Group action, freedom produce innovation

By John Larrabee
Contributing Writer
Teaching is a job that requires extra commitment, which is why Highlander Charter School makes a special effort to thank the staff for their effort. More

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Group action, freedom produce innovation

Courtesy Highland Charter School
AIMING HIGH: Combining personal touches, such as hand-written notes from the head of school to staff, as well as continuing professional challenges, such as a development day (pictured right).
By John Larrabee
Contributing Writer
Posted 6/25/12

Teaching is a job that requires extra commitment, which is why Highlander Charter School makes a special effort to thank the staff for their effort.

The Providence school holds appreciation events four times a year. “We might plan something after work at an establishment with darts or a pool table, where we’ll buy them appetizers and a first round,” said Rose Mary Grant, the head of school.

“Before the holiday party, the assistant head and I will write thank-you notes, telling each person what it is they do that makes a difference, and we’ll enclose a small gift card. It’s nothing big, but it shows we appreciate them.”

As a charter school, Highlander receives public funding, but is not part of the city’s school department and is not subject to the same rules – an exemption that’s meant to promote classroom innovation. Launched a decade ago, the school now has 295 students in grades K-8, with 48 full-time employees, 74 overall.

Benefits include matching contributions to 401(k) plans, and the employer pays 75 percent to 99 percent of medical, prescription and dental coverage. But what really makes Highlander a great place to work is the community, according to Grant.

Teachers and students get out of the classrooms for service projects that include cleaning up parks and planting flowers. Staffers join fitness programs like after-school Zumba classes together. And when someone needs time off for family issues, the school accommodates.

Said Grant, “The culture of respect and the flexibility and freedom to be innovative are what make us stand out.” •

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