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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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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Textbooks: How old are yours?

Take a Spring Textbook Walk. Or, Not!

Is this the end of the 35 pound backpack, stuffed lockers and extinction of textbooks?

One School was in the news this past year. Apparently, the administration, Principal and Assistant Principal ordered a round up of all the textbooks in the school, piled them up and away they went. They were believers in no textbooks, better use of technology. Not all teachers and students were too thrilled because they were not ready for such a drastic change, with no input or warning.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership
mentoring
I couldn’t wait for Dad to get home that evening.  You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  I peered around the bushes to scan for his car while delicately holding the yellow envelope careful not to bend it.  
 
I got all A’s for the first grading period of my middle school career, and I couldn’t wait to see the reaction on his face!  It felt like days before his car finally appeared from the corner and pulled in the driveway.  He beeped the horn twice to acknowledge seeing me as I jumped frantically up and down.  Knowing I had something to say, he parked the car immediately and pulled down his window.  With my chest puffed out, I handed him my report card through his car window.  He matched his smile with mine and scanned the report.  After a few seconds, he proudly said, “Great job, Neil.  Now, I think it’s time you get a tutor.”
 
A tutor?  But, I got all A’s.  I didn’t need any help.  I had an instant imagine of me sitting in the corner of the classroom with a dunce cap while my classmates pointed at me laughing.  My shoulders lowered, my chest deflated, and my head dropped.  What did I do wrong?
 
Dad could see my reaction, and asked what was wrong.  Trying to hide the tears and hurt in my voice, I asked him what I did wrong that would cause me getting a tutor.
 
Puzzled, he responded in a matter-of-fact tone, “People don’t get tutors because they are dumb; they get tutors to get better.”
Dad went on to explain the difference in psychology between my thought and his in how we perceive tutors.  Driving home his point, he even reminded me that even Michael Jordan needed a coach!  After that, I was hooked.  I didn’t just want tutors in my schoolwork, but I listened to anyone I could find to help coach me up in tennis.
After securing my first teaching job, I took every chance to be mentored from veteran teachers.  I didn’t see it as a weakness or something that needed to be forced to do.  I realized that to be a better leader in the future, a Future Leader, I needed to learn from others today!
 
While there is no mandate for me to be mentored today, I still look to learn from others constantly.  Although someone may have more experience than me or a fancy title, it matters that I surround myself with others who possess the following “6 Attributes of Effective Mentors”:
  1. Provide Insights From Experience.  The leader needs to be reflective and able to humbly articulate how they were successful as well as mistakes made in their journey.
  2. Help You to Connect. The leader should be able to connect me with resources to address needs as well as introduce me to other people and ways to grow.
  3. Tell You What You May Not Want to Hear. The leader needs to be honest and straight-forward as well as be direct with areas to avoid or stop doing.
  4. Push You Beyond What You Think Is Enough. The leader should elevate my awareness to the magic of possibilities as well as drive me beyond the limitations I may put on myself.
  5. Encourage You Along the Way.  The leader needs to keep me moving forward as well as be the cheerleader through inspiration and positivity.
  6. Celebrate Your Successes! The leader should present along the journey as well as at the major milestones to celebrate accomplishments to reveal our true friendship and partnership.

While there's no perfect mentor, it's important to go in to a mentoring relationship with the same expectations.  Be up-front and clear on your needs, so you can find future success.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

backbone

It’s been said that the Principal is the face of the school.

If that’s the case, then the Assistant Principal is definitely the backbone!

For those lucky enough to have an Assistant Principal in your building, they are the ones who work, for the most part, behind the scenes in a number of areas.  They are the ones who organize and lead efforts such as: the master schedule, testing, staff development, student discipline, assemblies, recognition events, duties, ceremonies, buildings and grounds, and staff evaluations.  And, while doing all of these important tasks, they do it while connecting with students, staff, parents, and community members!  Could you imagine what would happen if your Assistant Principal wasn’t there?

This week marks National Assistant Principals Week

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