Visiting West Branch School
You should have read the materials in the syllabus by Kozol and Bryk et al and you also should have viewed the PBS Video, School, and the video on the charter school hearings concerning West Branch School. The video West Branch School has prepared helps explain what the school is about, what there is to see, and what to expect if you visit.
The people at West Branch School are very open to having visitors and there are many times that you can schedule visits. Our contact person is Sandy Elion who is a teacher at the school and who also is the Assistant Swim Coach at Bucknell. You can call the school at 323-5498. If you do that, you'll probably reach the Office Person, Peg Furst. If you tell Peg who you are and why you are calling she will be friendly and helpful. If you call during lunch hour (about 12:30 to 1:00) or shortly after school ends (about 3:15 to 3:45) it is likely to be a good time to talk to Sandy. You can also find Sandy on the pool deck. She usually does the late practice (7 to 9 at this time of year, 5 to 7 after the Water Polo season ends) as well as a Sunday afternoon practice. Be mindful of the fact that she will usually be working when you get in touch with her and may have to pay attention to other things that are going on around her. So be patient.
When you try to reach our field experience sponsors like Sandy, be mindful that these are busy people. Although they want to help and will be friendly, they are busy and are not likely to find it easy to call you back. Responsibility for making the contact rests on your shoulders, so you may have to call back several times and do that within a short period of time (over a couple of days). Saying "I could not get hold of them" or "they never called me back" does not work as an explanation for your inability to make contact. You must make sure the contact happens. You also have to be nice always. Don't get or act frustrated. It is just part of the drill for the contact to be hard to establish.
It is important for you to think ahead of time why you want to look at West Branch School and what it is that you would like to see. Different aspects of the School experience are relevant to different parts of our course. If you want to see how West Branch School operates as a community and extended family, you might want to see some activities that involve parent committees, school festivals, or community projects (like a school cleaning and repair day). If you want to see how it structures teaching and learning and how that differs from a public school experience you'd want to be there when teaching is going on (probably the morning). If you want to think about social control, and how public schools and West Branch School differ in the way they handle conflicts and discipline problems, you might want to ask about "Small Meetings" (which are depicted in the Video). You may not be able to see these, but Sandy and others can explain them to you and kids can tell you about their experiences. If you go into the school with some specific questions and objectives, people there can help you shape your visit to serve your needs.