The Comprehensive School Climate Survey Results

During our School BOE’s last goal setting initiative, BOE members determined to survey our school community. The primary goal was to determine what is the perception of our school community–school personnel, students and parents–in regard to our climate for learning. We received the results of the survey, done in each of our buildings, yesterday and while the full report is 143 pages per building, I’m sharing the summary reports here, in our school newsletter and of course, with our BOE members.

According to the National School Climate Center we had a strong return rate in both buildings. In our 7-12 building we had 76.94% of our students, 58.72% of our school personnel, and 23.25% of our parents participate. In our elementary school, our 3-6 population participated with 87.80% of our students, 48.86% of our school personnel and 27.38% of our parents. If you double click on any of the photos below, you will be able to see them enlarged.

Here is an explanation of the school climate survey  What is School Climate

and the 12 indicators examined.  12 Dimensions Our 7-12 building had the following overall results: Students Rankings School Personnel Parents Response

And  Gail N. Chapman posted these survey results:

Students GailSchool Personnel GailParents Gail

 

The BOE members and administrative teams will be studying the detail of the results. As you can see from the charts in this post–the overall results are very favorable. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Working/Stay Home Mothers

Paparazzski PhotographyI’m bringing back this blog post from 2007 for my daughter Bryna and all of the other working moms out there–to point out the benefits of a rich work life. As Bry headed back to work today, with her beautiful son Blake just over two months old, she was filled with excitement to see her work family and students and with guilt for leaving her little boy.

Bryna comes from a home in which I’ve always worked, both of her grandmothers worked, lots of moms worked. She also has a close aunt, Charisse,  who was a stay at home mom. What I know for sure is that while I was feeling guilty for not having home cooked meals on the table or sending her brother to Charisse’s house for day care, Charisse was feeling guilty for not adding to her family’s income or providing the same vacations we did. Here’s the thing–it doesn’t matter! The kids all turned out well as adults, they were well loved and supported in all that they did, and they all survived. Mine without the home cooked meals and hers without as many vacations.

Families come in all different shapes and sizes, with a million different configurations. Let’s stop judging each other and more importantly OURSELVES. At fifty years old I’m finally learning to say, “this is who I am and who I am is good enough.” Took me long enough.

Moms: Stay home if you want. Go to work if you want. Whatever you choose, give yourselves a break–that choice will dictate different things for your family–not necessarily better or worse things, just different.  Most of what you’re worrying about is craziness, live and enjoy–stop needlessly wasting mental energy on guilt. Just love your babies.

Love,

“Grandmother”

School Climate Survey–NOT the Room Temperature

One of the best things about working with young people is that I never stop learning. Today at lunch with six of our stellar sophomores, I mentioned our school climate survey and how much I’m looking forward to the results. I quickly realized that school climate means something different to our students than what I mean when Austin replied, “what? I think it’s fine. Well, the Spanish room is always cold.”

Families are all receiving more information about the survey via a phone call home today, paper surveys are being sent home in bookbags or in the mail, and we have links to the survey on our webpage and in PowerSchool.

This survey begins today, October 1 and continues through October 15. The idea to survey all of our school community members developed at a Board of Education (BOE) Retreat in the summer of 2013. It grew from a genuine desire on the part of the BOE members to know what everyone in our school community thinks and to identify our strengths and weaknesses. Along with the BOE members, I’m looking forward to learning what we can do better together in our efforts to continually improve our school system. We sincerely want to hear from every member of the school community and our hope is that everyone will be involved in the process.

School climate refers to the subjective experience of being in a school. It exists at the intersection of individual perceptions and the structure of the school environment. Research has confirmed that the way students feel about being in school shapes their learning and development, and school personnel are also better able to do their jobs in a healthy and supportive school climate. After researching the options, we chose the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI) survey which was developed by the National School Climate Center (NSCC) over the past four years. The dimensions of school climate measured (safety, relationships, teaching & learning, and environment) and the individual survey items are built on several decades’ worth of research on school climate.

The Comprehensive School Climate Survey (CSCI) is unique in that it is designed to help a school collect responses from the entire school community—all students, parents, teachers, and staff members at the school are asked to fill out surveys, and the report shows how the three groups differ in their perceptions of the school climate. The CSCI is designed to be a needs assessment for schools, helping us to evaluate the school’s strengths and weaknesses, and provides a platform on which to build an action plan for improving school climate. By incorporating the perceptions of the entire community, we can create a more effective and accurate plan that addresses core strengths and weaknesses.

We know there is a key factor that will affect the validity of the survey results and therefore we chose CSCI because they manage the data, not RCS. The survey results are completely anonymous—no names are recorded and no identifying information will ever be attached to specific responses. Results are reported only in terms of the way groups of people have responded. [The report does include information on sub-groups (by race, gender, grade, etc), but in an effort to maintain anonymity, these results are suppressed or combined for sub-groups with fewer than ten people. Respondents should answer as many questions as possible (although no one is required to answer questions that make them uncomfortable). The more responses we get, the better the data. [Note: on the electronic version of the survey, respondents have the option of selecting a “don’t know” or “not applicable” answer, but survey items may not be left entirely blank.]

Diane Graham, Kristie Ling, and Maureen Pitts are leading this effort for us. They will be the “point” people in each building to answer questions and to help with general information. Please know that you can ask any of us, and our building leaders, if you have any questions. Contact the school at 716-358-6161 with any questions.

Challenging EVERY Student

My younger brother, named Ziggy (that’s a story for another time), is technically smarter than me. I know this because I contacted our school upon my graduation and obtained my school records, which included my IQ score. Then I did the same thing, as if I was Ziggy, and obtained HIS school records and his IQ score. His score was one point higher than mine. Can you tell that we grew up in a somewhat dysfunctional home in which our father was constantly comparing us and baiting us (well, me) about who was “smarter”?

We were very different students. I was the student who joined (and often led) every possible school club and activity. Why? My parents were very strict and the only things that I was allowed to participate in were school events. Ziggy is seven years younger and because of the turmoil in our parents’ lives. . . well. . . let’s just say he was parented a bit differently. He was the student who did as little as possible to get by, died his hair purple, skipped school up to the maximum days allowable and appeared on the Pittsburgh evening news because he was lobbying for a smoking lounge for students because the teachers had one (it was 1988) and so the students should have one provided too.

I went to college (to spite my dad who said he wouldn’t pay for it and that I wasn’t smart enough anyway) and Ziggy joined the Marine Corps. He worked in Marine intelligence for two decades and now has a successful career as the associate director of industrial security for a federal contractor in Washington DC. We earn about the same amount of money annually.

He was NEVER CHALLENGED in his entire school experience. When the standardized test results came back to the high school he attended, the guidance counselors were somewhat astonished that my lackadaisical, pain in the neck brother, had achieved the highest scores in his class.

Fast forward 25-30 years. Meet my beautiful six year old niece Kaylee. Kaylee May 2014Kaylee attends first grade and she doesn’t like it. Why? In Kaylee’s own words, “It’s not as much fun. There’s homework. They don’t have a play kitchen. And the teacher talks too much.” My brother’s words, “the usual.” My sister in law’s words, “they’re doing simple spelling words like a, up, and, we and go. She’s bored.”

Now here’s the thing about her first grade teacher. She’s likely an incredible educator with such a HUGE variety of students in her class that the challenges may be enormous. If Kaylee behaves well enough, the teacher will be happy to have one less kid to worry about. In other words, Kaylee (like my brother), will likely turn out okay no matter the quality of her education. But I say, “that’s not good enough.” We need to challenge all of our students, including the best and the brightest. We need them to solve the problems of our world and to make it a better place.

We cannot afford to teach to the most needy student in the class for another generation. We have to learn to differentiate learning and to challenge every child.  And it’s most critical with our youngest students. Students like Kaylee. As our kids get older, they become accustomed to praise for good grades earned for not much effort and challenging them later in the system becomes problematic. We have to challenge them all along the way. If students are given rigorous work with high expectations, they rise to the challenge and they enjoy school more. This problem in our schools is clearly and thoroughly covered in the September 2014 publication of Educational LeadershipASCD September 2014It’s definitely worth spending some time studying this topic and incorporating the ideas of motivation, particularly through our expectations, into our classrooms. I’ve watched our own Randolph teachers do this over the past four years and the comments from veteran teachers who say, “I never thought my students could do this” are the most hopeful we can hear.

 

 

 

School Superintendents: Vital or Irrelevant?

The Brown Center on Education Policy published this report School Superintendents: Vital or Irrelevant? in September, 2014.  I read the report with great interest, largely because it’s my fervent intent to leave this world some day having made a significant difference with my life. As a school superintendent, my primary and most important responsibilities are to support and improve our educational program.

As a public school system, our central mission, or reason for being, is to educate the 953 children who reside within the Randolph Central School District. Every part of our operation from finance to cafeteria to bus drivers to support staff to teachers and administrators function because we must educate our children. That includes me.

The report looks at administrative data from the states of Florida and North Carolina for the school years 2000-01 to 2009-10. The researchers examine the following questions:

1. What are the observable characteristics
of superintendents, with a focus on their
length of service?
2. Does student achievement improve when
superintendents serve longer?
3. Do school districts improve when they hire
a new superintendent?
4. What is the contribution of superintendents
to student achievement relative to districts,
schools, and teachers?
5. Are there superintendents whose tenure
is associated with exceptional changes in
student achievement?

At Randolph, we have made tremendous gains in student achievement over the past three years. If someone asks me how we did it, I can answer that question with considerable depth. As the leader of our school district, I have a part in that growth for having worked with all constituencies to set the course, the focus, the financial priorities, and the expectations that our school community has embraced. Absolutely indisputably, I KNOW that no one within the system is more important to the growth of a child in school than the teacher who stands with him every day. I also know that a leadership team can make a considerable difference for that child through their actions and the continuous improvement that we expect of ourselves and every other member of our school community.

The authors at the Brown Center found the following:

1. School district superintendent is largely a
short-term job. The typical superintendent
has been in the job for three to four years.
2. Student achievement does not improve
with longevity of superintendent service
within their districts.
3. Hiring a new superintendent is not
associated with higher student
achievement.
4. Superintendents account for a small
fraction of a percent (0.3 percent) of
student differences in achievement. This
effect, while statistically significant, is orders
of magnitude smaller than that associated
with any other major component of the
education system, including: measured
and unmeasured student characteristics;
teachers; schools; and districts.
5. Individual superintendents who have an
exceptional impact on student achievement
cannot be reliably identified.

When I was first considering a superintendency, my mother said, “I don’t care where you go Kimberly, but pick someplace and stay there or you’ll never make the difference you want to make in the world.” She was right. Further, in this decade, on this day, in our school district, I know I’m making a difference in student achievement through my leadership, my relationships with building level administrators, teachers, students and parents. I’m making that difference not because I’m exceptional but because of the focus of my leadership. As superintendents, we have to include the central mission of our systems in our focus, goals and direct involvement in our instructional programs. Many of my colleagues are doing so every day, right here in Western New York.

I don’t dispute the author’s findings for the time period they studied. The traditional role of the superintendent is changing and no longer can the authors’ conclusion be considered  acceptable for our school systems:

Superintendents may well have impacts on factors
we have not addressed in our study, such as the
financial health of the district, parent and student
satisfaction, and how efficiently tax dollars are
spent. And to be certain, they occupy one of the
American school system’s most complex and
demanding positions. But our results make clear
that, in general, school district superintendents have
very little influence on student achievement in the
districts in which they serve. This is true in absolute
terms, with only a fraction of one percent of the
variance in student achievement accounted for by
differences among superintendents. It is also true in
relative terms, with teachers/classrooms, schools/
principals, and districts having an impact that is
orders of magnitude greater than that associated
with superintendents.

It remains our responsibility to fill all of the more traditional roles, like attending to the financial health and capital projects and bargaining agreements. It is also our most important responsibility to positively impact our instructional programs. Our public school systems are under attack from seemingly innumerable sources. Being a school leader means standing up and saying, “the quality of our education, our expectations for ourselves and our children, our ability to make a difference in the lives of the children we serve–this is our focus, our mission, and our duty.”

Welcome Back to School Randolph Cardinals!

Tomorrow begins a new school year which offers each of us the incredible opportunity to make a fresh start. I’m looking forward to making 2014-15 my best school year yet. My goals include spending time visiting classrooms to learn more about what students are learning, reaching out to the community regarding everything from the common core standards to our capital project proposal, and improving my communication with all constituencies within our school community. I also want to exercise at least 3-5 times per week, eat less and to be kinder to everyone I come into contact with in AND outside of school.

I’m also super excited to spend time with our new grandson, Blake. Blake Lee BoothAfter all, I’ve got to help him to prepare for his 1st year of school at Randolph Central in Pre-K, September, 2018!

If there’s anything I can do to help you make this your best year ever, just say the word. Go Cards!

3 Weeks To Go!

On this Wednesday, August 13, 2014, we have just three short weeks until our students return to us! This summer has been even busier than most as we plan for a possible capital project to present to the voters sometime before Winter Break. A committee of teachers, students, administrators, parents and community members worked throughout the Spring to identify needs for consideration by our School Board. With a project architect and construction manager, we looked at needs within the buildings, educational needs, dreams (a pool!) and athletic fields, among other things.

And so my summer has been filled with the analysis of the financial end of the project including the scope of work possible within the confines of our public school district budget. We’ve focused on what do we need now, what can wait another five years, and what will make us a better facility for our students. And just like projects that we do at home, it comes down to what can we afford to spend.

Our job now is to present the work of the committee, fine tuned by the BOE facilities committee, to the full Board of Education. We will then return to the larger facility committee to review the items that “made the cut” and why. Explaining the project to our entire school community follows in preparation for a vote. We have worked hard to keep the taxpayers in mind balancing the maintenance of our facilities and grounds for the future with our needs to improve programs for students. That balance means that many of the items that would be nice to have but not necessary won’t advance at this time. Talk of building condition surveys, easements, shared services with the Town of Randolph (Hamlet?), reserve funds, gap elimination adjustments, general municipal laws, condemned bus lifts, inadequate parking and traffic flow have filled my work days.

And so I cannot wait for our students and teachers to return! On any given day I would much rather talk about curriculum, instruction, data analysis, scheduling, the needs of individual students and families, program enhancements, heck—just about anything to do with our students and teachers—than parking lots and boilers and room configurations. As with any job, there are parts to love and parts that are work–looking forward to the return of the parts I love most.  IMG_0414-2

Randolph Central Conducting Census

What a beautiful summer day here at Randolph Central!

We will be conducting a census this summer of all children from birth to 18 years of age who are living within the district. It is critical that we collect the most accurate data possible as it relates to our families. Beginning on July 22, 2014, census workers will be visiting households throughout the district for this reason. We are especially interested in learning about our District children ages Pre-Birth to school age. This will greatly assist us in our planning for the future, including any building projects we may consider, for determining our personnel needs, and for future purchases. This is a way for us to best plan our use of our revenues, including taxpayer monies through the tax levy each year. We have also asked our census workers to try to determine what kind of internet access our residents have in their homes so that we can plan for our technology purchases. There will be a few questions related to internet access. And finally, the census workers will also be able to help any parents who ask with forms like the free and reduced lunch federal form.

Thank you for your assistance and cooperation in completing this very important census. Anyone with questions or concerns can reach me, Superintendent Kimberly Moritz, at 358-7005.

Another Goodbye

image

Could there be a better way to spend my life than in the presence of our students? If there is, it’s for someone besides me. We said goodbye to the class of 2014 on Friday night at graduation, a goodbye I’ve been saying since the Pine Valley Class of 1992 graduated. I gain so much from working with our students—a sense of hope and optimism and fun–and their joy keeps me young. And when I’m very lucky, they keep in touch in some way.  As with every class who’s gone before them, I wish each faith, hope and love.

 

BOE Election

Please remember our Budget vote is this coming Tuesday, May 20, 2014 from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm. We are presenting for taxpayer approval a budget with a 0% increase to the tax levy for the sixth year in a row. We also have three candidates running for two BOE seats: Incumbent Louise Boutwell, Tom Deacon and Marshall Johnson.

Please note that we cannot legally, nor would we, endorse any candidate. Political signs are the property of the candidate or owner, not the school district. Political campaign signs placed between the sidewalk and the curb are under the rules of the town and are not on school property.