I had a great meeting yesterday with Bob Ogle, Head at the young Pacific Ridge School in north San Diego County. Eight yeas ago this school was an idea; five years ago it was a collection of portable buildings on a hillside; today it is fully-enrolled, grades 7-12, with an impressive array of intelligently designed buildings. I took two things away from the conversation and tour of their campus.
First, our ideas of how students learn best is rapidly evolving, and when we design and construct buildings that must last for 50 years, the single key word is flexibility. Over the last decade I was responsible for $70 million in renovation on our campus, and we got a lot of it very right; the Francis Parker School Linda Vista campus has won a number of design awards. But we did not ask quite enough questions when it came to the layout of actual learning spaces; we defaulted too quickly to the classic classroom model. Pacific Ridge did a good job of adding some creative open spaces that can be used both for casual student “hang out and learn” spaces, but also can quickly be taken over by a teacher and class if they want a larger space than afforded by their classroom. Bravo on this design element.
Second, I was struck once again by the compressed timelines in which we are operating. When Pacific Ridge first broke ground, smartphones did not exist and no one had yet heard the term “flipped classrooms”. In the normal life cycle of a five-year strategic plan, this school has gone from “zero to sixty”, and already seen that they need to modify how they approach collaborative professional development, use of time in the daily schedule, and leadership planning. Bob is thinking deeply about how NOT to fall into a rigid, traditional model of top-down leadership and direction that is antithetical to how we want to operate and what we want to model for our students. He clearly understands that educational teams have to be more fluid in their approach to decision-making and teaching styles than we were just a half-decade ago.
Kudos to Bob and his team for painting a picture of where they want to go, and then working hard to align resources in support of their particular mission and vision.