Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Razdolna School

Some of you may have wondered about Doug's working at a Russian school. He is 3 weeks into his job, 2 weeks since school started, so let me share some of the things he has discovered and experienced.

There are currently 41 students at Razdolna, up from 36 last year. At this point 11 kids will be enrolling in kindergarten next year, in a building that has a maximum capacity of 50 students. Needless to say, there are growing pains! Since the school district rents the building from some of the villagers, they cannot actually make any improvements. They are working on a plan to address this problem. Student test scores are high, so Doug's job will be to make them higher! Parents want their kids to have homework.

There was an open house at the school today, and every family stopped by. Many were very appreciative of Doug's being there, there were numerous comments about how the school is looking better, and some were even asking if Doug was going to be there next year! Overall, it is an incredibly positive place to work.

There is a full-time K-4 teacher, Ann, who has taught at the school 10 years and lives in one of the other Russian villages (though not Russian herself). There is a part-time 5-12 teacher, Laura, for whom this is her first year teaching. The other half of the time she is a Title teacher. Doug is the other half-time 5-12 teacher. He teachs math, technology and independent study. They also have various part-time teachers who come in as counselors, to teach Russian, special education, etc. The secretary of the school is a Russian lady who lives in the village and acts as an informal liaison between the school and village.

Doug's comment after the first day of school, about the students: "They are kids like kids everywhere. They are very well-behaved and smart. The only difference is that they will start speaking Russian every so often." Doug was so excited the other day when a student was looking through the Algebra textbook and saw some graphs and said with great enthusiasm, "I really want to learn this stuff!" In 15 years of teaching he has never encountered such an openess to learning.

Obviously there is no bussing, since all the students live in the village. They have an hour for lunch and they all go home. The teachers then have a half hour lunch and half hour prep.

School supplies are delivered to McNeil Canyon School, 15 miles away, so Doug has to pick up water (the water in the school is unpotable), paper, chairs, equipment, etc. He also has to take the trash to the dumpster at McNeil.

The school belongs to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District that encompasses hundreds of miles from north to south, including some schools in the bush (fly-in or boat in only). Doug has never known such an incredible level of support in all his years of teaching. He has been hired to do his job. The district office staff repeatedly state that they are there to help them do their job. This school district is one of the best in the nation for its size. While there is paperwork, like anywhere, Doug says there is a purpose to it (as opposed to pointless paperwork) and he doesn't mind it because he understands why they need it.

The superintendent is very responsive to the administrators (80 of them!). She expects them to do their job as principals, which means having quality teachers on staff. The whole atmosphere of the district is education. The health insurance is self-funded, which means they have not hired a middle-man to pay their insurance costs; the district pays the health insurance bills themselves.


Christopher McIntosh Photography said...

I tried to find an email for you somewhere listed on your blog, but didn't have any luck, so I'm just starting here. I'm a journalist, and I've been looking for some information on Razdolna and Kachemak Selo, the two russian old believers villages on the Kenai Peninsula. I've been interested in doing an article on these places for some time, but haven't really found any contacts. I was wondering if you possibly knew of anyone I might be able to talk to about visiting these places.

Michelle Waclawski said...

You could start with us...email me at waclawskim@gmail.com.

LouieG said...

Have had a chance to run the article? I'd be interested in reading it if you did.

Great blog! As a newbie to the area I really appreciate you putting this up. It has been a good point starting point to research and satisfy my curiosities around The area. Thank you!