Monday, June 30, 2014

The real last . . .

Today was my last contract day as superintendent of our school district.  Once again, I want to thank the many people who attended events and shared with me their appreciation for my contributions to our learning journey over the years.  I leave the position feeling good about what we accomplished and better about those I leave who will continue our journey.  We have a quality school board, strong building leadership teams, and central office leadership led by Rob to support future learning and the many transitions made possible by the new high school.

After 1180 posts and 139,312 total page views I am putting my blog on hold.  At some point I will probably start again as I'm already feeling the tension when I read my RSS feeds.  One goal I didn't make was to reach 100 members falling short by eight.  That tension adds to the possibility of starting again in the future. So, keep me in your feed and watch for a return, probably about legislative time when there will be much to think about.

One last thing is to share my tattoo.  I've had this for a number of years thanks to a birthday present from my son.  It captures how I see myself and what I will always be, Papa Bear!  I am proud to wear it and look forward to having an opportunity next year to support the journey in a small way.  Thanks to Rob and the Board for believing that I still have something to add.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The last week . . .

It was an eventful week that went by in a flash. Tuesday, I had the opportunity to facilitate a meeting bringing together people from city and county government, workforce development, the business community, higher education, and district staff to determine if there was a common aspiration for a continuing conversation related to the development of the property around the new high school.  We shared our aspiration and the city shared their hopes that are completely aligned with ours.  Others in the room did some processing resulting in unanimous support for continuing the conversation.  This is an important, loosely coupled, but growing coalition with great potential for bringing living wage jobs to the community.

On Wednesday I was given the opportunity to speak at the TenTech Conference, something I did at the very first conference were I also taught a blogging class.  I shared my thinking on a variety of topics ending with a challenge to the system to identify and change the mental models that keep us from exploring other delivery models such as blended learning, extended day, and more personalized learning opportunities.  Over time young people and families will be demanding options and more flexibility and we need to get in front of this trend.  I enjoyed the opportunity to share and received some positive feedback.

Yesterday I attended a PBIS conference with a district team and then an E3 Summer evening where I joined others in being recognized for our work on sustainability.  In my case it was supporting people like Nancy and teachers in developing our curriculum, Connie Jo and others who pioneered the building efforts, and Lori, Kevin, and Dawn who got us on the map locally, in the state, and in the nation.  We learned that at the district level we actually outscored the district winner for the Green School award, but could not be recognized because we don't have a high enough free and reduced lunch count. Looks like next year will be the year.

Finally today was one of more tearful good byes, ceremonial disposal of my office chair, and a final gathering at Lori's house for more thanks and good byes.

So much to be thankful for and so many people to thank.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Winding down . . .

For a number of weeks now people have been asking me how many days I have left and I honestly say not keeping count.  Knowing that the 30th is my last day and that today is the 22nd makes it easy and impossible to hide from this being the last week.  I have come to emotionally accept this decision that has been much more difficult than I anticipated.  It is time and I am confident that our transition plan and the leadership that will come from Rob, Board members, Lori as Assistant Superintendent, and his team will carry our school system to places we now only aspire to reach.

Though this final week has three evening meetings, I will be winding down with probably fewer posts as I approach the 30th.  I have decided to mothball Seeking Shared Learning with the possibility to once again post in the future.  I'm going to now spend some time learning about LinkedIn and look for some work to fill some of my days.  Know anyone looking for a leadership journey?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A difficult, but memorable week . . .

Those that know me understand how difficult it is for me to be the focus of praise and thanks.  I would much rather be in the background until it is time to thank those that do the real work of the system. With my retirement now less than two weeks away, this was the week for those events kind of events to take place. It started with the Maple Valley Days Parade where I had the honor of being the Grand Marshall. Though not looking forward to it, I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with the many children on the parade route.

It continued on Monday at an open house where many came to share their appreciation and engage with others that have shared our experiences.  It was a rewarding evening for me as I was showered with thanks and gifts that included an unbelievable trip to Washington DC with tickets to Monday Night Football where the Hawks take on the Redskins.  I was also blessed to have previous board members and mentors from my past attend to congratulate me and share stories.

This was followed on Tuesday with a gift from the Board and then today at the Chamber of Commerce meeting.  I think with school ending today and only one more evening meeting before the 30th these events are behind me.  I can now begin fading into the background as the days count down.

In reflecting, I must admit that each of these events will be memorable for me and I give thanks to the many that attended and to those that planned the events.  Each was at the same time a humbling and rewarding experience.  I think I did OK and know that more pictures were taken of me this week than in the previous 44 years here.  So much to be thankful for and so many to thank.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A waiver request . . .

I was informed today that OSPI will be requesting a waiver of the 14-day Public School Choice Notification letter scheduled to be mailed this August to all parents informing them that we did meet the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements of NCLB.  The same letter will be mailed to almost every parent in the state because the federal education department repealed our ESEA waiver when the legislature failed to require the use of state assessment data in teacher evaluations.

The reason for the request as identified in the letter to be mailed later this week is below.  I was notified because of the requirement to notify public school districts of the request and to provide for a comment period prior to submitting the official request.

Washington State seeks a waiver of this provision because:
a.           The majority of schools in Washington (with the exception of a handful of very small schools) will not meet the 100 percent Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirement this year. As a result, nearly every school in every district will be designated as in improvement and required to send a letter to the family of every student notifying them of the status of their school.
b.           The intent of the 14-day notification letter is to provide public school choice to families living within the boundaries of a (Step 1–5) school in order to allow them to move to a school that had met AYP. Public School Choice is now a moot point since there will be an extremely limited number of schools that would be available.

Thanks to Superintendent Dorn and staff for this waiver request.  Though it doesn't remove the onerous requirements of NCLB, if successful, it puts off for a year the need to mail a letter that does not accurately describe the current reality of our schools.  If the federal department does not grant this request, I can only assume that they want to once again punish us for not conforming to their one size fits all reform model.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

State Supreme Court takes next step . . .

In this April post, I shared the legislature's response to the State Supreme Court requirement to demonstrate they have a viable plan to fully fund education by 2017.  We knew with the filing that it would fall short of the Court's expectation and last week it was verified with the Court's response. From this Seattle Times article we learn that there is the possibility for contempt if the Court's demands are not met.

The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday ordered lawmakers to explain why they haven’t followed its orders to fix the way Washington pays for public education.
The court has ordered the state to appear before it on Sept. 3 and show the court how it has followed its orders in the 2012 McCleary decision or face contempt.
We will find out on July 11th when they file their opening brief how the legislature will respond.  From this comment by Rep. Sullivan there may be little new to report since the next session will not convene until next January.  My sense is that the Court will need to take that into consideration when they meet in September, but the message will continue to be clear; full funding by 2017 and a clear funding plan by the end of the 2015 session.  Next year's legislators will face even more difficult decisions than they did this year.
“I don’t know of anyone who likes to be called into court,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington. “I’m disappointed that we are where we are.”
The most recent report to the court, filed at the end of April, acknowledged that the Legislature didn’t make a lot of progress in 2014, but said it had ideas for fixing that situation during the 2015 legislative session.
. . . Sullivan said lawmakers have fully anticipated they would need to solve the problem once the next legislative session begins in January.
“Regardless of what action the court does or doesn’t take, it doesn’t change what we have to do,” he said.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

More important than Gates . . .


I was next going to post about the Gates Foundation recommendation for a two year delay in using Common Core tests for teacher evaluation, but something far more important took place this evening. The Tahoma High School Class of 2014 walked across the stage at the White River Amphitheater and received their diplomas.  I was once again had the privilege of accepting the class and presenting them to the Board and presenting them for recognition by those in attendance.

So many things went through my mind as I experienced graduation this evening from the stage for the last time.  Above all the feelings was one of gratitude and pride.  Gratitude that I had the opportunity to have a small influence on these young people's experience in our schools and pride in their accomplishments individually and collectively.  I thank them and their families for this achievement in their lives and wish them success in their new learning and career experiences.