Middle School Softball Team Sacrifices to Hit a Home Run

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The Walker Middle School softball team ended its season this year with a 15-4 record. How did the girls get there?

The journey started in fall of 2011. On the first day of tryouts, only four or five players showed up – hardly enough to field a softball team. The search was on to find more players. Thankfully, there were five fifth graders – Camryn Cowan, Madeline Daniel, Shelby Kraal, SaraBeth McClure and Claire Mohandiss – eagerly awaiting their call up to the “big leagues” of the Middle School team. Not only would they fill the need for players, but the crew also included two pitchers.  The team worked hard and played their best in every game, ignoring the size difference between our fifth graders and the eighth grade opponents. The season was filled with the joy of playing and a tangible excitement over being part of the team. The enthusiasm would produce two wins and was more than enough to keep the girls interested in playing for the next two years.

The fall 2012 season was filled with many of the same challenges. The fifth graders were now officially a part of the Middle School; the team was built around these five returning sixth graders and three returning seventh graders. The spirit from the previous year continued and the team focused on learning and improving. The team posted a 2-11-1 record that season and eagerly looked to the future.

When the fall 2013 season arrived, the thrill of the game was still alive for this core group of softball players. The seventh and eighth graders were now playing their third season together. Admittedly, they were not sure what to expect, and they set a goal to reach the NAML tournament. The season opened with a tight game against Mt. Vernon. Walker eked out a one-run win, 8-7. The thrill of victory quickly became contagious and the team was off to a quick 3-0 start, setting new benchmarks along the way.

In the Fall Sports Awards Assembly, eighth grader Randi Epstein recounted the sharp contrast in improvement for the 2013 season. “Let me paint you a picture,” she began, “In 2012, our overall record was 2 wins 11 losses and 1 tie, in 2013, our overall record was 15 wins and only four losses. In 2012, we scored a total of 73 runs for the season, but this year, we scored a total of 211 runs.” What an amazing season!

While the team just barely missed reaching the championship game in a one-run extra inning loss to Providence, the improvement and perseverance of this group of girls was the true mark of champions.

I’m So Excited

November 4, 2013 will likely be a day I never forget.

What happened that day, you ask? It was one of those days when I was able to look into The Walker School’s future and see a dream morph into a plan.

The Walker School engaged in both a self-study and strategic plan process in preparation for our five year SAIS/SACS accreditation process in 2012-2013. The former focuses directly on improving student learning and contains goals related to teaching and learning. The latter is driven by the Board of Trustees and looks to address key strategic goals that will strengthen the school in support of the students, faculty and program. (Click here to read my March, 2013 letter about the self-study and strategic plan goals.)

One of the first steps in implementing the strategic planning goals was to hire an architect to craft an updated campus master plan. Director of Finance Christie Cook requested proposals from several architects before the school settled on Mike Mascheri of Chapman, Coyle, Chapman Architects. Mr. Mascheri has worked on a number of different master plan projects for Georgia schools, such as Trinity, Westminster, Woodward, Wesleyan, Darlington, and Savannah Country Day. (Click here to see the portfolio of independent school work in which Chapman Coyle Chapman has been engaged.) Mr. Mascheri began meeting with faculty and staff during the summer and fall to assess programming needs for the new facilities proposed in the strategic plan. Essentially, these programming meetings are designed to answer the question, “How will the next generation of facilities at The Walker School create a learning environment that will best serve 21st century students?”

Thus, with great anticipation, Christie Cook and I looked forward to seeing the fruits of Mr. Mascheri’s labor on Monday, November 4. Let me just say that we were not disappointed. Mr. Mascheri addressed the major facilities goals of the strategic plan, as well as potential land expansion, in an effort to create a campus footprint that is meaningful, memorable and long-lasting. The key focal points of the strategic plan – Middle & Upper School academic space, a fine arts facility, and land expansion for athletics – are the highlight of the new campus master plan. I look forward to being able to share the visual picture of the plan with the Walker community in 2014.

Now that the master plan is complete, what is the next step? First, the plan was presented to the Board of Trustees. Next, a consulting firm will conduct a study to assess how quickly and to what extent we can implement the master plan. The plan will likely be completed in phases, but the planning and preparation are the critical first steps toward the implementation of the strategic plan.

It is such an exciting time to be a part of The Walker School, Cobb County’s preeminent college preparatory independent school. Execution of our strategic plan will enhance the classroom and the hallway, the laboratory and the library, the art studio and the stage, the court and the playing field, thereby enabling our school to cultivate each student’s spirit of wanting to know to an even greater degree.