“What we needed to do was create a structure that allowed for more direct support for the students at a manageable level for teachers.” — TC Principal Peter Balas
The school year hasn’t started yet at T.C. Williams High School, but incoming Principal Peter Balas is already making waves. After meetings with faculty and staff, Alexandria City Public Schools has announced that the school’s administrative organization will undergo a complete restructuring.
Previously, instructional and student support programs were separated, with some administrators handling students and others handling faculty.
“What I wanted to do was create a leadership structure that would enhance both student support and teacher support [by] removing the barrier between those,” said Balas.
In the new model, there is one lead administrator for curriculum, instruction and assessment, with 10 administrators for instruction and student support working under the lead administrator. Two positions will be dedicated to the Minnie Howard Campus rather than cycling up to TC each year with the rising class. Two positions will be assigned to support the International Academy and the English Learners program. The remaining six positions will be divided into six groups called Academies, groups of students from various grade levels assigned to one administrator and counselor they remain with throughout their time at TC.
Before transitioning to the Mount Vernon Community School five years ago, Balas worked as a teacher and administrator at TC. Balas said the new system reflects the setup initially put in place at the school when it was reopened.
“I’ve been here for different cycles of leadership,” said Balas. “I’ve been here when things performed well and times where it struggled. When we had a reputation as a low achieving high school in 2009 and 2010, there was a leadership transition. One thing that was created was a new administrative type structure.”
But Balas said assigning counselors to certain classes left some faculty underutilized and others overloaded.
“Instead of having grade level counselors, all counselors have an even caseload,” said Balas. “In a senior year, each counselor would have around 200 seniors. For a counselor to manage 200 seniors became daunting task. Then at end of the year, [those counselors] are trying to onboard the incoming 9th grade class. Now, [the new system] gives a each counselor 40-45 seniors.”
No new positions were added as a result of the restructuring. Two administrative positions were reprogrammed into classroom support positions.
“When I was talking to teachers and students, there were some clear themes in what I was hearing,” said Balas. “There were factors outside of the classroom that seemed to be preventing teachers from being successful; things like attendance, behavior, academic performance of students, the culture of the school. What we needed to do was create a structure that allowed for more direct support for the students at a manageable level for teachers.”
As a result of this change, Balas said students may have a different counselor for the next year. Balas said there will be an introduction at the start of the year for students to the new counselors and helping students learn how to access the support structure.