Screwing up, and owning up.

This past Monday afternoon, I made a mistake. During the annual drill of calling several superintendents, I confused one district and another. I programmed my phone to represent the opposite districts. The reason it’s a big deal? The one district  had a delayed opening and the other didn’t. The district who I send students to was actually opening on time and not delaying. I ended up sending out notice on social media that there was a delayed opening, when there didn’t have to be one.

20 minutes later, I’m sending out a message to entire community, “just kidding”.

I never felt like such a fool. Sure, it was a simple mistake, but I can almost be certain that it was because I just entered it in haste.

Haste leads to mistakes on my part all of the time. I rushed to get the news out, and I end up typing the wrong date, wrong year, and of course, the obligatory typo.

Why can’t I proofread my own stuff? Why do I always make mistakes on silly things? Why can’t I take my own advice on pausing before posting? Just taking 5 minutes would catch most of these issues. 

Back to the title,  I screwed up, and I’m sorry for that. Taking a few extra seconds to have programmed my phone properly I wouldn’t have sent out a message to thousands saying school would have been delayed. 

Any tips on how I could make myself proofread would be great.

Wallpaper

During the 22-inch dropping blizzard of 2016, I was cooking, cleaning, tending to my babies, and even spruce up my ‘man cave’ in the garage.  In the midst of cleaning, I found wallpaper. I could not help but to think of all of the horror stories my mother use to share with me about the horrors of wallpaper.  She was adamant about doing all of the home decorating, but anytime wallpaper came into play, I ran for the hills.

Wallpaper covers up a lot. It can look pretty to the hanger, ugly to the spectator, and even come off as crummy for some who live in the house. Eventually, it does start to peel.  What normally happens when it beings to peel? We ignore it.  We ignore it until it becomes problematic.  Then we try to quick fix it.    The same can go for a school.

When I started in a new District a few years ago, I was given very specific marching orders by the Board that the past was in the past and we don’t look at the past.  I saluted.  When I spoke to staff, it was the same story on how much they did not care for their leader; most wanted to move onward and forget the past.  It was like placing wallpaper up on an old wall.

I made a new website, pumped folks up with positivity, and went full throttle.  I even made a new website.  Wallpaper on the old wall.

Looking back now, I see a new website, new positivity, and a showing of  being “united”.  Looks great, but truth be told, it’s more wallpaper on the old wall.

I hope the wallpaper stays, and the new handyman has the ability to patch up holes in the wallpaper when it becomes present.  Something very beneficial for the new handyman – the new handyman and the former handymen (plural) talk.  A lot.

In the meantime, enjoy the new wallpaper. It’s very pretty to look at; after a couple weeks, the handyman will start seeing what it was covering up. And then the handyman, with the help of former handymen, will get to work.

Stay safe out there.

 

 

Staying the Course during the Seas of Change

In New Jersey, January is typically the beginning of  budget season. With budget season often comes change. In my new district, change is here, and it’s not being taken well by all. This is no surprise: any place, any line of work, anywhere… change is hard. People don’t like going out of their comfort zone. People aren’t going to agree with everything you do either. This is understandable; in some cases, change could deal with job placement, a realignment, or sometimes unemployment.
How does one in a leadership role help ease the fears and anger? By talking about it early and often. I met with those involved with change during the month of January. Some of my colleagues wait until the last day of school. Some wait until the budget is formally introduced in April or May. I chose to start conversations now. I don’t want or enjoy people afraid; I want people ready.

I also want the public ready. For months, I have met with parents, board members, and community members, and the same message has been echoed: change. When the Superintendnecy opened up in my current district, one item kept rising to the top over and over again: change.

Besides being super passionate about students and meeting learners where they are, I’m also adamant about meeting  my stakeholders on where they are. Instead of pages of information, I am looking to be as clear and transparent as possible. I created a screencast with a walk through of proposed changes. Nothing is more important to me than getting the message out from me, in a clear manner, in my voice. While it may sound a bit conceded, I want people to know that this is coming from me.

Again, I’m very aware that not all will want change. But, I was hired for change, and change they shall receive.  Not because I want it or because I can, but because it’s what is best for our learners. Excellence in education, nothing less.

Materials – CCSD

This link will take you to materials that were used with teachers & administrators from the Clark County School District on 1-16-16. It was a pleasure working with all of you and look forward to working again with you soon!

Materials – The Cranbury School

The link below will take you to the presentation from this afternoon’s professional development.  I’d like to thank the staff that I worked with this afternoon; your candor, excitement, and appreciation for meeting learners where they are is superb.  Please email me if you need anything; remember that you can also tweet me as well!

The link

S-2727 | The Saving Grace for Small Schools in NJ

Kudos to New Jersey Senators Kip Bateman(R) and  Joe Kyrillos(R) for catapulting and co-sponsoring S-2727. The bill establishes a task-force to study regionalization for small / one-building school districts. The task-force will make recommendations to the Governor for action.

Of the 593 School districts in NJ, over 100 of them are one school districts. Seriously. Read that again. Over 100 school districts are one-school districts! Of those school districts, over 3/4 of them have less than 300 students. State law requires a Chief School Administrator (CSA) for every district (including non-operating districts). 

What often happens is the CSA is both the Superintendent & Principal in these buildings. And the lunch lady. And custodian. And curriculum supervisor. And bus driver. Get the idea?

Let’s focus on the Superintdent / Principal issue. Where I previously was, I was engulfed in state paperwork. That same paperwork gets done whether you’re in a district of 100, 1000, or 10000.   

I know I could have been a better Principal and focus more on curriculum and good teaching if I had the time to do it. In a small district, you can’t afford a principal or curriculum supervisor. Who suffers then? Students and staff. 

The next benefit of this? Student choice and having a better shake at success. How? Reallocation of resources. That does not mean layoffs, but it does mean pooling resources and offering REAL differentiation for students. It gives me goosebumps that students could actually begin getting what they need.

Let’s just say three, one-school districts that are within fifteen miles of each other  regionalize. Some of those schools have various electives, some have other resources, programs, and more. You can easily have one Superintedent oversee three principals (or have one Superintdent and vice principal in a building)  and align schools so that students are truly getting what they need.

Another victory: breaking up pockets of cancerous culture that has been in existence for decades. Those that shine can’t be held back or intimidated, those who are not good finally get called on it, and you get exposed to the real world instead of the bubble of nostalgia and inefficiency that you’ve self cultivated.

Sure, there are challenges with this. How are policies and regulations established? How is the CSA determined? How does the state regulate? How will local boards of education work? How about taxes? What about employee seniority and tenure?

There are lots of areas to explore with this, but the fact that the state can get a task force to get the ball rolling?! Amazing. Kudos to those that have been pushing it for years; especially the educators that have lived it. 

Again, students first. This is all about them. It’s about their parents, too. You’ve been kept in the dark far too long. Opportunity knocks. Time to grab it.

More on S-2727

Text of the bill:

SENATE, No. 2727

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

216th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 5, 2015 

Sponsored by:

Senator CHRISTOPHER “KIP” BATEMAN

District 16 (Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset)

Senator ROBERT M. GORDON

District 38 (Bergen and Passaic)

Co-Sponsored by:

Senators Kyrillos, Beck, Oroho and Turner

 SYNOPSIS

     Establishes Task Force on School District Regionalization.

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

An Act establishing a Task Force on School District Regionalization. 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

      1. a. There is established in the Department of Education a Task Force on School District Regionalization. The purpose of the task force is to study and evaluate issues associated with the establishment of new regional school districts in the State. 

     b. The task force shall consist of the following 16 members:

     (1) the Commissioner of Education, or a designee, who shall serve ex officio;

     (2) 11 members appointed by the Governor, who shall include: an executive county superintendent of schools; a director of special education services in a school district; a superintendent of schools; a school principal; a director of curriculum; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey Education Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey School Boards Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators; one member upon the recommendation of the Garden State Coalition of Schools; and one person who was directly involved in facilitating the most recent school district regionalization effort in the State;

     (3) one member appointed by the President of the Senate and one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, both of whom shall be members of the public with demonstrated expertise in issues relating to the work of the task force; and

     (4) one member appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly and one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the General Assembly, both of whom shall be members of the public with demonstrated expertise in issues relating to the work of the task force.

     c. Appointments to the task force shall be made within 30 days after the effective date of this act. Vacancies in the membership of the task force shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointments were made. Members of the task force shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for necessary expenditures incurred in the performance of their duties as members of the task force within the limits of funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the task force for its purposes.

     2. The task force shall organize as soon as practicable, but no later than 30 days following the appointment of its members. The task force shall choose a chairperson from among its members and shall appoint a secretary who need not be a member of the task force. The presence of 9 members of the task force shall constitute a quorum. The task force may conduct business without a quorum, but may only vote on recommendations when a quorum is present.

     3. The Department of Education shall provide such stenographic, clerical, and other administrative assistants, and such professional staff as the task force requires to carry out its work. The task force also shall be entitled to call to its assistance and avail itself of the services of the employees of any State, county, or municipal department, board, bureau, commission, or agency as it may require and as may be available for its purposes.

     4. The task force shall study and evaluate issues associated with school district regionalization, and make recommendations regarding the provision of regionalization incentives and the elimination of impediments to regionalization. The task force shall:

     a. review existing research, studies, and data concerning the regionalization of school districts;

     b. consider implementation challenges associated with the regionalization of school districts including, but not limited to, the financing of feasibility studies along with innovative approaches to conduct feasibility studies that may reduce the costs of pursuing regionalization, issues associated with school district governance and financing, and the integration of curriculum, programs, and staff; 

     c. identify and review benefits of regionalization including, but not limited to, any potential cost savings, and the ability to establish and offer a wider array of educational programs and services and extracurricular activities; and 

     d. identify incentives that may encourage school districts to regionalize and the impediments that discourage school districts from entering into regional school district arrangements. 

     5. a. The task force shall issue a final report to the Governor, and to the Legislature pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), no later than six months after the task force organizes. The report shall contain the task force’s findings and recommendations regarding possible incentives for the establishment of new regional school districts and the elimination of impediments to the creation of regional districts.

     b. The task force shall expire 30 days after the issuance of its final report.

     6. This act shall take effect immediately.

STATEMENT

      This bill establishes in the Department of Education a 16-member task force to study and evaluate issues associated with school district regionalization. The task force will be comprised of: – the Commissioner of Education;

     – 11 members appointed by the Governor, including an executive county superintendent of schools; a director of special education services in a school district; a superintendent of schools; a school principal; a director of curriculum; one member upon the recommendation on the New Jersey Education Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey School Boards Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association; one member upon the recommendation of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators; one member upon the recommendation of the Garden State Coalition of Schools; and one person who was directly involved in facilitating the most recent school district regionalization effort in the State;

     – one member appointed by the President of the Senate and one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate, both of whom will be members of the public with demonstrated expertise in issues relating to the work of the task force; and

     – one member appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly and one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the General Assembly, both of whom will be members of the public with demonstrated expertise in issues relating to the work of the task force.

     The task force will study and evaluate issues associated with school district regionalization, and make recommendations regarding the provision of regionalization incentives and the elimination of impediments to regionalization. The task force will:

     – review existing research, studies, and data concerning the regionalization of school districts;

     – consider implementation challenges associated with the regionalization of school districts including, but not limited to, the financing of feasibility studies along with innovative approaches to conduct feasibility studies that may reduce the costs of pursuing regionalization, issues associated with school district governance and financing, and the integration of curriculum, programs, and staff; 

     – identify and review benefits of regionalization including, but not limited to, any potential cost savings, and the ability to establish and offer a wider array of educational programs and services and extracurricular activities; and 

     – identify incentives that may encourage school districts to regionalize and the impediments that discourage school districts from entering into regional school district arrangements. 

     The task force is required to issue a final report to the Governor and the Legislature within six months of its organization, which contains the task force’s findings and recommendations regarding possible incentives for the establishment of new regional school districts and the elimination of impediments to the creation of regional districts.

carnations, body spray, and nail polish

When I was teaching 8th grade social studies, I was afraid of a few days in school. Valentine’s Day was one of them. In 8th grade, nothing is more dramatic than Valentine’s Day. To offset any drama, tears, or both from coming into my room, I would buy a carnation for each female student. I did this to put all girls at ease, because nothing was worse than not getting a flower in 8th grade. If any guys asked for a flower, I tossed a stem at them. I also did this for another reason. I remember  when I was in 8th grade, a girl sat next to met in math class crying her eyes out. I looked around and saw that all of the other girls had flowers, except for her. I felt so bad for her, and truth be told I didn’t even know who she was. 

Fast forward to my teaching days in 8th grade, I received an email from one of my supervisors at the time that I was needed in the office and was entitled to union representation. Confused, I grabbed my rep and I came down. The supervisor began questioning me on why I wanfiving flowers out to every girl in the class. I explained, and he brought up cultural differences and being cognizant of everyone’s culture and how that could be misinterpreted. Instead of trying to make my point  with him (he was an idiot, so it wasn’t worth it), I nodded and no longer continued the practice.

Fast forward to this past holiday season and I catch wind of an elementary teacher giving out cans of body spray to the boys and nail polish to the girls. As Christmas presents in a public school (first problem – church and state). She posted (publicly via social media) the reason she did this was because the boys stunk and the girls were ugly.  Where do we start with the problems here? First, giving 4th grade boys aerosol body spray? Do you even know what that stuff can do?? What about teachers with breathing problems or allergies in school? Did you even read the warning label on it?? I’d give a mulligan for a rookie teacher… But clearly you are not aware of the problems this stuff brings. And nail polish for the girls? If my daughters got nail polish in 4th grade from their teacher, I’d be down in the principals office asking why. Unreal.  And then bragging about it on social media?! Seriously?!? What’s next… Texting your parents  telling them to not have their kids take a standardized test (that does not count towards anything, mind you)?!?!?e

Please please PLEASE… Think before you act. Your intentions may be good… But think about the big picture. Giving out anything in public schools these days is not the best. Know your audience and know your stakeholders. Most importantly, know that everyone is watching you. 

Dreading Going Back To Work? I geninuely Feel Bad For Your Students.

Many of us head back to work tomorrow after a well deserved break. All of us need time to relax in whatever way relaxing suits one best. Based on catching up with so many over break, the adult coloring books were apparently quite the hit and a major source of relaxation.

I was speaking to a teacher I use to work with and she sounded like she was in the doldrums. Why? She was miserable to go back to work; not so sad to see her students, but to see her coworkers. My heart sank.

Nothing is worse than hearing those in education genuinely dread going back to work. This is a job that requires your A-Game everyday and requires you be your best. If you’re not, you’re hurting our future. This isn’t a cubicle — this is a job that effects the way we will live.

I had to ask her why she was so dreadful. Simple. She’s ostracized for enjoying her job and working with her bosses, not being miserable at work and hating leaders.  The culture of “past practice” has always been ‘us vs. them’ – no matter who the bosses are. That’s like a whole new level of sad! If you hate me for doing what I do, OK. If you hate the guy before me, and the girl before me, and so on…perhaps the problem lies with your attitude and not the person charged with leading?

image credit: http://www.imdb.com
 
A few years back, I had to have a conversation with a first year employee (who was transitioning from the medical field to school life — don’t judge me — nobody else wanted the job and she was the only one willing to accept he salary) about a myriad of issues, one of them being so negative. We went over all of the things I did to help her transition (including credit options, certification issues, and professional development) and she rolled her eyes and said “Everyone is suppose to hate to the boss!” Really?

image credit: http://www.subscene.com

Yes, we have tons of movies and shows about how the boss sucks and how one can overcome it (ranging from Major League to Office Space to Horrible Bosses),  but it does not mean we have to have a culture like this! I have been fortunate enough to say that in six school districts,  I’ve only seen one place where there is a strong culture of hatred, bitterness, and general anger towards education, the changes it brings, and yes, superb hatred for the boss.

 

image credit: comicbooksources.com

 

For your first day back in 2016, please don’t embrace the culture of being miserable and hating your job. It’s a new year; you may have a new boss now or soon; your issues may go away. Embracing a mantra of “us vs. them” does nobody good. Not only does it rub off on other people, and it will certainly rub off on your students. You may hate your boss, and you may hate your job, but there’s a simple solution to both of these: just leave. Your students will thank you in the long run.  Your students deserve the best in 2016; give it to them.