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Reflection and flexibility part of Rainwater’s vision

New principal discuss the state of the school

Having+been+on+campus+for+seven+years%2C+Ashley+Rainwater+%28left%29%2C+standing+with+assistant+principal+Stacey+Whaling+%28right%29%2C+is+in+her+first+year+as+principal.+%0A%0A%22The+transition+has+been+pretty+seamless+for+me+so+far%2C%22+Rainwater+said.++%22Luckily%2C+I+worked+so+closely+with+the+past+principal.+He+and+I+worked+together+on+many+of+the+details.+I+haven%E2%80%99t+noticed+a+huge+change+in+responsibilities.%22%0A
Having been on campus for seven years, Ashley Rainwater (left), standing with assistant principal Stacey Whaling (right), is in her first year as principal.

Having been on campus for seven years, Ashley Rainwater (left), standing with assistant principal Stacey Whaling (right), is in her first year as principal. "The transition has been pretty seamless for me so far," Rainwater said. "Luckily, I worked so closely with the past principal. He and I worked together on many of the details. I haven’t noticed a huge change in responsibilities."

Perry Mellone

Perry Mellone

Having been on campus for seven years, Ashley Rainwater (left), standing with assistant principal Stacey Whaling (right), is in her first year as principal. "The transition has been pretty seamless for me so far," Rainwater said. "Luckily, I worked so closely with the past principal. He and I worked together on many of the details. I haven’t noticed a huge change in responsibilities."

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One of many new changes to come to campus this year can be found in the principal’s office as Ashley Rainwater now leads the way after Scott Warstler resigned the position for a job at the district level. Wingspan sat down with Rainwater to discuss her mission statement for the 2017-18 school year and opportunities for students to get involved on campus.

Wingspan: As the new principal, what changes are you working to enact to benefit the climate of the school and support the learning of the students?

Rainwater: “I think the biggest thing we’re enacting this year is advisory period. We didn’t have advisory in the past and we’ve been working on looking at ways we can support kids in numerous ways. Kids can go to classrooms to get help with instruction, we have clubs, and kids that come in late or leave early because of busing or they have before and after school activities can participate in clubs. We also have things like Pulse, which will have yoga during advisory. We have other organizations meeting. We have kids going outside just to enjoy the sun. So, we’re looking at ways for the whole of students so that we can not only get you academic help but also some social and emotional help if you just need a break in the middle of the day.”

Wingspan: Throughout the year, are there any programs and initiatives you will introduce? What should students look forward to?

Lucas Barr
Among several changes to the campus this year, new principal Ashley Rainwater is the point person for the implementation of a 25-minute period that allows students multiple choices on how to use the time.
“I think the biggest thing we’re enacting this year is advisory period,” Rainwater said. “We didn’t have advisory in the past and we’ve been working on looking at ways we can support kids in numerous ways.”

 

Rainwater: “I can’t think of any new programs. Our clubs and organizations are all founded by students so the way we support kids through clubs and organizations is based on our students’ needs and our students’ request. So every year our clubs and all look a little bit different based on what students ask for.”

Wingspan: Before serving as the principal, what was your previous position on the staff? What is this transition like and what are your new responsibilities?

Rainwater: “I was a high school math teacher for about sixteen years and I came to Liberty as the assistant principal. And then I was the associate principal here and this is my seventh year at Liberty High School. I started in Frisco Independent School District (FISD) in 2000. I came to Frisco seventeen years ago and I started teaching in 1995. The transition has been pretty seamless for me so far. Luckily, I worked so closely with the past principal. He and I worked together on many of the details. I haven’t noticed a huge change in responsibilities. And then I have a great administrative staff that supports me and helps me, so we’re all working on it together. It’s not like one person is doing one thing and everybody else is doing their own thing. We collaborate and we share. That makes it easier.”

Wingspan: What is your mission statement for the school year concerning what you hope to accomplish for the school and its students?

Rainwater: “I think that one of the things we’ve talked about this year with our staff is being reflective and being flexible. So, our staff is looking at reviewing formative assessments and going back and using that data to make instructions and fit kids’ needs. Sometimes they may have to go back and reteach, sometimes kids have got it and they need to go at a higher level and really encourage them to go on. So we’re constantly asking teachers this year to reflect and think about it and make changes as necessary. And it’s the same thing with the advisory period that I brought up in the beginning. The first few weeks may be rough and we’re not really sure how we’re going to use it. And we’ve been asking teachers, ‘try something new. Let us know what works and let’s share it,’ because none of us have the right answers yet, but we can steal from each other.

Wingspan: During the freshman flight school and orientation, you discussed clubs and opportunities available for students to be involved. What is your advice to a new student to discover their interests and be connected with their peers and environment?

Rainwater: “The best part of high school is, you really need to find friends you have shared common interests with. We have way more clubs and organizations than middle school had. So all of a sudden, in middle school where we’ve kind of all had the same thing, when you get to high school, you get to find peers that have the same interests. High school’s what you make of it. You know, it’s four years that you’ll never do again. You’ll never have this experience again and one of the ways that makes it more meaningful is to get you as involved as possible. So I would say, start asking your friends what are they in, what are they interested in. We have a club fair coming up (Sept. 27), so go to the club fair and then try things. Go to a meeting and see what really sparks your interests. And luckily with a lot of these clubs meetings happening during advisory, you can get to them and get some insight of, ‘Do I like this? Do I not?” But it’s the best way – find friends, make friends, and really get involved in school. And we talk about school spirit and, you know, maybe making a school community. But the best way to make that is to get everybody plugged in. And in clubs and organizations, we may have something from video game club to clubs that are service organizations. We have something for everyone if you just find what you’re interested in.”

Wingspan: This is where students will spend four years of their lives and become young adults. Throughout this time, how can they take advantage of all the academic and social opportunities available to them?

Rainwater: “I think there’s definitely a lot out there and sometimes we don’t know what’s out there. Some places you can go to get information are with your counselor. You know, when you meet with your counselor about the things you’re interested in and what you like, be very honest about your career goals. You know, if your career goal is that you want to go and study business in college, then get involved in business classes and business organizations here. If your goal is to work as a veterinarian, then get into a vet tech program. Start looking at things that interest you. Start looking at things that you think will help connect you with what you want to do in your life. And counselors are an excellent way to help you make those connections.”

Wingspan: Can you describe your engagement and interaction with students on campus and other endeavors you are involved in?

Rainwater: “I think one of the things a lot of kids don’t know moving in is that all of your administrators were teachers. So we all got into this because we enjoy helping students and we enjoy working with students. And that’s our number one purpose. As administrators, we’re advocates for students on campus. We’re the ones that help you mediate things and work things out. It’s not all just discipline and getting in trouble, but it’s about helping you navigate a large system with a lot of teachers, pressures, things going on, and, I mean, all of us enjoy helping students. If you see me in a classroom, very often I may talk to you, I may ask you something. And the other day, I was in a math class and I helped a student with a compass and copying angles, anything I can get my hands on. We love it. This is what makes school fun. We have pep rallies, we have games, you learn how to compete, to see you out celebrating successes, that’s the best part of the job. Also, we get to work with students on a smaller basis such as the student council and different clubs to support them and help them make this school into what they want it to be.”

Wingspan: Throughout the year, students need to manage their time well, cope with stressful situations, and they’re going to mature academically and mentally. What resources are available to support the student body through this on campus such as academic tutoring, counseling, and guidance?

Lucas Barr
Leading one of nine high schools in Frisco ISD, Rainwater said the campus is unlike the other high schools in town.
“I would describe it as quirky. I think that one of the things I love about Liberty is that it definitely has a personality of its own,” Rainwater said. “It’s a place where students can be who they want and wear what they want, within reason, and express themselves.”

Rainwater: “We definitely have counseling. We have academic tutoring through our advisory period and teachers are available to help. We also, like today for instance, the counselors are available, so every Wednesday during advisory the counselors will be available. They’ll be offering sessions – guidance on different topics – and maybe working with students on applying to college or maybe working with students on coping with stress. We also will have, throughout the year, time in class where students from student council and other organizations go in and help lead lessons on things like bullying and stress management and dating violence that will help students navigate that difficult transition from childhood to adulthood. And our counseling department is organizing that and working with those groups. So we have a lot out there to offer support. I would tell students if they’re feeling overwhelmed or if they’re feeling stressed or uncomfortable with anything at school to immediately go to a trusted teacher, a counselor, or an administrator because our job here is to help you and help you navigate that.”

Wingspan: What challenges do you foresee students facing in their personal and academic lives? How should they cope with them and have a successful school year?

Rainwater: “One of the biggest challenges that our kids have is becoming overwhelmed. We have a lot of kids that are taking really hard and difficult classes and they’re balancing it with a lot of extracurricular events, so helping them keep that in balance and celebrate their wins but not be so devastated when they struggle. One of the things we’re working on is working with academic integrity, which is difficult when you’re in eight AP (Advanced Placement) classes or six AP classes and it’s three in the morning and you’re exhausted. Sometimes you take the easy way out and you’re not always following academic integrity. So we’re looking at ways that we can help kids learn. We can help kids learn to manage their time and we can help kids learn to make those difficult decisions where it’s, ‘Do you go into a test that you’re not really prepared for and show teachers what you know?’, or ‘Do you copy from a friend or get help?’ And that’s a really difficult decision when they’re fighting for GPA points or they’re fighting for things like class rank. So, that’s one of the things we’re really looking at, it’s helping kids put things into perspective and learn that we’re in high school. This is a place where we want you to learn from your mistakes and adjust and move on because like you said earlier, we’re preparing you for the adult world. We’re all still kids and we’re all still learning but we hope that when you leave, we’ve instilled in you a sense of our core values of collaboration and integrity and being in a community that helps you be successful.

Wingspan: If you could describe this school in one word, what would it be and why?

Rainwater: “If I could describe Liberty in one word, I would describe it as quirky. I think that one of the things I love about Liberty is that it definitely has a personality of its own. It’s a place where students can be who they want and wear what they want, within reason, and express themselves. The students are very accepting of one another and teachers are always willing to try new things and explore and learn. It’s definitely a quirky little school, but I think it works well for everyone.”

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The student news site of Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas
Reflection and flexibility part of Rainwater’s vision