Friday, September 25, 2009

The Rest of the Year

I always tell administrators that however things are operating by October 1st is how they will be operating for the rest of the school year. With this in mind, I am pleased with the progress that we have made in many different areas.

For starters, all of the Open Houses were very successful as they always are. As I walked about a quarter of a mile to get to the CMS Open House, I had time to reflect. The fact that I had to walk such a distance is living proof that we have tremendous parent support. This is one of the key ingredients to the success of any school. I also scored some great Applebee's discount cards in the parking lot of the high school I am sure because we took up all of their spaces for the High School Open House. I mention this with a sense of humor and a tone of thanks, because if the local businesses wanted to be difficult to us during our evening events by not allowing us to park in their lots, many of us would be shuttling in from pretty far away.

Speaking of parking near the high school, it is really a night and day topic. The local businesses allow us to use their lots for evening events, but they do frown upon students parking in their lots during the day. I think this goes back to before I was born, but we are trying our best to make some new in-roads (no pun intended) for some additional daytime parking which is well within their rights if they do not want to support that. I would categorize student parking as a work-in-progress that is more out of my control than people might think. We were able to create about 60 more spots on campus, however that may not be enough if future class sizes are larger than expected. There is always the bus.

As you also know, there were changes made to the enrichment program formerly known as Apple Corps. In October, there will be several project-based experiences rolling out for all of our elementary students that will include working with our Promethean Boards, participating in a "Green Club", participating in Civil War re-enactment exercises as part of social studies units, participating in Distance Learning field trips as well as some other experiences that are being coordinated at this time. As I watch students learn how to research lessons and enhancements for our Promethean Boards, it is exciting to know that we are enhancing their learning experiences with their insistence. Good stuff!

Probably enough for now. Please don't forget the Race for Respect this Sunday and also don't forget that the new diversity shirts are now available in the high school assistant principal's office for $5. There are a ton of different colors and sizes to choose from.

Have a nice weekend-


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blue Ribbon School!

Congratulations to the parents, students, faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Education for accomplishing what only a handful of schools have done; to achieve Blue Ribbon School status. The Blue Ribbon School program is a national program that recognizes schools that are performing in the top ten percentile academically and also recognizes schools where every child is successful no matter the background or disability.

Split Rock Elementary School, headed by Principal Theresa Williams, accomplished this task under her building leadership which helped to place the school in the top one-half of one percent of all schools in the United States.

Theresa and a teacher will head to Washington D.C. in November to receive the official award. They will also bring back the Blue Ribbon flag that will be flown each day at Split Rock Elementary School so that we will always remember how their efforts have made us one of the best school districts in the nation. Congratulations!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Random Thoughts from Week 1

The purpose of a blog is for one to post comments and thoughts that are off the cuff and sometimes a little rough around the edges. While the material in a blog post might find its way to The Communicator or other formal forum, once there it will be much more complete and polished.

It is with this preface that I give you some random thoughts from last week. First, it was a great first week. I have had nine school openings as Superintendent and this year was by far the smoothest. One would think that each school year should be easier the more years someone has under their belt, but the field of education is different than others in that respect. Each year presents itself with different challenges that need to be navigated by everyone involved and this year was no different. It takes a team to make things successful here, and I would like to thank the students, parents, faculty, and staff for coming together and helping us to get our school year off on the right foot.

I am particularly excited for this year because along with maintaining the outstanding academic achievement we have grown to expect, we are also going to focus in a couple of areas that have needed some additional attention. First, is in the area of Special Education. Last year we made huge strides in identifying what services we offer our children with disabilities and how those services are delivered. We also began a strong partnership with parents who formed a Special Education Parent Teacher Student Association (SEPTSA) which will open a line of communication with all regarding students with disabilities.

This year I plan on visiting and observing all of our out of District placements, as well as schools who have begun initiatives to provide “fully” inclusive special education programs. The goal by the end of the year will be to understand if we are providing the least restrictive environment for our children and if not what programming changes would need to be made to accomplish the task. My guess is that what I am hearing and what I will see will be different, so I will hold judgment of other programs until I have a chance to see everything with my own two eyes.

Second, we will be taking a closer look at how to help students who are at-risk of not completing school. At-risk, by my definition, is a child who has had significant changes in their grades, attendance, or behavior. These changes usually mean that something either at home, school, or work is causing them stress. This stress can turn into grade, attendance, and behavior issues that when left unchecked can cause a child to give up. This is unacceptable, and you would be surprised how many children at one point or another are “at-risk”; even in our community.

The fix to this challenge is to provide more counseling support K-12, and also to provide ways for children to earn course credit outside of the traditional classroom setting. The question to ask yourself is to imagine how you would feel if you finished your ninth grade year knowing that you do not have enough credits to graduate High School even if you packed your schedule the next three years and passed everything. You would feel stress. Some keep that stress inside. Others fight, or do drugs, or stop attending school, or become class clowns and take time away from those who are not in the same predicament.

Through the Federal Stimulus Funding we are adding counseling support at the K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 levels and are also launching a credit accrual program called NovaNet so that students can try to get caught up while being counseled back to the right path to success.

To me and especially in our community where we are afforded the resources that are necessary, completing school is an expectation that should be available to all. My challenge is to renew a sense of wonder and dreaming. Ask your children, no matter how old, what they want to do when they grow up. Get them thinking beyond graduating. Get them thinking at as young an age as possible about how they will some day impact all of us by displaying their talents and skills to the world.

Have a great week and I promise a shorter post soon!

Friday, September 4, 2009

...And They're Off!

Wednesday marked the beginning of the school year as all of the staff reported for breakfast, an opening celebration, and then meetings in their buildings and departments. Thursday was full of training and meetings as staff prepare to use new technology and instructional practices on September 8 when the students return.

One of the things that I find remarkable each year is how prepared each building is for the start of school. Summer school and summer recreation make it difficult for our custodial and maintenance staff to get into buildings to have them ready, but they find a way somehow to bring things together for the start of school and for that I am very thankful.

You might have heard that President Obama is delivering a live back-to-school message to students on Tuesday, September 8 at 12:00PM via the Internet. We carefully evaluated our internal Internet capacities, as well as the capacity of our Internet provider, to see if it is realistic to flawlessly deliver President Obama’s message to each student on our first day of school. We are not confident that we can broadcast the event live without a significant chance of error or failure. Therefore, we have instructed our staff to download the address from our internal servers beginning Wednesday, September 9. Our teachers will then determine if and when the material presented by President Obama best fits into their scheduled lessons.

Speaking of live Internet broadcasts, we now have the ability to push material out to the Internet through a partnership with Live Sports Nation. We intend to broadcast sporting events, concerts, and some awards ceremonies live over the Internet beginning with the first football game of the year as our Wildcats take on Baldwinsville in Baldwinsville at 6:30PM Friday, September 4. You can find the broadcast on

Please enjoy the long weekend, and the next time I post the schools will be full of students once again and we will be on our way to another great school year.