Happy National Teacher Appreciation Week! On behalf of our school district, the Board of Education and all who support teachers, thank you! Teachers, thank you for pouring yourselves into students. Thank you for being part of a grade-level team or department. Thank you for being a part of our school district. Thank you for being who you are and with us. You are appreciated!
Quite often we get caught up in thinking about what we can do to improve and how to solve problems. We’ve adopted steps to accountability with the motto See it, Own it, Solve it, Do it. Maybe we should add another step that says thank someone for doing it. So, thank you teachers for all you have done this school year.
Central High Principal Emanuel Frazier showed appreciation for teachers with special meals throughout the week!
I also want to say to those of you where it fits, Happy Mother’s Day. Whether you are a mother or not, this is a time to reflect on the great contributions mothers all over this country have made. I have shared with you before that my mother was a teacher and I find this is a time to reflect on that relationship. I know it is hard sometimes dividing duties between being a parent and being an educator – it takes balance. So, to all of the mothers, I hope you enjoy your Mother’s Day. I cannot think of a better time for it to come than at the end of Teacher Appreciation Week. For those of you like me who have mothers and are married to mothers, make sure you do the right thing by celebrating them and acknowledging them.
I want to thank the Board of Education for giving me an opportunity to remain with our school district for several more years. I am very appreciative, thankful and humbled. I believe we have established a culture of accountability. Our district’s culture has changed and is continuing to change, and I thank you for allowing that to occur. To be quite truthful, without the work that you have done, I’m not sure the Board would have wanted me to come back, so thank you. I think we are moving in the right direction and I’m very appreciative.
Board of Education members enjoyed meeting students and teachers during their tour of schools this week. Here we are at Heritage Elementary for lunch.
As we finish the month of May and the end of the school year, it’s also a time to prepare for the summer. Some of our students will need our support as they take part in our Summer Opportunity Program. For those of you who have time I am asking that you consider being a part of that Summer Opportunity for our students. We all say it: Not all students learn at the same rate. This is our opportunity to demonstrate it is not just something we say, but it’s also something we know and are willing to do something about. If you have a way to fit it into your schedule, please be a part of our Summer Opportunity Program to help students who are in need of some extra time.
I am looking forward to graduation and awards day programs! This is the part of the year where all of the hard work can be seen, with students getting grades for the year, earning credits, graduating, and being recognized at ceremonies. Don’t get caught up in the doing of it; at some point step back and appreciate the celebration, as well.
I think in some ways, May could just be Appreciation Month – appreciation for teachers, appreciation for parents, appreciation for those of us in public education. Let’s enjoy the moment.
- COL DR
I want to start by thanking those who attended the three listening sessions we had for staff this month. I felt the sessions were well attended, especially the elementary school session, and I appreciate the candor and honesty among staff at these meetings.
I want you to know I took your questions and comments to heart. Also, to expand on our conversations at the listening sessions and to gain further insight into some of the topics that were discussed, I asked for more input when I met with my Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council last week. Their responses helped provide clarity on some of the issues our teachers and staff are facing, and I appreciate their openness.
One suggestion from the group was that principals not be invited to any listening sessions in the future so that staff might feel they could speak more freely about concerns at their schools. Truthfully, though, we are trying to build a culture of transparency and open communication, and leaving some of our employees out of the conversation does not foster the openness and trust we’re trying to achieve as a district. I will say that if you ever have any concerns you feel you can’t address with your principal, you may reach out to me through Let’s Talk. Even still, I will consider not having the principals at the next listening sessions.
Below, I’ll share updates with you on some of the topics discussed at the listening sessions and with the Teacher Advisory Council.
Teacher pay was one of the top issues we discussed. Teachers said, and I agree, that the amount of pay is not where we would like to see it. The governor did say in his State of the State address last month that he was going to provide a 2 percent pay raise for teachers this year and that the state would put that funding into the teacher salary schedule. So, the question for me at the listening session was how we would see that increase locally. Please remember our Board of Education provided a 3 percent pay raise for all employees that started this school year, and the Board was so committed to being supportive of us that they even increased the millage rate in order to make that pay raise occur.
As additional revenue comes in, I am looking at different ways we could use funds to help everyone. The example I shared at the listening sessions was setting a goal as a district to reach a certain CCRPI, such as 70, and if the district made that goal of 70 then everyone would get a performance bonus. When I say everyone, I mean everyone – teachers, administrators, classified staff, including nutrition workers and bus drivers. Everyone. What we are missing is something that unifies us so we all know we are working toward the same goal. If our CCRPI is based on student attendance and discipline, as well as test scores, every person in our district affects our CCRPI. Bus drivers and their interactions with students help set the tone for the rest of the day. As they clean, custodians help make our facilities better so students are more comfortable in their environment. We take the cleanliness of the building for granted when it’s good, but when it’s bad we notice. We all play a part, so what if we put in place incentives so we all are working toward a specific goal?
Another example of this idea I shared was with the number of students missing more than 5 days of school. What if we set a goal of decreasing the number of students missing more than 5 days, and if we are able to achieve that goal, then everybody shares in a part of a bonus. The thought is, again, that bus drivers have an impact on how students feel, and so do custodians, paraprofessionals, media specialists, and so on.
If there is going to be a pay increase this year, we’re looking at trying to do something a little different so we all know what the major goals are that we’re trying to achieve and so we all will be working toward those goals to make us successful. I received an email after the listening sessions from a teacher who said she was disappointed with this idea because she thought an increase should go to everyone, not just the schools that received an increase on CCRPI. She misunderstood what I was saying. Again, I am looking at trying to create performance measures we all can be a part of and participate in achieving.
Another part of the discussion on teacher pay included being asked if employees could be paid twice a month. I have asked Human Resources, as well as Accounting, to see if there is a way we can provide employees with the option of being paid twice a month versus once a month. I know there are a lot of people who don’t want to be paid twice a month, but there are some who would like to be paid that way, so we are looking to see if MUNIS will allow there to be options. We have completed a survey of school systems throughout the state, and some pay all of their employees twice a month, without choice. We’re looking to see what MUNIS will allow us to do. Currently, we’re just trying to make sure we can get this first round of pay done correctly as we continue the transition to MUNIS.
A second issue discussed was about paper and resources. One teacher said she actually takes money from what she would put into the tithes at her church in order to buy paper. She said she was given 1,000 sheets for the year and that was not enough. I had a conversation with our Chief Financial Officer about finding out how much paper we are buying and how much we are providing, and trying to take that issue away from schools. We are currently looking at how schools divide paper and provide it to staff, how much paper is realistic, as well as the impact on the printers we have in place. I will say this, some people use a lot more paper than others, and we will take this on to see if we can find a resolution.
We also had conversations about class size. As we go through our budgeting process for next school year, we are looking at trying to reduce class sizes. Several teachers shared how many students they have in their classrooms and the numbers were high. The numbers are not as high as they have been in the past, but we are going to make an effort to reduce that number even more. Understand, though, I also had individuals ask if they could have paraprofessionals at first grade, some asked for more counselors, and so on. All of those “asks” end up becoming increases to the budget.
What I am really looking for is this: As schools go through their Continuous Improvement Process, they should prioritize what it is they need at their school and we will do our best to honor those requests. So, while we’re looking at trying to reduce class sizes and we’re looking at providing more paper, I need principals and leadership teams to say, “here is where we are in our annual review, here is what our needs are, and it is included in our needs assessment.” Then, present a plan that demonstrates how, if you get that resource, you will implement it and what the results would be. I am putting a lot of faith and confidence in you as a part of the Continuous Improvement Process and school leadership teams to tell me what it is that you need, and your needs have to be prioritized.
I want to close by thanking all of you for being a part of the listening sessions and working with us to improve communications, transparency and openness. At a recent Board of Education meeting, I heard some Board members use those words with us, and so I think our efforts are starting to work. I think we’re starting to see some results. The listening sessions were just one way for us to try to ensure that we have communication channels and that we’re able to determine what people are thinking. I started some of the sessions off by saying I was not going to let it be said that you didn’t have a chance to meet with me and share with me your thoughts and concerns, and do it without fear of retaliation. I think we’re getting better at that. I’m going to ask that you continue to step out on faith, believe in the Victory in Progress that we have and continue to help make us better.
I appreciate you. Thank you.
- COL DR
This photo is from the first listening session with elementary school staff.
Thank you to everyone who attended the sessions and shared your feedback.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
This will be my last opportunity to communicate with you this year, so from my family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
As we come to an end of the first semester this year, I am thankful for the 12 years of service that Mr. Tom Hudson gave to our Board of Education and our school district. I am very thankful for the time that I was also able to work with Mr. Jason Downey. These two individuals are leaving our Board at the end of this calendar year and we owe them a great deal of thanks for their public service.
The Bibb County Board of Education was recognized as a Distinguished Board
by the Georgia School Boards Association this month. Pictured with me here
are, from left, President Lester Miller, Mr. Tom Hudson, Dr. Wanda West,
Vice President Jason Downey and Mrs. Ella Carter.
I also want to congratulate our Board of Education on being named a Distinguished Board of Education by the Georgia School Boards Association. That achievement is not small! It means each individual board member has to increase their number of hours of professional development. They have to abide by their by-laws and they have to continue to conduct self-assessments to meet the standards that have been established for the Board of Education, and evaluate the superintendent, just to name a few. Our Board has done those well. As our Board continues to grapple with issues of leading our school system and taking care of the finances and the legal matters of the district, I will tell you, it is not an easy task. They are continuing to work hard. As you hear people say things about our Board, whether positive or negative, please remember this – it is my sincere belief that collectively our Board does what it thinks is in the best interests of our students, and that is all we can ask.
As we close out this year, I know many of you are focused on the benchmark and progress assessments in place. These assessments are the best indication we have of knowing how well we are performing as a district. I will share with you that I am looking forward to the day when we are not really worried about Georgia Milestones; instead, we’re really worried about the assessments that we give because if we do well on those we know we will do well on the Georgia Milestones. We are getting there; we are just not there yet.
I joined Santa's helpers at Vineville Academy of the Arts to promote
Pre-K education last week before reading to Pre-K students at some
of our elementary schools. Pre-K registration begins in February!
I have had a few opportunities to be with schools before the end of the semester. Recently I saw “The Lion King Jr.,” a production by students from Miller Fine Arts Magnet Middle School. It was very impressive! We have some talented students, and I am excited for them and their families. I read “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault to Pre-K students at several elementary schools last week, and today I read “The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy” by Jane Thayer at Southfield Elementary School. I also shared a holiday meal prepared by our Culinary Program at Hutchings College and Career Academy today. I look forward to the opportunities like these to spend time in our schools throughout the year!
As we close out this year, let me say once again how happy I am to be a part of this school system and to have you as a part of it. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
- COL DR
Victory in Progress is continuing in our school system! At this time of Thanksgiving I want to thank you so much for being a part of that. As this school year has progressed, I have seen signs that the culture of our school system has changed. Let me just share a few examples with you.
One example is the VIP lapel pins that we wear. People are expressing pride in having the pin. Teachers are wearing the pin with a renewed sense, I believe, that we are special, we are VIPs. The expression for VIP has been turned in some places from “Victory in Progress” to “Very Involved Parents” to “Very Important Parents” to “Victory in Pleasant Hill” – it just continues. I have had volunteers in our schools say to me that, “I would like to get a VIP pin.” I have had people from the Georgia Department of Education who are working with some of our schools say, “I feel like I am on the staff here in Bibb I am here enough, so what do I have to do to get a VIP pin?” And I have heard new teachers say “No, this is my first year, but I will get my VIP pin next year.” There is pride in the work that we are doing and there is pride in working with great co-workers. I even had a student, who is a child of one of our employees, indicate that he wanted to wear a VIP pin. That is a sign that the culture is changing.
Another example was at our recent Board of Education meeting. The Custodial Staff at Lane Elementary recognized how important it is to have a clean facility. They developed certificates and plaques to recognize people who have helped them maintain a clean facility, and they went so high as to recognize our Chief of Staff, Keith Simmons, as an important part of why their facility is clean. They also said that it is important that every facility is clean – it’s not just one person’s efforts that matter, but the whole team’s efforts. When one falls, we all fall, they said, so we must all work together.
When you take these anecdotal stories and put it with the work that we are doing to improve instruction – with our collaborative planning protocol, with the work of the Professional Learning Communities in 12 of our schools, with the principals implementing the National SAM Innovation Project in 12 other schools – you can see in school after school, grade level after grade level, that change is happening. It’s happening with the interactive panels that have been installed; it’s happening with the audio enhancement of teacher’s voices and cameras in the classrooms; it’s happening with the implementation of Leader in Me and PBIS. The list goes on, because you are doing a lot of great things.
As we enter this Thanksgiving break, I wanted to share with you that I am so thankful for the change in culture that is occurring and that already has occurred. I hope you enjoy your time with family; I hope you enjoy the weeklong break; and I hope that as you travel, you return to us safely and are able to help us get through the end of the first semester and implement another successful round of progress assessments.
Victory in Progress is continuing! Happy Thanksgiving!
- COL DR
Staff at Northwoods Academy recently recognized Victory in Progress by receiving their pins and shirts, and celebrating with cupcakes!
As we get closer to the November election, more and more people are becoming aware of the Opportunity School District amendment they will have to vote on. In case you’re not aware, that amendment is one that requests the approval of the citizens of Georgia to amend the Constitution to allow for the creation of an Opportunity School District (OSD).
An OSD is a school district that would have the ability to pull in what have been considered failing schools that would be run by a Superintendent appointed by the Governor of Georgia. As people are becoming more and more aware of the issue by seeing commercials on TV that are for and against Amendment 1, I’m being asked what my opinion is. I decided I would share my thoughts with you here.
I believe the best way to decide if you should support Amendment 1 or not is to do your own research. If you have a child who is currently in school, look at the school your child is attending. Determine whether or not you believe that school has done a good job educating your child and if the experience you’ve had over the past year has been good, and if you see things getting better. If you believe the school is headed in the right direction, then I think you should not be in favor of the amendment for the OSD. If that is not the case and you believe things could be a whole lot better, then I think you would be in favor of the OSD.
If you are an employee in the school system and you have a child of school age, think about whether or not you would like for your child to attend the school where you work. If the answer is yes, do you believe you would have to select the teachers for your child in order for them to get a good education? The hope would be that you would be satisfied with the vast majority of teachers at the school. Again, those other questions I asked earlier would apply here, as well. Overall, if you believe your child would attend the school where you work and you would be satisfied with the vast majority of teachers there, and you believe the school is moving in the right direction, I would expect that you would be opposed to the OSD. If that is not your experience, then I would expect you to want better, and therefore you would be in favor of the OSD.
Finally, if someone approaches you and they say, “I don’t have a child in school, tell me your thoughts about OSD,” then ask that they ask a person who does have a child in one of our schools. Suggest to them that they go through the scenarios I mentioned here with that person who has a child in our schools.
The best research is about what are we doing now, and what experience we are providing to our students now. A lot of times when I’ve talked to people, they’ve talked to me about what the school district was like 5-10 years ago when they were in school, or they tell me about stories that happened in the past. And while I honor and respect the distant past, I am also respectful of the people who are in our classrooms now – those who are teaching the students who come through our doors every day.
I’m impressed with what I see in our schools and I think we’re moving in a very positive direction, and I believe we are improving every day. Victory in Our Schools has not occurred, but Victory In Progress is happening, and it happens one student at a time, one child at a time, one teacher at a time, one day at a time. We’re getting there. So, as you decide how you want to vote on the OSD and as others ask your opinion, I ask that you do what we say we always want to do: Do research, look at it, and then do what you think is right.
- Victory in Our Schools!
Gov. Nathan Deal joined us last week to celebrate REACH Scholars from Appling and Ballard-Hudson Middle School. Jasmine Martin, center, with her Principal, Eclan David, is just one of the REACH Scholars we recognized with the Governor. She is an eighth-grader at Ballard-Hudson Middle School. She participates in school clubs and organizations such as FCCLA, Georgia 4-H, and the Academic Team. She shows that she is a well-rounded student by playing shortstop on the school’s softball team as well flute in the concert band. Jasmine plans on studying nursing in college with the help of the REACH Scholarship.
We had a busy first month kicking off our new school year. As I pause to reflect on where we are as a district, I’m very thankful, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.
In a very short period of time we have brought on board new teachers through our new teacher orientation and induction program, and we’ve had a successful convocation and a good first day and first month of school. I hope you’re enjoying the new students in your classrooms this year, and that you’re seeing them begin to learn anew. The beginning of the school year is always exciting, and the first month of school is always a great time to create relationships with the students and parents, and I know you are – thank you for that.
I also had an opportunity during the first month to meet with my Teacher Advisory Council. It’s a great group that shared with me some of the concerns that are out there currently. I want to share with you the names of the representatives on this year’s Teacher Advisory Council so you may reach out to them with any thoughts or concerns you would like mentioned at our next meeting. They are:
Brookdale Elementary School – Marquita Tatmon
Bruce Elementary School – Tangela Turner
Burdell-Hunt Magnet School – Vivica Lynn Gray
Hartley Elementary School – LaTasha Little
Ingram-Pye Elementary School – Tamikia Johnson
Porter Elementary School – Julia Chambless
Springdale Elementary School – Denise McIntosh
Williams Elementary School – Pamela Rivers
Appling Middle School – Terrence Redmond
Howard Middle School – Alecia Ervin
Central High School – Hannah Freel
Westside High School – Dominique Nichols
Teacher of the Year: Howard High School – Morgan Jarvis
The Teacher Advisory Council will meet three more times this school year. They did an excellent job of representing you and sharing concerns at our first meeting. Our conversation included the new elementary schedule and how much time is being focused on reading and mathematics. We also discussed some other, smaller details about the new schedule, like thoughts about recess and how to handle bathroom breaks. Please know we are aware of these issues and we are addressing them.
I have visited each school at least once this year. Just last week I enjoyed BBQ beef at Riley Elementary during lunch. It was pretty good!
Hartley Elementary School's Safety Patrol members were
sworn in last month by Campus Police Chief Russell Bentley!
Hartley Elemntary is a Leader in Me school this year.
United Way of Central Georgia and GEICO partnered to bring in
Brian Jordan to read his new book to students at Bernd Elementary School.
United Way is partnering with to improve literacy throughout the district.
During my visits, I have seen a lot of excellent teaching and learning taking place. I was also excited to see outstanding use of the interactive panels, audio enhancement, and SAMS. As you know, we’re continuing to install interactive panels in schools this year, as well as cameras in the classrooms and audio enhancement for teachers. These are just some of the initiatives taking place, and I want to thank our Technology Services Department for utilizing the funding from our new ESPLOST (one percent sales tax) that was passed last year to create equity throughout the district when it comes to technology. Please remember, though, that as we utilize the funding from the ESPLOST to provide you with these great resources, it is important that we truly embrace these new resources in our classrooms. I can’t think of anything worse than being given a great resource by our community and then not fully utilizing it. I’m very happy to say that as I have visited schools, I’ve seen teachers taking the initiative to become comfortable with the technology and to get students actively engaged. You know and I know that programs and devices aren’t going to help our students learn to the levels that they need, though; that will happen because of the hard work of teachers and paraprofessionals, principals and assistant principals, and counselors and others, who are working to make things better.
As I close this message to you, I want you to know how much I appreciate you. Summer is over and now we’re in the second month of the school year. Let’s focus this month on how we can continue to move forward. Victory in Progress is our theme, and I appreciate each and every one of you more than you know.
One last thing: Last week I registered to submit a couple of pieces of my photography work that will be featured in the National Arts Program Exhibit at the Tubman Museum later this year. My work will be alongside other works of art created by Bibb County School District employees and their families. This is an incredible opportunity for us to participate in the first exhibit of the National Arts Program in Macon. I encourage each school and department to participate and look forward to seeing which school or department has the most entries by employees and their families! (Register here.)
- Victory in our Schools!
To our employees: Congratulations, it is the end of the school year!
It has been a fantastic year – fast-moving with a lot of challenges, but a lot of accomplishments, a lot of achievements and a lot of celebrations. I hope you take this opportunity to reflect on the lives you’ve been able to influence and improve.
Last night I attended the first of our high school graduations and as I listened to the principal address and charge the graduating class, I thought about you, our employees. I thought about you because in his comments he noted that representatives from elementary and middle school feeders into the high school were present and sitting with the faculty. It was a reminder that high school graduations are not just for the parents or the students; they’re for us as well.
Graduations give us the opportunity to see the hard work that we put in, the teamwork it takes, the number of years of dedication and individuals that make it possible for a student to graduate. Sometimes we’re taken for granted, and sometimes we just don’t really remember all of the challenges, obstacles and barriers that keep students from graduating, but last night was a celebration. That celebration was with Howard High School and the largest graduating class in Howard’s history. We all should be proud of that. While Howard is not the only high school in Bibb, it represents Bibb County. It’s led us off in this period of reflection and I wanted to share that with you. Sometimes we forget that at the core of why we’re in this business is our love for children and our desire to see them succeed. Graduations allow that. Commencements are the beginning of the next phase of their lives, and in some ways it’s the beginning of the next group of students we’re going to work with.
I hope you enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and spend it with family. Come back and finish post-planning, and then have a great summer vacation! For those of you retiring or not returning to us next school year, thank you for the work you’ve done – we appreciate you! For those returning, please know that next year is going to be better than this! We have worked hard to implement our Strategic Plan, Victory in our Schools, and every day I see Victory in Progress.
Happy Memorial Day, happy summer, and I’ll see you soon.
- Victory in our Schools!
Howard High School's Class of 2016 graduated on Thursday, May 26, 2016.
You’ve probably heard I am celebrating my one-year anniversary as the Superintendent here in Bibb County this month and I have to admit it has been one of the most fascinating years of my life.
Every day when I wake up I am excited about coming to work, and I cannot say that has been true in other positions I’ve held – and I’ve had many exciting jobs. In one position, I was able to be responsible for a program the President of the United States included in his State of the Union address. That was back in my military days and it was a pretty exciting time for me as well, but nothing like this. When I think about what we are attempting to do here – to change the level of reading for an entire generation, and to change the mind-set about what students can achieve and how successful they can be – and when I think about the possibilities that exist with all the different resources and help people are offering, I’m just excited and I hope you are too.
I was asked once, Why do you place such an emphasis on the Bibb County lapel pin? What does it mean? For me, when I wake up every morning and I attach my Bibb County School District lapel pin to my jacket, it helps me to recognize I’m coming to work because I want to, not because I have to; I’m coming to work for others, not for myself. It also helps me to remember I’m part of a team, and I’m doing it because of a voluntary decision and choice on my part. I tend to believe how we show our loyalty and how we display it in the community is important. All of this is a part of this culture of accountability that we are putting into place.
It has been a good year. We have our challenges – with the budget, student enrollment, charter schools and even the board elections, which are exciting and a challenge – but I am confident that by July 1 we will be on track for a great year! A lot of hard work has gone into our schools’ Continuous Improvement Plan presentations. It’s clear seeing these plans that we have changed the culture and aligned our priorities and our resources and our way of thinking, and I want to thank you for that. I ask that you continue to put your focus on the task at hand – that you help our students through the End of Course assessments and Georgia Milestones. Let’s finish this year strong, let’s go into the summer excited about what we have accomplished, and let’s make this year a good one.
I do have to note that it’s been a sad time for Heritage Elementary School. They lost one of their students and the family of that student. Also, we recently lost a teacher at Bruce Elementary School who was married to one of our Campus Police officers. It has been a tough year for us in that regard. Continue to reach out and support one another. At the end of the day, what we have are relationships and our relationships can help us more than we know. I appreciate you.
- Victory in our Schools!
Southwest High School administrators present the school's Continuous Improvement Plan.
162. ... 162 out of a possible 177 school districts.
According to a respected school ranking poll, the Bibb County School District was ranked No. 162 out of 177 school districts in Georgia for the 2014-2015 school year. And that ranking of 162 is consistent over the last few years.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not happy being No. 162 – unless we believe the state of Georgia is doing such an outstanding job of educating all of its students that even the school systems ranked in the lower 10 percent of school districts in the state are still doing an excellent job. Based on conversations I’ve had with many of you over the past year, I don’t think we believe that we’re doing exceptionally well. In fact, many of you have told me we need to improve.
If we want to change our ranking, we’re going to have to change what we do. Part of changing what we do involves changing our processes. One of the processes we’re looking at is the school schedule – specifically, when school starts and ends. It’s been an issue here for many years – looking at when to start school, when to end school. How long should students be in front of teachers? How long should teachers teach? Those are questions that are consistently asked, but I have another question to ask.
Do we really want to get better?
If we do, are we willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get better?
I’ve heard many parents say “I’ll do anything for my child, I’m here to represent my child.” And I accept that. I’ve heard many teachers say, “I am here because I want to teach students. I don’t like all of the paperwork and I don’t like all of the administrative requests; I just need to teach.” Well, the two schedules we have as options for next school year allow us to get students to school in an effective way and allow teachers to have more time with students for teaching.
It’s a change, and sometimes change is hard, but this is an opportunity for us to actually do what we say we want to do.
I ask that you continue to look at the schedules proposed, think about the pros and cons, and give us honest feedback so that we can incorporate your thoughts into the decision and recommendation I will take before the Board of Education. You know, I was somewhat disappointed to read one of the comments where it said, “I really don’t think you’re going to listen anyway,” meaning this person thinks a decision has already been made on which of these two options – or some variation of it – we may choose.
Let me say this loud and clear: If I ask you a question, it’s because I really do want the answer.
How you live this value of open communication is key. You can’t be afraid to speak, you can’t hold back your opinion, but truthfully you need to speak in a way that can be heard. The way to be heard now is in our survey. It’s not on Facebook, it’s not talking to your neighbor, because that doesn’t help us understand the other aspects of this issue.
At the end of the day, I’m very happy. I’m happy that we’ve identified one of the issues that is holding our system back and that we’re taking positive steps to try to address it and find a solution. I’m happy that many of you are already participating in the process and I believe that you will find your participation is valued. So, thank you for this, and please continue to help us improve the educational experience that our students receive.
- Victory in our Schools!
This is my first opportunity to share my thoughts with you since my last communication before Christmas so let me begin by saying Happy New Year. I hope you enjoyed your break and are ready to continue on with this second semester.
With staff at GLISI in January
Today I would like to share with you some thoughts I think you are becoming more familiar with, especially if you are in one of our elementary schools. One of the core processes that we have in the school district is scheduling students, but it is really a task that we have taken for granted. Usually an assistant principal will determine where teachers’ classrooms are and we would divide students up equally and do our best to share them among a group of teachers on a grade level – trying to keep them balanced. But, I believe there is a better way to schedule students. What if we decided to look at teacher experience? Do we have a team of teachers where some have many years of experience and another teacher who is brand new? What if we have a teacher who is really good at reading and one who is not so good based upon recent test scores? What if we have students who have specific needs and may do better with a teacher who is the best we have at teaching reading? I submit that it is possible to have all of those factors considered and more as we are trying to schedule students. We have the information; we just have not been able to gather it in a way so that we can apply it to schedules. I think we should take more time to decide which students will be with which teachers at what period of day and for how long, especially when it comes to reading and mathematics.
A new initiative we are embarking on is to examine how we schedule our elementary students. So far, we have held focus groups with teachers, principals, assistant principals and Central Office staff. Next, over the course of this week, elementary school teachers will be participating in a time study so that we will be able to better understand how teachers are actually spending their days. As test results come back and we gather information about who our teaching staff will be next year we are going to pull all of that data together. Through a strategic partnership we have entered with an organization called District Management Council, we are hoping to use this data to improve our ability to schedule students, to schedule teachers and to schedule classrooms.
As we go about this work, we’re also going to look at what is important to us when it comes to scheduling. Is it important to us for all teachers to have a common planning period? How long should we spend teaching math, reading, science and social studies? How do we schedule the teachers who are shared between different schools? How do we take care of the specials at each school so that we are able to ensure all students are getting equal access and opportunity? These are some of the questions we are going to be looking at as we move forward with this effort to improve our scheduling of elementary students.
I hope that as you participate in this process you are fully engaged to help us to improve. I believe that if we can improve our scheduling, we will be able to improve student achievement. This work is part of our strategic planning for next year. It’s not one of those things that people get excited about. It’s not one of those things that you can go out and people are going to say, “Yeah, that is going to be fantastic!” The truth is, things such as scheduling that we may have taken for granted, have a huge impact on student learning. Having the right student with the right teacher for the right amount of time is important.
I look forward to your help in determining what our scheduling priorities are, what it is we want to accomplish, and then helping us to follow through and implement this with fidelity.
Until next time, have a great day.
- Victory in our Schools!
With Hartley Elementary School newsletter contest prize
winner Mary Bell and Principal Dr. Carmalita Dillard
With Springdale Elementary School newsletter contest prize
winner Stephanie Turner and Assistant Principal Cami Hamlin