Action Groups Pave Way for Better School Environment

Created at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, teacher-led action groups have been advocating for change and improvements at GEHS.


Jeni Daley

Teachers in the action groups show support for Ashley Gorney.

Cayla Peacher and Amara Whited

Teacher-led action groups were created to complete specific goals, such as raising money for AP Exams and rebranding the school identity. These groups have been working silently in the background of GEHS since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year after being created by Principal Frank Bell.

“The thing that gets me most excited about school is the students,” social studies teacher Matthew Mayeske said. “I wanted to be a part of a group that tries to make their school climate better in whatever way possible.”

Mayeske is part of the Climate and Culture action group. This group has goals of creating a more welcoming and hospitable environment for students. Other groups are for more infrastructural purposes, like the Branding and Communications action group.

“[Branding and Communications] tries to think of new ways to revamp GEHS’s look to the public,” Mayeske said. “The goal [of Climate and Culture] is to better serve the high school’s diverse group of students so that we can make the climate at the school better.”

The action groups have been working quietly in the background, achieving goals and milestones unbeknownst to many students. The Fun(ds) Finder action group was responsible for collecting $1,000 to help pay for AP exams. The Self-Care for the Body group is working to provide staff with healthy opportunities and more. The Gorney family has been bearing the weight of medical bills since Spanish teacher Ashley Gorney’s cancer diagnosis, and many fundraisers have been created to assist the family, some with beginnings in the action groups. 

“I’m really proud of our group,” physical education teacher Amy Stubblefield said. “We started the Gorney Strong Fitness Challenge… anyone that wanted to participate donated 20 dollars, and all of the money that the staff donated is going to the Gorneys. We had 77 staff members participate.”

The Climate and Culture group has ambitious ideas for the future, hoping to create a more welcoming and open environment for students.

“We did the Hispanic Heritage Month door contest, we also are going to have a table for LGBTQ+ awareness,” social studies teacher Joshua Johnson said. “The idea is to give people an opportunity to say they support the LGBTQ+ community.”

Some action groups are the perfect space for teachers who see a need in their community and want to address it. Johnson sees a space for education and takes the reins.

“Our school population is so diverse… and I think it’s important that as a school not only do we recognize it,” Johnson said. “But also [that] people have an opportunity to learn more about those groups.”

Teachers like Johnson don’t let limited time stop his work.

“We organize our groups and have meetings during inservice time,” Johnson said. “But we also can organize meetings outside of inservice time to accomplish the things we need to accomplish.”

Although run by teachers, the Climate and Culture action group involves and revolves around the students, unlike some other action groups.

“It really is all about trying to make this place welcoming and loving for [the students],” Johnson said.

Action groups as a whole are based in the school, but the potential for reaching far beyond the school population is within their sights.

“I think all of our action groups really want to make solid relationships with community partners where they are applicable,” Johnson said. “It would be awesome to get guest speakers to come in.”

Action groups have created an opportunity to cultivate not only student relationships, but internal teacher relationships as well.

“There’s teachers in my group that I didn’t even know their names until they joined my group,” Stubblefield said.

The primary goal of the action groups is to improve the school in any way possible. The Grounds action group, led by science teacher Aaron Batterbee and math teacher and Department Chair Stephanie Shephard, strive towards creating a more captivating appearance of the high school building.

“We’re looking at maybe [adding] signage to help the flow of traffic, looking at [adding] plants, looking at a lot of aspects, maybe even trying to get some outdoor classrooms,” Batterbee said. 

The Grounds is the largest action group held at GEHS, which enables an engaging and diverse community of teachers to offer different perspectives of what can be improved within and outside of the school. Due to the large number of teachers that are members of the Grounds action group, they are able to move towards building not only a better school environment, but a better environment for relationships to build and communication to grow. 

“I think it’s been productive and a lot of fun,” Batterbee said. “I think it’s been good to collaborate with teachers. It’s been neat to catch up with teachers and just talk about our visions and try to find things that are realistic and [that] we are able to.” 

The goal that the Grounds group will be working towards completing by the end of the 2022-2023 school year is creating a more inviting space for students, staff, and guests. 

“I didn’t know there was a staff bathroom closer to my room for like a year and a half,” journalism teacher Jeni Daley said. “I found that bathroom and I was like ‘I bet there’s a bunch of other things…[that] would be beneficial.’”

The Branding and Communications action group specializes in working behind the scenes, like making the job of teachers easier so they can teach students better.

“We put together this document called the One Stop Shop,” Daley said. “If I need to quickly know what secretary to contact it’s on here, if I need to know how to make an announcement over the intercom it’s on here…the idea is that it’s a living document that our teachers can reference frequently.”

Not only does Branding and Communications help the teachers, they also take a deeper look at the cosmetic feel of the building itself and plan updates accordingly.

“I think a lot of people would agree that [the look and feel of our building is] dated,” Daley said. “You’re clearly standing in a building that was last updated twenty years ago.”

Branding and Communications is a long-term set up. They make short-term improvements that can be done quickly, and also plan long-term investments that can require much more money, time, and resources.

“We’re trying to improve these little communication channels for now, like the announcements, how they’re being read over the intercom,” Daley said. “There’s a slideshow, that’s another thing my committee did. Students are not walking down the hallways looking at all the black and white posters that are…slapped on the lockers.”

Incoming freshmen have an advantage that even current freshmen don’t have access to: the Freshman Survival Guide, created in the Branding and Communications group.

“Every year, we get this opportunity when freshmen come in to establish the culture that we want with our incoming students, and we need to communicate what that culture is,” Daley said. “The newspaper staff is going to help put together a Freshman Survival Guide that a ton of teachers and a ton of students are going to contribute their ideas to.”

Teachers new and old have felt the difference of Branding and Communications, even in it’s short life span so far.

“The feedback that we’ve gotten is ‘Hey, this is stuff that we’ve needed for years,’” Daley said. “We’re trying to make sure that everyone in the school community is on the same board when it comes to communication, that we all believe in the same vision and mission.”

The Fun(ds) Finders action group works with other groups and teachers to find a way to fund projects and items that need money.

“I think that we can be [important to GEHS],” English language arts teacher Shannon Carriger said. 

Although most groups tend to focus on either infrastructure or student connections, Fun(ds) Finders has the ability to lean both ways.

“Because we are in place to help support the projects that teachers are interested in implementing in their classrooms, it could actually end up being both [infrastructural or student targeted],” Carriger said. “If a teacher wants to do a project that would have an end result for student benefit, we would want to help find the funds to do that, or if there’s something related to infrastructure that needs funding for, we’d help there.”