JPS Long and Short Term Finances

Earlier you read about the District’s Finance Retreat and our reported $1 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year.  While this is certainly not the type of condition in which we would like to find ourselves, I am not going to site a “gloom and doom” mantra and think that the district is going to go backwards.  We have a very healthy carryover fund, or savings account, and as long as we are disciplined over the next few years, we will work our way out of this.  We will continue to have conversations with the Board on finances and we will work to reduce this deficit starting this year.  But we have to remember that we can’t reduce the deficit overnight without significantly impacting our educational opportunities.  And that is the last thing that we want to do.  So, as we move forward, read the Sun and listen to the financial discussions that the Board has its regular meetings.  Remember that we will work our way out of this and be stronger when we are done.  It won’t be easy, but it will require us to take a hard look at everything we are doing, and that is never a bad activity.  Continue reading

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Search for a New Football Coach

I know that we have a great deal of interest in our football coaches position and who the next coach is going to be.  We have several excellent applicants and Mr. Roaldson has put together a very good selection committee consisting of a teacher, two assistant football coaches, a middle school administrator and two high school administrators.  The biggest problem right now is that we do not have many teaching openings that would lend themselves to hiring a head football coach.  For example, we will not find many football coaches who are speech therapists or reading specialists.  Administrators are working to assemble of list of teaching posistions that could be matched with the head football coach.  Please remember, however, we always look to hire the most appropriate teacher.  At the same time, we feel that we have several candiadates from within the district who would make excellent head coaches.  I am not sure how soon we will be finished with this process.  My direction has been to go slow and make sure rather than to push to fast to finish.  Whatever happens, I am sure that we will end up with an excellent football coach who will carry on the traditions of the Jamestown Public Schools football program.

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Technology in the Future

There is no doubt that technology has changed the way education is done. And I believe that we are just scratching the surface. I was at a meeting recently where the discussion centered on what some schools are doing with technology. We started by complaining about the high cost of textbooks and how they are seemingly spiraling out of control. Are they becoming outdated? Information changes so fast they can be obsolete in a few years. Think of an American History textbook published in 2001. It would not contain information on 9/11, two wars, or the historical election of an African-American President. And it could still be in use in many districts. How much better would we be if each student had an electronic textbook? Are we getting to where we should discuss I-PADS in a classroom? And what about chromebooks? These are small computers that sell for less than $400. They don’t have a hard drive. Everything is saved to a Google account for which each person has an id and password. A user could access their account on their chromebook or a laptop or personal computer at any time. This is literally saving information “to the cloud.” That also brings up how we use the internet and social media in school. In the future, the true creative leader will be a contributor to the internet, not a consumer. If we limit how students use social media and other internet and technology devices are we allowing them to develop to their fullest potential and encouraging this creativity? America has been the dominant force in technological advancements for over a century because we encourage creativity. Businesses in the future will look for workers who are creative and can work in a collaborative situation. Is that what we are teaching?
These are important philosophical questions that do not have an easy answer. Of course, one impediment to this discussion is the requirements and emphasis on testing in No Child Left Behind. I believe that the discussion above needs to be at the forefront of education, not some philosophical dissertation from two or three Harvard professors. I don’t think it will play itself out quickly. Change comes slowly in education. But this is a discussion that we need to have and that we need to continue to keep in our minds as we move toward the future.

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Positive Professional Development Activity

It is not very often that I have a parent comment on a professional development activity.  But this week I heard from a parent whose elementary age children have commented on activities in their classroom and mentioned the name Ron Clark.  The two children in this case, primary and intermediate students, mentioned that teachers are doing activities they learned when Mr. Clark presented to us in August.  When we talk about evaluating professional development we can point to five levels of evaluation.  The lowest is teacher anecdotal information.  The highest level is having a positive effect on student achievement.  Right behind that is changing teacher behavior.  I think we had a very excellent presenter who positively changed teacher behavior as a result of his presentation.  I thought I had to pass this on.

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What’s Happening at Jamestown Public Schools

One of the problems I thought about when I started this blog was that I wouldn’t always have things about which to write.  You may recall the panic you used to feel when you had a writing assignment due in sophomore English and you couldn’t come up with a thing to say.  I find that happening here, too.  I do write quite a bit and we always have much going on, but not all of it is appropriate for a blog that is public.  Also, by the time I write this, what has happened is often out of date. 

We did have a great discussion Monday night at the Board meeting on student achievement and where the District is heading.  Our primary purpose is to help students grow intellectually, so the topic is of vital importance.  We have had and will have discussions on not making AYP, and while that is significant, the conversation can’t stop with that.  I am more concerned about showing the students do grow at a significant rate and that the district continues to deliver on our pledge to help students grow to meet their full potential.  Only by studying long term test data can we determine that the district is meeting its obligation to help students grown. 

We plan to have another discussion similar to the one last night at our next Board meeting.  At that time, we will review other assessments that our students take and again look at long term results.  We will also look at math as well as reading.  We will talk about AYP and what the district is doing to meet that goal, but we will also talk about how the district is moving its students forward academically.  I hope that the parents and patrons of the community enjoy the discussion.  As always, if anyone has any questions or comments, I would welcome a call or a visit.  Thanks.

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Continued Thoughts on Student Achievement

One of the problems I thought about when I started this blog was that I wouldn’t always have things about which to write.  You may recall the panic you used to feel when you had a writing assignment due in sophomore English and you couldn’t come up with a thing to say.  I find that happening here, too.  I do write quite a bit and we always have much going on, but not all of it is appropriate for a blog that is public.  Also, by the time I write this, what has happened is often out of date. 

We did have a great discussion Monday night at the Board meeting on student achievement and where the District is heading with.  Our primary purpose is to help student grow intellectually, so the topic is of vital importance.  WE have had and will have discussions on not making AYP, and while that is significant, the conversation can’t stop with that.  I am more concerned about showing the students do grow at a significant rate and that the district continues to deliver on our pledge to help students grow to meet their full potential.  Only by studying long term test data can we determine that the district is meeting its obligation to help students grown. 

We plan to have another discussion similar to the one last night at our next Board meeting.  At that time, we will review other assessments that our students take and again look at long term results.  We will also look at math as well as reading.  We will talk about AYP and what the district is doing to meet that goal, but we will also talk about how the district is moving its students forward academically.  I hope that the parents and patrons of the community enjoy the discussion.  As always, if anyone has any questions or comments, I would welcome a call or a visit.  Thanks.

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Sharing My Thoughts

This is a new adventure for me, as I enjoy writing, but I am not the most technologically literate person in town.  Still, the District needs to continue to find ways to communicate better with the community and blogging can be an effective communications tool.  My plan is to write a blog every few days on some issue that is facing the district.  I won’t touch on personnel issues for obvious reasons and my goal will always be only to educate and communicate.  This will never become a forum for me to post my views, although my first post on the inadequacies of No Child Left Behind probably crossed over a bit and editorialized. 

As always, I invite comments back to me and welcome people to stop in my office and visit about any particular issue.  I apapreciate questions and look forward to the dialogue. 

One item I will always add is an ispiration thought.  Today’s comes from Wilma Rudolph, an Olympic track star who was crippled as a child and went on to become a champion sprinter.  Her’s is an incredible story of hard work overcome advesity and one from which we all can learn. 

I look forward to your feedback.  Thanks for reading.

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What is No Child Left Behind?

            I had just come to Jamestown in 2001 when No Child Left Behind was passed.  It promised more funds for education and an emphasis on student achievement and teacher accountability.  No one can find fault with a program that demands high standards, emphasizes student achievement and delivers dollars to help districts meet the goals set by the program.  And yet after 10 years I think I can tell you that No Child is broken, almost beyond repair.  To be honest, it has accomplished some of what it set out to do.  Congress was concerned about the “achievement gap” that exists between whites and minorities in many communities.  Some research indicates that the gap is closing in some communities.  The most important accomplishment of No Child is that it has forced educators to concentrate on what students have learned, not on what we have taught.  I can remember being a young teacher discussing what I thought was poor performance by the class on a test.  My response was always that the students did not study hard enough.  I never concerned myself with whether or not I taught the material well.  No Child has helped move education from a teacher centered classroom to a student centered classroom, and that is a very positive change. 

            But where do we go from here.  Jamestown Public Schools did not make Adequate Yearly Progress this year.  Four of our seven schools did not make AYP.  Does this make us failures?  Does this mean we have bad teachers or students who are unmotivated?  Of course not!

In North Dakota not one Class ‘A’ school district made AYP.  Are they all failures?  According to some estimates, as many as 80% of our nation’s schools will not make AYP this year.  Are they all failures?

            What do we want our schools to accomplish?  Do we want students to memorize unrelated facts and emphasize learning for the sake of testing?  Or, do we want students to come out of schools knowing how to work cooperatively and how to communicate effectively?  Do we want students who are creative and innovative?  No test can measure that.  The United States has been at the top of the world economically for a century because we had a strong public education system and we emphasized creativity, individuality, and upward mobility through education.  We can’t afford to lose that.

            Senator Conrad was quoted as saying No Child Left Behind has to be “ended or amended.”  I could not agree more.  Congress must work with educators so that a new education bill makes sense.  We are not opposed to high standards or accountability.  Let’s just create a vehicle that does this without being punitive.  Let’s write a bill that actually helps educate our young people so that we can continue to be the economic engine that drives the world.  Then, perhaps, we can say no child was left behind.

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