Starting with Ocoee HS, whenever I left a school, I took a moment to reflect on all the great things at the school, and I included my Top 100 list in my goodbye email to the staff. Here's my Ocoee High School list. The list could be much longer. This list was created in December 2007...right before I left the school to become an Assistant Principal at Boone High School. I know that I left many things off, so please feel free to add to the list by making a comment about other things that were, and still are, truly awesome about Ocoee High School. I know that Michael Armbruster could write a much longer list of things that he purposely did to create a unique, dynamic, healthy environment for students and staffulty--a combination of staff and faculty...Mike may have created that word. All of these "things" come down to relationships and being student-centered, with an intense focus on helping students succeed. Ocoee HS had a very healthy culture and climate, and student success was happening, and the stars of many students were being changed right before our eyes.
The Top 108 Things I loved and learned from Ocoee High School and Mr. Armbruster... by Matthew Fitzpatrick
1. “Goooooooooood Morning Knights” – The power of starting each day with enthusiasm… 2. Strong academic learning environment—“Staffulty reading books together: Common Ground, Whatever it Takes, We Beat the Street, Teamwork. 3. Starfish Story—make a difference, even if it is only one child. 4. The Castle Hope built by the Building construction class…located behind the end zone on the football field. 5. Relay for Life blowout celebration event – a time to remember and be united in the search for a cure for cancer. 6. Free school shirt for every student, every year 7. Free OHS pens for students who wear school colors on first Friday of the year. 8. Free staff Polo shirt every year. 9. Spirit day every Friday---jeans and school colors. 10. 1 hr. Lunch--incentive to pass FCAT and earn a 2.0…students wanted to pass the tests just to have a longer lunch period. 11. “1 and Done” Card – Sci-Fi Card – Get in to all home athletic games free for students who passed the test on their first try, or for students who passed the Science FCAT. 12. Freshmen Mentorship Program during part of the hour lunch. 13. Principal attends events just about every night…even bowling ☺. 14. Principal with high expectations for himself and others. 15. Emphasis on sports records to give student athletes something to strive for, and something to look back on and show their children. 16. GPA Award for the top student GPA on each sports team. 17. Pizza Party for teams that beat the rival school. 18. Renaissance Rallies to celebrate students who are on track to graduate. 19. Spring Fling Week—especially the Newspaper Fashion Show. 20. Principal participation in homecoming week—Batman, wacky day… 21. Principal greeting students at front door every day…and enjoying it! 22. OOOOOOOK 23. 40 Developmental Assets—connecting students to positive influences. 24. Small Learning Community—Relationship based environment. Assistant Principals were the “Principals” of their schools – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia. 25. 1st Day festivities…Pep Rally, Grade Level Speeches by Principal, and a free shirt…and students visiting every classroom on their schedule for 10 minutes. 26. Knight Fever—Open campus before the school year started…getting to know parents, teachers, students, programs, and the buildings. 27. Senior Day out at the football field. 28. Principal as the head cheerleader, wearing Ocoee logo stuff every day—also giving teachers the opportunity to order more shirts together. 29. Shields in the cafeteria representing each club and sports team 30. Culture of teachers helping other teachers and working together - PLC...Professional Learning Community. 31. Principal’s willingness to try to dance, double-dutch, juggle soccer ball 32. Curriculum writing in the summer 33. Trips to Stevenson HS in Illinois to see model school of PLC 34. Be the Change shirt, club, movement 35. Emphasis on Ruby Payne – understanding poverty 36. “College Focus” – Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Columbia –Mascot in the halls 37. Posting GPA averages of each sport during their season 38. Displaying articles from West Orange Times in windows 39. Knights of the Round Table – student recognition by Teachers each month. 40. Daily Dozen…things we all need to do as a staff, every day. 41. Student - centered decision making 42. Friday after school fellowship and treat for teachers – follow students out 43. Strong Leadership program for students…under Wendy Meyer Cartwright and Sheila Motley Jackson 44. Easter Egg hunt for top 100 academic students. 45. Reading reindeer – Pep rally – bring a book to attend…Books for the community 46. Champs discipline training with clear expectations. 47. Vision and mission … healthy community focused on learning. 48. Voice enhancement/projectors/plenty of computers [Technology] 49. Intensive classes to get students the help they need. 50. FCAT Boot camp 51. Coaches BBQ at the Principal’s house 52. PSAT – Paying for 9th/11th graders. 53. Senioritis speech in spring 54. 9th grade assembly – making HS count 55. Junior step-up 56. Senior walk-out – Leave earlier than the rest of the campus…less problems… 57. Administrative Dean Collaboration to make sure we are all on the same page and helping one another figure situations out. 58. Administrative meal together before supervising home football games 59. Bringing homecoming back to school 60. Coaches religiously send results of games to West Orange Times 61. Golf Tournament for all sports – booster club 62. Subway Athlete of the week 63. Senior student athletes of the year 64. Seasonal sports banquets together 65. Battle for the shield with West Orange HS. 66. AVID program to get students college-ready 67. Lock-outs – LOP…loss of privilege instead of lunch detention. 68. Counselors & Deans working together with students located within the same offices. 69. Miracle Movie – Coming together as a team to accomplish great things 70. “We Were Soldiers” mentality – 1st to arrive, last to leave 71. Blood drives…Knights paying it forward and giving back. 72. Teamwork group presentations during preplanning after reading the book “Teamwork” over the summer. 73. Christmas Craziness Party – usually some song by administration 74. “It’s a Beautiful Thing”…positive attitude about life. 75. Clean Campus with clubs and teams adopting different areas around campus. 76. Umbrellas with Knight logo 77. Coffee mugs with Knight logo 78. Lanyard pins – “Principal with the most flair in the county” 79. Safe Environment--Full Duty coverage during class changes/teachers at doors between classes, Admin in place before, after school, and during lunch. 80. Knight school to get kids on target to graduate 81. Top notch Fine Arts program – Principal attends everything – writes reviews 82. George Morse – The “Go to Guy”; every school needs one. (Of course, every campus also needs a Cheri Godek, Laura Beusse, and Mary Bridges handling Master Schedule, Data, Testing, etc. 83. Singing the Alma Mater after football games with OK lifted high 84. “Read” Posters of staff members 85. Crash car out front – Drive safely 86. Student faculty basketball game 87. JROTC program 88. Talent show 89. College acceptance letters posted on windows 90. Scholarship pictures in trophy case/newspaper 91. One of the most spirited marching bands in the land…hats off to Bernie Hendricks 92. SECME champs - Southeastern Consortium of Minorities in Engineering. Awesome Computer Science program. Hats off to Seth LB Reichelson 93. Freshman – ½ hour lunch – and hour in freshmen mentorship class with upper class mentors. 94. Dodgeball days in courtyard 95. Tug-of-war – Girls vs. Guys…until the rope broke 96. Admin collaboration/lunch together 97. Family atmosphere – (I know Bill – I’m leaving the family) 98. Biggest Loser Contest 100. Powder puff and bonfire 101. The Knightly News 102. The Intellectual Playground (The Media Center) 103. The “O” Show 104. The Sword in the Stone – thanking another staff member. 105. Class Graduation Year handprints in the hallways. 106. Early childhood enrichment program. 107. Outstanding Dance program 108. The Moment of Silence…to gather my thoughts and remember what is important.