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Tremendous Titans Moments From A Wonderfully Memorable 2014

As we wrap up the 2014 calendar year, we are also halfway through the 14-15 school year. With a sense of anticipation, our thoughts turn to the year ahead and we refine and revise our individual and collective goals for 2015. Before we allow the sense of excitement for the impending year take over, however, we should pause and reflect on the many good things that transpired in 2014.

50 years strong! The 2014 year was a special one for the Norris District as we celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the district. The Norris story is one of successful consolidation. The vision and the foresight of the district's founders in creating a unified campus that, while centrally located geographically, is not in any one district municipality, has fostered a sense of unity and cohesiveness that is tremendously beneficial for the school culture. Many school consolidation stories chronicle a contentious and bitterly divisive process; the Norris District has become a model for successful consoli…

Giving thanks for great leaders @norris160!

Today I'm giving thanks for the great school leadership that surrounds us at Norris 160! I'm taking a moment from the nonstop turkey and football feast to share some gratitude to the leaders who make so much of what we do possible.

Brian Maschmann, Assistant Superintendent: the trusted voice of reason in every initiative we take, Brian brings a calm voice and practical insights to every situation.
Dr. Brenda Tracy, Special Ed and Curriculum Director: She is making an impact in teachers' growth and professional learning daily. We now have a comprehensive design for professional development that is instilling a common language for instruction and ensuring our teachers' learning targets are clear and explicit for all students at all levels.

HS Principal Ryan Ruhl: This is the man who has not only helped to sustain a culture of positive sportsmanship and student participation in our HS, he's taken it to the next level. 4 years in a row with a state tourney sportsmanshi…

Comments on the Nebraska Accountability System for State Board of Education

September 5, 2014




I was honored to present at the State Board of Education meeting today as a panelist representing the NePAS Task Force to bring forth recommendations on the evolving state accountability system. This was an informal exchange with the State Board to update them, and was conversational and informative. I was privileged to be among several speakers, including lead presenter and psychometrician Dr. Chad Buckendahl, State of Nebraska Director of Assessment Valorie Foy, and Dr. Leslie Lukin, LPS Director of Assessment and Evaluation.




While I did not provide the comments below verbatim, I shared the gist of it and these are my thoughts on the evolution of the state's model:



"Good morning, I am here today as one of the delegates representing the NePAS Task Force and the collaborative effort the group has undertaken with assessment experts and under the guidance of Dr. Foy and NDE Assessment personnel to offer recommendations for the accountability model for the state.…

2014 reminders for rookies, newbies, novice educators, & teachers new to Norris

You are talented. You would not be here if you did not have the capacity to be great. Our selection process is very rigorous. We are looking for professionals whose commitment to the vocation and compassion for students drive your decision-making and we picked you because you possess that fundamental student-centered value. So long as you remain mindful of that, and base your decisions on what is best for kids and what is in the interest of furthering student learning, you will seldom go wrong.

You are never not a Norris teacher. You're always representing not just yourself but your team, your building, your school district, and your community. Remember that and conduct yourself accordingly, because in all circumstances you are an ambassador for the district and someone who incarnates the values of the profession.

We don't expect pedagogical perfection, but we do have an expectation of continuous professional growth. You must commit yourself to learning, because that is the most…

Words of Wisdom from Chicago on Teaching to the Needs of the Total Child

Barbara Byrd-Bennett is the Chicago Schools CEO and oversees the daily education of hundreds of thousands of PK-12 Chicago children. Talk about a demanding gig! But she came well prepared as a former Sup of the Cleveland and New York City metropolitan districts.

Dr. Byrd-Bennett spoke to a Superintendents' meeting I attended recently, addressing our group on connecting health and achievement. She said that "We won't have children who are truly ready to learn and becoming college and career-ready and all those things that superintendents and school boards like to talk about unless we prioritize their health."

She added, "You can just go around saying your mission statement, but you must actually force the issue." Don't be afraid to ask: Are we doing what we profess to be doing for kids? Put another way, are we actualizing the mission?

Dr. Byrd-Bennett knows "People respect what you inspect." What is happening on a daily basis at the classroom l…

The New Commish Just Might Rock Our World

I have heard the new Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt speak on three different occasions now.  He's been consistently on message and brings the right combination of compassionate idealism about education plus political savvy that just might help produce great results for Nebraska schools. 

Except for the sporadic committee meeting interaction, I really did not know Matt before he took over the state ed chief post.  But so much of what I've heard from Matt since he followed the stellar Roger Breed (props to a former fellow EMC Superintendent) has been memorable and meaningful. Unlike some folks who get into positions of policy leadership, Blomstedt is not interested in rehashing platitudes or appeasing those around him. He's clearly interested in pushing a change initiative through that is focused on:
Collaborative sharing of best practices: find what works in schools and work to replicate it.Data-informed decision making: use data less as a blunt object with which…

Questions to ponder for 2014: Can we resolve to be just a little bit better?

Incremental changes sustained over time can lead to monumental improvements. - The Kaizen Way

The problem with most goal-setting isn't that the ideas aren't ambitious enough, it's that we fail to acknowledge the steps towards improvement we've already taken. While sweeping and radical changes may capture the imagination, they tend to falter in the execution. And we lose our desire to stay the course when changes diverge too radically from our daily habits.

This year, let's resolve to sustain progress in a positive direction. Ask yourself the following and answer in the affirmative and I know you'll summon the courage to commit. These reflect some of what I'm committing myself to, and I hope I can enlist you likewise.

1. Personal: can I resolve to show more gratitude towards my colleagues by making sure that I make it a point to say "thank you" meaningfully once more daily?

2. Professional: can I resolve to communicate positively in a way that shows my…