By Nathan Gorsch | June 4, 2021, 4:25 PM PT
My School Redesign Story
The truth is: I am not big on self-promotion. That doesn’t mean that I am humble, it just means that I am not big on talking about what I am doing. Instead, I would rather be doing it. I have had several people encourage me to tell the story of our little school and the journey we have been on, but I was always hesitant to do so. In education, we are a competitive bunch. If you start talking about something you do well, there are other educators just waiting in the weeds to pounce on you and point out what is not going so well. But, I think it is time to take the risk.
It is time to share our learning as a school.
Not that we’ve figured out or have become a north star that provides the path for others to follow, but because we have done something. We have stepped out of the path we were on to try to forge a new path in school redesign.
I have worked in education for over 20 years as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal. My experience includes areas with extreme poverty, a district that was over 70% military, a very affluent community, and everywhere in between. In total, I have worked in 3 different districts and am grateful for this diverse experience.
I have seen some amazing teachers, custodians, principals, secretaries, coaches, and others throughout my career. On the other hand, I have also seen some very mediocre to below-average folks. However, when I think about what I have seen in all of those schools, the common thread I have found is the need to change the system. Not a small change like a new curriculum, a new master schedule, a new bell schedule, or hiring some new staff, but a wholesale change in our school model. There is and has been talk for some time about school reform, but I am not sure that is aggressive enough.
I think we need to talk about school formation.
Not school redesign, but school design. We need a new version of school that better meets the needs of our students. Small changes are not going to be enough to meet the needs of our students in a world that has changed quite rapidly in the last few decades.
I have had the unique opportunity to go through the process of starting a school from scratch. Well, mostly from scratch. About 7 years ago, I became principal of an online school and to be completely honest, most people thought I was nuts.
I am a highly relational guy and have a strong feeling about online schools. Frankly, I think they are a terrible idea. To me, the idea that a student is not going to step foot in a school, do their homework in their bunny slippers, never meet their teachers in person, and generally avoid human contact is a tragedy, unless they have health concerns that truly make this the best/only option. Nevertheless, I believe that the online world (and the laws and policies governing this world) would provide the freedom needed to create a new system, a school redesign, that would better meet the needs of kids.
This series on school redesign is intended to tell that story.
Not as a step-by-step implementation manual, but hopefully as inspiration for you to think about the way you might design an educational system to meet the needs of your students.
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Meet the Writer
Nathan Gorsch is the Principal of Village High School in Colorado’s Academy 20 School District. There, he supervises the online high school program for over 400 students in both primary and supplemental online/blended enrollments. His role encompasses curriculum selection/development, teacher evaluations, student scheduling, marketing, and enrollment.
His degrees include a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from Colorado Christian University, a Bachelor of Science from Illinois State University, and a Certificate in Education Administration from the University of Denver.
Currently, Nathan also serves on the AASA Personalized Learning Cohort, the ASD20 Envisioned Future Taskforce and the Academy School District 20 Research and Design Team. He develops strategic plans and shares learned best practices and improves personalized learning implementations across the United States.