William Owings' Learning Story


The year was 1988 and I was a new high school principal in Franklin County, Virginia. The school had problems – a high drop out rate, low percentage of students going on to higher education, and parent and student apathy to name a few. We did a good job of working with the academically talented students, but not all students.
In my five years as principal the faculty (with changes) came around to accept a mission of meeting all students’ needs. We started interdisciplinary teaming in 9th grade to ease the middle school transition, set up a mentoring program for at-risk students, and taught interdisciplinary classes (combining 11th grade American Literature and American History so students studied the Civil War as they read the Red Badge of Courage) to make school more meaningful and relevant for student learning. We also reprised the musicals that the drama and music department put on after 20 years of artistic silence in that arena. I met with all new faculty every Friday over pizza and soda to help them last through the first year and be more effective than they might have been otherwise.
At the end of the fifth year our drop out rate had gone from 13.8% to 1.2%. The percentage of students going to higher education went from about 30% to 75%, and there was a true sense of school among community members and faculty. That was a true learning and growing community with which I was honored to share part of my life.