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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.

  • Activity for New Teacher Institute: CuCPS Decoded

    Amy Griffin's Blog|7/28/2015

    Driving Question:  What judgments would you make about Cumberland County Public Schools?

    Use the following artifacts:

  • The Great Summer Debate for Teenagers

    Notes from the Superintendent|7/27/2015

    A Weekend of Girls Lacrosse: Another beautiful week and weekend for us. The Girls John Pepper Lacrosse Tournament was held at West Genesee and was bursting at the seams with people. Both the girls and boys tournaments are run incredibly well by their organizers and both bring in dozens of college scouts and coaches as well as parents and players from all over the US. Thank you to all of the volunteers and attendees that participated this weekend.

    Mark Your Calendars for the Turf Field Naming Ceremony: Please remember that we will be dedicating the turf field to the boys lacrosse coach, Mike Messere, during the Boys John Pepper Lacrosse Tournament being held on August 1. The ceremony will begin at approximately 11:30 a.m.

    Arts and Crafts: This past weekend, Syracuse was bustling with about a thousand other events. My wife and I had a chance to go to the Arts and Crafts festival that was held downtown. We really enjoy viewing local artists at their finest. As we saw about half of Camillus at the festival, it looked like many of you had a great time there as well!

    Raising the Wage, Starts a Debate: You might have heard that New York State is raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour for fast food workers that are employed in a fast food establishment with thirty or more locations nationwide. For our area, the minimum wage needs to increase to that level by 2021. Over the past week I have read more opinions about this topic than I can count, but it is important to know that your teenage children (and maybe older) are in debate mode as well.

    As I walked through summer school last week several students told me that there was no need for them to finish high school because they can just work at a fast food restaurant and make $15 per hour. They cite day care providers, nurses, soldiers, and retail workers as those who make less than $15 per hour and many of them have had to complete at least four years of college to get the jobs they have.

    This is a very interesting debate. We graduate students with the skills to do whatever they want to do after high school. They leave us with the knowledge needed to go on to become bankers, lawyers, doctors, retail workers, soldiers, day care providers, nurses, fast food workers, teachers, etc. So why would we discourage a recent graduate or maybe a senior from trying to get a job in the higher wage fast food market?

    The answer is more complex than you might think. When I respond to students I tell them that the economy today is tricky. There are many adults with college degrees who are working in the fast food industry because they cannot find jobs in the fields that they have been trained in. I remind them that although it continues to be difficult for students to find jobs, the likelihood of a student or recent graduate taking a $15 job away from an adult is probably unrealistic.

    I cite the recent increase in minimum wage in Seattle, Washington (http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2015/03/16/we-are-seeing-the-effects-of-seattles-15-an-hour-minimum-wage/), as well as the immediate fallout in New York City (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/27/nyregion/proposed-minimum-wage-increase-for-fast-food-employees-divides-low-wage-workers.html).

    I ask them what they want to do when they grow up, what things they would like to have, and how they would like to live. Most students want lives that are as good as we are giving them as parents, or better; I cannot fault them for that. I take their information and snap it into many jobs, including being a $15 per hour fast food worker, and we then discuss if they will be on target or not.

    It is interesting that although it is sometimes hard to engage teenagers and young adults in conversation, they are talking about the minimum wage increase right now. Don't be afraid to join the debate, just be aware that your kids are pretty smart; so be prepared!

    Have a great week.

    Chris

  • 2015-2016: A Year of Teamwork, Mission, and Purpose

    Amy Griffin's Blog|7/26/2015

     
    Calvin Foster attends the Longwood Summer TAG Program.
     
    Welcome to the 2015-2016 school year!  This Tuesday and Wednesday, new teachers will attend the New Teacher Institute. The New Teacher Institute is not only an orientation but allows time for networking. On Thursday, all teachers report to their schools to begin planning and preparing for the new school year. We have important work to accomplish as we work toward becoming Fully Accredited at all three schools and more importantly preparing each and every student to be a successful future-ready learner, worker, and citizen.  
     
    At the VSBA Conference on Education, I heard Len Forkas, author of What Spins the Wheel, speak. Two lessons from his book resonated with me: nothing beats a mission-driven purpose and high-performing teams create outcomes that exceed objectives.  We know our mission.  We can be a high-performing team. As I have stated before -- with the right tools, support, and mindset-- together, we can accomplish anything!  I am excited about everyone returning and look forward to being part of a high-performing team! Our students deserve no less.
     
    The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. - Martin Luther King, Jr. 
     
    Mrs. Burruss (East) participates in the Longwood Summer TAG program.
     
    CuCPS Highlights:

     

    Students attend the SVCC STEM Academy.

    Events for the Week:

    • Monday
      • 10:00 Administrative Council
    • Tuesday
      • 8:00-3:30  New Teacher Institute 
    • Wednesday
      • 8:00-3:30  New Teacher Institute
    • Thursday
      • All teachers report to schools for the 2015-2016 school year
    • Friday
      • Revised Pacing Guides due to Principals
      • 1:00  Division Special Education Meeting
      • 1:00 Performance Based Assessment Team Meeting

  • How Much Can You Cram Into 20 Days?

    Notes from the Superintendent|7/20/2015

    Greetings! I hope that these first twenty days of July have been relaxing and rejuvenating. Mine have been a little bit of everything. On the first of July my basement flooded during the torrential rain we had. That was a blast (in a sarcastic voice). We are still repairing drywall, paint, etc.as it has been the summer gift that has kept on giving.

    Family Vacations-History Lessons Along the Way: We recently took a trip to the Carolinas, which will most likely be our last family vacation. It was fairly emotional, although friends tell my wife and I that having an empty nest isn't so bad once you get used to it.

    While there, it was interesting to see New York education news make it to the south. The New York State Education Department parted ways with Pearson, who had been writing Common Core Learning Standard assessments for New York for the past five years. The state chose a new vendor, Questar Assessment Inc., who promises to be transparent to everyone, which would include teachers and administrators participating in all aspects of upcoming assessment creation.

    On the way back from the Carolinas we stopped at Gettysburg; the first time I had been there. If you have not had an opportunity to travel there, I highly recommend a trip to Gettysburg, especially with children from about fourth grade and beyond. As adults we know how pivotal Gettysburg was during the Civil War, but there are a lot of things to learn, see, and experience that gave me a renewed appreciation for human resolve, desire, and patriotism. I also found the visit to be very reasonably priced. You could find hotels for under $100 per night and up, and there was the most involved double decker bus tour that cost about $20 for adults and much less for kids (buy tickets for the top deck, you will thank me later). The drive was about four and a half hours, give or take.

    My wife and I also celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary with a weekend trip to New York City. While there we caught a Broadway show and also visited the 911 Memorial, which was moving to say the least. If you haven't been there, put a visit to the memorial on your bucket list, especially if you knew someone who lost their life or a loved one on that awful day.

    Unlike Gettysburg, in my opinion this memorial is NOT for children under seventh or eighth grade. Like Gettysburg, however, the price to visit is very low. We spent about two hours reading through everything and it reminded me just how heroic emergency service members, volunteers, and the passengers on the airplanes were. If you haven't visited this site yet, put it on your calendar.

    Capital Project Progresses: While I was away our contractors were cranking away on the Capital Project. A HUGE crane placed the air conditioning unit on top of Stonehedge Elementary School. Also, the carpets, bathrooms, and locker rooms in various buildings were being torn apart and renovated. When everyone returns to the buildings in September they will begin to see physical progress. I am beyond excited to see these changes.

    New IP Phone System: We also installed a new phone system called an Internet Protocol Phone, or IP Phone system. This system uses the Internet to help us make phone calls which allowed us to remove hundreds of phone lines that we were paying monthly fees for. This will save us tens of thousands of dollars.

    The system does have voice mail, called ID, and a menu system. We do feel, however, that customer service is very important. So when you call during the school day, you will get a human being on the phone. The menu system will then be activated during the afternoon and overnight. There are still some minor glitches, but they will be worked out very shortly.

    The High School is a Busy Place: While all of this was going on during the first twenty days of the month, the high school has been a busy place with Summer School, swim lessons, sports camps, and music lessons.

    Summer School is operated by our local BOCES and serves students from five neighboring schools, including West Genesee. They went through a little rough patch this past week with student behavior, but they are in good shape now and we look forward to all of our guests meeting the West Genesee standard of behavior and learning that our community is accustomed to.

    Mike Messere Turf Field Dedication: Lastly, please accept my personal invitation to attend the Mike Messere Turf Field Dedication Ceremony. It will take place on August 1 at 11:30 a.m. right on the turf field. I will be the emcee and this will be a special time for the Messere family as well as our school community. I hope you can attend. I will send out more about this event later in the week.

    Thanks and enjoy the week!

    Chris

  • Summers Off? No Way!

    Amy Griffin's Blog|7/20/2015

     
    I have enjoyed learning with our teachers and administrators over the past several weeks as we have planned for balanced assessments and been engaged in K-8 English/Language Arts professional development.  We have also had a team attend the High Schools That Work Conference learning about innovative and best practices around the nation. It is a myth that educators have summers off. Between summer school and programs, professional development, curriculum updates, and professional reading-- we are continuously growing professionally all year long! My appreciation goes out to the CuCPS employees that stay committed to the children of Cumberland each and every day.
     
     
     
    CuCPS Highlights:
     
    Events for the Week:
     
    Two week Teacher Flex Workday Window Begins
    • Monday
      • 10:00 Administrative Council Meeting
    • Tuesday
      • VSBA Conference on Education
    • Wednesday
      • Bus Routes Published
    • Thursday
      • Excellence through Equity Conference
    • Friday
      • Excellence through Equity Conference

  • Scorecards: What's right for education?

    The Superintendent's Chair|7/16/2015

    ProPublica recently unveiled a new Surgeon Scorecard website.

    On this website you can look up a score for over 17,000 surgeons for surgeries performed in eight common elective surgeries.

    For surgeons who performed at least 50 operations each, 750 did not record a single complication in the five years covered by the analysis. Another 1423 had only one reported complication.

    Knowing a surgeon's track record is fairly important. It could literally be a matter of life and death.

    But do the numbers really show what they suggest they show? ProPublica provided some reviews and comments on their findings. As you might imagine some believed this scorecard was a positive development, others believed it was "not valid."

    And there my friends is, in a nutshell, the crux of the debate about school and teacher scorecards. Parents want to know if a school or if a teacher is effective. People like me want to know if schools and teachers are effective.

    Bridge, a website from The Center for Michigan, published their Academic State Champs report which encouraged parents to compare schools and districts. My district fell in the "exceeding expectations" category but was not declared a "state champ."

    The Mackinac Center publishes a Michigan High School Context and Performance Report Card. This scorecard purports to take into account not only test scores but also socioeconomic factors.

    Heck, the state of Michigan even publishes a Top-to-Bottom Ranking.

    What's a parent to do?

    What's a school administrator to do?

    What's a teacher to do?

    Education is important. Trying to determine if a school and the teachers and administrators in the school are educating the students entrusted to their care is, I would argue, very important. Knowing if our schools, teachers, and administrators are doing their job is worth finding out.

    But that is where the trouble starts.

    Scorecards and rankings can create algorithms based on test scores and socioeconomic factors. Scorecards and rankings can slice and dice the reported results in a hundred different ways.

    But the scorecards and rankings don't tell you what goes on in those schools.

    Are students happy?
    Do teachers treat students well?
    Are administrators supporting teachers and working with parents in meaningful and productive ways?
    Is there joy inside the walls of that school, inside the walls of a classroom?

    Scorecards and rankings can measure whether students are doing well on tests.

    What they can't measure is the spirit of those who attend and those who work in the school.

    I understand that the most important part of a school is not whether students are happy or valued or joyful.

    But those things are important.

    And a true measure of a school will take those things into account.

    Scorecards and rankings don't show whether or not students like school or if teachers care about students.

    I have mixed emotions about scorecards and rankings. It is important to know whether or not a surgeon or a teacher is good at their job.

    The question is what do we measure to figure that out?

  • Summer Duke Pride

    Amy Griffin's Blog|7/12/2015

     

     
     
    There were several moments last week that reminded me of why Cumberland is so special. As I have said before,  We may be small, but we are mighty! People in Cumberland have big hearts!  The first moment was the third grade presentations to the Administrative Council on social injustice.  Eight year old students researched, passionately spoke, and designed presentations on topics such as access to education, child slavery, clean water, and deforestation. Summer school learning was rigorous, relevant, and empathetic. 
     
    The second moment was the NBC 12 News Acts of Kindness recognition of parent and county worker Antwan Monroe who showed everyone what being a good Samaritan was all about. With all the conflict in our nation and world, it was wonderful to see such kindness right here in Cumberland, Virginia.  If you missed the story, you can find the video clip at http://www.nbc12.com/Clip/11660339/acts-of-kindness-good-samaritan-helps-woman-fix-car#.VZxO330bpqk.facebook.
     
    Lastly, we celebrated learning at the CCES and CMS Summer School Exhibitions. Students proudly showed their families and peers what they had accomplished over the summer as well as ate lunch together. I ended the week judging SVCC STEM Academy presentations and networking with over 30 of our students and their families.  
     
    Overall, it was wonderful seeing smiles on students' faces as they participated in the many opportunities provided to them this summer-  social injustice projects, a Camp Green Lake theme, learning about destinations around the world, zombies, pirates, and much, much more!  At our own high school, students used coding skills, built robots, and flew drones (one even got stuck on top of the middle school roof). 
     
    After several weeks of highly intense focus to prepare for the upcoming school year, it was nice to see the "fruits of the labor" of so many dedicated and committed people. Sometimes, I need to take my own advice and take time to reflect and enjoy the work going on around me. It is during these moments that I am reminded of my own purpose.
     
     
    2015-2016 School Supply Lists:
     
    CuCPS Highlights:
     
    Events for the Week:
    • Monday
      • 8:00-3:00 ELA K-2 PD with Lisa Meyers
      • 10:00 Administrative Council Meeting
      • 7:00 School Board Meeting
    • Tuesday
      • 9:00-3:00 ELA 3-5 PD with Lisa Meyers
      • 7:00 Board of Supervisors Meeting
    • Wednesday
      • 8:00-3:00  ELA 6-8 PD with Lisa Meyers
    • Thursday
      • Substitute Teacher Training



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