Buildings, Grounds and Transportation

The Board of Education and administration have been researching the addition of a buildings, grounds and transportation supervisor for several years. They created the position of buildings, grounds and transportation supervisor in August, 2008 but have yet to fill the position.

When I arrived as superintendent here in December of 2008, it remained a priority for the district. In districts of our size, it is common to have mid level managers such as our cafeteria manager, Lori Benson, in the areas of buildings and grounds and also in transportation. We’ve not had that here and a need was identified so one position was created to manage those three areas.

Why do we need this? Just as a superintendent and administrative team are needed for a district perspective and expertise in things such as teaching and learning, personnel, contract negotiations, team building, long range planning, budget preparation and management, discipline, athletics, cafeteria management, and building level student management, administrative expertise is also needed in the areas of buildings and grounds and transportation.

Simply put, we are more efficient and effective if we have someone with a district perspective taking care of our facilities and the personnel employed to manage those facilities. While we have knowledgeable employees who work hard in these areas, they report to building principals who may or may not know the most effective and efficient ways to complete their tasks. And both buildings function separately while we would be better collectively, especially in the area of supplies and ordering plus sharing of staff.

Are we hiring someone? That’s a bit complicated. When I arrived, along with the BOE members, we decided to move forward with this position. Since it’s a civil service position, that means we have to follow the rules and procedures governing civil service and hire off of the certified list. Since no current list was available, we requested that the civil service exam be given. Well as you might imagine, that takes a while. The civil service exam was given on October 31, 2009.

Did we advertise the exam? No, it’s not our place to do so. Civil Service posts the exams on their website and advertises  in all of the local papers, according to Civil Service this includes the Olean, Salamanca, Randolph Register, and Pennysaver papers. It would not have indicated anything about Randolph Central–it only advertised the exam date for the position of superintendent of buildings, grounds, and transportation.

As it turns out, only one person took the test and therefore we’re not required to hire off this list. From my perspective, a candidate pool of one person is insufficient to hire from for any position. Civil Service then indicated that we may either hire the person on the list or we could advertise, interview and hire someone who meets the minimum qualifications and then that person would have to pass the test within a year.

To further complicate matters, all of the news about the state budget and cuts to our state aid are looming. So the BOE was faced with helping me make a difficult decision. Our options were as follows:

  1. Hire the one person on the list.
  2. Post, advertise and interview for the position, including the one person on the list.
  3. Change the position to consider a lower level employee, perhaps one head custodian for the district. We never replaced the elementary head custodian when he retired–we’ve always planned to redirect his salary to this new position.
  4. Wait to see what the budget looks like before filling this position in any manner.

It was important that the BOE consider this position as part of a larger picture. Right now our admin team is preparing the 2010-2011 budget and I have charged them with the onerous task of compiling a list of possible cuts should we need to make them. Once the state aid picture is more definite and we can more accurately estimate our revenues, we can know better what needs to be done. This position for buildings, grounds and transportation should be included in that broader discussion so it can be weighed against other possible cuts and prioritized appropriately.

This was the action we determined to take at this time–#4 waiting to fill the position until we can weigh it against any other cuts that need be taken.  After all, this Board of Education continues their commitment to keep taxes at bay and we are working to present a 0% increase to our taxpayers despite escalating costs for TRS/ERS and health insurance while balancing reported cuts to our revenues.  And it isn’t going to be easy.

Learning with Passion, Innovation and Leadership

When my time in education is done and I’m ready for a second act during retirement (teaching again? writing that book?), I want to know that I’ve made a significant positive difference. To know that I’ve left the place BETTER than I found it, that we’re learning more and that it’s significant learning for everyone. I want to knock the heck out of the status quo.

I think that’s  how most BOE members feel when they serve on a board of education. So it’s with much excitement that I met with our administrators and teachers to talk about the vision/mission set by our BOE at it’s Fall Retreat–Learning with Passion, Innovation and Leadership.

If you think about it, isn’t that what we want for everyone? For every student, every teacher, every athlete—meaningful learning experiences when they can feel passionate about what it is they’re learning. Meaningful learning experiences which they can approach with a curiosity about all that’s in the world today and where they can lead with influence.

Think about your own child. When she goes forward from Randolph Central, what do you want for her? Do you want to know that he can ask good questions, pursuing the life of his dreams with passion and leading with influence and collaboration? Do you want to know that she can communicate her ideas effectively and to think well?

When I think of my own children, I want this for them. It’s nice to know that they did  well in school—as we’ve always measured that anyway–they both achieved honor or high honor roll every quarter, did well on Regents exams, graduate in the top of their classes. But what good will that do them if they can’t THINK through the situations they face, if they can’t advocate for themselves or ask good questions? If they have no flexibility and can’t work with others? If they aren’t curious about everything that’s so amazing in this world? If they just accept everything the world throws at them as their lot in life?

I don’t want my own kids to go quietly through their lives. And I don’t want that for our RCS students either. I hope we’re graduating students who can research and analyze and take the initiative. I hope we’re graduating students who can help to solve the many problems that our world faces–making it a better place than it is today. I want our graduates to know that they have the power to do so. And so I’m always wondering, what are we doing to prepare them to be good thinkers? To let them practice these things?

Time will tell if my own kids can do more than be good students in school. I’m hopeful and optimistic, but I’m not sure that the ability to score well on the Global exam or Earth Science Regents or the 8th grade Math exam shows much more than an ability to memorize, study and take a test well.  Does this success indicate an ability to critically think, to problem solve, to collaborate, lead, initiate, communicate, analyze? To really understand the world around them and their places in it? I’m not sure. I’ve got a daughter who’s an adult and a son with his foot firmly planted on that threshold. It’s largely up to them now.

And our RCS students? Well that’s entirely within our grasp, isn’t it? We determine what happens here every day for our kids. I, for one, along with our teachers, administrators, staff and BOE members, am setting out to change the world. Seriously. I believe that if we truly focus on learning with passion, innovation and leadership, we can prepare our students to be innovative problem solvers who live their lives with purpose and passion. And just for the record, I’ll bet that when we do all of this–they’ll still get good marks on the state assessments, probably better.

Let’s get to it.

BOE Goals 2009-2011

As a district, we’re working on identifying objectives and district goals that align with our BOE goals in following our vision of  Learning with Passion, Innovation and Leadership. The administrative team, along with teachers and support staff, are considering the steps we will take to get there.

Here are the BOE Goals for 2009-2011:

  1. The RCS Board of Education will lead through active participation in professional development opportunities.
  2. The RCS Board of Education will build trust through communication and collaboration with the entire school community.
  3. The RCS Board of Education will hire and support excellent personnel who demonstrate learning with passion, innovation and leadership.
  4. The RCS Board of Education will support responsible financial decisions that optimize district assets while meeting educational needs.
  5. The RCS Board of Education will continuously support and evaluate the district goals.

These goals reflect the BOE members’ dreams for the district (and mine), along with their commitment to improve communication and collaboration which will build trust, a commitment to their own learning as BOE members, and their desire to support personnel who embrace the mission of learning with passion, innovation and leadership. The goals also reflect a continued strong focus on their financial responsibilities and the importance of defining a vision, long-range goals and resource allocation.

Our administrative team is presenting our professional and district goals to the BOE members at our February 3 meeting. I’m hoping that we will take some risks, that we set ambitious goals and that we realize it’s okay if we don’t get there on every one. Aren’t we better off by taking a risk and striving for more, sometimes missing the mark, than we are by playing it safe and setting goals we know we can achieve?

BOE Retreat, Goal Setting

Our second BOE retreat is tonight and I think it’s particularly fitting considering that it’s School Board Recognition week as designated by Governor David Paterson. This is a wonderful time for us to recognize and commend school board members for their dedicated service to the children of the Randolph Central School District. What better way to recognize this service than through a BOE Retreat when our members can have a real voice in the course that we set?

We previously met for a BOE retreat in July and I blogged about it in this post on July 14, 2009. During that retreat we accomplished all that we set out to in the four hours scheduled. We talked about how we do business and clarified the open meetings law, the function and organization of our meetings, committees, and officers. It was a great opportunity for open dialogue and every BOE member offered much in the conversation.

At that time we determined that our next step is a retreat to work on district goal setting–from the “Big Idea” point of view to help direct all that we do within the district. I’m excited to meet with the BOE members and our facilitator, BOCES Assistant Superintendent Lynda Quick, because I believe this is one of the ways our School Board can make a real difference through their governance activities. I hope we can answer the following:

  1. Where is our district headed over the long run?
  2. Where is our district now?
  3. How is our district performing (educationally, administratively, financially)?

NYSCOSS, the NYS Council of School Superintendents,  defines three sure signs of a high quality governance team as,

  1. A school board that consistently produces high-impact governance defined through vision, strategic directives, long-range goals, and resource allocation.
  2. A school board that has a close, positive and productive Board-Superintendent working partnership.
  3. A school board that takes deep satisfaction in and feeling strong ownership of its governing work.

We’ll set out to strengthen those “three sure signs” in Randolph tonight.