Pulaski High School principal gets Kohl fellowship

Flexible scheduling, group collaboration foundation for award
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Pulaski High School principal Jeremy Pach spent much of the day on March 4 celebrating with his students and staff as the school had received the Spirit of Excellence state award.

When he returned to his office later that day, he learned the school had more to celebrate, as he was the recipient of a $6,000 fellowship award from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. Statewide, only 100 teachers and 16 principals received the award for 2019.

“I was kind of shell-shocked,” Pach said. “You don’t expect it to happen.”

Pach said the application process included questions on how the school was closing achievement gaps, the difference he is making in the school and what makes Pulaski High School a unique place compared to other schools in the state.

“We feel pretty strongly about how the flex mod schedule is certainly helping students make good decisions and build responsiblity,” Pach said.

The flex mod, or flexible modular, schedule that Pach refers to includes larger classrooms akin to college lecture halls with 70-100 students in a class but two or three teachers are teaching the material. There are also regular sized classrooms with 30 students, and then there are small group settings for a 30-minute period where students who are having difficulty in one of their classes can go to their teacher for additional assistance, one on one.

“There are a lot of schools visiting us” to learn about the flex mod scheduling, Pach said. “A school in Kansas visited us about the flex mod, and they implemented it this year. There are things happening in these confines that are bigger than us.”

Another new program that PHS has implemented is the concept of professional learning communities. Pach said the idea had been a hot topic years before he became principal, and the school decided to make it a reality. The professional learning communities are small groups of staff members analyzing what is being done in the schools and determining whether to keep certain things going or go on a different path to ensure students are constantly learning.

“Through Jeremy’s leadership as the high school principal, collaborative teams have excelled in implementation and refinement of the flexible modular schedule and a substantive transformation to a culture of professional learning communities,” said Bec Kurzynske, Pulaski Community School District superintendent. “Undertaking just one of these organizational change processes would be noteworthy, however, Jeremy has led both processes simultaneously and has done so by modeling expectations and supporting our staff and students.”

Besides the two major initiatives, Pach is also hoping to turn every room in the school into a source of pride for students and staff. He plans to have Red Raider posters printed for the smaller classrooms and school logos for the larger lecture halls.

“Some of our rooms were kind of drab,” Pach said.

Pach said he isn’t sure where the $6,000 will be spent, but the money is not received until late June, when school districts are finishing their budget year. He plans to talk with his staff then and see where the money is needed.

“I won’t have any problem spending $6,000 here,” Pach said. “It’ll be great.”