I Need a New Name for My Blog

As many within G-Town may already know, it is with mixed regret and excitement that I announce my resignation from the position of assistant superintendent of Gowanda Central School. I have accepted the position of Superintendent of Schools for the Randolph Central School District. My last effective date at GCS will be December 21, 2008.


In the last four to five years, we have accomplished much here and I have taken pride in being a part of the Gowanda Central School system. It has been an honor to work alongside our BOE, Superintendent Rinaldi, my friends in administration Joelle, Janice, Veronica, David & Bob, our awesome faculty and staff. Our teachers are some of the most receptive and hard-working professionals I have ever known and our support staff has worked hard to make me look good (thanks Carol, Sue, Janene, Lori, and Jody!). 


The experience I have gained at GCS is invaluable and I leave here a much better administrator than I arrived. Mr. Rinaldi and our BOE members, past and present, have taken a principal and helped me to become a superintendent.


As many who have read this blog also know, I have truly missed the day to day problem solving and decision making aspects of building level administration. While my work has been important and rewarding, it’s not been the same for me at this level. I’m looking forward to getting back into the thick of the action and now is a good time for me to transition,especially given New York State’s current economic crisis. I’m confident that our current administrators, teacher leaders and faculty are fully capable of continuing on our current path of school improvement.


I will truly miss our faculty, staff and administrative team. Most of all, I will miss our GCS students and families. I simply love our students and treasure the opportunities that I have had to come to know many of them well. For the experience I have gained and the friendships formed, I am forever changed.


Thank you to the Gowanda community for the opportunity to be a part of the Gowanda family. Gowanda Central School is a district in terrific shape fiscally. Academically we are growing by leaps and bounds.  I know that our K-6 Reading Program, Curriculum Design and Thoughtful Classroom work leave our instructional program significantly improved. I expect to see great things from GCS in the future, continued success for our students and increases in our academic achievement.


Thank you also to the G-Town Talks readers who have surely learned much more about Gowanda and life in a small high school than you may have otherwise bargained for in the traditional media. It’s been a pleasure.


I’m really hoping that my writing starts to flow again, now that I can get back to the action of school management. We’ll see, but either way, what do I do about the blog name? I can’t write G-Town Talks from Randolph. Any ideas out there? Randolph Writes?

Live and Let Live

Several of our students attended the workshop portion of our Board of Education meeting last night to talk about the organization of the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance). Long time readers of this blog will recall my posts at the beginning of this school year about our kids and their desire to meet as a group.

I thought last night’s workshop was productive, our kids well spoken, and the conversation worthwhile. Our superintendent and Board of Education explained to the students about the different kinds of groups that exist in and around a school. One, the outside groups, like the Boy Scouts and youth basketball, who use our buildings in the evenings. Two, the school clubs which are currently in the teachers’ contract and follow all of the school accountability measures with their student activity accounts. Three, student groups such as the GSA, which are Gowanda students, supervised by a faculty member, with access to all of our “communicative means”, like announcing meetings and hanging up signs. The Board recognized our kids as this third type of group.

Somehow, between last night and today, a different message was found. It definitely wasn’t the one I heard last night. Some of our kids were talking about how the Board denied the club and that they thought they should stage a protest. Two of the kids were even at the meeting with me. How they heard that it was denied, I can’t imagine.

So here we were today, with several students getting all worked up about a group that came together to promote acceptance. I’m stymied because I look back and think that we did everything right. The kids were respectful at all points along the way, their advisor phenomenal, and I think I’ve been supportive of all students.

And guess what bothers me most about this topic? While my students are all worked up about a topic to which most don’t even have their facts straight, and several stand divided and intolerant where they weren’t before, I’m left wondering who’s thinking about mathematics, English, Science, Art, Social Studies, LOTE, and PREPARING FOR THE REGENTS EXAMS?! For the first time all year, I’m sorry we headed down this path because a “debate” is consuming our youngest students and pushing our primary business out of their heads. And I suspect for some, it’s just the latest drama to get worked up about while for others, like some of the organizers, it’s a topic about which they feel passionately. 

Teachers, help me out, this cannot become the focus of our learning in G-Town. What we’re experiencing may be normal in the growth process, but it needs to just be a part of our school discussions, not all of it. The only way I would NOT support this group is if it’s existence became completely disruptive to our educational process.

Let’s get a grip please, there’s a lot more to us than two viewpoints on one group. No one has the right to tell anyone else how to think or feel on any topic, that’s up to each of us, as individuals. If I’m hearing everyone correctly, we need to “live and let live.”

Paris in the Morning

We leave for Paris via the Eurotrain at 7:15 tomorrow morning. What a day we had today! We tried hard to please everyone in the group for at least part of the day and I’ve no idea if we succeeded.

We began the morning with a tour of Westminster Abbey for most of us. This was my second tour of the Abbey and I found it just as overwhelming as my last visit, 12 years ago. It is absolutely amazing to walk through this 1000 year old building where kings and queens are buried, where knights have walked, where rest such incredible historic figures as Winston Churchill, Chaucer, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and many more. It literally brings tears to my eyes, there’s just no explaining it.

Our visit to the changing of the guard at the Buckingham Palace was very cool and most of our group followed up with a ride on the London Eye, a magnificent enclosed ferris wheel with a stunning view of the city. Afterwards our group chose different tours, with some at the Tower of London, most shopping in Piccadilly Circus, and my personal favorite, six of us ventured to Harrod’s. While I did NOT purchase the £1045 pound Dior bag, I did pick up some perfume. It’s a funny thing here, despite the fact that they speak English, I swear I can’t hear them when they tell me the total price. Can’t recall at all what that cashmere pashmina cost. 🙂

A terrific dinner where we savored curry, yes, your kids are trying all sorts of new things. A bit more shopping for some of us and back to the hotel for the others. We are positively locals on the tube now, no guide needed.

Will write in Paris if possible. Our love and best to all. Linda, because I know you’re reading, will you please phone Derek and Bryna to tell them that my phone card numbers don’t work at all, but that we love and miss them? Also, please let them know that I’m writing on the blog so that they can keep in touch a bit. Thank you!

London Bridge Is Not Falling Down

Our EF trip is off without a hitch, everyone on both flights arrived safely and all luggage was even here on time. We’re in London and tomorrow we tour the city followed by Windsor Castle. Today was a walking tour of the city and we saw Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Covent Garden. This was after no sleep in 24 hours, but we’re stilling going strong.

The phone cards and phone access codes we’ve come with don’t work well, either from EF, MCI, or AAA. It’s been tough to get through and we’re all sharing one phone. Thanks to Courtney and John who bought this on-line time for myspace and couldn’t get on, so here we are blogging. Courtney thinks it’s important that I note that we passed the hospital where Michael Jackson went to turn his skin white. I must admit I missed that pertinent piece of information.

The students are all fantastic, exhausted, but fantastic. We all need a good night’s sleep and then the enthusiasm will be renewed. For all of our families, we are very safe, cautious and well taken care of by Alexandra, our EF tour guide. The city and our hotel are very safe, no worries. Love to all of you from London.

G-Town Show Down

Our third annual G-Town Show Down was another huge success today, showcasing our kids in a big way. This is a great opportunity for our kids to shine, especially for those students who excel in something other than school sports and activities. A couple of terrific bands, a great teacher band–they ROCKED–and Kelly D. stole the show with her 1st place winning song.

Once again, I love the G-Town Show Down! And I love the guts and the talent of every kid who got up there.

G-Town Travels

I am about to be completely unplugged, disconnected, not even a phone to my name. Early Saturday morning, we leave for a G-Town trip to London, Paris, and Madrid. Eighteen students and four adults, three countries in 10 days, non-stop action, little sleep, and see as much as we can possibly fit in.

When I was a teacher, I was the group leader for two tours. I’m still extremely fond of the students who traveled with me and I proudly display the group photos in my office, one in Florence and one in Versailles. My daughter and my mom were on those tours with me and it was unforgettable. Well, at least for me, the two of them tend to blur some of the details. (Sorry Mom, it’s true, Madrid can’t be your favorite city, we never toured there.) 🙂

This time around I’m going as a chaperone who’s also the principal and I’m hoping it doesn’t make a difference, that the kids aren’t worried I’ll be a drag. Honestly, everyone’s so completely exhausted by the end of each day, there’s little worry that someone’s going to do anything wrong.

My son’s going this time, so I get to see part of the world through his eyes. Very cool. I’ll sign on and blog about the trip if at all possible–I’ll be looking for an internet cafe or for our tour guide to have access she’ll share. But I won’t miss seeing anything wonderful to sit on a computer, I promise. 

G-Town Goes Bald

MAJOR PROPS to the G-Town students, teachers, staff and community members who fund-raised in our first annual Bald for Bucks. We watched 35+ caring individuals go bald on stage this morning, after raising money for Roswell. It was wonderful to watch everyone come together to raise $7426.01 through pledges and our dress down day.

Nice job from the Student Council who put it together especially emcee Aaron B. and advisors Margaret K. and Brian H. And that Mr. S. who raised $1000—NICE.

I actually think they all look better bald. And props to our eight participants who donated their beautiful hair to Locks of Love–another worthy cause. Once again, it’s good to work and live in G-Town.

Taste of Gowanda

Our Building Improvement Team hosts it’s second annual “Taste of Gowanda” contest this evening. Our inaugural event was held last year and was a huge success, bringing together students, faculty, and community members in this cooking contest. We have appetizers, main dishes, and desserts with 37 entries. There’s even a cookbook containing all of tonight’s recipes as designed by our business students for sale for $3.00.

The best part of the evening is seeing everyone interacting, enjoying each other’s cooking, and visiting. We have the prestige of winning and extremely cool trophies (handmade) for first place. After the judging, everyone in our community is welcome to come to taste for the small price of $1.00. Any profit we make on the sale of the cookbooks and the entry fees goes to the local Food Pantry.

It’s really just about inviting the public into our school in a positive way. Many thanks to Sue Rebmann for taking care of every detail, big and small, to her co-chair Beth Westerheide who did anything Sue didn’t think of (which wasn’t much), and to our judges and BIT members for helping.  Oh and thanks to Tom Janicki in our Art department for making the banner I said I would take care of as my part of the set-up. It’s great to be part of this team!

G-Town Show Down

We started our positive school wide behavior management program last Monday. It’s called the “Panther Power Program” and it culminates in a huge school assembly on the last day of school before Spring Break, April 5, 2007.

I started this program while working as an assistant principal at Frontier Middle, continued it as the high school principal at Randolph (where it continues for it’s fifth year), and look forward to it here in G-Town. While completing my admin program, Dr. Larry Maheady at SUNY Fredonia introduced me to it and I’ve been pleased with the results every year since.

Every adult who works in our building receives ten “Panther Power” tickets which they can award to students between now and the G-Town Show Down. The tickets are awarded to students for marked improvement in effort or achievement, continued strong effort and achievement, and excellent attendance. Students who receive a ticket bring the ticket stub down to the main office to turn in to me or to our Dean of Students. It gives us the opportunity for positive interactions with students. The ticket stubs all go into a box until the day of the G-Town Show Down. In total, we probably award about 700 tickets during the seven week period. And the ticket that the student can take home (I always say to put it on the fridge to gain some points with mom and dad) is the main reward.

But let’s be really direct, I choose this time of year for a reason. This is the hardest time for everyone to stay positive. The push through the third quarter until Spring Break. And why do I have the assembly the day before vacation? Precisely to keep kids in school and increase my attendance on a day that typically results in a high absentee rate. And I’m telling you after six years of success, it really works.

Many students would tell you that the day of the G-Town Show Down is the single best day of their school careers. I know, because they’ve told me that very thing. And what is the G-Town Show Down? It’s a 90 minute assembly where our students and staff perform on stage. It’s totally student run, with help from our Building Improvement Team. Students run the try-outs, organize the program, run the sound and lights, and emcee the event. We have acts that range dramatically on the talent scale. Our teachers have a band “The Ratler and the Shakers”, at Randolph they were Staff Infection, One Sick Band 🙂 , and the kids love it. Heck, I love it! Some acts are so bad that they’re good. We had a tech teacher, along with six students, dance the YMCA in a way you’ve not imagined. This year they’re up again, along with an awesome Native American duo on authentic drums and song, a kid comedian who completely came alive on stage last year, and some garage bands. This is a way for kids who can’t otherwise show their stuff to say “look at me, this is who I am.” And everyone is respectful and excited and totally jazzed about the event. It’s the best of who we are.

And the Panther Power ticket stubs? I give prizes between the acts to lucky students with tickets drawn–mostly t-shirts that say G-Town Show Down, and some prizes donated by our extracurricular clubs and classes. But the prizes aren’t what it’s all about. Our celebration of each other–that’s what it’s all about.

Follow Up on GSA

Previously, I posted about a student group in G-Town who is interested in starting a Gay/Straight Alliance. At that time, I had a lot of questions and I was looking for some clarity in my own thinking. Blogging about it brought several comments, and G-Town Readers helped me process the whole thing.  

Our students interested in starting the Gay/Straight Alliance met again today and I would guess there were about 30 students present, along with three adults. They were a great group of kids, positive in nature–the kind of kids you want to be around on a regular basis.

We are proceeding as we would with any other new group. The kids have two options. One, they can petition the board to be a school club just like Student Council, NHS, or the Spanish Club. Along with that option will come school rules, rights and responsibilities. Two, they can use the school under open access and meet without becoming a GHS Club. This option only affords them the use of the building for their meetings, nothing more. It’s really up to the students to determine their purpose and identify what will help them get there.

Me? I’ll support the kids either way. It’s just not a question of understanding for me any more. It’s something our students are showing up for and we’ll see how committed they are. I already admire the way they are supporting one another and moving forward. I can approach it just like any other endeavor our students are involved in, due largely to the on-line conversations here that helped me process the whole thing. We can even conclude that this blog and the connections made here, made me a better principal on this one. Thanks to the G-Town readers who took the time to comment.