Friday, September 11, 2015

Reflection for Teachers, Sept. 2015

Isn’t it interesting to wonder about what drives a kid to lead, to achieve, and to excel? How about Logan Stewart and the fundraising effort for a Hickman city skatepark? Impressive. Loses his dad but in the process decides to perpetuate a legacy. Positive! Or how about this guy- the awesome Austin Schultz (Bridget's kid) battling his way to a coveted spot on the USA baseball national team 16U roster. Think there were more than a few minutes of wondering in the weeks it took this arduous process to play out to become one of only 59 nationally? Perseverance! I was further inspired watching Norris runners at the Pius XC invite yesterday. Those who cruised and those who battled just to finish. Not sure the last time you've hammered out 3.1 miles on the forbidding terrain of that Pioneers Park course, but it's a tough one- and with the sort of sadistic finish climbing uphill that makes people wonder just why anyone would subject themselves to it. And man, that Kelly Helmberger can really fly, running with unflinching determination yesterday to excel against some really top rate competition. There are so many student success stories out there - if you weren’t wowed by the FFA’s all-star performance at the Nebraska State Fair, you need to go back and review Doug Malone’s email summarizing the Norris students’ accomplishments.

What drives you and how are you modeling that message and motivating others to achieve, excel and lead by example? Have a great one, and keep helping your kids be great together. That's what you do - and it's quite a noble enterprise.

[This excerpt is cross-posted at the longer, complete Norris Superintendent's Report for September 2015 at]

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Human Resources: The Role of the Superintendent: Talking Points for Doane Cadre

Talking Points for Doane Cadre Panel: June, 2015

What is the role of superintendent in the overall design, policies, culture and practices of HR?
  • Policies need to delineate roles and responsibilities clearly.
  • Practices need to be professional: have a process that gathers multiple inputs & allows district to weight most important candidate characteristics.
  • Practice the practice. Train up on it. Review it, recite it, so you abide by it or you will end up with slippage and quality control problems.
  • Practices need to be both consistent and have an inherent degree of flexibility to capitalize on unique circumstances.
  • Culture of HR should equate to culture of organization- hard to credibly say you are collaborative culture if selection decisions are made unilaterally.

What is your role in working with the Board and staff (such as principals) in implementing HR?  
  • With board members, the most important thing is understanding protocol and for all of us to know and abide by our roles.
  • Staff (principals etc.): Honor the conversation. Pick up the phone or sit down together and talk through it. There is no substitute for acknowledging the complexity of HR situations as they present themselves.
  • Principals must know that it is not considered an act of heroism for them to keep something from central office by attempting to solve a personnel problem individually without consultation or communication to district level.

What is your role as superintendent in developing principals and other administrators as leaders?

  • Leadership development is the most important role. Those closest to most closely reflect what you project.
  • Leadership is a shared responsibility; success in schools is accomplished through empowering others, not via individual goal attainment.
  • We have a duty to profession and obligation to our colleagues to develop not merely acceptable but outstanding leaders.
  • Most impact as a superintendent is not via "doing" as self but by working through others to accomplish important positive outcomes for the team.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Responding to a crisis event in schools: Panelist comments for Nebraska School Public Relations Conference

It's my pleasure today to address the Nebraska School Public Relations conference and share some thoughts as one voice on a panel for Responding to Crisis Events in schools. Whether it is recovering from the decimation of an F-4 tornado, responding a to a bus accident that resulted in dozens of students being transported to local trauma centers, or reacting to situations where volunteers or staff members committed egregious or embarrassing acts, it's essential districts have effective communication protocols for tough situations. Here's my simple advice, earned through experience:

·         “Guano happens.” Saw that on a bumper sticker the other day, and it’s a relevant point in crisis response: Respond to what the situation gives you; each scenario you encounter is a bit different.
·         Have (and consistently review during mundane and routine times) clear internal communication protocols.
·         Professional development in disaster preparedness is highly beneficial: FEMA – NIMS, ICS, etc. Clarify roles, delineate responsibilities.
·         Be timely: “Beat the tweet.” Heard that from the Superintendent of Louisville, KY. Use the communication platforms you have available to communicate timely and accurate information so that misinformation via social media does not hold sway.
·         “There can be only one quarterback.” Doc Baker used to say this. You don’t want a two quarterback system in crisis response. Make sure it’s clear who is calling the plays and who your district voice to media is.
·         Be transparent. Actively acknowledging that some factors may be unknown and are being investigated is a much more honest response than ducking media or uttering the classic gaffe of “no comment” as your comment.
·         Manage the message: Get your own press release out there. Use all available means to communicate and go ahead and be redundant!  Redundancy helps get the word out.
·         Work with your local media personnel. Media are not the enemy. They have an important job to do. The more outreach that has occurred from the school to media prior to a crisis, the more likely there is a level of trust established in communication processes.
·         Value the work of others! Respect the needs of local law enforcement and emergency responders, thank them for their difficult and dangerous work, and follow incident command protocols.
·         Know the needs of your personnel. Don’t stop listening to others. Respond with empathy and communicate the facts while providing as much reassurance as possible. Together, the team will get through this!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Last day of school reflection: 10 things that went amazingly right at Norris this year

  • Norris District stakeholders, admin, and School Board developed and BOE adopted a strategic plan to guide governance and major program initiatives in coming years.
  • Norris won Nebraska Coaches’ Association Sportsmanship awards every season, including the volleyball, girls basketball and boys soccer state tournaments.
  • Norris parents and patrons contributed quarter of a million dollars ($250K) to achieve donor target for starting turf field and track resurfacing project.
  • Norris volleyball team won historic back-to-back repeat state championship.
  • Numerous members of Norris’ esteemed faculty were recognized with individual awards which furthered their professional growth or recognized their outstanding contributions to the profession, including but not limited to
  • Our Tech Director’s latest order of Chromebooks for our students has shipped from Amazon: Excitement already building for next year!
The list is hardly exhaustive, but enough to demonstrate that our Norris School District has had another memorable year of great accomplishments from students and staff. Thanks for all you do and have a safe and productive summer getting geared up for the 2015-16 school year!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why be a connected admin?

I'm at #NETA15, on Twitter at @yourNETA. Or as the morning keynote said, "We are with our fellow nerds."

I am excited today to have the opportunity later this morning  to speak with @Mandery, @dougkittle, @bmowinkel, @mrbadura, @catlett11 and @chlor13 on being a connected administrator. (For the uninitiated, these are their Twitter handles.)

Why connect, anyway?
1. It is where are our kids live.
2. It is where our parents have gone.
3. It is important for administrators to model tech use, not merely give lip service to it. We must project what we expect.
4. When we model tech use, we demonstrate the fundamentally important learner behavior of risk taking and we ensure our teachers know they are in a supportive tech environment that encourages pedagogical risk-taking to enhance learner engagement.
5. The less you use digital communication tools and the more you continue an over reliance on traditional communication platforms like hard copy mailings to parents, the more market share you surrender to other voices that are out there. If you want to manage your message, you must get connected, and utilize multiple platforms both for your professional development as well as your district's profile.

How do I connect as an administrator? Where can I leverage the greatest impact as a school administrator in connecting?

1. Use connected presentation modes like MoveNote. Incorporate YouTube content in meaningful ways in your own professional development presentations to staff.
3. Get your admin team on Google Hangouts. Start meeting periodically via Hangouts and scrap the monotony of a traditional sit down meeting for this video conference mode.
4. Do your part to build digital infrastructure! Drive wider and more accessible wi-fi in your district.
5. Get on Twitter for fast and easily accessible content through a personal learning network of connected educators. You don't have to take my word for it, though. Just get on Twitter and start by searching the Twitter feeds (above) of the amazing connected Ed Leaders on the panel I am joining this morning. You'll find there's an abundant wealth of great learning being shared by these folks and their connected colleagues.

Let's do this!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tech Integration Tips from Coachella Valley USD

Coachella Valley USD is presenting on their mobile learning initiative at the National School Boards Association convention (March, 2015).  They have spearheaded one of the largest iPad rollouts in our nation at the  PK-12 level with over 20,000 students receiving iPads.

Key recommendations from the CVUSD team that I heard:

  • Devices don't matter if you don't have the right attitude. Mindset is essential and enthusiasm is vital.
  • There has to be a paradigm shift in schools from "IT" to Ed Tech.
  • T3s are Teachers Training Teachers. Coachella is leveraging the power of peer modeling and teacher expertise to help tech integration become a reality.
  • The tech team must be decentralized. If you want your tech personnel to really impact teaching, they have to be out in buildings, reaching out to teachers.
  • Fixing technology (keeping network up and on and repairing devices) alone will never fulfill technology's promise. Transformational use requires committed tech integration, not just the 'stuff.' 
  • Support teachers with time and training. 
  • Uphold teacher responsibility for tech integration by making it a component of teacher evaluation. 
  • Technology must have a proponent voice at the highest district levels or it will not be heard as a priority. 

Connected-on-the-go - a cool idea: they have a digital divide with many families and homes in poverty and not connected. With many families who have no internet at home, the district wanted to extend learning in the realms they control, so they added routers to their school buses. They now have kids on routes to and from school who are able to use their devices via the mobile wi fi provided in transit.

Coachella has got it going on! They are a large district clearly guided by a commitment to making transformative tech use a means for positive student engagement,