Staff Perspective: Rex Corr, CVHS

Staff Perspective: Rex Corr, Castle View High School
Posted on 05/27/2020
Staff Perspective: Rex Corr
Castle View High School

Rex Corr, Ph.D., has been principal at Castle View High School for more than three years. The COVID-19 pandemic shut the building’s doors, but Corr has stayed focused on his students, especially in celebrating the graduating Class of 2020. Stacy Blaylock, Douglas County School District (DCSD) Communications Coordinator, spoke with Corr on how he adapted as a leader to bring practicality and positivity to the Sabercat Nation community.

Rex Corr, Principal, Castle View High School

As difficult as this situation is, CVHS is still the launchpad for the class of 2020, and we're trying to keep the kids upbeat and positive and focused on their future. Keeping this spirit alive and communicating it has been my greatest challenge, but it's the most important challenge.
How have you cultivated that sense of community among Castle View High School staff, students, and families during remote learning?

Every morning at 7:30 a.m. I send an email to my staff. I try to keep the 200 people who normally work under this roof connected and informed together. We've created a Google Community where we share Thankful Thursdays, memes, prom photos from when we were in high school. We even share videos that Student Government made to demonstrate gratitude for teachers and staff.

Every Monday evening, I email our entire community; that's about 8,000 people. It's just trying to keep everyone in the know. I'm listening to the guidance of the leaders of our community and, even if I'm providing an answer that isn't what I want, I'd rather answer than not answer at all. Even when we're apart, knowledge breeds a level of comfort and confidence, so we've leveraged different means and modes of communication to stick together.

What's been your biggest communication challenge?

Navigating the unknown as it applies to the Class of 2020. Springtime in a large comprehensive high school is meant to be filled with celebration! It's packed with moments designed to honor the work of the kids as they complete their K-12 experience. As difficult as this situation is, this is still their launchpad, and we're trying to keep the kids upbeat and positive and focused on their future. Keeping this spirit alive and communicating it has been my greatest challenge, but it's the most important challenge. I feel tremendous empathy for the Class of 2020, and I have great faith in who they are and who they will become.

What have you been doing to honor the Class of 2020?

Once we knew we wouldn't be back in the building after Spring Break, we immediately went to alternative ways to celebrate our graduating seniors. We luckily found a parent of Castle View students who could do a rush printing order of the senior yard signs. A small army of parents delivered one to each senior across our entire enrollment area, from north of Sedalia down to the county line. On Tuesday, May 12, we sent out a "clap tunnel" video to our seniors. Usually, we would have a "moving up" ceremony where the graduating class exits the building through a line of teachers cheering and celebrating their accomplishments.

By and large, the feedback we're getting is positive. Families and students remain hopeful, and they're showing their appreciation of the staff. The Academic Booster Club, our version of a PTO, gave teachers gift cards from local businesses during Employee Appreciation Week. It was so kind, and it goes to supporting more of our community.

What's been a personal philosophy or principle that has guided you as a leader?

To me, leadership requires three bones: a backbone, a funny bone, and a wishbone. You need to have the courage to stand up and tell people what's happening and how we'll take care of kids. You need humor in all of that. It's the glue that holds you together. You have to maintain optimism and maintain hope -- that's your wishbone. This philosophy is true in the best of circumstances, but especially in times of adversity. I've tried to keep that focus. The great leaders I get to work with -- Dr. Tucker and the DCSD Board, the other high school principals -- I know that's a focus for them, too.

What is your relationship like with the other high school principals in DCSD?

My father was in the military. He has a group he served with that have remained his fast friends for the remainder of his life. That's how I view the other principals as we've faced the challenges together. With large school communities, there are so many different dynamics to navigate. We already had a great relationship, and this experience has brought us even closer. It's great to have a camaraderie where we can rely on each other's best thinking. I'm blessed to work with such fantastic education professionals.

Is there something you've learned during remote learning that you want to carry back to the school building?

My friend Andy Abner, Principal at Rock Canyon High School, has this philosophy called WWADI -- Way We've Always Done It. Whether we mean to or not, we begin to rely on the way we've always done things. This experience has forced us to look at things through a new lens. How do we innovate to keep serving students? A lot of that thinking will carry over into an in-person environment. We were forced out of our comfort zone, and we had to overcome WWADI.

New construction on the F-Pod was due to start this month. What's the status of that project?

We've been talking about the F-Pod since the Fall of 2008. The Bond that passed in 2018 provided the funding for this long overdue expansion. You can read more about the F-Pod here. It's been 12 years of waiting, so we've gotten very good at it! Things are still moving forward and should not have a delay. We will have an in-person groundbreaking with ten people or less on May 28, and construction will continue through the next year. Our school community can come back together in a new optimal education environment for the 2021-2022 school year. Virtually, we've gotten a lot done. We kept processes going, and I'm grateful to our partners at NV5, Eidos Architects, and Adolfson & Peterson Construction for keeping this on the front burner. We didn't allow the obstacles of quarantine to keep us from moving forward.

What challenges did you encounter as you kept things moving forward for the F-Pod and your school community during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I like to say, "Necessity is the mother of professional development." All of us in the profession have been forced to adapt, to demonstrate great agility in the way we use online resources and technology. So many staff members are redesigning the job they do: teachers, educational assistants, counselors in continuing to care for our students' social-emotional needs. Even our custodial team, who has been back at the building and going full speed. DCSD’s Nutrition Services Department and the hundreds of thousands of meals they've provided to our community over the last eight weeks. A lot of us have to balance family and professional responsibilities. Staff has been phenomenal in how they've embraced that challenge, and they've carried it off seamlessly. I'm incredibly proud to be part of this organization.

What is the first thing you want to experience once school re-opens?

I want to see smiles. I want to see the relationships between teachers and students rekindled. There's no replacement for that kind of in-person communication and contact, the intangible aspects of relationships.

Even before we open the building again, I just want to say that I am so proud of all of Sabercat Nation. I'm proud of our teachers and staff members rising to this challenge. I'm proud of our students for persevering and staying engaged when engagement can be so difficult. I'm proud of parents and guardians who have been balancing all the challenges that have come with the pandemic and still have supported students tremendously. They've kept the experiences, the education, and the needs of the kids as their top priority. It's been inspiring for me to be part of that.

Thank you, Rex, for taking the time to chat with me!

You bet!

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