Marshall Middle School Principal Joshua Way (courtesy of Joshua Way)
New principal leads the way
Joshua Way was hired to be the next principal at Thurgood Marshall Middle School (MMS) in February and was finally able to start serving in his new role May 12.
Before coming to MMS, Way was the principal of Woodland Park Middle School in the San Marcos Unified School District (SMUSD).
“When I got hired, I was in a unique position because I had a front row seat at three different districts. I was in SMUSD as well as entering San Diego Unified School District and since my kids go to school in the Carlsbad Unified School District, I had the opportunity to see how all three districts were handling COVID-19,” Way said.
He began his duties at MMS in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, his first challenge was planning the eighth-grade promotion ceremony.
“Due to COVID, we had pretty detailed parameters to begin with. So, I gathered a parent promotion committee, ASB and some staff and we came up with a plan. We wanted to make the most authentic promotion at the time,” Way said.
MMS eighth graders celebrated their promotion through a virtual ceremony.
“We have a fantastic digital media program at Marshall, so that was great because the students and staff could both get involved. We had students share words of encouragement and inspiration as well as photos of themselves in the video. It turned out really nice and it was something we could be proud of,” Way said.
Way’s current challenge remains planning the upcoming school year under the COVID-19 restrictions.
“Our plans are to continue the same high-level standards of Marshall, just in a different way. We are redesigning the way we deliver instruction. This school year will be much different than our crisis pandemic teaching in March,” Way said.
After countless surveys and feedback from parents, students and staff, Way has nailed down what he wants to focus on through the upcoming school year.
“What we felt was the most important takeaway from March was being consistent. This year we will be focusing on what students need to know and do, how we measure that progress, and how to support students when they don’t achieve what they need to, and when they do achieve it, and how to provide them with more,” Way said.
Way wants to focus on making an online school year more user friendly for students and parents.
“Students are used to walking into a classroom and looking on the board and finding information on what they have to do,” he said. “So, now we are trying to streamline where and how students can find information even during online learning. We are trying to nail it down to one consistent platform for instruction and communication.”
For Way, the most important goal of the year is creating a meaningful connection between everyone such as peer to peer, staff to peer and staff to parent.
“We are looking for ways to embed in the school day for students to get help outside of the classroom. We want to provide an outlet for students and parents to talk about how they are coping –and if they have any issues we can help with,” Way said.
This year, Way will be providing an online Wellness Center that both parents and students can use.
“We are going to have rigorous academics, but in that we want to make sure that our students and parents are supported emotionally and socially. We really want to build a culture of community and trust,” he said.
As a former Link Crew advisor at multiple schools, Way is looking to implement a mentorship program for incoming sixth graders and upperclassmen.
“All incoming sixth graders will be linked with an upperclassman all year. These upperclassmen have already been selected because they have demonstrated leadership. They are going to get training so that they will be there to guide their sixth graders throughout the school year, especially during this tough time,” Way said.
Next school year, Way wants to fully implement Where Every Student Belongs (WEB). Way has been working closely with the district office, county and state officials for planning in case schools were to go back to in-person learning.
“The district will be providing whatever safety equipment public health officials will be requiring for a safe return to school such as face masks or dividers. They are looking at various schedules that also help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Way said.
He explained the many unique challenges he has faced due to the circumstances.
“For me, any strategic planning requires a thorough understanding of the context. However, with a situation such as COVID, things are constantly changing, so it’s hard to get an understanding of the context. I’ve done a lot of surveys and research to assess what parents, students and staff need the most,” Way said.
Other challenges he faces during this time are not always having the answers and missing his students.
“I started in this field because I love kids and I love learning. Not having any students around has been really hard. Another thing that has been hard has been not having concrete answers. As educators, people look up to you for the answers. However, this situation has made that very difficult,” Way said.
He has extensive background in the field of education. However, when it comes to this unique situation and his position, he described what has prepared him the most.
“I would say I have a lot of experience with culture and community by being the Link Crew advisor and helping with other programs in the past. I would also say that I have a lot in the way the system works. Working with the National Council for Preservation Education (NCPE) has really tuned me into the systems we have in schools,” Way said.
As the new school year nears, Way cannot wait to see what is to come.
“I have been so impressed by the level of engagement our staff has been putting in the summer and I cannot wait to see what they put together for the students. Most importantly though, I miss the students so much and am excited to get back into the swing of things,” he said.