Springville Elementary School, Capital Project Needs

This is the fifth in a series of posts about the capital project needs of the Springville school district. In this series, I am describing the proposed scope of work in each of our buildings. Today we focus on one of our elementary schools, Springville Elementary School.

The most pressing need in our district currently exists at SES and it was not in the December 2015 proposed project. The 1998 portion of our roof at SES is failing. We have brought in the architect, construction management firm, and roofing experts and all have said they have not previously seen a rooftop fail like this one. And of course, it is out of the warranty period. If we do not pass this project, we will have to find a way to pay for the repairs to this roof which total $968,000 from our local budget. That’s not a ploy to get this project passed, it’s simply the reality of a problem that we face. In the meantime, we are taking care of the rooftop with a stop gap measure and hoping for a mild winter in the 2016-17 school year.

This proposed scope also includes new items as follows: replace/enlarge unit ventilator louvers at south wing classrooms including abatement to new code requirements ($71,000) and replace piping in the south wing/modify pumps due to new code requirements ($56,000). Replacing pavement, curbing and sidewalks is again urgently needed for this school and is the most significant expense.

Removed from the December 2015 proposed project scope is the relocation of the main office area closer to the front entrance to increase security and relocate existing adjacent offices and Nurse’s office ($825,000). If you’ve been following along with this entire series of posts, you can see by now that I’m recommending the removal of all of these office relocations for security purposes. It is my opinion that the moves are hugely expensive, require building new offices when those that we have are adequate, and give us a false sense of security. There is no fail safe security measure—the best security measures we can possibly implement are those that require frequent drills so that everyone in the system knows the best way to behave in an emergency, how to think on their feet and how to follow the protocols put into place by building and district safety plans.

Also removed from the scope is the installation of new carbon dioxide detection systems ($25,000)—we did this in house in our buildings—and the replacement of the exterior wall located at the overhang. That work has to be done under an immediate emergency project and I expect the work to be completed soon.

The total bond estimate of work to be completed at Springville Elementary is $6,527,000.

We will be reviewing the proposed project in detail at our July 5 meeting, for the BOE’s consideration. Please contact me with any questions, concerns or feedback. Thank you.

Next Up in Our Capital Project Series, Colden Elementary

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the capital project needs of the Springville school district. In this series, I am describing the proposed scope of work in each of our buildings. Today we focus on one of our elementary schools, Colden Elementary School.

Before continuing let me first address something that’s come up from many sources, in many different ways since my arrival in March 2016. I recognize that our enrollment has been declining and we cannot continue to think of ourselves as a 2200 student district when we are in fact an 1800-1900 student district. We will likely face many difficult decisions in the following years as we consider if we should continue to operate all of our current school buildings and if we should continue to employ at our current staffing levels. The BOE will be charged with having those difficult discussions and I will do my very best to make sure that they have solid, factual information before them. We will be transparent, invite the public in for those difficult conversations and move forward with the best interest of ALL of our students and families in mind. It won’t be easy and I have no idea what the outcome will be, but I believe we need to stop taking sides on the subject and instead evaluate all of the information possible. We don’t even know yet if it will in fact save the district money as so many outside of Colden believe—or that it’s a better option than SES for our SGI children living in Colden as so many inside Colden believe–let’s figure the answers to those questions out and then have the discussion.

Having said that, we cannot afford to stop taking care of our buildings as we tackle these difficult decisions. The work that I am proposing be done in all of our buildings needs to be done to take care of what we have, for now and for any future proposed use.

The total bond estimate of work to be completed at Colden Elementary is $1,552,000. The proposed scope of work includes replacing pavement and miscellaneous sidewalks, re-roofing the original schoolhouse, replacing a kitchen exhaust hood that currently does not meet code, installing air conditioning in data closets, and replacing a hardwired Fire Alarm system with a new addressable Fire Alarm system.

A significant need that must be taken care of is the replacement of all carpeting with new vinyl flooring in the entire building including the main office area at a cost of $473,000. We have conducted two thorough air quality studies in Colden due to health concerns and complaints. While both studies, from two independent companies revealed that the air quality at CES is acceptable and is not a risk to our staff and students—we cannot ignore that this old carpeting may be contributing to the complaints.

Removed from the scope of the December 2015 proposed project at Colden includes installing new carbon dioxide detection system ($19,000), installing a new secured Vestibule to increase security to allow direct entry into Main Office Area ($120,000) and installing ventilation at kitchen, offices, special education area and miscellaneous areas ($139,000).

We will be reviewing the proposed project in detail at our July 5 meeting, for the BOE’s consideration. Please contact me with any questions, concerns or feedback. Thank you.

Proposed Capital Project, Scope of Work for SMS

This is the third in a series of posts about the capital project needs of the Springville school district. In this series, I am describing the proposed scope of work in each of our buildings. Today we focus on our Middle School.

There are far fewer changes to the scope of work at the Springville Middle School than those described in yesterday’s post about the High School. On Tuesday, July 5 at the reorganizational meeting of the Board of Education, I will present the results of the work done with our architects, our construction management firm, SGI staff and a facilities committee including members of our community.

The BOE will consider a proposed project that includes the removal of the following SMS items from the December 2015 project that was put before the taxpayers.

  1. Install new carbon dioxide detection system. ($38,000)
  2. Relocate Main Office area closer to the front entrance to increase security and relocate existing Science classroom. ($600,000)

The only addition to the scope of work planned for SMS, our newest district building, is to replace (4) standard drinking fountains with new ADA drinking fountains at a bond estimate cost of $28,000.

Community members may recall that the most significant work at SMS includes replacing pavement, sidewalks, curbing—which we sorely need. Our buildings and grounds department has done an excellent job of patching and making due, but our pavement, sidewalks and curbing are in dire need of replacement. Also significant are the replacement of the entire roof including roof drains and replacing (14) roof top Multizone heating and ventilation units. It was thought in the last project that we could make due with repair of these units in preparation for a capital project down the line but our new projected construction date will indicate these units are at the end of their useful life and replacement cannot be put off for a future phase of construction.

The total bond estimate of work to be completed at SMS is $9,517,000. Again I will be reviewing the proposed project in detail at our July 5 meeting, for the BOE’s consideration. Please contact me with any questions, concerns or feedback. Thank you.

Springville High School, Proposal for the BOE’s Consideration

This is the second in a series of posts about the capital project needs of the Springville school district. I will be describing the proposed scope of work in each of our buildings, today is focused on the High School.

The big question first, what was removed from the scope of work proposed to the voters in December 2015 for SHS?

1. Install new Addition which includes a new gymnasium, bleachers, Boy’s and Girl’s locker rooms, Fitness room, public toilet rooms, renovations of existing shop area to allow access to the new addition and renovate existing Fitness room into new Ag. Shop classroom. New indoor track located at ground level around Basketball court. ($11,000,000)

2. Renovate existing Gymnasium for new Media Center. ($1,700,000)

3. Renovate existing Media Center for new Board room and Multi-purpose room. ($750,000)

4. Upgrade electrical service (required for new gym addition OR Air conditioning of all classrooms) ($340,000)

5. Install new carbon dioxide detection system. ($32,000)

6. Install backflow preventor at Ice machine. ($2,000)

7. Install vacuum breaker at 2 mop sinks. ($2,000)

8. Install trap wrapping at all ADA sinks. ($2,000)

9. Replace Athletic field lighting system. ($630,000)

The remainder of the scope is much the same as it was in December 2015, with a few additions bringing the total proposed bond estimate to $8,631,000 for SHS.

Bond estimates include the cost of the work and the incidental (soft) costs–architect, construction management, legal and financial consultant fees, furniture, fixture, equipment and site costs. The bond estimate also includes contingent fees to cover the possibility that costs may go up by the time we go to bid. Whatever amount is approved by the public for this project is the maximum we will be permitted to spend.

Second, what was added that voters did NOT see in the December 2015 project as presented to the voters?

As we will continue to use our current gym, we need to refinish the wood floors at an estimated bond cost of $71,000 and renovate the athletic locker rooms in the basement which is estimated at $318,000. Because we will continue to occupy the spaces in the basement for locker rooms, we are required to install a new ADA elevator to the basement at a cost of $424,000. This is a most aggravating required expense and I have argued several points about this that our architects are discussing with NYSED so there is a remote chance, fingers crossed, that this may be an expense we can eliminate.

And the last addition from the December 2015 proposed project is to the track. While that December project did include removing the rubber track surface, installing new pavement and a urethane track surface, it didn’t include the expansion of our 6 lane track to an 8 lane track; removing and replacing existing perimeter fencing. Our track program has grown every year with a large number of our students participating. Because we’re replacing the track, if we’re ever going to widen it to 8 lanes, now is the time–at a bond estimate of $332,000.

This series of posts will continue all week leading up to the presentation to the SGI BOE for their consideration on Tuesday, July 5 in the HS Media Center at 7:00. Please contact me with any questions, concerns or feedback. Thank you.

Capital Project Planning

In December 2015, the Springville-Griffith community voted down a proposed capital project 81% to 19%. At that time the SGI BOE Members wisely conducted a survey of our voters to gather feedback.

One of the goals set forth for me upon entering the superintendency at SGI was to study the project as it was developed along with the feedback from the survey. What we heard overwhelmingly and repeatedly is that our voters would support a project that addresses the necessities of caring for our facilities and grounds, without any controversial “extras”.

Given that there are critical needs that must be addressed soon, like the rooftop at SES, I’m prepared to present a proposed scope of project to the SGI BOE members on Tuesday, July 5, at their regular BOE meeting. This will not be a brand new project but instead takes the project developed in December and reduces it to the necessities–those items that we need to do to take of the place.

We’ll also take a look at the financial implications of the newly proposed scope–what will it cost our taxpayers?

The BOE will be asked to give feedback on the proposed project and I will hope to have a project ready for BOE approval on Monday, August 8 with a late September vote. This timeline is to keep us moving forward so that we can benefit from a favorable bid time table.

In between the July 5 and August 8 BOE meetings, I will meet with any interested school community members. I would love to hear your feedback as we develop the project for BOE approval. If interested, please join me in the HS Library on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 6:00 pm. Community members may also contact me via phone, I’m at 592-3230 or email at kmoritz@springvillegi.org.

Over the next week I will be writing a post for each of our school buildings in which I illustrate what’s in the project now and what we took out. There will be a few new items too–when we consider it’s likely to be 18 months to two years from BOE adoption of a project to the start of construction, we have to plan to include everything that will need to be taken care of–otherwise items like that SES rooftop have to be repaired within the regular budget without the 79.3% reimbursement from NYS we can count on within a project. And yes, I understand that the reimbursement dollars are ALSO our tax dollars but it’s much less of a financial impact to the school district than an entire rooftop covered with local taxpayer dollars.

Ten Year Anniversary

Wow! I started writing in this space ten years ago as a new Gowanda high school principal– I called the blog G-Town Talks with no idea it would lead to anything more than a couple of information sharing articles. This blog became the space I used to process my own thinking, communicate with our school community and connect with other educators. I also hoped I would influence thinking and gain feedback from readers.

Here I am ten years later, four years as that HS principal and an 8 year superintendency at Randolph Central under my belt. I started as the superintendent at Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District on March 7.  Again I will use this space to process thinking and to communicate and connect with our school community. Hopefully I will influence thinking as a school leader and hear back from readers.

My main purpose in writing here will be to demonstrate transparency. There are lots of changes in the works and one of the surest ways for change to succeed is to clearly communicate what we’re planning and why. I heard loud and clear from the members of the interview committees–“trust us with information! Let us hear from you when something’s happening, not through the rumor mill or on Facebook” (goodness knows that’s NOT a reliable source of factual information!). When possible, I will share what’s happening here and then link it to Twitter (@kimberlymoritz), send to employees via email, and hope that the Springville Journal picks up anything of interest to their readers.

In the coming weeks, I’ll post here about our new principal of special programs position and what we hope to accomplish through that work, our planned 2016-17 intervention changes, and I will break down the components of the capital project we’re hoping to bring before the voters in early Fall 2016.

We are also bringing back a traditional newsletter, with the first issue to be delivered the week after school begins. ALL of our families and taxpayers, including those who do not access information electronically, deserve to see all of the great things happening here at SGI!

I’d love to hear what you’re thinking!


When to Move On?

Other leaders in education have written articles about knowing when it’s time to leave a position or district. In most cases they are discussing situations in which tensions have grown, a BOE has changed, priorities and relationships transitioned, and it’s time for a superintendent of schools to move on. I went to hear retired Erie 1 BOCES superintendent Don Ogilvie speak on this topic and that of administrative resiliency earlier this year as part of the WNY Educational Services Council speaker series.

My question to Mr. Ogilvie was different. I wanted to know, “how do you know when it’s time to move on when things are really GOOD?” 

Since sometime over the summer, I’ve been thinking about our work at Randolph and the rest of my career. Things are really good at RCS! Sure there are things to do–there are always things to do in an organization with an $18 million budget, almost 200 employees, and 950 students. But we’ve generally got it figured out and as our teams have grown in their competence, I’ve felt more and more irrelevant.

Mentally I’m craving the kind of organizational systems problem solving that gives me a sense of purpose. I want to know that my work is making a significant difference that benefits students and employees. We’ve largely figured those things out at RCS over the past several years. We have experienced teachers, administrators who know our systems and how they best work to serve our students, and an incredibly experienced, thoughtful BOE–the place is humming along nicely. This is evidenced by our consistent and dramatic increases in academic achievement, our climate survey results, and our successful contract negotiations and positive budget votes.

So, what would you do? Continue to work in the environment you’ve tried so hard to create, knowing that your biggest problems are behind you? Or leave the sustainability of the system to the other leaders in the organization who have it down, choosing instead to look for another opportunity to impact an educational system elsewhere? Perhaps there’s another school system where those working hard within that district and those children and families could benefit from committed, sustained instructional leadership? And your sense of purpose and meaning could be renewed? Or do you sit back and enjoy the ride?

Correct Maslow Post

I have been the proud superintendent of the Randolph Central School District since the Fall of 2008. In this, my eighth school year here, I’ve decided to take on a challenge in another district.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have been selected and appointed as the superintendent of schools for the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District. I will start there on March 7, 2016.

My reasons for this decision are centered on the incredible accomplishments of everyone at Randolph. The problems we had when I arrived have been eradicated: there is again trust between the employees, administration, and BOE members; we have systems in place in which teachers support one another with a coherent, shared curriculum; teachers are doing more with technology tools that personalize learning for all students every year; we’re on the cusp of purchasing a useful basal reading series that will help to improve our ELA instruction even more; everyone in the system is pulling his or her own weight; we have cleaner buildings (and floors!), and a capital project all set to go that will take care of masonry, roof tops, phone and data upgrades, fire detection and alarm systems, stage rigging and lighting, a safer parking lot flow, a new track and a new heating system in the high school. We continue to hold a strong budget position that balances the needs of our students with the needs of our taxpayers. And I have more confidence in our administrative team than ever before at RCS.

I’ve realized with every passing day “they’ve got this!” I want to have a feeling of purpose again, to go where I’m needed. I want to think and analyze and solve problems. And I’m 100% certain that with everyone we have here, working hard each and every day, our expectations of excellence will continue for all of our students.

What an honor and privilege it has been to be a part of the Randolph community these past years! Thank you for allowing me to be a part of the academic achievements, the state championships, the countless excellent lessons I’ve observed, and most of all, the relationships I’ve enjoyed with so many of you. A huge part of my heart will always be a Cardinal!

A Personal Thank You to My Father in Law, Fred Moritz

This Saturday, October 24, 2015, my husband will be accompanying his 92-year-old father, Fred Moritz, to Washington, DC on the Honor Flight Buffalo for World War II Veterans. This opportunity brings veterans to DC to see the memorials erected in their honor, all expenses paid. As veterans are not permitted to bring a spouse as guardian, my husband Derek gets to go with his dad. As part of the experience, Fred’s grandchildren were asked to write letters to him in which they express what he means to them. I’d like to take the opportunity to publicly honor the man who shaped so much about my husband and all five of his grandchildren.


Papa and Grandkids

Dear Papa,

I’m so very grateful for the opportunity to know you and to call you first dad and then Papa. As a nervous young college student, I came to Gowanda after dating your son Derek for a couple of years. Since Derek was my first boyfriend, I remember feeling very nervous about how to act when I met his parents. That feeling dissipated within moments of meeting you as your open, warm and generous spirit greeted me at the Palm Gardens. You then proceeded to take me on a tour of everything from the kitchen to the basement of the motel! From that first day, you treated me like someone special and what I most remember is always being able to sit and talk with you in those round chairs in the living room. You showed a genuine interest in me, my thoughts, and my career. You really listened to me, as you did with all of us. All of these years later, after almost 29 years of marriage to your son, your kind, caring and positive attitude continue to guide our family. Thank you, for every conversation, laugh, and dinner you bought. Most of all, thank you for being the man who you are–the man who so greatly influenced the man I married and love. Here are a few of the things I most remember from all of these years together.

You are generous to a fault. If you have $100 in your pocket, you find a way to give any one of us $120 if we need it. One of us can’t mention our own vehicle without you saying, “take my truck!”

Whenever any one of us messes up, you are the most supportive, loving parent we could hope to find. Before Derek and I were even married, I smashed that Capri I drove into a guardrail on Broadway Road. You and Derek showed up and instead of yelling at me as I was expecting (my own dad’s typical reaction), you both embraced me, asked if I was okay and told me it was just a car.

Even when Derek, Charisse, Bill and I were young and in our heyday, you could ALWAYS drink the rest of us under the table. We’d all wake up the next morning, hurting from the night before, and you’d be singing in the kitchen telling us, “you can’t soar with the eagles if you’re going to hoot with the owls!” But somehow you always managed to do so.

Thank you for teaching our children to dive, all five of the grandkids, with countless hours in that pool. A favorite family memory is definitely the day you were sitting by the pool, having cocktails with your friends and you suddenly decided one of the kids wasn’t diving quite right so you decided to show him how it was done. Fully clothed. Snookered.  With $100 dollar bills floating to the surface around you.

Those chickens. I will forever walk through the yard with my head down looking to avoid the chicken poop thanks to the ridiculous number of chickens you kept in the yard. For the tolerance of this alone, my mother in law deserves a medal. No one ever has loved a pet more than you’ve loved those darn birds.

When my own father was absent from my life, you stepped in and treated me with kindness and compassion and love. Thank you for always being a father to me. 

Because of your example, a valued family trait has always been chutzpah. Or in your words, “balls”–nothing worse than being a dunkie, right? I’m grateful that you helped us to instill courage into our children–the ability to take a risk and to stand up and do what’s right. I’m so very thankful that I’m married to a strong man who’s raised our own kids to be able to take care of themselves. I’m certain that even now at 92 years old you wouldn’t hesitate to use a quick right hook if needed.

Thank you for the great advice you gave me about how to drive in the snow on the way home from Forestville 30 years ago. I still hear your voice when I’m nervous on bad roads, “a constant speed Kim, slow and easy”.

Warning to Readers: There is some questionable language coming up–this post is intended to honor and memorialize Freddy for our family, which means including the expressions our children have grown up with. We have so many colorful expressions thanks to Papa, many that no one seems to know but us–our own family language: Papa

  • “they’re going to find her at the bottom of the bird cage”
  • “tell him to go piss up a rope”
  • “too many chiefs, not enough Indians”
  • “big as a horse”
  • “dumb as a box of rocks”
  • “you can’t get a racehorse out of a jackass”
  • “if I had a dollar for every time. . .”
  • “he’s a real dandy”
  • “that one’s getting whippy”
  • “next time, I won’t have my hat in my hand”
  • “have a hot toddy”
  • “they’ve got brakes, let ’em use them!”
  • “too stupid to get out of the rain”
  • “can’t find his a** with both hands” also, “doesn’t know his a** from a hole in the ground”
  • “lazier than a white dog”
  •  And who hasn’t been called “joe balls” by Papa?

Papa, I’m forever grateful for the model we have of how much you and Omi have loved each other for 50+ years. This is your #1 contribution to our family. Even when you’re constantly busting her chops, telling us that you slaved all day to prepare a meal when you couldn’t make toast if necessary or yelling at her to “sit down!”, you both stand as a clear and beautiful example to the rest of us of how to love one another, to make a family together and to stand beside each other through it all.

I love you Papa. I hope you and Derek have a fantastic day on Saturday. You definitely deserve this honor!

Papa and Derek, Charisse, Omi

Cuomo’s Evaluation Regs in Randolph

Of 700 districts in NYS, we are the 9th district who negotiated, submitted and received approval for our APPR plan under the new regulations, 3012-d. After the usual back and forth with the attorney at NYSED who reviewed the plan and gave us 10-15 wordsmith-ed changes to make, our plan was approved on Tuesday. Most of the school districts in NYS are submitting for a hardship waiver for various reasons including more time to negotiate and hoping the wait will indicate a revision of the regulations of some sort. We made a conscious decision to move forward, but it is most assuredly NOT because we embrace these new regulations as better than the old.

We submitted under the new regs because it lessens the workload on our teachers, principals, and students. We wanted to eliminate pre-assessments, teacher portfolio reviews, our interim/formative assessments being tied to evaluation, and mandated pre-evaluation meetings. Our students, teachers, and principals work incredibly hard every day–they’ve been involved in unbelievable school improvement efforts and they’ve proven, repeatedly, that Randolph Central is an outstanding school district because of the collective work of every member of our team. If we can eliminate what’s become meaningless work within our system to allow them time to concentrate on what matters most–the education of our children–then that’s what we need to do.

We decided to trade one act of compliance—meeting the requirements of the old APPR regulations—for a new act of compliance—meeting the requirements of this new law.

For a glittering moment in time, back in 2011, I honestly believed that the APPR regulations were designed to improve our educational systems. As a veteran school administrator, I accepted responsibility and acknowledged that we’ve historically not done a good enough job of evaluating teachers or terminating bad teachers or principals. I truly believed that was the reason we were seeing Annual Professional Performance Regulations. Now I know that any good intentions of the regulations if there ever were any, have just become mandates dictated by a governor who uses public schools as a pawn in whatever political game he’s playing.

The downside to moving to the new plan? The regs are so incredibly flawed that 50% of a teacher or principal’s composite evaluation score is based on NYS assessments and how our students supposedly grew or didn’t grow on some ridiculous calculation someone somewhere created to measure if our teachers and principals are getting as much growth out of our Randolph students as those ‘similar’ students across the state. And this is exactly the wrong reason for testing. Thank you, Governor Cuomo. Yes, these regulations are from the Governor’s office despite the fact that he’s an expert at blaming things on NYSED or NYSUT or whoever is convenient.  

Our school district is perfectly poised to clearly illustrate the absolute absurdity of these regulations. Why? Because we have had the sharpest three-year gains on NYS 3-8 tests of any district in Western New York.  Yet under these new regulations, many of our teachers are likely to receive an ineffective rating on the 50% of their evaluation score that is the building growth score. A score of 0-12/20 is ineffective.

Our dedicated teachers and administrators have aligned our curriculum to the NYS common core standards and raised our expectations for all children. We have used a systemic team approach to developing a consistent, comprehensive curriculum–aligned to rigorous standards that you can call whatever you like. You see, our teachers have always worked hard, been well intended and had the best interest of our students at heart–since long before this Governor deemed them ineffective or developing on the HEDI scale. We use the common core standards and the NYS 3-8 assessments as a system check. And this is exactly the right reason for testing. We need standards and assessments. What we do not need is a state mandated noose around our necks through arbitrary regulations designed to marginalize our state’s teachers and administrators.

But hey, we just work here. I guarantee we will exercise whatever local control we have to make it work for our teachers, principals, and students. If you believe that NYS regulations resulting in countless teachers and principals labeled ineffective or developing are going to do anything to improve public education then you should give Governor Cuomo a call.  He’s forming a review committee so that they can tell him he’s right and everyone else is wrong.

Learning Tech Tools

After 28 years of marriage I’m happy to say that I’m finally learning how to cook. It’s fun and challenging and I’m loving it.

Just to put this into perspective, our adult son moved to Jacksonville last November. On one of his “FaceTime” calls home he told me that whenever he makes hamburger helper it reminds him of home. (EEK!) What’s working for me is something called “Hello Fresh”, a program where the company sends me all of the fresh ingredients for three meals per week. Previously if a recipe called for more than a couple of ingredients I didn’t even consider it. Now I’m peeling and mincing ginger and dill. I’m making catfish and salmon and sprinkling cardamon and cinnamon onto a chicken before I place it into the oven!  I don’t even know what cardamon is and farro? Whatever it is, I followed the recipe and the dish was terrific. The meals are delicious, healthy and affordable. I’m stretching and learning something new and my husband and I are trying foods we’ve never had before–never too late for that, right? 11942107_1019786778065483_4558108573972776341_o

This way of learning how to cook is working for me because it fits me. I can learn because all of the ingredients arrive perfectly measured and ready to go. I’m not intimidated by the name of an ingredient I haven’t heard of or scared away from trying it because I don’t know where to look for the things in the first place. This program might not work for my friends who love to cook because it would seem unnecessary to them.  They have the ingredients, they’re more experienced and they have had success with cooking for years. I need the step by step instructions on my Hello Fresh app on my phone and the convenience of everything arriving in an organized, ready to go manner. Nothing has ever worked for me before and so I’ve never liked to cook (Hello Hamburger Helper!) but this program and tool are meeting my needs and I’m being successful (finally!).

In public education we’ve always talked about differentiating learning for every student. With a class of 20-22 students, that’s actually very hard to do well. We now have technology tools available to us that will adapt to each child’s strengths and abilities. Tools like PEG Writing, iReady adaptive testing and diagnostic instruction, Dreambox, and IXL are valuable tools that can truly help to tailor instruction to each child.

Technology will never replace teachers. The most critical and important part of our work lies in those relationships that we form with students. But technology tools can enhance learning just as the apps on your smart phone enhance your life. I don’t drive anywhere new without entering the address into the Maps app on my phone. I electronically bank on my phone, constantly “google” for information that answers my  many questions, take pictures, check the weather, shop on Amazon, follow recipes on Hello Fresh, book air travel on Southwest and JetBlue apps, and read the news through Twitter feeds, the Buffalo News and Post Journal apps. These tools have made my life easier and they’ve given me access to information in ways that I need to be smarter and more productive.

I’m not talking about smart boards and other teacher tools that just replace what we’ve always done or better engage students. I also have Facebook and Instagram on my phone–they engage me but they’re not productive and they certainly don’t make me smarter. As we move forward with our District plans to spend our Smart Schools Bond money on devices for our students, we need to find technology tools that make our students and teachers lives easier and give them access to information in ways that make them smarter and more productive.

My own experiences as a student in the public schools significantly shaped my life and I can contribute the professional success I have today to the quality of the education I received and the fact that I kept going back to further my education. The full impact that each of our teachers has on our students cannot be measured. Our work is crucial and doing the very best that we can for our children matters—what we say, the attitudes and beliefs we share, every choice we make that shows our own work ethic and dedication to our jobs teaches our students something.  Carefully researching and analyzing our productive use of new technologies will be one incredible way that we can model what real learning looks like and will continue to improve our teaching and learning too.

If I can make Tandoori Chicken for dinner tonight through the use of an app on my phone, what more can we accomplish in our classrooms when we find the right tools??