Welcoming the Class of 2029

I love this–the Springville Faculty Association presented all of our Kindercamp (incoming Kindergarten) students with this great “Class of 2029” bag which included items from our teachers and the community.FullSizeRender

Included in each bag were:

  • books from the SFA
  • bus magnets with important district phone numbers from the SFA
  • Play-Doh and matchbox cars from Walmart
  • a magnet from Bertrand Chaffee Hospital
  • bracelets for SES girls from Fresh Floral & Gifts
  • stuffed animals for CES girls from Lu Lu Belle’s
  • informational items from LOVE INC.

Thank you to everyone who donated and for the SFA members for acting on a great idea. The Class of 2029, wow!

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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!

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!

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.

Workplace Flow

There are days on the job in education when everything I’m doing just feels right and I know I’m in the right place. Yesterday was one of those days. We spent the morning meeting with the architects from CannonDesign on our vision for capital project planning and that was followed up with a Board of Education meeting and a Common Core ELA Parent Forum meeting last night. Now one might think, why would sitting in meetings be considered a good day?

It’s exhilarating in this work to problem solve and plan and prepare our educational programs and spaces for future generations. It’s equally rewarding to meet with colleagues and parents to discuss the current changes in education in our district and to do the same, problem solve and plan. But the reason yesterday was one of the days when I experienced “flow” or the energy that a productive day at work produces? Our students.

I have the privilege of sharing lunch with two different groups of students. One group consists of eighth grade students and the other ninth graders. Each group is remarkably different in their choice of conversations and both are the highlights of every work day for me. For 30 minutes, I get the chance to listen to our students. They talk about sports, PS3, their classes and projects, and their interests outside of school. We’ve talked about the merits of bread crumbs and analyzed the contents of the school lunch chicken patties. It’s my connection to our students and my opportunity to remember the main reason we’re all employed, our students.

They ask me the most incredible questions and we have intellectual discussions about everything from WiFi to the emphasis on athletics or academics to their essays for ELA. And I’m my absolute best self with them. Of all of the incredibly good things in my life, the best is knowing with certainty that I’m doing that thing in life that I was meant to do.  I first learned of this idea from  Dr. Lloyd Elm  in his commencement address to the graduating class of 2005 at Gowanda Central School when I was the principal there. If you haven’t found that thing that you were meant to do in this life yet, I encourage you to seek it out. And I hope we find ways in our educational program for our students to discover that thing they’re each meant to do too.

So when I’m in a meeting to begin to discuss the future of our school district in regard to its facilities and grounds, I’m planning with those same students in mind. What will they need and what will the future generations need for learning spaces? When the BOE meets and talks about the upcoming 8th grade trip to Washington, DC for which our principal, Laurie Sanders advocated, they’re thinking about the needs of our students. And when we meet with parents about the more rigorous work of the common core standards, we’re thinking about continuous improvement and listening to them about what we can do better.

Education is an incredibly rewarding path; what could be better than having the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of our young people?  I am grateful for the opportunity.

The Penalty Box

Years ago, when I was a principal, I put every child’s name on a separate piece of paper and taped the pages up in the hallway after school. During a faculty meeting, we all went into the hall and signed our names to the pages of those children with whom we thought we had some sort of a relationship—did we know something about the kid’s home life/interests/activities or did we think the child would come to us with a problem?  I then took down the pages and for any student who had no signatures we determined to connect him or her to the school in a meaningful way. We planned who would reach out to the child, who could easily engage with him to talk about possible interests, and we brainstormed the best ways to follow through. Why? Because the way we connect to our students, the ways in which we notice them and let them know that they are important—-that matters.

We used to have out of school suspension. How dumb is that? You’ve done something really egregious and your consequence is to stay home for three to five days. Sign me up, right? Instead we now have an in school suspension (ISS) program and for all but the most serious safety issues, which are few and far between, our students are here in school for any consequence needed as part of our progressive discipline. I’ve referred to the ISS room as “the Box” for my entire administrative career, a throwback to the many years of sitting at the rink watching my son play hockey.  Fighting on the ice? Five minutes in the box. Fighting in school? Five days in the box.    Damen and Tallon Pond Hockey

But it’s not really that simple. Sitting in the box in a hockey game is just that, sitting and waiting to be let out. Sometimes a penalty that resulted in a stint in the box was even considered worth it—I know since my kid was a goon on the ice and often spent time in there. Our in school suspension rooms cannot be the same as that time spent in the penalty box on the ice. They cannot be a place to just sit and wait to get back out. Time spent in that way doesn’t do anything more than more thoroughly alienate a student from the school.

HockeyInstead we now have an ISS room that’s working for us because it’s working for our students. It’s physically connected to the HS Main Office and it’s staffed by our Teaching Assistant, Deb Luce, who’s connected to the students she serves. What she does in there with her “frequent fliers” reminds me very much of good parenting—she kicks them in the butt when needed, most often regarding their inability or unwillingness to complete school work. Students who are approaching ineligibility spend a lot of time in there—as a proactive way to keep our reluctant learners on track. But as good parents do, Mrs. Luce doesn’t just kick them in the butt when needed, she also pats them on the back.

The students Mrs. Luce works with know that she cares about them. They know that the Assistant Principal who likely assigned the ISS cares about them because he checks on them. And they know that the Principal and the teachers care because the room is connected, it’s open and it’s frequently visited by all of us.

It’s not a place to further disconnect our kids, get them out of the way or alienate them because of their bad behavior. It’s a place to more consistently connect them to our school so that they care.  And when they say they don’t care, we show them that we care enough for both of us.

We’re far from perfect, we can do more for so many of our students—but this is a darn good start.

Vandalism

Vandalism. Senior Pranks that cause damage. Graffiti. Why is any of it necessary?

Last night, the mural that our students and Art teachers created in Town was vandalized. This happened along with the vandalism of some of our local churches. Vandalism is a problem that I cannot get my head around. I understand that those who commit the act aren’t worried about the costs to repair, replace or clean the damage. But I don’t understand what they hope to gain?

What’s the vandalism about in the mind of the person committing it? Is it done out of anger? Boredom? Spite? Mischief? Jealousy? Hate?

From where I stand, vandalism feels very hurtful. Perhaps that’s the intention, to hurt others? But why then? We have students and teachers who gave freely of their own time to try to do something good for our Town, why would anyone want to hurt them? It’s so senseless. I try really hard to listen and understand and think about the other person’s point of view but in this case I truly cannot understand. It  makes me very sad. What is lacking in the people who deliberately destroy the property of others? What need does that act feed in them?

What’s the point?

On a similar topic, I’ve always hated senior pranks for the same reasons. Maybe they start in good fun, but I’ve seen students get carried away with them and do irreparable damage to their school and to themselves. And even when it doesn’t result in real damage–who do they think has to clean up the messes left behind? Some good hard working cleaner or custodian who doesn’t deserve that extra load in their work day, that’s who. For those of us who work in education and strive every day to make school a better place and to make sure every student feels valued and cared about—vandalism and senior pranks gone awry are just a big slap in the face.

 

Students and Me

As a superintendent of schools, my day to day work is very different than in any other role I’ve had from teacher to assistant principal to principal. On any given day, I may have tasks and projects lined up that require little to no contact with anyone else in the district. Forms to be completed, budgets to analyze, reading and writing and analyzing, documents to study, attorneys to speak to, phone calls to return. There are plenty of other days when I’m involved in meetings all day or visiting classrooms or listening to others. But what I don’t get that I had in every other role is day to day responsibility for a group of students. As a teacher, I obviously had my class schedule and rosters of students and as a principal, well at least there was discipline! As the superintendent, I visit classrooms and I can always hang out in a kindergarten room if I need a little kid time–but I’m just a visitor to those students.

Until this year. For reasons I can’t remember, I have a small group of Randolph Seniors who stop in throughout my day and often have lunch with me. It’s the very best part of my day. They argue, they ask questions, they talk about the issues on their minds, they complain, they drive me crazy. I love it. 

Why? Because it’s why we all do what we do–the pure joy of spending a work day with kids. Students have always been my absolute favorite people—talking with them, listening to them, and yes, trying my best to influence them positively. They would add here that more than once I’ve chastised at least one of these stellar seniors in a manner very similar to how I spoke to my own children, before they became adults. Just a little bit, I get to be teacher and mom again. Pure Joy. 

I will miss them terribly at graduation, I’ll probably cry just as I did each year as the principal. And my fervent hope is that yet another group of students finds their way into my office next year. Keeping me real. 

Tragedy and Emergency Preparedness

Dear Parents, Students, Faculty, Staff and Randolph Community Members:

First and most important, let me express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims in Sandy Hook. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone touched by this worst imaginable tragedy.

Second my thoughts turn to my own children and to our school community. I was talking with our Kindergarten students in Ms. Burris’ classroom just this week about the books they chose during library and the movie the Avengers and which superhero is the best. The faces of our beautiful RCS children haven’t left me as I’ve followed the news out of Sandy Hook these last 24 hours. Last night, my husband Derek and I met our own adult children for dinner and I hugged each a little longer than usual. I think too of my beautiful niece Kaylee, the innocence and delight in her young face and of bright McKenna, my friend Danielle’s daughter–both Kaylee and McKenna are precious four year olds who I treasure. How do we do everything within our power as adults to protect the children we love? How do we control for the unpredictable mayhem that was this evil event?

It is with these thoughts and emotions that I consider our #1 job at Randolph Central–the safety and welfare of every child in our care. Please know that it is with overwhelming love for our students and an understanding of the sacred trust you give us when all 1000 students enter our buses and doors each day that we do our jobs. We have a staff of faculty, support personnel and administrators who do this work because they want the best for each child.

What steps are we taking to protect our children? This is my fifth year as the superintendent of Randolph Central. As with everything else, I’m constantly analyzing and assessing how we’re doing–in every aspect of our operation. We have emergency plans in place and we began talking last year and have continued this year about how well we all know these plans, how up to date and effective they are, and examining our vulnerabilities. Like Sandy Hook, we are a close knit, caring and supportive community. We know one another and the community largely loves and supports us as a school system. That love and support can also breed complacency, a feeling of safety and trust for our neighbors. Generally, that’s a wonderful thing.

I began to really think about this last year and members of our Safety Committee invited Trooper Jen Czarnecki into the schools to help us learn things like: where are our weak points? What can we do better with daily security? How can we improve our fire drill procedures? How about our cameras and procedures for visitor entry? Asking those questions led to work by Trooper Jen Czarnecki and our Assistant Principal Jason Halpainy, along with the rest of our Administrative team, in making improvements and to plans for next Friday’s emergency drills. We will conduct more than just our annual lock-down, take cover, and emergency go home early drills. We have a planned evacuation drill for Friday, a drill we haven’t conducted in many years. We also will have Trooper Jen Czarnecki, other members of the NYS Police, and the Director of the Cattaraugus County Emergency Services, Christopher Baker, assessing our procedures and conduct during the drills so that we can learn what we need to do better.

Considering the events of the last 24 hours in Connecticut will fill us with a renewed sense of urgency about what we can do better with our own emergency drills and everyday procedures. As one Randolph parent wrote to me in an email last night, “I wouldn’t mind being slightly inconvenienced to provide better safety for my children and the other students.” She’s 100% correct–we have to reevaluate our entry ways, our procedures for visitors and children pick-ups in light of keeping everyone safe. At the end of the day–we must know that safety and security comes first, that our adults know how to react in the face of a real emergency, and that our parents will support our efforts to improve–even if it means a few extra minutes when they come to pick up their children.

You also should know that I’ve had several meetings this year with Lt. Edward Kennedy and others from the NYS Police about how we can work together to improve safety at RCS. Lt. Kennedy has extended an invitation for greater involvement in our schools that we have embraced. When the trooper on patrol is in our area, he stops at the schools just to walk through—for the purposes of protecting our children and improving our systems. On Tuesday of this past week, Trooper Moran met with me to identify an area in our camera system that will lead to improved systems at RCS. He complimented us on being proactive with police involvement and on our willingness to welcome those more expert than us into our schools to show us how to improve.

I’m not sure what could have happened at Sandy Hook to prevent this tragedy. I’m sure the news media will be all over that with speculation, along with experts in law enforcement. If preparing for such a tragedy helps us to save one life—it is well worth all of our efforts and care. Please know that as the superintendent for Randolph Central, I will do everything within our power to protect our children, as will every adult within our school system.

As always, you may contact me at any time to discuss your concerns, your children, your ideas. Please carefully consider how you talk with your children about these events, paying attention to their ages and calmly showing them that all is still right in their world. Pay attention to the amount of exposure they have to the media coverage. We will have an extra level of visibility this week as an Admin and Counseling Team and we are here for anyone within our community who needs us. We need each other.

All the best,

Kimberly Moritz

Rooftop Stupidity

We have a new level of stupidity here at Randolph Central School and I’ve debated writing about it because I want it to STOP, not to gain any traction. For some bizarre reason, we have students who have decided that climbing up on our rooftops seems like a good idea. I’m writing this in the hope that every parent and every adult in our community will stress to our young people how seriously idiotic and dangerous this adolescent prank can be–and will call the police if they see it when we’re not here to notice. I’m honestly terrified that one of our beloved students is going to be hurt. Not only are there hazards on the rooftops but there’s the obvious danger of someone falling off of the roof.

What are we doing about it? In addition to monitoring, which seems honestly ridiculous to me—do we now have to pay supervisors to watch the roof during events??—we are making it very clear to everyone that this is trespassing and we will involve law enforcement, pressing charges, in addition to serious school consequences. While I hate for our students to get into that kind of trouble, I dread the possibilities of someone getting seriously hurt much more.

When your child asks to come to an event at school, PLEASE stress that your expectation is that he actually be at the event. As parents we need you to check up on your kid, know where he is, who he’s with and what he’s doing–that’s your job as a parent. And by the way, if we call you to tell you that your child did something like this, it’s also your job to give serious consequences at home. We have to work together on these issues. Consider that when your son or daughter asks to come to an event at school and then walks or grabs a ride–YOU are the only person who knows that’s where she’s supposed to be going. Monitor your kid’s whereabouts. It’s not about trusting your kid, it’s about making sure he makes good decisions at an age where that’s often a struggle for many of our children.

Does it sound like I’m lecturing you? I am. I’m worried about this behavior and terrified the stupidity is going to lead to someone getting hurt. Please help us on this one. Thank you.