Revised Renovations

With a capital project well underway, we have some revisions to our renovations precipitated by our decision to keep our sixth grade team at the elementary school. While the scope of our project remains the same with our technology and agriculture programs moving to our new Technology Center, this leaves me thinking about the current tech/ag space renovations.

As far as the overall project goes, our changes are relatively insignificant. We don’t need the four standard classrooms planned and so have gained approval from the State Education Department to renovate this space in a way that better serves the needs of the district.

We will move the high school main offices into the first of these spaces. This allows us to place the office in a more central location, right inside of the main entry doors and closer to the 7th/8th grade wing and the newly built Technology Center.

Adjoining this space will be a standard classroom that can be used for a variety of purposes, primarily an in-school/out of school suspension/after school detention room. I have always wondered at the ‘wisdom’ of  out of school suspension for 90% of the offenses, considering that it gives the student a vacation of sorts, unless the parents impose consequences at home. With the number of working parents we have today (me included), making our OSS students report to a separate location within the school to continue instruction and supervision just makes more sense to me. To distinguish the difference between ISS and OSS, we can have the OSS students stay for detention too. This seems a better consequence/deterrent to bad choices than three to five days at home.

We can also use this room for meetings, small group testing, after school meetings and possibly BOE meetings, allowing quicker and easier access to the public. Following the High School Main Office and adjoining classroom will be an adaptive physical education room that can also be used as a wrestling room after school. Currently, our wrestling team practices in the multi-purpose room in the elementary school. If we eliminate the need for wrestling in the elementary building, we can more effectively use that space for OT/PT, vacating a space for a classroom. With sixth grade staying put in the elementary school, they can definitely benefit from the additional space.

I’m excited about our revised plan and hopeful that with the quick work of our architect and construction manager to get the new drawings to our contractors, we can stay right on target for an August completion date.

Don’t Need to Know Meme

I’ve been tagged in an Internet meme by Mark Stock. This Internet meme is entitled “Seven Things You Don’t Need to Know About Me”. This is why this meme business drives me crazy. If you don’t need to know it about me, why should I write it? And I tend to over-think things, so I will end up analyzing the possible things on my list which why do I have to write it in the first place if they are things you don’t need to know about me?

So here I am writing the post anyway for two reasons. One, I try really hard to be a good sport which means you try some things, even if you’re uncomfortable with them, and sometimes you end up better for it. Two, I don’t know Mark Stock of the blogging world, the meme tag caused me to check out his blog, and I remember that’s what it’s all about–reading each other, gaining new ideas, and connecting. So here goes.

Here are the Seven Things You Don’t Need to Know About Me. Stop reading now if you prefer to stay in the dark. I can’t blame you.

1. I analyze, evaluate, research and think about everything. My husband often asks me, “what are you thinking about?” When I reply “nothing”, he always says, “yes you are, you’re always thinking about something.” Which I am.

2. I am relatively impatient. If a meeting is going a little bit long, or especially if it’s extremely detail oriented, I begin tapping my foot, fiddling with my blackberry, wishing for the end. Conversely, when we’re really cooking with problem solving and meaningful discussion, I can stay attentive and patient forever.

3. Red is my favorite color. Inevitable that I would return to Randolph with our Red Randolph Cardinals!

4. I really, really, really have got to start exercising. I swim 50 laps a day all summer and then winter comes and well, forget about it.

5. I absolutely, positively love my job. I would rather work than just about anything (especially exercise).

6. I think the most perfect, peaceful, beautiful place on earth is the Allegany Reservoir aka Kinzua.

7. I can’t wait to see my husband at the end of each day, after 22 years of marriage-he’s still the one.

Everyone I read has been tagged, so let’s let it end with me. 😉 Thanks Mark!

G-Town Talks Becomes Randolph Writes

I’m starting week three as the new superintendent at Randolph Central and I’m loving every minute of it. No, not because I started the week before the winter recess and so I’ve had an easy go of it. I’m loving the WORK. It’s been busy and filled with 1,000+ new things to think about and learn, but I’m leaving feeling energized and excited about the possibilities.

I’ve toured the buildings, talking to teachers, administrators, staff and students. I’ve met with the union presidents, reached an agreement with the support staff association, and conducted my first administrative team meeting. I hit the ground running with our current building project, asking questions and learning where we are with progress targets and plans. I attended a K-6 holiday program and the 7-12 Randolph Rumble. Had my first BOE meeting, learned more in executive session, started to think about our calendar and contracts, made decisions and asked more questions about everything from our finances to our instructional programs. I’ve tried to go through everything left behind in the office by my predecessor and to research the major issues facing the district. It’s been overwhelming and there is so much to get my head around and yet, it all feels so RIGHT.

My first impressions? This is a gem of a district, with hard working, well intended employees, INCREDIBLE students, and a caring, dedicated BOE. Everyone has been incredibly helpful and supportive and I do believe this may have been the very best decision of my career.

Randolph Writes will be one way that I try to improve communication within the district. It’s my sense that everyone is looking for good information and an opportunity to collaborate. I welcome your comments, either on the blog, via email at or in person. I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together.

December 22

Tomorrow is December 1 and I’ll be three weeks from starting at Randolph. I can’t sleep with everything that’s running through my head. It’s starting to shift from everything I’m summarizing/passing on/leaving at Gowanda to everything that needs to be done at Randolph. There’s so much to wrap my head around quickly.

I’m thinking about the building project that they’re smack dab in the middle of and getting a thorough handle on it, from financials to plans to projected end dates. The budget season is starting, well, yesterday. I want to be in every classroom, just to have a clearer picture of who our teachers and students are and of our instructional program. I’m thinking about all of the visibility opportunities, just to get to know members of our community and to hear what’s on their minds. I’m thinking about the contract negotiations, the financial picture given the state of the state, the facilities/bus garage/cafeteria program.

And then I’m thinking about getting my BOE agendas right, forming relationships with the secretary to the superintendent and business office personnel, the managers, the union representatives, the administrative team and the teachers/support staff. Well, with everyone. I have so much to learn. I need time with the BOE members to hear what’s most important to them and to our community. And then I’m thinking about everything that I might be missing that I should be thinking about.  I’m thinking about everything that everyone is sitting there waiting to tell me, to ask me, to hope for, to act on.

I just really need to get there and to get to work. I am so aware of the incredible opportunity that I have to make a real and positive difference in this school district. The opportunity to listen and to learn and to make decisions that impact our students in wonderful ways. The opportunity to lead and to problem solve, to make things better. The opportunity to make new connections, to rekindle old ones, and to form relationships that lead to a better education and the very best school system we can be, together.

Fight Night

Tallon\'s Fight NightI’m writing this blog post, quite frankly, to distract myself right now. My husband, son, and daughter just left for Buffalo and I’ve got about an hour and a half before I leave to join them. My sixteen year old son, Tallon, is fighting in his first amateur full contact kickboxing fight tonight. It’s televised, we have about 80-100 people going to watch, I’m having trouble keeping my lunch down.

Why? I know how much my son has into this fight. It’s not just another athletic event for him. Heck, we’ve watched him win and lose at everything from wrestling to hockey to track to football. He even ran cross country and played lacrosse for a while. He’s good at some, better at others and well, some are clearly for fun. But this. This is different.

My husband teaches karate, has since 1979. Not a big commercial, “pay your money, get your belt” kind of school. Only the dedicated with heart and perseverance need apply because it will take many years to achieve a black belt. In all of those years and 1000+ students, only 11 have achieved the rank of black belt. Serious stuff here. My son has taken karate from him practically since he was born. My daughter is the first and one of only two female black belts.

So the kid has something to prove tonight. To himself first. To his dad, sister and sparring partner who will be in his corner. To his relatives, friends, and teachers who will come to see a sport they may or may not understand for the first time. There’s no school recognition for the sport so he never gets to prove what he can do. Until now. I think he’s got a lot of dreams wrapped up in this fight. Let’s face it, all that’s ever on TV in my house is the UFC. He’s got to wonder what he’s made of. His dream career would be (at least at this age) climbing into–the octagon– that cage to fight. Not a mother’s dream by any stretch, but my dream definitely doesn’t have to be his dream.

So I sit here worrying about everything from ‘will the opponent show up?’, ‘will he be a chump that can’t stay with it?’ to ‘is he going to hurt my kid?’ and ‘will Tal rise to the challenge?’ AND, everyone we know will either be there or will be watching on television. No pressure.

One thing I know from experience is that the kid’s got heart, he won’t quit no matter what the other guy brings. No doubt about that. In this family, heart means more than anything, he’s heard that every day of his young life. But will he win? Will he realize his dream? Will he get to show everyone what he’s got after 12+ years of dedication, hard work and practice? Will he be proud of himself when he steps out of the ring? Will my fight to say college is his only option be even harder because he loves it that much?

He can’t wait for it to start and I can’t wait for the night to be over.


Cool Connections

So I’m at the NYSCATE(NYS Association for Computers and Technologies in Education) conference in Rochester and I’m making all kinds of connections. First, I’m connecting with my colleagues from Gowanda, hearing what they think in extended conversations that we seldom have time to have at home. Second, I’m connecting with my future Randolph colleagues who are at the conference. Third, I’m connecting ideas to those I arrived with and arriving at some new conclusions that all focus on my responsibilities and commitment as a leader in this whole technology destination.

Fourth is this weird kind of cool connection that I’ve not had much chance to experience–with other bloggers and readers. I sort of have an identity out here. Not a big presence, but a couple of people. Maybe it’s my fifteen minutes of fame when I meet people who say they know me because of G-Town Talks.  It’s not so cool that they know me as the blogger who quit blogging for the most part, but hey, I’m working on it. True examples: An educator approached me last night to tell me she reads my blog and loves it. At lunch today in small talk at our table, a woman asked, “what is your name?” and knew me through the blog. And the presenter I’ve been following through the conference, Peter Reilly, is a fellow LeaderTalk contributor. That was the coolest connection of all because I realized at his first presentation that I’ve been reading him and without ever having a face to face conversation, knew we shared some thinking. My knowledge of his thinking (through reading his posts) gave him real credibility with me. Instant cool connection and easy conversation. I’m diggin’ this blog gig again and most of all, remembering how much I learn through the connections.

Rocking the Classroom

Our Gowanda Blue Team for Thoughtful Classroom traveled to Randolph Central School today and joined our colleagues from Randolph and Ellicottville for a day of Teacher Rounds and Coaching. Three dynamic and courageous educators from Randolph taught wonderful lessons while about sixteen of us watched. The kids were, of course, fantastic, the lessons spot on, the teachers energetic, and the learning (at least for me) inspired.

After experiencing the three lessons, we “debriefed”. In small groups, we traveled to three stations where we wrote on huge chart paper about our observations and our suggestions. Imagine. Sixteen colleagues watch you teach and then talk about what they saw. Brave folks, huh?

That’s how we learn! From each other, talking about teaching. It’s how it should look—it’s how we should be talking. And we’re educators for crying out loud, the RCS teachers who taught today did a stellar job and we who watched made very positive observations followed by some straight forward suggestions. All very nice stuff. No judgment. As Susan Morris from Thoughtful Education said, “Most of us are internalizing while we’re observing. We’re not thinking about you so much as we’re thinking about our own practice, how we can incorporate what we see you doing.” (I’m paraphrasing here Susan–think I got it, more or less.)

The thing that struck me was the same thing that I was thinking about on our own two days of in-district training last week. As teachers, we’ve got no swagger. We never tout what we’re doing really well. Those teachers went right to the “suggestions” section of the de-brief, almost embarrassed to focus on the section that was more extensive, where we recorded all of our positive reflections on these dynamite lessons.

We’ve got to get beyond this if we’re going to have really meaningful discussions/debates about best practice. I’ve got to be able to say, “I rocked this lesson today! And here’s what I did and how it worked.” and we also have to be able to say to one another, “this tanked and here’s what I did and how it worked”, and then give meaningful feedback to one another.

This is a significant climate change, fostering a risk-free, non-competitive environment where we’re all working together toward the best possible teaching for our students instead of teaching quietly in isolation.

I’ll say it again, those teachers were fantastic today. Lauren, Shelly and Scap–making it work for kids. You rocked! Not perfect. Not better than anyone else. Not know-it-alls. Not brown nosers. Just fantastic teachers for their students. Just like every child deserves, in every class, every day. Let’s start to revel in our great practices and that will lead to better practices by everyone.

A public shout out to our dynamic GCS Blue Team–Andrea Geist, Lois Piscitelli, Kathryn Jordan, Kyle Steever, Kris Ruzycki–for your willingness to step out, take a risk, and learn more. Let’s start sharing it with everyone.

Congratulations GHS Panthers Baseball!

Our boys’ baseball team is now the Section VI champion for 2008. But wait, they are also the Far West Regional Champions now. And wait again, because they are headed to


Bring us back a State Championship boys, WIN IT BIG!

Absolutely proud of you already, looking forward to the next steps. Thank you for the wins.

Teachers Learning in the Summer

Our teachers and administrators are embarking on curriculum design this summer and I am so excited about the 63 teachers who are coming to concentrate on their own learning in July! That’s 75% of our teachers, with the other 25% completing the work in September. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, “the way to improve is to invest in our teachers.” If we continue to work together, to teach them new/additional ways to look at curriculum and instructional strategies, it’s the only way we’ll ever get better.

We’re also implementing our new K-6 reading program and we have an August 3 day forum planned for learning/collaborating. For this session, 39 of our K-6 ELA/Reading teachers have enrolled, that’s 85% of our teachers in this area.

Thank you to our teachers for enrolling during their summers and for working on their own learning. Thank you to the principals and special education director who will lead these critical initiatives and are going to be learning along side our teachers. And thank you to our superintendent and BOE members for approving the expenditures necessary to make it all happen.

The Great Green Sixth Grade

Okay, I have a deep dark secret to confess in these “green” times. We don’t recycle. I live in a rural area where we have no garbage pick up unless we pay for it. Which we do, we pay quarterly, and the disposal truck picks up our garbage once a week. He takes anything, in any container. I could leave my 15 year old by the cans and I swear Dave would throw him in the back of the truck. (Not that he’d go, but hey.)

I’ve been reading a ton about going green, I watch HGTV from time to time and see the buzz there, but I’ve not done anything about it.

Until now. Two of our educators, Candy Phillips and Debby Jolls, are teaching their sixth graders about recycling and land fills. Deb first contacted me about the unit to tell me the students wanted to know what they could do about the Styrofoam trays (I learned that Styrofoam is like kryptonite to my “save the environment” friends) that we use in the cafeteria. Candy and Debby had a speaker coming in from the DEC and they invited me, along with our superintendent, cafeteria manager, and BOE to come in to learn more.

So there I was, a 44 year old educator, learning from our sixth grade students and thinking about all of the questions I still had. Realizing that I am shirking my responsibilities at home and in thinking about what we can do better here at school.

Then the DEC speaker said something that rang so true it’s worth repeating here. She said that by working with our students, by helping them to learn and understand why this is important, they can influence everyone. She reminded us that when the seat belt law began, it was every child who got in every vehicle and chimed, “Mom and Dad–put your seat belt on!“, that changed our behavior.

So I say, “turn up the heat sixth grade!” We can learn more, we can change behavior, and this is your chance to learn that you can change the world. I’m proud of you and of your teachers for taking a stand and for learning to advocate for that which you believe is most important.

Now about all of those questions I still have, like should I buy the paper cartons of milk instead of plastic, maybe you could publish recycling tips on your wiki from which we can all learn? Or maybe a place where we can post questions that you could research and answer? Think about it and lead the way.