While this month’s Next Practice Insight’s title probably says it all, what follows provides two exemplars of the sentiment expressed.

A number of years ago, I visited one of the schools I worked with on a regular basis, and the principal gave me a short tour of the building.  The school was struggling financially, and I thought it was because they were a small PK-6 school just a few miles away from a larger PK-8 school.  Then I saw the Kindergarten classroom.  The children were sitting in the room in their coats, and buckets were in several places in the room, collecting the streams of water cascading from the ceiling.  In the back corner of the room, an unidentifiable black substance oozed from the ceiling and continued down the wall.  I wonder what the parents of a prospective Kindergarten student would say when they saw that room, and realized it was where their child would spend his first experience of staying in a classroom all day on each day of the week.  The school closed the following year.

A few years later, another one of the PK-6 schools I worked with was housed in a building that had their cafeteria in the structure’s basement, complete with low ceilings, while the wooden floored room with a stage was on the top floor of the building, where grandparents had to crawl up three significant flights of cement stairs to attend a student performance event.  It was decided that the school would move several blocks away and take over a wing of the local Catholic high school, while the remainder of the high school would be used for its 7-12 grade program.   This effectively created a PK-12 education environment, with 2 separate schools contained in one building.  The classrooms of the elementary program would all be on one level, parking would be plentiful, and the PK-6 program would have a separate entrance from the high school.

One of the parents of the school community asked if he could do some “sprucing up” of the entrance one weekend, and was given permission to do so.  The parent was the owner of a local hardscaping company, and brought some of his workers with him.  When the week began on Monday morning, the school saw plantings with a mulch ground covering, a stone walkway, benches, and signage announcing the name of the school, all of which combined to make an inviting entrance to the school.

The easy question: Which school is the “Ooh and Ahh” school, and which one is the “Eww and Aww” school?

The difficult question:  Which school is yours most like?

The more difficult question:  What does that realization mean for your school’s long-term success?