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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Superintendent Version 2.0

The start of my second school year as superintendent of the Green Island Union Free School District sure feels different than that initial day in the role twelve months ago. I am now familiar with the myriad amount of state reports and other responsibilities of the office that had previously been unknown to me, despite the many years I had worked as a building principal with superintendents. That beneath the surface list of duties proved to be full of surprises!

I also have a far better understanding of the nuances of the organizational culture - the "way we do things around here." That knowledge, together with the relationships that I've formed in the last year, will offer valuable assistance as I enter the second year of service.

I am convinced that our school district can sustain improvement and subsequently stretch our performance levels with the people we have on staff. Increasing achievement is not a matter of hiring new staff members or purchasing new materials as much as it is about framing a new attitude in the district. That path begins with clarity regarding our mission and a guiding vision. Our direction cannot be vague. Words and terms like - most, maybe, try, the best we can,... restrict possibilities rather than facilitate progress. Some is not a number, soon is not a time. We have to pledge ourselves to preparing all graduates for college, career, and citizenship. We have to commit to that target each and every day leading up to graduation. 

The vehicle for pursuing our mission rests on our fidelity to the 6 C's we addressed when the staff met on the day before school opened: Clarity; Communication; Collaboration; Commitment; Compassion; and Consistency.

The learners looked a little taller and a little older as they walked up the sidewalk on opening day. I was informed by one 7th grader that I looked a bit older but not an inch taller (Oh well). They represented all ages, sizes, shapes, and colors. The common denominator among them is that their faces are a reminder of our purpose. There is an individual story behind each expression. We should not do anything that robs any of them of their hopes and dreams. We must extend respect and dignity for all; stimulate a desire to learn relevant knowledge, skills, and work habits; provide meaningful and timely feedback on their learning experiences; expend as much energy and effort as we expect them to exercise; and successfully assimilate them into a community of learners.

That's what we need to do. Now, here's what I believe that I need to do as an individual.

I must work with our school board of education to reach a fair and equitable accord with each of our bargaining units in a manner that supports a collaborative school culture and appropriately balances compensation with the resources of the community.

I must orchestrate our resources to effectively and efficiently promote higher levels of performance by:

1. fostering dreams and sustaining hope for all members of our learning community.
2. simultaneously promoting organizational goals of the district and individual goals of staff members - permitting each individual to exploit unique skills and professional discretion, while remaining oriented to the overarching goals of the district.
3. incorporating a new assessment program called NWEA (developed by the Northwest Education Association) that is a growth oriented adaptive assessment for learners in Kindergarten through 10th grade, administered three times each year in Math, Language, and Reading, that identifies individual instructional levels and skill bands that inform the instructional decision of our teachers.
4. ensuring that our staff has the conditions, training, and support necessary to meet the demanding challenges of state learning standards.
5. examining possibilities before they become obvious or necessary - explore the creation of a school-to-work internship program that presents real life work experiences for our seniors as they begin the transition from school to careers and colleges; evaluate the prospects of providing college level classes in our high school beyond the existing foreign language oriented University in the Classroom program; determine if our master schedule can be adapted to allow seniors the opportunity to attend local college classes in the afternoon hours of the normal school schedule; and finally, make every effort to look "around corners and over horizons" for experiences that could benefit our learners.
6. successfully integrating various state mandates such as the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) in a process that does not distract us from our pursuit of the district's mission.

I need to provide and preserve a bridge between the school district and the community by:

1. promoting constructive interactions between the school district and our community.
2. regularly communicating our work and progress to those outside of our school.
3. making a convincing case that we are an investment worthy of the financial resources of our taxpayers.  

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