“So, T. Lecy, if you don’t mind me asking…”

Before I finished, she interrupted, “I do mind.” And she gave that hearty and distinct laughter, she had been sharing all throughout our stay.

“I am forty,” she whispered.

“You look 39,” I replied.

If there is one secret that this school, Brightwoods School in Angeles City, Pampanga, could boast, it would have to be the mighty men and women behind the visionary leadership of its founder, T. Ana Yap-Zubiri.

We loved our benchmarking visit in this school, because every classroom is a visual masterpiece, every faculty and staff is bubbly and high-spirited, and every facility befits the school’s identity…”Brightwoods: our pride, our life.”

Earlier today, we were welcomed by T. Lecy and T. Joyce. It was T. Lecy, though, who sat down with us today. The T. Jouce that we have met a month ago seemed not in her very bright aura. Today, she holds the boss’s hat because they were settling a very important matter. Nonetheless, she accorded us her warmth. The school directness, T. Ana is apparently on an outbound trip.

Our team laid down the agenda with T. Lecy. For today, we would research about the micro details on the management success of this learning institution. Our talking points include the organizational chart and the function of offices and the personnel; the budget and finance and human resources concerns; the school curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and the best practices from the management to the middle managers down to the classroom level.

It was an exciting day.

T. Lecy first recalled the school’s humble beginnings from preschool to today’s complete basic education offering. There were few staff back then. It was T. Ana, some few pioneering teachers and an office assistant. Everybody must multi-task. In the business office, one person does the cashier, registrar, bookkeeping, and accounting functions. Today, they have close to 70 employees and have outsourced janitorial and security services. But what they have emphasized is to have a creative artist to design the rooms thematically and the office personnel who does communication with parents.

What was noticeable was that even T. Ana is not around, she was able to multiply herself to heads she left. They are called Management Committee, consisting of HS and GS head, Pre school head, Finance head, and General Services head. They are in charge of the day-to-day operations in the school.
The HS and GS head and preschool head handle the academic, extra-curricular, and library services. They maintain 2 libraries: 1 for preschool to primary, and 1 for intermediate and high school. Under the general services, there is unique Faculty Support Unit, creative artists, human resource, maintenance and security, concessionaire cafeteria, and healthcare unit.

The accounting unit is handled by Ms. Lise, a CPA. She works hand in hand with the business unit who does the collection, communication to parents, and record keeping. They use both index card and ms excel for records and updating. There are delinquent accounts but they are minimal because they give reminders and call the parents to update their accounts. This office also takes care of the employee salary and benefits, which they work with human resources unit. With a CPA heading the unit, it is abreast with accounting software for more efficient update and formulation of schemes to effective collections and budgeting.

T. Catchy entertained our queries on faculty supervision and evaluation, and curriculum, instruction and assessment. Way stood out to me was the Ateneo heritage and Singapore style of research-based, feedback-based, and frequent faculty talks and meetings to check on student performances. Because the grading ranges between 70% quizzes and performance evaluation (usually 100 items) and 30% quarterly exam (or 70-item test). In 1 grading period, the maximum points that a student must beat is 170 points. The unique thing is that these quizzes are prepared like exams, they are checked and revised before they are printed by the FSU and given to students. All teachers take time to prepare the quizzes. In a quarter, there can be 2-5 10 to 20-item quiz that are not just knowledge-based, but goes up the higher order thinking.

Checking the quizzes from the teacher’s draft to the laid out material tells about the different levels in the faculty. There is an academic coordinator for preschool, primary, intermediate, and high school. Under them are level representatives who mentor and takes care of newbie or novice teachers on their level. They are the ones who check the quizzes before the coordinator checks it finally for printing. The coordinator takes charge of weekly meetings or building expertise. They also design their own programs for evaluating teachers.

In teacher’s evaluation, there are 2 sets. The first set is a trial, sort of a clinical or prescriptive. It happens during the first quarter usually. Then, the 2nd one with ratings happen towards the 3rd-4th quarter. That is the performance evaluation. There is also a peer evaluation, a les formal one where teachers get to rate and comment everyone. It is the coordinator’s task to collate the data and report it to the head.

Each teacher has an 18hour per week load. That is because a teacher prepares not only the quizzes, but also a module for each quarter and daily non-grade assignments, drills and exercises. Only the quizzes area graded. but even the quizzes undergo validity testing and results interpretation. With this time, the teacher also prepares a parent teacher conference during the first quarter, where he or she schedules to meet the parents of each child. That is a 2-no-classes-day for the teacher to discuss with the parents the child’s performance and behavior. Since the teacher prepares for the module, books are not very much used.

In terms of student activities and clubs, the grade school maintain 5 organizations, honors circle, glee, varsity, leaders circle, and writers circle. There are teacher who handle the clubs and are give honorarium, provided they submit monthly reports of meetings and completion of 1 project per year. The writers circle produces a literary folio. The honors circle prepares for competitions. The leaders circle are consortium of class and club officers. The varsity and glee, are self-explanatory.

“What have you learned today?” T. Lecy asked before we leave back for Manila.

I answered, “we just confirmed our hypothesis at the beginning, that the secret of Brightwoods lie behind the great men and women under a visionary leadership.”

Hence, everybody stays young.

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