I live in one of the most beautiful and welcoming cities in the world, Homer, Alaska. I also work in what I consider the best high school in Alaska, Homer High School. I have poured my heart, my time and my energy into helping make Homer High a safe and comfortable place for kids to learn and teachers to teach over the past 11 years.
While that may be true, I don’t live in a perfect town, nor do I work at a perfect school. With more than 350 students and more than 70 staff members, things happen. People get into disagreements, have challenges getting along with others, and have a wide variety of beliefs and values that are sometimes hard to mesh.
What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning. We know students are still developing and figuring out what is wrong or right and how to treat each other with respect. When a student breaks a rule or behaves in a way that makes the learning environment feel unsafe for others and the administration hears about it, a consequence is one result, but more importantly, we try to help each student learn from their behavior or choice so they do not make the same mistake again. We also try to help them find a way to take responsibility for their actions by making the situation right. This is easier in some situations than others.
I appreciate mistakes. Although making mistakes is uncomfortable, every mistake is an opportunity to learn, grow and get better. That is what education is about and what Homer High School is about — not just the book learning, but the life learning.
When I read in the paper about HHS excluding students or that students are not safe, I just wanted to invite you to our school and have you see how our students interact and support each other day after day, and how they have positive relationships with each other and the staff. Homer High will do its best to protect, treat with dignity and make all students feel welcome. We cannot manage the behavior of every student, but when bad choices are made, there will be consequences, and opportunities to learn and be given a chance to make things right.
As principal of Homer High School I promise to protect and support every student, no matter the color, religion, sexual orientation or background. No one is treated differently or given preference over anyone else. Everyone is given the chance to learn and, I deeply hope, thrive.
We may not be perfect, but we are striving to be a great place to learn.
Douglas Waclawski is the principal of Homer High School.