NEHS principal rebuilding school’s culture

Northeast News
March 5, 2014

Early in the month of February, several fights broke out at Northeast High School in one day. Security was increased in the days following and things eventually went back to normal.

But that day’s events caught people off guard, especially first year Northeast High School principal Doug Bolden.

“That was uncommon,” Bolden said.

Bolden, who said he’s been blessed to have a successful 20 year career with Kansas City schools, compared the situation at Northeast High School to his time when he first started with F.L. Schlagle High School, in Kansas City, Kan. At NEHS, he’s trying to change the culture and establish a safer school for students and at times, he said, there will be some growing pains.

“The previous culture was apathy and very little accountability,” Bolden said. “The one thing I made clear when I took this job was that I’m gonna be transparent.”

If school administration catch a fight in the act, Bolden said they respond very seriously and the students are beginning to notice. Do they catch every fight, no, but he added when they do catch students fighting, they’re not going to be “rolled over.”

“Students call it horseplay but I call it assault,” Bolden said. “I think people, more or less, want that and the staff appreciates it.”

If a fight happens, the administration gathers all the information from both students before deciding on disciplinary action. Suspensions are possibilities, but Bolden said the school doesn’t just suspend students.

“We try to find social services in terms of mediation or anger management to help the students,” Bolden said. “The central offices have been nothing but supportive by giving me access to those agencies and giving alternatives to the students. But it’s a two-way street and they [the students] have to make it work as well.”

In the time since that hectic day, Bolden said things are back to normal now. If you asked him about the safety of the school, he’d tell you you he wouldn’t have a problem sending his own children there.

Students and parents also know about his open door policy. You just have to catch him. Bolden said he routinely walks the hallways of his school, trying to be as visible as possible.

“This helps change the culture,” Bolden said. “Being visible means they know who you are and that you’re there.”

From the relationships he’s built in his first year, he said he already feels like he’s been at the high school for years. A regular at basketball and football games, Bolden said being readily available is key to changing the culture of the school. He’s also used a recorded phone message to contact parents and keep them informed of the students’ test scores and any changes going on at NEHS.

“We don’t want there to be a disconnect,” Bolden said. “This is their [the parents] school and I want them to know we take safety and education very seriously here.”

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