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Friday, September 30, 2011

They Said It Couldn't Be Done

News report from Bruno , NE
In 1981, Herman Ostry and his wife, Donna, bought a farm a half mile outside of Bruno , Nebraska , a small community sixty  miles west of Omaha. The property had a creek and
came with a barn built in the 1920's. The barn floor was always wet and muddy.  When the creek flooded in 1988, the barn ended up with 29 inches of water covering the floor. That was the last
straw.. Ostry needed to move it to higher ground.

He contacted a building moving company and was discouraged by the bid. One night around the table, Ostry commented that if they had enough people they could pick the barn up and move it to
higher ground.. Everyone laughed.

A few days later, Ostry’s son Mike showed his father some calculations. He had counted the individual boards and timbers in the barn and estimated that the barn weighed approximately 16,640 pounds. He also estimated
that a steel grid needed to move the barn would add another 3,150 pounds, bringing the total weight to just under 10 tons. He figured it would take around 350 people with each person lifting 56
lbs. to move the barn.

The town of Bruno , Nebraska was planning its centennial celebration in late July of 1988. Herman and Mike presented their barn moving idea to the committee. The committee decided to make it part of their

So, on July 30, 1988, shortly before 11 a.m., a quick test lift was successfully made. Then, as local television cameras and 4,000 people from eleven states watched, 350 people
moved the barn 115 feet south and 6 feet higher up a gentle slope and set it on its new foundation.

The reason most people think that something cannot be done is because they know that they can’t do it by themselves. But impossible things can be done if we join together in the task. Working together,
we can not only move barns, but change the world.

Click here for a link to the video.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Saluda Trail Middle School Takes First Place

Saluda Trail Middle School Student Video takes 1st place (From IB Americas web site)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Video's as Result of Monday's Board Action

A message from Dr. Moody, Rock Hill School Superintendent:

And From WBTV:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

School Comparison Sites

There are as many ways to compare schools (and districts) as Carter's has pills. Below are some links to a few new ones:

Snapshot of Educational Performance

United States Education Dashboard

The Global Report

For Those Without PowerPoint

Notes From Rock Hill School Board September Business Meeting

These are my notes from the Monday, September 27 business meeting of the Rock Hill School Board.

The following items were approved with a 7-0 vote of the board:

  • The appointment of Jaime Karner as Assistant Principal at Sunset Park Elementary School
  • Approval for Sullivan Middle School to start a boys and girls soccer program at no expense to the district.
  • Approved the hiring of 5 additional teachers, returning academic fees already collected, and giving a step increase to teachers.
  • Approved the following policies for first reading;GBES;GBED;GCO;JBCC;BG;BGC;BGD;BIA;BIB
The board gave approval to send only one board member to parent meetings scheduled over the next 10 days. The board had been sending two. The vote was 6-0-1 with Mildred Douglas abstaining.

The board room was packed as the district recognized all students who made perfect scores on any section of last years PASS test. Additional recognition was given to; the distinguished teachers for the month; Wally Blankenship for an environmental award and; Amy Jones who is the Upper-State School Resource Officer of the Year.

The board heard reports on; the 15-day enrollment; AP, IB, and SAT participation and performance; the new energy management system and; two students from ATC showcased some of their graphic art work.

Bus drivers James Mann and Carolyn Ann Burris addressed the board about the hardships they are having with a 15% cut in salary as working "retired" bus drivers.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Do Principals and Superintendents Know Their Stuff?

From the Miller-McCune blog site:

“It takes expertise to make expertise,” Fink and Markholt say, yet coaching in schools is “still the very rare exception, not the norm.

Click here to read the full report.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What's The Matter With Teachers?

In a report he co-authored on what America can learn from top-scoring countries, Andreas Schleicher wrote that while the U.S. may have been the first country to offer young people a free secondary education, which reaped tremendous economic benefits, our lackluster performance today can be traced, in part, to how we treat our teachers. He said, in essence, that the U.S. could improve its education system by giving its teachers good training, then letting them do their jobs like, well, professionals.
From an article in the Seattle Times, "What's the matter with teachers today?". A very good look at the history of the teaching profession and a look to the future. Click here to read the full article.

When Should Rock Hill Schools Have Spring Break?

The Rock Hill School Board has received a request to set a standard date for spring break. We had done this several years ago but moved away from it when we started coordinating our calendar with the other school districts in York County. There is also the problem of state testing dates changing which could fall on the week picked (requiring a different week to be picked). I'm not sure what the ideal week would be from an educational stand put, but it would be interesting to get an answer to that. We are scheduled to begin talking about this in October.

The letter is below:

Click here to fill out a poll on the question.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rock Hill School's Business Meeting on Monday

Meeting of the Board of Trustees
Monday, September 26, 2011
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.       Executive Session – Personnel Matter

III.   Special Business
A.     Recognition of Distinguished Climbers
B.     Recognition of Perfect PASS Scorers
C.     Recognition of Wally Blankenship, Environmental Award Winner
D.    Recognition of Amy Jones, Upper-State SRO of the Year

IV.      Citizen Participation
        V.    Consent Action Agenda
             A. Approval of Minutes
            1.  August 22, 2011 business meeting
                  2.  September 12, 2011 work session
             B. Approval of Personnel Recommendations
             C.  Approval of Use of Facilities Request(s) (Impact Church, Elevation Church)
             D.  Approval of Overnight Field Study Requests (8)
VI.   Communications – Mr. James Mann

     VII. Report of the Superintendent
A.      Announcements
B.   Showcase Student Work
C.      15-Day Enrollment Report
D.      AP, IB, SAT, Results – Student Achievement
E.   Late Start
F.   Student Support
G.  Energy Management Program

     VIII. Review of Work Session
   IX. Action Agenda
A.     Approval of Sullivan Middle School Soccer Request
B.    Approval of Budget Revision Alternatives
C.    Approval of Policies GBEA, GBED, GCO for 1st reading
D.    Approval of Policies JBCC for 1st reading
E.     Approval of Policies BG, BGC/BGD, BIA/BIB for 1st reading
F.     October 6 SCSBA Video

  X.   Other Business
      XI.   Adjournment        

Banana Man Story Comes To Conclusion

What started as fun (a student dressed as a banana running onto the football field), progressed into a first amendment rights issue (administrators disciplining students for wearing yellow T-shirts), ended on Friday with an apology from Stafford School's Superintendent Randy Bridges and a "Banana Man" reinstatement to school on Monday. The apology didn't prevent a lot of negative publicity to the high school and school district. Just shows how fast things happen in the new age of the internet.  Dr. Randy Bridges is a former Rock Hill School  Superintendent. Story links are below.

Banana Man: A fruitful legacy?

Schools Chief 'Sorry' For Free-Speech Blocks


Friday, September 23, 2011

The Slinky Drop

Click here for a link to the video.

The Legend of Banana Man

The legend of Banana Man is an interesting event which happened at a recent football game in Virginia. Click here to read the newspaper's write-up. The school is taking a pretty hard stance toward "Banana Man" with a 10 day suspension with recommendation for suspension for the rest of the year. However, the community is rallying behind "Banana Man". Why would you be interested? Former Rock Hill School Superintendent Randy Bridges is "Banana Man's" superintendent.
Click here for a link to the video.

For an editorial opinion, click here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Should Superintendents Be Doing This?

From the OpenEd Solutions blog:

10 Things to do Right Now as a Superintendent
  1. Plan for the shift to personal digital learning
  2. in three phases over the next 3-5 years.  You need six coordinated plans considering content and instruction, assessment and data, devices and broadband,  staffing and professional development, fiscal impact, and communications. 
  3. Shift all Advanced Placement courses online and offer all 34.  You’ll save money and boost options.   For the course you can enroll 200 students, use your own staff.  For lower enrollment courses, use a partner. Create and staff a cool lounge area (similar to many IB schools) where high school students can study and get in person support. 
  4. Expand world language offerings K-12 starting with high school.  Offer at least 6 languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese) in high schools and, like #1, do it online and staff it yourself where you have the numbers. 
  5. Build or adopt a dropout prevention/recovery strategy.  A lab with some credit recovery software is better than nothing, but  you need to identify kids at risk and provide them with a well supported competency-based pathway to graduation.  You could just call AdvancePath and tell them to open an academy with your teachers in the second semester (disclosure: I’m a director).
  6. Launch a blended middle school math pilot with a lead teacher, a double block, an online curriculum, and a handful of complementary game-based content.  This is a great place to show the rest of your district how competency-based learning works.  Like Carpe Diem, you can augment online learning with workshops and small group support.   
  7. Like Chicago, follow Rocketship’s lead and use learning labs to target instruction and extend the elementary day.  A partnership with a community-based organization is another Chicago strategy to stretch the day.  
  8. Serve special needs students with online learning.  Presence Learning and Connections Learning offer speech therapy that, compared to traditional staffing, works better, costs less, and is available on demand.  
  9. Pilot tablets and digital content.  Investigate open content and bring-your-own-device environments.  This pilot project could be combined with #2-6 above. 
  10. Work with employee groups on staffing and development plans that anticipate new roles and relationships. 
  11. Listen hard and communicate clearly with state and community members about the intent, the goals, and the process.  
To make the shift to personal digital learning over the next 48 months, start with a high level plan in three phases, support a handful of pilots projects, learn as much as possible, and communicate twice as much as you think you need to.  Contact OpenEd, we can help. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Lesson On The State of Water

Click here for a link to the video. What if a science class produced a video starring fellow students?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Importance of Body Language

Consider this a follow-up discussion of my post on communication a couple of days ago. It comes from the Educational Leadership blog:

September 2011 | Volume 69 | Number 1
Promoting Respectful Schools    Pages 88-89 
Too Plugged In
Thomas R. Hoerr
If 90 percent of communication is body language, what does that tell us about e-mail?

"Raise your hand if technology has made your life easier," I asked the room of principals. After a few seconds, a couple of hands, representing a small minority of the group, went up. I repeated the question, but the audience remained still. Someone responded with an incredulous "easier?" I nodded and waited, but no more hands were raised.
Technology brings us many advantages, and I'm no Luddite. I breathe e-mail, embrace my Kindle, and find PowerPoint to be a wonderful tool. Electronic spreadsheets enable me to track lots of data, there are relevant apps on my iPhone, and it sometimes feels like I live on Google. But, as the audience knew, technology doesn't really make our lives any easier. In fact, technology can make our jobs much harder.
I know I'm not alone in spending hours each day initiating and responding to e-mails. Like many of you, I receive nearly 200 e-mails each day. Although some are junk (I can't believe how many lotteries I've won, even when I didn't enter them!), the bulk of them are from staff members, students' parents, or other educators. I feel compelled to respond to them all. Almost every message is a piece of an ongoing dialogue, and if I'm absent, what does that say? So I usually enter the e-fray, sometimes sending lengthy comments and occasionally offering a pithy retort. Consequently, e-mail is with me way too much. I check my e-mail before my first cup of morning coffee and after my evening is over (and sometimes when I wake up in the night).
The good news is that I spend a lot less time on the telephone. But I'm also less likely to walk down the hall or up the stairs. My keystrokes often substitute for my presence. That's not good! But that's not the biggest downside to technology. Far worse is what e-mail has done to our expectations and level of discourse.
When someone sends an e-mail of complaint, it lands on my screen immediately. And the person who initiated the e-mail is expecting a quick answer. Does too much time without a response mean that I don't value the sender or the comment? I certainly don't intend that to be the case, but what might the sender infer? So I respond quickly, sometimes without careful thought.
That complaining parent was upset when he hit send. His e-stick-in-the-eye was designed to provoke a reaction, and it did! I read his e-mail, pound a response (it does feel good to make those keystrokes more intense), and hit send: Back at you! Alas, that quick response doesn't lead to a solution, and the e-mail record allows everyone to revisit each comment and get upset once more. Or perhaps the e-mails are forwarded, and then others join the upset parade! E-mail makes it too easy to lob an e-bomb over the fence instead of confronting someone directly. When blood pressures rise, we all need to take a deep breath and remember that difficult conversations need to be done face-to-face. If 90 percent of communication is body language, what does that tell us about e-mail?
I've always felt it's important to be visible to parents and staff, and the ease of e-mail makes it, oddly, even more important. So I am at the school doors or in the main hall almost every morning when students enter and almost every afternoon at dismissal. There is always something else that I could be doing, but I know how important it is that I be out and about.
I'm also initiating four Breakfast with Tom sessions during the year for our parents. There's no agenda for a Breakfast with Tom. I'll provide the pastries and ask parents to bring their questions and comments. The conversation will go wherever they steer it. The low-key nature of these meetings will mean that parents won't have to wait until an issue is significant to raise it with me. (I've held these breakfasts for our staff on in-service mornings, and the interactions are always productive.)
Each week, I send an e-letter to all families. Of course, the e-letters elicit e-mails. To work against that tide, on a monthly basis I'm going to remind parents that I'm always available to meet if they have questions or concerns. My hope is that these face-to-face meetings will cut down on the need for extended e-mail conversations.
I'm employing small tricks to reduce the e-mail flow, such as putting succinct messages followed by EOM(End of Message) in the e-mail subject line only, rather than typing a message in the body of the e-mail. This saves me time typing and the reader time reading. I also resolve to not respond to every e-mail and to discourage others from hitting reply to all when it's not necessary.
Most of all, my resolution is to get away from the screen and to make the human connection. I'm going to walk a floor of the school each day, stopping in classrooms and chatting. I'll work to be more than just a screen name.
Using technology without being seduced by it is an ongoing struggle; new technologies beckon daily. They seem so quick and easy, and that's the problem! How are you handling this challenge? What suggestions do you have?
OK, now it's your turn: Stop reading and go talk to someone!
Thomas R. Hoerr is head of school at the New City School, 5209 Waterman Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108; He is the author of The Art of School Leadership (ASCD, 2005) and School Leadership for the Future (NAIS Press, 2008).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Latest On Teacher Evaluations

Research reveals that a student’s achievement and measured gains are influenced by much more than any individual teacher.  Others factors include:
*School factors such as class sizes, curriculum materials, instructional time, availability of specialists and tutors, and resources for learning (books, computers, science labs, and more)
*Home and community supports or challenges
*Individual student needs and abilities, health, and attendance
*Peer culture and achievement
*Prior teachers and schooling, as well as other current teachers
*Differential summer learning loss, which especially affects low-income children
*The specific tests used, which emphasize some kinds of learning and not others, and which rarely measure achievement that is well above or below grade level. 
Read the full article from the Washington Post by clicking here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Is Your School Teaching For the 21st Century?

What does it take to become a 21st century school? Click here to find out.
Click here for a link to the video.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Illusion of Communications

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

I included this statement on my blog many years ago. The statement represents  why EVERY organization will list communication improvement as necessary for advancement. Which makes it seem strange there was a discussion between board members about too much communication with the superintendent.

Before I get into the specifics, let me say, I don't believe the focus of the school superintendent (or building administrator) is to answer emails or phone calls. They are the face of the organization and should be visible and interacting with their staff and school community. This can't be done with an email. I'd be OK if this group never personally sent out an email. It is not necessary for them to do so to perform the task we are asking them to do. This doesn't mean  the organizations they represent should not do so, and, we must realize, in a world of text messaging, a lot of our community expects instant communication.

Normally I'd say  go to the policy manual to see what is mentioned about communicating. But, a lot of our policy is devoted to communications (listed at end of this post) and none that I have found suggests we should be doing less.

Let me say the discussion Monday night was between and directed toward, individual board members. Although the administration was part of the discussion, this was a board issue. Even though it was not directed toward me, it was  uncomfortable - but a necessary discussion. Every one was right and wrong at the same time, and I am probably the worst offender on the board. Email, to me, is efficient because it can be answered when convenient. However, it is the worst way to communicate and often does more harm than good.

As best I can tell, the issue was over board members asking questions (or making comments) by email (or phone, or in person) which take a lot of resources to answer. Well, policy BDD says it is the responsibility of the superintendent to provide information about school operations and problems to the board and it further says that any communications with staff (by the board) must go through the superintendent (note - while this may seem like a foolish policy, it is in place because of wayward board members. In fact, a lot of policy is in place to deal with that. The reality is, policy does not stop an out of control board member). Policy BD says the superintendent must make staff accessible to the board. If a board member has a question - policy requires it be directed to the superintendent. 

The suggestion that all questions should wait for a board meeting  because other board members may be interested in the answer is not very efficient use of my time as a board member, and certainly, not a very good use of  technology.  

That doesn't mean we don't have a problem. Modern technology, especially with smart phones, has made us captive to; texts; emails; and phone calls. But the cat's out of the bag and we can't stop it. We have to change the way we do business.

One of my first jobs was an administrative assistant for the President of the company (before personal computers and email). At that time, a copy of all correspondence outside the plant had to be sent to the President. This was a lot, not to mention all the other correspondence that gets directed to the President of a company. It was my job to sort through everything, determine what needed to be seen by the President, and to designate who should respond, if not the President.  This policy was quickly dropped with the introduction of email. Maybe it's time to revisit our policies and the way we do business.

If I were the superintendent, this is what I'd do:

  • Only use email to set up a meeting or phone call, ask for information, and acknowledge receipt of information. Matters that needed further discussion would be handled with a meeting or phone call.
  • Someone else would screen my emails and phone calls and forward them to the proper authority if necessary.
  • I would empower my staff by inviting the board and community to direct questions to them (department heads and building administrators). In this day, if they can't be trusted to handle this communication, someone else should be doing the job.
  • Encourage questions from the board so my staff would be well prepared for their presentations and to be sure our message was being understood by everyone.
The point is, I'm going to utilize my staff to find out the most efficient way to handle communications and I'm going to empower them to take some of the load off of me (RHIP - Rank Has It's Privileges). Their goal will be to make the board the most knowledgeable in the state. How else can you have a great board?

As a board member I'd:

  • Respect the time of school officials. All visits to schools and the district office will be scheduled in advance and limited to less than one hour. This would include phone calls. Schools have plenty of public events which you can attend and  get a lot of valuable information. Parents and staff are quick to tell you  what is good about the school (or bad for that matter). And it's OK if they don't tell you anything. There is nothing wrong with average. 98% of us fall into that category (I hate to be the one to tell you).
  • If the administration doesn't welcome questions, don't send them. But don't abdicate your responsibility as a board member. There are plenty of other ways to get "unofficial" answers and, as a last resort, ask them at the first available meeting.
I have asked questions to every administration. I think it is a win/win. They know what's going to be asked and can prepare and look well organized (or better yet, can use the answer in their presentation so no question has to be asked). But, that is not a deal breaker.  As I told them Monday night, I have no problem zinging them at a meeting if they don't know an answer - and to that statement - there was much agreement. Why would they want to be put in that position? 

Communication Comments Found in Policy
  • Maintain two-way communication with citizens of the district. The board will keep the public informed of the progress and problems of the school district and will urge citizens to bring their aspirations and feelings about the public schools to the board’s attention (Policy AB)
  • The board will present the needs of the schools before the citizens of the community (Policy BDD)
  • To maintain viable communication linkages among the various constituencies served by the schools (Policy ADA)
  • The district will involve all segments of our community in accomplishing our goals and mission (Policy KA)
  • Community members should assist in the development of responsible citizens through appropriate involvement in the education of children (Policy KA)
  • The district will encourage support of effective partnerships among schools, parents, community and business (Policy KA)
  • The board of trustees will seek to keep the citizens of the district regularly and thoroughly informed through all the channels of communications (Policy KD)
  • The board will invite discussion and suggestion on important educational policies (Policy KCA)
  • The board will determine how the citizenry feels  about the school district and what it wishes the school district to accomplish (Policy KCA)
  • The board will help citizens assume a more direct responsibility for the quality of education the school district provides (Policy KCA)
  • The board will involve citizens in the work of the board and the solving of its educational problems (Policy KCA)
  • The board will promote a genuine spirit of cooperation between the board and community in sharing leadership for the improvement of the community (Policy KCA)
  • The board holds the superintendent responsible for the administration of its policies, the execution of board decision, the operation of the internal machinery designed to serve the school program, and the provision of information to the board about school operations and problems. (Policy BDD)
  • (Duty of The Board) Carry on communications with staff members through the superintendent. (Policy BDD)
  • Information from the district to the local news media will be disseminated through available channels of communication under the supervision of the superintendent and the director of information services. (Policy KDC)
  • (Duty of The Superintendent) See that the staff can have necessary communication through the superintendent with the board. In order for the public to be informed of the programs and progress of the schools and of the district, the board endorses the publication of newsletters and news articles about education in the district. (Policy BD)
  • The board expects the administration to specialize in the following; the processes of decision making and communication; the development and maintenance of close working relationships and channels of communication within the school system and community. (Policy CA)
  • Close communication between home and school is an important factor in establishing a highly effective school program. Personal conferences between parents/legal guardians and teachers supplement the formal reporting system. These conferences are one way of creating better understanding between the home and school. They also provide an opportunity for open communication regarding the following; administrative procedures; instructional programs; goals and objectives; pertinent information regarding student progress. (Policy IKACA)
  • In order for the public to be informed of the programs and progress of the schools and of the district, the board endorses the publication of newsletters and news articles about education in the district. Information from the district to the local news media will be disseminated through available channels of communication under the supervision of the superintendent and the director of information services. (Policy KDC)
  • Access to the network, Internet, e-mail, and other technological services is a privilege, not a right. With this privilege, there also is a responsibility to use these technologies solely for educational purposes (Policy GBEBD)
  • District intends to promote educational excellence in schools by facilitating resource sharing, innovation, communication, (Policy GBEBD)
  • This medium (internet) of communication provides an opportunity to share accurate information with the community, our nation, and the world about the District's curriculum and instruction, school-authorized activities, and other related information. (Policy GBEBD)
  • Users will not use their e-mail accounts for personal use, (Policy GBEBD)
How are we doing complying with these policies?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

PostRank Education Sites

This is a repost of  from Larry Ferlazzo's blog site. I would add his site to the list below:

What Are The Most “Engaging” Education Blogs, According To PostRank?

Filed under popular site lists
Many people are familiar with PostRank (recently acquired by Google), which ranks blogs by an engagement level.
You can see their complete ranking of education blogs here, but I thought I’d share their top fifteen here:

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