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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Difference A Year Makes

Last year at this time I was winding down a twenty year career as an elementary principal in Schuylerville, New York and preparing to assume responsibility for leading the Green Island Union Free School District. I was experiencing a great deal of work and more than a little bit of conflicting emotions during the transition.

A year later finds me on my feet after looking, listening, and learning about the multiple dimensions of the school system. I am in a much better position to assert leadership designed to leverage success. Twelve months ago, there was so much information coming at me all at once that I likened it to drinking water from a fire hose. Now, I can devote more energy and effort at reviewing our people, our policies and our practices with an eye on how we can effectively coordinate the three areas to promote improvement.

I'm excited about our prospects despite the issues that will confront us as we move forward. The recently passed 2% property tax cap will pose a significant hurdle if it constrains our possibilities by restricting finances. More than ever before, as funding shrinks, we must expand our support among community members and taxpayers. The only way to exceed the cap, and I suspect the increases in pension costs and health care expenses will prompt us to creep beyond the cap, will be to acquire at least a 60% approval among voters for our budget. Our performance must rise to increase the confidence and perceptions people have regarding our operation and if we expect to secure an appropriate budget. Efficiency and effectiveness will help gain the public trust and investment.

In addition, the Annual Professional Performance Review that was modified and expanded in the last month represents another obstacle. The proper implementation of the components of the APPR requires significant training. There are more questions than answers emerging from the state's recent intervention. I believe the state is moving too fast (the impact of political pressure and misplaced rhetoric) and has advanced beyond the ability of the state education department to develop and articulate some of the elements of the code. That leaves school districts everywhere groping for assistance in addressing issues (i.e. what are the assessments necessary to use in measuring teacher performance in those grades and subjects that currently lack state-wide tests?).

Finally, not only has the state education department leaped ahead like an anxious army that has outstripped its supply lines ($$$$) and risks becoming vulnerable,  but the tax cap constricts school systems precisely at the point in time when they are contending with Race To The Top mandates and APPR.

There's a considerable amount of work ahead.... but this summer allows the time to prepare for the challenges.

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