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Our “Best of the Blogs” section includes thoughtful insights on school leadership being shared through blogs maintained by AASA members. This representative sampling of five bloggers, through an RSS feed, will change periodically to showcase other member blogs, so check back regularly. If you are aware of others, contact magazine@aasa.org.

  • Look for the Positives

    Notes from the Superintendent|8/31/2015

    Connecting with the Community at the State Fair: Well my New York State Fair diet is in full stride. I think I am going to turn into a Gianelli sausage if I eat any more of them, not to mention that I have had more ice cream in the past week than I have had all year.

    I want to give a big THANK YOU to all of the parents, employees, community members, and students that my wife and I have run into at the Fair. It has been really challenging to adjust to our new "empty nest" at home, so the Fair has been our refuge of sorts. Everyone we have seen (and I am talking dozens of people) have been so complimentary of the District, our school community and our vision; that it is very humbling and fills me with great pride. Thank you for all that YOU do to support our students!

    The Positives Out Weigh the Negatives -- It isn't hard to find negativity. Just turn on the news or open your favorite news app and you will find articles and stories that make you want to stay in your house and never come out. Have no fear, because I am going to share many positives that have happened right under our noses this summer!

    Wildcat Marching Band Preview: The stands were packed on our turf field as our Marching Band showed off a good portion of their upcoming show, Bugs. If you missed it, Bill Davern, our Director of Fine Arts, broadcast the majority of it on the smartphone app called Periscope. You can download the app and follow him (and me), then you can go back and view the performance. I am really excited for the upcoming Marching Band season.

    Replacing Old Instruments: Sticking with the Fine Arts program, I have been working with Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli about obtaining some funding to help replace musical instruments that are old, outdated, worn, and damaged. We have created a three-year plan to replace the dozens of instruments that need to be replaced for a total investment of $168,000.

    The Assemblyman and I met recently to discuss the plan, and he was able to help us with $150,000 of that project meaning we will be able to complete our three-year replacement plan in one year with no impact to our taxpayers. With the 50th anniversary of the Marching Band right around the corner, this grant from the Assemblyman will come in very handy. I would call that a positive.

    Supply Drive is a Success: On Saturday, community member and volunteer Deb Troiano did it again. She coordinated for the West Genesee PTA/PTO District Council a community effort to collect school supplies for our needy families. They raised enough money and supplies to help over 95 local families that included 200 children.


    That is an incredible but necessary undertaking, and she deserves credit for organizing supply drives, enlisting adult and student volunteers, and creating a process that is seamless, confidential, and fulfilling to families in need. As one parent told me, "Mrs. Troiano's work helped ease the stress of the start of school and she can now concentrate on helping her child to become adjusted to school." Thanks again to the District Council and especially to Deb! I would call that a positive.

    Saving for the Turf Field: Two years ago the community authorized the school to start a "savings" account to replace our existing turf field when the time comes. Having a savings account takes all of the emotion out of replacing the turf and also ensures that there is no tax impact when the time comes. Our turf gets used a LOT.

    Our existing turf has two to three years left before we need to replace it, but through responsible budgeting and planning we have enough in that savings account to replace the turf when the time comes without any impact on our local taxpayers.

    We are actually in the beginning stages of pricing out what it would cost to convert our other grass field at the high school to turf so our Marching Band, athletes, and community members can use the field(s) longer and to eliminate the grass maintenance costs. We also think it might be possible to do this conversion with no tax impact. We will keep you posted. I would call that a positive.

    I have many more positives to share but you get the picture. This week your homework is to try to find as many positive things as you can and bring them to the dinner table to share them as part of your conversations. Leave the negativity for another day. Enjoy the week!

    Chris

  • Student Ownership and Voice

    Amy Griffin's Blog|8/30/2015

     
     
    Student ownership of the school experience is critical to healthy and authentic learning for our students. I have seen more and more student ownership and voice at CuCPS.  CHS elected their student councils with the middle school preparing to add a student leadership council in the next several weeks. Students are taking control of their school environment with delivering breakfasts to middle school classrooms, landscaping around the campus, and assisting in the middle school media center. The Superintendent Student Panel is preparing to meet in September and there is always the Duke Leaders at the elementary school. I look forward to seeing more student voice during classroom instruction, in the new Maker Spaces, and during our D21 Strategic Planning.  It is important to listen to our children and look at learning and the school experience through their eyes.
     
     
    CuCPS Highlights:
    • Tiara Butler participates in 4H Citizenship Program: http://www.farmvilleherald.com/2015/08/chs-student-included-in-4-h-citizenship-program/
    • Congratulations to the CHS 2015-2016 SGA & Class Officers
      • SGA: President-Kaylah Paras; Vice President-Preston Sutton; Secretary-Sunnie Trieble; Treasurer-Trevon Foster
      • Senior Class: President-Tina Eubank; Vice President-Hannah King; Secretary-Melissa Gilliam; Treasurer-Marya Elasha
      • Junior Class: President--Riley Giles; Vice President-John Jefferies; Secretary-Shakiera Branch; Treasurer-Zion Salmon
      • Sophomore Class: President-Chris Allen; Vice President-Olivia Sims; Secretary-Ty-Esha Hatcher; Treasurer-A’Mia Booker
      • Freshman Class: President- Alivia Hanvey; Vice President-Brandon White; Secretary-Abigail Heath; Treasurer-Cole Fillman
    • The CHS Golf Team played well in a match against Central and Nottoway in Crewe. Scores were: Chase Grubbs (37), Dylan Stimpson (57), Coleman Phillips (59), Melissa Gilliam (59), Tyler Kingsley (64), & Mason Ludgate (67).
    • Cross County Results:
      • Boys Results
        • Hunter Cochran,4th 
        • Devon Reid, 7th 
        • Randolph-Henry-18, Amelia-57, Cumberland- 97, Goochland-0. 
      • Girls Results
        • Ebony Jones, 4th
        • Marya Elasha, 11th
        • 1st Randolph-Henry, 2nd Cumberland, 3rd Amelia.
    • The CHS Football team beat Charles City, 22-8!
    • Middle and High School teams participated in the following scrimmages:
      • Middle School and JV Volleyball at New Life School 
      • CMS Football and Appomattox
    • Check out the Farmville Herald for the following:
    • Message from the CCES Team WIN:  MARK YOUR CALENDARS! SEPTEMBER 10TH FROM 3PM-7:30PM, we will be cleaning out and PAINTING the walls of the 3rd and 4th Grade Pod areas! We need lots of helping hands (children can help, too!). Wear old clothes! You can come anytime in that time frame and stay as long as you can! TOGETHER we can get these last 2 Pods done for our students!
     
    Events for the Week:
    • Tuesday
      • Administrative Council Meeting (12:00 noon)
     
    CuCPS will be closed on Monday, September 7, 2015, for the Labor Day Holiday.
     
    Plan to attend the D21 Forum on September 16, 2015:  http://www.cucps.k12.va.us/index.php/component/k2/item/254-strategic-plan-forum
     

  • What's a parent to do?

    The Superintendent's Chair|8/27/2015

    I love this picture. It's old. It's beginning to fade. Some of the color has rubbed off.

    It is a picture of the boys on Beaufait. Two of my boys are in this picture - Zach, with the big smile, on the right, and Jake, the farthest left.



    The boy in the purple shirt is now a PhD in Civil Engineering.

    The youngest boy just left for Marine boot camp last Sunday.

    Jake has studied graphic and web design and is looking for a job. Zach works full-time and goes to school.

    Many years have passed since this picture was taken. Yet when I see this picture and know who these children have become I can't help but think of Mrs. Fraser, Mrs. Reith, Mr. (now Dr.) Dib, Mrs. Gawel, Mr. Hunwick, Mr. Bens, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Quinn, Mr. Stackpoole, Ms. McGuire, and many other teachers who influenced my children in positive and profound ways.

    No longer do I have young children to get ready for the start of school. While I anticipate and look forward to the start of school it is because I am the Superintendent not because I have children who are anticipating that first day of school. 

    As a parent I wanted each school year to be perfect.

    It never was.

    But our family survived and my boys survived. How? Here are lessons I learned as my boys went through school. They may, or may not, be helpful as you prepare for another new school year.

    Establish a good routine. My wife and I established a bed time and a time to get up in the morning for our children. We learned this lesson the hard way. There were too many nights and too many mornings that did not go well because we were rushing. A routine helped us manage more successfully.

    There will be times to vary, but a routine helps establish other things. If everyone knows when bedtime is then it is easier to know when to start homework and when to start baths and when to start bedtime reading. It also made it easier in the morning when one child took a long time to wake up and one child could get ready in an instant.

    Read to your children. Everyday! My wife and I would take turns reading. We read to our boys up through middle school.

    Reading has many positive academic benefits - increased fluency, increased vocabulary, increased sense of language. But it also has many social-emotional connections. My sons and I cried reading Bridge to Terabithia. We had wonderful discussions reading Jurassic Park.

    There is no right way to read. My oldest kept very still while we read, right beside me in the bed. My youngest couldn't sit still and played with toys and moved around the whole time. Just read - that's the most important thing!

    My experience taught me that teachers, principals, bus drivers, school secretaries, and food service workers cared for my children. They probably didn't care as much as I did - but they cared a lot! Teachers and principals did their jobs because they wanted what was best for my children. They invested themselves everyday to help my children find success.

    Sometimes success was elusive. Sometimes things don't go well. But it was not because the people who worked in schools didn't like my kids, didn't know what to do, or didn't care.

    When things went wrong - as they inevitably did - I learned that I needed to take the time to talk to the people directly involved. I learned to approach them with the belief that they cared for my children - because they did.

    We worked together. We tried to find solutions. Sometimes we didn't go in the direction that I thought we should. When that happened I sometimes thought that the end would be catastrophe. It never was. Things sorted themselves out. 

    When things didn't work out like I thought they should it was not because the teacher or administrator was trying to be mean or didn't care. The teacher or administrator or coach was making what they considered to be the best decision possible.

    I also learned that my boys sometimes did stupid things. When they did it was best to help my boys see that it was stupid and accept the consequences instead of trying to get them out of it. My hope is that they learned that I loved them and that they also learned a lesson.

    There are lots of things that I learned raising three boys. What I learned most of all is that schools were great places for my boys to learn and grow and mature into great adults!

  • Appreciate What You Have Each and Every Day

    Notes from the Superintendent|8/25/2015

    Appreciate What You Have: On my way home from work I pass a cemetery. Each day I look and see grieving families hovering over a spot on the ground. It is surreal sometimes because my mood is usually happy, and I am thinking about what I am going to do when I get home. The people at the cemetery appear to have lost their absolute everything and are the saddest they have probably ever been.

    As a Superintendent, I have worked with tens of thousands of students and families and from time to time tragedy, or near tragedy, has struck. This summer has provided a quadruple dose unfortunately. When I was younger I used to be able to help a family work through a situation and then just go back to work seemingly unfazed. As I have gotten older and my children are grown up and at college, the hurt and sadness sticks with me much longer when these situations arise for others.

    I cannot understate the importance to appreciate who you have around you each and every day, because that can change in the blink of an eye. I have seen it, felt it, lived it. Give the extra hug, have the extra conversation, hang out the extra time, and appreciate those who are close to you. Hopefully you will never have to thank me later for the advice. If you cross paths with someone who is experiencing something awful, help them out. Simple as that.

    West Genesee High School is a Reward School: On a much more positive note we should all appreciate the school District that we live in and all of the employees who make each and every day of school possible for us. I am certainly proud to come to work every day and was especially proud when I opened up the mail and found that our high school is a New York State Education Department Reward School Award recipient.

    This is a VERY rare award to receive and it is given to schools that can demonstrate sustained excellence. The high school received the award because students who have struggled coming out of eighth grade have still been able to graduate on time, our number of Career and Technical Education endorsements has been consistently high, and our graduation rate (completion rate) has been exceptional (currently at 94% in comparison to the state average of 76%). We are all a part of something special; let's keep it going!

    By the time I post again, I will have been to the New York State Fair about four times. I cannot wait! Enjoy the rest of the week.

    Chris

  • Holding Nothing Back!

    Amy Griffin's Blog|8/24/2015

    2015 Senior Banner
     
    With two weeks of school under our belts, our students are busy learning, networking, and participatings in a multitude of events.   Athletic scrimmages have begun; clubs and after school activities are underway; and students and staff are deep into learning. It has been wonderful to see everyone back at school-- happy and eager to learn!
     
     
     
     
    CuCPS Highlights:
     
     
     
    Events for the Week:
    • Monday
      • CCES Division-Grade Level Data Meetings
    • Tuesday
      • CMS Division-Grade Level Data Meetings
    • Wednesday
      • CHS Division-Department Data Meetings

  • Journey of a Superintendent: “The Sky is the Limit – Seize the Sky”

    It's Up to Us: Inspiring Excellence|8/21/2015

    I make it a habit to remind my students and our great staff at KCKPS: If we want something bad enough, we have to push past our doubts and perceived limitations, and just go get it. Well, I had the … Continue reading

  • Does it really all come down to this?

    The Superintendent's Chair|8/20/2015

    Am I willing to determine the effectiveness of a teacher based on this chart?













    It is a good chart. It provides me with a lot of data. It measures a student's growth from the beginning of the year to the end of the year - an important and worthwhile bit of information.

    This specific chart shows the math achievement of a group of first graders. The overwhelming majority of these first grade students ended up in the high achievement/high growth quadrant.

    Awesome!

    A couple were in the low achievement/high growth quadrant.

    Again - very good! While achievement is not quite where it needs to be these students did show growth over the course of the year.

    Two students were in the high achievement/low growth section of this chart.

    That is the mixed-bag area. Clearly these students perform above grade level but they did not make the desired growth.

    Does that mean this teacher failed these students?

    I can create a chart like this for every teacher in my district for math and reading achievement. The question is - does it really tell me all I need to know about a teacher?

    I don't think it does.

    Student achievement is important. Parents send their sons and daughters to the schools in my district because they expect that students will learn.

    I need to be able to determine if students are learning.

    A chart like this gives me information.

    But is it the right and only information?

    The simple answer is no! This is not the right and only information that I need to determine a teacher's effectiveness.

    But some would argue that I am wrong. Some would argue that this is indeed all I need to know about a teacher.

    Did the students learn?

    Did they make progress?

    If I have the answers to those questions, some would argue, I have all the information I need to determine if the teacher is worth keeping.

    I don't believe that!

    Clearly I need some information on whether students are learning.

    But I need lots of other information on a teacher.

    I need to know if a teacher can engage students in meaningful learning.

    I need to know if a teacher can inspire students.

    I need to know if a teacher can tell when a student is upset and if that teacher takes the time to reach out to that student.

    I need to know if a teacher uses instructional strategies that make learning interesting.

    I need to know if a teacher knows how to give one kid a push forward and another student more time.

    I need to know if a teacher reaches out to parents in meaningful ways to create a great partnership between school and home.

    I need to know if a teacher is a good colleague, willing to work with others and find solutions to problems.

    I need to know if a teacher works within the rules, following rules when needed, challenging rules when it is called for. 

    Being an effective teacher is not just about getting every student to have a high test score.

    Being an effective teacher is not just about making sure the end-of-the-year test results show everyone in the high achievement/high growth quadrant.

    Being an effective teacher doesn't all come down to one chart at the end of year.



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