Q&A with Renaissance Public Academy Administrator Nicole Hans
Renaissance Public Academy has a fairly new administrator, as it has for most of its years in existence. But something is different this year. For only the second time in the school's history, the administrator has returned for a second academic year. What's more is Nicole Hans hopes to break the record by staying for at least the whole 2019-2020 school year.
I recently sat down with Hans for coffee, when it dawned on me: I ought to introduce her to the community. So, I sent her a series of questions, and here are her answers.
The Molalla Pioneer: Can you tell me about your education and work history?
Nicole Hans: After receiving my bachelor's degree, I started a career as a recruiter, placing candidates in industrial and administrative positions, as well as recruiting candidates for various jobs in the aviation field. Following that, I received my master's in education from Portland State University, which led me to be hired at a K-8 charter school in Clackamas County. I was a fifth-grade teacher for five years before transitioning into a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA). This position is what first exposed me to administrative duties and I found that I very much enjoyed them.
Finally, I pursued my Administrative License, while being a substitute teacher. This allowed me to work in multiple schools and observe what worked well and what wasn't as effective for students and staff.
MP: Tell me about your family.
Hans: I am married to a wonderful man, who works as a CFO in the private sector. Together, we have a 6-year-old son, who just started first grade.
MP: What are your hobbies outside of school?
Hans: I enjoy traveling to other countries, reading, photography and baking.
MP: What has your time been like at RPA so far?
Hans: As far as working with students and a great staff, it has been amazing! However, last year, it was a bit tumultuous coming in after so much administrative transition and getting all of our processes and procedures in order.
MP: What changes have you already brought to RPA?
Hans: There has been a huge culture shift amongst students and staff. I would like to think that students feel that they are being heard and supported when they come to school. I have increased communication with my staff; we meet twice a day for a few minutes to make sure that we are supporting the social, emotional and academic wellbeing of all of our Knights.
As far as curriculum, we have had trainings and refocused our efforts to best support student needs. It has decreased stress with my teachers, but increased the outcomes of their diligent work. We have also added more field trips! There are so many no-cost/low-cost field trips and this is the time to expose students to a variety of experiences. Last year, RPA students visited World of Speed, the ice skating rink, the Forestry Center, and the RICE museum to name a few. This year we plan to teach our older students research techniques at the Multnomah County Library and our younger students will be attending swim lessons.
Finally, this summer, we updated many parts of our building. We had numerous community members join us to paint our gym as well as updating one of our bathrooms and even converting a huge janitorial closet into a small group learning area. The sky is the limit with a little elbow grease and resourcefulness.
MP: What goals do you have for the future of RPA?
Hans: My main goals are:
To increase our enrollment. Our class-size cap is 25, but our largest class has 15 students.
To see our math scores improve.
To enhance our relationship with the district.
MP: What is your take on the rocky interactions between the Molalla River School District and RPA?
Hans: My perception is that there seems to be a long history of rocky interactions. I think some of them are absolutely valid and I feel that others seem like situations that could have been resolved by a conversation, or what I like to call "a teachable moment." We are all human, therefore, we make mistakes. If those mistakes violate student rights, then there should be accountability measures. If not, then I believe that provides a great opportunity for the RPA board and the MRSD board to collaborate, as all of our students live in the same community.
Now that I have made it through my first year as the Administrator of RPA, I am looking forward to developing relationships with the MRSD board members. I think at this point we need to earn their trust and it would be great to get everyone around the table and resolve the issues from the past eight years — whatever that looks like — and move forward to do what is best for our students.
MP: Anything to add?
Hans: There are a lot of myths being shared about RPA that aren't true. We are not a private school, we are not an alternative school, and we are not a gifted school. We are a tuition-free charter school that supports a diverse population of students who endeavor toward greatness and who thrive in smaller class environments. I urge any member of the community to visit our campus, not only because it is beautiful, but to see for themselves "the school in the old Maple Grove Elementary building" that we now call Renaissance Public Academy.
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