Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Back to School 2017

It’s exciting, yet hard to believe, that in a week our schools will be filled with students and staff ready to begin the 2017-2018 school year.  I feel the same excitement today as I did when I was a student. I always went to Value City with my mom to pick out the outfit I would wear on the first day of school. I looked forward to picking out a new trapper keeper to keep all of my schoolwork organized. After months of anticipation, the school bus finally came around the corner of Violet Road and I couldn’t help the smile that came across my face. I stepped on the bus and immediately said hello to my friends that I didn’t see all summer (remember… we didn’t have social media!) While I was eager to get into the classroom, I was also ready to defend my title as gym class “Around the World” champion! Even though it has been a few years since I was a student, to this day I still have memories of classmates, teachers, and faculty that I will cherish forever.
The positive impact that my school made on me was the reason I decided to pursue a career in education. I can still recall all of my teachers from elementary to high school. Mostly I have fond memories of the teachers , but I do remember some for different reasons, but in the end, they all shaped me into the educator I am today. For instance, my 2nd grade teacher, Ms. Beach, taught me how to write in cursive. I went home from school that year and every blank sheet of paper I could find was used to practice writing my name in cursive. Mr. Bayes, my middle school basketball coach and science teacher, gave me a love for science that I carried over into my years of teaching elementary science. He also gave me some pointers about my shot (follow through) and the importance of being a team player. My AP English teacher, Ms. Lillard, taught me how to write collegiate papers. Her resourceful and creative teaching style carried over to me when I taught 3rd and 4th grade writing.
However, I remember more than just the teachers. My bus drivers, Ms. Doane and Ms. Gibson, always greeted me with a smile and got me where I needed to be safely. Pops, my elementary custodian, was always available for hugs and encouragement. Ms. Clifton always had time for a quick chat while I was grabbing my food in the high school lunchroom. The list of the names, faces, and stories could go on forever.
Lastly, my school career wouldn’t have been as meaningful without the support of my parents. After a long day of work, my parents always made time to help me with my homework, talk to me about my day, and support me in all of my extra curricular activities. However, when my parents had their hands tied, my village of supporters always lent a hand.
As we begin this school year, I encourage everyone to realize how important their role is in the life of a child. As we begin the school year with new books, pencils, and binders, let’s also have a refreshed awareness of adults’ roles in education.  Whether you are a parent, teacher, custodian, food service employee, secretary, administrator, coach, etc. you play an important role in determining if our students have a positive school year.  They are watching and they will remember.  For what do you want to be remembered?
 I look forward to what this school year will bring! Welcome back, everyone!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer Break?

Graduation is complete, awards for the year have been given, and the hallways are no longer filled with the hustle and bustle of students.  Summer Break is here!  While our students welcome this (usually just the first week until they get bored) it’s a very busy time for many staff members in the school.

Custodians are already hard at work preparing for the start of the 2017-2018 school year.  They will have everything looking shiny and new when students return.  The summer is also a very busy time for our secretarial staff and finance officer as they are busy getting everything ready for the annual audit and closing out the fiscal year and beginning another.   Principals and administrative staff are completing end of year reports, hiring staff, and getting materials ready for the new school year.

Also during summer break, we will see many of our teachers collaborating on lesson plans, teaching summer school, and organizing classrooms.  They are also involved in many of our transition events and summer activities taking place this summer.  These include:

  • Me and My School for applicable students will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 6 weeks throughout the year. 
  • Lil’ Demon Days for incoming Kindergarten students will be held on June 21st from 9-11, July 19th from 9-11, and August 8th from 9-2. 
  •  Boot Camp for incoming 6th graders on August 10th from 9-2.
  • Freshman Orientation on August 14th from 9-12. 

As you can see, summer is a busy time in a school district. Many staff work hard to ensure students have a positive experience when they return. 

I’ll end this blog by admitting summer isn’t ALL work.  We do enjoy SOME time off.  In fact, I am looking forward to my annual beach vacation with my family.  However, after that, it is back to the grind!

I wish everyone a great summer! 

Friday, May 5, 2017

May in Kentucky is a Special Time

May in Kentucky is a Special Time
May is a special time in Kentucky.  The “greatest 2 minutes” in sports takes place the first Saturday every year.  I am sad to say that I have never been to the Kentucky Derby, but it is something I wish to do one day. 

May is also a super busy (hence the lateness of this blog) and special time for anyone working in schools.  It is hard to believe we are once again preparing for the end of another school year.  The older I get, the faster the years are going.  As I reflect on this school year, one word comes to mind-Fortunate. I consider myself extremely fortunate for the opportunity to serve in the community I love- surrounded by the most amazing staff and students.  What a pleasure it is to be at “work” each day. 

As the owners, jockeys, and horses are preparing for their big event on May 6th our teachers and students are also preparing for end of year assessments during the week of May 8th.  This time of year can be stressful, as a year’s worth of work will be judged on a 5-day testing window.  For this reason, I want to take time in this blog to share just some of the accomplishments that took place in our district this year.    

  •  The district received re-accreditation by AdvancED.
  •  The district was recognized as a Proficient School District
  • Williamstown High School is ranked 25th best high school in the state and 2066th in the nation by US News and World Report earning a silver medal. 
  • The Band of Spirit has been in the KMEA state finals since 2001 and has won the Governor’s Cup 6 times.  This year they were runner-up with their show titled, Reach.
  •  Williamstown Elementary’s Academic Team won the District Governor’s Cup.
  • The Boys’ Varsity Basketball Team earned a spot at the regional tournament for the first time in 17 years
  • The Girls’ Varsity Softball Team Won the 8th Region “ALL-A” and advanced to the state tournament.
  • The Williamstown Elementary Travel Basketball Teams had 2 championship winning teams.
  • There were numerous Chorus and Select Band Recognitions with students receiving Distinguished Ratings.
  •  We have students attending Gatton Academy and the Governor’s Scholars Program.
  • The WHS FCCLA chapter had STAR Events State Winners who will now be competing at the national level.
  • The Williamstown FFA club individuals advance to compete at state events.
  •  Ms. Vicki Brownfield, retired teacher, won the Excellence in Education Award for our county and Ms. Deana Cummins earned a Golden Apple Award for Northern Kentucky Educators.

May in Kentucky is special.  Our state rolls out the red carpet for the whole world to see and our district gets to end the year celebrating the achievements of our students and staff. 
How fortunate I am to see all of this unfold throughout the year! 

I wish everyone a restful summer!  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

It’s April... and this is a Hodgepodge Blog

It’s April... and this is a Hodgepodge Blog

The calendar says April, which means several things.  First up is April Fool’s Day.  As an educator, I rejoice that this year the “holiday” falls on a Saturday. Even though I remember being young and so excited to trick my parents, sister, and friends I am excited our students will be plotting their pranks this year at home.  I read a book to some of our elementary students titled, April Fool! Watch Out at School! and enjoyed their excitement as they discussed their plans to fool others, which is why I reiterate, “Thank goodness this takes place on the weekend”. 

Two of my favorite events takes place in April.  One is The Master’s golf tournament.  I hope to set foot on Augusta National one day.  I am a golfer, which is probably why I enjoy it, but I REALLY enjoy it… like “Don’t speak to me on Sunday during the tournament” enjoy it.  Perhaps it’s because it is one of those events that is all about tradition.  It is special.  Honestly, it reminds me of our district and all the special events and traditions that will soon be happening on our campus as we wrap up the school year. 

My second favorite event is the Exit Project Presentations by our senior class.  Every April, our senior class students, as a requirement for graduation, must give a presentation about any topic of their choice.  This is an exceptional time for students to receive one on one time to reflect on their years as a student and discuss plans for their future.  It’s hard to give a description that gives it due justice, It is just one of those special events (The seniors don’t usually agree with that statement until their presentation is over). 

Okay, so maybe I have three favorite things that happen in April because spring break is just around the corner. Research suggests the brain does need some down time and I hope that during this time off our students and staff take get some much deserved down time.  I have a little R and R planned and know it will be just what is needed to come back and finish the school year strong. 

Speaking of finishing the school year, as I write this there are only 32 days of school left.  WHAT?  I guess it is true what they say, “Time flies when you are having fun”.  As I reflect on my first year as Superintendent, I can say with certainty that I have made mistakes, learned a ton, and had a ball.  The work is challenging, yet so rewarding.  I honestly work with the best staff and students. 

My birthday is also in April.  I am not a big fan of turning another year older, but I am so appreciative of another year spent with family, friends, colleagues, and students.  

If you have endured this Hodgepodge of a blog, bless you.  My mind is racing with a million things and I have found it difficult to focus. I plan to clear the mind over spring break, so perhaps the May blog will be a bit more put together. One can hope!! 

I wish you the happiest of Aprils!    

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Early Years

The Early Years

This past year I sent my oldest daughter, Carly, off to college. It was a bittersweet moment.  It does not seem that long ago that I was rocking her to sleep, watching Barney videos with her, and taking her to school for her first day.  As I think about our district gearing up for the annual March event of registering students for Kindergarten, I am reminded of the day I took Carly for her registration event.  As they took her back to be “tested”, I waited anxiously for the results.  I imagine I am not the only parent who has had these thoughts, which is why I want to focus this blog on the importance of the early years and the impact parents and caregivers have on helping students start school ready to learn.

Parents want their child to be prepared and not behind.  Currently, in Kentucky, only 50% of students begin kindergarten ready to learn. Parents are their child’s first teacher because as soon as babies are born they are immediately eager learners.  In fact, during the first three years of life, the brain grows at an amazing rate and forms connections.  By the time a child reaches age 3, the brain has already grown 80% of its adult size and has formed about 1000 trillion connections.  These connections are critical to a child’s healthy growth and development. 

Parents provide the building blocks children need to thrive, but they must be intentional.  Activities such as talking, reading, and singing lead to positive brain building. Additionally, relationships that are nurturing help their brains grow best.  Negative experiences, such as abuse and neglect, can actually lead to the chemistry of the brain changing which can have a lifelong impact on learning, behavior, and health. 

Our district has identified 8 ways you can interact with your child to get them off to a “Great Start” and enter kindergarten ready to learn.

  • Share Stories:  By the time a child begins kindergarten they should have 1,000 books read to them. 
  • Talk Together:  Babies and children need to hear lots of words to build up their vocabulary.
  • Ask Questions:  Your child should be asking you many questions as they work to make sense of the world, but you should be asking too.  “Where is your nose?” or “What color is the sky?” are examples of great questions.
  • Sing Songs:  Rhymers are readers.  Nursery rhymes build memorization, sequencing, voice inflection and exposure to new words. Dancing is fun too.
  • Play Games:  Playing games is the job of a child.  From Peek-a-Boo to Candy Land children learn lots of skills from playing.
  • Allow for Exploration: Using building blocks, playing with wooden spoons, or pots and pans allow children to explore their surroundings.
  •  Let Them Be Helpers:  As children go older give them “jobs” to do such as mixing the cookies or taking out the trash.  Children can learn responsibility and realize their importance and value.
  • Give Praise: Making children feel valued and special will help them have a positive self-image.  Make sure you tell your children when you are proud or they have a done a great job.   

This year, we will be welcoming the future class of 2030.  Children are our future; we owe them a path that will guide them to a successful future. This begins in the Early Years! 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Leadership Lessons

Leadership Lessons

Over the holidays, I received a book titled, Cigars, Whiskey and Winning:  Leadership Lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant.  I must admit that I am not a “history buff” and was unsure if I would enjoy the book.  Well, let me tell you, I do not just like the book I love the book.  Therefore, in this edition of my blog, I want to share some of my favorite "lessons" from the book.   

First, why is the book called Cigars, Whiskey and Winning?  This is due to Grant smoking constantly, Abraham Lincoln urging the removal of Grant because he drank too much, and Robert E. Lee hailing him a winner, but really, who was Ulysses S. Grant?  The book describes him as perceptive, a lifelong learner who learned from his own and others success and failures and someone who was skilled at seizing opportunities and boldly shattering paradigms. 

As I continue on the journey of becoming a better leader in order to lead the school district in the right direction for our students and staff I am hopeful that I can grow to attain more of Grant’s characteristics.  He was praised for his common sense, decisiveness, energy, self-control, self-confidence, and as a man who concentrated on contribution and service more than individual fame or glory.  Below are 5 of my favorite lessons from the book and what I learned from them.

1.  You can’t succeed if they don’t:   Leaders realize they cannot succeed if the people working with them are not successful.  Therefore, they EMPOWER the people and do everything they can to help insure their success. 

My Lesson:  I can’t do it all.  I must trust my staff and provide assistance when needed.   (I am a “doer” so this is a tough one for me, but I am working on it).

2. What matters is effectiveness, not style:  There is not perfect management style that suits all.  The best management style is the one you feel most comfortable with and the real focus should be on effectiveness, not style.

My Lesson:  I can certainly learn from others, but I don’t have to be exactly like another leader.  I need to do what feels comfortable and focus on being effective staying true to my ethics and morals.

3.  Keep your eye on the ball:  Avoid chasing after little successes, no matter how appealing.  Stay focused on achieving your primary objective. 

My Lesson:  I can’t be persuaded by the “shiny new toy” on the market or trying to imitate what another district is doing.  I must stay true to the needs of our district and the long-term goals and plans. 

4.  Cultivate a thick skin:  This will help you deal with unwanted criticism, which is likely to happen in leadership roles.  Go about your business without responding to critics.  Trying to explain reasons for your actions will not satisfy your critics, but only distract you from your work.

My Lesson:  If what I am doing is the right thing for students and the district then I can lay my head down at night knowing I have done my best.  I must be able to block out unnecessary criticism, but also know the difference between criticism that allows me to grow. 

5. Some projects need to wait:  It’s great when you take on multiple tasks, but there will always be some projects that need to wait until others are completed because working on them prematurely only wastes time and resources.

My Lesson:  I need to read this early and often.  I definitely struggle with patience and wanting to do too much at once. 

It was difficult to narrow this down to the 5 lessons I wanted to share. I encourage anyone wanting to strengthen their leadership skills to read this book.  It is certainly causing me to self-reflect and will hopefully make me a better person so that I can be an effective leader for Williamstown Independent.

Monday, January 2, 2017

What Does a School Board Member Do?

What Does a School Board Member Do?

January is School Board Recognition Month and therefore I would like to take the time to educate the public on the role a Board of Education member and to also publicly thank our board members; Ms. Angie Cleveland, Mr. Chris Lawrence, Mr. Roy Osborne, Mr. Cliff Wallace and Mr. Jeremy Winters, for their service and dedication to our students, staff, and community. 

Our board members are elected by the community and must carry out responsibilities for the benefit of, and in the interest of, individuals and groups in the school district. Local board members are considered state officers, receiving their authority and responsibility from the General Assembly.

Most of a local board of education’s duties are fulfilled with the adoption of district policies. Once policies are adopted, it is up to the district superintendent and staff to implement the policies. The board is responsible for monitoring the overall district performance and can revisit, amend or repeal policies that it believes are in the best interest of the district. In short, it is not the board members job to run the district, but it is their job to see that the district is well run.

Among the major duties of the board: 1. Establish schools, acquire sites and erect buildings. 2. Adopt courses of study. 3. Provide necessary services to pupils. 4. Manage all funds and property. 5. Make appropriate rules, regulations, and bylaws. 6. Appoint a superintendent of schools. 7. Adopt a budget. 8. Take necessary action to levy needed taxes. 9. Assess individual student progress. 10. Adopt a plan for immediate and long-term strategies to address school safety and discipline. 11. Formulate a code of acceptable student behavior and discipline that applies to each school in the district.

What is Unique About Williamstown’s School Board Members?
  • ·         It is not uncommon to see our local board members present at band competitions, ballgames, school plays, or helping out around campus.  They enjoy being around students and staff and helping the district in any way possible.
  • ·         They do not accept their allocated per diem of $75 per meeting, which saves the district over $6,500 annually. 
  • ·         They regularly mentor juniors and seniors and offer assistance and advice before dispensing students their diplomas.
  • ·         Over the past several years there has been over 50 years of combined experience on Williamstown’s school board.
  • ·         The majority of our board members are graduates of Williamstown.
  • ·         One board member was the former superintendent of Williamstown.
  • ·         All board members are extremely invested in making Williamstown the best place to learn and work for students and staff.

Lastly, our education program exists to support student achievement. Students are our #1 priority.  The local board represents the community by making sure tax dollars are used effectively and efficiently on behalf of students.

When you see one of our board members please offer a thank you for all they do for students, staff, and our community.  They are true partners with administrators, teachers and staff in making sure students come first in this district.