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

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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.

GED or RCS Diploma?

I’ve recently had some discussion regarding the differences in an RCS Diploma awarded at our Commencement Exercises at the end of June each year and a GED. Here are the diploma requirements for a NYS HS Diploma. Our goal for every Randolph student is to help him or her to become career or college ready by graduating from our school. This goal is also one by which we are measured in NYS accountability by graduation rate. A student who attends a GED program or obtains a GED after dropping out is the same in the view of these accountability measures–the student counts as a drop out from our school.

In a very limited manner, there are those students who through the Committee on Special Education are determined to have as part of their Individualized Education Plan the IEP Diploma. This diploma is explained on the NYSED website here.

We want every RCS child to be successful beyond their high school experience. We also hold graduation from RCS as a primary goal for every child. While a GED is a viable option for adults  and for those students who are beyond the maximum compulsory school attendance age, it is not part of the mission and purpose of a public school system. The express purpose of a graduation/commencement exercise is to recognize those students who have completed the diploma requirements for an RCS Diploma.

Excitement and Pride

If you will, allow me a bit of explanation about my excitement for today’s visit from Chancellor Emeritus Bennett and Deputy Commissioner Slentz. Consider your own career. We spend 8-12 hours per day on the work that we do. If you love your work and you’re passionate about it, you think, read and “talk” about it outside of the workplace. But who really wants to hear about your work in your circle outside of the workplace? Don’t get me wrong, my husband and friends–we do listen to each other. But even with one of my closest friends, a teacher in a neighboring district—we only talk “school” so much. For one thing, it leaves out the rest of the group and for another thing, we’re usually trying to relax, have fun, forget about work! The only person who wants to talk “school” more than I do is my daughter who is a 5th/6th grade teacher in another neighboring district.

Today, with our incredible teachers and students and administrators, I get to talk “school” with two leaders in education who care as much about what we’re doing here as I do. I cannot wait for their arrival so that I can watch them as they discover the work that our teachers and students are doing in our classrooms. So that I can brag a bit about our improvements and results; and tell them about our collegiality and support for one another. So they can see what a unique and wonderful community we have here in Randolph.

And the best part? Everyone’s got their game faces on! The buildings and grounds crew have been spit shining this place like there’s a wedding this afternoon; many of our students are dressed up because they’ve heard we have some State Ed “big wigs” coming today. And our teachers are ready to go, just like every other day. It’s also mid-May and a Friday. . . our seniors have agreed to NO senior pranks or shenanigans today, of all days. So no one will be releasing the pigs on the first floor that the Class of 2014 has been teasing me about all year. Thank goodness for that! And a huge thank you to every member of our school system who’s helped us prepare to show how it’s done here.

NYS Leaders Visiting Randolph Central

On Friday, May 9, 2014, we were honored to host a visit to our classrooms from NYS Chancellor Emeritus Robert M. Bennett and Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz. I first heard Regent Bennett speak many years ago and found him to be a strong advocate for the children of our state, having been instrumental in establishing family resource centers in schools including Frontier where I began my administrative career. In my opinion, there are no finer individuals working for the children of NYS than Mr. Bennett.

Ken Slentz has been a straight talking, fearless leader in our state’s journey to raise expectations for all educators and children. I have found him to be credible, direct and right on the money every time I’ve heard him speak. I am grateful for the bold moves he and Commissioner King have made, however messy they have been in implementation, to move public education forward.

Here’s what I know the work of both Chancellor Emeritus Bennett and Deputy Commissioner Slentz has resulted in at Randolph Central:

The children of Randolph Central School are receiving a more coherent and rigorous education than they ever have before in our schools. The transition and changes teachers have made with curriculum to align to the common core standards have been fast and furious and an incredible amount of work for our teachers, administrators and children. Parents have struggled at times with the new ways in which we’re teaching math. And those changes are resulting in greater understanding of mathematical concepts that will strengthen all students when learning math in high school. Why? Because students are better understanding what the numbers and equations represent, they’re not just memorizing math facts as we did when we were kids (and for students who aren’t good at memorizing? they’re getting it now). Students aren’t just randomly throwing down opinions and sentences when writing; they understand how to back up their statements. We get better at all of this with every passing day. And our student achievement on NYS assessments has risen–which means our kids are meeting greater success at each grade level and that’s just going to keep building on itself.

Any change of this magnitude is going to have some bumps and ripples. But I keep coming back to all of those conversations I’ve had over 25 years of working in public schools with our high school seniors and graduates. Ninety percent of them tell me that they really didn’t have to work all that hard in school. Too many children are failing when they get to college because they can’t handle the work–they aren’t used to it and they aren’t disciplined enough to do it. I want to be proud of the education children receive here at RCS, I want to know that we’ve pushed and challenged and supported every student.

I know parents worry about grades and that we all want our children to do well. But I don’t want a random curriculum that each teacher has to develop for herself based on ill conceived and convoluted NYS standards as we’ve had in the past. I want our brightest kids to be challenged MORE than I want them to be on honor roll.  I want to expect more of myself and of everyone in our system because frankly, I believe that’s how we improve as a community, a state, and a country.

BOE Election Nominating Extension

Update, Monday, May 5, 2014: BOE Candidate Marshall Johnson has declared to District Clerk Maureen Pitts that he has decided to remain with his current employer and to stay in the Randolph Central School District. Therefore he continues his race for a Randolph BOE seat and the names on the voting ballot will be as they were declared by the District Clerk in the district’s budget newsletter and in the Randolph Register: Marshall Johnson, Tom Deacon, and Incumbent BOE member Louise Boutwell. The election is for two BOE seats. We appreciate everyone’s interest in our school district! Thank you.

Please note, Friday, May 2, 2014: The following post may have been premature. Mr. Johnson talked with me Thursday, May 1 and gave me his statement of intent to withdraw but he did not follow through with an official withdrawal from the election with the District Clerk. The district clerk, Maureen Pitts, is the only person to whom candidates can declare their candidacy or withdraw candidacy. On Monday, May 5, we will have a declaration from Mr. Johnson regarding his intent to run. I apologize for any confusion. I contacted the school attorney and acted quickly to try to maximize the opportunity residents would have to declare an intent to run in this election. Unexpectedly, Mr. Johnson has not officially withdrawn and therefore the nominating period may not be extended. I’m grateful that as Marshall continues to make the best decisions for  his family, that he is also considering the implications of his professional decisions on the BOE election.  We very much appreciate everyone who runs for the BOE and their willingness to volunteer. More to follow on Monday, May 5, 2014.

We have two seats up for reelection on May 20. We had three candidates running, Marshall Johnson, Tom Deacon and Incumbent Louise Boutwell. Yesterday Marshall Johnson withdrew from the race. Because Board of Education elections are governed by school law, I researched the procedures in this situation and following is what I learned:

School LawNow I had to actually read that a couple of times to fully understand the wording. In short, the candidate did withdraw his petition on May 1, which is later than 15 days before April 21 which was the last day to file. So May 1 is later than April 6, follow? If you think about it, if it’s before April 6 that someone withdraws then it’s less relevant, residents still have two weeks in which to submit a nominating petition. Following through with this citation, we are required to extend the nominating deadline by as much as 15 days BUT no later than 5:00 pm on the seventh day before the election on May 20, which will be May 13.

Therefore we are now accepting nominating petitions until 5:00 pm on Tuesday, May 13. As before this extension, nominating petitions may be picked up from Maureen Pitts, District Clerk, who can be reached at 358-7005 between 7:30 am and 3:30 pm. They must be submitted to her, with at least 25 signatures, by 5:00 pm on Tuesday May 13.

Should we receive additional petitions, Mrs. Pitts will draw for the order on the ballot at 10:00 am on Wednesday, May 14.

Capital Project Planning

Last summer, our Board of Education members set a goal to analyze our buildings and grounds and to prepare a capital project for a vote within 18 months. That puts a potential vote to our taxpayers in December 2014. Over the course of my career I’ve been involved in capital projects at least five times, but this is my first experience with a project from the planning stages forward. It’s extremely exciting to consider how we can improve our facilities to better meet the needs of our students!

It’s interesting to watch the interaction and the thinking of a large group of people. Some come to the Facilities Committee with a special interest in adding something to our district that’s lacking while others want to make sure we’re caring for and maintaining what we have now. The BOE members have all expressed an interest in being good stewards of our facilities and grounds at the same time that they think about how to do so while keeping a project cost neutral for the taxpayers. There are items we have to consider as a result of our NYSED mandated building conditions survey. Things like boilers and a roof on the gym and repointing bricks aren’t as glamorous or as potentially controversial as a discussion on a school pool or a new soccer field but they are necessary.

What’s my interest in the project as the school superintendent? I’ve been saying for six years that I want to leave my mark on Randolph Central School District through a stronger instructional program–I’m an instructional leader first and foremost. But caring for our properties and planning for the future are also my responsibility. So I’m most interested in taking care of the mainstays, the workhorses of our buildings–things like boilers and rooftops. I also want to consider our learning spaces–how are they designed now (not much different than they were 70 years ago) and what will our students need in 2020 and beyond. So I’m thinking about this as planning for potential capital projects that may occur over the rest of my career here.

Immediately, I’m also keenly interested in improving our parking lots from the standpoint of traffic flow, zones for bus movement and student travel across campus. I want to figure out how to add additional spaces for our employees and our visitors. I especially want to improve available space for the many guests who come to events here. And I want the project to include the necessary items of our school community, not something in my own personal agenda that only remains important as long as I’m here.

Tonight at our larger Facilities Committee meeting with our architects and construction manager we’ll focus on a few main areas. The committee consists of students, teachers, administrators, support staff, community members and parents. I’m excited to hear their thinking as we analyze and plan for the future. We will talk about the parking lot traffic flow, the lack of parking, the bus garage and it’s limitations without a DOT approved lift system, the high school entrance and security, the performance arts spaces, common spaces like the libraries, the playing fields and the gym space. We’ll also consider the shared classroom spaces in the elementary school that are the result of bringing almost all of our special needs students home from outside placements–and the underutilized common areas there.

Thanks in advance to everyone who spends another evening with us tonight–5:30 in the HS library and yes Austin, we’ll have cookies again.

In Memory of My Mom, Donna Lee Mormur

My mom

The best person I’ve ever known passed away on Friday, March 28, 2014. It’s her words I speak when parenting my own children, it’s her thinking that drags me to work even when I’m sick, and it’s her advice that still guides me now, at 50 years old.

My mom was raised in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of a stay at home mom and a father who worked his way up from mailman to postmaster with two younger brothers, Bob and Jeffrey. Her dad was one of 13 and her mother was one of 3 so family was absolutely everything in her life. Her aunts, including Linda Sue who was a year younger than my mom and never let her forget it, were a source of great love and joy to her throughout her life–her dinners with the aunts were treasured.

To this day I think my mother’s natural class and grace, something our beautiful daughter Bryna inherited, came from her Grandma Houston who immigrated from England. Unfortunately I think Bryna also inherited her germophobia from my mother, who was known to carry two combs in high school-one to loan and one to use.

At about the age of 17, my mom went to a dance. Undoubtedly she was with her friends Alice and Susie and it’s there that she met my dad. There’s no one on this earth that my mother loved more than her own father, except my father. He was trouble in every imaginable way including dragging her across the country when I was only one month old so that he could work in the mines in Montana. It wasn’t long and my mom came home to live with her parents. My dad followed shortly afterwards—setting up house with all of the other hooligans on Francis Road in Plum Borough, until we moved to Renton where there were, of course, more hooligans.

Now if you knew my mom and if you know my dad, then you know that two more opposite people have probably never married. In exasperation, (because my dad could do that to me) I asked my mom, “WHY did YOU marry HIM?” to which she always replied, “I just knew I had so much love in my life and I could give that to your dad.”

Well he definitely returned that love. It took him a while to grow up and to learn how to show it but no one could have loved my mom more or taken better care of her over these last ten years, and especially the last two. Thank you Dad. The last words I heard her speak, in the throes of her last hours, were to my dad, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”Dad and Mom and Me

So what lessons did I learn from my mom? While listed in my mom’s vernacular, if you think about them–they’re not a bad guide to a happy and healthy life.

  1. Avoid public restrooms at all costs.
  2. If someone is picking you up, you’d better be standing at the door when they arrive because they’re doing you a favor.
  3. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.
  4. Get a grip!
  5. Good friends make life much better.
  6. Don’t EVER lie (and that was delivered with a smack on the bum at the age of 5, I remember it to this day.)
  7. When mad at my husband, she’d listen to me complain and when I got all done she’d say, “it’s not really worth it Kim, just go give him a kiss and tell him you’re sorry.”(I would think, “did she listen to a word I just said?!”)
  8. Don’t put your kid on a pedestal cause it’s a long way to fall.
  9. No one is perfect, don’t expect your kids to be.
  10. And most important of all, that I could do absolutely anything I put my mind to–my mom is the one person who throughout my entire life believed in me, thought the best of me and loved all of me, even the ugly parts. And no matter what happened, or how hard I fell, her constant response to anything was, “you’re fine!

My mom was loving and caring and thoughtful. She was NOT, however, a patient woman. At Jendoco, where she worked most of her life, I pity anyone she ever trained on anything because GIRL, you better get it the first time! And she told me of a time when her colleague Scott was walking by her office on a Monday and my mother, always polite to a fault, said, “good morning Scott, how was your weekend?” When Scott walked in and sat down to tell her, my mom SAID, “wait a minute! I don’t have time to actually hear about it!”

My children got to witness this infamous LACK of patience when they were little. We got into her car in a parking lot and when she looked to back up she saw someone and said, “oh it’s okay, she’s got a walker.” It wasn’t a five count later when she turned around and said, as only my mom could, “what the hell is she doing back there?!” And yes, they learned the Pittsburgh word “jag off” while riding in the car with their Mimi. See, no one is perfect. :)

I can honestly say that the one person my mom had enormous patience with was my brother Ziggy,  “the Prince”. And that’s just because he wore her down, day after day. It was an amazing thing to me as he did one thing after the other that I wouldn’t have dared to do and yet she just loved that kid without fail. Her only regret was being too ill to play on the floor with his 6 year old daughter Kaylee as she did with my two kids. She loved her three grandkids for everything that they are, just as they are.

Even in the midst of my mom’s debilitating and heartless illness, she was looking for a lesson to be learned or someone she could help. She always wanted to be of some use. I found 9 or 10 notebooks in which she’d journaled over the course of her sixties, a decade dominated by her litany of auto-immune disorders. In August, 2011 she posed a question to herself, “In ten years, what do you want to be known for?” Her answer, “being a child of God and raising two great kids.” Next she asked, “What kind of personality do you want to be known for? giving and loving”. And finally, “What three things would you change about your life right now if you could? To stop worrying, not to have this disease, and to just relax and enjoy life”. Always working on herself while accepting us exactly as we are—except for our son Tallon. Her last lecture to me two weeks before her death was in regard to him. She said that people needed to stop telling him he’s handsome because that’s not going to sustain him—it’s what’s on the inside that’s important. She said “don’t get me wrong, I love him and I see how handsome he is, but that’s just not important in life.” Duly noted Mom.

My mom was a beautiful example of class and grace and kindness and love. She inspires me still to try to be a better person. And at the same time, I know she loves me just as I am, ugly parts and all. We were all lucky to have known her