Staff Ed: BSM Admin Has Been Effectively Making Changes and Improving Red Knight Culture


Lily Butner

BSM administrators such as Senior High Principal Stephanie Nitchals and Senior High Assistant Principal Matt Weingartz have been hard at work making changes to issues presented by students.

Throughout the 2022-2023 school year, the Knight Errant staff has noticed BSM administration taking great strides when presented with pressing issues. The recognition of the action being taken at Benilde-St. Margaret’s deserves to be promoted and shared throughout the community.

The typical perception of student-admin relationships tends to be a tradition of butting heads. However, the image of the big scary principal eating kids for lunch, while promoted through media stereotypes, is not true here at BSM. We’ve been able to rise above this ‘tradition’ and work together, student to administrator, to bring change where it’s necessary.

Recently, Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Dennis Draughn sent out a culture and climate survey to gain knowledge of students’ experiences throughout their time at BSM. The survey included questions regarding students’ comfort level in academics, in extracurriculars, and by their peers. The results were hugely positive. Of the 539 student responses, 94% felt respected by their peers, 96% felt respected by staff and faculty, and 98% felt comfortable in their learning environment.

This survey does not cover school-wide policies, an area where students may feel dissatisfied with, but instead focuses on the Red Knight culture. The statistics measured and steps taken concern strictly the sense of belonging and community culture throughout the school, not certain policies.

While these statistics are certainly impressive, they are not 100%. Because the results were not unanimous, change had to be made, and Draughn took a large step in combating these student-presented issues.

We are going to all the people who are taking input from the students in the building and asking what they’re hearing or seeing, so we use that to inform them what the next best practice would be,

— Michael Kautzman

Of the 539 students surveyed, 16 reported a strongly unfavorable experience here at BSM. Draughn called in those 16 students and had them talk about what was making them uncomfortable and immediately took steps to change the issues presented. “If you have an issue or challenge with whatever aspect of school that makes you feel like you don’t belong here, you come in and see me directly. And I’ll figure out a way to address that issue, whether it’s peer to peer or staff or faculty to peer or whatever it may be and ensure that we find that disconnect and mend that disconnect in any way, shape or form,” Draughn said.

Further, one of Draughn’s main strategies is the implementation of restorative practices when conflicts arise. To carry out this practice, both parties are brought into Draughn’s office and work towards meeting an agreement. “It’s just restoring whatever relationship was there before and how we can move forward collectively to build upon a new relationship,” Draughn said.

Draughn himself is not the only administrator deserving commendation for his behind the scenes work. In fact, all administrators have been hard at work responding quickly and effectively to student-presented problems.

Whether the community may know it or not, weekly discussions amongst principals and other members of administration are conducted, along with student support meetings with counselors. The goal of these meetings is to address any dissatisfaction from community members and take the next steps forward.

“We are going to all the people who are taking input from the students in the building and asking what they’re hearing or seeing, so we use that to inform them what the next best practice would be,” Senior High Assistant Principal Michael Kautzman said.

And these meetings have certainly worked. The speed at which these issues are corrected deserve to be noted; of the 16 students with an unfavorable BSM experience, 12 reported that their main issues occurred during the 2021-2022 school year.

Additionally, this is only Draughn’s second year at BSM and Kautzman’s first. Though the community may feel that changes made so far are small or unimportant, perspective needs to come into play – the amount of progress made during just two short years is worthy of appreciation.

One issue that is bigger than just students brought to administration’s attention is the salary of BSM teachers and the need for teacher raises. When the need for higher salaries was presented, administrators adjusted the budgetary levels to accommodate for the teachers’ needs.

“We want to be able to retain quality teachers [and] staff, or to be able to recruit if people decide to leave or retire, all that kind of stuff. So it’s a lot about retention, recruiting, and then rewarding,” Senior High Assistant Principal Matt Weingartz said.

On the other hand, students themselves have been adjusting the inner workings of BSM to fit students’ wants and needs. The introduction of the student council sub-committees has created outlets for students to come to and present new ideas and changes they want to see in the community.

No matter what the changes may be, they’ve been largely positive and worthy of applause. The KE staff wants to thank the administration and students involved for creating such changes and improving BSM culture.