Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Counting Down...

Freshman orientation, new teacher orientation, locker nights, marching band preview, athletic try-outs, and schedule changes; all indicators that our new school year is upon us. September 8 is a late start (thanks Labor Day!) and my brain is programmed to have students start school next week, but I guess I am going to have to wait another week.

This summer was pretty special. For starters, we did not have to move into a new house. Second, we actually got to enjoy a lot of activities in and around Syracuse, and I had a chance to get my family acclimated to the area. Third, I got the opportunity to sit in and play with a band, play on a softball team, and watch my sister skate on her Roller Derby team. Fourth, I had the opportunity to teach a graduate course at LeMoyne College. Fifth, of course, would be that I get to enjoy the State Fair with my family.

No, I don't get summers off. I just like to keep busy. I think it is important for everyone to have things to do that do not involve work. It is okay to leave the office every now and then and do something with your family or for yourself. It will all be there when you get back!

Speaking of work, we spent a lot of time this summer making sure that all of our budget adjustments were in place for the start of the school year. We were fortunate that our planning actually worked in our favor and a few of the items that had been slated to be cut were actually able to be restored. Most notably, the hours for our Early Literacy Teaching Assistants, field trips, and some limited equipment were returned to the budget.

Patty Davern is putting together a very nice program and continuum for enrichment for all of our students and our distance learning equipment is almost here. The interactive boards that we installed this summer in classrooms are already being used by teachers arriving early, and I am looking forward to seeing how they are used in classrooms with our children.

We are also going to be able to provide better services to a segment of our student population that has not been reached adequately in the past, thanks in part to the federal stimulus package. Federal monies can only be used for new programming or to avoid layoffs, so we are going to use a portion of our allocation to begin a new program for students who are at-risk. My definition of students who are at-risk is: those who have had sudden changes in attendance, behavior, and grades. I think in our neighborhoods, churches, and schools we can identify those children who are at-risk. These children, when left unchecked, get into the habit of making poor choices which can lead to drug use, pregnancy, truancy, fighting, bullying, and dropping out of school. The time spent trying to react to the actions of at-risk students is a waste of time in my opinion and that time is taken away from students who are not at-risk. Everyone loses.

Our plan is to provide a K-12 integrated system involving guidance, programming, and counseling so that all children receive opportunities to advance, complete, and be enriched by their school experiences. To do this, we are expanding our high school pro-school program, we are exploring credit recovery and accrual options via technology, and we are looking at providing better at-risk counseling K-12. I think you will see immediate improvements even if you do not have a child who is considered to be at-risk. I expect the number of discipline referrals to drop, time on task in classrooms to increase, and student morale to improve as all students recognize that they have a chance to be successful.

We are also re-evaluating our Special Education programs as well as our guidance structure. We need to make sure that we have top to bottom accountability in both areas so that we can more efficiently transfer children from elementary, to middle school, to high school. I hope to have these structures changed by mid-Fall and will make sure that our new organizational charts and service charts are made available to you on our website.

Thanks to our maintenance and custodial workers. We take their work for granted, but you would recognize them if one thing was out of place, which never happens.

All for now. I will be posting at least once a week from now on as we get ready for school. Make sure to sign up for a Twitter account ( You will get posts more regularly so that you can always be in the loop. I will also use Twitter to announce snow days and delays before I contact the media.

See you soon.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mid-Summer Review

Greetings from August 6, 2009. Things here are going well. Recently, we held a very productive Board of Education retreat. We were able to establish that while we are incredibly proud of the success of our students, we can and will do more for our "at-risk" students as well as for our students with disabilities. In order to be true to myself, making sure that as a District we are always reaching ALL of our students is a top priority.

As a result, we may be adjusting some programming and philosophies to better accommodate children who need something beyond the traditional instructional methods. Stay tuned to future Board meetings and blog updates as we begin this exciting new chapter.

On another exciting front, we are beginning to partner with a company called This partnership will allow us to broadcast our athletic, fine arts, and award assemblies live on the Internet. As a neat twist, we are going to partner with a local university (details and official announcement forthcoming) and begin to offer broadcasting to students who want to become commentators for our live broadcasts. How cool is that?

Operationally, we are still trying to find ways to make traffic flow and parking at the high school as efficient as possible. We have found a way to possibly add about 50 parking spots which should help, and we have also changed the way that our buses line up and that should provide for a better flow as well. The main problem is space and changing that at this point is out of our hands. I do think that people will be happier with the whole setup when school starts.

We are also completing installation of our interactive boards. By the second half of the school year, every classroom will have the capability to deliver instruction with the newest techniques available. I think the students will be excited, and I am looking forward to visiting the classrooms.

Personally, things are going pretty well. Aside from work, I have been able to find some time to play with my kids, enjoy time with my wife, and start my diet plan. I will say that eating well and trying to lose weight makes me cranky, but I should be in tip-top shape for the Race for Respect!

I will be taking a short break from posting and will begin weekly posts again by mid-August. In the meantime, you should consider creating an account on and following me at cbrownwgcsd. Twitter allows me to give you frequent updates about happenings in our school and elsewhere. I also intend to use Twitter to communicate snow days and closings in conjunction with the media being contacted, so if you are signed up you will know right after my own kids do!

Take care and talk to you soon.