The below post was written by Ellen Metz – Head of Schools at Noble Network of Charter Schools. For 13 years, Metz served at Noble’s original campus Noble Street College Prep in a variety of roles, including teacher, assistant principal and then principal. This school year kicks off Ellen’s second year overseeing all 18 of Noble’s campuses.
In 1999, Noble’s work began with parents as Noble Street opened its doors in service to roughly 120 Chicago families willing to believe in a school that didn’t have a building yet. During the early years of Noble, there were three stakeholder groups working in partnership with each other in pursuit of an excellent Noble education: parents, students and staff. As time passed, the partnership of these three stakeholders continues though it’s been strengthened with the addition of alumni and supporters. Twenty years later, the work of revising and enhancing our handbook also began with parents.
Beginning in November of 2018, each of these key stakeholder groups caucused and ultimately partnered to create the 2019-2020 Student and Parent Handbook. Over a period of six months I had the opportunity to meet with dozens of parents, students and staff members to gather their input during sessions that aimed to guide the final version of the SY20 handbook. Two dominant themes emerged from the parent sessions: parents love Noble’s dress code and they welcome high expectations for their child, provided the adults holding these high expectations are meeting them as well. What I heard repeatedly is Noble parents want and expect an excellent education for their child. This is why those first parents chose Noble twenty years ago and why today they continue to choose Noble. We must deliver on this promise.
After parents weighed in, I began to meet with students and staff directly about their concerns and ideas. These stakeholder input sessions occurred concurrently with other crucial working groups across Noble, including the Retention Steering Committee and DEI Steering Committee.
Overarching themes that emerged from these committees were rooted in the ‘and.’ Love and high expectations. Significant changes were suggested and since implemented that include a revision of Noble’s discipline promotion policy and transfer policy. The members on this committee were tasked with upholding the best parts of Noble while boldly naming where Noble needed to evolve.
When the input from all of these streams combined, what emerged was the most progressive handbook in Noble’s twenty year history. Changes in promotion policy, dress code and exclusionary discipline will make our schools more inclusive and better poised to drive equitable outcomes and experiences for students.