Much has been written about Cherry Hill High School West over the last several years, and it hasn’t been all good….and that is a shame. It is a shame that a good school has gotten a bad rap...BUT...all that is about to change because this is a NEW beginning for Cherry Hill High School West.
It was my pleasure to meet with George Munyan, a few weeks ago, and find out what the vision and the plans were for Cherry Hill West, under a restructured leadership team, of which he is the new leader.
Munyan is a gentleman and a ‘gentle man.’ I have known him for many years, and he is definitely a ‘kid person.’ One of the first things he told me about were the hundreds of emails and notes he was getting from people around the state, that had known him for many years – notes of congratulations and good luck. As a matter of fact, his office is beginning to look a little like a ‘green house’ with all the gifts of plants.
George has been an educator for 33 years, and he has always seen his life as giving it to kids. Munyan’s commitment to West is to see that “everything that is right and good for kids will be done….no matter how hard or difficult the decision may be.”
Munyan and his team at West has been working very hard to get the school, and themselves, ready for a new school year. They have some wonderful ideas about how West will be a place of ‘inclusion not exclusion’ for everyone.
George Munyan’s philosophy is: West is really still like a classroom, and he is still at teacher. One of the things her learned early on was that you can bury kids with paper and words and if you do that...they won’t hear the actual message you are trying to teach.
From now on at West, there will be three main commitments: Academic Excellence, Respect and Security, and everything he does will be about them. In fact, those three words will be on the marquee in the front hallway, so that everyone sees them every day.
Munyan wants to bring stability to West, restore what was the best of the past, and take West into the 21st century.
George is vitalizing a lot at West, new carpeting, new paint on the walls, and an honest to goodness Main Office and reception area for visitor, staff and students will finally find a home there. Right now there isn’t even a Main Office Sign, but all that will change, so people will know where to go. (CHC note: the tangerine, chocolate chips, and candy corn walls are GONE.)
He also has claimed the smallest office as his, because it was the office of the original principal at West, and it will actually be located in the main office, next to a conference room which will be used for many reasons. Munyan wants 14 seats in this conference room, not only for use by some of the West PTA when they want it – but he wants a reserved chair for any Beck, Carusi or Rosa parent who might want to sit in and find out about West.
Munyan also wants two reserved chairs for alternating Elementary school parents who might want to sit in. Munyan feels that any parent who potentially could have a child at West, has a right to have a voice at West, and help set West’s policy. Of course, the conference room will be a place for staff and faculty to have a voice.
George Munyan philosophy also extends to his belief that staff, administration and faculty are the employees of parents, that parents employ them to do the right thing, and the students are the clients that they should serve.
Munyan’s conference room will also be “open to kids – all kids – not only the brightest, the governing body or the leaders of the school – but the kids who would not normally be invited in to voice an opinion.” All kids have to know that he is the “principal of everybody.” He wants them to know that West cares about them, and that West is their home.
Munyan is not only tied to Academic Excellence for West, but West being a building of respect for all….and everyone showing respect back to everyone and to the building. He also is dedicated to a secure, safe environment for the students, staff and faculty….and “anyone who cannot do this will have to go somewhere else very quickly – they will not be allowed to stay at West.”
West is starting anew in everything from a newly incorporated main office, and standards based education to how they begin their year. Revitalization is definitely the key word for West in the future. Munyan is even throwing out the normal way of beginning school for his faculty.
This year, instead of gathering at West to hear speeches and receive information, West’s staff traveled on buses to the Liberty Museum. For those of you who have not been there, the Liberty Museum is a reflection of humanity’s diversity. The entire museum is dedicated to the concept of ‘human liberty.’ This is where the new year for West began – in a place reflecting who they are at West...a multi-cultural society, within a high school. There the staff heard the ‘message’ of what West will be, which is:
Academic Excellence will not just be words hanging on a wall...to be forgotten. Munyan wants Standards-based education to become a living, breathing thing at West. Some of this will be accomplished by having Faculty meetings every month, so the entire staff can get together, and discuss things. These meetings will be in addition to Department meetings, and the weekly Administrative meetings.
All dates will be given out ahead of time, and except for a very good reason, family emergencies or a pre-scheduled event, no one will be excused from attending.
The meeting make up itself will change...the old just read a piece of information paper in the beginning is out...now they will take the ‘standards’ off the wall and work on curriculum development, for the first 45-minutes. His plan is also to have different student groups, or department groups, or administrators showcase their latest work, achievements, etc, during part of these meetings. The last few minutes will include the normal information, but they will be working meetings.
Another addition at West will be discussing ‘grading’ and the method used for giving grades to students. What is used as the criteria for the grade...homework, class participation, projects, tests, notebook, etc….what makes up that grade? Can the students see the grade? Munyan wants to know what method each teacher uses….what are the options for kids getting grades. Should this change?
Because of his belief that they are there to serve the community, and students, Munyan intends to send letters home to the parents, every marking period, explaining the grading process and how many A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and failures are given out in each department.
He believes greatly in accountability for everyone...student, staff, faculty and administration...to everybody – no secrets, no surprises.
George Munyan also wants to look at the current method of assigning projects, and assignments in general. He believes in parents having the right to know and their empowerment. He also believes that students have to know where they stand and what they can do to succeed. A lot of what needs to be done will be done by utilizing standards-based education, and for that Tim Carroll will play a large part.
Part of the ‘open door’ policy at West will be the leadership team visiting faculty classrooms to see how the standards are being taught and utilized. Another part of this ‘open door’ will be that since West does not have a switchboard operator for people to actually talk to, all parents will receive staff and faculty’s phone numbers and extensions, so they can communicate with them.
Yes, West is ready to go...into the future. Not only the school is being revitalized….everyone is being revitalized. Even though my visit was on a 98º day in August, there were people going to and fro, and laughter being heard. It was more than just the tangerine hallway being painted, the school was taking on new life...new hopes and dreams. The leadership team was extremely busy with meetings, and meetings, and meetings, but they were thriving on it. Secretaries were working in makeshift areas, without a hint of complaint. Plans were being made for the Freshman Orientation Welcome, and different ideas for during the year to get kids involved.
George Munyan feels very strongly that his leadership team and the West staff have the capability of making West one of the best high schools in New Jersey - or anywhere. However, a team sometimes is only as good as it leader – and the Cherry Hill Connection has no doubt that the new leader of West is ready to take on the world – to give the students of West what they need and deserve – and that is certainly wonderful.
The assignments of the CH West team are as follows:
Joe Copolla – who will be responsible for Social Studies, English, IB – 11 & 12, and the Middle Year’s Program.
Dennis Davidow will be responsible for the 12th grade discipline and maintenance of the building.
George Franks will be handling Math, Science and World Language.
Tim Carroll will be responsible for the building budget, 9th grade discipline and also will be the keeper of Standards-Based education for faculty and staff.
Joe Akinskas will handle Business & Marketing, and the Arts, but he will only be at West part of the time.
Bobbie Hannmann will still be Guidance, Ira Kozlov will handle the grounds and Athletics, and Dorothy Dunmore will handle 10 & 11 gr. Discipline, along with the monitoring of security and more.
We will do alternating running series on West this year, including interviews with other administrators, faculty, staff and students. In November, meet Tim Carroll and Standards-based education at West.