Every few weeks, a handful of seniors receive an email inviting them to a mandatory lunch meeting with the Head of School to share those students’ experiences at Milken. I have nothing against the administration wanting to get to know the students. In fact, I’m all for it. An approachable administration is incredible. However, I must admit, isn’t it a little late?
As seniors, our days at Milken are dwindling away faster than we can count. When these emails are received, I overhear students discussing them. Some joke that the administration does not even know their names. Others are sad to miss out on their valuable “social time,” aka lunchtime. But the underlying point in each of these comments is why now? After four years, why does the school suddenly want to get to know us? Why do they want to hear what we have to say as our time here has ended?
Composed of less than 600 students, Milken is a relatively small school. This intimate size would make it feasible for the administration to develop personal, individual relationships with the majority of the students. This relationship, ideally, is one in which the administration can learn about what frustrates or excites the students. Such a relationship would give the students a guiding hand and a say in the way the school is run.
In my own high school experience, Dr. Roger Fuller has served as this figure, and I cannot stress enough how important this relationship has been. No matter what mood I am in, or what I need to talk about, he is always there to listen, to advise, and to assist. Because of him, I have participated in activities I never would have known about, understood elements of the school that often seemed to make no sense, and dealt with making important decisions. Because of me, he received a student’s perspective on a wide variety of school issues and, I hope, this made him an even better principal.
So, what I propose is something simple. Why don’t we have these lunchtime meetings from the moment we first enter Milken? We should have an open channel of communication with Milken’s administration from that first moment we set foot on the Skirball steps as a timid ninth grader until we drive out of the Skirball parking lot four years later with our diploma in hand. The meetings are currently designed as more of a “parting reflection,” but I believe they should be an opportunity for a constant evaluation, assessment and reflection of the current state of being within Milken.
As ninth graders, we are often lost and seeking a bit of guidance. Milken’s advising program is created for exactly this purpose, but one can never be provided with too many outlets for assistance and guidance. By making these meetings a part of the Milken culture from day one, the administration will become more open. And the transparency is exactly what I believe the mission statement means when it says it “values each member of the community.” An accessible administration allows both the student and the school to grow.
The purpose of these meetings is vital. An administration that is eager to learn from the students’ experiences, highlights and frustrations is invigorating. It gives us the ability to really shape the school – and thus our education. Being a member of an institution where the school itself cares enough to constantly communicate is an amazing thing. Yet I don’t think that Milken has reached that place just yet. An open channel for communication in which students feel comfortable bringing up issues of concern will help the administration understand the school from the students’ perspectives. In turn, the administration may help us maneuver through the obstacles of high school or offer advice or wisdom.
This symbiotic relationship is invaluable. It is one of my favorite parts of Milken – the approachability I have found in Dr. Fuller. Yet, I should not be one of a handful of students who has experienced this relationship. It should be the norm. Students should feel comfortable walking into the office and actually knocking on one of the many green doors. A more streamlined, open conversation between the students and the administration is what is missing from Milken. Thanks to the advisory program, the faculty and students have this open relationship. Yet it is the relationship between the students and administration that needs work.
As I complete my tenure at Milken, I am glad that the school cares enough to hear my reflections. Yet I am frustrated that this relationship has not been fostered since the beginning of my time in high school. I hope future Milken students will be afforded this irreplaceable opportunity.