In order to create a better environment for students, Fairfax County Public Schools conducts strategic plan surveys every few years to determine their goals.
This year, in conjunction with the survey, Principal Jeff Litz set up meetings with students to hear about their experiences at school. Some of the meetings were canceled due to conflicts in Litz’s schedule, but others still occurred.
“We principals were directed to hold these focus groups with at least 20 of our students,” Litz said. “I’ve done at this point closer to 40 or 45.”
Litz said he commonly asks students what they feel is going well in their educational experience, what the school could be doing better and one wish they had in regards to their education.
After one of his teacher’s recommended it, senior Seth Oliver decided to sign up and share his perspective.
“The one thing that I hoped to get out of it was to just tell them that this school still has flaws,” Oliver said. “Administrators need to pick up on it really, because there are some behaviors and actions that are not good.”
Junior Romeo Canes said he had a few things he wanted to discuss.
“I wanted to talk about social issues in our school, [and] why certain things shouldn’t be joked about,” Canes said.
Senior Ally Jimenez said her goal when signing up for the meeting amplify the concerns of herself and others.
“I feel like a lot of students voice their concerns and don’t really get heard,” Jimenez said.
She also said she wanted to address flawed communication among teachers.
“The majority of the teachers have piled on a lot of tests at the same time,” Jimenez said.
However, Jimenez was unable to meet with Litz due to a cancellation.
“I was kind of disappointed, because I feel like it was important to the students at least,” Jimenez said.
Litz said he thinks it is important to meet with students face-to-face. He also said he plans to announce monthly meetings, called student voice groups, in order to hear perspectives from more students on a regular basis.
“Kids [could] sign up probably 20 to 30 at a time during LEARN and just come meet with me and tell me whatever they want to tell me,” Litz said.
Oliver said there are pros and cons that come with both in-person conversations and online surveys.
“In person, you’re going to get a live reaction to how people feel, and you’re going to see their facial expressions,” Oliver said. “But online, you’ll get a more honest opinion because they’re not going to be speaking to someone within power.”
Litz said he hopes to make positive changes around the school by taking student feedback into consideration.
“When I was in high school, no one really ever asked me what I thought about school,” Litz said. “I very much believe as the principal and the leader of this small city, that it’s important that I stay focused on how we can become better, while also celebrating what kids think we do really well.”