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Linganore principal strives to improve school’s welcomeness

Linganore+students+watch+principal+Dr.+Michael+Dillmans+morning+announcements+before+switching+into+PREP.
Delaney Browne
Linganore students watch principal Dr. Michael Dillman’s morning announcements before switching into PREP.

The clock ticks closer and closer to 10:15 a.m., when the bell rings for Linganore High School (LHS) students to switch to their next period, PREP. The bustling sound of kids talking and chairs clashing into desks masks the sound of the teacher quickly typing on their computer to pull up a YouTube video on the Promethean board. The video showcases Linganore’s principal Dr. Michael Dillman’s morning announcements of the day.

Dillman’s announcements feature events and programs for students and staff to look forward to each week, informing interested parties of crucial information. Some of what Dillman shares include sport games of the day, events for club members or programs. Each concludes with student birthday shout outs for that day.

These announcements are meant to notify students of events hosted by the school to participate outside of classes and are meant to open up more opportunities for students to be involved in the school community. One key purpose of the morning announcements is to make students and staff feel more welcome at school. This begs the question: how does Linganore work to improve making the school a welcoming place?

Dillman began these digital announcements at his prior school, Brunswick High School (BHS), to connect with students throughout their distance learning during COVID-19. He wanted a way to bring consistency to online learning, allowing students and staff to still be able to connect and communicate about the school.

“I wanted to try to be as consistent [as possible,]” Dillman said. “[I thought,] let’s bring some kind of normalcy to a really crazy situation; it was really just a way to communicate [with other students].”

Dillman plans to grow the school’s empathy towards other students through Linganore’s School Improvement Plan. A school improvement plan is a set of goals for the school to develop and implement over the course of the year.

In addition to state surveys, such as the climate survey, the school provides their own surveys to study students and how they feel in the building. This information is used by the principal and other staff members to develop their school improvement plan for their students based on their results.Schools will analyze student feedback using a form provided by the state. These help the state determine how the students and staff are performing across districts in many different subjects.

Linganore’s School Improvement Plan works to advance students’ performance in school and improve students’ well-being. Dillman says the 4 A’s of Linganore, Academics, Attitude, Accountability and Acceptance, are based around the school improvement plan. He wants to encourage students to represent these principles at LHS.

Groups such as the Student Voices and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) help develop events to build community at the school. Linganore has already hosted a multitude of events in which students can participate and interact with their peers outside of the classroom. Some of the events this year included the Egg Nog Jog, the Cool School Challenge, and most recently, the No Place For Hate initiative.

In addition to the School Improvement Plan, Linganore staff have developed their own ways for staff to connect with one another. LHS’s Sunshine Committee is run by staff at the school to raise staff by providing opportunities to hang out and have fun outside the stressful school environment.

Linganore instructional assistant Toni Shiderly noted a handful of the fun events planned this year for staff.

“We have [the] Soupapalooza every year, [and] we are gonna do this fun baked potato bar luncheon in May,” Shiderly said. “We [also] always have a luau in August.”

Everybody’s stressed out for all of the classes… [staff members] expect you to get done and there’s only so much time in the day. So, we decided it was about time that the adults needed to [relax outside of school through fun events outside of school].”

— Toni Shiderly

This year, staff members Joe Aprill and Meghan Ballatt introduced The Good, the Bad, and the Tuesday Film Club for staff members to join together to watch a new film each month.

These fun activities allow more staff to come together and have fun with their jobs when many teachers do not have the time to interact with the other staff members, particularly outside their department, during the day.

Additionally, LHS provides students many opportunities to feel welcomed at the school and become involved with different activities based on their interests. The goal with these programs is to make Linganore a more inclusive place for all students and staff.

“[This year, we want to] really push [that] we are accepting of everyone, [that] our community can be accepting and [that we] can be super diverse,” Dillman said. He strives to find a place for everyone to come together and feel welcome and supported at school, through programs such as the FCPS initiative No Place For Hate.

With all the programs and plans to improve on the school environment, it raises the question whether these events really help address this concern for students and staff. Linganore High School does plan to improve on the welcomeness of the school and its community, through the School Improvement Plan and creating more programs to increase LHS’ inclusivity. However, there are some things Linganore students and staff have pointed out can be refined to make the school a more welcoming place.

Most students agree that Linganore is a welcoming environment and feel that many of their peers are kind and respect them.

Linganore sophomore Addison Stacey reported that she feels accepted at LHS, “Based on the activities that I do and the people that I interact with, I [do] feel welcome,” Stacey said.

Some believe Dillman’s birthday announcements are a nice consideration but do not have an uplifting effect on all students. Linganore sophomores Kayla Self and Anika Graunke feel neutral about the shoutouts, stating that the announcements are just announcements, and they feel little to no benefit from these videos.

“It’s a nice sentiment; it just doesn’t work well,” Self said.

While Graunke also noted she felt neutral, she did point out a possible downside for certain students.

“Everyone likes shoutouts every now and again, but I feel like for a lot of people, it could also be kind of embarrassing,” Graunke said.

Some Linganore staff do agree that there can be improvements made to make Linganore more welcome for them and their peers.

“I wish that we [the staff members] knew each other better,” Linganore science teacher Lynn Fox explained.

Fox wishes that she could meet up with the other staff members at the school to get to know them. She sees many LHS teachers around the school but is not familiar with them personally.

“Unfortunately, after two years, I don’t know everybody and I would like to,” Fox said.

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