John Zuk, Editor in Chief
The 2015-2016 school year has come to a close. For our seniors, their time at Casady is complete. As the underclass men and women are studying neither too early nor too late for their final exams, and the seniors are preparing for college, I thought it would be prudent to examine the strengths and weaknesses of our school this year and beyond. From a new schedule to ending our historic sports rivalry with Heritage Hall, a lot has happened and a lot has been set up for the future this year. For this reason, I sat down with our headmaster Mr. Sheldon, and English teacher Mrs. Stone, to discuss the current state and future of Casady School.
John Zuk: What do you see as Casady’s greatest strengths and weaknesses as of right now?
Mr. Sheldon: I think one of the things we do really really well is preparing our kids for the next level. I think that is cliché in a way, but I do think we get everyone ready for whatever their next level is. For example, I think you’re going to be ready for Pomona, I think other kids are going to be ready for Baylor, or wherever that next step is. But I do think we do an incredible job of getting everyone ready for whatever level they’re going into. I think we live our mission into each and every child , which is to prepare them to succeed. Can we do better? Absolutely. There are always ways we can improve on that. That’s where we look into the weaknesses. On a micro level I think there are ways we can improve on that and I think one of the things we can continue to work on always is in character education and to make sure we are consistent with that character education. We need to make sure our kids are not only getting an academic education, but that they’re also getting a great life character education so that when they leave here, they know what it means to be a great citizen of a community.
Mrs. Stone: Casady’s biggest strength right now is the same strength it has always had, which is the academics it provides to students to prepare them to succeed in college. Hands down. As to the weaknesses… *pause* … I have to think here. Casady’s greatest weakness is that right now, with today’s economy in Oklahoma, we have to be very conscious in crafting and understanding our identity and not allowing it to be diluted or changed based on what our competitors do, especially in Oklahoma City.
John Zuk: Five years from now where do you see Casady?
Mr. Sheldon: To say that I know where it’s going to be in five years I think would be a stretch. I want us to be continually looking for ways to push the mission of our school with the environment of the day. By that, I mean we don’t know what majors are going to exist in five years, but we need to know how to develop critical thinking skills and how to develop ethical and empathetic people that can go into the world and make a difference. So if we can develop the skills and knowledge for the kids to be successful in that environment, that’s where our school needs to head. That probably means we will see a different curriculum than we see today. You might see more technology; in fact I do think you’ll see more technology than we see today in terms of coding, whether that’s considered a foreign language or not, I don’t know *chuckles* but when you come back in five years you’ll see that in our curriculum. You may see a different schedule because of the way we choose to teach but at the end of the day you’ll see us doing the same thing which is preparing our students to succeed.
Mrs. Stone: I think Casady is getting ready to do some really awesome and inventive things when it comes to curriculum. We’re having lots of discussions about using Harkness in the classroom, and interdisciplinary classes, which I think is the way education needs to go because our world isn’t isolated into subjects. The idea that I could teach a class that combines political science, history, and literature is the coolest thing ever. And I think Casady School has the ability to allow teachers to do that. And so where I see us in five years is at the cusp of implementing interdisciplinary courses not just in the Upper Division, but in the entirety of the school, and that’s going to be a good change.
John Zuk (to Mrs. Stone): You have had the unique privilege of being at Casady as a student, a teacher, leaving Casady to go to another school for a year, and then coming back.
Mrs. Stone: And a parent!
John Zuk: And a parent! From your time as a student to now, what’s the most positive shift Casady has made.
Mrs. Stone: I absolutely think that the school is more (for lack of a better term) student centered. I think the school, and the teachers, and the administration look at individual students and their needs much closer and much better than they did twenty years ago when I was here. We didn’t have learning specialists, we didn’t have extra time, we didn’t have exceptions to any rules. So in that way, the school is a lot kinder.
John Zuk (to Mr. Sheldon): In this particular year, what do you see as Casady’s greatest accomplishment?
Mr. Sheldon: I would say one of the biggest accomplishments that we’ve made has been in the area of communications. We have really done a good job of communicating a lot better in all areas. Whether it has been to alumni, parents, teachers, or students, I think we’ve been more intentional in how we communicate. We’ve taken a lot of measures to be more intentional in building community through our communications. Are we perfect? No. But I think that as a group we feel more connected and that we know what is going on as a student body and as a school because of our communications. I think our communications team has done a really nice job in this regard. And it is culminating now with the first stage of our website redesign. I think that’s been positive, and I can’t wait to go into the second phase of that in the fall.
John Zuk: So if communications is our greatest accomplishment this year, what do you think Casady’s greatest accomplishment next year will be?
Mr. Sheldon: I think it’s going to begin with Mr. Bottomly being in his new role. The college counseling department will remain strong in his absence, so he can look at the curriculum and the ways we are teaching to see if there are ways we can change that to do it better. We’re launching MSON next year, which we’re excited about, and from that, I think it’s going to develop in the way that some of our teachers will become MSON teachers themselves. I think we’re going to see some curricular moves in the upper division that are going to look different. It will take a couple of years, but there will be some change. We also want to do as we always do and evaluate our scope and sequence for the entirety of the school. We’ll look at stuff such as math all the way from kindergarten to twelfth grade, and make sure there is no overlap, while also ensuring there are no big gaps or holes. So Mr. Bottomly and his team will continue with that. The other thing I’m really going to be looking at and focusing on is to bring in people to look at the evaluation of faculty, so that we can go out and fundraise in a big way, so that we can have very competitive salaries for our faculty. There’s no reason our faculty shouldn’t be the highest paid faculty in the state. And I’m a big proponent of that. If we’re going to bring in the type of faculty we want, they shouldn’t come in at the salaries Oklahoma teachers are at. So, in our next fundraising campaign, we need to focus on bringing in competitive salaries. So that’s what you’ll see next year.
So there you have it: the full scoop on Casady from the headmaster and a reliable teacher. It is clear that Casady is going to make strides in building the best curriculum for its students, and will continue to go forth with its mission of preparing its students to succeed. Although my time at Casady is done, I hope to come back to a school where everyone is encouraged to cultivate their passions, and where all those passions can be found on campus. It gives me solace knowing I am leaving an institution that cares for its students, and gives them the best possible chance to succeed in the world. I know the administration, students, and teachers will continue to work hard in the years to come, because that’s just what people at Casady do. I am privileged to say that the state and future of our school is bright, and that I will be forever a Cyclone!