Thursday, October 28, 2010

Slowing down to move fast

The change process has many steps ... much research and many articles and books write about and describe the steps in the process. In "real life" and in practice, changes increase the tension in the proverbial rubber band. The astute leader knows to pull/stretch/push to a point before breaking the band ... In my current experiences, many changes have been presented, implemented, planned, and "digested" ... now it is time to let the momentum continue, the changes set in, and allow for some breathing room. My aim is to reduce the pressure on the rubber band, hold steady with what seeds have been planted, and move from change to support. Support for new directions, support for new attitudes, support for new experiences, and support for new approaches. What is quite affirming is the degree of acceptance, the high degree of acceptance for the current reality. This new reality differs greatly from the reality once known at my school. This reality allows for learning support in the classrooms. This reality allows for innovative approaches to instruction. This reality is wonderful, rewarding, and affirming to be part of.

I am slowing down for now - in an effort to support a fast moving start! Thank you to the brave and courageous learning facilitators with whom I spend high quality time every day!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Change can flow smoothly with the right people

The faculty at the school where I am working are really supportive of new ideas and change. Yes, the change process is challenging, and there are a lot of unknown variables, but, post-90 days ... we are still changing, and we are still progressing, and we are still making a huge difference in the educational lives of children.

This year we started with an overview and understanding about some overall change plans including new leadership, new technology hardware and assessment. We also started with personal 1-1 meetings with the new superintendent and all teachers. These meetings allowed for clarity about mission, purpose, vision, expectations, fears, hopes, and plans. All in all, the faculty have been WONDERFUL with the new changes.

There has been a renewed energy and focus on curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Student behavior is outstanding and the school-wide focus on PBIS appears to be a success! The Board of Education has been incredibly supportive and progressive in its support of new leadership approaches and initiatives. The MAP testing has gone smoothly (thanks in a large part to the fantastic leadership of the principal, the un-ending and selfless work of the tech guru, Jim G., and a great deal of support from Daniel as well). Teachers are learning and implementing instruction with the new Interactive White Boards. Regular, job-embedded, sustained training has, is, and will continue to take place. New report cards are in the works as a direct result of teacher input about current reporting procedures.

Twenty-five percent of the staff are engaged in a voluntary on-line learning community "in - house", another twenty percent of the staff are engaged in a voluntary development and growth journey with the superintendent. Everyone is working very hard and very intentionally on behalf of students! Staff are enrolling in courses and professional development opportunities. All in all, it's a great learning community! Student achievement continues to be a source of pride at the school, the recent ISAT results (state assessment from last spring) show great results and great learning.

Each day and each week, we make collective progress toward the future. We are experimenting with Web 2.0 technologies, Voice Thread, Prezi, for example, and we are engaging students each and every day in the learning process.

I'm looking forward to keeping the community updated on our many areas of success and progress as we continue our 170 year tradition of Educating the Minds of Tomorrow.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pennoyer's PBIS in the news!

Program accentuates the positive through supports, interventions

October 7, 2010 
Teachers and administrators at a local elementary school are using innovative ways to help students stay on track toward academic success as well as develop good citizenship skills.
The state-funded program is called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS).
Administrators at Pennoyer Elementary School, 5200 N. Cumberland Ave., said they find the program proactive and like that it establishes behavioral supports and social cultures needed for student success.
"This is our first year participating in the program," school Superintendent Michael Lubelfeld said. "We're participating because it's research-based and has proven success."
PBIS has a database component that tracks problems such as bullying, tardiness and non-completion of homework.
"We do not have a high incidence of bullying at the school," Lubelfeld said. "But when it does occur we provide counseling and find out what causes the student to bully. We also provide counseling for the student who was bullied and try and provide the child with the tools to protect him or herself."
Lubelfeld said the school, which serves 417 students, also reaches out to families in bullying situations or when homework is consistently not completed and have come across instances in the home that have called for intervention on the student's behalf.
Another component of the program rewards students for doing the right thing as a way to encourage others to follow the example of good citizenship.
Pennoyer uses what the school calls the "Hawk High 5s," where students receive high-fives from a teacher after the teacher observes a student demonstrating positive behavior around the school.
"Within the first two weeks, we had 384 high-fives with the goal of 500 to earn a schoolwide reward of an extra 15 minutes of recess," said school social worker Pam Stutzman.
Students can also win small prizes through raffles each week.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Professional Development - If you build it ... they will come! Reflections

OK - I'm now past the "90 day mark" as a suburban school superintendent. As a one-school district, the superintendent wears "many hats": executive leadership, personnel/HR, business/operations, communications, technology, building/grounds, you name it!  I work with an exemplary principal, one who has led the school for the past 14 years. She is fantastic, she is a wonderful leader, and she is the lead on student services, curriculum & instruction, and all school matters. She is a true partner!

During the July board meeting, we participated in team building/visioning with a Field Services Director from the IL Association of School Boards. The Board was asked to "dream" ... among other dreams for the school district, the Board indicated they wanted increased technology for students and staff, they wanted increased professional development opportunities for teachers, forward thinking and 21st Century curriculum, instruction, assessment, technology, and communications.

With that mandate, and the shared visioning experiences and desires with the principal, we set the plan into motion ... In some of the earlier blog postings, I have shared graphics (PREZI), and posts about the macro-professional development plans for the year.  I'm thrilled that more than 25% of the teachers have signed up for the Edmodo project - already we have a district Edmodo account and a district Voice Thread account. In addition, nearly 25% of the teachers have signed up for the in-depth interview/study coaching project as well.

Another extremely positive sign is the openness and welcoming attitude all teachers have shown with drop-in walk through observations, and a regular sharing of professional development opportunities. Today I shared an email from the West 40 (local Regional Office of Education - ROE/Intermediate Service Center - ISC) identifying a "web 2.0" opportunity with each participant getting a free "tool" for participating.

The point is not that teachers are signing up for workshops, the point is that the energy in the school is palatable and it is due in part to the Board's leadership, the administrative support of this leadership, and the faculty's openness to change, growth, progress, and learning.

Truly, if you build it they will come (an old adage) is proving to be a true adage in my real life experiences.