You may have heard of Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff…that is if you are a Harry Potter fan.
Neuse Charter School is starting something that may sound a little like the various houses of Hogwarts, but rest assured while this isn’t wizardry, it may stir up some magical memories for NCS middle schoolers.
In early October, Neuse Charter administration and teachers unveiled the new ‘house system’ for Neuse Charter Middle School. Students received letters informing them that “You and your fellow housemates will be establishing new traditions that will be carried on throughout the years at Neuse Charter School.”
On Oct. 3, 2015, during a mass assembly, students were inducted into one of three houses. All 6th, 7th and 8th graders were divided into Jefferson, Carver or Franklin House.
“Dr. Jailall attended schools as a child that utilized the British House System and she wanted to bring that sense of camaraderie and belonging to our students,” said Brad Williams, technology and communications staffer. Williams did some research and found that the house system is prevalent in every English speaking country except the United States.
“It looked like it would be a good fit for Neuse so we decided to implement the system,” Williams said.
The house names came from famous American “Renaissance” men. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington Carver all embodied principles of S.T.E.A.M education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), areas that Neuse Charter is striving to provide through its rigorous academics.
During the middle school gathering, students were excited about the concept and cheering for their houses and their house heads. Tracie Zukowski, 8th grade science teacher, leads House Franklin, Jeff Matisoff, 6th grade math teacher, leads House Carver and Casey Adkinson, 8th grade math teacher, leads House Jefferson
Dr. Julie Jailall, executive director of NCS, told the students, “We want to help each one of you feel good about school. We want you to enjoy school.”
Students dressed in their respective house colors… purple for Franklin House, red for Carver House and green for Jefferson House. Students were called out one by one to join their respective houses, meet the rest of their housemates and start working with their leadership to decide the future of the house. All middle school teachers were assigned a house too.
Zukowski met with her 70 students immediately following the assembly.
“Life is about creating yourself,” Zukowski said as she gave the House Franklin their new motto. “Life is not a journey, it is a destination,” she said as she gave them the house quote.
Zukowski led the group in talking about mascots, student leaders and the point system, which will ultimately culminate in one house winning the House Cup Award, a yearly, rotating trophy for most points.
“A classroom violation is minus three points. A handbook violation is minus 10 points,” Zukowski told the students. “But you can also earn points by doing things like Battle of the Books or Odyssey of the Mind.”
Williams explained the point system a bit more saying, “Points are awarded for various accomplishments by individuals and the whole house. Random acts of kindness, academic achievements, participation in various events, participation in classes, and community service are all ways that students can earn points for their house. “
A running tally will be kept on the screen in the commons area of the high school building and will be updated frequently so that houses know where they stand.
Students were selected by a random, computerized draw and once they are in a house they are in it for their duration at NCS. If a student leaves the school then that opens up a spot in the house for any incoming, transfer students. Sixth graders and students starting at the beginning of the year will be randomly assigned at the start of each year.
Currently the program is only in the middle school, but teachers and staff hope to include the high school in coming years. Elementary will not be included as it will be seen as a right of passage for rising sixth graders.
Houses will meet monthly at a minimum, but may meet more regularly depending on activities and schedules.
“It is our hope that this program will be a defining characteristic of our school and will serve as a model for other schools throughout the country as a way to build leadership, encourage student performance and participation, and give kids a sense of family and belonging as well as a source of pride while at school,” Williams said.
If the first all-house assembly was any indication, the NCS House system has cast a spell on the middle school student body that even Dumbledore would be mystified to see. Let the traditions begin…excelsior!