Randolph Parent Responds

A reader known as “randolphparent” posted a comment on my previous post about Facebook and our RCS Facebook page that warrants further thought and discussion. “randolphparent” says,

Having a school facebook page is a great idea.
However, is it necessary to unlock it for the children at school? Should children be on facebook during school from their phones/schools computers? It happens, the proof is out there.
How about the teachers that have students as ‘friends’ on their personal pages? Is that professional behavior? I could see a ‘class’ page to be checked from HOME.

Let’s take the two points raised separately. First, there’s the question about unlocking Facebook at school. I have written here often about my own belief that filtering and blocking is not the solution for our kids, but rather teaching them to use the web effectively and appropriately. I don’t know how we do that, how we have the necessary discussions that help them to understand any potential problems they can encounter on the web, if we block and filter. I also know that teachers are absolutely responsible, first and foremost, to engage students in learning. If a teacher creates a classroom where kids have an opportunity to sit on their phones or on-line on Facebook or any other website–instead of focusing on learning–then we’ve got a bigger problem than filtering, don’t we?

Having said that, I have wrestled with the idea of, “what purpose could it serve for a kid to have access to Facebook during the day?” I’m not sure I can answer that with any concrete examples, yet. I just know that our effectiveness as teachers depends largely on our ability to connect with our students. That was true when I started teaching in 1989 and it’s true today. If Facebook is one of the primary ways our students are connecting then I want in on that, I want to learn more about them,  and I want a chance to influence their thinking.

Which brings us to “randolphparent’s” second point, what about teachers “friending” students on Facebook? And using it professionally? Adults are using Facebook in many different ways and our teachers and staff have to understand the appropriateness of the content they put out there on Facebook if they are “friending” students and their parents.

Just like I wouldn’t want our teachers to swear or drink a beer in front of our students, I don’t want them portraying all the parts of their personal life to them on Facebook. The line between personal and professional life is blurring and it’s up to every individual to think about that when they post content on Facebook or anywhere else.

Personally, the RCS Facebook Page makes this all easier for me as an educator.  I don’t “friend” RCS students, staff and community members. Why not? Frankly, I’m already here 9-12 hours per day and what I do the other 12 hours of the day is my business. If I’m at a Sabres game with friends and someone posts a comment or a picture about our time there, I just don’t think anyone needs to know where I am and what I’m doing 24/7. I like having a personal life when I can just be Kim with my friends and family. A time when I’m not the superintendent of schools, I’m just Kim, helps me to return to RCS refreshed and ready to face whatever work brings.

If teachers are using Facebook to connect with students and to post in a professional way, I think that’s terrific. But “randolphparent” is right, it needs to be done professionally and with reason or it shouldn’t be done at all.

But hey, that’s just what I think Readers, what do you think?

Randolph Cardinals Keep On Winning!

Big news for our athletes this week, as Rhiannon Carnahan joined Travis Nagle in qualifying for STATES for Cross Country–WOO HOO!  Congrats to Rhiannon, Travis and Coach Lauren Carnahan who travel on to the STATE competition this Saturday. We’ll have a send off from the school this Thursday before they board the bus to STATES–do it up Cross Country!

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, our boys football team beat Maple Grove at Ralph Wilson stadium to become the Section VI champions—another WOOT! A huge congratulations to our team and our coaches–I think half the town was at that game. It was a night when I got to feel very proud to be the RCS superintendent. Our boys advance to play the Section V champion in Rochester this Friday night at 5:00. Let’s do it again!

In order to allow everyone (this town sent over 500 people to Friday night’s game!) to safely travel to the game on Friday in time, we will dismiss all students, faculty and staff at 1:00 pm. That gives everyone plenty of time to drive safely and also allows time for our spectator bus to arrive for the 5:00 start time.

Spectator bus tickets are available in the HS main office for $5.00. No pre-sale tickets are available for this game, we have to buy them when we arrive. The spectator bus will leave at 1:00 pm and will be chaperoned.

Something else to think about. . . we have parent teacher conferences scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Elementary teachers who want to travel to the game may ask parents scheduled for a few late Friday conferences to reschedule. This is not to say your conference isn’t important! Your child’s academic progress comes first–always, without a doubt. Your child’s teacher will work with you to find a time that works for you if it is rescheduled. If YOU want to reschedule because you’re headed to the game, please let your child’s teacher know as soon as possible.

Hopefully we’ve covered all of the details. If I haven’t answered a question here, as always, give us a call!

And you can follow the conversation on Facebook at our RCS Facebook page for more up to the minute information. We’re up to 241 members!


Sectional Season

You may think it’s Autumn but at Randolph the season is Sectional! Thanks to the regular season success of our student athletes and coaches, our teams are going strong. Read about our teams and plan a night out to watch our kids.

Check out the #1 RCS Girls Volleyball team this week– tonight as they play Pine Valley here at 6:00 and when they secure a win tonight, on to play this Friday night at 6:00. This team is on fire and hoping for another big win this year!

RCS Cross Country will be tearing it up in the CCAA League Championships at Long Point this Friday at 3:30.

Friday night brings our RCS Football Team(7-1) to our field to battle Portville (7-1) at 7:30 pm. Next game? Friday, November 6, 6:00 pm at the Ralph. 😉 If you want to see excellent football played with enthusiasm, Randolph’s field is always the place to be.

#3 Randolph Boys Soccer should dominate #6 Chautauqua Lake at home this Friday at 3:30, with Semifinals around the corner on November 3 at Southwestern. Friday is clearly the day to see lots of sports action for the Red & White here at home.

And don’t forget #5 Randolph Girls Soccer taking to the field today at 3:30 against #12 Silver Creek then advancing to the Quarterfinals on Saturday at 2:00 pm against #4 Holland. Soccer has come a long way over the past several years and spectators can expect to see some great play from our girls!

And if sports isn’t your only thing–join us for a High School Halloween Howl of a concert tonight at 7:30 being performed at the Elementary School for the benefit of all of our little ghouls and goblins who are attending our Halloween Fun Night from 6:30-8:00.

H1N1 Clinic at Randolph Central School

We are pleased to announce that Cattaraugus County will be offering an H1N1 Clinic here on Saturday, November 7, 2009 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. Vaccines will be available on a first come, first served basis to any RCS enrolled school children. There is no cost to the family and the child must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Unfortunately, the vaccine is not available to younger or older siblings who are NOT enrolled at RCS. We will have school personnel on hand to help the County and to help comfort our children.

I can’t help but remember my own trip as a small child to a vaccine clinic in the late sixties for small pox. I remember gripping my mother’s hand and standing in a long line. Let’s work together to make this a manageable experience for our children. If you have any questions, please call me or either of our school nurses, Sharon O’Neill and Lottie Abers.

Can We Truly Reach EVERY Student?

I can’t stop thinking about this post by Chris Lehmann, Principal at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Chris is talking about charter schools like KIPP and Mastery Charter and the Ted Ginn Academy. While we don’t have charter schools in our immediate area, I’m intrigued by the conversation. I can anticipate that we will be working with virtual charter schools in the next couple of years and so I continue to pay attention to the discussion.

We know that kids need different opportunities to succeed and some need different pathways. That’s why we need to switch things up in the classroom and teach using a variety of instructional strategies, integrate technology, offer lots of different extra-curricular programs, provide electives that reach every kid, participate in BOCES programs and offer AP/College level courses.

As a school team of administrators, counselors, and teachers we also become preoccupied with reaching every student in a way that keeps them in school and helps them to succeed. This can be a challenge for any number of reasons, some within the school and many from beyond our walls. It is truly heartbreaking every time we lose a child to a decision to “drop out”. So reading about alternative routes like those found in some charter schools is compelling.

That’s where Chris makes a poignant point that cannot be ignored,

… because if we could only believe that we could solve all the problems of educating students in poverty with charismatic school leaders and hard working teachers… and that all the kids who don’t get the education they need are simply being underserved by those lazy teachers… that would absolve our society for not being more just, more equitable, more fair. We could point to those schools that succeed against all odds and say, “See… if they do it, every school should be able to do it.” It is a myth that keeps us from really understanding what is necessary to solve the problems for the children of our cities. It is the myth of the schools that have solved the problems.

Read Chris’ entire post. Think about the students who don’t stay in the Charter Schools either. Our public schools work for the vast majority of our students, but not for all. Charter schools don’t seem that different.  And we all continue to ponder and to plan, to connect and serve, to try to reach every student. 

What do you think: Can we truly reach every student?

Silent Auction at RCS

If you’ve noticed most of our buses parked outside the bus garage in the past two weeks, that’s because we have a large number of items inside the bus garage for our Silent Auction. With the snow ready to fly, we need to get those buses back inside so please consider participating in the District’s Silent Auction.

As we change and improve our materials and facilities, we sometimes end up with items that are outdated or obsolete. We are offering those items to the public in our Silent Auction and we’re hoping that the sale of these items can both benefit other individuals or organizations and generate some money for the district.

How does it work? Items may be seen between the hours of 9:00 am and 2:00 pm starting today and continuing through until Friday, October 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm. Bids will be accepted until 10:00 am on Monday, October 19, 2009, when they will be publicly opened.

How do I bid on an item? Every item or “lot” is numbered. Bids must be submitted to the District Business Office on District Bid Forms with a signed non-collusive bidding certificate in a sealed envelope marked “Silent Auction Bid ’09”.

Payment must be made by cash or certified check within one week of notification of a bid award. The Randolph Central School Board reserves the right to reject any and all bids.

Special thanks to Dave Chambers, Business Manager, for coordinating this event. Thanks also to Brian Hinman and our entire Transportation Department for your tolerance and patience as we commandeered your space for the Auction items.

Keeping It Real, Reason #4

Reason #4 for Administrators to Blog

In many ways, the best reason to blog is the personal side of it. I can write ten posts about the business of running a school and receive two comments total. But if I write one post as a parent or a friend, I’ll receive ten comments on those two posts. Why? I think it’s because readers relate best to the human interest story, the personal side of life.

When I share what I really think about those topics most important to me, readers come to have a sense of who I am as a person. I’m not just some suit sitting in an office. I’m real to them and that makes me more approachable. They feel as if they know me and can talk to me about their own kids or the problems they’re facing or their complaints about our district. I need to know all of that to make things better. And I care enough to want to know.

Parents don’t want some suit they can’t talk to, they want a real person who will listen and understand and help them to problem solve. Putting yourself out there on the blog helps them see who you really are.

I’ve blogged about my son’s accident, my daughter’s student teaching, a dear friend’s son’s motorcycle accident, and 357 other posts in the last three years.

I can share my thinking about the huge moments in life and get it out of my head. And we even used the blog to share daily updates and pictures of their kids on a blog log of a student tour of Europe. What parent could resist that?

I won’t say much about it now, but also consider the blogging legacy you can leave behind. We don’t have to be published authors to do leave that “legacy” any more. It can happen right here, on your blog. 🙂

Transparency in Leadership, Reason #3

Reason #3 for Administrators to Blog

Okay, here’s the tricky part. It’s risky to put yourself out here each and every day. You’ve got to have some chutzpah to do it. But if you haven’t got the moxie, what are you doing in administration in the first place? It’s our job to lead, not just lead the status quo, but to INSPIRE and MOTIVATE and MAKE EXCELLENT DECISIONS and SUPPORT and ENCOURAGE, to create with our teachers and our students  the best possible education.

You can’t do that quietly in your office. You can’t do it by yourself. If you’re really in this job to make a difference and to change the world, then we’ve got to step up and stand up for what we know is right. Being transparent and allowing our entire school community to know what we’re thinking in person and on the blog is one means to that end. Listening to those around us and considering their thinking is another important means to that same end. And it happens here on the blog as much as it happens in the hallways and at the school events.

Does it ever come back to bite you? Every now and then, someone will quote something I’ve said on the blog in a way that I never intended. And you know what it makes me do? It makes me reflect on that thinking, to re-read the post, and to realize that I must be mindful with my words. I know I have to carefully think about what I say here, to consider my audience, to share appropriate topics–it’s a responsibility to say what I mean and mean what I say.

That’s my responsibility every day when I come to work, so how much harder can it be on the blog? It’s not. The more you write, the better you’ll get at it. Be sincere and tell the truth, always.

Influence Thinking, Reason #2

Reason #2 for Administrators to Blog

Have you ever had a story come back to you that was nothing like what you know for a fact really happened? Unless you’re an administrator in a one room school house with two kids who both belong to you, I’m guessing you’ve had this experience.

Blogging is one way to get your word out, answer questions, influence thinking. I guess I look at it this way, we can either tell people what’s really happening in our districts or they’ll piece together the random information they do receive and draw their own conclusions. Which do you prefer?

I’d rather our school community have good, solid information in a place where they can ask clarifying questions, challenge my statements and let me know what they’re thinking. They’re going to do all of those things anyway, why not get in on the conversation?

What about some specific examples? Well, I’ve written much on the blog as a superintendent about our need for an improved bus mechanics bay. Not the most interesting subject but also one that people won’t know about and understand unless we get the facts out there. Why does that matter? I can’t get a capital project underway without voter approval. How can I expect support if I don’t let people know how we want to spend the money and why?

I’ve also written on the blog to explain the smashed school vehicle in our parking lot, how we landscaped our new addition, and to inform the public about our BOE retreat. I used the blog to let parents know what I was thinking about President Obama’s speech and about an exceedingly annoying door to door salesperson who was blanketing our district.

My hope is that the information is helpful and the best thing about it is the timeliness. No one has to wait for the newsletter to be published or the local newspaper to pick up the story–if they have access and interest they can learn about it here. And better yet, they can tell me what they’re thinking too. Now that’s valuable information for us. We don’t change our course based on every comment we read or hear, but it certainly is helpful to know what’s important to our community in making meaningful decisions. Influence thinking? That goes both ways here.

Connections to Other Administrators, Reason #1

Reason #1 for Administrators to Blog

We’re relatively isolated in our work, right? We work with people all day and we might be able to meet as an administrative team, but that doesn’t mean that the high school principal understands the issues the special ed director has to handle. It doesn’t mean that real conversation can happen when we’re so busy managing the day to day operations. It doesn’t mean that there’s a culture within the school system that encourages people to stretch their thinking, try new things, or step away from the status quo.

Blogging is one way that administrators can make those connections. Blogging isn’t just about writing for me, it’s about reading first. I have 22 feeds in my bloglines account that I read every day–educational experts like Chris Lehmann, David Warlick, and Will Richardson. New sources like CNN, the Buffalo News, the Jamestown Post-Journal, SED, and author Seth Godin’s blog provide me with my daily news jolt. And then I read the blogs of a few friends and colleagues including my college roommate Lisa Rosendahl, who’s now an HR Director and popular blogger in Minnesota.

They inspire my thinking, provide me with new ideas, challenge my thinking with their posts or comments on my blog. The news feeds are oftentimes my only connection to the world outside of our district. Let’s face it, on those 14 hour days we put in a couple of times per week, I have no idea what’s going on in the world. Blogs and other RSS feeds are my main connection to the world and a good source of professional development–I’m learning and growing through the reading I do here.

I’ve been writing this blog since July of 2006, more than three years now. My thoughts on this topic haven’t changed much since this post on July 17, 2006, Blogging as Professional Growth. It worked for me then and it’s still working now.