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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Educational Leadership
Posted by on in Education Leadership

Recently, the Center for Disease Control released a report stating there was a 300% spike in individuals getting infected with measles. You can read the full report at https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html . As a parent and as a former Superintendent of Schools, I find this incredibly disturbing. It is my opinion that this 300% spike could have been 100% avoided.

As a Superintendent of Schools, I enforced the New Jersey law of “no shots, no school”. There was one significant exemption to the law; you can write a letter to the district stating you decline to have your child vaccinated (for any disease) for religious reasons. It has been my experience that a majority of the letters submitted were because parents could not afford the shots or did not have the time to get the student vaccinated. In both cases, we attempted to accommodate the issue. We distributed a myriad of information on where and when you can get free vaccinations in town or in the county. We arranged free vaccinations through the county health department. We even brought in our district physician (every NJ district has one) to the school to administer shots to students and staff. We would try to provide any reasonable means to ensure that students attending school in the district could have access to vaccinations. Yet, there were still parents who declined.

Being a parent, I fully understood the right to the parent’s primary objective in advocating for your child. Should religion truly be at the forefront of your concerns, I would never hold that against you. Yet upon speaking to scads of religious leaders, I have not come across any religious leader or representative who said getting a vaccination would be interfering with their faith.

Before parents would turn in the letter, I would remind them of the one caveat of submitting such; as the Superintendent of Schools, I am allowed to prohibit your child from attending school, at any time, for any amount of time should there be an illness “floating around the school” or an outbreak of anything. You read that right; if there is a cold that’s being passed around, I can keep your child at home for as long as I see fit. The reason for such is simple in that your child is much more likely to not only become ill but can experience more complications from the illness. I recall one instance in which I kept a student out for 3 weeks because half of the class had a virus. After the third week, the parent had their child vaccinated with no objections. We also had policies in place where if a parent was not vaccinated, they would not be permitted to volunteer in any school activity where there is interaction with others.

In sum, based on the aforementioned report and seeing first hand what can happen to your children if you don’t vaccinate, it is paramount that you have your child (and yourself) vaccinated. These are not random shots or an experiment; this is clinical medicine that has proven results that keep your child safe. This is a work of science, not a work of science fiction. Your child being unvaccinated puts your child and all those who interact with them at risk. As the Chief Education Officer for all those who attend and work in the district, it is my chief responsibility to keep all safe. No learning can or will take place if the basics (i.e. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) can’t be fulfilled. Enough of the fake news and superstition; it’s time to participate in our society in a safe manner for all so we can continue to grow, learn and move onward.

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Posted by on in Leadership

NEWSFLASH: There are people on the Internet that don't like each other. There are people that don't like each other in person too, but today's pitfall of technology has enabled a myriad of people to partake in voicing their opinions in a whole new* way (*new, being about 20 years at this point). Recently, a childhood friend of mine was sharing his thoughts on a recent experience he had while in the store and came across someone who talked a lot of trash online. He referred to them as "Keyboard Warriors" and "flexing their Facebook muscles". I literally laughed out loud. What a phrase. It's not new -- where was I not to hear this? Especially me... someone who is loved and loathed as a leader.

If you have followed my career or me online, you are well aware that people who don't care for me express their dismay, often frequently. 9 out of 10 instances, it's done so by a phony name. That's OK -- that's your First Amendment right to do so (as long as you're in the parameters of not threatening or causing any type of harm). What's different from the past 20? It went from the Letter to the Editor in the paper, to message boards, to social media. With a mere click, you can like, retweet, heart, share, snap, and comment on anything and everything. Fake names is nothing new; from Mrs. Silence Dogood to Deep Throat, false names have been used out of fear or breaking the law. History has depicted that these individuals were timing, calculated, and put great thought into their hiding. Today, it can be done in a matter of clicks.

Some keyboard warriors are entertaining, others are gadflies. Some have good intentions, other just try to stir the pot or throw gas onto a fire that they think exists. Other keyboard warriors are just obsessed, addicted, and will do anything to try to make someone else's life miserable. The epitome of cyber bullying and cyber harassment, the folks you find today doing such petty acts are often also classified as trolls.

Back to my keyboard warriors, while I think no act of harassment and bullying is acceptable to anyone of any age, mine are former or current educators. Licensed professionals from the state who are charged with protecting your children. Retirees who currently collecting a pension and receiving health benefits. How disgusting and pathetic is it that people who are / were responsible for 'educating' your children (and you're paying for them with your tax dollars) have such a sadistic side? Thankfully, such behaviors in New Jersey can be stopped under the auspices of the law. Under the criminal code in NJ, proving a displayed pattern of harassment can result in a loss of pension, benefits, and even could come with jail time.

There are some positives about keyboard warriors and those who flex their social media muscles. Takeaways include: no credibility due to no real name; a showing of obsession by cyber-stalking an individual, showing lack of credibility (and showing mental illness), and that you're effective at what you do. If you have people following your every click online, chances are you're doing something effective and meaningful. I am somewhat old-fashioned; I do prefer people say something to my face, and not their keyboard. These people won't - they are too scared to do so.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

"So there looks like there might be an opportunity for you."

At the time when I heard this, I was literally in the middle of having my best teaching year. My sixth grade blended learning classroom was going better than I could ever have imagined. I was "teaching like a PIRATE," engaging and empowering my students, making learning relevant and meaningful to them, learning along side of my students every day, watching them get that love for learning back, and getting to know my students better than ever. And yet, a career opportunity came up that made me leave all of that. 

Why I Thought Left

When I was told, "So there looks like there might be an opportunity for you," I knew it was to step in as acting elementary principal for another principal in my district who needed to take a leave of absence. I did not know how long it would be, but I knew I had to take it. Opportunities like these do not come along often, and if I wanted to take the next step in my career, it began with this opportunity. While it was an easy decision to make, it was, at the same time, the most difficult career decision I ever had to make. I was leaving behind just an absolute incredible group of students, who were doing incredible things day after day. They wanted to come into my class every day. I wanted to come to school every day. There were no discipline issues. They pushed themselves to learn more than they did the day before. They pushed me to make the next day better for them than the day before. And yet, I left them for an opportunity.   

Why I Really Left

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Posted by on in School Culture

When you get a group of talented, enthusiastic, and passionate educators together to talk about school-wide positive behavior support in the summer, great and exciting things are bound to happen. And that is exactly what occurred the other day, a few weeks before the start of the 2018-2019 school year. 

I am fortunate enough to work along side these talented, enthusiastic, and passionate educators as principal, and when we sat down to discuss our goals for the year and how we would accomplish those goals, #bekindbeincredible was born.

Family Feud to Double Dare

As our school-wide positive behavior support (SWPBS) team began to plan our theme and what our kickoff assembly would be, we focused on the five pillars we have always focused on (being safe, here, accountable, responsible, and prepared), plus being kind. We discussed some ideas but wanted to ensure that we kept our ideas relevant for our learners. So we first came up with The Incredibles against another "family" in a Family Feud kickoff assembly. However as we thought about keeping our ideas relevant for our learners, we discussed the idea of Double Dare, since it made it a comeback this summer; long overdue I might add. This immediately clicked and we were quickly able to brainstorm the kickoff assembly. Now we had, The Incredibles, Double Dare, slime, and me, the principal, getting slimmed at the end. But we also had something far bigger. 

Be Kind 

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

I recently participated in a seminar on “student engagement” with new and experienced teachers, principals, vice-principals, and district-level educational leaders. We started with a basic icebreaker activity. We were asked to introduce ourselves by giving our names and sharing one word that reflects a central aspect of our educational philosophy.

My chosen word led to a lot of blank stares and more than a few confused looks.

“Hi, I’m Gillian Judson. My word is perfinker.”

Most people nodded hesitantly, taking on a quizzical look that said …Rrrriiight. And that means? One person I met looked at me skeptically and said, “That’s not a real word, Gillian.”

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