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Monday, October 31, 2011

South Pointe High School Football Playoff Bracket Announced

Playoff pairings for the 3A state football playoffs were announced over the weekend.  South Pointe will play Union this Friday at home.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Don't Ask

Below is an interesting post from the Ideas and Thoughts blog:

Don’t Ask People What They Want

Cross posted at the Huffington Post.
Steve Jobs never believed in focus groups. Guy Kawasaki, who worked for Apple and Steve Jobs said, "Apple Market research is an oxymoron. If you ask people what they want they'll tell you "Better, faster and cheaper"- that is better sameness, not revolutionary change. Many other innovators have echoed similar sentiments. This flies in the face of the idea that the customer is always right. Jobs also said "people don't know what they want until you show it to them" No doubt he was a brash visionary that designed some very innovative products that many people adore. 
In education I hear this sentiment a lot lately: "Involve and engage all stakeholders". That sounds lovely. Why wouldn't we want input for parents and the community? All stakeholders in this case probably means every parent and taxpayer. That's a lot of people with a lot of ideas about what school should look like.  There's a desire to be transparent and be collaborative. These are words I use with great frequency to describe learning. But I'm beginning to question these ideas when it comes to making bold moves in education. 
I think of Zac Chase's tongue in cheek post a few months back about turning off his phone on the plane. He writes about whether turning off your phone will or won't impact the flight:

But I don’t know.
And that’s the key.
I don’t understand the system. Aviation, engineering, electronics – all these are outside the areas of my expertise.
In this system, I have an amazing amount at stake. I am thoroughly invested and committed to its success.
Entire sub-systems and interactions are beyond my understanding. Thus, I keep my mouth shut. If I decided to study aeronautics, become familiar with everything involved in the process of moving a plane from one side of the country to another, then would I have a space to speak up.
When my life and the lives of others are on the line, it’s probably best not to disrupt a system I do not understand.
I see all the ways in which flying planes and running a for profit business is NOT like a public school. They don't have a public directly paying for all kids. And yet, like Zac I try and show some humility when it comes to many government decisions. I vote people I think will represent me well and wait 4 or 5 years to assess and determine if I think they should continue their work or not. We have many persons and public people very invested in education and very knowledgeable. However when it comes to envisioning something new and different it's more than just fear that holds them back, it's ignorance. I don't say that in a demeaning way. I say that in the same way I don't understand many systems and don't spend anytime envisioning and experimenting with new ideas. Add to that those that don't care.

Purple Regiment 2nd, Band of Distinction 3rd

Mr. & Mrs Wells at the 2011 State 4A Band Championship - Photo from Band Facebook Page
The Northwestern High School Purple Regiment Band finished 2nd in the state 4A championship on Saturday at Spring Valley High School. It was a very emotional day as band director Larry Wells finished  an outstanding 44 year career.
Rock Hill High School Band of Distinction Performing at the 2011 4A Band Championship - Photo from Band Facebook Page.
The Rock Hill High School Band of Distinction finished 3rd in the state 4A championship on Saturday.

Congratulations to both schools for a very successful season - and quite enjoyable halftime performances.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

More Halloween Science

Click here for a link to the video.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blocking The Future?

An interesting post from Dangerously! Irrelevant:

Districts are still fearful of YouTube

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Yesterday it was Facebook. Today it's YouTube. Here's an email exchange between two district technology coordinators...
TC1: I have recently completely blocked youtube in our network. Does everyone block youtube? As soon as I blocked it, teachers started complaining. What other websites can they go to that will serve the same purpose as youtube?
TC2: It is blocked here as well!!! I know there is some good to it BUT it is my responsibility to monitor, block, etc. I do not have time to monitor students all day long every day of every week. We have a product called LanSchool and it is awesome. You can view every student that is logged on at any given time and can take over their computer and shut it down as well BUT I cannot do that every day all day long. The teachers have the same capable to monitor as well BUT they are hired to teach. I will not take the responsibility for what they CAN GET IN TO THAT THEY DO NOT NEED TO!!!
It is very disheartening to read this stuff. The federal government is not asking us to do these sorts of things. So we could trust our teaching staff (and - gasp! - our students) but instead we resort to draconian measures that penalize everyone for the potential actions of a few. As I said three years ago, we need to view school organizations like these as ones that are desperately and inappropriately blocking the future:
I can think of no better way to highlight organizational unimportance than to block out the tools that are transforming the rest of society. Schools whose default stance is to prohibit rather than enable might as well plant a sign in front of their buildings that says, “Irrelevant to children’s futures.”
As always, I wonder
"Where is the superintendent in all of this? Why is she or he allowing this to happen?” A superintendent never would allow his or her district business manager [or special education director] to function with minimal or no supervision; yet that practice is all too common when it comes to technology. I hear countless stories from educators that their superintendent is completely hands-off, leaving all technology-related management and pedagogical decisions in the hands of subordinates.
Yet more evidence that schools and policymakers are taking a l-o-n-g time to come to grips with the new world of social media. In the meantime, our schoolchildren suffer...
From DigiGogy:

Please, consider the following:
  • Limiting access limits learning.
    • Schools are supposed to be places of learning, not prisons of content. Content and information live everywhere now and the impetus is upon us to create opportunities to connect that content, not continue to limit it.
  • We trust teachers with children, but not with the internet.
    • Teachers are better filters of appropriate sites than machines. Machines aren’t discriminate, machines don’t factor in lenses of opportunities.
  • We need levels of protection if districts can’t agree on their filtering issues.
    • We need tiered filtering so that teachers can access content at a different level than students. Teachers need to be able to make sound instructional decisions based on the usefulness of a web resource, not limited by what the filter says is appropriate.
  • CIPA rules do not block Youtube or teachers.
    • Please READ THIS ARTICLE. CIPA rules only advocate for blocking inappropriate sites for students. Youtube is not on some Gestapo CIPA list. There are many appropriate Youtube videos that are beneficial for teachers. In fact, Youtube just created a PLACE just for teachers, but unfortunately, it is blocked by Tech Directors who mean well but are either all-controlling or ill-advised about education in the 21st Century. Additionally, there is NO PROVISION in the CIPA rules that blocks teachers from ANY Internet site, that is SOLELY a district decision. Let me also add that CIPA includes the following provision: "An authorized person may disable the blocking or filtering measure during use by an adult to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes."
  • Get your heads out of your filters.
    • Your filters don’t have the benefit of discretion. Using a blanket filter virtually guarantees that your school is NOT a place for learning in the 21st Century. In fact, blanket filters are portals back in time. Your students live in the 21st Century. Do you really want to create a time machine that forces your students to learn in modalities of the past?
  • Smart phones are already open to your students, and you can’t control it. Who’s teaching them to use them responsibly?
    • Once students are old enough for their own cell phones, chances are good it will be a modern phone with internet capabilities. So then, the internet filters at school are moot, except that now it’s mainly teachers that are blocked from resources that would impact student achievement. Also consider who is teaching students to use the Internet responsibly? Their parents? Their friends? Blanket filters don’t teach students what to do if they come across something inappropriate on the Internet, it only fascinates them around WHY a website may be blocked.
  • Teachers are blocked from teaching students.
    • Dramatic statement? Yes. Truth? Yes. Not letting teachers discern appropriateness within the scope of their professional capacities about resources that are needed for instruction essentially blocks them from teaching effectively.
  • Do your state test scores reflect yesteryear thinking?
    • Want to raise your state scores? Use 21st Century tools, websites, and resources. If those resources are blocked, you are shooting yourself in the foot and should not complain when your students perform to the 19th century standards that you are essentially advocating for and providing resources for.
  • Students are blocked from learning.
    • Schools are places of learning right? Right...
  • 6th Capacity of CCR standards.
    • The 6th capacity of the College and Career Readiness standards in the Common Core requires that students use technology and digital media strategically and capably. They can’t do that if they are limited. They have to make choices. They have to discern, curate, think critically, and articulate the why around the usefulness of resources. States that have adopted the Common Core but also promote blanket filtering in their schools are, in fact, not meeting the College and Career Readiness capacities.
  • Monitoring and Blocking are 2 different things.
    • I can’t think of school that, pre-Internet, had detectors at the door that prevented every conceivable nefarious material from entering the school. Those things were monitored by teachers. If a kid brought something into school that they weren’t supposed to, then the teacher decided how to handle it. The Internet needs to be monitored by the professionals that are using it, not blocked. Blocking reinforces “Time Machine” mentalities and 19th century instruction.
  • Technology Divas with no educational background are in control.
    • We need to take a look at who is running our technology in schools. Most often, it is a Techie professional with no educational background making instructional decisions. This is bad practice. This is detrimental to students’ educations and it needs to be monitored more closely. The superintendent in each district is the main decision maker. It’s time to step up and branch out, and manage those divas with either an executive decision or a committee that drives instructional technology decisions. (Or perhaps hiring a tech director that has an educational background.)
  • Filtering limits Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creative Problem Solving, and Communication.
    • The Partnership for 21st Century Skills advocates for the “4 C’s:” Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creative Problem Solving. If your students can’t move beyond the four walls of your classroom because of Internet issues, then you are limiting their opportunities, their learning, and their perspectives. We are, in essence, creating students with limited experience who are not prepared to compete with their peers who were educated in places that valued educational freedom and a strong foundation in the “4 C’s.”
  • Filtering limits Global Connections.
    • The. World. Is. Flat. We can’t go back to the private world we grew up in. Social media and the leveling of the global playing field means that our students are not just competing with their community peers, but with students around the world. We have to understand and appreciate global perspectives, bringing the world into our classrooms, and taking our classrooms to the world. We can’t do that in blocked environments.

We have to move forward and we have to do it now. We need to stop thinking about integrating 21st Century tools...we’ve had 11 years to consider how we are going to do it. Stop limiting our kids and let them bloom. We have obligations and responsibilities to grow these kids in the time that we must prepare them for.
Or don’t do it. But you better be prepared to tell this generation why you held them back.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Some Schools Don't Use Computers

Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.

That's the belief at more than 160 Waldorf Schools across the country. Read more by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why Vote Against A Salary Increase?

Why did I vote against a salary increase for Administrators and Support Staff? That's what my liberal friends are asking - my conservative friends wanted me to say we should give the money back to the tax payer. In the end, I made both of them unhappy.

For the record, I went against the school district recommendation and my fellow 6 board members. I am not complaining about their actions - they made a decision based on some information and opinions and I made a different decision. I can't say one is better than the other, they are different.

The administration proposed two ways to spend the excess money from the 2010-11 school year. Option 1 was to give a 1.5% salary increase to Administrators and Support Staff and $500 to anyone else who didn't get a step increase in September (a step is an adjustment in salary for teachers based on obtaining another year of experience. It is not given to all years of experience and varies from about 2.5% to 1%, with the more senior years getting a smaller amount). Option 2 was to give all employees who did not get a step increase a  one time $500 bonus, an option that I supported.

I'm probably  not the most qualified to make the argument for voting for the increase, but I believe the biggest driver was equity. Most teachers got a step increase in September and this was an attempt to treat all employees equally.  Another reason given was to stay competitive with area schools.

Let me address the business climate. Unemployment is still high, businesses are struggling to pay taxes and many are  furloughing employees and the employees have taken permanent salary reductions with little hope of  recovering. These are the same people paying taxes to support our schools.

Then there is the budgeting process. The excess funds may not be recurring. A recurring salary increase will put pressure on  next years budget process. Since I've been on the board, we have never given a cost of living increase that was not funded by the state - and this one is not funded. Utility costs are going up this year from the city and Duke Energy. We know we cannot fund our yearly technology and maintenance improvements at the same level as previous years without a tax increase.

But this is no different than a step increase in the budgeting process! A true statement, and an apparent contradiction in my position. A lot has been made of staying competitive with surrounding districts to retain employees. I understand The Herald has obtained all the salaries of anyone making above $50,000 (by freedom of information - this is public record) and they are probably the only one in the area who know if our salaries are competitive. All I have to go on is the following public information:
The above chart comes from data on the South Carolina School District Report Card and shows the Rock Hill School District Administration Salary compared to district's similar to ours. It shows  the Rock Hill School District Administrators, although lower in comparison to a few years ago, still make more money than administrators of districts similar to ours. Our administrators, much like those in districts similar to ours, did not had a salary increase in 2010 and 2009 and only a limited increase in 2008.

Additionally, the published administrative salary scale that each school district has on their web site shows the Rock Hill School District scale to be higher than the average of the other three school districts in the county. So, while I'm sure we have come down, we appear to still be competitive. Let me point out that this doesn't mean we don't have problems. There may be some positions  we need to elevate. My research shows Assistant Principals at the high school level may be one of those.

The published teacher salary scale on district web sites, even after the step increase, shows Rock Hill Teachers to be underpaid compared to the average of the other three districts in York County - with the most senior teachers underpaid the most.

We have not lost one administrator to a surrounding district for pay but have lost many teachers. Every education expert will tell you the most critical position for engagement and learning is the classroom teacher. At the end of the day, what you pay for is what you value the most. When money is tight, that is exponentially more significant.

The last few years have been tough on employees. We should give all of them something for the way they have worked together to keep learning a major focus. The board is in agreement with that. My vote against the yearly salary increase is not a reflection or lack of admiration for the work those employees perform. Sometimes you have to go with the data instead of the heart. Only time will tell. I hope I am wrong.

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