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Posted by on in Education Leadership

 

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There's nothing better than breakfast meetings in the summer! I get excited at the chance in meeting with colleagues over a cup of coffee and dialogue to brainstorm ways to better support our students and staff in the upcoming school year.

As part of our summer work, I have been been holding "check-in" meetings with our principals to reflect on our academic continuous improvement plans.  As the new principal at Worthington Kilbourne High School, Mr. Aric Thomas has been working to deeply understand the great work that has been done in the past and how to best continue leading the work in the future.  Talking with him during breakfast gave us both a chance to brainstorm plans for the upcoming year as well as get to know each other more.  As we got up to leave, we realized we weren't alone!


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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with a colleague from a previous school district who I hadn’t seen for years.  While drinking coffee and catching up about our families and life, I asked him about his recent change in positions at a new school district last year.  Suddenly, his head lowered and his eyes scanned the inside of his empty coffee cup.  Barely opening his mouth, he quietly murmured, “My goal next year will be to stay under the radar”.

Although I could have asked him to disclose details on why he would have said that, I knew that wouldn’t have accomplished anything to help him.  Instead, I asked him what he thought that would accomplish.  This question allowed for a better, richer dialogue to see how I could help coach him up.

His eyes looked up, and placed his coffee cup on the table.  With a small smile peeking through his mouth, he admitted that he wasn’t truly sure.  He guessed that it would be better if he kept his head down low and stayed quiet around his peers due to some missteps from the year before and some negative feedback he received on his performance.  As he restated his initial plan to just “fly under the radar”, he began to doubt the merits to this idea.

“Flying under the radar” doesn’t work in leadership. 

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

I found myself mixed with humility and joy listening to my sixteen-year old son, Keegan, as well as just observing his passionate explanation of how I don't know how to use my own camera to take pictures.  Having mastered the art of lecturing to me complete with eyes rolls and exhausted breath, he walked me through all the various settings, buttons, and dials on the camera. When did my son learn all of this?  

While I tried to act interested in all of his tips, tricks, and strategies, I waited patiently for him to finish, so I could school him a very important fact that would keep me at the top of the food chain of knowledge in the family; the fact that I bought an expensive camera with something called "Auto-Focus".  When he finished, I paused for dramatic effect before announcing my profound statement.  Getting ready to drop the mic, he quickly brought me down to Earth with his response: "Then, why would the company still keep all these features?  Sometimes, it is necessary to focus manually."

Even a year later, that experience and his response had me reflecting on its truth in settings outside of the photography world.  We tend to think about the word “Focus”, and think it should be automatic in what we do with it.  We tell ourselves we need to focus more as a New Year's Resolution, and say it when we are asked what changes we intend to make in improvement settings.  It has become such a much-needed area of work that it often gets nods of approval and the occasional "Amen" when we say it aloud.  We treat the ability to focus as something automatic, when it is something that is meant to be set manually.

In an effort to ensure you are focused, here are "Four Strategies To Manually Set Your Focus": 

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

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It’s been very busy on my end over the past month. I released my second podcast, published my first flash-read on Amazon, and have crisscrossed the country. Despite all of the good stuff, those who aren’t fans of mine capitalized on some mistakes that were made under my watch.

As a superintendent, the buck stops with me.  I am responsible for everything that happens under the time I am there. I’m also responsible for giving and getting the best possible education for students. I’m not perfect, and I will never pretend to be, but I will say there is truth in that the higher you climb up the leadership ladder, the bigger target you become.

With being so busy, I hired a media group to take care of my social media and my online presence. I was online from time to time, but I also have twins that just turned two and am making presentations all over the country, so I didn’t bother with it.  What could go wrong, right (note –  sarcasm)? Well…for me, all of it.  In talking about some future projects, the person took that information and misrepresented me online. Not cool at all. It eventually turned into a local news story, and before I knew it, I had to start playing defense.  I looked like a fool. Had I not corrected any of it, who knows what this would have become?

I fired the company and hired a new firm to handle this. They did, and we move on, right?

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Board of Education

While Presidents’ Day is reserved for honoring and celebrating our American presidents, I can’t help but think about local board of education presidents today as well. Like any elected officials, some you love, some you loathe, but most deserve credit for the time they put in to make sure the best is being done for students. Most have great working relationships with their superintendent, and most know the role that they play. I do keep saying  most, because, well, there are some that do not. I’ll focus on that a little later. Below are three boards that deserve some credit this Presidents’ Day.

Walt Sheets is a proud member of the Lower Alloways Creek community–a retired worker from the PSEG power plant, an active community member, and most importantly to me, a father of four.  Patriotic, witty, and possessing an infectious laugh, Mr. Sheets always had my back. No doubt we had our disagreements and clashes in certain arenas, but he always acknowledged that the superintendent was in charge and listened to my recommendations. What I still admire about Mr. Sheets was his mantra, “You take care of you first, then us (LAC) second.” I learned so much during my time in the crick and owe much of it to him.

Kevin Blondina is a board president that I ran into (literally) by accident. Both of us were enjoying a cigar, and I asked if I could use his lighter because mine kicked. From that point on, we have had one of the most cordial, real friendships around. Mr. Blondina is a financial planner in Sussex County, NJ, and I was working in Salem County. While geographically far apart, we couldn’t  have more commonalities if we tried to. We always make time to catch up over convention dinners and text on a daily basis about educational issues and how they affect us. Kevin is another who wears his heart on his sleeve and wants nothing but the best for students and staff. His passion is admirable, and his leadership style is envious. I owe much of my newly learned diplomacy to him.

Fran DiRocco is now a retired board member. Spending over 20 years on a  board, a decade of them as the president, Mr. DiRocco has navigated through a sea of educational issues ranging from collective bargaining to switching a sending school district. Mr. DiRocco’s professionalism, despite any internal board conflict, has been nothing but top-notch. I was hired under Mr. DiRocco’s term as president and chose to join the district even when the vote was 5 yes and 4 no. Was I crazy for doing so? Yep. Was it worth it?  Absolutely. Besides being 10 miles from home, I was able to work with a board president who knew what needed to be done and backed me when I needed it most. DiRocco didn’t have some underlying agenda, had nothing to prove to the town, and wasn’t bitter or vindictive when things didn’t go his way. He stayed classy until his term expired in December and now thoroughly enjoys his time volunteering at his church and on the local OEM committee.

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