Arrival in Switzerland

Here we are in Switzerland!

The flights went really well and all of our first time travelers did terrific. We are with our tour guide and preparing to see Zurich. No worries, we are all here and well.

One of the best things about going away is realizing how much you love everyone at home. Miss you already but prepared to see all this part of the world has to show us!

Meet the BOE Candidates Night

On Wednesday, April 22, 2009, at 6:00, Randolph community members will have the opportunity to meet the board of education candidates in this year’s BOE election. The three year terms for BOE President Carol Luce and BOE Member David Adams are ending. Both incumbents are running. Our preliminary information shows at least two other candidates are running.  All candidates are invited to participate. The deadline to file petitions is Monday, April 20, 2009.

Our PTA is sponsoring the event and will act as the moderator. Please consider joining us for this opportunity to find out where the Board of Education candidates stand on issues concerning our district. All questions must be submitted in writing prior to the program (written questions will be collected at the door) and will be presented by the moderator and addressed by the candidates. Candidates’ answers will be timed and questions from the floor will not be entertained. This is a great opportunity for taxpayers to be well informed–hope to see you there!

Student Discipline

Our high school principal was out today and our middle school principal was scheduled for the elementary building. That means I got to handle any problems with students today and can I just say one more time how much I love that work?

I was sitting in my office analyzing data and preparing a report when the secretary ran in to tell me we had a problem outside of a teacher’s room.  I got to work with the two girls who were involved in the physical altercation, talk to their parents, handle the subsequent suspension—all duties I knew well as a high school principal. I’m obviously not happy that the girls resolved their problems in this way, but I got to spend time listening to them and talking about what happened. It’s extremely rewarding work and I just find it very interesting to talk to kids. Another student walked out of class and he and I spent time together before he went to the spend the rest of his day in ISS. I got to listen to him, to hear his story, to know and understand him just a tiny bit. It’s working one on one with students like this that I miss the most.

Principals who tire of that work because it’s often overwhelming and endless should stop and realize what a huge difference they can make. The challenge comes when they feel like they’re having the same conversations over and over with the same kids. But for one day, it’s still the best part of the job!

RCS Recycling-A Small Step in the Right Direction

The Impact Group of students who meets in our school asked if I had any ideas for them for service projects. Every day when I throw my newspaper away, I’m conscious of the fact that we’re not doing enough to recycle. Thanks to Wendy Sanfillipo from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, we’re on our way.

Abitibi will give us two boxes for paper recycling. We’re a bit beyond their target area, so it was through Wendy that we got the boxes. These are the big green and yellow boxes you may have seen at other schools or churches? As long as we fill both of them each month they will continue to come out and pick up our recyclables.

Where do the student leaders of the Impact Group come in? They are planning to organize the effort, helping to educate our school community on what’s allowed in the boxes and what isn’t, collecting the recycling boxes from the classrooms and offices and filling the dumpsters. I’m hoping they can work with some of our super sixth graders to get a similar effort going in the elementary building. The Abitibi company pays us a small amount (approximately $20 per month depending on how much they collect) for the pounds of paper they pick up. The Impact Group is going to receive this money to turn around and do additional service projects in our community. We all get to do something good, something that’s right for our environment, and the students of the Impact Group get to maximize the effort by turning around and helping others.

The best part? Every student and adult in our community can contribute every time they make the choice to put the right items in the recycling box instead of in the trash. And our community members can bring their recyclables to the school and put them into our Abitibi paper receptacles too. Watch for more information on this blog about how to participate–a guest blog post from our Impact Group leaders coming soon!

Say What?

Here’s a blog I never miss by author Seth Godwin. You may have read his most recent book, Tribes. His post Personal Branding in the age of Google is something every student, teacher, administrator, and/or parent needs to think about when building an on-line presence (whether you’re doing it deliberately or not, if you’re posting, you have a “tail”).

I particularly agree with Seth when he says,

The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you’re on Candid Camera, because you are.

The point is to play it smart, use this flat world to your advantage, and pay attention. When I started this blog several years ago, I remember thinking, “some day I’ll be interviewing for a superintendency and those in the new school will be able to read all of my previous posts.” It’s about transparency and audience and as Don Miguel Ruiz says in his book, The Four Agreements,

“Be Impeccable with Your Word.”

That’s wise advice when we share our words in person and on-line. Let’s make sure we’re teaching our kids about this in our classes, not just how to blog, but how to blog smart.

Drug Dogs

Before I write this post, I have to say from the get-go that I have a strong opinion on this subject. I’ve seen drugs destroy the lives of way too many people. I’ve helped kids bury kids because of drugs. I don’t take their use lightly, don’t condone any use whatsoever, don’t find marijuana use to be recreational or okay, don’t hang out with adults who think they’re okay. As someone who’s worked with young people for nineteen years I’m taking a stand to say that drugs destroys lives. From a first hand point of view, I’ve seen drug use steal kids hope, their ambition, their self respect, their futures, and their very lives.

I’ve heard the counterpoint to my stand from way too many kids and adults who have no idea how moronic they actually sound as they attempt to defend their choices. I’ve lost kids I cared about and been disappointed too many times by those I advocated for just to see them slide back into addiction. Drug use is heartbreaking and cruel and all but impossible to beat too many times.

When I see our kids I see the best that they are and can be. Drug use steals this from them.

Today we brought in the drug dogs. Thank you to Deputy Grice and the cooperating agencies who helped him to orchestrate this effort with our high school principal, Dave Davison. At my request, the two of them shared the detail of our search with no one else in our school community, including me. It’s just too easy in a small town like Randolph for that information to leak out and then the effort is compromised.

At about 1:20 yesterday we went into a lock down in our high school building as we escorted police and their drug dogs through our hallways, locker rooms and parking lot. Why? Because I want to send a strong message to our students that potential drug use is taken seriously at Randolph, that we intend to do whatever we can to prevent it and that we will do everything within our school discipline code and to the extent possible with law enforcement when we encounter it. I refuse to sit idly by and accept that our kids may be using drugs.

Enough said. 

Welcome Guest Blogger, Ms. Swan

Mock Trial 2009

I loved attending the Mock Trial as staged by our students in Ms. Swan’s class! They were all well prepared, attentive and in some cases, passionate about the case. Great job RCS Students–thank you Mrs. Hoene for your continued support.

Consider this our first guest blog post by our esteemed colleague and social studies teacher, Ms. Swan.  I’ll let Ms. Swan tell the tale:

Each year our law class culminates with a mock trial.  The mock trial is designed to introduce students to our legal system by providing a challenging, academic competition. The program offers students an opportunity for personal growth and achievement, emphasizing the importance of research, presentation, and teamwork.  This year we chose a murder trial. The defendant was accused of killing a former employee who happened to be homeless.  Students spent several weeks preparing for the trial.  They were given only affidavits of all witness and specific evidence they could use in the trial.  They were responsible for creating all of the questions for the witnesses as well as opening and closing statements. 

In addition to teaching students about contemporary public issues and the legal system, the program encourages teachers and students to develop learning partnerships with professionals from the community. Jay Carr, a local attorney, visited the class several times to aid students in preparing direct and cross examination questions as well as aiding them in creating their opening and closing statements.  We also visited the Cattaraugus County building where we toured the sheriff’s department, the 911 center and the records office.  We spent a portion of the day in court and students could actually witness the running and procedures in a courtroom setting.

We turned room 304 into our courtroom and invited retired RCS social studies teacher Sheila Hoene to be our judge.  She did a great job and we couldn’t do this without her.  Students dressed for their roles and court began. Students delivered their opening statements and called their witnesses. In the end our jury found the defendant not guilty.




Resident and Current Tuition Students Only

At last night’s BOE meeting, we decided to stop accepting new tuition students while we review our policy and consider increasing our tuition significantly or disallowing non-resident students all together. If your child already attends as a tuition student, we will work hard to maintain that relationship. We will also continue to honor a Board action from August 18, 1993 that allows the children of Randolph Central School Employees to be eligible to attend tuition free.

Previously, non-resident families who wished to enroll children in the School System submitted a request in writing to the superintendent, who determined whether or not the student(s) would be admitted. Non-resident families must provide their own transportation. Tuition may be charged to families of non-resident students and we do, but currently at a nominal rate of $250-500 annually. It’s also important that with any non-resident policy, we are non-discriminatory.

As I spend time every single day reading the headlines, attending state aide and other financial planning meetings, I become more and more concerned about the next several years. The financial stimulus package may help, but I’m not holding my breath. We already know that about 40% of that money, the construction portion, is money planned for the state–probably will be used to fund projects that are on-going–and we won’t benefit from it as any new money. As we look hard at every expenditure and determine what we can cut if necessary, we keep talking about it in levels, trying to anticipate the final state aide that we just won’t know for some time yet.

The first level, what’s in our budget now that can be consolidated and may be met in other ways? Second, what’s non-essential? Third, and I hope we don’t get there, what’s bare bones to operating? I’m hoping we don’t get past this first level, but I have to say that allowing non-resident students falls right in this category for me.

Every student has the right to attend the public school in the public school district in which he or she resides. In these tough times, we have to take care of our own resident students first and foremost.

Mechanics’ Bays at the Bus Garage

Our Randolph taxpayers recently voted “no” twice on a proposition to purchase property and build a new bus garage, sending a strong message. As loud and clear as the message was, it leaves me wondering about our next step to remedy a problem with our current bus garage.

Our bus mechanics’ bays are not what they should be. They are too small and we need a better lift system within the bays. I have been working with the architect to reevaluate plans from phases two and four of our long term renovations at Randolph which included additions to the current bus garage.

It makes sense to me to add on to our current garage and/or renovate the current bus mechanics’ bays to better service our buses and to give our hard working mechanics the space they need. Buses are quite a bit bigger than they were when this garage was built so the space and a better lift system are definitely needed. The Department of Transportation won’t even inspect our buses here any longer.

Here’s the question for me. While I’m confident that the addition/renovation is the right thing to do, I’m unclear what the public sentiment is on this project. I wasn’t here for the last vote, so I’m not sure why the public opposed the project. I don’t know if it was the land purchase, the idea of building a whole new garage when people think the one we have should suffice, or the idea of more projects in general. With the Technology Center going up now, maybe voters are just thinking “enough already.”

Believe me, as a new superintendent in the midst of a capital project and a number of other big issues to tackle,  the last thing I want to take on is a new building project. However, I can’t in good conscience delay this construction, it’s necessary to maintain our assets and to help our employees work more effectively.

I’d love to hear public opinion, here, on Randolph Writes. In addition, here’s a survey asking our Randolph taxpayers for some feedback/opinion/ideas so that we can consider Randolph viewpoints in our decision making process. Please take the survey and let me know what you’re thinking so that I can consider multiple viewpoints while making decisions in this job of leading our district.

If this works well, I’ll use the survey tool on our website to gain insight into your thinking in the future. Thank you!

Straw Bale Construction

I don’t know for sure who develops the Regents exams. I think it’s a team of teachers. And I am sure it’s not easy. But straw bale construction? That’s what the reading section of yesterday’s Comprehensive English Regents exam was about–straw bale construction. Eleventh grade students are interested in a variety of topics, but I doubt this is one of them. Maybe that’s the point. No tangents here for students to wander off on in the response. . . except if they start thinking about those “three little pigs”. Geez.