Over the past few years, holes in students’ schedules and long lines in the cafeteria as students begged for schedule changes defined the first few weeks of school. That’s now a thing of the past. Assistant Principal Willie Vincent, counselors and registrar, Chinaester Holland, created an adaptable scheduling process this year using online schedule changes.
Before Grady adopted an online scheduling system, the old paper system required students to complete large sheets of paper and slip them under Vincent’s door. After repeatedly sifting through piles of schedule sheets under his door, Vincent said it was clear Grady’s scheduling system was in need of a fix.
“This year and last year’s scheduling changed because we realized that what we were doing at Grady before two years ago didn’t provide great customer service for students, parents, teachers or any of the counselors or administrators,” Vincent said. “It was just the best we had.”
Grady’s counselors worked non-stop from the end of last school year and throughout the summer on schedules. This year, students are assigned to counselors alphabetically by last name rather than by grade level. Counselors can now work with the same student the whole time they are at Grady.
“I started working at Grady in July of 2016, and even though everything was well organized, it was still a lot of catching up because I was jumping in while the train was moving,” said Dr. Tamika Hibbert, Grady’s newest counselor. “I worked with Mr. Vincent and the other three counselors: Dr. Blankenship, Ms. Oliver, and Mr. Young. We also had to collaborate with the registrar’s office and Ms. Holland to receive the initial scheduling documents for students that are new to Grady.”
This is the second consecutive year the scheduling team provided students with their schedules before they left school in May. Because the scheduling process started at the end of last year with an online link for schedule changes beginning May 19, the counselors made schedule changes and put students into requested classes before school started.
“I think the online schedule changes are perfect, and it helps not just the staff but the students as well because it prepares them for what a collegiate environment looks like,” Hibbert said. “I like that students here receive the opportunity to give feedback on their schedules and request changes. I have not seen that happen at any other school. This is my 10th year at Atlanta Public Schools, and Grady has the one of the most organized scheduling processes to date.”
All schedule change requests came through Vincent first before he delegated them to each of the counselors. This fast customer service has made the beginning of this school year appear seamless to the teachers and students such as senior Jon Lerner.
“The huge sheets of paper a few years ago were extremely tedious, and the online version of the schedule requests are better,” Lerner said. “The request forms at the end of the year and during the summer really helped with the schedule changes this year. I had no issues with my schedule at all, and most people I talked with were able to switch into the classes they wanted.”
There are 1330 students at Grady, and according to Mr. Vincent, it took him about 700 hours to prepare the schedules for the new school year. This tedious process started in November and went all the way through July, expanding far beyond the counselors’ required duties.
“One thing I commend the counselors for is that they are not paid to work extra during the summer, but they were answering your emails as fast as I was sending them because it is important for us that you walk in on the first day with the perfect schedule,” Vincent said. “It was absolutely overwhelming for me. It works for you all, but it causes me sleepless nights.
According to Vincent, one of the main problems the counselors still have is a large number of students do not specify which classes they want. This lack of communication forces counselors to put students in classes they may not have the desire to take. Student participation is key to having a successful scheduling process.
“We need to figure out a way to get those students who feel marginalized to give their voice because there is still a population of students who will just let us do education to them,” Vincent said. “For those students who still are not picking anything, we just place them in marketing or physical education. I want them to understand democracy and voting because your voice does matter. Your participation makes our jobs much easier.”