Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Rider’s Up! It’s Going to Be an Exciting Finish

Every year on the first Saturday in May, the “greatest 2 minutes” in sports takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.  I have never been to the derby in person, but hope to one day.  However, each year I am glued to the TV cheering on the horse I draw out of the hat at our family’s event.  This year I drew Instilled Regard the 85-1 odd horse at race time that surprised everyone (even me) that it came in fourth. 

Much is the same in a school district during the month of May.  It is a flurry of activity and we never think we can get it all done, but somehow we finish strong.  Staff is preparing their final lessons and students are completing their final assessments to show the hard work put in throughout the year.

It is hard to believe the school year is quickly approaching its end especially since we had what seemed to be the longest winter on record. However, the sun is shining and the days are warmer and longer.  This can only mean it is time for staff and students to enjoy the well-earned summer break to refresh and rejuvenate.  This break is needed due to the many accomplishments this school year that include:

·         Williamstown High School is ranked 25th best high school in the state by the US       News and World Report.
·         The Williamstown Band of Spirit made it to state finals once again placing third in   Class 1A.
·         Three students have been selected to the Governor’s Scholars Program.
·         Numerous students competed in state competition in FCCLA and FFA.  Several   are moving on to national competition.
·         Students are taking tests to earn their private pilot’s license through the air and space program.
·         Over 40% of juniors and seniors are taking dual credit classes with some students earning over 40 college credit hours.
·         The district has been rewarded several grants totaling over one million dollars.  This includes Striving Readers, Early Childhood, 21st Century, Landscaping, and DURR for an outdoor classroom.
·         Students participated in Service activities throughout the City of Williamstown.
·         ACT scores continue to be above state average.
·         A new weight room was added for student athletes.
·         63 students will be graduating from the Class of 2018 and their Sr. Exit Projects were some of the best presentations to date.
·         Cross Country and Track teams were awarded bids to compete in state.
·         We all survived the legislative session. 

I know it is going to be an exciting finish as we prepare for the awards ceremonies, spelling bees, talent shows, class night and graduation ceremonies.  Rider’s Up!  Let’s do this!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

School Safety

Our children’s safety is always on our mind.  This month, my youngest daughter will be turning 16. As many can imagine, I am already worried about the day she will drive off on her own.  Many things will go through my mind, but I am certain my first thought will be, “Will she return safely?” I know this because I’ve already been through it before.

The school shooting incidents in recent weeks have been tragic, causing many to ask if their children are safe. These unfortunate events cause worry, stress, confusion and anger leading to an unsettled feeling for students, staff, and parents.  Our district takes safety very seriously, which is why we voluntarily participated in a safety audit. Eleven former educators from the Kentucky Center for School Safety (KCSS) assessed our safety procedures. 

Students, staff and parents were also interviewed to further evaluate campus safety.
Through participation in this audit, we learned the most effective way to prevent tragedies is to make sure students feel confident in talking with an adult about problems or concerns. Anytime a student hears or sees something disturbing, they must report to an adult- whether it be a parent or school staff member.  In addition, school staff and parents must work together to recognize changes in a student’s attitude or behavior.
The team credited our staff for creating a positive learning environment. However, we need the help of all adults in a child’s life to create a positive atmosphere beyond the walls of the school.

I enjoy using social media, especially when communicating with my college-age daughter living hundreds of miles away.  However, we must also know that social media can be used as a weapon for students to make unwelcome comments to other students. The district will continue to promote proper use of technology, but we need the help of parents and guardians by monitoring social media posts.  It never hurts to take the phone at a spontaneous time to see how smart phones are being used.  

Living in a small, close-knit community can give us all a feeling of comfort -- but we cannot be lax when it comes to school safety. In contrast, we also don’t want to make rash decisions when responding to school tragedies.  Many will conclude the need for metal detectors, conducting book bag checks, or even arming school staff.  Although these seem like quick fixes, we must look at all details to determine effectiveness.  

A school crisis can take a number of forms, including weather emergencies, chemical spills, gas leaks or an intruder in or near the school. The nature of a school crises dictates what we do to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and staff. We practice many drills with students to be ready in the event of an emergency.  The feedback we received from the safety team will be used to make changes based on the minor recommendations.  

After such tragic events, it is common for people to wonder if their child is safe. Please know we work closely with law enforcement, KCSS and other school districts to provide an environment where our students will be safe.

Monday, February 5, 2018

February is For...

LOVE?  Yes, let’s go with that.  If you are the parent of an elementary school child, you are very aware because your child has most likely talked to you about getting his or her Valentine’s Day necessities.

Taking my girls shopping for their Valentine’s Day parties was always chaotic. They would have to look at every single card and candy selection to find their perfect valentines. One sister would get upset if the other one wanted to have the same cards as her. Then, we would go home to transform an old shoe box into a beautiful Valentine’s Day box and address the cards for each classmate. (Sidenote: cherish these days… they go by so fast!)

            Although it may seem like a Hallmark holiday to us, February 14 is a huge deal for our students. Even our middle and high school students LOVE the holiday as shown by the massive amounts of candy, flowers, and balloons that arrive in the office.  While walking through the hallways on this day (really every day), I am reminded of just how much I LOVE my job and Williamstown Schools. We have the best students and a great staff. 

            I hope you LOVE our schools too.  If so, I ask that you share those sentiments with our legislators.  Public schools are not currently feeling the LOVE with the governor’s proposed budget cuts.  Also, the passage of charter schools and introductions of such bills allowing tax break in return for scholarships to private schools, hurt public education and most importantly the children of our commonwealth.   Public schools educate 90% of the state’s children- now is the time for the legislature as a whole to recognize the value of public education and support students and staff.  I am proud of our work and the work of other districts across our region and state.  Show your support and LOVE for our schools by staying involved and calling the legislator hotline at 1-800-372-7181 when public schools are under attack.

While you enjoy the many exciting moments of this month (especially an Eagles victory in the Super Bowl,) spend these next days cherishing who and what you LOVE. At Williamstown Schools, we get to do that every day.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Resolutions for the New Year

Surrounded by family and friends, watching the ball drop in New York City (from the comforts of my own home) into the New Year has me celebrating the chance to “start over”. The New Year is notorious for people making resolutions and the opportunity to start a new page in life, new chances, new slate. 
My classic resolution is to exercise more and eat healthier. I usually fare well in the first two weeks. I pack a healthy lunch, actually use my treadmill, and cook a healthy dinner. Soon, life starts to get busy again, and my healthy habits seem to drop by the wayside.  
My two daughters have had better luck with their resolutions. Both of them quit drinking soft drinks, and have seen great improvements in their energy and overall health.  I must confess that I have never fulfilled a single resolution to the end.  So I ask myself, “Why do I continue making a resolution year after year knowing I will most likely fail”?
This brings me to a thought,actually a quote, from one of the movies my girls loved to watch when they were younger.  It was A Cinderella Story. A quote central to the plot of the story was “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”
Failure is a part of life.  What I need to remember – two weeks after I blow my resolution- is to keep swinging- get back on the wagon- start over-try again. 
In fact, I think it is important to fail.  I absolutely DO NOT enjoy failing, but it makes us into better people. From the tiny fractures to huge letdowns, failure is one of life’s greatest teachers. How we respond helps us build character.
We should all remember Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team. Walt Disney was told he lacked imagination. Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times. Elvis Presley was told he was going nowhere. These individuals failed many times, but they didn’t let the fear of striking out keep them from playing the game. We all know these people eventually becoming successful in their respective careers. 
So this year, my resolution will remain the same- eat healthier, exercise more.  I am playing the game with every hope to succeed because when I fail, and I know I will, I am going to keep swinging.

Happy New Year Everyone!!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Great Gifts for Educators

As Michael BublĂ©, Pentatonix and Nat King Cole begin to flood the radio stations I am reminded Christmas break is just around the corner. If you are like me, it becomes harder and harder each year to find the perfect present for our loved ones. When my children were younger, Santa knew just what to get: a new board game, books, puzzles and their one special request. Now that they are older, Christmas shopping is much less enjoyable. Quite frankly, it’s more pricey and just downright hard.

You may experience this frustration when it comes to buying a Christmas gift for your child’s teacher. After many years of deciding on the perfect gift for my girls’ teachers, I am here to offer you some advice this Christmas season.

1.  Say “Thank you.”
It is easy to forget the influence a teacher has on your child’s life. Our teachers work hard to give your child, and all of their students, a quality education. Writing a thank you note is a wonderful way to show your child’s teacher you appreciate him/her. Use this as an opportunity to teach your child how to thank others.

2.            Chocolate
You’ve seen the Snickers commercial. Enough said.  

3.            Volunteer
It is no secret students perform better and learn more when teachers and parents/guardians work together. Offer to volunteer in the classroom or at after-school activities. However, supporting your teacher begins at home. Be sure to set aside time each day with your child to read, do homework, ask about their day and play.

4.            Ask about your child’s performance
Teachers love seeing how much you care. Knowing your child’s academic and behavioral performance is essential. Ask for recommendations on what you and your student can work on over Christmas break.

And you guessed it…

5.            Gift cards

This is my go-to gift when I am unsure of a teacher’s preferences. Gift cards are a great opportunity to support our community’s restaurants and stores. Here’s a hint: I know many of our teachers now run on Dunkin’.

Finding the perfect gift is difficult-- appreciating a teacher is not.
Take my advice if you are looking for a way to show your gratitude to the people who do so much for your child.

Merry Christmas to the Williamstown Independent Schools family!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Month of Thanksgiving

It is hard to believe November is here. Each time I write a blog post, I am reminded how quickly the months fly by. It can be very easy to get caught up in all of life’s activities and forget to enjoy each moment. I have to constantly tell myself having a busy schedule means life is full. Every November, I reflect on my life and am reminded of the many things to be thankful for.
First, I am thankful to be a child of God. He has blessed me in ways greater than I could have ever imagined. I am thankful to attend a church that pushes me closer to the Lord in everything I do.
Secondly, I am thankful for my family. The loving atmosphere my parents created allowed me to live a dream childhood. My parents live in the county, which allows me to visit them often. They love their grandchildren dearly and are extremely active in their lives. I am grateful for their continued health and influence in my life. I didn’t really care for my older sister growing up, but now I cannot imagine life without her. As a fellow educator, it is so great to be able to seek advice from her professionally and personally. After four years of dating, I married the best husband 22 years ago. Since then, he has also been a great father to our two girls. Carly is a sophomore at Murray State, and Haley is a sophomore at Williamstown. Both of my girls are intelligent, determined, and full of life. They make life complete and I love them more than words can describe.  And to top it all off, my dog Bruno always welcomes me home with snuggles and a wagging tail.
I am also thankful for my career. I have been granted opportunities I never imagined when I began teaching. There are endless amounts of people to thank for mentoring me into the educator I am today. I had a wonderful time with students in the classroom and it is so rewarding to see my former students starting a career, marriage, and/or family. I have worked with amazing colleagues who have a “students first” mindset. The amount of knowledge I have learned from them is incredible. We truly have the best and brightest students. They always fill me with pride and bring a smile to my face. How many people can honestly say they love their job? I know I can!
Before my breast cancer diagnosis three years ago, I took my health for granted. Today, I view my health as a valuable gift. Each healthy day is one to give thanks.  I  was able to beat cancer with the help of doctors, loved ones, and a supportive community.
Finally, I am thankful to be an American. As I celebrate Veterans Day each year, I am thankful for the many great men and women who have sacrificed time, family, and lives so that I may experience freedom. I am reminded of the service of my father, who is a true American and loves this nation so well. I can’t imagine living in any other place in the world.
Do you ever just stop, look at the people around you, and reflect on life? Do you every look at the sunset in awe? Do you put the phone down and enjoy a real conversation with a loved one? Do you take time to enjoy the simplest things in life? I encourage you to take a break from the busyness and reflect on what you are thankful for.

And when you do, I am certain you will see why it takes a whole month to celebrate the many blessings in life. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

What We Measure in Our Students

Fall is the time we eagerly welcome back crisp air, comfy sweaters, and pumpkin-spice everything. This is also the time when districts receive their assessment scores from the previous school year. Teachers and administrators excitedly yet anxiously study the data, hoping the results show the tremendous efforts made by their students.
As a former teacher, I remember this time well. Although I could rest in the fact that I did my best each day, I was a nervous wreck when the scores hit my hands. I took each score personally. I celebrated when students did well and cringed when I knew some could do better.
High stakes accountability is the conventional structure of education. Each day, I taught my students skills that were essential to do well on and off the assessment. When my students scored high on their state tests, I felt like I just won the Super Bowl. I scrutinized the scores to determine if I was an effective teacher. The Kentucky Department of Education analyzed the results to see if the school met high quality standards. Now that I have been removed from the classroom for several years, my new experiences as an administrator have allowed me to gain a different perspective.
Test scores are important indicators of academic achievement. By measuring our students’ abilities in the core subjects of English, mathematics, reading, science, and writing, we as administrators and teachers can understand what our students have learned.
But standardized tests are just that-- standard. There are things scores don’t show.  For example, it doesn’t show the commitment of a teacher attending a student’s basketball game because they asked themto be there. The scores don’t evaluate how many times a student reached out to a counselor because of issues at home. The scores don’t take into account the number of times a teacher worked with a driven student on a math problem or English paper. These assessments don’t measure musical or artistic abilities gained by being a part of a student organization. Lastly, test scores don’t measure the leadership and citizenship that is essential to flourish both in and out of the classroom. These test scores show a snapshot of students’ academic knowledge measured in one week.
Accountability is a wonderful and necessary component in any environment. Everyone needs to be held accountable to the words they say and the work they produce. As the superintendent, I hold myself and all of our staff members accountable to do their jobs in the best interest of students. Our teachers are accountable for student learning and outcomes. Our students are accountable for their learning and outcomes.
However, there is great difficulty in maintaining accountability among districts across the state. The 172 districts in Kentucky range in various sizes, regions, and affluence.
It is important to look past the printed scores and experience everything that is taking place in schools. Teachers are instructing students with valuable knowledge that will prepare them for the next grade level and life outside of school. Students are experiencing hands-on education and therefore apply learned concepts to real life situations. They are using technology to discover creative alternatives to traditional approaches. They are involved in extracurricular activities that will teach them to communicate well with team members.
When you truly look within a school district, you will see so much more than a number-- you will see determination, encouragement, learning, opportunities, success, challenge, and love. When you analyze your student’s test score, remember to focus on the individual and not the standard. At Williamstown Schools, we believe each student has the potential to succeed; I hope you view your student in the same way.