(originally published in the Oct. 22 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
On Wednesday, I represented you at a Race to the Top (RT3) reception hosted by Governor Perdue at the Governor's Mansion. Representatives from the 25 school districts awarded RT3 were invited along with representatives from the Georgia Department of Education.
While there, Gov. Perdue approached me while I was in a conversation with Henry County Superintendent Michael Surma. The Governor asked Dr. Surma, "Michael, I enjoyed visiting Eagles Landing High School this week. It really was great to see how much those students have learned and are improving. Their graduation rate is over 90%. What're their demographics? Who are they?"
Dr. Surma responded, "Eagles Landing High School is 75% African American, 20% white, with the remainder being a combination of Hispanic and Asian."
Later during the reception when the Governor addressed the whole group, he repeated the story.
As I was driving home I asked myself, "Why didn't the Governor talk about Griffin-Spalding?"
Why didn't he talk about Carver Road Middle School?
Why didn't he talk about Cowan Road Elementary School?
The results are excellent! We compared the results from this year with last year, and overall they are up. When we compare Benchmark 1 results with the diagnostics from the beginning of the school year, they are up. The board of education will hear a report on this during their November 2 meeting.
And with that, have a great week!
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(originally published in the Oct. 22 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
So, please, I dare you, over the next few weeks, have conversations with our delegation, and let them know what you think.
(originally published in the Oct. 15 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
When these calls occur, everyone has a part.
By now you've heard of the death of Michael Hollis, a Griffin High School student who died a week ago during the school day. Michael, a member of the GHS student body, was in the marching band as well as the drum line. His death is sad and affects many within our community. Our hearts and our thoughts are with his family.
As this week has progressed I've been asked, "How did the school system know what to do? How did it know how to respond?"
It's a good question, and it's one that we actually discussed during an after-action review to look at what we did, when we did it, and to determine if there were ways of doing things better. As always, there is room for improvement.
But the direct answer to "How did we know what to do?" is fairly simple. We have an emergency action plan, and within it there is a contingency for this type of situation.
The plan calls for the school district's crisis response team to be notified, to go into action, and then to deploy to various locations. Members of this team went to Orrs Elementary, Spalding Regional Medical Center, as well as Griffin High to help handle the situation as it developed. The plan even includes how to interact with the media.
Reflecting back, it is a good plan, and this particular contingency was implemented effectively.
The reason I share this with you is because we never know when we will be part of the plan. In their classrooms, teachers have an extract from the emergency operations plan. It's a little thin book called the "Emergency/Crisis Quick Reference Guide," and it explains the different roles that you can play as well as the actions are you expected to take.
Please take time to look at it and to understand it. If you have questions, talk with your principal. It's said in sports that you play like you practice. This past week has reminded me that we have a good plan. Each of us needs to be fully aware of what's in it and our emergency responsibilities.
So, I close this week's conversation with you by saying please look at the plan. Please remember Michael and his family in your prayers.
Many find it popular sport to trash public education - they have opinions about what is wrong with public schools. I think this idea of one silver bullet to improve public education is a dream.
To be quite honest, I'm not waiting for Superman. What will change public education is going to be the public and the continuation of the things we are already doing.
All of these must come together which will lead to a new way of educating students:
And the people who will know it first will be those of you in the classrooms.
I am proud of where the Griffin-Spalding County School System is in this process.
I believe all of this is going to lead to improved student achievement. I know it seems like a lot of change and constant turn over - but have faith. Georgia and Griffin-Spalding County School System are doing the right things.
Yesterday I met with the student advisory council and we talked about some of these issues. Those middle and high school students are very much aware of what's going on.
I have two points from that meeting which I want to share:
1) Students know the benchmarks we are doing are important. However, they would like to know how they are doing on them. We need to find a way to share their benchmark results with our students so they know how they are improving.
2) Across the board these students did not believe there's much gang activity happening in our schools. But, they do believe there is more bullying happening than we are acknowledging. They said some students feel the need to protect themselves because they don't think we are protecting them. Students come to us feeling safer than they do elsewhere, but they don't feel as safe as they want to be. We need to respond to this. So, we will look at what we're doing to maintain a safe learning environment.
As we depart and go into fall break, let's pause and reassess where we are and where we have yet to go. I thank you for the hard work this first quarter of the school year and I look forward to seeing you after the break.
(originally published in the Sept. 24 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
That commercial also applies in education. Earlier this week at 3am there was a phone call. A young female voice said, "May I speak to my principal?" The principal answered the phone and the conversation went like this...
"My house just burned down."
"Our house just burned down."
"Are you serious? Is anybody hurt?"
"No, nobody is hurt. We're okay."
"Our house burned down."
"Where are you?"
"We're over at this other place where we are staying."
"Did everything burn? Did you lose everything?"
"Our house burned down. Yeah."
"Thank God nobody's hurt. Give me a call later today and we'll see what we can do to get you guys some help."
And that's when the Griffin-Spalding County School System went into overdrive.
Phone calls from one principal to another, to the parent engagement specialist, and the school social worker led to community and state services being made available to this family of eight where there are children attending elementary, middle, and high school.
That same day I saw an email from the high school principal acknowledging the fire had occurred. One of his students was being affected and the school was preparing to provide wrap-around services to help the family.
The 3am phone call - who do you want to be there to receive it?
My answer is you.
You've demonstrated over and over again the ability to create relationships with students so they have confidence in you.
In this sad situation when the parent may not have thought about calling the school, the student did... because they believe in you.
Never doubt you have an effect. Never doubt you have good relationships with our students. Never doubt you make a difference...
because you do!
(originally published in the Sept. 24 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
When I arrived at the boat race, I was surprised and happy to see Moore Elementary participating.
But, the surprises did not stop there.
As I looked around, I saw a structure with a logo on it indicating it was the Interact Club. The GHS Interact Club had also decided to become a first-time participant. The students who actually built the boat also paddled it across the lake and back. Their boat was unique. When it started the course, it looked like a raft. When it crossed the finish line, it looked like wet paper! They also had fun! Congratulations, Griffin High School!
It was good to see two schools in the boat race.
s a pace-setter with United Way, we try to raise as much support as we can for local agencies before October. As you may know, our total contributions raised as of that day was $15,560. Our goal is $25,000. So we're still short. Click here to see where individual schools are in their pledging. (don't have the link yet)
I shared with those attending the boat race that we would continue to ask for your support for this very worthwhile effort. As you know, United Way is not for students and families to give, but rather for us to.
As a leader in our community, we also benefit from United Way. The day before the boat race was the Griffin Spalding Education Foundation Golf Tournament. Funds raised at the tournament benefit our teachers and classrooms through $1000 Education Foundation grants and $300 Partner in Education mini-grants.
During the tournament, I was told that about $19,600 had been raised. Now, it's looking more like $22,000 - over 10% more than last year!
Griffin-Spalding organizations are going out of their way to say, "We want to partner with teachers to improve education."
So the question is, "How can we respond?"
I believe the proper way to say thank you is by participating in United Way. We should lead the way in Spalding County. We can help the community as the community helps us. We're in this together, and together we can improve.
So, if you've already made your United Way contribution, thank you. If not, I ask you please consider supporting this very worthwhile effort. If you know a colleague who has not given, dare them to support United Way.
I know times are tough. We haven't had a pay raise in 3 years. Step increases are few and far between. Yet, I believe the more you give, the more you receive. So, I dare you to think about it and to contribute.
Have a great weekend!
(originally published in the Sept. 17 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
On the front page of Friday's Griffin Daily News was an article about one of our finalists for Teacher of the Year, Ms. Kay Brumbelow (Cowan Road Middle). Earlier this week there was an article about Kennedy Road Middle School teacher Steven Posey, another finalist for GSCS Teacher of the Year. I expect that our third finalist Lee Thomas of Spalding High School will also be featured.
As you read these articles about our outstanding teachers, it becomes clear that we are recruiting and retaining the right people - people who have dedication, passion, and a love for teaching. I think the public expects no less from us.
Also on the front page of Friday's Griffin Daily was an article about the SAT scores of Griffin High and Spalding High. The article reported the scores at both high schools had declined and were lower than the state and national scores.
With both the SAT and Teacher of the Year article on the front page on the same day, it becomes clear that our community expects us not only retain and recruit the right people, it also expects us to produce results. They expect us to help their child, our students, do well.
And so, I have to admit, I do not think the SAT has been a priority of ours. We've focused on CRCTs, graduation tests, math, language arts and reading. But more is expected of us, and now is the time to do better.
I believe that SAT scores are a system average, score, and result. We as a system have to take that on, and we will.
SAT scores are not the total responsibility of each individual high school. Students enter high school with:
So, as we examine this example, let's also look at other indictors which we know exist and that our community expects us to do well. Think about how your practices help obtain the results we are currently achieving - and let's all agree to dare to do better!
Have a great weekend!
(originally published in the Sept. 10 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
This week, several of us traveled to the Gwinnett County School System to discuss with their administrators the how, the why, and the benefits of becoming an IE2 School District .
Let me share with you some observations.
First, Gwinnett County, instead of focusing on students who do not meet standards, is focusing on those students who almost reach the exceeds-standards category. This focus is on a group of students who have been ignored by many in this No Child Left Behind era. Quite often, focus is on students not making standards and who are in turn keeping schools and the district from making AYP.
With IE2, administrators in Gwinnett were able to say, "Over the next five years, we want to increase the number of first though fifth graders exceeding standards on the CRCT in mathematics and reading/language arts. The same goes for high school students and the GHSGT."
We should take note of this worthy goal.
Second, with IE2, Gwinnett requested and received increased flexibility for:
That's a lot of flexibility.
We are interested in focusing on this group of students- those who are succeeding but not reaching their full potential - as well. So that's what we are considering in deciding if we want to be an IE2 school district.
I ask you to:
The approaching November elections will change public education in Georgia for a long time. Part of that change will come because of the decisions made about charter school districts and IE2 school districts. Both have increased accountability with increased flexibility.
We're ready to move further along on this journey toward making a decision, but we need to know what you think. Daring to do better! Have a great weekend!
(originally published in the Sept. 3 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
This week, for the first time, I met with our teacher advisory council comprised of past and current teachers of the year. I shared with them some information including:
For this meeting we had an open agenda so council members could have an open dialogue. The first thing they asked me was about the Spalding High / Griffin High Football Game. The specific issue was, "Why didn't we have an email from you explaining what had happened and how we're responding?"
And so I thought this would be a good topic to share with you today. I simply didn't know enough on Monday to tell you anything at that time. Unfortunately, some started filling in the blanks on their own.
Please know that when we do have information, we will share it and we'll do so appropriately. So let me share with you now what we have done since the shooting last Friday night in hopes we can build your confidence in what we are doing.
After the shooting, I spoke with Keith Simmons, the principal of Griffin High School, because his school was the home school and was responsible for the game security. Details were sketchy that evening. We didn't know much.
Saturday morning I had a conversation with Derrell Jeffcoat about what had happened the evening before. And again, information wasn't complete.
In between those two conversations, probably around 11:30 pm Friday night, I had a conversation with Griffin City Manager Mr. Kenny Smith. I asked him to allow the police department, as they were doing their own investigation, to share information with us. Mr. Smith responded that when information became available, he would share what he could and that the City of Griffin would work with us.
On the Monday after the shooting, Assistant Superintendent Mr. Jim Smith organized a meeting with the two high school principals and resource officers, City Police Chief Frank Strickland and Griffin City Manager Mr. Kenny Smith. We discussed the plans we had in place, what did and didn't work, what we could have done differently, and how we wanted to move forward.
Because this game had been problematic in the past, we had extra security in place. We usually have between 8 and 10 police officers at a game. For Friday's cross-town game, we had 16. The City of Griffin Police had another 16 to 18 officers at strategic locations throughout the city.
We also talked about:
At the meeting's end, we made decisions about future games.
A lot of effort has gone into this since last Friday. A student has now been charged with the shooting. We are interested in seeing how he will be dealt with in the courts. In addition, we will most likely follow-up with our student tribunal hearing process.
I hope our employees and our community know that we would not continue with football games if we thought our students were being put in danger. We will continue to address the issues and to partner with the City of Griffin to create an even safer environment so our students can have extracurricular activities - which are a part of growing up and community life.
Last night I went to the SHS game last night against LaGrange, which was a well-played game. Even though SHS lost, they looked very good. I will also go to tonight's GHS game against Upson-Lee. Go Bears!
We will share what we can, when we can, as best we can. We want you to be confident in our abilities to handle these types of situations.
We're human. We make mistakes. Maybe I should have asked for an email to go out on Monday saying we didn't know anything at that time. But I didn't think I had enough to do so at that time. However, today I hope I've answered some of your questions.
Thank you to the members of the teacher advisory council for bringing this to my attention.
If you have questions or ideas, email or call me.
Have a great weekend, and I dare myself to do better!
(originally published in the Aug. 27 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
There are so many things I want to share with you this week:
Georgia's being awarded a federal grant as part of the Race to the Top competition. We are one of 26 school districts participating.
A recent issue that has come up about internet filtering in schools. I've asked Rod Smith, our Director of Instructional Technology, to discuss this management function in today's Communicator.
The restraint training administrators attended a week ago and the excellent team work they displayed as we're beginning the steps to implement this new Georgia law.
The strategic meetings we are having with each school to review the way each school is implementing the GSCS strategy map.
While I was at Futral Road Elementary earlier this week for their strategic meeting, a teacher came up to me and said, "You've got to see 98-35. It is amazing!"
I replied, "What are you talking about? What is 98-35?" She said, "It's one of our school buses. And while I know schools are implementing PBIS, I didn't really know it was being implemented on the buses. You just have to see what Ms. Pat is doing!" I told her I would return to the school the next day, and when I did, what I saw was outstanding!
To begin with, all six buses were all lined up waiting for the school to be dismissed. In the past Futral Road has had two fleets of buses; now they are able to dismiss all the students and put them on the buses at one time.
As I was waiting for school to dismiss, Principal Larry Jones shared with me the expected behavior students have learned this month because of PBIS. While he was sharing we walked to the cafeteria. There I saw bus drivers waiting, sharing stories, and preparing to take students home. And then Ms. Pat came in.
I think Mr. Jones had already shared with her that I was going to visit. She looked at me, and I asked, "What's going on with your bus?" Ms. Pat responded, "It's been 10 years since I've driven an elementary school bus, so this has been a change for me, but it's good."
Then I saw students being dismissed. As they came down the hall, Mr. Jones pointed out the expected behavior, and he shared that behavior, discipline, and safety is better this year.
But then Ms. Pat said, "Here comes my class." Notice that. She said, "My class".
Ms. Pat got on her bus. As students stepped on board, she stood, clapped her hands, talked to her students, and greeted them as they came onto the bus. They each greeted her, and they went to their seats.
I then noticed there were cut outs of different shapes by each seat. I saw she had separated students so girls were sitting on the driver's of the bus and boys were sitting on the other. She held up three fingers as the students boarded and students knew that meant three students to a seat.
After her entire class had boarded on the bus, I climbed on to look. Some of those cut outs had pictures so I asked, "What's that?" She said, "Some of the students brought me their pictures so I put them up where they sit."
In fact, she shared that she has partnered with a business and at the end of each week if there were no write-ups for discipline, that each student (66 of them) gets a popsicle. She said she has 3 students testing her, but for the most part, it is a good transition. Students are meeting her expectations. Their behavior is good. (After she finishes her elementary route, she goes on to her high school route.)
So, I share that story with you as another example of how we are a school system. This is another example that our day doesn't end when the bell rings - it's our responsibility to get students to that bus and to get them home. We're in this together.
It may have been 10 years since Ms. Pat last drove an elementary bus, but she's taken to it like a duck takes to water. Good job, Pat. I dare you to do better!
(originally published in the Aug.27 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
TSAC sounds like a word you hear during football season when linemen and linebackers are rushing in to sack the quarterback behind the line. But TSAC is something different. TSAC is an acronym for our Taylor Street Achievement Center, formally the alternative school. If you go visit, you will be amazed.
(originally published in the Aug 13 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
I shared with you last week my middle child, Jaimon, was getting married. Well, at the wedding, my 7-year-old granddaughter looked at her uncle Jaimon, then looked at her grandma Evelyn, and said, "Kids. They grow up way too soon!" Evelyn looked at her and said, "What?" Our granddaughter smiled, "I heard that on TV."
Earlier this week I visited Beaverbrook Elementary. As I made my way into the cafeteria, a line of pre-k students blocked the door. As I waited to go in, one of the pre-k students looked up at me and made eye contact. We looked at each other for a period of time and he finally said, "Are you the principal?" I smiled, and I looked to the front of the cafeteria and said, "No, your principal is Mr. Bozeman. That's him over there." The student turned, looked at Ken, then looked back up at me, and said, "Then, who are you?"
Kids do say the darndest things!
I wonder what interesting comments you heard from students this week. One thing I heard is, "It's hot!" And it was!
Temperatures have been above seasonal norms, and I thank you for the extra care you have provided to ensure our students' safety.
I believe that next week it will start to cool some; however, we must remain vigilant about temperatures and safety. All-in-all, you've continued to earn the trust of the public as they allow us to work with their children. Thank you!
I also visited with the second grade teachers of Orrs Elementary during their common planning. They were learning about Performance Matters and the different reports available to improve student learning. It was very impressive to see them work together to increase their capacity and levels of competence. I believe we will excel by better understanding Performance Matters and the information that software provides can help us with common assessments, formative assessments, and district benchmarks.
I would also be remiss if I didn't tell you that all principals, along with many Central Office staff, met on Thursday to plan for the rest of this month and part of next. It was an opportunity to look at our strategic map and see how we are actually implementing strategies so we can be more effective in increasing student achievement, increasing student and stakeholder engagement, and teacher effectiveness. There were many good conversations and activities. We do have a good group of administrators. I was very proud as I saw them working together, learning, growing and improving. So, publicly, I want to thank them for their work.
Lastly, I want to thank you. This week was a good week of school. Things are continuing to go well, and I only dare you to do better!
(originally published in the Aug. 6 staff e-newsletter, Communicator)
Last Sunday, the day before school started, my wife, daughter and I were returning from Virginia where our daughter will begin medical school on Monday, August 9th. As we were returning home, I was thinking not about the first few days of school that were about to come for us, but rather I was thinking about the following weekend. On August 7th, my youngest son is getting married - the first of our children to do so! So, in one case we are getting our daughter prepared for medical school, in the other our son is about to get married, and in between those two weekends are the first days of school. What an exciting week!
O - Open Communication
-- "COL DR"
(From the July 30th staff e-newsletter, the gscs Communicator)
It was good seeing many of you in the auditorium on Wednesday as certified staff participated in the Education Celebration sponsored by Norcom, one of our Partners in Education. We looked back at what we've accomplished and shared this year's strategic plan and goals. It was an exciting time and one of those rare opportunities we have to come together and say, "Here's where we are and here's where we're going." I felt true teamwork in our (hot) auditorium.
I think we have a solid foundation on which to build this school year.
So, we're off to a good start!
And let's continue it! As we move into this school year let's remember this week... it's how well we practice that determines how well we do! We know what last year's results were, and we know our new goals - so we know what it takes.
I would be remiss if I didn't tell you it was also a very enjoyable experience to see you at Spalding High School during the Kids-In-Need store. Many of you commented on how happy you were to receive the outstanding supplies. From volunteers to sponsors, we owe a great deal of gratitude to those who helped make that event happen. I encourage you and your students to write a note or two to sponsors.
But what was even better for me was meeting with each of you and hearing so many of you say, "We're going to dare to make this year a better year," and hearing so many of you say "COL DR" when reflecting on our values and strategic plan.
Finally, it's great to see the efforts put into place over the last year are taking root.
I thank you for:
So let's go out and make this a great year... I dare you to do better!
(From the July 25th staff e-newsletter, the gscs Communicator)
After returning from the Fourth of July break, I had the privilege of meeting our new teachers. These individuals appear to be an amazing group. As you look at them, your first impression is they're young, very young.
Throughout new teacher orientation, I shared our strategy for moving forward this year along with our mission and vision. In fact, as I was addressing them, I asked, "If any of you were students when I was principal of Griffin High School, please raise your hand." I was amazed at the number of hands that went up.
Our own graduates are coming back to work with us. Our own graduates are validating the work we have done. Additionally, there were many individuals from all over Georgia who are joining us for different reasons.
In their faces I saw their desire to be part of the team. I am thrilled for you because you are going to have outstanding, motivated, and dedicated individuals joining your team.
During new teacher orientation they:
For the two days they were in Central Office, they were focused and eager. On the last day of teacher orientation they went to their schools.
I think you're going to be impressed by this new group. I really do. I ask that we reach out to them and help them fully and completely transition into this system. Let's share our values and help them be successful.
I am looking forward to seeing each and every one of you next Wednesday when we gather in the Taylor Street Auditorium to begin this new adventure.
This 36th week of school is the one we've all been looking forward to.
This is the week of celebration. It's the time when we stop, reflect and celebrate. I encourage all of you to take the time to do so.
Enjoy this week of graduation. I invite you to attend graduation and see the students with whom you've worked with walk the field.
Many of you are aware of our safety concerns. Rest-assured, we are working hard on our plan to make the baccalaureate service and graduation ceremonies safe for everyone.
These are going to be events we can be proud of.
Please talk with your administrators about the safety measures we are putting into place. I think you'll be comfortable with the decisions we've made together.
If you can join us for any graduation ceremony, you can be a part of making it a safe activity. Wear your badge and represent our school system. Together, let's make this a great event for our students and their families.
Of all my messages to you in the gscs COMMUNICATOR, last week's column received more feedback than any other. I thank those of you who sent me responses.
We all have success stories from this year. This week gives us an opportunity to reflect on those and more. So enjoy the week... I dare you to have fun!
Two years ago, as I was visiting an elementary school, I was walking towards the principal's office when I saw a little first grade student sitting on the floor with her head down.
I asked the student, "Are you in trouble?" She looked up at me, put her head back down.
I said, "Excuse me, are you in trouble? Is that why you are waiting to see the principal?"
She looked up at me again, rolled her eyes, turned her head, and then put her head back down. The school counselor said, "Yes, she's having one of her days... she's waiting to see the principal."
I talked to the principal about this little girl and learned the little girl had a run-in with a teacher. The teacher asked her to do something, and the little girl looked up at the teacher, wagged her finger from side-to-side, and said in a tone that you can only imagine, "You don't tell me what to do."
For one of the first times, I started to realize how first grade teachers can predict future dropouts.
I became interested in this little girl and found out she was from a broken home and was being shuffled between mom and grandma. The doctor had recommended medications for her conditions, but they were not being administered. Eventually, DFACS got involved and the girl, separated from her family, moved from one foster home to another.
For a year and a half in 2008-2009, the school tried to evaluate her to see if she should qualify for special education. Unfortunately, the school was unable to make it through the complete RtI process. It was just a very frustrating situation.
In math, she was barely passing the CRCT and in reading she was barely making it. I thought, "This is going to be hard."
Fast forward to fall 2009...
I was at a different elementary school for a Beta Club induction. A student walked over to me, hugged my waist, looked up, and said, "Do you remember me?"
I said, "No, not really..." She told me her name. Although I'd only seen the girl twice over a two year period, I immediately remembered.
She told me how happy she was with her foster family. The adult with her, the media specialist, said, "Yep, she spends a lot of time with me but she's adjusting."
Fast forward to this week...
I went back to that school and walked into the front office. They looked at me and said, "How can we help you?"
I replied, "I'm here to see this student, do you know her?"
They said, "Oh, yeah, we know her. Her classroom is down on this hallway, last one on the right."
When I opened the door to her classroom she looked at me and blurted out, "I know him! He was at my old school!"
The teacher looked at her, looked at me, and then asked me, "Would you like to come in?" I told the teacher, "No, I'm really here to see her. May I see her in the hallway please?"
In the hallway I said to this little girl, "I've heard you've had some good news lately... you were in a talent show?"
"Yes, I was! And I won! I'm going to go onto the next level, but I won first place!" She was so proud.
I said, "I also heard you did well on the CRCT." She replied, "I did... I didn't think I was going to do well in math at all because math is really hard, but I did well."
I told her, "That's what I heard. Do you know what your score was?" She did, and she told me... and that's what I want to share with you.
A year ago, she had barely passed the CRCT. Barely. She's what we'd call a bubble student.
This year as a third grader she scored over 860 on the math CRCT. Her reading scores were over 850.
A bubble student who has now exceeded expectations on the CRCT in both math and reading...
When I was able to tell her how proud I was of the work she was doing, it made me so proud of not only her, but also her teachers and the entire team that has worked hard to help her.
I saw our version of the Verizon commercial. There's one person standing in front... and behind that person is an entire support team...In this case a team of teachers and paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians, nutrition workers and principals and administrators social workers, school psychologists, special education and parents.
This entire team over the last two years has turned around my vision for this little girl's future. She's going to be successful... she's working very hard and she's happy.
And it's because of you.
I dare us to remember why we are in this profession. We make a difference. You make a difference. That's why. So in May 2010, I dare you to remember your success story from this school year.
Have a great week!
Okay, I know you're saying, "It's just the first part of May... we haven't gotten to summer yet! I can't wait for it to start!"
And yet, as soon as June rolls around, you're gonna close your eyes, open them, and realize that June has flown by.
Our June is action-packed.
First, we are very excited about our Teachers as Learners Conference. Our guest speaker, Dr. Carolyn Coil, will share ideas about how to implement differentiated instruction with fidelity.
We've been asking for practical differentiated instruction that people can relate to and use in the classroom and are excited about having a conference of this quality for our teachers. I can't wait to see that conference happen - an exciting time!
Almost at the same time, there will be Positive Behavior Support training for our elementary schools. Many of you know we implemented Positive Behavior Support, or PBS, in our secondary schools this year. We will continue to cascade Positive Behavior Support throughout the school system by having excellent PBS training for elementary schools (as well as refresher training for secondary schools) at the Welcome Center.
Another exciting opportunity this summer is the free summer school for our students in grades 3, 5 and 8. We've done summer school before, but this will be different. We are taking a look at each individual student who didn't pass the CRCT to see if that student will be placed into 4th grade, 6th grade, or 9th grade. A large part of that decision will be based on summer school attendance.
While summer school will not be mandatory, it should be strongly encouraged by all of us because just as football teams prepare for their seasons, we will be preparing for our next school year this summer. Join us as our students get ready to be promoted to the next grade and not placed. Exciting - free summer school!
We will also have what I hope will become an exciting celebration for us. This past Wednesday, I drove a van of individuals to the Georgia Department of Education where we received a critique of Griffin High School's school improvement grant application. This grant, advertised as an extreme makeover for Griffin High School, could be up to $6 million dollars.
Well, they did not approve the grant. In fact, they said they had reviewed 29 applications so far, and only two might be approved at the June State Board of Education meeting.
I'll be honest, the individuals from both Griffin High and Central Office who worked so hard on this grant weren't feeling too good. But, then the next thing we were told is, "Griffin High School's application might be one of the two applications to be presented to the State Board of Education" - if we make a few requested modifications.
Believe me, we will make those modifications! There so many possibilities for Griffin High School with this grant. We can't wait for it to be revised and submitted to the state board, and, hopefully approved!
So, June is going to be a fast paced month - Teachers as Learners Conference, PBS training, and summer school for grades 3, 5, and 8. I didn't mention the Griffin RESA Retreat for aspiring and young leaders that continues professional development locally.
Good things are happening, and good things will be happening this summer with all the work this summer, especially during the month of June.
I can't tell you how excited I am about the potential we have for continuing to make major gains next school year. June is going to be action-packed, but it's going to give us great dividends.
So, I hope you can be a part of it. Join us as we continue to roll up our sleeves and continue to dare to do better!
spring break is always interesting. If you're like me, you start thinking, "Man, I wish I had a few more days." And yet, your mind also turns to the things you must do at work.
And once you do come back from spring break, it seems as if every day is Monday, and you wish everyday was Friday. But, we proceed on.
Well, my spring break ended differently this time when I began to feel under the weather. On Monday, I did not come to work. In fact, I'm told one principal said when he heard I was not here, "Policy says you need a doctor's note, I hope the superintendent brings one in." (Thank you, Eclan David.)
In fact, I did see a doctor, and I did bring in a doctor's note! I've been showing it to anybody who would look at it because the rules apply to us all.
Other than being sick, it's been a good week. As you may remember, my last message was kinda gloomy - looking for ways to fill a $4 million deficit. However, this week has been filled with good things (even though being sick started it on a negative note for me).
Let me share a few examples:
So, it's been a good week. It's been a short week. In some ways, it has been the kind of week that you would expect after a break in that it's had long days, some obstacles, a few challenges, but great satisfaction.
Somewhere I heard that it is always darkest right before the dawn. In my view things have been pretty bleak. But I see a glimmer. It's coming. I dare you to see it, too.
Four million dollars is the budget deficit that we are projecting for next year.
The cuts to our state revenue are being continued from FY10 to FY11. FY10 cuts included a calculation equal to 6 days of teacher pay. (We used 3 furlough days to help meet that cut in the current school year.)
The FY11 cuts will be deeper because there will be fewer stimulus dollars to help fill the funding gaps.
Our board of education began working on solving this problem Friday, April 9, when we conducted our spring retreat in the board meeting room at Central Office.
Our Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services and Chief Financial Officer Jim Smith presented how $4,000,000 was calculated. He also shared cost-saving ideas generated over the past year - many from you.
We're going to form two cost containment committees. These committees will consider your cost saving ideas. They will also have the option to put more ideas on the table. We will ask them to recommend how we can best absorb this $4 million dollar reduction.
Who will serve on the committees?
Our intent is to let solutions come from all perspectives.
Once these two cost containment committees have independently reached their recommended way of reducing our budget deficit, a subgroup from each committee will come together to combine ideas into one prioritized list.
The joint recommendation will be explained to our district leadership team of school principals and some central office individuals. This leadership team will review the recommendation, make final recommendations to me, and I'll in turn make my recommendation to the board of education.
This will be a quick turn around. A lot of work has already been done in developing these ideas. When some of you are asked to serve on the cost containment committees, I hope you'll be willing to do so.
What we're doing right now
It's important to know that we are continuing to implement some cost-saving measures that we've already talked about.
As always, if you have ideas of what we can do to save, please share them with me or with your supervisor. Hopefully you'll know somebody on one of these two cost containment committees, and you can share information with them as well.
We will be getting back to you soon so we can continue to finalize our plans for moving toward next school year.
This will be my last COMMUNICATOR before we go on spring break. Thank you for a job well done. Enjoy your spring break, and please come back to us refreshed and ready to finish out our school year.
ave a good spring break. I dare you to do it.
Did any of you see the NCAA National Basketball Championships in March?
Called "March Madness", 64 of the best college teams compete and play for the national championship.
This year, the Duke Blue Devils played Butler University Bulldogs in the finals. Butler was the Hoosiers for this year - a small school that played very well with a lot of support across the country. The little guy was able to go up against the big machine.
But the Duke Blue Devils played an outstanding game throughout the championships.
Coach "K" (who happens to be a West Point graduate and coached the Army football team for 5 years - just a little something I thought you wanted to know) coached the Blue Devils team for the 30th year.
There's a lot to learn from Coach K (Krzyzewski).
I just finished reading his book, "THE GOLD STANDARD: Building a World-Class Team."
One of the things that Coach K says is what happens during game time is what you've been doing in practice. If your practice has been intense, if situations have been real, if players have really come together as a team, it will help you when the pressure is on in the real game and when the championship is on the line.
The same is true for us in education. March Madness in basketball is for us testing time in the spring.
What happened in March Madness will happen to us.
I think we can be proud of the results that we will achieve.
Another piece of advice from Coach K in his book is committing to self-evaluation. Once again, I think students, teachers, and administrators can all learn from him.
Just as basketball players continue to practice, look at their performance, and decide what their individual goals will be, so can our students. As we finish this testing season, this is an opportunity for students to see where they've been, where they are, and how they met their goals.
Sometimes it is this one-on-one conversation to help students conduct a self-evaluation that helps them find that intrinsic motivation. It's just something for us to think about and share. It's another opportunity to create a lasting and more effective relationship.
Take the weekend and relax. Let's finish the CRCTs and continue on with our year.
Things are going well. You should be proud. I know I am proud of you, but I still dare us to do better.
It would be nice to let students be on their own on the playground, but the playground is also a classroom. It's where students learn social skills and learn to interact with one another. It's also a place where they can say and do harmful things to each other.
We are responsible for our students on the playground, in our classrooms, on our buses.
Most recently, I've been alarmed by the rash of news stories about bullying in schools. Our state legislature is passing a law allowing bullied students to remain in their schools and making those that did the bullying transfer. That's a change from current law.
There's also a proposed provision which suggests teachers and administrators be held accountable if a student is bullied in the school and do not take appropriate action.
I'm not convinced that we are all in agreement of the definition of bullying, but this legislation is going to impact us.
We've had students who felt bullied and when frustrated have left school without permission. If a student is not present in class, we need to try to account for the missing student. Our emergency action procedures provide the steps to take when a student is missing from elementary school, middle school, or high school.
We must act appropriately. Parents trust us to supervise their students when they are with us and that's an awesome responsibility.
Weapons legislation proposed
There is additional legislation that has to do with weapons. It says that people may carry concealed weapons onto school grounds without notifying the school office of their concealed weapon.
How will students and parents feel knowing that when a child brings a knife to school it's a felony, and yet, if an adult brings a weapon to school, it's a misdemeanor?
I'm convinced that having any weapons on school grounds and also within 1000 feet of a school building is not something we want.
We need to be aware of legislation being considered by our state legislators and we need to let our elected officials know what we think. I think the laws we currently have are better.
So, my thoughts this week are about our serious responsibility to properly supervise our students and ensure that we're providing the care that parents expect.
9 times out of 10 we all do the right thing. It's that one time that causes a lot of difficulty and leads to new legislation.
As you celebrate Easter this weekend, enjoy the season. Remember why it's significant for so many in our country and around the world. But also continue to think about the effects of spring fever in our schools.
I thank you very much as always, and I continue to dare you to do better.
I imagine some of you are thinking about Easter weekend and its sunrise services, the seasonal change of spring, and the pollen that is sure to fall. And, because of upcoming testing, I bet others consider just leaping over spring into summer.
I also think of another thing. I think about students who have spring fever. They want to get outside and play. They're looking forward to spring break.
The main reason I haven't talked about it before is because I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about. Now I'm ready to talk.
Let me begin by saying it's unfortunate that we are in this situation.
Last year's (2009) CRCT was supposed to become a baseline year for CRCT erasures so we would have a baseline for comparison. It spiraled out of control.
One should always be diligent and get information correct before speaking. I don't think that we as a state did that. But here we are.
So let me share with you what has happened.
We were notified that 4 (26%) of our schools were identified as schools of concern. We had 2 schools in the severe concern category and two schools in the minimum concern category.
I didn't want anyone to think that there was a cover-up with our CRCT erasures. So we went above and beyond what was required.
First, while we were only required to investigate severe concern schools, we decided to investigate the schools of minimum concern as an additional step.
Second, because the investigation was on-going, contract renewal recommendations of the flagged teachers at the schools in the severe concern category were initially withheld pending the outcome of the investigation.
While I understand that this may have made those teachers angry, it was a necessary step in the process.
The third thing we did was implement a district better-seeking solution team to analyze what happened. This team consisted of not just central office people, but also testing coordinators, a teacher from each school, and school counselors.
They identified what we believe to be some high-leverage causes that needed addressing. These causes included:
Based on their recommendations, our deputy superintendent issued a memorandum to principals on March 10 covering the changes we are implementing to make certain this doesn't happen again.
Our goal is that the Griffin-Spalding County School System will have no schools of concern on the 2010 CRCT.
Therefore, we are continuing to investigate.
We've requested last year's student answer sheets be sent to the State Office of Student Achievement. A team from our system will review these sheets under that office's supervision. This way, we can look for other issues.
We see this as an opportunity to implement our new protocol for team-based improvement. Hopefully your principals have talked to you about this process that we have in place.
We've taken this seriously. Let's tell people in the community we did a thorough investigation. Let's use this opportunity to clear our name.
We interviewed teachers, administrators, test coordinators, students, and proctors. We're confident of our investigation process.
We believe that our student test scores are consistent and free of cheating and that no cheating occurred that can be tied directly to teachers, administrators or testing coordinators.
Therefore, at the next board of education meeting, the vast majority of those teachers whose names did not appear on the previous agenda to be recommended for contract renewal will have their names there.
We've involved many of you to help us identify the causes.I'm going to ask for your help one more time. As we go through the implementation of the new testing protocols, be aware that the eyes of Georgia are upon us.
We will send a report to the Office of Student Achievement after we look at our test sheets in a couple of weeks. I'm confident that Griffin-Spalding County School System teachers and educators did what they were supposed to do.
And you know what? Today I don't need to dare you to do better.
The Griffin-Spalding County School System is an outstanding school system. It is outstanding because of the individuals who work in all of our schools - teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, nutrition workers, custodians, and yes, even administrators.
We have individuals who come to work and do their very best to help students learn and to better understand the world in which they live and the world that one day they will lead.
Research tells us that the single most important variable in helping a student learn is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. So, I looked at data to see how well we are doing with our attendance - with being at work every day.
Collectively we have taken more than 10,700 days of leave from July 1, 2009, to January 20, 2010. This includes sick leave, personal leave, professional leave, leave for jury duty, leave for student support team, and vacation days.
10,700 days. That's an average of more than 6.5 days out of work for every employee.
The employee absences in dollars alone cost us more than $895,000 for substitute pay not to mention the instruction lost or other work not completed.
On the plus side, we do receive $150 per position for a substitute teacher. Multiply that by our 700 teacher employees eligible for substitutes, and the total is $105,000. That leaves a huge gap between our costs and our eligible revenue.
I know that when you're sick we don't want you to come to school or work. I also know that we have people who come to work everyday.
In these economic times, when we are trying our best to find the most effective ways to save money, shouldn't one of them be to decrease the amount of money that we spend on substitute pay?
Years ago the system tried awarding employees with perfect attendance with a monetary incentive. Our data showed there was no improvement in staff attendance. But I don't think we ought to give up.
I ask you:
It will benefit all of us if we can find good answers. So please, if you have ideas, share them with me.
And as always, I dare you to do better.
On December 18, 2009, I had the great fortune to have a conversation about improving our school system with 18 recent graduates. They were equally divided between our two high schools, and 17 of them are currently enrolled in college.
We began our conversation by my asking what made good teachers great. They said the one thing that separated great teachers from good teachers was that great teachers respected students.
The graduates said it was easy to tell when a teacher didn't really care about the subject, when a teacher was teaching out of field, or was uncomfortable with the subject matter. They could tell when a teacher was there only for a paycheck.
What was obvious is that students will care when they know you care. Respect is a two-way street, and those students respected by teachers gave respect in return. There was respect because of the relationship that the teacher established with each student, not because the teacher gave a lot of classwork, homework, or extra-hard tests.
The graduates also shared that school should prepare them to think, not simply to memorize dates, places, or facts.
They want to know how to think about a problem mathematically, how to think about a problem from a language arts perspective or a social studies perspective. They want to know how to be able to prove their argument with information they had already learned.
Interestingly, the graduates said they needed more opportunities to stand up in front of a group and actually present what they think and not just write it or respond in short answers.
One said, "Every course could just be teaching me how to think, how to prioritize, how to get to what is important."
Another perspective this group shared was their belief that we made school too easy for them. They believe too many tests were given, too much homework was assigned, and too much emphasis was placed on grades.
In college and life they now realize that assessments are few but when they do happen, they're important. Their suggestion was to have fewer more meaningful assessments.
The graduates asked for opportunities to return to their alma mater to talk to students. They suggested students in our high schools talk to middle school students; middle school students talk to elementary students, especially in transition grades where extra challenges exist.
I believe that our graduates shared great ideas on how to improve. I thank them for coming on a wet, cold, and rainy afternoon to help us change our way of doing business.
I challenge you to include students in more decision-making processes at the district level, the school level, and in the classroom. I dare each of you to talk with students to let them help you improve your practice.
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