Not Just Any Family, a Firebird Family


Ed Bolden and Lucy Schaefer

At the start of the school year at Lakota West High School, Superintendent Matt Miller and Principal Elgin Card were very excited to give staff and students a new experience. 

During the first two days of school, Lakota West held a school-wide event: teachers held off on instruction and instead engaged in relationship building with their classes, and then, students were able to explore the building and choose activities based on their personal interests, including ping pong, puppy therapy, and basketball. The intent of this was to have students build relationships with new students and teachers. Mr. Card wanted for Lakota West to begin building a family, to  “[j]ust to be there for each other. What I want is kids that are graduating and having families come back and say you made such an impact. I don’t like everybody all the time, but you guys are like my kids. When you’re here, you want to treat the students as your children.” Students maybe didn’t realize it, but they were building relationships with their peers and having a good time doing it. 

Lakota students had positive and negative things to say about the first two days of community building at the school.  A junior, Julia Brenner, gave positive feedback: “The first two days were nothing crazy. Of course, running our classes was exciting but the free time at the end was more exciting.” Another junior, Kailyn Dudukovich shared that she “liked the idea but [it would]be better if there were organized activities to do.” Dudukovich says that she wishes there were more opportunities for different activities and that there was a clearer way to finding people she wanted to hang out and “build relationships.”

What I want is kids that are graduating and having families come back and say you made such an impact.”

— Principal Elgin Card

The staff also had feedback to give about the first two days. Mr. Mike Pellissier, a biology and chemistry teacher at Lakota West, had a positive response. He said, “I liked it and I think there’s a lot of potential to start the year right. Teachers to get to know the students and the students to get to know the teachers.” Mrs. Tracie Kleman, an innovation hub supervisor, agreed. “I thought it was interesting. I think it was a lot better than kids listening to a litany of rules and regulations. I think it’s important to establish a relationship with your community.” She was very pleased with the first two days, saying that the structure will take time to perfect but eventually it will be, and everyone will be included.

Some students felt the first two days of community building in the school did not go over as well as Mr. Card hoped it would. An anonymous senior at Lakota West said, “I highly disliked it. There was no actual schedule, which made it difficult to know what was going on. It was really chaotic. It would’ve been easier to start off the year with classes.” She felt that there should have been the option to leave if you were a senior and had already built good relationships with teachers and staff. She felt that none of the activities attracted her.

Amara Flores, a sophomore at Lakota West, saw both positives and negatives in the day. “It was interesting, but I was kind of bored when I was just walking around for the last hour of school.” Amara, like many other students, felt disinterested with the activities during the first two days. 

However, Mr. Card hopes that next year Lakota West can create activities that satisfy everyone’s interests. As he noted, “There is always something that can go wrong and not all the kids are going to like it, but my staff and I hope one day we can perfect the way to build healthy and strong relationships with our students. We hope to reach the goal that students are comfortable enough to come to us staff members and talk to us personally. We want the students to feel as if they are at home and can tell us anything. We are not just any family, we are a Firebird Family.”