LAS CRUCES – With a roaring ceremony rallying the spirit of the school and camaraderie at all levels, students and staff at Sonoma Elementary School launched a new house system on Friday morning.

On Friday, each student was randomly assigned a membership in one of six houses, each with a corresponding color and coat of arms.

Unlike Hogwarts University, the wizarding academy of the Harry Potter fantasy novels and films, there was no magic hat assigning every student to a house. Instead, each student pulled a ticket out of a bag after descending from the top of an inflatable slide in the school gymnasium.

This post informed the students if their school family would be with the Masterminds, Guardians, or perhaps the home of Atlas, Dynamite, Visión or Sognare.

Staff members also each belong to a house, and on Friday even members of the administration and school board of Las Cruces public schools sported t-shirts proclaiming their membership in one of the houses in Sonoma.

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Las Cruces Public School Superintendent Karen Trujillo was on hand with Visión’s yellow t-shirt. School board members Carol Cooper, Maria Flores and Teresa Tenorio also took to the stage to raise their hands and cheer on their respective homes.

Sonoma is not the first site in the district to introduce homes. The Mesilla Valley Leadership Academy, a small school that recently moved from Las Cruces to Mesilla, is in its fourth year of assigning students and staff to homes.

Emme Strand, fifth grade at Sonoma Elementary School, right, was delighted to draw a ticket assigning her to the Guardians' green house in a ceremony on Friday, February 21, 2020.

Like many school administrators who have implemented in-house systems across the United States in recent years, MVLA Principal Toni Hull took inspiration from the system instituted at Ron Clark Academy’s private. Atlanta, Georgia.

“Research shows us that when kids are in a small community, they will feel more connected and they will get to know these people in their home,” Hull told the Sun-News.

How houses work at MVLA

At MVLA, the houses get their names from several different languages. The school’s 100 or so pupils spin a wheel in their first year to find out whether they belong to the Animi, Grandezza, Audaz, Dynami or Nova house.

Although in the past the selection was made during student orientation, starting next year new students will be spinning the wheel after a few weeks.

“It takes a while for them to understand the meaning of our homes,” Hull said.

From 2019: Mesilla Valley Leadership Academy dances on the new campus

What they offer, Hull said, is peer support in a separate group throughout their years at school, building character, encouraging friendly competition and fostering ongoing relationships with peers and mentors.

“For us that’s a big deal,” Hull said, with a daily schedule that includes house meetings with team building activities followed by a school-wide meeting.

Students and teachers dance during the opening ceremony of the new location of the Mesilla Valley Leadership Academy in Mesilla on Friday, November 15, 2019.

Each house has its own cheer to rally members and a unique handshake, and unlike Ron Clark Academy sweaters and polo shirts with embroidered badges, MVLA and Sonoma students receive colored lanyards to show their membership. .

Assignments are permanent, although in unusual cases the school may step in and reassign a student. For example, Hull said that “it’s not the best” for siblings to be in the same house.

MVLA staff use a mobile phone app, also developed by Ron Clark Academy, to award points to students and homes for actions and efforts that exceed expectations. House points are a way to promote healthy competition and rewards for house communities, Hull said.

Most Fridays, Hull sets up weekly “Principal’s Challenges”, excluding shorter weeks so as not to waste instructional time, giving Houses an hour to collaborate on a solution or response to the challenge.

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Hull said the system should work just as well at a much larger school like Sonoma, which currently has over 750 students enrolled.

Hull said the key is support from the staff. “I have a staff that really lives it,” she said.

Making the voice of students heard in Sonoma

In Sonoma, principal Melissa Galaz and several of her teachers visited the Ron Clark Academy in October, where they observed first-hand the domestic system and other practices at the private college.

Staff members in purple "The brains" home to Sonoma Elementary School see opening ceremonies on Friday February 21, 2020.

“We already have a strong staff culture and a student culture here in Sonoma,” Galaz told the Sun-News, “But we are taking it to the next level by including the mix of students,” explaining that teachers and students will have the opportunity to make connections between grade levels and establish a smaller sense of community within a larger school.

Galaz plans to hold home meetings monthly rather than weekly, and gradually introduce team building and competition activities.

Additionally, she argued that houses are a way to add student voices to decisions affecting school and to instill social and organizational skills early in their schooling.

Blue-owned Sonoma Elementary School staff "Atlas" the house annoys students during the opening ceremony of the new school house system on Friday, February 21, 2020.

“I see it as an opportunity to include them at all levels of our school system,” said Galaz. “I think engaging them in these leadership opportunities will create this opportunity when they get to college and into the career preparation arena. If we start now, then it will be easier when they get to college and in high school to transfer these skills. ”

Besides the commitment, Galaz expressed confidence that this would help reduce referrals and improve the restorative justice model that the school has been implementing to tackle student discipline for the past four years.

“Our public schools have a lot to offer, but we always hear the negative,” she said. “I think that’s a positive take on what a strong school culture can do, because it will trickle down to your academics.… With a stronger bond in the relationships we have, we can soar and do well. more.”

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Algernon D’Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, [email protected] or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.