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

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Relays are generally a track and field term that identifies a race in which four runners form a team and each member runs a designated distance. The intervals are marked by the exchange of a baton that signals the transition. The baton is handed from one runner as he completes his stage of the race to another who immediately embarks on his segment. This hand-off is repeated until the fourth runner crosses the finish line.

I went to a bit of a different relay last night. It was the annual Relay for Life in Green Island. This event, starting at 6:00pm Friday and lasting through the evening before ending at 6:00am Saturday, served as a fundraiser for the fight against cancer. It also represented a solemn recognition of those who survived cancer, those who are presently battling cancer, and those who were defeated by cancer.

This relay also marked the end of the first stage of my professional relay. That is, the first opportunity I had to meet the residents of Green Island after being selected as their new superintendent was last year's Relay for Life. So, in a way, this relay is a benchmark of sorts for me.

It doesn't seem like a year has transpired since my initial visit. The pages of the calendar have been flipped without notice. Yet, much has happened in the time between the two relays.

Last night's visit was certainly much different than last year. I struggled during the previous relay to remember the names of everyone who was introduced to me. I was nervous and anxious. I had left a secure, tenured position where I had earned credibility, enjoyed concrete evidence of success, and acquired the benefit of political capital. I walked around the track that evening reminding myself that I was starting all over. the job was new and the role was different. I didn't know anyone in the school district. I realized the challenge facing me as an outsider (it had been twenty years since the district had a superintendent who had not worked their way up the organizational ladder from within the system). I was confident in my preparation, but acknowledged that I lacked experience in the position of superintendent. I was physically walking in circles around the track that evening and emotionally walking around in circles within my head.

However, last night I was relaxed throughout the experience. I enjoyed visiting with people I've befriended during the year between the relays. I met with learners of all ages from the school who were participating in the relay. I felt as if I was part of the community. It was a reassuring and comfortable feeling.

In terms of the organization, while there's much to do and much distance to cover before we can even suggest that Heatly has reached its potential, there have been incremental steps that reflect progress. Instruction and related issues appear to have emerged with greater attention. Evaluation and feedback of staff has increased to comply with state mandates of the Annual Professional Performance Review. Efforts to maintain effective communication within the school and with the community have produced positive results. Expectations regarding achievement levels have been articulated to all members of the school community. Students have gradually been replaced by learners. Investing has been substituted for spending. Programs have been expanded. The budget was passed with overwhelming approval, despite an increase in investments above the inflation rate during a time of economic constraints. The School Board sustained its membership and stability - an important element in constancy of purpose and strategic consistency as the district is expected to once again be faced with fiscal challenges.

There are more points of note, but there are also issues to be addressed. Differentiation of instruction and classroom management techniques are two areas that beckon further work. Integration of curriculum is another advance we can make. Our school must reach out and involve parents as meaningful partners to a greater extent than we have so far. The change in cut scores on the state mandated assessments will threaten the confidence level of the staff and learners. It's been predicted that these changes will negatively impact many, many school districts. The expectations accompanying New York's Race To The Top requirements will bring forth changes in the form of new common core learning standards. This represents yet another change in a lengthy series of changes imposed by the state and federal education departments. I believe that most school systems across the state have had their fill of externally imposed changes. The threat of alternative educational providers, particularly local charter schools, cannot be overlooked. The costs associated with losing learners to other agencies will deplete our resources and exacerbate our precarious financial status, sending us into a dangerous, downward spiral.

We must become more competitive to continue our progress. This will require sensitivity to the marketplace, a coherent response to the needs of learners, and an expanded outreach to the community. Success will depend on even greater clarity and commitment. Increases in efficiency and effectiveness can stimulate improvement. Collaboration is vital. Additional growth in programming - such as school-to-work internships and college classes during high school - will benefit our learners and ward off potential losses in enrollment to private, parochial, and charter schools.

On an individual level, I want to improve my time management and related organizational skills. I'd like to get out in the community more, especially with respect to businesses in Green Island, so we can convey our mission and increase the understanding among stakeholders of our meaning and message. I want to be more aggressive in seeking and securing grants that could provide funding at a time of need and further our growth in programs. I must become intimately acquainted with the guidelines associated with the federal and state initiatives that will unfold in the coming year - like Race To The Top requirements and the common core learning standards and recent adaptations to the Annual Professional Performance Review and...

There's a lot do, but our district can successfully respond to the challenges. I'm confident of that based on the progress we've experienced this first year working together. The summer will offer time to analyze data, reflect on future possibilities, generate solutions to vexing issues, and reinforce our resolve. I'm looking forward to September!


No comments:

Post a Comment