In the late nineties, school districts across the country reacted to several high-profile incidents of violence in schools by creating and adopting new policies and procedures in an attempt to create safer communities. Typically, responses included increased monitoring, stricter rules, and harsher punishments.
In a meeting to consider our community’s response, someone suggested that clarifying our identity as a district was, perhaps, more important than adding rules and procedures. We needed to know and proclaim who we were as a district. As the discussion progressed, another participant suggested that we should let students know how we expected everyone to “act” instead of telling them all of the things that shouldn’t be done. Someone else suggested using “ACT” as an acronym for such a statement and, with surprising ease, such a statement was written and adopted.
The simplicity and appeal of the statement has been powerful. Now, ten years later, a poster of the statement hangs in every classroom and office of the district. It appears throughout school and district publications. Elementary students say it as a pledge. Some classes sing it. High school administrators use it as a guide and counseling tool for difficult disciplinary situations. Adults refer to it when meetings move towards conflict. It is the standard for our civic mission.
The primary intent of the REACH statement is to provide parents with a clear, understandable statement as to what can be expected to happen in Vail classrooms.
A second intent is to provide teachers with a clear statement regarding expected instructional behaviors in Vail.
A committee consisting of achievement teachers and principals met to develop a statement in 2006. Initially, the group worked on simply identifying the critical components of Vail’s expectations for instruction. The group then worked on putting those components into “simple” or “non-educationese” language. Finally, the group worked to put the components into some kind of memorable format. The finished project is the REACH statement.