G-Town Superintendent Responds to Blog Challenge

In response to my recent blog post challenging our superintendent to enter the conversation with his own blog, Superintendent Rinaldi responds,

I knew it would eventually come to this.  Knowing Kim Moritz as I do, I insisted she include the disclaimer “opinions expressed here reflect the personal views of Kimberly Moritz and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gowanda Central School District” in her banner.  True to form, she challenges all of us, sometimes when we would prefer to be left alone.  But, now that she has laid down the gauntlet a response is in order.

It is not coincidental that after reading the blog feature in Education Week, I began to envision the benefits of using blogs to spread the superintendent’s message.  But I also learned from the article that blogging is rife with problems.  Would I have to censor comments to avoid salacious or false claims?  If I do censor comments, am I then open to ridicule for not allowing critics to rebut my arguments?  Do I want to debate on-line with disaffected residents who believe our school system is ineffective and taxes are too high?  Do I have a legitimate “voice” and who in the heck wants to read what I have to say?  Where do I find the time in a life already bereft of private moments?  Why invite problems into my life when problem-solving already dominates my work day?  How do I avoid having my opinions associated with the School Board? 

I already am on public television two times a month or more expressing management’s views during board meetings and public hearings.  Each month I write an article for the school newsletter.  I attend school events and am a frequent speaker in the community.  I am not convinced Gowanda needs more of me or that I could do justice to this medium.  Someone needs to convince me there is a legitimate audience for my comments. 

So here’s what I’m thinking now, maybe a “guest column” on G-Town Talks once per month?

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  2. I am the superintendent Kim Moritz “called out” for failing to blog. At this very moment I am in a room with two dozen other areas supers learning about the ever-expanding potential for technology learning tools. As I sat through the morning sessions I began to realize that I may be an impediment to progress. Due to my worries for student safety, I have refused to unblock and unfilter access to net resources. Due to my reticence, I have failed to invite comments and communicate our message and mission to a wider blog audience. Because I don’t know how to use a wikis, I have failed to promote the use in our high schools. We have all heard the old saying; “lead, follow or get out of the way.” Well, it is time for me to do all three. I will lead where I am competent, follow when I need to learn and get out of the way when someone has a good idea. To all of those who wrote to support the notion of a super’s blog, please accept my note of thanks. Consider the “calling out” by Moritz effective. I will commit to initiating a blog as soon as next week. Like Kim, Gowanda needs an advocate who can share the good news that is G-Town.

    And to the NYS Regent who this morning denigrated low peforming schools on the local radio, I invite you to visit our schools and see for yourself that it is possible to be 91st and still do right by children.

  3. Dear Superintendent Rinaldi,

    I appreciate that given your position you are probably giving an enormous amount of time and energy to your job, and you are probably spending a lot of time on communication and public dialogue. I’m going to suggest ways you might add blogging to your communications portfolio without adding time. First, look at replacing some (not all) of the communication you are doing in other forums (newsletters, public access) with blogging. You would need to be ruthless about your time to make sure blogging wasn’t becoming a time sucker. Since I’m not well balanced in my time, I will suggest looking at: http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2007/04/secrets_of_succ.html. These are secrets of success from Scott McLeod seems to be well organized.

    Also, blog with my classroom, and that demands control to protect my students from others (mostly spammers at this point), and themselves. There is a wonderful tool for doing this, it’s comment moderation. People may leave comments, you don’t have to post them. I started blogging without comments, which is another option that others have suggested.

    I appreciate the consideration that you have given this, and I understand your concerns. I just think they can be addressed. Hope to see you in the blogosphere!

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  6. Your superintendent raises good issues about the challenges of blogging, but fails to even begin to expand on any of the “benefits of using blogs to spread the superintendent’s message” that he pondered. To choose to not blog because of possible challenges is to major on the minors. Indeed, the advantages of blogging outweigh the negatives, in my opinion.

    Your suggestion that he appear as a guest blogger on your own blog might provide a good compromise.

  7. I have been amazed at the response to my blog. It has helped convey the district initiatives, help staff and community better understand me as a leader and individual, and has helped recruit teachers and leaders to our school system. I do not have a response type blog. What I have set up is an e-mail directly to me that I can then review the readers comments and post as appropriate since my blog does in a sense represent the school district. Bottom line – the blog is the most effective and most efficient communication tool that I now have as superintendent.

  8. I think that you have so much to offer! I have seen sites from some superintendents that don’t necessarily invite comments, but rather share updates with the community. Although I think that many would say that is not a blog that we all know and use these days, I would say that it serves the purpose. Blogs are supposed to extend conversation. Your work certainly does extend conversation within your community. If you write about issues that are distinct to the district or even do what you do best and explain to all of us the idiosyncrasies of state initiatives and budget planning, then you certainly can keep all of us well-informed and talking about what matters when it comes to kids and community members. I like your idea of being a guest. What about being Kim’s “guest” quarterly to help spread the word of what is going on at the state levels and how it impacts your work when running a district?

  9. My superintendent has begun emailing to a listserve of parents, sometimes inviting comments (although I am certain he gets feedback after each instance). This is, essentially, blogging.

    My advice: don’t get hung up on the semantics; it’s about the sense of community you engender when you are transparent in (some of) your decision making processes. Just as a school board has a closed session, not everything is appropriate for a forum.

  10. There are plenty of blogs that don’t have comments. Some of the biggest and oldest, like Boing!Boing!, Talking Points Memo, Scripting News, and Instapundit don’t. It is not a requirement of the form. AT ALL. If someone wants to respond, tell them to start their own blog or send you an email.

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