Twenty teachers, some from the former Longfellow Magnet Middle School, some who taught at Harshman Magnet Middle School last year, all of whom now teach at the newly combined Harshman, went out for dinner Friday, August 8. It wasn’t a required team-building exercise or a mandate from their Academic Improvement Officer (AIO). They just all wanted to get to know each other better, to build relationships with new colleagues. Valerie Allen, their AIO, couldn’t be happier with how they are bonding on their own. “Honestly, I thought the main challenge would be the staff adapting to the merger, but they’re all being professional, team-oriented and great.”
Allen wasn’t as worried about the students because she expected them to adapt faster than the adults. But even there, the speed with which everyone has embraced the new school community has impressed her. She said that when you walk the school halls you already can’t tell who was from what school.
The attitudes of the teachers and students are a big part of this successful merger, but there have been other successful ingredients as well:
- Interim Principal Gerald McLeish served at both Harshman and Longfellow, so he has familiarity with most staff members and they are comfortable with him.
- With only three months on the job, Assistant Principal Amy Moore handled the school move, scheduling, registration, and speaking to parents like a seasoned pro.
- The school’s “house team” structure where students are broken into groups with Indiana college names (Butler University, Indiana University, Purdue University and Notre Dame) has made every student and teacher a part of a team immediately.
- An open house scavenger hunt gave students, parents and staff a chance to mix, to get to know each other and to get to know the school.
In what could have been a difficult situation, the new Harshman Magnet Middle School is off to a great start. Everyone involved in this merger has approached it as a chance to forge a new strong educational partnership, making Harshman a stellar example of student, family, staff and community cooperation in the new IPS.