Drug Dogs

Before I write this post, I have to say from the get-go that I have a strong opinion on this subject. I’ve seen drugs destroy the lives of way too many people. I’ve helped kids bury kids because of drugs. I don’t take their use lightly, don’t condone any use whatsoever, don’t find marijuana use to be recreational or okay, don’t hang out with adults who think they’re okay. As someone who’s worked with young people for nineteen years I’m taking a stand to say that drugs destroys lives. From a first hand point of view, I’ve seen drug use steal kids hope, their ambition, their self respect, their futures, and their very lives.

I’ve heard the counterpoint to my stand from way too many kids and adults who have no idea how moronic they actually sound as they attempt to defend their choices. I’ve lost kids I cared about and been disappointed too many times by those I advocated for just to see them slide back into addiction. Drug use is heartbreaking and cruel and all but impossible to beat too many times.

When I see our kids I see the best that they are and can be. Drug use steals this from them.

Today we brought in the drug dogs. Thank you to Deputy Grice and the cooperating agencies who helped him to orchestrate this effort with our high school principal, Dave Davison. At my request, the two of them shared the detail of our search with no one else in our school community, including me. It’s just too easy in a small town like Randolph for that information to leak out and then the effort is compromised.

At about 1:20 yesterday we went into a lock down in our high school building as we escorted police and their drug dogs through our hallways, locker rooms and parking lot. Why? Because I want to send a strong message to our students that potential drug use is taken seriously at Randolph, that we intend to do whatever we can to prevent it and that we will do everything within our school discipline code and to the extent possible with law enforcement when we encounter it. I refuse to sit idly by and accept that our kids may be using drugs.

Enough said. 

Welcome Guest Blogger, Ms. Swan

Mock Trial 2009

I loved attending the Mock Trial as staged by our students in Ms. Swan’s class! They were all well prepared, attentive and in some cases, passionate about the case. Great job RCS Students–thank you Mrs. Hoene for your continued support.

Consider this our first guest blog post by our esteemed colleague and social studies teacher, Ms. Swan.  I’ll let Ms. Swan tell the tale:

Each year our law class culminates with a mock trial.  The mock trial is designed to introduce students to our legal system by providing a challenging, academic competition. The program offers students an opportunity for personal growth and achievement, emphasizing the importance of research, presentation, and teamwork.  This year we chose a murder trial. The defendant was accused of killing a former employee who happened to be homeless.  Students spent several weeks preparing for the trial.  They were given only affidavits of all witness and specific evidence they could use in the trial.  They were responsible for creating all of the questions for the witnesses as well as opening and closing statements. 

In addition to teaching students about contemporary public issues and the legal system, the program encourages teachers and students to develop learning partnerships with professionals from the community. Jay Carr, a local attorney, visited the class several times to aid students in preparing direct and cross examination questions as well as aiding them in creating their opening and closing statements.  We also visited the Cattaraugus County building where we toured the sheriff’s department, the 911 center and the records office.  We spent a portion of the day in court and students could actually witness the running and procedures in a courtroom setting.

We turned room 304 into our courtroom and invited retired RCS social studies teacher Sheila Hoene to be our judge.  She did a great job and we couldn’t do this without her.  Students dressed for their roles and court began. Students delivered their opening statements and called their witnesses. In the end our jury found the defendant not guilty.




Resident and Current Tuition Students Only

At last night’s BOE meeting, we decided to stop accepting new tuition students while we review our policy and consider increasing our tuition significantly or disallowing non-resident students all together. If your child already attends as a tuition student, we will work hard to maintain that relationship. We will also continue to honor a Board action from August 18, 1993 that allows the children of Randolph Central School Employees to be eligible to attend tuition free.

Previously, non-resident families who wished to enroll children in the School System submitted a request in writing to the superintendent, who determined whether or not the student(s) would be admitted. Non-resident families must provide their own transportation. Tuition may be charged to families of non-resident students and we do, but currently at a nominal rate of $250-500 annually. It’s also important that with any non-resident policy, we are non-discriminatory.

As I spend time every single day reading the headlines, attending state aide and other financial planning meetings, I become more and more concerned about the next several years. The financial stimulus package may help, but I’m not holding my breath. We already know that about 40% of that money, the construction portion, is money planned for the state–probably will be used to fund projects that are on-going–and we won’t benefit from it as any new money. As we look hard at every expenditure and determine what we can cut if necessary, we keep talking about it in levels, trying to anticipate the final state aide that we just won’t know for some time yet.

The first level, what’s in our budget now that can be consolidated and may be met in other ways? Second, what’s non-essential? Third, and I hope we don’t get there, what’s bare bones to operating? I’m hoping we don’t get past this first level, but I have to say that allowing non-resident students falls right in this category for me.

Every student has the right to attend the public school in the public school district in which he or she resides. In these tough times, we have to take care of our own resident students first and foremost.

Mechanics’ Bays at the Bus Garage

Our Randolph taxpayers recently voted “no” twice on a proposition to purchase property and build a new bus garage, sending a strong message. As loud and clear as the message was, it leaves me wondering about our next step to remedy a problem with our current bus garage.

Our bus mechanics’ bays are not what they should be. They are too small and we need a better lift system within the bays. I have been working with the architect to reevaluate plans from phases two and four of our long term renovations at Randolph which included additions to the current bus garage.

It makes sense to me to add on to our current garage and/or renovate the current bus mechanics’ bays to better service our buses and to give our hard working mechanics the space they need. Buses are quite a bit bigger than they were when this garage was built so the space and a better lift system are definitely needed. The Department of Transportation won’t even inspect our buses here any longer.

Here’s the question for me. While I’m confident that the addition/renovation is the right thing to do, I’m unclear what the public sentiment is on this project. I wasn’t here for the last vote, so I’m not sure why the public opposed the project. I don’t know if it was the land purchase, the idea of building a whole new garage when people think the one we have should suffice, or the idea of more projects in general. With the Technology Center going up now, maybe voters are just thinking “enough already.”

Believe me, as a new superintendent in the midst of a capital project and a number of other big issues to tackle,  the last thing I want to take on is a new building project. However, I can’t in good conscience delay this construction, it’s necessary to maintain our assets and to help our employees work more effectively.

I’d love to hear public opinion, here, on Randolph Writes. In addition, here’s a survey asking our Randolph taxpayers for some feedback/opinion/ideas so that we can consider Randolph viewpoints in our decision making process. Please take the survey and let me know what you’re thinking so that I can consider multiple viewpoints while making decisions in this job of leading our district.

If this works well, I’ll use the survey tool on our website to gain insight into your thinking in the future. Thank you!

Straw Bale Construction

I don’t know for sure who develops the Regents exams. I think it’s a team of teachers. And I am sure it’s not easy. But straw bale construction? That’s what the reading section of yesterday’s Comprehensive English Regents exam was about–straw bale construction. Eleventh grade students are interested in a variety of topics, but I doubt this is one of them. Maybe that’s the point. No tangents here for students to wander off on in the response. . . except if they start thinking about those “three little pigs”. Geez.

Revised Renovations

With a capital project well underway, we have some revisions to our renovations precipitated by our decision to keep our sixth grade team at the elementary school. While the scope of our project remains the same with our technology and agriculture programs moving to our new Technology Center, this leaves me thinking about the current tech/ag space renovations.

As far as the overall project goes, our changes are relatively insignificant. We don’t need the four standard classrooms planned and so have gained approval from the State Education Department to renovate this space in a way that better serves the needs of the district.

We will move the high school main offices into the first of these spaces. This allows us to place the office in a more central location, right inside of the main entry doors and closer to the 7th/8th grade wing and the newly built Technology Center.

Adjoining this space will be a standard classroom that can be used for a variety of purposes, primarily an in-school/out of school suspension/after school detention room. I have always wondered at the ‘wisdom’ of  out of school suspension for 90% of the offenses, considering that it gives the student a vacation of sorts, unless the parents impose consequences at home. With the number of working parents we have today (me included), making our OSS students report to a separate location within the school to continue instruction and supervision just makes more sense to me. To distinguish the difference between ISS and OSS, we can have the OSS students stay for detention too. This seems a better consequence/deterrent to bad choices than three to five days at home.

We can also use this room for meetings, small group testing, after school meetings and possibly BOE meetings, allowing quicker and easier access to the public. Following the High School Main Office and adjoining classroom will be an adaptive physical education room that can also be used as a wrestling room after school. Currently, our wrestling team practices in the multi-purpose room in the elementary school. If we eliminate the need for wrestling in the elementary building, we can more effectively use that space for OT/PT, vacating a space for a classroom. With sixth grade staying put in the elementary school, they can definitely benefit from the additional space.

I’m excited about our revised plan and hopeful that with the quick work of our architect and construction manager to get the new drawings to our contractors, we can stay right on target for an August completion date.

Don’t Need to Know Meme

I’ve been tagged in an Internet meme by Mark Stock. This Internet meme is entitled “Seven Things You Don’t Need to Know About Me”. This is why this meme business drives me crazy. If you don’t need to know it about me, why should I write it? And I tend to over-think things, so I will end up analyzing the possible things on my list which why do I have to write it in the first place if they are things you don’t need to know about me?

So here I am writing the post anyway for two reasons. One, I try really hard to be a good sport which means you try some things, even if you’re uncomfortable with them, and sometimes you end up better for it. Two, I don’t know Mark Stock of the blogging world, the meme tag caused me to check out his blog, and I remember that’s what it’s all about–reading each other, gaining new ideas, and connecting. So here goes.

Here are the Seven Things You Don’t Need to Know About Me. Stop reading now if you prefer to stay in the dark. I can’t blame you.

1. I analyze, evaluate, research and think about everything. My husband often asks me, “what are you thinking about?” When I reply “nothing”, he always says, “yes you are, you’re always thinking about something.” Which I am.

2. I am relatively impatient. If a meeting is going a little bit long, or especially if it’s extremely detail oriented, I begin tapping my foot, fiddling with my blackberry, wishing for the end. Conversely, when we’re really cooking with problem solving and meaningful discussion, I can stay attentive and patient forever.

3. Red is my favorite color. Inevitable that I would return to Randolph with our Red Randolph Cardinals!

4. I really, really, really have got to start exercising. I swim 50 laps a day all summer and then winter comes and well, forget about it.

5. I absolutely, positively love my job. I would rather work than just about anything (especially exercise).

6. I think the most perfect, peaceful, beautiful place on earth is the Allegany Reservoir aka Kinzua.

7. I can’t wait to see my husband at the end of each day, after 22 years of marriage-he’s still the one.

Everyone I read has been tagged, so let’s let it end with me. 😉 Thanks Mark!

G-Town Talks Becomes Randolph Writes

I’m starting week three as the new superintendent at Randolph Central and I’m loving every minute of it. No, not because I started the week before the winter recess and so I’ve had an easy go of it. I’m loving the WORK. It’s been busy and filled with 1,000+ new things to think about and learn, but I’m leaving feeling energized and excited about the possibilities.

I’ve toured the buildings, talking to teachers, administrators, staff and students. I’ve met with the union presidents, reached an agreement with the support staff association, and conducted my first administrative team meeting. I hit the ground running with our current building project, asking questions and learning where we are with progress targets and plans. I attended a K-6 holiday program and the 7-12 Randolph Rumble. Had my first BOE meeting, learned more in executive session, started to think about our calendar and contracts, made decisions and asked more questions about everything from our finances to our instructional programs. I’ve tried to go through everything left behind in the office by my predecessor and to research the major issues facing the district. It’s been overwhelming and there is so much to get my head around and yet, it all feels so RIGHT.

My first impressions? This is a gem of a district, with hard working, well intended employees, INCREDIBLE students, and a caring, dedicated BOE. Everyone has been incredibly helpful and supportive and I do believe this may have been the very best decision of my career.

Randolph Writes will be one way that I try to improve communication within the district. It’s my sense that everyone is looking for good information and an opportunity to collaborate. I welcome your comments, either on the blog, via email at kmoritz@rand.wnyric.org or in person. I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together.

December 22

Tomorrow is December 1 and I’ll be three weeks from starting at Randolph. I can’t sleep with everything that’s running through my head. It’s starting to shift from everything I’m summarizing/passing on/leaving at Gowanda to everything that needs to be done at Randolph. There’s so much to wrap my head around quickly.

I’m thinking about the building project that they’re smack dab in the middle of and getting a thorough handle on it, from financials to plans to projected end dates. The budget season is starting, well, yesterday. I want to be in every classroom, just to have a clearer picture of who our teachers and students are and of our instructional program. I’m thinking about all of the visibility opportunities, just to get to know members of our community and to hear what’s on their minds. I’m thinking about the contract negotiations, the financial picture given the state of the state, the facilities/bus garage/cafeteria program.

And then I’m thinking about getting my BOE agendas right, forming relationships with the secretary to the superintendent and business office personnel, the managers, the union representatives, the administrative team and the teachers/support staff. Well, with everyone. I have so much to learn. I need time with the BOE members to hear what’s most important to them and to our community. And then I’m thinking about everything that I might be missing that I should be thinking about.  I’m thinking about everything that everyone is sitting there waiting to tell me, to ask me, to hope for, to act on.

I just really need to get there and to get to work. I am so aware of the incredible opportunity that I have to make a real and positive difference in this school district. The opportunity to listen and to learn and to make decisions that impact our students in wonderful ways. The opportunity to lead and to problem solve, to make things better. The opportunity to make new connections, to rekindle old ones, and to form relationships that lead to a better education and the very best school system we can be, together.

Fight Night

Tallon\'s Fight NightI’m writing this blog post, quite frankly, to distract myself right now. My husband, son, and daughter just left for Buffalo and I’ve got about an hour and a half before I leave to join them. My sixteen year old son, Tallon, is fighting in his first amateur full contact kickboxing fight tonight. It’s televised, we have about 80-100 people going to watch, I’m having trouble keeping my lunch down.

Why? I know how much my son has into this fight. It’s not just another athletic event for him. Heck, we’ve watched him win and lose at everything from wrestling to hockey to track to football. He even ran cross country and played lacrosse for a while. He’s good at some, better at others and well, some are clearly for fun. But this. This is different.

My husband teaches karate, has since 1979. Not a big commercial, “pay your money, get your belt” kind of school. Only the dedicated with heart and perseverance need apply because it will take many years to achieve a black belt. In all of those years and 1000+ students, only 11 have achieved the rank of black belt. Serious stuff here. My son has taken karate from him practically since he was born. My daughter is the first and one of only two female black belts.

So the kid has something to prove tonight. To himself first. To his dad, sister and sparring partner who will be in his corner. To his relatives, friends, and teachers who will come to see a sport they may or may not understand for the first time. There’s no school recognition for the sport so he never gets to prove what he can do. Until now. I think he’s got a lot of dreams wrapped up in this fight. Let’s face it, all that’s ever on TV in my house is the UFC. He’s got to wonder what he’s made of. His dream career would be (at least at this age) climbing into–the octagon– that cage to fight. Not a mother’s dream by any stretch, but my dream definitely doesn’t have to be his dream.

So I sit here worrying about everything from ‘will the opponent show up?’, ‘will he be a chump that can’t stay with it?’ to ‘is he going to hurt my kid?’ and ‘will Tal rise to the challenge?’ AND, everyone we know will either be there or will be watching on television. No pressure.

One thing I know from experience is that the kid’s got heart, he won’t quit no matter what the other guy brings. No doubt about that. In this family, heart means more than anything, he’s heard that every day of his young life. But will he win? Will he realize his dream? Will he get to show everyone what he’s got after 12+ years of dedication, hard work and practice? Will he be proud of himself when he steps out of the ring? Will my fight to say college is his only option be even harder because he loves it that much?

He can’t wait for it to start and I can’t wait for the night to be over.