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Monday, April 11, 2011

Music To My Ears

My wife and I went to a musical over the last weekend. The play involved a learner from our high school and it took place on the stage in the auditorium of the school district where I worked as a principal prior to accepting the position as superintendent in Green Island. I anxiously looked forward to the play for two reasons. First, the chance to experience the talent of a young lady from Heatly who accepted this demanding challenge as a vehicle to pursue her personal dream of a career in the performing arts. This would be the culmination of a series of rehearsals and endless practices in preparation for the three presentations of The Sound of Music. Second, I suspected that I would see several people from my years of work in that community. It would be a welcome opportunity to re-connect with acquaintances. In addition, curiosity compelled me to examine the outcome of a recently completed capital project in the district - featuring a renovated auditorium with new seats, lights, sound system, and air conditioning.

A wave of personal nostalgia swept over me as people made their way through the entrance of the building. One after another, I recognized familiar faces of young and old and took the time to catch up on what has transpired in the nearly nine months since my departure from the school system. It was a terrific experience. Yet, despite the lustre of the encounters I found no regret about leaving twenty years of effort and energy behind went I left for Green Island. I was incredibly fortunate to serve a supportive community, work with an extraordinarily high performing staff, and exercise responsibility of thousands of wonderful learners who stretched through two generations. I learned a great deal and grew on a personal and professional level as a result of my experience working there. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I am indebted to the support and care I received from members of that school community.

However, the decision to leave that excellent district came down to a pivotal point that separated reality from dreams. I wanted to accept the responsibility of influencing an entire school system rather than an abbreviated portion, like an elementary school, or a junior high school, or a high school. It wasn't the size of the building necessarily but the breadth of the span of influence. I wanted to make a difference on a grander scale that stretched from Kindergarten through grade twelve. I wanted to advance toward that professional dream enough to start all over at a new assignment.

Interestingly, the pursuit of a dream is what inspired the young lady to travel approximately forty miles each way to practice and rehearse for this production, not to mention the time invested in memorizing lines and songs and the intricate interactions in time and space with her fellow performers. It offered her another step closer to realizing her personal vision. It would become an experience that would help her further her resume and expand possibilities. Clearly, in my opinion, she displayed skills worthy of distinction and recognition that will equip her to receive additional roles in other performances.

Now you know that this Blog entry is leading back toward our purpose and meaning at Heatly - it always does, doesn't it? I have mentioned in previous posts over the last few months about efforts we have generated to fulfill the goals developed at a School Board Advance (we can't afford to retreat at Heatly!) held in August. We have challenged ourselves to remain a small school, create BIG ideas, and offer enriched and expanded learning experiences - in the face of a loss of state aid to education during tough economic times. Ah, but I will steal a line from a song in the musical - "When God closes a door he opens a window," to explain our perspective on searching for opportunity within a crisis.

I have communicated plans about increasing the expanse of our curriculum through on-line learning in the form of academic electives not currently provided. In fact, we begin registration on Wednesday. I also have referred to future plans that would allow high school seniors to block their required classes in the morning so they could attend classes at local colleges in the afternoons. In addition, we expect to organize the infrastructure necessary for the evolution of a school-to-work program that would enable seniors to engage in extended job shadowing experiences at various organizations in the area that feature extended opportunities for high school seniors to learn about prospective careers. Toward that end, we hope to cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship with many other businesses in the next year or two. Well, we have secured a relationship with one such enterprise for next year. It is the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany and the first intern we will place there is the young lady who sang her heart out in The Sound of Music over the weekend.

Beyond our mission of, Preparing graduates for college, career, and citizenship, is our commitment to sustain hope and nurture dreams of learners of all ages, at all stages. That's music to my ears...

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