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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Starting Over

Okay, okay - maybe I didn't commit as much to this blogging thing as I had hoped, but a guy's gotta sleep too, right?

Anyway, another long Monday for PJ.  I was in Adel today for a Special Ed Supervision training put on by the AEA and taught by Randy Allison.  To my delight, the day flew by.  You never quite know how these trainings are going to go, but Randy was phenomenal.  He did a great job of keeping the day moving, keeping everyone involved in the conversation, and adding just the right number of stories to keep it interesting!  I'm looking forward to learning more tomorrow!

Also to my delight, I was able to make it home for dinner with the family.  Amanda prepared an awesome tilapia, rice, and fruit dinner and I was glad to spend nearly 45 minutes chatting with Lil and Ben.

Then it was off to the School Board meeting.  Started promptly at 6:00 with a tour of the PK-3 addition.  Timelines suggest the punch list will be issued on Aug 7, and teachers will be able to start moving their stuff that day.  Lilly is going to love the PK room, "commons"/cafeteria, playground, and much much more about her new school.  The touches (paint, cabinetry, carpet, etc) are going to make that building a great learning experience for the young people of CRB.

The official meeting started at 6:30 and didn't end until 9:15 or so.  Good discussion was had and good decisions were made.  I got to present my Powerpoint, "Who is Brent Jorth?" and believe it was well received.  Likewise, I ran through the calendar items between now and the start of the school year, what meetings I had been apart of last week, and my recommendations for changes to the student and family handbook for 2012-13.  Much discussion was had in regards to the hiring of a Director of Technology, but a decision was made to move forward; but now the tough part falls to the Sup., negotiating what was authorized to be spent.  I hope we're able to get the individual we want, as I see him as key piece of the puzzle!

For the next 1:15, the Sup and I got a chance to talk.  Great learning here about loads of information.  Feel like our relationship is growing.  Hope the honeymoon continues!

I suppose I should try and run through the last couple days of last week, but I'm not going to.  Gonna turn the tube on, maybe read my novel a little bit, but then it's off to bed.  Another day of Special Ed training, but no requirements/meetings to attend to after I'm done.  Hope to run to Best Buy and perhaps get a new modem or "amplifier" so that we can get access in the bedroom.

Until the next time.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Neglecting my Commitment

So much for commitment, sorry to my loyal followers - I've fallen asleep the last two nights prior to getting my blog done.  You know who you are :)

Day 3 & 4

Both exciting, productive days!  Day 3 was my first opportunity to be in my office, without any meetings, and I was able to get some things checked off my list.  Probably due to the fact that the Sup. was at a finance meeting in Ames.

After Day 2's meetings in regards to technology, I spent the morning on the phone trying to confirm the delivery of computers and a server that were awarded to us by REACT.  It's a round-about process, but I was able to get the specs that our IT consultant needed and feel like we made progress there.  Now it's just a matter of getting ahold of REACT on Tuesday - when they return from vacation - and ironing out the logistics so that we can get the server here ASAP - hopefully by Friday.  If that means we've got to send someone to go pick it up in Cedar Falls, transport it to Cedar Rapids, and then bring it to Coon Rapids - that's what we'll do.  In any event, mission accomplished.

Next I moved on to research on Google Schools, and called, tweeted, and emailed a few different individuals.  My first call was to Deron Durflinger, my previous boss at Van Meter and now newly hired Superintendent at VM, in regards to how quickly we could get CRB established as a Google School.  He thought it was doable by Aug. 17, but put me in contact with Andy Crozier, a leader in Google Schools adoption as Superintendent of Andrew CSD in Iowa.  Andy and I exchanged tweets and emails and he suggests it would be a "tight" timeline, but definitely doable.  In the meantime, I also contacted the AEA, and will be meeting with Wade Andersen in person today (Friday) to discuss Google Schools the benefits, logistics, and tech support related issues involved.  As you can see, I believe Google Schools is the way to go - and our tech team is in support of it.  Now it is just a matter of pulling the trigger.  In my opinion, we need to do it!  I hope it's ready when school starts, but if it's not up and going until after Labor Day or by the end of the 1st quarter - so be it, it just needs to be done.

In the process of researching Google Schools, I made contact with our AEA Regional Director, for those of you who do not know what the AEA is, check it out here.  She just so happens to double as a parent in our district, which means she's entirely invested, which is great for us.  She was able to answer two questions for me, the first of which will require Sue Ford - our districts Professional Learning and Leadership Consultant - to visit with me in regards to establishing a Building Leadership Team (BLT).  I believe that it is vital that one is established, but I need to do some "selling."  So my hope is that Sue is able to help me adopt a charter, mission statement, and objectives for this team so that I can take it to the Sup. and CD.  In addition, I inquired about the purchase of the book Strengths Finder 2.0.  I have many reasons for wanting to obtain this book, but more than anything I want to use it to kick off the season with my staff, and establish our theme for the year "Igniting Passions...Developing Strengths."  In attempt to be visionary, I would like to use this book to focus on the positive.  All to often in education it is about the negative, what can we do to improve our test schools, Johnny needs to change his behavior because of xyz, there's not enough money for abc.  So what I like about this book is that it suggests that we focus on the positive.  It's a really short read, and it's interactive.  It comes with an online self assessment that identifies five areas of strength, and then provides action plans for how to go about capitalizing on the strengths we already have.  So, the Sup. gave me the go ahead and now it's just a matter of ordering the books.

The remainder of Day 3 was spent reviewing the Student and Family Handbook.  Something that needs Board approval Monday night, and something that is painstakingly hard to read.  So I spent the afternoon reading the first half of it, highlighting questions and identifying items that need to be updated (mainly dates and names).  In any event, I also spent a good majority of Day 4 finalizing that work - so now it can go to the Board Monday for approval.

The excitement of Day 3 occurred in the afternoon, when the power went out and the fire alarm went off.  And as they say, bad news comes in threes - so as a result of the power going out, the copy machine in the office went haywire.  But in any event, the fire alarm going off was a blessing - I got to call the alarm company and "practice" that protocol, and feel that was not all too difficult.  Oh, for those wondering why it went off, paint fumes in the elementary wing where construction continues.

On to Day 4.  Another workday.

In an attempt to get more accomplished I started my day an hour earlier, so when I arrived at the school at 5:45 am, walked to the front door and tried my "Grand Master" key - to my surprise I was unable to get in to the building.  So I drove around to the back of the building and was able to enter in the "Receiving" door and no alarms were "tripped."  Come to find out, the front door was never rekeyed and only a couple keys still exist - one of which I later obtained.  Anyway, later in the day, when asked to gain entrance to an closet within an office that was locked I was denied a second time by my "Grand Master", but was lucky to find the key in the box labeled "misc", and wouldn't you know it, the first key I tried from that box worked!  Like finding a needle in a haystack, and I've got the witness to prove it.

In the morning I was able to clean/organize my office to an extend - something that I had not done since Day 1 when I had unloaded my boxes.  I started an organizing system of files, shuffled through old files and organized simultaneously.  In the process I stumbled upon the bullying and harassment forms, referral forms, detention letters, and a wide variety of management documentation documents.  All good stuff, and I've got an accordion waiting for me this morning.  But it felt very good to work through those items.  In addition, I found files on students and staff alike.  So as you can imagine I spent a good amount of time looking through those too.

Yet the main objective of the morning was completing my first Board packet.

Sorry but my little man just woke up, so blogging will cease so Ben and I can watch the British Open.  Until later.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 2

Alright, I don't exactly know why I am writing at 1:20 AM, but I am.  I guess it's commitment.

Disappointing end to a very successful CRB baseball season this evening.  The Crusaders fell to Earlham 2-0 in an 11 inning pitchers dual.  CRB managed only one hit the entire evening and were stymied at the plate the entire night.  Our senior, stud pitcher scattered five hits during his nine innings of shut-out baseball.  Unfortunately for us, and Earlham 8th grader hit a two out "bomb" to left to end the game with two outs in the 11th.  But, our kids played extremely hard, turning multiple double plays early in the game to get out of jams, and battled the entire night - but it just wasn't meant to be.  So the 2011-12 school year officially comes to a close!

At school today I was unable to review the student/parent handbook as I had planned, yet another day of meetings.  Somewhat unforseen today, but good information none-the-less.  The honeymoon is not over yet, but the work is most definitely starting to pile up.  Happy to be off to such a good start with the Sup.  Feel like we're building good re pore with one another, and hope to take the lead a few items we discussed today.  Also met with the Curriculum Director (CD) for nearly two hours today.  A lot of planning for back to school discussed, going to focus a lot on tech - something that I'm happy to facilitate.  Now it's just a matter of getting the REACT servers and computers on site, up and running.  Which might be a stretch, we'll have to see.  With the Sup. out of the office tomorrow, I will be trying to track down some timeline items to help facilitate the speedy arrival of those items.  But there are most definitely some challenges that we must overcome in order to get everything done by Aug. 16.

Also very happy to meet the district's IT Consultant today.  Tempered a lot of my expectations, but also very optimistic as to where we will be by Christmas and the end of the year!  The meeting itself was unplanned and last nearly two hours as well, but I felt that it was very productive and got me up to speed on the conversations that have been occurring during the past year.  Likewise, I'm very much looking forward to a meeting scheduled for Friday in which we will be interviewing candidates for a part-time IT Director.  We will be moving away from a "patch-work" IT support system that requires teacher leaders to double as trouble shooters/IT specialists/"jack-of-alls-masters-of-none" system to one that is much more responsive to teacher's.  But there are a lot of things to be determined in regards to that position between now and Monday, when the board will vote to hire/not hire this individual.

I also met with the Athletic Director (AD) this afternoon and was shocked to find out that we do not have an athletic booster club.  That is very strange to me, but he has some good ideas as to how the athletic department can serve itself in a traditional "booster club" capacity.  There are a lot of items on the athletics side that will need to be determined and I think the Sup, AD, and I will need to iron those out before football and volleyball start in a couple weeks.  This meeting with the AD also included an overview of the school's website redesign.  Very happy, excited about the possibilities that will afford our students, staff, and community.  My hope is that the redesign drives people to the website and we are able to generate some traffic and keep them coming back.  Now I have to devise a plan as to how to get teachers to build their own pages/website/etc.  I can hear them now, I have enough to do already, why do I have to create a website?  But we'll see.

Another meeting I had today was in regards to Infinite Campus.  One of the districts administrative assistants came in today and got my username and password established and showed me around Infinite Campus.  Not really going to mean much until school starts, and then I'll have the questions - but glad to know that I'll be able to access student data when I want it.

Most interesting part of today - my AA fielded a phone call (which is actually the 10th or 11th phone call) from a graduate of the class of 1957.  This individual is applying for enrollment at an online university and needs a copy of a high school transcript.  Unfortunately our staff has been unable to locate it.  And it is my understanding that this individual has been persisting, and been backed up by the online university, to the point where our staff may need to recreate a diploma in order to satisfy the online university.  We know that she graduated, as her picture has been located in the 1957 yearbook - and a "twin" sister's diploma/transcript has been located, but for one reason or another our staff has been unable to produce this individual's diploma/transcript.  So stay tuned for more on the mystery of the missing '57 transcript.

Tomorrow - it could just be me in the office, as the Sup and Business Manager are at a finance meeting in Ames all day, and my AA will not be back until Aug. 1.  So, cross your fingers, I might get something checked off my "to-do" list, which only seems to be growing.  Likewise, Amanda is in Des Moines for work, which means I'll need to check out earlier than normal to relieve the nanny/baby-sitter.  But in any event, a very successful second day as Principal Jorth, and very much looking forward to Day 3.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 1

A busy day one is officially in the books.  The itinerary was as follows:

6:00 - Alarm
7:00 - Arrive at Office, unpack boxes
8:30 - Move file "fire-proof" file cabinets
9:00 - Meeting with Sup. delayed until 10:00
10:00 - Meeting with Sup.
11:30 - Home for Lunch  (kids off for swimming lessons)
12:10 - Meeting with Guidance Counselor  (schedule)
1:15 - Computer Assigned
2:00 - Meeting with Admin. Asst.  (AA)
3:45 - Family arrives, debrief
4:45 - Off for home
5:45 - Dinner
6:30 - Back for Buildings/Grounds Meeting
8:45 - Home, tuck in kids
9:30 - Call Mom & Dad
10:00 - Blog

Best meeting of the day, hands down with AA.  She's going to be a God-send.  She's got ideas and I like 'em.  Should be a great help as we get into the school year!

Biggest disappointment - MacBook Pro Computer.  Debated over Toshiba and MacBook, thinking about going with the Toshiba, might be easier and more compatible as most everyone is PC.  But we'll see how tomorrow goes and if I can get things set up and to my liking.

Amanda was the star of the day.  She was busy, busy, busy with work but juggled the kids as the "nanny"/baby-sitter had senior pictures this morning.  It was great to get home at lunch, to visit with her and process the morning, then even better to visit while preparing dinner, and wrap up the day with a chat about the afternoon and evening.

It's going to definitely be an adjustment for Lilly and Ben.  Glad I got to see them for the 10 minutes at lunch, and again at dinner.  Not looking forward to being an "absent" father, with all the meetings, events, and "duties as assigned."  But hope they'll just get accustomed to the new normal, but looking forward to showing them off at events - like tomorrow night's baseball game.

Tomorrow promises to be an opportunity to get more accomplished.  AA will be in again to answer questions, plan to meet with the Curriculum Director in the am, and athletic director in the PM; but other than that should be an opportunity to get some work done.  We'll see how much is accomplished. Looking forward to the drive to Adel for the baseball game, hope it results in a State appearance - like our chances!

For now, signing off.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Getting Started

Okay, it's 2:04 am, technically the day before I begin my new adventure as Coon Rapids-Bayard's 7-12 Principal, and I'm ready, already. So, as I embark on this new adventure, I'm committing myself to blogging. If, for nothing else, to journal what occurs during my first year as an educational leader. Who really knows how long this will last, but I hope to spend the last few minutes of each day unwinding by blogging.

Entry #1

The baseball team advanced in tournament play tonight by defeating E-EHK 7-3. They will play Tuesday in Adel versus Earlham. A little disappointing, considering that Earlham beat Van Meter tonight, and would have liked to have run into some "Bulldogs" and caught up with a few friends I haven't spoken to in a while, but perhaps this was for the best. This way, I won't have to root against VM.

Tonight, in preparation for the weeks ahead, I completed a host of projects. First a letter to teachers and staff members inviting them to visit prior to school starting, next a power point entitled "Who is Brent Jorth?" I'm thinking about using it during pre-service with teachers and perhaps different community groups that I'll meet during the next couple months. Patterning it off of Trent Grundmeyer. Likewise, I got my schedule/calendar outlined starting with Monday until we start on August 22nd. Debating whether to use Google Calendar or iCal, guess we'll have to see if I get an Apple device on Monday. Also, got started on my "list," I don't know if I'm asking the right questions, but hope it doesn't come off as naive.

In any event, looking forward to getting started. It will definitely be a learning experience!