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November 20, 2017

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MRH High Principal Saluted by National School Redesign Group

MRH High School Principal Dr. Kevin Grawer(This article is from a newsletter by the Center for Secondary School Redesign, which fosters unique concepts of learning in schools. It does a fine job of spotlighting the philosophies of MRH, as well as Dr. Grawer's personal and professional approaches to growing tomorrow's leaders, scholars, stewards and citizens.)

"When is the last time that you allowed someone to change the way you thought about something?" Maplewood Richmond Heights High School (MRH) Principal Kevin Grawer is prone to asking this question when he considers the job of effectively educating students. He believes that part of our role as educators is the ability to be influenced by colleagues, and to keep what he calls a "growing edge" to our practice. When he signed on to be Principal at MRH, an urban school just outside St. Louis, MO, he told the Board that he wanted to visit one school each semester in a different state. For him, maintaining his growing edge was about finding someone who does his job better than he did and then watching and learning from them. Grawer will present along with other members of his staff at the upcoming 2018 Student-Centered Secondary Schools Showcase: Redesigning for Student Success.

This commitment to constantly growing has paid off in big ways. Over the last eight years MRH has moved from the state failure list to a nationally recognized school. Among many recent awards, they were named a 2015 National Urban School of Excellence by the National Center for Urban School Transformation, and named a National Breakthrough High School in 2014 and 2017 by NASSP for their four years of sustained growth. Student scores on Missouri End of Course exams average 75% advanced proficient in the eight tested areas, whereas eight years ago those rates were around 40%. Most tellingly, MRH is a place that students want to go. The school used to get about 70% of students from the local middle school and now they get nearly 98% and student enrollment is steadily increasing.

Center for Secondary School Redesign LogoMRH is located two metro stops away from St. Louis, an area where population demographics have changed drastically over the last ten years. Currently with 340 students enrolled, the school is 54% Caucasian, 38% African American, and about 7-10% Multiracial. 48% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch. The school was uniquely effected by the 2012 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO - located just seven miles north of Maplewood - and the subsequent race riots that ensued. MRH has emerged from that painful episode with a reputation of being a catalyst for equity in programming and race relations. Grawer was even interviewed in 2014, along with student Jazmen Bell, by National Public Radio's Renee Montagne. (Listen to that interview here!)

The Showcase presentation will go into more depth about the strategic focus areas that brought about the changes at MRH. First and foremost was a focus on relationships and a mind shift for everyone in the building from "us against them" to "us with them." Grawer credits this mind shift as being critical for all of the subsequent work that went on - without it he believes they would not have been able to do any of the programming pieces that they do. These program pieces include expanded dual-credit options through partnerships with local universities; multiple graduation options, including several school based Centers that address the social and behavioral needs of diverse learners; and a commitment to combating disciplinary infractions through a restorative process called "Blue Devil Expectations." Grawer and his team will also focus on their cross-curricular focus on literacy which consists of multiple exposures to the same expectations for writing, reading comprehension and speaking in all classes.

Grawer is proud to note that MRH is a place where "how you treat people matters." He says that over the last eight years the things that he worries about have changed - whereas he used to worry about keeping kids in school, now he is concerned with adding more dual credit options and enrolling more students in AP courses. In line with his commitment to maintaining his growing edge, he and his staff are looking forward to the op

For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.