Amy Biehl High School is the No. 2 small employer in Top Workplaces for 2022.
Description: Amy Biehl High School is a tuition-free school, founded in 1999, that aims to help students graduate as “civic-minded, college-bound and career ready scholars.” The school places a great emphasis on community service, and to date it has donated roughly 150,000 hours of service. The school has 44 staff members. This is its fourth year on the Top Workplaces list.
From the organization: “Amy Biehl High School’s unique curriculum focuses on service, college and career preparation, and restorative justice. By studying turning points in history from multiple perspectives and emphasizing depth over breadth students learn to be upstanders in their community. An upstander is someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right. Students build upon this idea of being an upstander by volunteering in their community. Students in grades 9th-11th participate in monthly service learning activities and seniors complete a 100-hour service learning project with a local organization as graduation requirement.”
From the employees: One employee said, “Amy Biehl focuses on meeting students needs socially and emotionally, in addition to academically. It is a wonderful place to foster growth in students and a wonderful place to work.” Another said, “I have enough autonomy and support in my work to feel like I am making a real difference with each student. I know everyone I work with has the best interests of our students in mind, and our active collaboration keeps us all very well supported and constantly growing in our craft.”
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Amy Biehl High School Development Director Aldis Philipbar, whose comments have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
What pandemic era workplace changes do you guys plan to keep at the school?
“I think Zoom has been a big one. We already were a digital one-to-one school, so all of our students received computers, which was really helpful when we had to transition to online learning, but we’ve been looking a lot at digital equity since the pandemic. Because even though our kids had computers a lot of them didn’t have internet access. Or maybe they had internet but it just wasn’t fast enough for several kids in the household to be on the internet. We did purchase hot spots for both students and even some staff if they need it. So that’s something that we’ve been looking at a lot more is like kind of how do we kind of close that digital equity gap.”
What’s the best way you’ve found to boost the staff’s moral?
“Food. No, I mean food always helps, but I think here one thing that I noticed that is different than other places of business is that we really listen to our staff. So if there is a need, you can go to admin and tell them like, ‘I need this,’ and they will do just about everything in their power to get it done. For example, we have three science classrooms, but one science classroom still had those built in tables that are stuck to the floor. They’re not movable, and they also don’t have legroom, like, it’s just like this solid desk, all the way down. Our science teacher was just like, this is just not working, it’s not conducive to the things that we want to do in here. And so they ripped that classroom apart, ripped all those out and put tables in. I’ve heard her tell multiple people, when you ask for something here, you pretty much get it.”
Do you feel like innovation suffered when you had to go online for the students and teachers?
“Not really. If anything, I think it made us be even more innovative, because we had to figure out ways to support our students in ways that were just not academic. And how to continue clubs and social hours and different things that they needed because they were just so sad. Teenagers especially need that social interaction — they miss their friends. So yeah, I guess it forced us to be more innovative in figuring out how to meet their needs but then also in figuring out, how do we get them just the basic things that they need, like internet access, food, stuff like that.”