Valid email addresses are required to post comments. If your comment is not posted, I will send you an email with an explanation.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Half Full Or Half Empty

The January Regents exams and mid-term tests are now memories (hopefully pleasant memories). Monday signaled the start of the second semester of the school year. That means I am halfway done with my first year as a superintendent and my first year in Green Island. It's a time to indulge in a retrospective view of the progress, or lack thereof, during that time period.

I chose to enter a district-wide leadership position rather late in my educational career. It was a choice based on values and preferences, not lack of preparation or opportunity. I believe that my thirty-three years as a building principal reflected more than sufficient proof of the ability to effectively transfer that experience and exercise the knowledge and skills required to perform successfully as a superintendent. The decision to apply for the post at Green Island was oriented around the prospect of leading a K-12 district that was small enough in enrollment and staff for an individual to make a positive and constructive difference on a personal level. The key to that equation was that relationships would be developed and sustained at an arm's length through personal interactions instead of across parking lots and among people only known through name tags. So, any self-assessment would be framed by the context of that personal preference and the associated core values and bedrock beliefs.

That's where I'll start - from the domain of personal interactions.

I have stationed myself on the sidewalk in front of the school from 7:20am until 8:05am on approximately 90% or more of the school days (even Tuesday morning in the bitter cold and constant snowfall). Given that almost all of the 320 learners walk to school because the district does not provide bus transportation, their arrival is staggered and on-going, allowing me to personally welcome individuals as they approach the single entrance to the school. I relish this experience. I was very often at the front door of the school in my prior leadership position but since nearly all of the 1,000 learners at that school were bused and subsequently disembarked from the 18 buses at the same time, extending personal greetings left me feeling that I was swimming upstream against a strong current. Great intentions were no match for the reality of a mass arrival that mimicked a stampede.

By stationing myself on the sidewalk at the foot of the stairs leading to the only unlocked entrance to the school I was able to learn names and relate them to faces, eventually acquiring enough information to connect names and faces with personal stories revealing the character and hopes of many of the learner population. Presumably, they were also learning about me. This exchange is necessary in moving from the level of acquaintance to a deeper relationship that offers mutual respect and trust. Care and compassion are the desired by-products of this cultivated arrangement.

Together with roaming the hallways during class changes in the secondary school and dropping by the cafeteria and visiting tables of learners scattered throughout the room, I had more opportunities to develop an understanding of individual learners. Elementary children have been daily lunch guests in the superintendent's office. I've been offered an interesting perspective on the interests and thoughts of kids through the wide ranging conversations that have taken place over pizza and hot dogs. In addition, my participation in the mentoring program enables me to sustain a constructive relationship with the young learners I meet with.

I have attended all of the home basketball games and missed only a single home soccer game. Those events have extended interactions beyond learners to parents and other members of the community. PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) meetings have been another source of contact that provides insight into the general mood of the community and the expectations of the school. I'm sure there have been many other forms of connecting with people. Overall, I feel confident of the progress toward a goal of nurturing a healthy organizational culture that promotes collaboration and compassion. However, my focus on meeting and greeting learners as they enter the school has resulted in missed opportunities to mingle more with the staff members during that narrow window between their arrival to work and the time learners begin bursting through the door of the school. In response, I have made a conscious effort to walk along the hallways and visit rooms to speak with staff members whenever I can immediately after dismissal of learners. In addition, I have attended as many different committee meetings as possible to not only maintain communication but also increase an awareness of the progress and direction we are making in improvement strategies.

Time will tell if the investment and commitment I have made toward establishing the school environment as the prime leverage point for improving the district is successful. We'll have to wait and see, trust and hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment