Faith During War

I taught at Pine Valley Central for ten years from 1990-2000. During that time I had the privilege of teaching 1000+ fantastic students, most of whom now have families of their own. As is always the case, different students connect with different teachers. It is a distinct pleasure for me when I hear from one of those students.

I’m hoping you’ll take the time to check out Here we go again, a blog by Jason Reynolds. Jason is a PVCS graduate who I was particularly fond of who happened to marry Geri Maynard, another PVCS grad who I thought was pretty terrific. They’re living in Colorado with three kids of their own now. Jason is currently stationed in Afghanistan for the US Army and he blogs about his experiences and his faith.

I am intrigued by his blog for many reasons but most of all because I remember the boy who he was at Pine Valley. To have the opportunity to see into his thinking and his faith through his blog posts from the war zone is remarkable and inspiring to me. Thought you might enjoy reading him too. He’s a Pine Valley boy, but in more ways than one the only difference between a Pine Valley boy and a Randolph boy is purple or red. I hope you’ll consider leaving him a comment too as the contact will probably be much appreciated.

Learning Leader

As a school administrator, I’ve always attended workshops, conferences, and other staff development opportunities with my teachers. I guess I’ve just always seen it as one of my primary responsibilities to be the Instructional Leader in the building and now, in the district. For 20 years in education, I’ve continued to learn and grow each and every year–if I ever think I know all that I need to know, someone please push me out the door to retirement. I also want to know what my teachers are learning and what’s considered best practice. I like to analyze, research and discriminate what’s worth our time and energy vs. what’s wasting our time. And I write about those experiences here, on Kimberly Moritz BlogPosts.

Will Richardson talks about this very transparency in learning in “Leadership Goes Public”for District Administration. Much of my daily learning comes through my RSS feeds into bloglines, my conversations with colleagues on our blogs, and the on-line newspapers and periodicals that I read, as well as list serves that feed into my email.

In the article Will says,

I’ve often wondered what the response would be if we asked the kids in our schools to reflect on how their teachers learn. Not on how much they know or how creative they might be, but on how they learn—what their process is,what their passions are. My guess is that few if any of those teachers have made their own learning transparent to their students to any great degree.

Now turn that around a bit and ask how your teachers might answer that same question about you. Would they be able to identify what you’ve been reading of late? The questions you’ve been grappling with? The best conversations and debates you’ve been engaged in? Could they see and learn from your own efforts to move your thinking forward?

As usual when I read Will’s blog, I’m inspired to keep writing and reading, exchanging ideas and having my thinking provoked a bit. I hope my teachers and administrators get a chance to read and write this summer, to think deeply about their practice, and to read for pleasure. I hope when they stop for a well deserved break and a chance to breathe that they keep thinking and learning, returning to RCS in September refreshed and enthused. Happy Last Day of School tomorrow Randolph! Thank you for a job well done this year.

Fight Night Again

Here we go again. In November, I wrote about my son’s first amateur kickboxing fight. Since then we’ve missed one scheduled bout because he broke his hand sparring. This is the second amateur fight for Tallon and he’s trained just as hard, prepared just as much as for that last fight in November.

Why? I guess because he loves it, it’s exciting, in many ways it’s the sport of the moment across this country, and he’s good at it. He trains for at least two hours per day, every day. Monday was the last day of classes at his high school and while most of the juniors and seniors headed to the beach, Tallon went to the gym. When I asked “why? Why didn’t you just tell Dad everyone was going?”, his reply was, “because if I lose on Saturday I don’t want Dad to look at me and say ‘well, guess you shouldn’t have gone to the beach on Monday’ and I want to know I’ve done everything I can to be ready.”

I know it’s not a fair comparison, but I wish there was something in the classroom that ignited even a spark of that kind of passion and dedication from him. I pin my dreams on him finding that in college and then in his career–whatever he chooses. Maybe I’m just being a worried mom today who really hopes he finds some dream to follow that requires the use of his brains instead of his fists.

So I sit again today, trying to keep my mind occupied. Trying to stay busy. Trying not to think about the fact that we sold out the tickets we were given and that 86+ people from Gowanda have now ponied up $12 to watch my son fight tonight.  No pressure, right? That kind of support is amazing and I’m not sure you find it anywhere but a small town. Win or lose, they’ll know we’re there!

RCS Weight Room

Okay, so let’s talk about the weight room that’s open to the public here at RCS. It’s open in the morning and the evening, with a first aid/CPR/AED certified staff member required for supervision. That’s necessary for liability purposes should someone get hurt.  It costs the district roughly $20,000 per year for the supervision.

It’s wonderful that we keep this weight room open to our community–our students and taxpayers. After all, it’s taxpayer money that pays for the weight room. The thing that bothers me about it is that ALL taxpayers share the burden, not just the taxpayers who use the weight room.

Do you see what I mean? Even though it’s open to everyone, there are taxpayers who won’t ever avail themselves of this opportunity either because they have no interest, inclination or sometimes, physical ability. Should they have to share the cost?

Perhaps those people who use the weight room should share the burden of the cost with the district? We also have a lot of students who use the weight room before and after school as part of their training for their athletic programs–I wouldn’t want to eliminate that opportunity for anyone who can’t afford it.

As we work to contain our costs, I wonder if there’s a better way for us to operate this room?

Blog Name: Keep it Simple

I’ve been reading a ton lately, including articles and books on blogging–one that I read addresses blog names and identity. That’s what got me thinking about the name of this blog and how it had to change from G-Town Talks to Randolph Writes when I accepted a new position in Randolph.  And how does anyone really know who “Randolph” is anyway? To simplify things, (I think), let’s forget the names and just call it like it is, “Kimberly Moritz BlogPosts”–better to make everything clear and direct. The name of the blog should do the same. Leave no doubt who the the source is or who “owns” the opinions and content. To the point, straightforward, easy to identify. Approachable and easy to read. Done.

The Albatross Around the Neck of Our School

Okay, so I get that LOTS of people dislike the horizontal steel siding on our new Technology Center. And maybe “albatross around the neck of our school” is a bit strong. Trust me, no-one has spent more time than me looking at that building and the steel siding. Without getting into a lot of detail about how capital projects work and how much latitude I do (or do not) have to make changes at this late stage in the game, suffice it to say any change would have to be relatively minor. All of the design decisions were made back in 2006-2007 and were State Ed approved; the design intent was to have a state of the art, industrial looking tech center.

The architect achieved this goal, right? The problem for most of our community members, and for me, is that it doesn’t compliment the look of our existing building. I’ve always said that this is the most beautiful school ANYWHERE. It truly is and we take great pride in that fact.

Let me just say also that it is a beautiful addition in every other way. The interior spaces for our Agriculture and Technology programs are gorgeous and a HUGE improvement over our current spaces. Despite the confusion in the community, the addition was never meant to be a middle school—the sixth grade was simply going to inhabit the renovated space vacated by the Ag and Tech programs. Since we made the decision to keep sixth grade in the elementary school, now that space will be a high school office, ISS/OSS room, and Adaptive PE/Wrestling Room.

So what do I do about the steel? Do we stick with it, as is? Do we consider painting it? Do we modify or change portions of it? Changing all of it is simply out of the question, it’s too costly and in my mind would just be throwing good money after bad. Painting it seems like a bad idea considering that it’s a maintenance free product now, why paint it and deal with that issue every 7-8 years?

So I’m left contemplating a change to just the steel surrounding the lower half of the addition (the shorter portion). What if we change just the three lower sides to a product called “drivet”  that looks like stucco to me? Make it match the entrance way to the high school where it says “Randolph Jr. – Sr. High School”?

Or leave it alone? Come on Randolph Readers, I know you’re out there reading, even though you seldom comment. This blog is intended for a two-way conversation and I need some help with this decision. Comment below and tell me what you think!

Defeated: Bus Maintenance Facility Project

As a new superintendent, I inherited a big problem. It’s one that’s been percolating for some time and I’ve written about it here and here. To make a long story short, there was a proposition put up twice to the taxpayers of Randolph, once in May 2008 and once in October 2008, that carried a lot of animosity in the community. It was a proposition to purchase property with the possible future project of building a bus garage. It was defeated both times. I get it, the community clearly said “no” to purchasing property to build a new garage and we aren’t permitted to tear down our current garage and build a new one because the location is too close to our school buildings. Plus, our current garage suffices and heck, look at the number of people who don’t have a garage for their personal vehicles.

But we still have a problem with the safety and size of our mechanics bays. It’s a problem that I either have to fix or eliminate. We put forth a project on May 19 during the regular public vote for an addition to the current bus garage which also replaced the roof on the whole garage and made improvements to the lighting throughout. Because we’re a state entity, we were also required to add a handicapped bathroom and adhere to all code requirements. Not as simple as building a garage in your yard. This addition was our best option to solve the problem, be responsible to our taxpayers and continue to service our own fleet of vehicles.

It was Proposition #3 and it was defeated; No 244, Yes 243. One vote, one person I could have influenced would have made the difference. I know, I know closeness only counts in . . .

After berating myself for three days that I didn’t do a good enough job of communicating the seriousness of the problem to enough people in enough ways, I’m still left with a mechanics bay that’s too small with an outdated hydraulic lift that can’t continue forever. People who focused on the previous votes or the fact that we could continue to get our buses inspected at a neighboring school probably voted “no”. The DOT won’t inspect our buses in our mechanics’ bay and some taxpayers thought that was the driving issue. Actually, the inspections are a small part of the problem–it’s the need for an adequate facility to do daily maintenance on our fleet that’s the issue.

Rear view of a bus in our mechanics bay. Side View of Mechanics Bay  Front View of Mechanics Bay

Paying our mechanics to maintain and service our buses costs us about 25-50% of what our costs will be if we have to outsource the work to a garage elsewhere. This should have been what I helped everyone to understand–it should have been where the focus was in considering the proposition. I knew it, the Board knew it, the 32 people at the Public Hearing knew it and the 30 people who watched the video on the website knew it. But what more could I have done to make sure everyone else knew it?

A lot. I should have done a lot more to be sure everyone understood the whole issue. I guess I just kept assuming they would know that if we put it up, we really did need it. I mean, what do people think I want this addition for? It’s not like I’m planning to run a chop shop out there at night for extra money! But have I earned that kind of trust in this community in six months? No.

So now what do I do? Here are our options as I see it:

  1. Discontinue the use of the lift. Outsource all work that the mechanics can’t do without it.
  2. Put the project up for another vote and do a better job of communicating the entire problem to the community.
  3. Try to make adaptations to the current lift and the bay to make it more useful.

Option #1–how is spending more out of our community to do the same work a good option in any way? Option #2–what are my odds of passing it at a second vote? Is it worth it to spend the money to run another vote? Option #3– We’re hoping to meet with the company who services the lift next week. As I understand it, we can’t even buy parts any more. And the other problem is that spending on this is extremely limited to equipment codes already budgeted for in the 2009-10 budget and anything significant is subject to SED and voter approval.

Right back where I started from. So again Randolph Readers, I ask you, what do you think? What’s our best option? Or is there another option I haven’t thought of out there?

Vote Today, May 19, 2009

Dear Western New Yorkers: Exercise your right to vote today on your school budgets, consider all additional propositions, and elect your Board of Education Members!

–A Superintendent Waiting to Hear What the Community Thinks

Be a Part of That Collective Voice!

Video of Public Hearing Available

Posted on our school website, Randolph residents can view a video excerpt of Proposition #3 from the Public Hearing on May 12, 2009. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from those community members who attended the hearing regarding the presentation. Many said that being there helped them to better understand the proposition, the rationale for building the Mechanics Bays, and the overall purpose of the project. In the best interest of the district we are posting it for those who were unable to attend.

We taped the public hearing for my own self-assessment NOT with the intent to post it for the community. The video excerpt is sixteen minutes long and the people in the audience who ask questions are somewhat hard to hear. In watching it for my own self assessment, I wish I had been more formal in my delivery for a web-based presentation. Still it is my hope that linking the video on our website will help provide more information on a topic that has been somewhat misunderstood at times.

If interested in a thorough explanation of our Proposition #3, addition of Mechanics Bays to the Bus Garage, you can link to the video version of the presentation on our school website.

Ask Me Anything

Last night was my first public hearing as superintendent followed by Randolph’s first “Meet the Candidates” night in about 15-20 years. By all accounts it was a success. We had 32 people in attendance and it wasn’t quite what I had anticipated. I went through the three part budget, proposition #1, expecting a question or two but no one had any. I studied and worried about my ability to answer every question and not a one? What does that mean?

Because of the previous controversy in the community surrounding the purchase of property and construction of a new bus garage, I anticipated the opportunity to answer lots of questions on proposition #3, the addition of mechanics bays to the bus garage.  I much prefer to have a good conversation which results in everyone better understanding all of the information at hand to rumor and conjecture.  I’ve received lots of feedback this morning that indicates those 32 people in attendance better understand Proposition #3, the addition of a Bus Mechanics Bay to the current bus garage. But it leaves me wondering, what do I do about everyone else?

So I’m taking the show on the road. Tomorrow morning, those good fellows who have breakfast every morning at R&M have graciously invited me to join them for coffee. I’m really looking forward to answering their questions and hearing what they think. I’d be happy to do the same anywhere else in town that our community members gather to talk about what’s happening. If you’d like me to join you for good conversation and a cup of coffee, just say the word (358-7005) and I’ll be there.

We’re also working on posting a clip of the presentation on the school website. And as always, if you’ve got questions, thoughts, ideas–you can post a comment here, call me on the phone, stop me on the street or come on up to the school. I’d love the chance to talk with you!

In the meantime, we’ll continue to communicate in all of the routine formal ways that we always do, through our newsletters, public notices, coverage through the Post Journal, Randolph Register, and Salamanca Press, this blog, our school website, and BOE meetings. But if what everyone needs is a good old fashioned face to face, I’m your girl. Give me a call.