Thursday, August 16, 2018

AASA Installation

I'm honored to serve as the President of AASA for the 2018-2019 school year.  As such I plan to post things here from throughout the year.

Below is the summary text of the speech I gave at the installation.  I've also included a few photos from the evening.  A video of the full speech can be found here.

As I prepared for this week I reflected on how I got to be standing here tonight.

It all started with a colleague nominating me to stand for election as one of Missouri’s Governing Board members.  Serving really wasn’t on my radar. But Sally encouraged me to do it.

What an opportunity and experience it was.  Region 4 has an outstanding group of leaders and we learned a lot from one another.  Our many social gatherings really brought the group together.

Later on Bob Mills and David Schuler encouraged me to run for the Executive Committee.  The two of them were an unbelievable team to lead Region 4.

I am fortunate and honored to have served with such student-centered leaders.

Really, I wouldn’t be here today if not for the encouragement and mentorship of others.  From family, to friends, to colleagues - they all contributed to me being here today.

Their leadership mattered and influenced me.

I bet your story is similar.

This room has the past, present, and future of AASA in it.  We learn from those who went before us and we pass that knowledge and history on to those who come after us.

Over your career your role changes from being mentored to being the mentor.  We help new superintendents because it’s our duty.

AASA recognizes that as part of our mission -- one of advocacy, equity, and leader development.

I would posit that we, as an industry, are in the people development business.  Our work involves developing young children into educated, self-reliant, and productive young adults.  To do so we need the best people we can find to facilitate learning.

Leaders matter.  Whether it is in a classroom, principal’s office, or the district office, we need great leaders.  The teacher leaders of today will be the building and district leaders of tomorrow.

Your leadership today is making great things happen for students.

One need only look to Twitter and superintendent blogs to see the awesome things happening across the nation.  

The nation’s superintendents, our members, are engaged at unprecedented levels.  

Over 30 districts have been involved in AASA’s efforts to expand school breakfast participation.

More than 20 districts have worked to redesign professional development.

50+ districts have been involved in the Digital Consortium

40+ districts have been involved in the Personalized Learning Cohort

And the list goes on

As more leaders Engage, Learn, and Lead we see amazing transformations happening.

AASA’s leadership is helping transform education across America.  

For too many years we’ve been wrapped up in test scores.  I’ve seen the work you are doing. I’ve heard you talk about your districts.  Test scores are rarely in the conversation.

The conversation is meeting the needs of your students.  It’s funding and safety. It’s working with your community and board.  It’s challenging the status quo. It’s equity.

I’ve seen how districts are investing in early education, incorporating STEAM, moving to more digital environments, personalizing learning, etc.  And I know that at the heart of that work are leaders. Your leadership matters.

I hope you shared your amazing work during your Hill visits today.  Policy makers want us to be better, but are they prepared for us to be different to get better?

Too many policy makers think school still looks like desks and chairs in rows because that was their experience.  You probably met with a lawmaker or staffer today who thinks just that.

If so, it’s our fault.  We’ve got to get them into our schools.  They must understand what we do. Policy makers must understand that our children are more than test scores.  

Perhaps one day policy makers will realize that the health and well being of children is more important than their GPA or ACT score.  It’s up to us to make that happen.

You are transforming what teaching and learning look like.  You are changing what school looks like -- and it’s for the better.

It’s up to us to celebrate that work and help policy makers understand that we are not the schools they perceive us to be.

Your leadership on this matters.  It matters in your district. It matters in your state.  It matters on Capitol Hill.

It’s hard work -- changing perception.  But I believe we can do it.

I believe it because I hear the passion you have for the work you do.  

I believe it because you are here.  Advocating for policies that move us forward, not bind our hands.

I believe it because I see what superintendents post on social media.

Our members are engaged, they are learning together, and they are leading their districts and communities to a better future.

Let’s make sure we tell the world what we are doing.  We have a lot to celebrate.

Gail Pletnick installs Deb Kerr as President-Elect.

I get to recognize Gail for her outstanding leadership as AASA President.

Thanks to my good friends Bob and Tony for the introduction.

Not sure what I was saying here...

But I seem to have Jim's attention.

Some of the Missouri crew who came out.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Saint at 18 over the bridge. April 30, 2017

Zack and I drove down to see the flooding on the Saint on Sunday, April 30, 2017.  We had seen some video and pictures, but wanted to check it out for ourselves.

Fisherman's was our first brief stop and gave us a glimpse of how high the water was.  It's usually a good ways down the hill from the rocks to the river.

The Millstream put in would have been a nice place to paddle around in a calm pool.  As we were leaving we talked to a guy who lived up the road.  He said he had seen it up to the tree.

Looking downstream from the tree you could see the river getting active as it approached Big Drop.

Big Drop wasn't a drop, but rather a nice pulsating wave and hole.  You can also watch a 1 minute video of Big Drop.

Looking upstream from Big Drop you can see the Millstream pavillion.

Cat's Paw forms a big hole at this level.  Check out the video here.

Dam breach is an unbelievable hole.  I watched it gobble up a lot of big logs.  Watch to see how violent it is.

 And, yes, the road was flooded.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Basketball at #NCE17

UPDATE January 25:  There was no interest in the March 3 game to date.  Those tickets have now been released to the public.

For several years we've been putting together some fun time at an athletic event for superintendents when at NCE or during our summer meeting.  This year is no different, but it does bring choices.

This year there are two opportunities to catch a game.

Pelicans v Pistons on Wednesday, March 1 at 7pm
Pelicans v Spurs on Friday, March 3 at 8:30pm

We know everyone's schedule is different in regard to incoming flights, dinners, and receptions so you're getting options this year.  Catch one, catch both, or enjoy a different activity with friends and colleagues.

To order tickets call Jesse Nantz with the Pelicans at 504.593.4744.  Tell him which game and that you're part of the AASA group.

Tickets for the Pistons game are in their Hub Club all-inclusive experience and will run $70.  We only have a block of 55 here, but can go to other, good seats at around $64 if/when these run out.  The first 20 buyers get to watch warm-ups courtside.

Tickets for the Spurs game are not as good seats and will run $46.

Keep checking here for more updates.

See you at #NCE17

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Same place, different times.

First Trip down in 2014

Lots of smiles and fun

2016 Trip was a bit more wet when he came out of the boat and was a bit more serious.

Let's Do the Right Things, Not the Wrong Things Right

Can we change the system to do the right things, rather than continue to try to do the wrong things right?

It’s a long question essentially around the idea of change.  It resonated with me after reading an article by Will Richardson that really spoke to the “why” of what many of us are doing in our districts.  The title was "9 Elephants in the (Class)room That Should 'Unsettle' Us."

Forgive my random recounting of some of them.
  • We don’t remember what we learned in school.  I often joke that the things I most use that I learned in school are the ability to read, do arithmetic, and type.  Most other things I’ve picked up through experience.
  • Kids are bored and disengaged.  Content often isn’t relevant.  That’s why we have student engagement as a core tenant of our academic plan.
  • We teach in discrete blocks of time and subjects rather than integrating them so that kids can make the connections to get to deeper, longer lasting learning.  Remember the steps to mitosis or meiosis?  Even remember what the difference is?  Our current model doesn’t get us to deep learning.  We remember for a test and move on.
  • It's all about the GPA.  How many of us have had push back from parents when implementing standards-based grading?  The desire to be number one and heightened accountability have made our kids a series of numbers – GPA, ACT/SAT score, class rank.  It's like body measurements for high school kids.  Hey, my son is a 4.0 - 34 - 2 some parent might be saying.
  • The last one I want to mention is that we’re not assessing the stuff that really matters.  Especially on state tests.  It takes so long to get state test results they are meaningless.  Not assessing what matters and not getting timely feedback.  

I’m sure you can think of other elephants in the room and the article has another four.

I started my career in education as a math teacher and later taught science, which makes me tend to think in systems.  My innate desire is to put a process around most things and then improve through continuous improvement strategies.  Not everyone operates that way and it often has me challenging the status quo.  We can't get better by staying the same.  We've got to break past Newton's first law and get moving.

This requires change.  We hear change or become irrelevant.  We fear change because the unknown can be unsettling.  We stay in our comfort zones.  

We know we need to change, yet we’re afraid of it at the same time.  We ask ourselves what level of change can the board handle, the staff, the community?  The kids can handle it and are begging for it.  We get so caught up in our comfort zone that we can’t get to where the magic happens.

Schools are an institution built around tradition.  

Sometimes I think school is viewed more of a rite of passage than an active learning experience.  Millions of parents and grandparents went to school in much the same manner it is today.  We are slow to change, but have to do so if we are going to remain a viable institution.

As much as I like the neat little plan, the reality is the changes we need to make won’t be smooth. 

It’s going to be bumpy along the way and there will be setbacks.  We know from team development that whenever the members of a team or the task changes the team sees a dip in performance – hopefully only for a bit.

Many of my colleagues are involved in change efforts at some level.  Some are further along than others.  That’s why I engage with them.  Their ideas and support will help my students be more successful.

Sure we’re doing things in all the areas one would expect in today’s world, but I want to connect and learn with others so that the students I serve have the best opportunities we can provide.  I wish more were on the same path.

I’m afraid I see too many folks just managing their schools and not leading their systems forward.  Maybe they are comfortable that way.  Maybe they are afraid to push their communities.  Maybe they’re stuck in a rut.  

We hear all kinds of schemes that will supposedly be better for kids.  We know what we need to do and it’s pedagogical transformation.  It’s time for a change.  Our kids deserve better than us continuing to do what we know isn’t right.  Can we not change the system?

Monday, August 15, 2016

More Nantahala Falls

That is some cold water, but I knew that already.

Nantahala Falls

Thanks to Ryan we were able to get some great shots of us coming through Nantahala Falls.  Watch frame by frame to see what happens.

Better straighten that thing up Zack.

Looks like you're a bit out of line.

Are we getting tossed a bit to one side?

Starting to look that way.

Definitely looks that way.  Hang on!

And out we go.

That's some cold water.

Keep the feet downstream.  Where's the boat?

There it is.  So cold, must get back in.

Ready for re-entry.

Big kick to get back in.

That was fun.  Let's do the Ocoee tomorrow.