Town hall stirs excitement about school’s future

Town+hall+stirs+excitement+about+school%27s+future

Dan McGlinn

Every year students treasure the town hall meeting at Malvern. It provides us a time to get our voices heard and to talk about any questions for the school or other thoughts we have on our mind. Unfortunately, the administration omitted a student town hall meeting this year, but I had the unique opportunity to sit in as a guest in Malvern’s official Town Hall Meeting held Tuesday, February 26, 2013. Many parents and faculty members attended this year, and the presentation proved to be very informative.

Attending the town hall meeting interested me for a number of reasons. The communication between administration and parents intrigued me. I wanted to find out if the information given to parents aligned with that of the students and if the messages were the same. Seeing how the administration relays their messages to the parents and faculty provided another draw. With all this 21st-century education talk, I was sure that the administration would give an interesting presentation, and they did not let me down.

Father Flynn’s opening prayer quickly answered one of my first reasons for being interested. He talked about the importance of the town hall meeting for keeping the transparency of Malvern and the administration. He stressed openness and honesty between the speakers and the audience.

After his opening prayer Mr. Talbot took the podium. As always, he worked Darth Vader and Maxwell into his presentation. He talked about the Augustinian values of Malvern. He brought up an impactful picture of the Mary statue in the foreground with the Duffy center in the background. He said it gave a beautiful analogy for Malvern. The Mary statue and Duffy represented the Augustinian values combined with 21st-century education.

With this segway he discussed the three ‘C’s of the 21st-century education idea: collaboration, connection, and creation. In his discussion of these ideas he spoke of many examples that amazed me at how quickly Malvern had adapted to 21st-century education. He talked about the need to increase ‘globalness’ because of the shrinking world and used examples of the foreign exchange program, the new London trip that the administration initiated this year as an experiment, and the service opportunities for rising seniors. He stressed the importance of moving towards 100% immersion for Malvern high school students in some way during their high school careers. The newly introduced iPad pilot program provides the last example of the three Cs, involving 22 iPads that are circulating around the school as an experiment for teachers and students in the hopes that it is a step towards a 1:1 ratio.

Mr. Sillup’s video was my highlight of the night. The video provided an example of how Mr. Sillup has used test results to help to adjust to each student and class. In his video, he shows how he is examining test data to help find students’ strengths and weaknesses and is making math appear more as a discipline than an isolated set of skills.

Other speakers included Mr. Frank Hallinan, Chairman of the Board, Mr. Mike Purcell, and Mr. Buscaglia.

Mr. Hallinan gave an overview of the initiatives of the board. He discussed the boathouse project for building the new crew boathouse and the partnership with the Fellowship House to get it built. He also discussed college counseling and how the Malvern administration is trying to better the school’s relationship with colleges through surveys and a reconstruction of the counseling department.

Mr. Mike Purcell talked about the finances of Malvern. He kept his message positive and shed some light on the financial situation of Malvern. Some of the biggest numbers that popped out to me included the stat that 90% of Malvern’s money comes from tuition, and salaries and benefits account for 85% of the money used.

Lastly, Mr. Buscaglia gave a brilliant presentation on how he is moving towards 21st-century education. He discussed how he is transforming his teaching style in his Spanish classes. He bases learning on performance-based assessment and proficiency in the language rather than solely on memorization and performance. He provided his students with authentic context by placing them in conversations with Panamanians on the foreign-exchange and has planned an upcoming project for his students requiring that they give a tour of Malvern’s campus completely in Spanish.

The night ended with around of questions from parents. These questions ranged from the security of campus to the cost of iPads for students and the importance of the SAT test. One asker posed a question in the form of an analogy. The asker compared 21st-century education to the Eagles’ upcoming season. Because of the dramatic changes of a new coach and making so many changes so quickly, people remain unsure about the upcoming season. He asked about the possibility that, like the Eagles, Malvern is looking at a ‘2-14’ season because of all the changes targeted for the long term. Mr. Talbot answered this question by discussing how the teachers and students have adapted to the new system, and are still adapting, while the process of discarding things that don’t work and bringing in new ideas is constant.

The town hall meeting made me excited about Malvern’s future. As a student I can say it definitely gave an accurate view of both the current state and future direction of Malvern. I learned lots of new information and can only hope that the students have an opportunity for that kind of open dialogue in the future.