After two months as Hiawatha Academies Executive Director, Colette Owens is already looking ahead to the next three to five years. She met with parents who came to a meet-and-greet event this week at the high school to discuss the future of the network. Parents also had a chance to share their experiences and hopes and dreams for their children.
First, Colette said, she hopes the network will explore opportunities to provide additional after-school programs and enrichment opportunities – “the things that make school a better experience for all our students.”
Secondly, Hiawatha Academies needs to be planning ways to support students once they graduate from Hiawatha Collegiate High School and matriculate to college. This goal is in line with Hiawatha’s first graduating cohort of seniors in June 2019.
Third, the network will continue to build upon the strong relationships with families of our scholars by creating additional ways to partner together, especially around strengthening our academic program.
Colette also articulated the larger mission that infuses every fiber of our network: “ensuring that every student, grades K through 12, is set up for success in college. I see that as our most important core work,” she said.
In Minneapolis, there are major disparities in academic performance among students. Hiawatha Academies’ mission has always been to ensure every student succeeds by graduating college and serving the common good.
“When I think about where we’re going in the next few years, there’s some big work that we have to do,” Colette said. “One is to ensure that in every single one of our schools, all five of them, students are performing at the highest levels. In addition, that we are building a strong sense of community, and that we are developing the leadership potential of our students.”
Colette shared with parents that her background includes working as a classroom teacher, in coaching and support for teachers, and a decade in educational leadership, most recently in the St. Louis, Missouri, public school system. But mostly, she said, she comes to the role of Executive Director as a parent to a 6-year-old and an almost 1-year-old.
“He keeps me up at night,” Colette said.
“It’s a lot of work,” one of the parents said in Spanish with a laugh.
Colette and several parents shared their enthusiasm over the network’s growth to K-12, especially a parent whose child began in the network when the grades only went through fourth. Another parent said his oldest son in college, who had attended public school, felt ill-prepared for college when he arrived. His younger son, a Hiawatha Academies student, is learning much more and will be college-ready.
“My job is to take all the great things that have existed until now and make them even better,” Colette said.