Letter to Parents

Dear Parents of Participants Traveling on the GCS Trip to Switzerland, Italy and France:

As the trip draws near, I want you to know something important. If you’re starting to feel a bit panic stricken, if you’re thinking “why did I ever agree to let my child go on this trip?”, if you’re wishing you were going too so that you could ensure his or her safety, please know that you are completely normal.

I received this email message from a parent yesterday,

My husband seems fine about the trip but I’m really worried. I’m doing my best to hide it. Please take care of my baby!

And this from another parent today,

I know I have always told my kids to go places when they had the chance, but! Please be careful, stay in a group, listen to instructions, don’t be going out at night in a strange country, keep _______ right by your side at all times.  I have been praying and will continue praying for a safe trip for all going.  I’m getting a little crazy now so I will close. BE CAREFUL!!!!

I understand this feeling of anxiety and fear only too well. Your head tells you it’s the right thing to do, sending your child out into the big world to experience other places and cultures first hand. You want your kid to be brave and strong and enjoy all that life has to offer. But your heart screams, “please don’t let anything bad happen to my precious child!” and you wish you could just take it all back, keeping your kid at home where you know what to expect.

When our daughter was only eight years old (8 years old!), my in-laws prevailed upon me to take her to Germany where my mother-in-law maintains her family home. I’d never been out of the country and I was terrified. Had my husband not insisted, I would never have agreed. I desperately needed my mother-in-law to call me once they had safely landed. As a frugal German, this was simply not done–of course they’d be fine, she wasn’t paying for an international phone call and where would she find a pay phone?! I think she saw the look of abject fear in my eyes and relented. Here’s what I need you to know. Once I received that phone call and I knew that my daughter had arrived safely, was on solid ground in a place far away but not all that different from Western New York, I was fine. I was delighted to know she would have this opportunity and I knew it was good parenting, a way to say to my child, “you are strong and capable and you should go out and grab life for all that it has to offer.”

And yet every time my children travel, the two to three days prior to departure, I regret the decision to go and worry myself sick. It’s normal. It will pass. And I will post to the blog at the first possible opportunity. Just realize that we begin touring (without a shower!) on Saturday morning. We won’t check into a hotel until Saturday night. At first sign of an Internet connection though, I’ll be there for you with a post. So breathe easy Mom and Dad.

And by the way, the second mom who emailed is my own and she should be used to her 45 year old traveling by now! Guess we never stop worrying about and wanting the best for our children. Don’t worry Mom, I’ll follow all of your instructions. Promise. Love, Kimberly



How do we help our kids follow their dreams and not teach them to conform to everyone else’s dreams/expectations for them? How do we help them figure out who they are, where they’re headed, and if they really want to get there? How do we take the princesses and super heroes of the kindergarten/first grades and keep their imaginations and dreams alive–ignited enough to just go for it, no matter what it is?

Instead we teach them to sit in rows, follow directions, complete assignments, do what the teachers asks when she asks you to do it, take tests and fit in. To go to college, get a job, earn a good living. I don’t think those are the kids who are going to grow into adults who can think us out of this mess in which our country finds itself.

I want my kids to have a little rebel in them, to question the status quo, to ask “says who?!”, and to wonder why. I want them to stand out, stand up, stand for something. I want my son and my daughter to make the one ride they get through life EVERYTHING that it can possibly be and I want them to know it’s up to them to decide what the ride includes.

Our son Tallon was scheduled for his second amateur fight tomorrow night. He’s been training for months. Less than two weeks ago, he broke his hand in sparring. Up until three days ago, he continued to train, working without a cast and hoping that it would heal and he could continue with the fight.  With Tuesday’s follow up x-ray, it was very clear he wouldn’t be fighting this week. He was disappointed beyond belief.

As much as I worry and dread the fight, I now really get it. It’s the most important thing to him, it’s his dream, his possibility. It’s something he works for every single day as he trains. I can’t ask him to change that for me.

And let me share a secret. I think I saw my four year old who believed in Super heroes looking out of the sixteen year old’s eyes who believes in himself in the ring. Who could stand in the way of that?

Randolph’s “Jack Wax”

So mixed in with budget preparation for last night’s BOE meeting, I got to go to the Inkley’s Sugar Farm yesterday with our kindergarten students. We got the deluxe tour, learning how the trees are tapped and how the sap becomes that delicious maple syrup we all love. Listen to this–they set up picnic tables outside and served all of us waffles with syrup and sausage. As if that wasn’t enough, every child took home a bottle of maple syrup to remember the day! The generosity of this family was incredible. My favorite was the warm syrup drizzled on snow, I think they called it “jack wax” and I could have eaten it all.

This is the best possible type of field trip, right in our backyard hosted by our friends and neighbors. I still remember a field trip my first grade class took to Turner Dairy Farm in Pennsylvania–it was a whole other world than I knew, but right in our own backyard. 

I really had too much work to do yesterday to justify going with our kids, but it was a good opportunity for me to get to know our students, teachers and parents a little bit better. As usually happens when I’m with the primary grade students, I left thinking I’d missed the boat by not teaching elementary ed all of these years. The students I got to ride on the bus with were amazing. There’s just no way to feel but upbeat and positive when spending a morning with five year olds!

Over and over again, I’m blown away by our phenomenal students at Randolph. I can’t stop writing about it. From the interviews they’ve done with me to the kindergarten trip to the musical to the PTA Academic Fair to our school receiving this award for our sportsmanship from Rich Hill and the Catt County Officials,

Each year the Cattaraugus County Basketball Officials recognize the one school in the county which displays the best sportsmanship. This includes both girls and boys contests and encompasses varsity, JV, and modified levels. The actions of coaches, players, and fans are considered. We have several schools with excellent sportsmanship, but none were as fine as Randolph for the 2008-2009 season.
To recognize this significant accomplishment, the Cattaraugus County Basketball Officials would like to present you with a banner between the girls and boys exceptional seniors game on Thursday, March 26 at Olean High. The time would be approximately 7:30. On behalf of the Catt. County Officials, I would like to congratulate everyone involved.

Way to go Randolph! I’m proud of you and thank you for continually making us look great. It’s easy to expect the best of you because you just keep delivering it. We need to never take this for granted–I know I’m not! And just think, about the time those kindergarten students are ready to graduate, I’ll be eligible for retirement. We’ve got a good long way to go together. 😉

Back To Teacher, Briefly

For the past three weeks I’ve been teaching Spanish to our high school juniors and seniors. This may not seem like much to write home about (or in this case to blog about) until I tell you that it’s been nine years since I taught Spanish. I’ve been an administrator since the 99-00 school year and honestly didn’t think I’d be teaching Spanish again, well, ever. As these things usually go, our Spanish teacher went out on a medical leave and the principal had one heck of a time finding a certified sub to replace her. Once a certified sub was secured, we learned she couldn’t start until 10:00 every day. This is where I came in since that left first and third periods without a proper teacher. In the best interest of the students, it just made sense for me to rearrange my schedule and step in.

Doesn’t seem like the best use of our administrative staff? The need to step in and do the right thing for our students, when there was no one else, seemed more important to me than worrying about the judgmental response some would have about an assistant superintendent in the classroom for two periods per day over the course of about three weeks. Our business is educating students and sometimes that takes every member of the team working out of the normal “bracket”.

I have to say that I loved the time I spent with our students.

As a teacher, I was also reminded of how annoying it can be to have to stop and deal with a late pass or a phone call from the office–right when I’ve got things rolling and everyone on track. I kept a student from reporting to the office until the end of my class period and asked two students to wait to attend their band lessons until after I’d introduced the new material. Taking attendance at the beginning of a class period is NOT a good warm up activity, so I forgot to commit it to eSchool a couple of times. Honestly, with the interruptions that we have to instruction, we’ve got to be guarded about our class time. And someone please tell me why commiting every student’s grade to a progress report can’t be a one button click away? Typing each student’s average over again in the progress report tab of eSchool certainly seemed to be an unnecessary chore and one that allows for error when the average is one tab over and should just flow to the progress report.

Am I sounding like a teacher again? This past three weeks,  I was very much the teacher I was in the nineties, only I had some additional strategies to use that I’ve learned along the way as an administrator. The same thing that helped me succeed with students before came into play again. I showed them that I cared so much about their success that I was going to use every minute to our fullest advantage, I was going to give them my best, and I expected their best every day.

That’s honestly the secret to success as a teacher.  Show enthusiasm for the subject but more important, for the students. SEE every student. If someone starts to drift away, reign him in by saying, “You’re in the Bahamas, come back to me because I need for you to learn this!” Give enough wait time so that the same five kids don’t answer every time. Monitor. Adjust. 

 I saw it as my responsibility to plan well, to engage, to excite the students–every one of them. And on test day? I got their best because they knew it’s what I expected, what I saw in them, and what I tried to give back to them every day.

All of our district wide curriculum planning and staff development in instructional strategies doesn’t account for much if we don’t start with the premise that it’s our job as teachers to expect the best of our students, and more important, of ourselves. I’ve been hearing teachers complain that students aren’t motivated any more. That was not my experience, granted, with some really great kids in Spanish 4 & 5. But they were excellent for me, did all that I asked, and achieved success. We didn’t argue about cell phones, or missing assignments, or hoodies. We couldn’t because we were too busy getting down to the business of learning.


Growing Up

My nephew, Devon, is a 2007 GHS graduate and his graduation party is today. At our commencement exercises, I stand beside the superintendent and BOE president as they hand out the diplomas. I get the opportunity to shake hands with the kids, and sometimes if I’m lucky and I know the student well enough, I get a big hug. Our super laughs at me because I always tear up. I know it’s not the most professional, but I get emotional about the graduates. Either because I’ll just miss them or in some cases because it’s a miracle that the kid is walking by me with a diploma.

This year when Devon walked up, I didn’t just tear up, I blubbered like a baby.  I’ve been his principal for three years and I see him all the time at school. But I’m telling you, when he stood up for his turn, I didn’t see Devon, the GHS student. I saw the little blonde haired boy he was at three and I could hear his little boy voice again. It was amazing to me that time passed that quickly and he wasn’t headed out to Omi’s yard to get into the kiddie pool with my daughter Bryna. That he’s actually graduating and moving away to college. . .unbelievable to me.

Nothing in this world is more important than our families, every moment that we get to spend watching them grow up and sharing life. I know Devon will move on and do exceptionally well in college and afterwards. I just long for the days when like Lisa with her six year old and those of you who link to pictures of your little ones, we could still hold them in our laps and listen to their stories.

And now it comes full circle. As my two nephews and my niece continue to grow up, my brother and his wife announce their pregnancy. They’ve been married for 18 years and this is their first baby. My mom, dad and I have been waiting for this announcement for so long because we KNOW how much this child will change and enrich their lives. AND, how absolutely brilliant Ziggy and Jill will be as parents. Now we get to do it all again. 🙂 If we can only get them to move closer. . . so I don’t miss a moment.

Think BLUE

Do you think it makes sense to pay more for something, just to give it more school spirit? We’re putting in a new track and I’m really thinking it’s worth some extra money initially and in upkeep to get a Gowanda BLUE track.

Why? Because it’s on a prominent corner in our village and when residents, students, and opposing teams drive down the road and see Hillis Field, I want them to think “Gowanda Panthers play here!” I want it to smack them in the face–Gowanda BLUE and WHITE. I think the blue track shows school pride and I think we’re worth it. I’m tired of sitting in a gym that’s generic, where visitors could literally look around and wonder where they are except for the gorgeous new scorers table we got this year. And our new facility will be incredible, why not add the frosting on the cake?

We need a field that screams, “Go Panthers! The Blue and the White, Straight to the Top, We Will Fight!”

Panthers Baseball

Terrific play-off baseball game at Fredonia yesterday–both teams playing well with Gowanda winning it in the tenth.

It was exciting to watch our kids play with spirit, dedication and determination. Heart. In my opinion, much more important than any skill. Our team yesterday had it. Our coaches have developed a team who wants it and they have the abilities to get there. I’m really looking forward to a repeat performance on Thursday.

For me, the very best part of winning a contest is the emotion at the end. I love the crowd reaction, the pride in our kids, the parents who never miss a game and the joy they feel when their kids do well.

Let’s do it again, all the way, Panthers!

Just Four Minutes Per Period

If you’ve ever wondered if small schedule changes can add up to a significant impact on student learning, consider the following proposed changes to our 38 minute instructional periods.

Currently our students enter our building at 7:23, yet we don’t start first period until 7:50. Next year, we propose to begin homeroom in first period at 7:35, with just five extra minutes tacked on to first period. We will only take three minutes to pass between classes instead of four minutes. We will conclude our last period at 2:07 instead of at 2:04. We will go from six 20 minute lunches with six twenty minute (useless) study halls to four 30 minute lunches.  We will utilize all current staff without any increase to FTE’s.

What do we gain? Our eight instructional periods increase from 38 to 42 minutes. Four minutes, doesn’t sound like that much does it?

Four minutes per period. It equals 32 minutes of additional instruction per day. 720 minutes of additional instructional time per period/38 minute periods we have currently = 18.9 additional periods of current instruction per class

OR more simply put: 32 minutes per day; 96 hours per year; 18.9 days of instruction added.

With four more minutes per period. Within the teachers’ contractual day, without additional expense. Gains all the way. Students even gain a longer lunch period. And this building isn’t so big, our kids are just conditioned (or have conditioned us) to take four minutes to get there.

Thanks to a great planning team for working out the details, we’re making some progress. Now it’s up to our cracker jack instructional team to put those four minutes per period to good use. And I haven’t even mentioned the potential blocking for Science and English teachers every other day. . .

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.

An Open Letter to Governor Spitzer

Dear Governor Spitzer:

I’ve read the description of your executive budget recommendations for elementary and secondary education. Thank you. Your financial support of public education is unprecedented in my seventeen years in education. We’ve said “show me the money if you want improvements” and you’ve effectively said, “Here it is, now you better make it happen.” Our rural district is one likely to receive an annual increase in Foundation Aid in excess of 10 percent. Under your plan, we will be required to develop a Contract for Excellence that indicates how we will spend new State funding on measures that have been demonstrated to effectively increase our student achievement and graduation rate.

That would be right up my alley, Governor, because it’s my job to do just that, increase our student achievement and graduation rate.  I welcome the challenge and especially the opportunity to problem solve with a new perspective. In the 28 months I have worked as G-Town’s high school principal, it has been my focus to examine all of our practices, from AIS to instructional strategies to literacy to use of time, AND to implement changes that will help our students improve, while managing day to day operations.

I must admit that as I research, evaluate data, and read about successful school districts, particularly with students of poverty, I sometimes place good ideas in my file folder entitled “research”. This isn’t exactly an “active” file. As we currently evaluate ideas, initiatives and solutions, I’ve tried to implement changes with very little, if any, fiscal impact. For example, I recently set my counselors to the task of rethinking our entire schedule. I asked them to think only of maximizing instructional time, allowing the details like the breakfast program, crossover teachers to the middle school, and departure times for vocational students to sit on the back burner. I asked them to dream big, to let go of past practice, and determine something more effective. My only limit on their planning? It can’t cost any more money.

How do your recommendations change all that? We can now truly “dream big” with the idea that we can possibly fund another bus run for an after school program or an additional FTE to make that schedule work, if need be. Maybe we can increase the school day or year. Maybe we can hire that literacy coach. Thank you for the possibility to reach a little bit higher. Hopefully, a lot higher.

Here’s what I need though. Specifically tie the money to academic, instructional programs that directly benefit students. I hope you’re already planning this, but haven’t seen it spelled out anywhere. Don’t allow the increase in aid for reform to end up financing something entirely different. Give district school boards and voting taxpayers some parameters on how the increase can be spent. Give me the authority along with the responsibility, to spend the increased aid on the programs that work.

If you want to assess my effectiveness, if you want me to stand behind my superintendent as he signs your contract for excellence, if you’re putting my job on the line, make sure I see the money.


Kimberly Moritz, NYS High School Principal