Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Quiet Week

This last week was a quiet one, due primarily to the fact that Amanda and the kids were out of town visiting her grandparents in Wisconsin and parents in Minneapolis.  So it began on Sunday with them leaving before 7:00 am, due to the fact that Lilly and Ben were up around 5:30 - excited to go see Grandma.

So, after they departed I spent nearly two hours cleaning out my nearly 300 email messages and transferring the necessary ones to my school email.  A necessary evil.  Then I took off for Des Moines, more specifically Jordan Creek Mall so that I could see "The Dark Night Rises."  I was surprised when I arrived and the theatre was nearly half full.  The movie had been out for nearly a month and I thought most people had already seen it, but perhaps there were more people like myself who had put off seeing it until they had more time.  I was very pleased with the movie, probably my favorite of the three done by Chris Nolan starring Christian Bale.  After the movie I dropped $200 on four pairs of shoes - two black dress shoes, one pair of brown loafers, and a black and red pair of New Balance sneakers.  I'm set for the year!  From there I spent a good amount of time at Office Max, got my hair cut, and then some groceries.

Monday was a productive day in the office.  I spent the evening making another pass through the building, this time verifying what clocks were operational and whether or not each room had an intercom.  I didn't finish this project until 11:30.

Tuesday I was back in the office finalizing the map and clock inventory before heading out for the SAI Pre-Conference led by Doug Reeves.  I was a little disappointed, but it was an opportunity for the Sup. and I to discuss our current practices and for me to get a little more up to speed on the district's philosophies.  I spent the evening with a good friend so I didn't have to drive back and forth, and was up late again - this time putting together my Board Report.  

I awoke early Wednesday, polished off the Board Report and was back downtown for SAI.  The morning was kicked off by Michael Fullan and Doug Reeves in a question answer session on the future of education.  Great stuff here.  From there I headed to a session on evaluating student work to determine the rigor of student learning in digital projects - another great session.  I had the pleasure of eating lunch with my mentor, in addition to Kent Stock.  It was great to talk with Kent about what's going on with him and I hope to get him to CRB to speak in the near future.  The afternoon sessions included a discussion of PLCs by Webster City CSD and balancing initiatives by Iowa Falls-Alden.  The day was concluded by Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, and Director of the Dept. of Education Jason Glass.  I was able to socialize for a couple hours and catchup with some friends before I headed for home.

Thursday was a busy day - Registration Day!  The day was a great opportunity for me to bond with my admin and for me to get to know a few more students and parents.  After Registration ended at 7:30, I spent the next three hours helping move elementary classrooms from Deal the CRB Elementary.  It was a long day!

Friday was another productive day in the office.  I got in early made a few adjustments to the arrangement of my office, which made it cleaner and messy-er all at the same time.  I also met with our At-Risk consultants and was pleased to hear they were on-board with our changes to the PE/Health schedule.  But the best meeting of the day was the one I had with our newly hired Director of Technology.  We're on the same page, now it's just a matter of executing.  Later in the afternoon I was able to get our satellite tv "fixed" and happy to have some entertainment back in my life.  I returned to school to snap a few pictures but was sidetracked by the Sup and Board Pres.  I ended the week with a good conversation with the Sup. and feel like we're heading in the right direction.  After my meeting with the Sup. I spoke with both of the cheerleading coaches for about an hour and welcomed the VB girls as they spent the evening at the school for a lock-in.  I was also pleasantly surprised to hear from Amanda that they had decided to come home a day/12 hours early!  So I backed up, headed for home, and cleaned house in anticipation for their mid-night arrival.

Saturday was a busy day!  I spent the morning assembling a new desk, spent nearly three hours with the student council around lunch time, and then the evening was devoted to assembling a cabinet - not one of my finer moments of the day.

Sunday was productive.  Ben, Lil and I got groceries in the morning - returned and began to assemble some shelving for the kitchen, washed a couple loads of laundry, made lunch, folded a couple loads of laundry, hung a few items on the walls, made dinner, talked to my folks, read a little of my book, and started blogging.

This next week should be a productive one.  Tomorrow night is a school board night, Tuesday afternoon I'm partaking in a webinar on Strengths-based Leadership, Wednesday my brother is in town, Thursday is orientation for the new staff, and Friday is our kick-off as teachers officially return to work.  We're hoping to head to the Fair on Saturday as a family, but we'll see and then a week from Wednesday we begin in earnest.  Hard to believe, but school is just around the corner.  Lots to do, but not too many quiet days left - that's for sure.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ramping Up

It was another busy week, but more productive than any of the previous two.  Looking forward to this week, it's gonna be a long one - especially without Amanda and the kids!

Looking back, Monday was spent with a good friend who is in her final year of an administrative program at Viterbo.  She helped me on many different levels, but most importantly we "mapped" the entire building!  With the new addition, a whole school intercom system is being installed and it has been a tedious process - considering that there are four different sections of the building.  The original 1970s junior/senior high, a 1990s intermediate (4-6) addition, 2003 remodel, and this year's PK-3 addition.  This has resulted in a wide variety of different wiring configurations.  But on Monday I opened every door, closet, and discovered that the "Master Key" indeed isn't a "master".  There were approximately five doors that I couldn't open.  It was a good tour and something I should have done earlier, but a great way to familiarize myself with the building! I was surprised as to how many rooms were in the "interior" of the building and lacked windows, even to a hallway.  It will be interesting to discuss this with the staff as they arrive.

Monday, also saw me make my first hiring recommendation - for the positions of cheerleading coach, of which we have three.  Two qualified and passionate young women interviewed well, and I am happy to say will both be mentoring our young ladies!

Tuesday was another day of off-site meetings, this time in Boone at the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) in conjunction with the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU).  Another information dump, but good stuff.  I was lucky to hear from Scott Kibby, newly hired Activities Director at Iowa City West, and former Cedar Rapids Jefferson Activities Director.  He spoke about transitioning and hiring practices.  Good stuff.

Later that afternoon I was able to play some golf with some friends, a much needed reprieve.  It was warm, and I got home late, but it was fun - especially since it was only my second round of golf of the year.  And, I played well enough to go home happy.

Wednesday was August 1st, which meant a host of people were welcomed back to school - specifically the administrative assistants.  From elementary to high school, all three admins were back at it, and it felt like an office!  Likewise, the Guidance Counselor (GC) and Curriculum Director (CD) "officially" reported for duty.  I say officially, because it's as if they never left, they both have been fixtures at the school all summer, but now they're here for good.  The GC and I were able to sit down and discuss the master schedule.  Thursday we met with the Curriculum Director (CD) to make more tweaks, and there are some more likely to come, but I'm confident we've got a well-planned and highly effective schedule for our students and teachers.  I'm most excited about a switch we made in our PE/Health.  Instead of "Health" standing alone, during second hour it will be opposite of PE.  The Health curriculum will now "touch" all 9-12 students and incorporate guidance, the state of Iowa's "I Have A Plan" program, and CRB's Coaching in the Classroom (CIC).  Of course, this must be addressed with the Health/PE instructor and our CIC sponsors, but I think it is something that all parties will embrace - except maybe the students.

Wednesday afternoon I was able to sit with the CD and our AEA School Improvement Consultant and really map out our first day with staff.  This was very informative for me and something I really enjoyed.  I really do look forward to the instructional leadership tasks of my job!  I'm trying to track down a motivational speaker, we'll see what I can finalize.

Thursday started early with a meeting with my mentor.  We agreed to meet at a dinner outside of Templeton, but when I arrived I found it closed - sign read "Off to Mayo to Visit My Sister."  So we traveled to Manning, and I enjoyed a great breakfast and good conversation.  He will most definitely be an asset this year.  We'll meet face-to-face periodically throughout the year, but digitally frequently!

I met later in the day with the CTE teachers, very briefly; sat with the Sup. and a reporter from the Carroll Daily Times Herald.  There were so many different meetings during the day that I didn't get as much accomplished as I had hoped during the day so I returned that evening to work on a few items.  I ended up leaving a little after 11, but was not the last to leave.  Because as I was exiting the parking lot, to my surprise, the construction crews were still hard at it in the new addition.  Guess they really want to meet their deadline.

Friday was a "work day."  As the Sup. headed to Cedar Rapids to pick up 70 desktops and an anticipated 50 laptops (we only ended up with 20 laptops).  So I was able to work.  Didn't feel I was as productive as I would have liked, but nonetheless it was a day to "get-r-done."  I was happy to send an email to all staff members inviting them to "migrate" to our new email.  I haven't gotten a lot of emails asking how to access the new accounts, but I'm sure there will be plenty in the time between now and when school starts.  I also finally made the time to review the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and found a couple items that need addressing.  Likewise, finally made the time to review the Faculty Handbook, again, a couple items need addressing!  But the highlight of the day was lunch.  I was happy to sit with the two admin assistants and GC for lunch.  We enjoyed good conversation and hope we're building positive relationships.

Saturday was a "work day" at home!  I was happy to have my uncle help me demo and construct our bathroom in preparation for the installation of a new shower, tub and vanity this week.  The second floor bathroom had a 1970s "cast iron" tub that we busted in to pieces and hauled to the garage.  Hope the plumber is able to get everything "installed" so that when Amanda and the kids return on Saturday everything is operable.

Today, Sunday, Lilly and Ben were up early in anticipation for the trip to Grandmas!  Actually, first off to Grandma Itsy's then off to Minneapolis.  I think Lil was in our bed at 5:15, and Ben by 5:45.  So Amanda decided to move on it.  They were gone by 6:45.  I made the decision to head to Des Moines to catch The Dark Knight Rises, my favorite of the three!  Spent the rest of the day shopping - first to DSW, then to Office Max (my happy place - if only I had more money), then a haircut, next the grocery store, and then home.  I had a splitting headache, took a two hour nap, then hotdogs for dinner, and then an hour bike ride.  And that brings me to the last couple hours.  Olympic coverage and blogging.

My plan for the week, up early tomorrow and get as much accomplished as possible.  One afternoon technology meeting, other than that it should be a productive Monday!  Tuesday and Wednesday will be the Sup. and me in Des Moines for SAI's Annual Conference.  Thursday is registration (7:30-7:30), and Friday another work day.  Then Saturday - Amanda and the kids return.  It's going to go fast, but it's awfully quite around here.  If I wake up, I'm going to school.  Gonna make the most of the time, but that's what I told myself today and I didn't get much accomplished.  Rest - I guess, and four pairs of shoes.

Missing my family already!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Alright, so the blogging hasn't been as frequent as I first had imagined.  But I still think it's important.  For me, it helps process the day, the week, the month, what have you.  So, I'm going to effort to continue, but I'm making no promises, especially since I have committed to blogging weekly on the school's webpage.  There will be a difference, more reflective here; more philosophical there.

In any event, last week was busy.  Monday thru Wednesday were meetings, Thursday included a few meetings at school, and Friday was a pure work day.  Monday and Tuesday I was able to pick up a lot from Randy Allison in regards to the Supervision of Special Education.  Wednesday I took part in the School Administrators of Iowa (SAI) New Administrators Institute.  Wow what a great training.  Phenomenal presenters covering topics concerning "Entry Plan", Legal Issues, How to Conduct Productive Meetings, Being Proactive Towards Discipline, Observation & Evaluation Recommendations, & How to Avoid Rookie Mistakes.  I can not express enough how helpful these sessions were, all common sense - good reminders - easy to implement sessions!

Thursday was productive.  Included a few meetings, the Sup. and I were able to sit down and chat.  Likewise, the AD and I talked too.  But perhaps more "stress-relieving" was getting authorized to become a "Google School."  I had left the previous week with a terrible feeling in my stomach because I had to "delete" the Google Apps account I had established.  Yet by Thursday I was able to "re-activate" it and get the 88 members of our staff registered.  This means, our staff will all have a common email account.  Something I was shocked that was/is not the case currently.  For example, many are simply using their "personal" gmail accounts.  Which means the district is potentially "exposed" if a records request is made.  In any event, by establishing the district as a Google School we open ourselves to a wide variety of options for staff and students.  Something that I think can help us improve communication, instruction, and hopefully engage more students in what's occurring in the classroom.

Friday started early and I had the office to myself.  As the Sup. and Bus. Manager were both out of the office.  The big accomplishment was interviewing two individuals interested in our cheer coach position.  Hope to review the process with the Sup. tomorrow and let the ladies know the direction by the end of the day Monday.  I was able to do a document review, went file by file and cleaned a few things up and hand off a few more to the AD.

I spent the afternoon working on formalizing my "Entry Plan."  One of the suggestions from Wednesday's SAI institute was that it's important to write it down.  I've been asked by a few different people in preparation for my first day on the job, "How do you know what to do?"  I never really knew how to respond, I guess I just figured I would do the job.  To me that meant getting to know the people (teachers, staff, students, parents, community members), familiarize myself with what had been going on (academically and culturally), and then plan for "pre-service"/back-to-school meetings.  But, I hadn't written any of it down.  So Friday, I wrote it down.  I think it's a good plan, but I'm sure I'm missing something.  Regardless, here are my three goals:
  1. Build Relationships
  2. Open Lines of Communication
  3. Focus on Instruction
As I began to write this down, it surprised me how much had been accomplished already.  I've met many of the teachers and support staff members I will be working with already.  Likewise, I was able to "tentatively-schedule" a host of meetings I would like to hold with key stakeholders - students, teachers, staff, parents, and community members.  And by focusing on instructions, I have been able to clarify my own philosophy and beliefs that I hope to community during our back-to-school pre-service meetings, and reiterate throughout the school year.

Another aspect of Wednesday's meeting that became abundantly clear to me, was the reminder that I need to be a "leader" not just a "manager."  As a leader, it is my job to be visionary, focus on the "big ideas," and always take the "systems" approach to issues.  It was clear to me that during my first week and a half, I was managing rather than leading.  As the leader, I need to stay above the daily grind, and focus more on the how and why we will be doing things.  I need to provide that vision so that there is purpose.  And, to an extent, I have started to do that.  With focusing on the district's mission statement, to inspire and develop responsible, life-long learners, I hope to "ignite passions and develop strengths" in both the staff and students of the district.  So my "theme" for the year will be to ignite passions, something that I have to thank John C. Carver for doing.  He consistently spoke about discovering students' passions.  As for strengths, I have to thank my wife.  A few years ago, her team at work read and discussed the book "Strengths Finder 2.0" by Tom Rath.  She suggested I purchase the book and take the self-assessment.  I loved how the book's author suggests we should spend more time focusing on our "strengths" than our "weaknesses."  In the world of education, I think it is often far too easy to focus on our student's deficits and plan, develop, and implement programs to fixing those deficiencies; instead of celebrating, and building on the strengths our students and employees already have.  So, during the "pre-service" I will be providing the 7-12 staff with the book and request that they take the online self assessment.  Then as the year progresses, we will revisit each others strengths, the strengths we see in our students, the district, and community.  I hope this serves as a good vision for the school year!

So, that's what last week was all about.  This week, "fingers-crossed," should be less hectic.  I'm in the office the entire week, and don't have much "scheduled."  So I hope to begin to focus on our "pre-service" agenda for new teachers and the entire staff.  Likewise, this will force me to review and revise the "staff handbook," and continue my document search.  I know already, I need to focus on bullying and harrassment procedures, the acceptable use policy (staff & students), along with a host of other items.  I'm happy to have my first "intern" coming on Monday.  She's going to be a big help.  We'll walk the building in an attempt to number each room so that the "intercom" guys can correctly route the wiring, we'll also check out the safety procedures - another suggestion from SAI - since we're both "new to the building."  After that, I've got a couple other items on my list I hope she'll be able to assist me with.  But on Wednesday, August 1, the secretaries report.  This means it's go time.  These ladies will have lots to prepare for registration on the 9th, but they'll also be able to provide guidance for me as things come up.  But, as I have quickly learned, they'll also be able to take a lot of the management items off my desk, so to speak, so that I can focus on the leadership items.

So, this got a little longer that I had anticipated.  But it was good . . . to process.