How Are We Going to Do this Work?

As I said in yesterday’s blog post, we are conducting a time study of our administrative staff to determine our own efficiency and effectiveness, as well as to analyze how and when we will be able to implement the changes in teacher evaluation and testing as mandated by the New York State Education Department. In this post, I’ll  examine the increases in time required of building level administrators just to implement the new evaluation system, not including the increased time they’ll need for testing and data analysis.

Consider this.

Currently our three building level administrators,  elementary principal Jerry Mottern, high school principal Dave Davison, and special education director of pupil services Mary Rockey, supervise and evaluate 92 teachers and professional staff (guidance counselors, psychologist, OT, PT, Speech, etc.). In our current system, all 16 of our non-tenured teachers are evaluated three times annually. Our 76 tenured teachers are evaluated once annually. Each evaluation takes the administrator about 110 minutes at a minimum. That’s 110 minutes times 76 tenured teachers plus 330 minutes times 16 non-tenured teachers. Under our current evaluation system that results in 13,640 minutes or 227.33 hours. Remember that this doesn’t include the time I spend visiting every classroom or the APPR meetings held with every teacher at the end of the school year or the informal visits to the classrooms by principals and Mary.

For Dave Davison, this means 92 hours spent evaluating teachers; for Jerry Mottern 88 hours spent evaluating teachers; and for Mary Rockey 48 hours spent evaluating teachers UNDER OUR CURRENT SYSTEM.

With the changes mandated by NYSED for evaluating teachers next year, here’s what it will look like in 2012-13. Those same 16 non-tenured teachers will still be evaluated three times annually and the 76 tenured teachers will be evaluated a minimum of twice annually (for this conversation, we’re not even going to consider the time spent with teachers who perform at an ineffective or developing range and have to go on a Teacher Improvement Plan).  Under the new evaluation system, we estimate that each evaluation will take a minimum of 240 minutes. The 240 minutes includes  the required pre-observation meeting, the evaluation, time to write up the evaluation, and the post evaluation conversation. That’s 480 minutes times 76 tenured teachers plus 720  minutes times 16 non-tenured teachers. Under the new evaluation system that results in 48,000 minutes or 800 hours.

You’re probably thinking by now, well how many hours does a principal work? Consider that while they do work year round, they have a maximum of 181 days to observe teachers. Within the school year, there are 6 hours and 40 minutes of  teaching time per day or 72,400 minutes per year; 1206.67 hours. Of the 1207 hours that our principals and special ed director are working with teachers and students, at least 800 of them will be needed for evaluation: 328 hours (27%) for high school; 324  hours (27%) for elementary school; and 148 hours (12%) for special education. As compared to the 8% of time at the HS now on evaluation, 7% ES, or 4% special education. Consider the change alone—what a huge increase! For Dave Davison, that’s a 237.5% increase in time spent on evaluations; for Jerry Mottern, a 285.7% increase; and for Mary Rockey a 200% increase.

If  NYSED is now requiring that roughly 25% of our administrators’ time be spent in formal evaluations, and that’s the minimum required, I wonder how they will get it all done well. I’ve been a building principal and there are management duties that simply must take place. Some can be extremely time consuming and some will have to take precedence over those observations: talking to and meeting with parents; listening to students and solving problems; listening to our teachers; discipline (we have a Dean of Students, but he doesn’t do all discipline);  evaluating support staff, teaching aides, cleaning and custodial staff; solving bus and personnel and scheduling problems; completing endless paperwork for SED and the Business Office; budgeting; supervising the athletic program at the HS level; running or attending meetings for CSE, CST, department leader, content area or grade level, faculty, admin team, etc.; state and interim testing supervision; planning and most important program implementation and follow through, something that often gets short shrift and is vital to our improvement.

That may seem very reasonable as an expectation for a building level administrator. You may be asking “why can’t they accomplish all of that in their work day? They’re well paid and should be able to do whatever is  expected”. My answer? They will get it all done, but to what degree of excellence with that increase to work load?  We’re not aiming for the status quo and nothing more. I want us to do all of it really well, significantly impacting what’s happening in our classrooms toward school improvement at the same time that we’re still doing a good job of managing our buildings. If you’ve never been a building principal, don’t judge this–you’ve honestly no idea what they do all day. You’re simply not qualified to judge. Neither was I until I did it.  It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done in regard to time consuming, mentally exhausting, non-stop action and demands on my time and energy.

Those are the numbers behind our discussions about how we do business, about how we’re configured currently as an admin team. That’s why we’re examining all of our roles and responsibilities to determine our best course of action moving forward. We’ll consider this and more as we continue to discuss all of the options with the BOE. We are NOT considering adding another administrator to do the work. Instead we’re looking at what we all do now, how we pay BOCES for a three day per week curriculum coordinator who cannot evaluate teachers and a Teacher on Special Assignment for discipline who cannot evaluate teachers, and analyzing if there are things we could change and do better.

I’m not sure what our end result will be. We may continue as we are. I’m certain that I’ll be picking up a portion of the evaluations and I’m not yet sure how that will affect the mandated appeal process for teachers. I’m sure we have a hard working administrative team who wants to do it well. Beyond what SED has required that results in unfunded mandates and increases to our expenses (like staff development in the new evaluation system and purchase of the locally selected assessments), we will not do it on the backs of our taxpayers.

You’re always welcome to join us at the BOE meetings for the discussion or to call, drop me an email, invite me to come to you to talk about the issues, or stop by to see me. We’ll figure it out, it’s just going to take a bit of collaboration, analysis and careful thought.

Fair Hiring Practices

Do you know why the hiring process is a confidential one? Because every applicant has the right to privacy throughout the interview process. Participants on an interview committee are instructed about the confidentiality of the process and expected to adhere to it, no matter who it is who’s asking. Each applicant deserves that privacy either because of it’s impact on their current employment or because of their personal reputation and because of the law that guides hiring practices.

In a small district like ours, there are situations that arise in which people think they absolutely have the right to know about a decision that’s been made. In some cases, like student discipline, it is actually illegal for me to discuss someone else’s child with you. When a parent demands to know what happened to the “other kid”, it can be frustrating when our response is, “we followed through and followed the code of conduct.” We literally cannot tell you the detail of that other child’s discipline. Makes sense, right? You don’t want us talking to other parents about your child either.

In hiring a new employee, we hire the very best candidate for the job, based on the performance of each candidate in the interview process and the reference checks. I may like a candidate very much, may have had her as a student while I was a teacher or a principal, may very much want the candidate to succeed BUT that doesn’t mean it gives the candidate an edge. All that gets someone is a first interview–a “TBI” mark on the applicant’s file. “TBI–to be interviewed”,  means that for some reason, either the applicant lives in the district or has been given a strong recommendation from another district or has substitute taught successfully for us in the past, I am flagging this person so he or she gets a first interview.

After that, each candidate chosen has an initial interview in which he or she is asked questions by a committee that includes the principal, curriculum coordinator, and teacher leader. This initial interview can be any number of qualified applicants and is often 20-30 people.  Of those, the strongest candidates are invited back to teach a lesson to our students in one of our classrooms. This is the critical piece of the puzzle–the one in which we analyze how the applicant interacts with students, how well she knows the curriculum, what he chooses to use for instructional strategies. How well did you plan? Are you flexible, can you adapt to whatever the students throw at you? And how much effort did you put into the lesson? Are you pulling out all of the stops, bringing us your A game? Because after all, this is a lesson to beat all lessons if you want to be considered for the final interview with me, a BOE member and the principal. I ask the committee to send us two strong candidates, either of whom they would be comfortable. At that interview we ask tough questions. We want to see how candidates handle the pressure, if they can hold onto an idea mentally, do they show passion and enthusiasm and optimism?

We make the best decision we can. At that point, I don’t care where you live, who your parents are, or how well liked you may be in the community. Those are all nice features, but those are not what seal the deal and get you the job. It’s not an easy decision and it’s not an easy phone call when I let the #2 candidate know afterward that he hasn’t gotten the job. It’s just the way the process works and we do the best that we can to make good decisions.

It’s hard on the teachers who participate on the committee, hard to stand up to the criticism if a local favorite isn’t hired, hard to be courageous and stand behind our process. And remember that it’s a confidential process so as much as you may think you have a right to know everything, it’s just like that discipline example–you don’t. At the end of the day, we want to be the very best district that we can be with the most talented, engaging, innovative, passionate and smart teachers we can find. In the hiring process, someone gets the job and someone else doesn’t.

Public Ranking of our Teachers

I get the public accountability piece of education, I truly do. We are accountable in a myriad of ways from our requirements through the Freedom of Information Law, the public reporting and necessary voter approval of our budget, our FOUR different required auditors we work with, See Through New York and their reporting of employees and their salaries, PLUS the every day accountability of 1000+ students and parents who talk about what’s happened in school. I support all of that, we have nothing to hide, we are a public institution.

I’m supportive of our new requirements for a better teacher evaluation system and a  deeper analysis of and accountability for student assessment data. I believe that data inquiry teams are a long time coming and as I’ve said over and over again, we are better together than we are apart—teachers working together to learn from each other and improve instruction for every student is the key to our future success.

What I can’t support is vilifying our entire profession. Even with  all of the changes we are implementing and all of our obvious accountability measures—somehow the public perception of teachers and public education as a whole is fraught with negative, mean spirited, ill intended criticism. Every time an article about education is printed in a newspaper, I prepare to read the ANONYMOUS comments left by our citizenry. Self appointed experts who know everything there is to know and are happy to tell you what’s wrong with what you’re doing without even owning their statements.

So now we’re going to publicize our teachers composite scores? How each classroom of kids performs every year? And by the way, that’s not even right for our kids–in a small school such as ours it doesn’t take long to figure out who those kids are or from what families. That’s just what we need– a community pointing it’s fingers at each other because we’re not doing better based on “your kids”.

Should we analyze that information and evaluate it? YES. Should we do our jobs as administrators and hold low performing teachers accountable? ABSOLUTELY. Should the public be entitled to what is otherwise known as a confidential personnel matter? NO.

Read Diane Ravitch’s post on this topic, “Why Naming Names is Wrong”. She’s much more eloquent than I am and makes the point perfectly. Here’s a portion of what Diane writes,

I recently had an email exchange with Thomas Kane, the Harvard economist who advises the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on these issues, and he told me he opposes the public release of names linked to evaluations. I asked if I might quote him, and he authorized me to say exactly what he told me. He wrote:

“My reason for opposing public release of teacher-level value-added data is to preserve some minimal level of privacy in the supervisor-employee relationship, to maintain some space for teachers to brainstorm with their peers and their supervisors about ways to improve. I’m sure many Americans would not want their performance appraisals published in the newspapers or to have their supervisors write a letter to the editor about their latest annual review. Without some privacy, people will not have the ‘space’ to have an honest conversation about strengths and weaknesses, areas where they are working to improve. I treat the feedback I get from peer reviewers (on journal articles, for instance) and from employees (in the form of confidential employee surveys) very seriously, and use them as a chance to improve. I’m not sure I could do that if they were published in the newspaper. I’m also not sure referees, supervisors, and employees would be as honest if they knew their comments would be made public.”

We need our teachers working together to solve educational problems with our neediest children, without competition and fear of condemnation.



Commissioner’s Advisory Council

Last week I traveled to Albany as a Cattaraugus County alternate to the NYSCOSS Commissioner’s Advisory Council. What does that mean? On Friday a small group of 20-25 school superintendents from across the State had the opportunity to talk with State Education Officials including Commissioner David Steiner, Deputy Commissioner John King, Ken Slentz, Chuck Szuberla, and David Abrams. For three hours we asked questions and heard answers from the top SED leaders. And I definitely had the sense that they were listening to us as well. It was an extremely rewarding two days for me. In my mind good information is paramount to making the best decisions for the district so every minute was worthwhile.

If you haven’t been paying attention to all of the changes headed our way in regard to teacher and principal evaluation through the APPR process, and you’re a NYS educator, then I suggest you start now. During these two days, we talked about everything from the accountability pieces to state and locally selected assessments to scoring bands to training and capacity.

I’ve written on this blog previously about my own opinions on the general quality of our evaluation system in public education. I’m cautiously optimistic that we will end with a much better system upon the full implementation of the regulations. Principals often write “love letters” to their teachers in the knowledge that the one pre-scheduled visit to the classroom can’t possibly do much to influence what’s happening in the room and because they’ve had little to no training in how to give meaningful feedback. What will come between now and our new SED proposed evaluation system will require a huge cultural shift. Educators are neither accustomed to being evaluated in a meaningful feedback system nor are the principals adequately trained in how to have those conversations. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we have extremely hard working and dedicated administrators in every district in which I’ve worked, but this is not a piece of the work we’ve historically done well enough.

The success of this new evaluation system hinges on the depth of training for principals and the ongoing support as they learn to communicate both expectations and feedback about good instruction to our teachers. Teachers who have been left to figure it out on their own and have seldom been critiqued or offered much feedback in the past may find it difficult to take any kind of constructive feedback. And why wouldn’t they? It’s a huge change in many places and it feels very personal.

When you consider that some principals may never have been good teachers and may have no idea how to really talk about solid instruction with credibility and solid ideas about strategies and content, we’ve got quite a row to hoe. Couple all of that with the fact that the expectations and criteria for being an effective principal may be changing dramatically in some districts–to mid or end career administrators–and the work before us is immense. Most principals are effective building managers, taking care of the 1000+ details that managing a building requires, with little time left for our most fundamental reason for existing—quality instruction. This is through no fault of the principal, I’ve done that job and can tell you first hand that on most days it’s emotionally draining and exhausting, especially if the principal is responsible for all of the discipline. It was certainly my intention on every day to be the instructional leader but on many days it was veritably impossible.

This is the most vital change we can make toward long term school improvement.  As Commissioner Steiner said on Friday and on which I wholeheartedly agree, “The two most important points in all of this are what you teach and how effectively you teach it.”

We can figure out the rest together but it’s truly going to take ongoing training, relationship building, trust and hard work, resources and expertise building. I absolutely believe the only way to make it work is to set clear expectations based on solid research, communicate effectively and learn together. It’s the right thing to do.

Education and Evaluation

Here’s my opinion, for what it’s worth. We truly do NOT dedicate enough time, energy and resources to good evaluation in education. Unlike many other businesses and institutions who devote serious time, money and attention to performance evaluations, we fall short. We just do. We always have. I’ve said countless times that tenure isn’t the reason we keep bad teachers around for years, a failure to do the hard work of evaluation and documentation by administrators is the reason.

This post isn’t going to be about the WHY of this problem. As a school administrator of eleven years, I’m pointing the finger at myself as much as anyone else. Especially as a building principal, there are 100+ reasons/other responsibilities to explain why good performance evaluation gets short shrift. Let’s suffice it to say there’s a general lack of training, time, attention, experience, resources,  and priority. Managing the needs of 600 children and adults in one building + the parents and community members and their questions/concerns=more than a full time job with problems pulling at the principal from every direction.

So here’s where this subject hit me like a ton of bricks today.

We have new regulations coming from the New York State Education Department for principal and teacher evaluation–the draft regulations are out this week and so, as a school superintendent, I’ve been studying the regs, taking notes, forming questions. They’re pretty daunting at first glance. Not insurmountable, of course, but let’s just say, there’s a lot to it. Just the regs for the district plan and the requirements for the training course are a lot to take in, not to mention the timeline. A district plan has to be adopted by September 10, 2011.

So I took a break from studying the new regs to read the news in my Google Reader. My college roommate, Lisa, is an HR Leader who works for a VA Hospital in Minnesota and she writes about leadership, growth and human resources over at Simply Lisa. She’s one of the few resources that I read regularly who isn’t in the field of education. Here’s what her post contained today that struck me:

Minding the details is what I’ll be doing this week as I:

  • Prepare for midterm reviews with my staff,
  • Offer advice on the Intuit Small Business Blog,
  • Welcome an HR Consultative Review team for a 3 day review,
  • Talk with supervisors and about performance management, and
  • Noodle employee relations, administrative investigations, objectivity and HR influence.

It’s not flashy, it’s not sexy, and it’s not Oscar worthy . . . but it is necessary.

Those are all responsibilities designed to give people feedback and training and skills in employee relations. When do we do that in education? At my bi-monthly admin meetings when we talk about how many evals the principals have completed or how our new faculty are doing OR at the four new teacher mentoring sessions we hold per year? We all take a little piece of the HR puzzle and no one person is dedicated to getting this crucial job done right–yet it’s the chance we have to really influence the central purpose of our existence.

We’re where we are in education–with pressures from EVERYWHERE from the federal government with RTTT requirements tied to all of that money, to the state with implementing the requirements, to competition from alternative ways of learning to our public school system, to scrutiny in the press about our results, to parent complaints–because we’ve historically paid too little attention to the performance of our teachers and administrators. The very core of what we do in this little institution with 200+ employees and 1000+ students. We haven’t dedicated enough human or capital resources to all of the responsibilities that Lisa’s HR department (a whole department!) manages every day. Instead, we have ONE building administrator in each of two buildings who’s on his or her own to get the job done. And training in how to do that well, or support then feedback–HA! Where has that been? It’s sporadic in the best of circumstances.

I’m embracing the new regs. As cloudy as they seem right now, we’ve simply got to get better at this evaluation piece. And that’s going to take some serious work and resources. Even for those of us who are already doing this work fairly well, who have the critical conversations with employees and recognize those who are doing excellent work, who see this as the most important feedback we can give—much more training and development of a fair and meaningful system has to happen. Let’s get to it. Those draft regs at least draw attention to the entire evaluation system–something which will help us improve, if we can figure out how to do it well.

Stopping the Onslaught

I lost my balance. As a leader. The past few weeks, since I returned from Albany where we met as superintendents from across NYS, I have not been myself. With one meeting/email/news article right after the next that’s focused on the new governor’s budget, the cuts to education funding, the projected dismal future for education funding, and the inequity across the districts—-I’m bombarded with it all. And I began to think of little else.

That’s not so good. As the leader of a public school system, we handle a multitude of diverse issues every day. I may be talking to the Head Custodian about our cleaning procedures one minute, to a teacher about a class project the next and to the business official about the budget presentation the next. That diversity of thought and problem solving requires that I approach each with a “fresh screen” ready to give it my full attention. Careful listening, clarity of thought and decisiveness are fundamental requirements of the job.

Instead I’ve found myself reacting more strongly to different problems than I normally would–this hasn’t done anyone any good.

I’ve been a bit crippled by fear these last few weeks. What am I afraid of? That I’m missing something. Despite the 9000 times we’ve gone over our entire financial picture and our budget projections (it’s budget season here, if you haven’t guessed) and evaluated every program and expenditure, I’m still second guessing our planning. We are planning not just next year but several years out. Randolph is in solid financial health and I take it as ultimately my responsibility to make sure we stay there.

I’m done obsessing and worrying. We’ve done a solid job of preparing the budget and there is the rest of the organization to attend to. I’ve let the  noise of the media and the doom and gloom leaders suck me in. That’s not what solid leadership is about, is it? It’s definitely about listening, careful consideration and decisiveness. And that needs to be applied to filtering the incoming noise of panic from outside of our doors too. I know it’s bad and that the State needs to balance it’s budget. I know that education is a significant portion of that budget. I know that there are numerous political games being played. I know I’ve done my due diligence in lobbying in Albany and meeting with faculty and staff about the state of the State. I know local and state activism is a part of our responsibility. But it’s a part, not all and I won’t be stopped in my tracks by it. We’ve got too much good going on at RCS in the way of learning with passion, innovation and leadership to miss.

Just Ask, Please!

Something wonderful happened today! It may seem like nothing unusual to you, it may seem like common sense, you may even think it happens all of the time. I can assure you it does not.

Someone in our community heard something that worried him and it ran contrary to what he knew directly from us. Instead of getting upset about it, or repeating what he’d heard, or calling our BOE members, this gentleman contacted me.

Why is this extraordinary? Because it seldom happens. I know I hold the responsibility for communicating what we’re doing to our community, along with our administrative team, faculty and staff. I’ve learned that we have to repeat the message in lots of different ways: in face to face conversations, in the newsletter, on this blog, on our FB Page, linked on the website, letters to parents, and at meetings.

Sometimes, as in this case, an employee or student hears a bit of a conversation or the germ of an idea and then repeats it with additional information added in. Remember that old telephone game from elementary school? The one in which someone tells a message to the first person in class and it’s quietly whispered in the ear of every kid in the class until the last person says what he’s heard? The final message is always drastically different from the original.

So the very best thing happened today. This community member went right to the source and asked me if what he’d heard was true. There was a spark of accuracy in what he’d heard, coupled with a whole flame of inaccuracies.

If you hear something that doesn’t sit well with you or runs contrary to what you’ve thought before or just leads to a question, give us a call. We’ll do the best we can to listen and answer all of your questions, to give you good information and to help you to be well informed. We’re a public institution, it’s our responsibility to be transparent and share information. Please ask us!

What Administrators Need from Teachers

I was asked to participate in a series of blog posts over at Dangerously Irrelevant. Scott McLeod first asked teachers to write about “What Teachers Need from Administrators” and then I was included as part of the subsequent posts on “What Administrators Need from Teachers”.

It occurs to me that I submitted that post for a national audience without sharing it here, on this blog, for our own teachers. So here it is. Would love to hear what you think!

Technical Sergeant Bradley Walters Writes Home

I received an email last week from 1997 RCS graduate Bradley E. Walters. Mr. Walters is now Technical Sergeant Bradley E. Walters and he’s stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan with the United States Air Force.

Why did he write to the RCS school superintendent, someone he’s never met? In Bradley’s words,

I’m motivated to help the children and people of Afghanistan get clothing and school supplies. I recommend that you read the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. This book explains, in my opinion, the way to really make an impact on this country; that is, through education. If these children are lucky enough to go to school, they usually are sitting on the ground with virtually no school supplies. These kids desperately need flash cards and books to start learning English. Books at the elementary level are what are really needed.

Randolph has a history of being #1, so hopefully RCS can come through and give these children over here some school supplies and clothes to wear. We will take pictures delivering the donations provided and I will ensure that Randolph sees them.

I have made a personal decision to dedicate my deployment to helping the Afghan people through charitable outreach.  I believe we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the Afghan people. That’s why I have joined Operation Outreach Afghanistan (OO-AFG).  OO-AFG is a Soldier led volunteer organization at a base located in Kabul, Afghanistan.  OO-AFG was founded more than four years ago by a former Soldier serving in AFG.  It has a mission of empowering the Afghan people through humanitarian assistance and medical mentorship.

We would appreciate your support of OO-AFG by donating a gift to the people of Afghanistan.  OO-AFG needs material items like shoes (Ages 0-20); school supplies/book bags, English spelling and grammar books, numbers and spelling flash cards, fleece blankets, first aid kits.  You can ship your gifts to me at Bradley E. Walters, 855 AES, Camp Phoenix, APO, AE 09320.

Let me thank you in advance for your generous support and gifts.  Your contributions will enable us to show the Afghan people the love and compassion that America is known for around the world.  Together we can heal the hearts and minds of the Afghan people!

Please know that as a public school system, we cannot donate items to this effort. However, as individuals we can do much to support Bradley’s efforts. Randolph, I know many of you will have your wheels turning when you read this about what we can do to help. . . please post your ideas and your plans here so that others can contribute to your efforts. For example, I know that our elementary teachers, Mrs. Beaver and Mrs. Kobinski, are collecting books and clothing that they can send. Casual Friday contributions in the future can be used to help pay the costs of shipping the items over—but more help will be needed to pay for this.

Please post here if you’d like to help or contact Mrs. Kobinski or Mrs. Beaver in the elementary and Ms. Carnahan or Ms. Albano in the high schools. Or me!

Admin PLC

You may or may not realize that school administrators and many support staff work during the school breaks. What do we do without students or teachers around? For me, it’s time to catch up on big projects and most important, concentrate on my own learning. I had several projects I wanted to complete this week. I’m taking vacation days and spending time with my family next week. 🙂 I did the requisite paperwork, analyzed and updated several contracts, worked with the admin team two days, and then got down to the business of reading and learning. What’s influencing my thinking this week? Primarily three sources. We read District Leadership That Works by Robert J. Marzano and Timothy Waters and our curriculum coordinator, Tiffany Giannicchi, turned me on to the National Staff Development Council and their resources. As an admin team we worked with our school attorney, Jeff Swiatek, on learning the legalities and best practices in evaluating teachers and particularly, providing them with feedback if help is needed. I’m not sure we ever do that really well, either if the teacher is delivering stellar instruction and has remarkable student achievement or if the teacher is struggling. Our admin team has formed our own Professional Learning Community (PLC) in the same manner that we will ask our teachers to do so for the 2010-2011 school year.  We first sat and thought about what we would most like to learn about, study, improve upon as we work together next year and then we shared. Each of us had the same thought. During my “think” time and before our “share” time, I wrote in my learning journal:

What do I most need our administrators, including me, to do really well? Enhance how we give feedback to teachers and better communicate that student learning is more important than anything else people get hung up on.

I was impressed and pleased when we shared our thoughts (I went last) and found that each of our administrators said that they’d like to learn to give better, more meaningful feedback to our teachers and staff. This concept went hand in hand with what I learned in reading Marzano’s District Leadership That Works when he writes about the articles of Karl Weick,

Relative to the characteristic of interdependent components, he noted that districts and schools are “joined more loosely than is true for other organizations” (p. 673). To illustrate, in tightly coupled systems, a poorly performing individual attracts attention. In response, performance of the individual is brought up to an acceptable level or the individual is replaced since his or her behavior is jeopardizing the effectiveness of the entire system.

As building administrators (and I know because I was one for several years), we end up managing the building, solving problems, taking care of discipline. We get in to see our teachers when we can and we’re sometimes distracted by student behavior when we are in the classrooms. We have to find ways to do this better, to pay more attention, to make this a priority. We know it and we’re setting forth together to learn how to do it well. And you know what, the majority of our teachers and staff are quietly doing a phenomenal job each and every day–it’s only going to enhance motivation and commitment for them when we say, “we see you and we appreciate what you do for our kids every day.” Just one more way we can work together to enhance learning opportunities for our kids, working to make an RCS education the best it can be for every student. Leading to every child learning with passion, innovation and leadership.