You Can’t Always Get What You Want

When someone calls with a concern or praise or wants us to do something differently, we LISTEN intently. We most often have lots of discussion about that concern or request or problem. We investigate EVERY issue that comes before us carefully. We follow through.

If we don’t do exactly what you want us to do, it doesn’t mean we’re not listening. You can’t always get what you want. And you’re not always right. There’s always more to the story, another perspective, other people involved. Don’t rush so quickly to judgment. If you’re always angry at everyone around you, as my mother would say, you better look in the mirror.

And I’ll make you a deal. I’ll listen. I’ll realize I can’t always get what I want. I’m aware on a daily basis that I’m not always right. I’ll have room in my head for the ideas of others, not just my ideas. I’ll listen to all sides of the story. I’ll make the best decision I can, given the information I’ve gathered. I’ll research and evaluate and then decide.

If the decision isn’t what you wanted, it doesn’t mean I didn’t listen. It’s just that you’re not always right and your opinion isn’t the only one that matters.

School Calendar for 2010-11

Here’s something that comes up every year as a topic of discussion—the school calendar. As you probably know, it always comes down to the question of a two week break in April or a week in February and a week in April (better known as the split break). There are all kinds of arguments that people make in support of or against one or the other.

The most significant argument of late surrounds the concern over our grades 3-8 state testing which is scheduled for late April through May. Opponents to the two week break are concerned that it’s bad for our kids—two weeks away and then start the NYS testing cycle?

What’s my 2 cents? I hate to think that our students won’t do well on the NYS assessments because they’re away from us for two weeks. The last thing all this state testing should have resulted in was months of test prep, so I like to think that we’re preparing our students to do well throughout the school year, to be good thinkers and readers and writers, and that a week prior to the test of “test taking strategies” should suffice.

I also think the break in February is a needless break in learning. If I had my way, we’d take a week in April and end a week sooner in June but last I checked SED isn’t asking my opinion on the Regents testing schedule. Better yet, let’s go year round in four quarters with two weeks in between each quarter.

The BOE members here elected to keep the two weeks together for next year, but we’re keeping them near the beginning of the month to coincide with the week in April that the “split break” schools take. We need to do that because districts  aren’t independent entities on islands–we send students to other locations and to BOCES for programs and the more we can do the same with our schedules, the better for those Randolph students attending classes at other schools or BOCES.

We haven’t approved the final calendar yet, but we’re close. We also have to start the Friday before Labor Day with students again–whenever it falls a bit later in the month, that happens. It’s either that day for students or the day before Thanksgiving in order to get in all of our student days.

The only other change that I’ll write more about here in the future is in line with our vision of Learning with Passion, Innovation and Leadership. We want to focus more on our teachers as learners too and so are planning for collegial circles or learning clubs next year–where teachers will work in groups over the course of the school year to learn more about topics like project based learning, improving student writing, Thoughtful Classroom strategies, technology integration—topics that they will choose to study that align with our vision—and will allow them to learn and grow as educators.

Research has proven time and again that there is no more significant factor in your child’s success than the teacher in front of him or her in the classroom. Investing in our teachers, in their learning and further developing their expertise, is one of the best investments we can make.  Therefore, we’re planning for one Friday per month when students will be dismissed early so that we can work with our teachers as we focus on learning how to be the best educators we can be— as we learn with passion, innovation and leadership.

Smashed Yellow Suburban

Maybe you noticed our smashed yellow suburban in the parking lot last week? I didn’t blog about it because, well, I didn’t think it was newsworthy. I should have realized it would elicit a reaction and that anyone who saw it might wonder what happened. Randolph being Randolph, I assumed word would travel quickly in our community.

To set the record straight for anyone who didn’t hear the “whole” story, three of our Ag students traveled to Harrisburg with our FFA advisor, Pat Walker. While there, another driver ran a stop sign and despite the fact that Mrs. Walker was traveling slowly as she approached the other vehicle, she did hit them. The police were called and even by the other driver’s own admission, the other driver was completely at fault.

Mrs. Walker and our students were fine, the hotel shuttle picked them up and the Cornell FFA helped out by transporting the small group to the competitions and back in their DOT approved vehicle. Thanks Cornell FFA! And my condolences to Mrs. Walker for the amount of teasing and cajoling she will have to endure from her FFA kids the rest of the year. 😉

We sent another vehicle down for them on the flatbed that went to pick up the suburban–nice thinking Mr. Chambers. It’s important to note that Mrs. Walker is completely 19A certified as a bus driver and therefore has met all of the same requirements as our drivers to transport our students in what is our DOT inspected school vehicle.

I’m not keen on teachers transporting our students anywhere and am still evaluating Randolph’s current practice of requiring incidental teacher drivers to pass a physical and therefore transport students on occasion. I don’t like, never have, and we are reviewing this practice. Even though it’s legitimate in this manner, I’m not sure it’s always our smartest move. At any rate, Pat Walker is in a different league, driving with the same qualifications as our bus drivers.

We are grateful everyone was safe and that they returned home to us as scheduled. As far as getting the suburban fixed. . . that might take a week or two.

How’s Your School Year Going?

How’s your school year going?” I sure get that question a lot. Generally I think people just ask it to be polite. But it made me think about all of the things we’re working on and how appropriate an update might be about now. Most of this post will also be in the next school newsletter for everyone who doesn’t access information here on the blog.

We’ve experienced a smooth transition back to a grades PK-6 elementary school and a 7-12 high school.  Our new technology addition was open for classes on the first day of school and the renovations to the old technology wing are expected to be completed by mid-October. Soon you’ll notice our High School Main Office is located right next to the front entrance of our school, exactly where it makes the most sense.  Randolph’s youth wrestling team will surely enjoy the new wrestling room which will be ready for the new season for our RCS wrestlers.

Our elementary students and teachers can experiment, explore and imagine in our new Science lab while our occupational and physical therapy teachers work with their students in the multi-purpose room. Both new spaces afford opportunities to do things with our children that we didn’t have before the renovations.

As required by the State Education Department, we are beginning work on our facilities planning for the next five years. The mechanics bay in the bus garage and the playing fields for soccer and baseball will both be a focus for us. We are interviewing new architectural firms and exploring all of our options so that we can present our best solution to district voters sometime in the future.

Our Fall Sports Teams are tearing it up out there and we are happy to celebrate their successes! Teachers continue to work together to tackle new programs like Read 180, a grades 5-12 reading program that helps our students become better readers,  and RTI, response to intervention which compels us to try and document multiple methods with students prior to a referral to special education. Just as it should be, don’t you think?

Please rest assured that we are working together to pay attention to the frequent updates on the H1N1 virus. Everything we’ve heard to date continues to stress the importance of frequent hand washing, routine cleaning of our schools, and the need for students and employees to stay home from school when experiencing symptoms: fever of 100 or greater, cough, sore throat and possibly fatigue, muscle aches, congestion, and/or vomiting. It’s very important that parents have accurate and reliable emergency contact information on file here—if your child gets sick with these symptoms, we will need you to pick him or her up from school. Parents–please don’t expect the school to hire a bus driver to take your child home when sick, that’s your responsibility and we can’t continually expose our drivers OR send your child home on the buses where the virus can spread.  You must make arrangements with someone who can pick up your child when sick if you are unable to do so.

For the past several years the BOE has been planning for the addition of a superintendent of buildings, grounds and transportation. The civil service exam for that position is being offered on October 31, 2009 and we hope to have someone in place by the start of the new year. The additional management and leadership that we gain through this position will go a long way to helping the district make good decisions in these critical areas.

The Board of Education continues to plan with us for our future and we are participating in another BOE retreat in October, when we will talk about our collective vision for our district. Financially, the district is preparing for every contingency with the possible cuts to state aid or the stabilization funds. We know times are tough for many families right now and we will work hard to try to present another year with a 0% increase to the tax levy for our taxpayers.

A good start to what will hopefully be a great year!

Buffalo News Tackles HS Sports

Here’s a link to a story in the Buffalo News today by News sport columnist Bucky Gleason. Mr. Gleason takes a strong stance against the “boorish behavior of parents that’s infected youth sports”. Go check out the link and let me know if this kind of behavior affects us here in Randolph.

I’ve been an administrator who’s worked with parents and coaches to problem solve sports issues and I’m also the parent of a high school athlete. I’ve never been a coach so I’ve no idea what it’s like to walk in those sneakers. But in my experience, nothing makes parents hotter than what happens with their kids on our athletic fields and in our gyms.

I wonder if former football coach Dan Elvin has it right when he’s quoted in this article saying,

“What I think is happening is that parents spend so much time outside the home that this is their way of showing love for the kid,” Elvin said. “We want to boost their self-esteem. Instead of them earning self-esteem, we give it to them. We say, “Honey, you’re a good player. You should be playing. It’s unfair. Go talk to the coach.”

I’ve been lucky enough to have great coaches for my kids in several different sports. Have I always been happy with every decision that they’ve made? Of course not. The coach is looking at all 10-40 kids on the team and I’m just watching mine. The only time I complained to the coaches (AFTER the game, in private) was over a problem with an official when I felt the coaches should have advocated for my kid. We talked about it, I felt listened to and understood AND I better understood their point of view.

That’s the thing too, there are always two sides to every story. I remember a mother who was upset that her senior son didn’t get to play. When I talked to the coach, he told me all the ways he’d tried to use the kid and said “you know, if I keep putting him in despite his shortcomings, it’s not fair to the other kids who actually want to win.” I’d never thought about it like that before.

And what about the fact that it’s actually good for kids to try lots of different things in school, learning the hard fact that they’re going to be good at some things but not so good at other things? Thank goodness I learned very early on that I couldn’t carry a tune so that I could give up my hopes of joining a rock band–and not making the basketball team as a 5’11” girl? That was tough to swallow in seventh grade, but it also let me join other organizations and clubs where I honed leadership skills that I still use today.

I keep thinking of what my mom  said if I complained that I didn’t get my fair share of something, “Life’s not fair, get used to it.”

August Flying By

Here it is only two weeks from the start of school and I’ve not written this month at all. So what’s been happening here at RCS?

Our staff has been working diligently to prepare for the start of school. We concluded the August regents last week and a couple of days of training for our administrative team on leadership with Thoughtful Classroom. Contract negotiations and the preparation involved consume a lot of time and wrapping up the current building project is a huge priority. Our teachers have been involved in all sorts of staff development, collaboration, and committee work.

Our custodial and cleaning staff do a remarkable job during the summer. The preparation never ends for the clerical support staff and technology staff. They are truly the glue that brings us together for that September 1 start date. Our faculty returns September 1 for three days of staff development and our students return on September 4 for the start of the 2009-10 school year!

I’m always excited in August, a fresh start is so appealing. Everyone gets the opportunity to begin again, learning from our mistakes and trying hard to continue to learn and grow.

Personally, I’m anxious to mark my first beginning as the RCS superintendent. This is my 21st “FIRST DAY of SCHOOL” as an educator but my 1st as superintendent. I’m hoping we have an excellent year, focused on learning for everyone–students and adults alike. I’m sure we’ll have our challenges, but I’m also sure we’ll tackle them together, as a team.

RCS Weight Room

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

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

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

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

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