Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Be a Bridge Builder

Behind my desk...

The Bridge Builder

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

September and October Paddles

For September we took a quick morning paddling on Simpson Lake.  It was a nice morning and we had a luncheon to attend just down the road.

We did see a guy on a paddleboard who was using it to exercise.  He was all over the place, moving quickly.  I like paddling because I can slow down and relax.

We had a big family trip planning for October.  A nice weekend paddling with friends and spending the night on the river.

The trouble with planning well in advance is that the weather is not always cooperative.  We've only had issues a couple of times because we like the mantra, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment."

That may be true for the guys, but it gets a little different when taking the kids.  Thankfully the rain settled for the weekend, but the 5 inches of the rain the days prior put the river at level we needed to avoid.

I checked the river levels on what would have been our last morning on the water to find the river gauges at 2 to 3 times normal flow.  Guess it was a good thing we stayed back.

So what's a guy to do?  Find another place to paddle on a different weekend.  So, a week later we hit the lower Meramec for a nice morning paddle.

It was pretty foggy at the start, barely being able to see what was ahead.

The sun came out though and revealed some color leaves.

We came upon a boat dock and paddled around it a bit.  It was the first time I had seen storage seats on the top of a pontoon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Show-Me Board?

Recently I wrote about what I thought were a few of the qualities needed in Missouri's next Commissioner of Education.  I finished by saying that the State Board must take the time to get the selection right.

Since then we've seen Utah select a new State Superintendent.  Their website made note of the search, they included stakeholders in the selection process, and ended by selecting an in-state sitting superintendent.

Here in Missouri several superintendent groups are writing the State Board asking for a thoughtful process to select a new Commissioner.  Our hope is that our State Board will engage stakeholders to develop a leadership profile, recruit top candidates, and make a selection based on the leadership profile.

Will the State Board show us they value our input or make a quick, closed decision?  We are the Show-Me State after all.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Leadership Qualities Needed for Missouri's Next Commissioner of Education

Commissioner Nicastro recently announced her retirement effective at the end of the calendar year.  Given the state of things in Missouri (unaccredited schools, MSIP5, Accredited with Distinction, learning standards rewrite, new online testing, underfunded formula, etc.), school leaders are concerned who the new Commissioner might be.

Those concerns were not alleviated at the recent MSBA/MASA fall conference.  During a conference session with State Board of Education members the President of the Board intimated that the selection of a new Commissioner would be swift, closed, and without input from stakeholders.  I'm not sure his view aligns with the entire Board, but the comments only increased concerns.

During the last search for a Commissioner several names were being thrown around.  The same thing is happening this time.  For a moment though, let's not think in terms of WHO the Commissioner might, or should be, but rather in terms of what leadership qualities will be needed for the next Commissioner to be successful.

At the outset it is important that a new Commissioner rebuild trust and confidence in the department and the office.  The department has been decimated by budget cuts.  As such the department made a pendulum swing from assistance to regulation.  It's time to increase two-way communication, transparency, and get more practitioners in the department in order to rebuild trust.  Those in the field need to know that folks in the department understand the implications on local schools of the rules and requirements being enacted.

The next Commissioner must understand that Missouri has diverse schools.  Boards of Education across Missouri are opposing Amendment 3 because it forces a one-size-fits-all approach on Missouri schools.  The next Commissioner needs to understand that Missouri has diverse schools, much of which is determined by the community make up and culture.  A one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

The next Commissioner must be able to assess and define the reality of Missouri education and put supports in place to assist districts of varying make up.  Perhaps a restructuring of the department is necessary to start an Office of Urban Education with experts in moving urban districts forward.  An Office of Rural Education is probably also warranted because rural districts have unique needs as well. 

The next Commissioner must be politically savvy.  He or she will have to work with a Democrat Governor and a Republican Legislature.  The Commissioner must help both get past ideology and think in terms of sound, pragmatic public policy for Missouri schools.

The list could go on for some time, but I'll stop here.  The challenges the next Commissioner will face are numerous.  The State Board of Education must take the time to get the selection right.