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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Promotional Videos

Charleston was just announced as the best Tennis Town in America. They put together the video below to help reach this title. Why couldn't Rock Hill Do the same - a promotional video - Rock Hill Schools of Promise, Winthrop University, Cherry Park, River Walk, Glencairn Gardens, Lake Wylie, High School Football, High School Marching Bands, Softball, Soccer, Manchester Medows, Disc Golf - we do have a story to tell.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How One Principal Creates a Caring Community

From the Edutopia Blog Site:

Can district justify list?

Wednesday's Rock Hill Herald contained an editorial (copied below) questioning some of the recent bond items.  Let me say the Rock Hill Schools have been blessed with good coverage from The Herald. The paper has been very supportive over the years and often asks the questions that need to be asked. 

A former school board chair once made the statement, you shouldn't go to battle with someone who buys ink by the barrel - and that is not my intent - I'm not sure what the overall editorial intent was, but I'll tell you what my take-aways are:

  • The district should never be spending money on frills - whether good times or bad. Every purchase involving tax dollars should be on a needs basis, not a wants.
  • The District needs to do a much better job explaining items and what we do. A parent spoke to the board on Monday night about several issues which need clarification. No longer is it acceptable to operate "out of sight and out of mind".
Those are my take-aways. Probably not what you would get from the article. But let me explain.

A school district operates on limited maintenance funds. Once you get behind, you will never catch up and eventually your schools will decline. Our district is well maintained. Our old schools get small upgrades which keep them up to date and attractive. If we didn't work on this a little each year the learning environment would suffer. 

Let me address the project issues mentioned in the editorial (which were also addressed during Monday's meeting):
  • The project at Sullivan (Xeriscape) involves removing grass between the buildings (in the courtyard areas) and replacing with a type of zero maintenance material. Presently, lawn mowers must be brought through the school to get to the courtyards - which means there is a clean up issue inside the school every time the grass gets cut. Now, this is not a new problem, but there are new eyes looking at the problem. The solution was to reduce maintenance cost and make the area more attractive. This is not a frilly landscaping project.
  • Northwestern is getting some new lockers, not a new locker room. Unfortunately, lockers wear out and need to be replaced.
  • Old Pointe requested a fence as a boundary with some new businesses in the area. This will improve security and the environment at the school.
  • 480 ipods. This is a tough one for me, because I think this is technology which we cannot keep up with. But, this was presented as a trial in all our secondary schools - as a tool to see what our teachers can come up with to improve learning. I'm sure the same argument was made for the first computers and even calculators - and often I'm not  a visionary when it comes to what the potential can be. I can tell you this, 3 months ago I thought an ipod was just an mp3 player, but since receiving one as a gift, I know they are graphing calculators, internet browsers, cameras - if there is an app for it, it can do it. We already supply calculators for some math classes, why wouldn't we trial a device which can do so much more?
Admittedly, one persons wants is another persons needs. I hope these will always be tough calls. But I hope we will always have school leaders who push the district to be on the cutting edge. Something, I believe, is what folks recognize when they nationally  name Rock Hill as being child and family friendly.


Can district justify list?

Even without a tax increase, school district must justify items on list of projects.

In principle, the $5 million approved Monday by the Rock Hill school board for technology upgrades, construction and maintenance makes good sense. But in these difficult economic times, we hope school district officials have carefully examined every item and project on the list to see if they are absolutely necessary.
The district originally thought that borrowing $5 million would entail a tax increase of about 1 percent. But board members were told Monday that the district could avoid a tax increase by postponing projects and strategically restructuring its debt.
State law allows school systems to borrow up to $25.66 million a year without having to go to voters for approval. To borrow more than that, the district would have to hold a bond referendum.
Under the law, that money can't be spent on salaries or other operating costs. It must be used only for building and technology projects.
Board Chairman Bob Norwood noted that the district routinely borrows around $5 million every year to perform routine maintenance on buildings in the district and upgrade technology.
"People don't realize we've been doing this for 34 years," Norwood said Monday. "We pay off some debt and we take a step forward."
This year, of course, every penny the district borrows or spends is under scrutiny. With teachers and other district employees losing jobs and being forced to take furloughs without pay, borrowing money to pay for frills would be unacceptable.
We trust that district officials and school board members have carefully reviewed the list of technology upgrades and construction projects proposed by Superintendent Lynn Moody. Nonetheless, some raise a red flag.
Does Sullivan Middle School need its grounds landscaped? Does the Northwestern High School junior varsity need a new locker room? Does Old Pointe Elementary School need a fence? Why exactly do our middle and high school students need 480 new iPods?
School district officials and board members can be certain residents are asking those and other questions.
Routine maintenance, timely building projects and technology upgrades can be both practical and cost effective in the long run. And we appreciate that the district has found a way to borrow the money without increasing taxes.
Again, though, in tough times, the district might have to work harder to justify everything on this list than in years past.

Read more:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Exceptional Public Schools

The Learning First Alliance blog has an interesting post on successful public schools. You can see the full posting by clicking here.  Some of the information is below:

So in no particular order…
Viers Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. The school serves a high-needs population, with many of its students speaking a language other than English at home and most receiving free or reduced-price lunch. Yet the school consistently performs well on standardized assessments. In fact, in 2010, 100% of 5th graders met state reading standards, and 100% of 4th and 5th graders met state math standards. Not only that, at Viers Mill teachers have a real voice and every child at the school feels valued.
Greenlawn Terrace Elementary School in Kenner, LA. This small school is achieving big things. Last year it was named a High-Performing High-Poverty School by the Louisiana Department of Education, one of the few neighborhood schools in the New Orleans area to recieve the honor. How does it do it? A caring environment and a focus on data.
Taylor Ray Elementary School in Rosenberg, TX. While 73% of Taylor Ray’s students are considered economically disadvantaged, and 28% are Limited English Proficient, this school thrives. In 2010, school proficiency rates exceeded 94% in all tested subjects for all tested grades. Key to its success are a number of factors, including an excellent and dedicated staff that constantly collaborate, a mentoring program and a dual language program.
Carstens Elementary School in Detroit, MI. While over 90% of students at Carstens receive free or reduced-price lunch, the school performs amazingly well. For example, in 2010 100% of 3rd and 4th graders met state proficiency standards in math. And the school is a beacon of light for its surrounding community, with staff working hard to meet all the needs of students and priding themselves on their shared leadership.
George Hall Elementary School in Mobile, AL. The mainly low-income students at George Hall benefit from frequent field trips--carefully constructed adventures that tie directly to the curriculum--designed to expose them to the larger world. They also become experts in technology, publishing their "photo stories" on the web. But all this time "away from basics" doesn't hurt their performance. In 2009, 100% of third and fourth grade George Hall students met or exceeded proficiency standards in reading. 100% of fourth and fifth grade students met or exceeded proficiency standards in math.
Laurel Hill Elementary School in Laurel Hill, NC. Despite serving an economically disadvantaged population, the school performs well above state averages on end-of-grade tests. And students with disabilities perform particularly well compared to their peers statewide, thanks in part to a well-established inclusion system. The school also has the highest attendance rate in its district, no mean feat in a rural area where kids historically missed school frequently to hunt and fish. And the school’s teacher turnover rate is below that of the state and district, indicative of a teaching and learning environment where people want to work.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rock Hill Schools September Business Meeting Notes

The Board took the following action - all 6-0 votes. Silverman was absent again.:

  • Approve the consent agenda including; minutes; personnel recommendations; Use of facilities at Rawlinson Road Middle School for Impact Community Church; 7 field study requests; a reduction in driver education fees; and a reclassification for the director of facilities.
  • Approved policy GBEBDA (Background checks) for final reading.
  • First reading approval of policy FB - facilities management- to require a capital 5 year plan to be updated yearly.
  • A General Obligation Bond and a funding formula that would not allow a capital milage increase for this year. Milage would be capped at 52.
In other action:
  • recognized employees of the district who have been selected by building administrators as exhibiting The Rock Hill Climb.
  • Recognized The Elks Lodge for giving dictionaries to all third graders.
  • Recognized Patti Tate as the new District Teacher of the Year.
  • Received an update on the new cell phone policy for students (32% fewer infractions)
  • Got an update on SAT results
  • Heard a report on the recent Late Start
  • Heard a report on the District's Crisis Plan
  • Heard that Keenan Suggs will now be managing employee benefits enrollment and insurance services.
  • Heard that enrollment is down by 232 students at the 45 day count. 347 students are at York Prep Charter school. The elementary schools are down 407, middle school is up 30 and high school is up 151.
Parent Lynn Melton spoke to the board under citizen participation. As a parent who has had to pay $25 per child, she questioned; credit card expenditures of $13,000 to grocery stores and restaurants during June when students were only in school for 4 days; $15,000 to Target and Walmart plus $6,000 to restaurants during August; and why the district isn't relying more on donations and volunteers like what York Prep is doing.

Chairman Norwood suggested she make an appointment with the district for an explanation on those charges. You can see those charges on the school web site by clicking here.

There was a lengthy discussion on the bonds. Too lengthy to post notes here. Watch CN2's replay of the meeting on Tuesday.

Becoming A Better Parent

So much of being a "good" parent involves luck. If you are like me, you didn't take  parenting classes and relied on what you remember from growing up. You hope that blending your experiences and your spouse's experiences, will make for a better education for your children. The Rock Hill Schools has a ParentSmart group to help you become a better educated parent. Their newsletters give great tips for helping your preschool children be ready for school. Rock Hill also has Early Childhood Instructional Coaches to help with this.

The reason Early Childhood (birth to 6 years of age) experiences are important is that recent brain scanning tests show that children who are stimulated to learn during this period of rapid brain development have a brain which is designed for learning. Children who are bi-lingual by 5, will be able to pick up foreign languages as adults and, most of the time, without an accent - all because their brain will have been "wired" for it. What a great 21st century tool to have!

This is why kindergarten teachers can identify students who will struggle to be successful. Those children will have a difficult time learning and retaining what is taught because their brains were not stimulated during the developmental years. They are, essentially, handicapped for life. We've always know how difficult it is for children to catch up - now science has shown, through brain scans - there is a reason for it.

You should make every contact with a preschooler a learning experience to help prepare them for life.

Brain Rules For Baby

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Interactive Spelling Test on YouTube

Click here to go to other interactive YouTubes

Saturday, September 25, 2010

From Public Agenda on The Importance Of A Good Principal

This is a good post from the Public Agenda Newsletter:

The new documentary "Waiting for Superman", opening this week, poses the question "Who will become a hero now?" when it comes to fixing American schools.

The movie offers a lot of possibilities, with much of the attention focused on high-profile figures like District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and Geoffrey Canada, leader of the Harlem Children's Zone. But Public Agenda's research suggests the place where more superheroes are needed is several rungs further down the ladder, and much, much closer to the people who need rescuing. The place to start is in the principal's office.

There are lots of jobs in this world where a good boss is the difference between an organization that succeeds and one that fails. Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson, in a blog posting, note that this is particularly true of schools, where the principal can be the biggest single factor in whether a school is making progress or not.

And you can see that reflected powerfully in the attitudes of teachers. Public Agenda has surveyed teachers extensively over the years, and it's clear to us that the fear of a bad boss, and the hope of a good one, drives much of the disenchantment and skepticism teachers often show toward top-down school reform. In fact, for teachers, schools can become entirely different places depending on whether they see their principals as effective or not.

That's not surprising. If you have a bad boss, you're more likely to say bad management is a problem with your work, regardless of what kind of work you're doing. What's more surprising is how this pattern continues into teachers' views of almost every other corner of school reform. Teachers who say their principals are unsupportive are more likely to complain about issues like testing, the lack of freedom to be creative, and to say there are too many kids with discipline problems. One Public Agenda study grouped teachers as being "Contented," "Idealistic" or "Disheartened" in their jobs. While healthy majorities of the contented and idealistic teachers gave their principals "excellent" ratings, just 14 percent of disheartened teachers said the same.

The portrayal of unions in "Waiting for Superman" is one of the most controversial parts of the film. Reformers often find themselves battling with unions over ideas like performance pay and teacher evaluation. Many see unions as hidebound, selfish and steadfastly wedded to the status quo. For rank-and-file teachers, however, attitudes about unions also trace back to the fear of a bad boss.

Teachers with principals they rate as ineffective are considerably more likely to see unions as essential: 67 percent of teachers with ineffective principals agree strongly that "without a union, teachers would be vulnerable to school politics or administrators who abuse their power."

And this becomes very stark when it comes to the idea of merit pay. Public Agenda's extensive research among teachers shows that most are open to many different kinds of performance pay, but they are concerned about whether the plans will be carried out fairly. Nearly 9 in 10 of teachers who rated their principals as ineffective believe that principals would use merit pay to play favorites. Among teachers who say they have good principals, only 50 percent say this. That's still a high level of skepticism - but perhaps these teachers know of bad principals even if they don't have one themselves.

Superheroes, unlike the rest of us, rarely have their plans foiled by middle management. When Superman wants to solve a problem, he usually just has to stare at it with his X-ray vision. He doesn't have to order Jimmy Olsen to do it and then worry about whether it got done. But that's the position most school leaders are in, whether they're good, bad or indifferent, much less heroic. To have good schools, they need principals and teachers to carry out their visions.

Change from the top, and commitment from the bottom, both peter out if they don't connect effectively in the middle. Perhaps we need to set our goals just as high, but lower our aim, when it comes to education superheroes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rock Hill School Board To Meet on 27th For September Business Meeting

Meeting of the Board of Trustees
Monday, September 27, 2010
6:00 p.m. – District Office Board Room


I. Call to Order
Approval of Agenda
(Under consent agenda, all action items will be voted on after one motion and second to approve them without discussion. If a board member wants any action item discussed or voted on separately, the board member, before the agenda is approved, must ask that the action item be moved to the discussion item section.)

II. Special Business

    1. Recognition of Distinguished Climbers
B. Recognition of Elks Lodge
C. Recognition of District Teacher of the Year (Family Trust & Chamber)

  1. Citizen Participation

IV. Consent Action Agenda
A. Approval of Minutes
1. August 23, 2010 business meeting
2. September 13, 2010 work session
B. Approval of Personnel Recommendations
C. Approval of Use of Facilities – Impact Community Church
D. Approval of Field Study Requests (7)
E. Approval of Change to Driver’s Ed Amount
V. Communications

VI. Report of the Superintendent
A. Announcements
B. New Cell Phone Policy
C. SAT Results
D. Late Start
E. Crisis Plan
F. Open Enrollment Benefits
G. Enrollment Report / Effect of York Prep Academy

VII. Review of Work Session

VIII. Action Agenda

  1. Approval of Policy GBEBDA – 2nd Reading
B. Approval of Policy FB – 1st Reading
C. General Obligation Bond Resolution

IX. Other Business
X. Adjournment

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Classroom Management - Motivating Students

An interesting take on rewards and classroom management:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fear or Understanding

This is a post from the Stories From School Blog.  I'm including it because it is relevant to teaching and parenting:

Classroom Management: Fear vs. Understanding

Gman By Mark
I have a three-year-old son at home who is that child whose behavior is my karmic payback for the times I mouthed off to my parents. He's a boundary-tester and an eye-lash-batting innocent cherub for whom consequences like time out and taking away of toys have no influence on behavior. Though I regret it, there have been times when the worst of me has come out, and this 32-year-old ends up shouting at that 3-year-old.
And then he cries and cries and I feel horribly guilty.
But usually it changes his behavior, at least for a while. The same results cannot be said for a stint in time-out.
I was venting my frustrations to my dad this last fourth of July when he mentioned that behavior changes only result from one of two things: fear or understanding. I don't know if he discovered this on his own or if he learned this from some workshop, but it rings very true. My dad is a well-respected educator who taught for over three decades, served in the military, and has even volunteered in prisons to teach math to inmates. He made me realize that if I want to influence my toddler's behavior, I should aim for understanding. My son needs to understand why it's not okay to punch his brother or jump off the dining room table. Sometimes a lesson is learned the hard way (he hasn't leapt off the back of the couch even once since that trip to the ER with bashed-in teeth) but there are many other lessons I'm having a hard time teaching him simply because there are a lot of things a three-year-old just isn't capable of understanding yet.
There are obvious analogies to teaching. 
When I consider classroom management through this same lens, I realize that my classroom discipline system is also founded upon fear and understanding. I teach high school, and I write about one discipline referral a year. To some, that might be an indicator of lax rules or a limp teacher unwilling to assert discipline. There are many educators who take pride in their referral count. 
I teach regular kids in a suburbanish-rural school, and our community is relatively stable and a little more affluent than the neighboring districts. But I've also worked in three other districts--all of which serving populations with higher than 80% subsidized meals and I even worked in one high school where the proportion was so high that it was more cost effective to just give every student free or reduced-cost subsidized lunch. In those other contexts, my discipline approach was the same, and I wrote just as few referrals.
In hindsight and reflection, I believe that the cooperation I receive from my students is the result of my emphasis on understanding over fear. Sure, there are threats of consequence when necessary, but even though I work with ninth graders (who, as some joke, are not quite yet real people) they are fully capable of understanding the purpose and necessity of rules and policies. 
The reason I am reflecting on all this now is that I've observed a handful of teachers and staff in our profession who seem to turn to "inspiring fear" as their default means of achieving cooperation or compliance from students. These are the adults for whom yelling at a kid is the default interaction, whether it is in the locker bay or in the classroom. I'm not above raising my voice (there are legends in the hallways about what happens when the "G-Bomb" drops--a reference to my last name) but it is truly a last resort, despite the legends the students perpetuate. 
I rarely have to drop that bomb, maybe once every two or three years or so, and I realize that the hallway legend represents a touch of that fear factor which may help students cooperate the first week or so in September. But after that, I know that just as with instruction, if students do not understand why I expect what I expect, how can I expect them to perform? And the they should know better excuse doesn't fly with me. If their behavior tells me they don't know better, it is my job to help them know better by helping them understand...just like when I discover they don't know the content of my course it is my job to teach them, not punish them.
As educators, whether serving kids as the secretary, security guard, teacher, or principal, when seeking cooperation and compliance form students we ought to always default to promoting understanding rather than inspiring fear.
My three-year-old will continue to be a challenge. Today I had a victory in the realm of "understanding." We've been working on "first-time listening," where he does what we ask the first time we ask. Today, I asked him to put his pirate ship away where it belongs, and he didn't. I asked again. No dice. So he went to time out. I asked him "Why are you in time out?" He replied correctly that he had not done "first-time listening." Then I asked him "What does first-time listening mean?" To which he replied "I get my toys taken away."
Whoops. Not quite the understanding I want.
Finally, after struggling to translate my thoughts into three-year-old-speak, I was finally able to get him to understand. Now, whenever I ask him to do something, I tell him "I am asking the first time...please pick up your legos. What will happen if I have to ask a second time?" He gets it, and the day has gone much better. Sure, there's still the the fear piece there that a second-time request means a consequence, but now I see that I needed to help him begin to understand my expectation of cooperation rather than simply fear a consequence.
There's been a distinct decrease in yelling and tantrums (knock on wood). And I attribute this to focusing on understanding rather than fear.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Oprah Debate?

Apparently Oprah recently had a show which upset many educators. I didn't see the show, but thought this letter from an educator was a good read. From The Change Agency:

Dear Ms. Winfrey

Dear Ms. Winfrey,
I appreciate your efforts to highlight problems with our education system, but I am extremely disappointed that you failed to include any public school teachers as guests on your show today.  By doing so, you presented only one side of the story – a side that is decidedly pro-charters & privatization and anti-union/anti-teachers.
Your daytime show is highly influential and many viewers trust that the information you present on your show will be balanced, fair, and positive.  Unfortunately, by only inviting guests who are neither classroom teachers nor educational experts, your show today failed at being balanced, fair, and positive.  Instead we were presented with “experts” who blame all public education ills on classroom teachers.  Simply being a former student of the public school system does not make one an educational expert.
The problem is much bigger than it was presented on your show or in the film Waiting for Superman.  The problem does not lend itself to easy solutions like just firing ineffective teachers or opening more charter schools.  In fact, many of the current solutions being put forth by our policy makers (more high-stakes testing, teacher accountability tied to single test scores, etc.) will not solve the problems.  The problem is much more systemic and involves the broader community – it is not confined only to the four walls of the classroom.
I have worked so very hard for many years as a teacher and eventually as an administrator in inner-city schools in one of our nation’s largest urban school districts.  I know many people – former public school colleagues – who left the public school environment to work for KIPP and YES Prep charter schools.  I also know educators who left KIPP and YES Prep when the “super heroic” expectations left them extremely burned out.
I do recognize that KIPP and YES Prep are very successful with many of the students that they serve.  However, administrators at those schools will be the first to admit that their program is not designed to serve ALL students.  They are not designed to serve the students who have no parental support at home and they are not designed to serve students with special needs.  Public schools are charged with serving ALL of these students and do not have the luxury of demanding that families sign “contracts” stipulating the expectations of the students and their parents.
My biggest concern is that current reform efforts – including the growth of charter schools – are focused entirely on vilifying teachers and holding only teachers accountable.  I agree that we should have highly-qualified teachers in every classroom, but I also recognize that this will still not solve all of the problems that our schools face.
In my experience and in my research I have yet to find sustainable and/or effective classroom or campus-based solutions to the following:
  • Students who come to school hungry on a daily basis
  • Students who go home to abusive/drunk/drug-addicted parents
  • Students who have no home to go to at the end of the day (yes, I had a student show up once in filthy clothes and out of “dress code” – he had been kicked out of home and was living on the streets for 3 days)
  • Students who work full-time hours – working evening and late night shifts – to help support their families
  • Students who come from homes where education just isn’t valued
You see Ms. Winfrey, for charter schools to be a solution, there must first be caring parents or caregivers at home who make the effort to enroll their children in those charter schools.  This is too frequently one of the issues not discussed when praise is heaped upon successful charter schools. Parents must first “opt in” to charter schools.  What about the children who don’t have parents who know or care to “opt out” of the public education system?
What happens to our public education systems when all of the high-achieving students from affluent and/or middle class homes have opted to transfer to high-performing schools and/or private/independent/parochial schools, all low-income students with caring and concerned parents “opt in” to charter schools, and the public schools are left with students who have no support at home (for whatever horrible reason) and special education students (who have no charter or private school options)?  What highly qualified teachers will we find to teach in those schools?
To be fair, I do support the continued growth of charter schools, online/virtual school programs, and other innovative solutions.  I also continue to believe strongly in the value and promise of a free public eduction system that serves all students, and I strongly support innovative and creative efforts to reinvent our public education system so that it meets and exceeds the needs of ALL students.
As for the issue of “highly-qualified” teachers — I believe this depends on who is defining “highly qualified.”  There are so many issues to address with regard to pre-service education/training and pipelines, new teacher induction, and in-service professional development and support.  Once a teacher is in the classroom – do we define “highly-qualified” as “one who achieves high test scores or shows ‘value-added’,” or as “one who challenges students to think critically and creatively”?
Additionally, are we defining “highly-qualified” by teacher behaviors that you highlighted on your show today?  I am referring to the teacher qualities that you mentioned:  staying at school until 11:00 p.m. to help tutor students, and carrying around a school-issued Blackberry to be available to students 24/7.  If so, then is the teacher who leaves work every day at 4:00 to pick up his or her own children from school not “highly-qualified” or even adequately committed to the education of his or her students?  What about the teacher who chooses to not be available 24/7 so that they can lead a life that has a healthy work/life balance where they allow for quality time with their own families?  Are we really asking teachers to be so committed to their students that they make personal sacrifices to do so?  I hope not.
By the way, when I was a younger teacher I did take late night and weekend phone calls from students  — often just to let them know that there was an adult in their life who did care.  I now have my own family and I have scaled back my work hours as well as my availability to students in order to be fully present with my own children and my spouse.  While I am committed to being a dedicated and caring educator, I also understand that there must also be healthy boundaries and balance in order to avoid burnout and neglect of my own family.
You see, while I am a dedicated and hard-working educator, I am also now a parent and I believe very strongly that a child’s first and most important teachers are his or her parents.  I do not take this role and responsibility lightly.
As I have high expectations for myself as an educator and a parent, I also have high expectations for other educators AND for all parents.  I also have high expectations for all students and I firmly believe that the “learning” part of the equation is the students’ responsibility.  We are all individual parts of multiple and complex solutions, and when we (meaning: educators, policy makers, and the media) fail to hold EVERYONE accountable then we cannot expect to achieve complete success.  When we fail to hold everyone accountable then we should not profess to have solutions for all schools, all teachers, or all students.
You have accomplished so much and made such a positive impact with your show over the many years that it has been on the air.  It saddens me that your show today did not present all sides of our very complex and badly-in-need-of-reinvention education system.  I hope that in the future you will make an effort to give equal airtime to other voices and other solutions.
Stephanie Sandifer
Parent, educator, concerned American citizen

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rock Hill School's Superintendent To Resume Community Chats

Rock Hill School Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody will resume her chats with the community, beginning Thursday morning, September. 23,  2010,in the media center at Castle Heights Middle School from 8:30-10:00 am.

For the past two years, Dr. Moody held "chats" at local businesses, but her five chats this year will all take place in a middle school.  

Anyone who wishes to talk with Dr. Moody about improving Rock Hill Schools is welcome to attend. 

Reservations are not needed.
Other chat dates are:

  • October 19, Rawlinson Road Middle School
  • November 16, Saluda Trail Middle School
  • February 15, Dutchman Creek Middle School
  • March 22, Sullivan Middle School 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Technology - The Failed Promise To Education

Forgive me, but this is a rant.

Schools have been chasing the technology tail since the early 90's - and we will never catch it! Administrators and Board Members have been afraid to not support technology because of the reported promise - and the fact most Administrators and Boards do no understand or use technology. I keep hearing we must invest in new technology because we are falling behind the rest of the world. The last time I checked - the successful schools in the rest of the world are pretty much doing what we were doing 40 years ago - Discipline, student and parent involvement, and community support. We all want to believe technology can somehow overcome this - but it can't.

I support technology for its ability to make jobs easier. It is a tool for Administrators and Teachers so they can be better at what they do - developing a relationship with students - the  key to success. It is not for the students - they are, and will always be, farther along than the adults on technology. If a district is not using technology for teacher development, to become a better teacher, then they are not utilizing technology. Show me a district that blocks YouTube (or other sites) from teachers, with all its wealth of education tools, and I'll show you a district that is not very technical or interested in utilizing  the available tools that  make classes more engaging. Schools that utilize technology teach responsible use of technology. How many of you remember some basics you learned in school - Stop, Drop and Roll (during fire prevention week) and  Look Both Ways before crossing the street. Your children should be memorizing the basics of technology responsibility - starting before first grade.

Right now, there are students in our schools with more computing power in their book bags than is available in the classroom - and the numbers will only increase. We should put in the infrastructure to allow those devices to be more useful - and our classes should be modified to use these devices. We should give up trying to buy the devices.

This is not a new argument. I can remember when people fought the use of calculators in the classroom - now pretty much common. I guess nobody likes change except a baby with a wet diaper! The most valuable asset any school system has is its Teachers. Technology should be focused on  making better Teachers.

From the Cool Cat Teachers Blog:

Bandwidth is the Library Card of the Modern Age

The Internet is an increasing source of excellent quality video content. This video is an example - from National Geographic and their daily update:
Diving in the Maya Sacred Pools
gives UP TO DATE information on current discoveries in science. In this video, divers discuss how they have found some ancient artifacts in 
Belize and also you can see the fascinating way that they go through the bottom of a pool into an area where water comes out of the spring. You'd have to see it to believe it at the beginning! (So cool.)

The point is that the Internet is our library and that between features like this and services like Discovery Streaming, you can have access to the video you need.

I know schools that still have very slow Internet service. One school that has no Internet access (the administration believes it is a distraction.) The fact is that the payment for bandwidth is really a subscription fee.

When you pay for the Internet you receive:

  • Streaming video
  • Streaming audio of all kinds
  • Access to live events with leaders in society
  • Tons of down-loadable resources
  • Free Lesson Plans
  • Access to your state's standards database
  • Free cloud-based software of all kinds
  • Access to other students and teachers around the world
  • free videoconferencing (skype)
  • free encyclopedias and databases such as the Encyclopedia of Life
  • and more.
 It befuddles me why schools would debate the cost of bandwidth if they look at all of the services that libraries often pay for. In fact, bandwidth is truly the library card of the modern age.

We talk about the digital divide because those who do not have bandwidth are denied access. They cannot enter the library. Why would we intentionally keep people out when it is within our power to allow access? Why would we add barrier after barrier in our new card catalog by blocking educationally-beneficial sites.
Why do we seem so afraid of learning? Yes, there are places that we should monitor and filter but often it seems that we are straining out gnats and swallowing camels by thinking that the only services that are worth anything must be paid for. How about just unfettered access to the Internet where teachers can request to have valid URL's unblocked.

Modern Age Library Litmus Test

Answer these questions to see if your school is truly allowing access to the modern library card of the world?
1. If I have a specific site that I need to use for classroom use, I have the ability to request that the site be unblocked? (  ) 1 - Yes   (  ) 0 - No

2. When I request for a site to be unblocked for a valid educational use, it typically takes:
(  ) 5 - Same Day approval
(  ) 4 - Next day
(  ) 3 - Same Week
(  ) 2 - Next Week
(  ) 1 - Same month
(  ) 0 - Are you kidding?

3. Who approves your request for a website to be unblocked?
(  ) 5 - I have a URL to unblock it myself by logging into the filter
(  ) 4 - Curriculum
(  ) 3 - Administration
(  ) 2 - IT Department
(  ) 1 - the office manager
(  ) 0 - Are you kidding?

4. When you find a useful site that is not blocked and begin using it heavily in the classroom, which is most likely to happen:
(  ) 5 - Nothing
(  ) 4 - Someone may ask me what is going on in my classroom.
(  ) 3 - I will be E-mailed notifying me that if the site is not legitimate it will be blocked.
(  ) 2 - IT department gives me grief about bandwidth
(  ) 1 - It is blocked within days.
(  ) 0 - It is blocked within hours.

5. At my school we are:
(  ) 5 - Encouraged to use Internet resources and have an open environment of sharing those that meet classroom standards.
(  ) 4 - Encouraged to use Internet resources and some share the tools
(  ) 3 - Internet resources are allowed but not encouraged.
(  ) 2 -Approved resources are allowed, although very few are approved.
(  ) 1 - using an intranet and everything must be on our local server.
(  ) 0 - Not allowing Internet access.

OK, so add up your numbers.  The maximum score is 21. If you're there -- wow, count yourself lucky. When you get down towards 10, you're really dealling with walls.  Less, than 10, and you're severely limited from accessing the "library" of the modern age. 

Food For Thought:

The Innovative Educator - Information on First Grade FaceBook

A Principal's Reflections  - Principal Eric Sheninger's Blog

Who's In Charge In 'Principal's Office?'  A Boston Globe Article with reference to Principal Sheninger

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rock Hill School News For Saturday, September 18, 2010

Special Notes:
  • Northwestern High Schools' Col. Arthur Ahl who has been invited to take four of his Air Force Junior Officer Training Cadets to Washington, D.C. to represent the National Science Center at a meeting of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Assn. on Sept. 27 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The cadets will demonstrate several of the NSC's math and science modules in front of the highest ranking officers in all branches of the military and from the Pentagon and representatives from major corporations.
  • Laurel Hinton, art teacher at Old Pointe Elemementary School, has been recognized by Artsonia, the world's largest online kid's art museum, for outstanding leadership in the area of Arts Education. The school's online art gallery ( ranks #8 in South Carolina, according to Artsonia.
  • Kim White, a grade 3 teacher at India Hook Elementary School, had her article, "Friendly Letters" published in the Aug.-Sept. edition of The Mailbox. This is the 7th time that Kim's work has been accepted.
  • Jeryl Christmas, a grade 4 teacher at Lesslie Elementary School, has had a children's book, The Alphabugs, published through Tate Publishing Company. Check it out at php?w=978-1-61739-029-6.
  • Sandy Andrews has been selected by the Office of Adult Education at the S.C. Dept. of Education to oversee one of five regional adult education technical assistance centers. Sandy will work closely with adult education programs in Region V to ensure that quality programs are in place, and that adult educators receive the technical assistance and training they need.
  • The first School Talk show this year is now being televised on Comporium Cable 18. Hosted by Supt. Lynn Moody, segments highlight the Positive Deviant Visionary Team and how being featured on national TV benefits our district and the community. School Talk is produced by students in Martha Menchinger's visual communications class at the Applied Technology Center.
  • A debate between Democrat Frank Holleman and Republican Mick Zais, candidates for the S.C. Supt. of Education, will be held at 7:00 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20, on SCPBS radio.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rock Hill's Historic White Home To Open For Fundraiser

Benefit for the fundraiser is York County's Early Learning Partnership of York County. Money will be used to fund their projects; Imagination Library; Reach Out and Read and; medical clinics in all four school districts of York County.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Notes From Rock Hill School Board Work Session on 9/13/2010

Sullivan Middle School gave an update to the Board on all their activities. They used Administrators, Parents, Teachers, and students to present their report. This is a partial listing of their activities:

  • Completed a survey of all their Stake Holders (Parents, Students, Teachers)
  • Worked on increasing parent involvement through expanding communication by using; email; Facebook; twitter; phone calls; an electronic message board and;  old fashion paper.
  • They started a "Parent University"
  • Utilized Winthrop for tutoring sessions by using Title III funds. 
  • Met with the City and County concerning sidewalk and road improvements around the school.
  • Implemented an incentive program to encourage students to read more books.
  • Art students completed work for the Dorthy Day Soup Kitchen and the SC School for the Blind and Deaf.
The Administration updated the Board on recent SAT results and announced that Belleview Elementary is a Semi-Finalist for Distinguished Title I schools in SC.

The administration answered questions about the proposed technology and capital budgets and presented a plan for updating the Districts Needs for facilities and technology.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rock Hill Schools News For September 11, 2010

Patti Tate, an English teacher at Northwestern High School, was named The Rock Hill School District Teacher of the Year for 2010-11. The school sent a phone message to all on the Northwestern phone system on Thursday night and Principal James Blake introduced Patti and the news at half-time of the Northwestern Football Game, also on Thursday night. Named as Honor Roll teachers (top two finalists) were Bud Cope, a social studies teacher at Dutchman Creek Middle School, and Lynn Bogan, a math teacher at Rock Hill High School.

At a special presentation Friday morning at Northwestern High School in front of the student body, Patti received the keys to a new 2010 Honda Accord, compliments of Honda Cars of Rock Hill. The car, which is a one-year gift to the district, will rotate among Patti, Bud, Lynn, Tim Davis (Saluda Trail Middle School Teacher of the Year), Tammy Harrelson (Applied Technology Center Teacher of the Year), and Melissa Shaffer (Finley Road Elementary School Teacher of the Year), school-level Teachers of the Year whose names were selected through a random drawing at the awards ceremony.

Angela Clark, an art teacher at Saluda Trail Middle School, was named as the Beginning Teacher of the Year for 2009-2010. 

Julia Marshall, the retiring District Teacher of The Year gave a very inspiring talk during the ceremony. Julia, who is heading up the "Grassroots Teacher Network" has these comments:

  • Educators make up the single biggest group in the state, but are the most silent.
  • We all feel like we've been through hard times with budgets this year, but next year is going to be much worse.
  • Teaching is a mission and we all have a passion for this or we wouldn't be doing it.
Julia was one of the finalists for the state teacher of the year.

  • James Daigle (Ebenezer Avenue Elementary School), Stacey Lewis (Northside Elementary School), Wilson Mew (Saluda Trail Middle School), and Michael Belk (South Pointe High School) on their selection by the S.C. Council for the Social Studies as "Palmetto Teachers of Excellence." They will be recognized on Oct. 23 at a state conference and then on Oct. 25 by the Rock Hill School Board.
  • Judy Lambert and Jenny Parrish  recently received a "Certificate of Appreciation" at the 2010 SCETV DES Conference for their excellence and dedication in providing instructional resources and services to K-12 students and staff in Rock Hill  Schools. 
  • Rock Hill High will host its first Basketball sponsored Golf Tournament on Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Waterford Golf Course. For more information or to sign up, please contact Eric Rollings at 803.981-1344 or 704.622-2120.
  • Superintendent Moody's first "Community Chat" this year will be held on Thursday morning, Sept. 23, at Castle Heights Middle School from 8:30-10:00. This chat, as well as four others this year, will be open to anyone who wishes to talk about Rock Hill Schools.
  • SAT scores will be released state-wide on Monday, September 13.
  • The American Cancer Society 2010 Relay for Life of York East will hold its relay celebration and awards ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20, in the media center at Castle Heights Middle School.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sullivan, Technology, and Capital Projects Will Be On The Rock Hill School Board's Agenda For Monday's Work Session

 Each year the district spends 8% capital money to maintain the schools and keep them up to date with technology. The board will be discussing the recommendations from the administration  in these areas:
  • Infrastructure upgrades - $300,000
  • 1-to-1 hybrid / computer replacement – $900,000
  • Wireless overlay – $930,000
  • Student handheld devices (iPod Touch) – $85,000
  • Destiny upgrades for remaining schools – $10,000
  • Printer additions and upgrades – $50,000
  • Promethean packages - approx. 25 (mainly special areas, remaining spec. ed, etc.) $125,000
  • Virtual server addition – $10,000
  • Finance system upgrade – $60,000
  • Staff Training – $30,000
Total – $2.5 Million

From the District's 5-year Technology Plan:
Current Technology Inventory 
  • Over 5,000 PCs 
  • Over 2000 laptops 
  • Over 750 Promethean Boards 
  • Over 850 projectors 
  • Over 1000 classroom sound systems 
  • Over 40 Servers 
  • Wireless access in hotspots in schools
Current Technology Support Strategies 
  • Centralized district help desk 
  • One computer technician for every school 
  • Additional network support staff centrally located 
  • One lead technology integration specialist for each school 
  • Additional instructional technology support staff centrally located 
  • District-level interdisciplinary team for planning and implementation 

You can see the District's FULL 5 Year Technology Plan by clicking here.
The District's Capital wish list is as follows (in prioritized order):
  1. Backup Power Improvements for Critical Communications Equipment at various sites. $60,000
  2. Parking and Traffic Improvements for Ebinport Elementary School. $550,000
  3. Foundation Repair for Media Center at Finley Road. $30,000
  4. Replace/Upgrade Emergency Generator and Switching for Northside Elementary School of the Arts. $50,000
  5. Replace/Upgrade Emergency Generator and Switching for Rock Hill High School. $60,000
  6. Install Additional Security Cameras at South Pointe High School. $8,400
  7. Install Additional Security Cameras at Rawlinson Road. $8,400
  8. Replace Front Entrance Deceleration Lane at Mt. Holly Elementary. $25,000
  9. HVAC upgrade for print center at District Office. $5,000
  10. Install Partition for Enhanced Access Control at Sunset Park Elementary School. $25,000
  11. Install Partition for Enhanced Access Control at Rosewood Elementary School. $14,500
  12. Install Partition for Enhanced Access Control at Northside Elementary School. $14,500
  13. Install Partition for Enhanced Access Control at Belleview Elementary School. $14,500
  14. Replace and Upgrade HVAC Systems and Controls for Independence Elementary. $575,000
  15. Replace some roof sections at Richmond Drive Elementary School. $196,350
  16. Replace Public Address System at Finley Road Elementary School. $12,000
  17. Install additional Heat in Music Room at Rawlinson Road. $12,000
  18. Replace some roof sections at York Road Elementary School. $364,290
  19. Repave York Road Elementary School's Parking Lot. $110,000
  20. Renovate Sullivan Middle Schools Auditorium. $70,000
  21. Renovate Richmond Drive's B-hall bathrooms. $30,000
  22. Install Energy Improvements for Mobile units at Rebound. $4,950
  23. Renovate restrooms at Sullivan Middle School. $32,000
  24. Renovate restrooms at Phoenix Academy. $20,000
  25. Install fencing on property line for Old Pointe Elementary School. $8,000
  26. Replace Exterior Doors at Saluda Trail Middle School. $32,000
  27. Grounds restoration at various sites around the district. $46,160
  28. Re-paint Corridor Lockers at Sullivan Middle School. $19,500
  29. Replace Kitchen Floor at York Road Elementary. $24,000
  30. Repair/Replace Front Entrance Canopy at Northside Elementary School. $19,000
  31. Junior Varsity Football Locker replacement at Northwestern High School. $32,000
  32. Install lights for Central Child Development Center sign. $1,900
  33. Xeriscape 4 courtyards to reduce turf maintenance at Sullivan Middle School. $22,000
  34. Replace Binding Machine at the District Office Print Center. $3,550
Total $2.5 Million
The meeting agenda is below:

LOCATION: District Office

START: 5:30

DATE: September 13, 2010

1 Sullivan Presentation
30 minutes

2 Technology Plan Kokolis / Whitesides 30 minutes
3 Capital Plan Tony Cox 30 minutes
4 Facilities Master Plan Cox / Kokolis 15 minutes

5 Executive Session - Property and Personnel Matters

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