Ben Kusch: It’s still got that new-school smellFor a month now, Ben Kusch has been watching his new office take shape around him.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
For a month now, Ben Kusch has been watching his new office take shape around him.
Kusch, the second-year principal at Farmington High School, moved full-time to the new building in June 8, so he’s had a front-row seat as construction workers put the finishing touches on the new building. Bit by bit, he said, the new FHS has started to feel like a school. That’s good news, considering we’re less than two months from the start of classes at the new building.
We talked with Kusch — at the high school’s new phone number, 651-252-2501 — this week about construction, schedule changes and the growing public interest in the new building.
Are you sort of watching everything come together all around you?
Yeah, pretty much. It’s one of those things where there’s a flurry of activity now. There’s a lot of i-dotting and t-crossing kinds of things and so one of the things we wanted — there hasn’t been a school presence out here per se on a consistent basis. It’s been the construction management people and things of that nature.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been out here plenty. But as the project was ending and as we were looking at transitioning from the end of one school year into the summer, there was discussion about just the need to get somebody out here just because it’s becoming less and less of a construction zone and more and more of a school zone.
It’s starting to feel more like a school now?
Definitely. Definitely. It’s still definitely a construction area, but it’s just a little bit here, a little bit there. A lot of the big stuff, if not all of the big stuff, is done and now it’s a matter of getting some of the finishing touches on. There’s always a little bit of punch list stuff with getting the vinyl baseboard trim up and getting the touch-up paint squared away. It’s getting the dust cleared and all those kinds of things.
So, aside from watching all that come together around you, what are you up to? Is it all just getting ready for the start of the new school year?
That’s a good way to put it. It is. It’s pulling together the administrators. As I think you know, we’re on a year-round contract. A lot of it is — I guess I always kind of say, June is all about wrapping up one school year. August is about the build-up for the next. Somewhere in there in July — typically Julys are a little bit of a lull but this summer in particular we’ve got a new member of the administrative team (new assistant principal Becky Melville). We wrapped up the ’08-’09 school year for the better part of June and now July is going to be all about pulling the administrative team together and planning for next year.
Is it a different kind of feel this summer when you’ve got a new school and a new way of doing things, in a lot of ways, with the new schedule and the zero hour?
Yeah, it is. In some ways it’s kind of hard to articulate. I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a good chance to sit down and kind of do a meta-analysis of what is normal and what isn’t. It’s been very busy. It’s been pretty nonstop and any spare moment that I have, it’s sitting down and planning for what’s next.
Do you have a favorite feature of this school? Something you’re really excited about?
More than anything, I’m just excited about the whole process. Last year was a great first year in the district. I felt like it really gave me an opportunity to get to know the students and the staff, the administrators and the community and really kind of do — for lack of a better word — some information gathering about what people value and what’s important and what it is we do well and what it is we need to work on. It’s been a great opportunity to gather that information and get ready to do some implementation this next year.
I mentioned the zero hour. Have you got a pretty good handle on what the zero hour is going to look like for the first year?
Yeah, we do. It’s one of those things — I’m a believer in, let’s start out small and let’s do it right. That’s our plan. We’ve got some classes that fit very well with the zero hour philosophy of how do we offer more opportunities for more students. We have classes that fit that and we want to make sure we do right by those students and we do right by those families and we do right by those teachers so we don’t overdo it.
What kinds of things will you offer?
There’s some music classes that are going to be offered in zero hour and right now there’s a math class or two.
You have some people interested in the zero hour?
Oh, yeah. A solid 100, 150 kids would be a conservative guess.
Are you pretty happy with that?
Yeah, it’s one of those things where we’ve learned in the investigation of what a zero hour is, whether it’s the investigation some folks have done and the experiences of others, there are some places that do — I think Lakeville’s a good comparison. They do a pretty hearty zero hour program and some folks, theirs is a little bit lighter. I think ours is a good place to start for us.
You were giving a tour earlier. Are you getting a lot of interest from the public? Are people getting curious as it gets closer?
Yep. I think that there’s been a good amount of interest all the way through. I think that as the building is getting closer to complete and — this is just a guess on my part — but as students are coming closer and closer to the realization that, ooh, that’s going to be my high school, I think we’ve got some interest that’s peaking. Throughout the month of July we’re offering some student-led tours in addition to the tours Aaron Tinklenberg does through his office. We kind of got a sense that there were number of folks who were interest in getting out here and seeing the building. We’ve trained some student leaders to lead the tours and we’re doing some of that, too. We’ve kind of doubled our regimen, as it were.
It’s all coming together.
It is. I feel really pretty good about it.