in-class calibration exercise, the institution of homework-free breaks and a series of surveys to students and teachers. Other work has focused on the student experience with additions of extended library hours during testing weeks, PTA sponsored snack breaks, and wellness-focused activities provided by our student government and student organizations. Our own Compact Committee, and Wellness Team continue to look for ways to promote student wellness through education, discussion and policy changes.

Q: Freshman orientation is being shortened this upcoming year. Was this just a scheduling change or were there other reasons?

For the past several years our freshman orientation has been planned over a day and half prior to the opening of school. In the 2017-18 calendar, there is only one conference day planned prior to students reporting to school. We condensed the orientation program to one day, keeping most elements of the program in place, including the assembly, student tours of the building and release of schedules for freshmen. Civ Ed advisors and Peer Leaders will continue to lead the orientation and students will have a chance to find their classes and prepare for the first full day of school on Tuesday, September 5th.

Q: The high school is undergoing a lot of construction. How do you see the construction process as well as the actual new facilities affecting the future?

Our construction projects are well underway! Our new fitness center will focus on student wellness and lifetime fitness activities. The enhanced equipment and expanded space will give students a wonderful new atmosphere in which to focus on health and wellness. Our learning commons and labs will give students multiple new ways to use and enjoy our facilities. New meeting spaces will allow for groups to collaborate in flexible spaces, learning and studying in modern ways. Teachers can make use of the spaces to explore techniques that are best served in less traditional classroom spaces.

Q: Are there any other upcoming or recent school policy changes people should know about?

Our focus continues to be on student wellness initiatives and as we move into next year we will continue to explore our policies and practices with these in mind.

Q: How has your experience been in your new position, are there any surprises? Do you miss being a dean?

In my new position as Assistant Principal for Student Life, I have enjoyed seeing our school in a new light. I have always enjoyed working with students and families and that has not changed. The new level of responsibility has provided me with more insight into our school community. I am continually amazed at the level of professionalism and care shown by our faculty and staff and the amazing commitment on the part of our students. I've learned more about student government and activities, senior options and athletics and it has been fun to be more involved in these endeavors. Observing classes has been the best surprise! After so many years here, it is great to be in our classrooms on a regular basis, watching the magic unfold! I do miss my work as a dean, as it was work I cherished. I miss the connections with students and families and the journey of helping students navigate their high school years. But in return, I feel that my experience as a dean and then as Director of Counseling as given me a valuable perspective into the student experience that informs the decision making in my new role.

Q: Feel free to talk about anything else you feel we should know:

Scarsdale High School is a wonderful community to be a part of. For fifteen years I have enjoyed the company of those who work and live here, and it has made me a better counselor, administrator, parent and community member. I feel blessed to be part of a thoughtful and committed team and look forward to many more years here.

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