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Gonzaga Professor Salina to Share Highlights of Sunnyside High School Turnaround on Nov. 27

Gonzaga education Associate Professor Chuck Salina (above) led a highly collaborative turnaround effort at Sunnyside High School. He will discuss the initiative on campus Nov. 27. Photo courtesy Sunnyside School District.

SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University School of Education Associate Professor Charles Salina will discuss “Transformational Partnership: Gonzaga and Sunnyside High School” at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 27 in the McCarthey Athletic Center’s Herak Room. The event, sponsored by the Greater Gonzaga Guild, is free and open to the public.

Salina led the Gonzaga team turnaround effort at the school in Sunnyside, Wash., which had a graduation rate of 64 percent when the initiative began in 2010. Salina took over as interim principal, a requirement of the $6 million federal School Improvement Grant supporting the effort, promising to focus on research-driven activities to improve attendance and graduation rates. By June of 2012, the school reported an attendance rate of 95 percent, with 78 percent of students passing all classes, and a graduation rate of 78.4 (and an extended graduation rate of 79.7 percent).

Chuck Salina served as the interim principal at Sunnyside High School, as part of the federal turnaround grant. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside School District.

“This work has been, at all times, a partnership,” Salina said. “It’s been a partnership among colleagues at Gonzaga, a partnership among teachers, students, administrators, staff and students at Sunnyside High, and a partnership between K-12 and higher education that points the way to more results-generating alliances in the future.”

Other Gonzaga School of Education faculty involved, included: Suzann Girtz and Jonas Cox, who provided continuous program evaluation; Anny Case, who offered input on the English Language Learners program; Elaine Radmer, who helped Sunnyside teachers improve teaching and assessment practices; and Mary Brown in counselor education.

Joining Salina for the Guild presentation will be Sunnyside High Assistant Principal David Martinez, and Joshua Eidson, who teaches leadership at Sunnyside. Also joining Salina will be Sunnyside students who were in the 10th grade when the effort began; these individuals are providing further insight to effective change.

Salina will highlight the initiative’s five commitments: a collaborative culture focused on student learning and higher graduation rates; data-driven support for at-risk students; acceleration and enrichment programs extending beyond the school day; a safe and welcome environment to increase attendance; and enhanced parental and community involvement. In addition, Salina will address specific steps taken to change the school’s culture to create an environment of academic achievement with the social support necessary to motivate students’ success.

“Building an environment that motivates students, builds confidence and provides a psychological safety net is crucial for success,” Salina said. “Students must be encouraged to take risks, admit mistakes, ask for help, experience failure and bounce back. Everyone in the school is responsible to help with this.”

High expectations for educational attainment provide specific direction for students’ work and accomplishments, direct teachers and students to what must be accomplished, and enhance students’ self-concept as successful learners, he said.

When social support is combined with high expectations for attainment, students become more engaged with school and envision their future, he said. A culture of relational trust between teachers, staff, administrators and students creates a safe environment that strengthens the school culture by allocating time and expertise to the most important activities.

“Building relational trust has been key at Sunnyside,” Salina said. “The sense of teamwork and shared responsibility is vital for success. Teachers, staff, students, administration – everyone is doing better work, and everyone understands how they are part of both individual and collective success.”

Salina also will address the benefits of the partnership to teacher education at Gonzaga. In addition to fieldwork experience for Gonzaga students and faculty, the partnership offers models of change that GU students can take into the workplace. The project also helps build knowledge that can be applied to other struggling schools.

“The kinds of demands our K-12 schools are facing require lots of support,” Salina said. “It is a privilege for Gonzaga to be part of building a solution at Sunnyside.”

Salina, Cox and Girtz recently presented an update on the project at a state conference for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the state’s Association of School Administrators and Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. The project has been reported in education journals as well.

The Greater Gonzaga Guild is dedicated to raising awareness of Gonzaga’s scholarly and cultural contributions to the region. The Guild is open to all people interested in learning.

For more information, please contact Mary Joan Hahn, Gonzaga’s director of public and community relations, at (509) 313-6095 or via e-mail.

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