Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Whole Grade Sharing – Part II

We are North Fayette Valley!  Now what?  Since the two school boards signed the agreement, we have been off and running.  In the seven days since that January 21, we have held four half-day meetings with teachers in the core content areas working on course content and alignment for middle and high school.  We have had a meeting pulling together administrators and AEA personnel to assess special education needs for both districts.  We attempted to have a meeting with business teachers, but due to weather conditions, that was postponed, as was an ad hoc meeting for the extracurricular folks.  Oh yeah, the morning after the agreement we spent a couple of hours with 54 students working to resolve the school colors!  In addition to all of that, I have had numerous meetings face-to-face with Mr. Willhite, Mr. Imoehl. Mr. Clark, and Mr. Nuss about matters relative to the sharing program.  I have spent countless hours working in collaboration with Mr. Clark in preparation for course selection and registration, as well as time on the phone and via email with staff at Valley arranging for meetings with students and putting a transition plan in place.  We have created a calendar for all of the meetings and activities that we anticipate needing over the course of the next four months to transition students, orient parents, and to make certain we get every thing done.  We have come up with question after question, and I anticipate there will be more!  And, I have attempted to do all of the other parts of my job!

So, where are we?  Headed in the right direction!  We knew it was going to be busy, but thankfully we started on this effort way back at the start of the school year.  I am tremendously excited about the new opportunities that are going to be created for our students.  A new structure to our Language Arts and Social Studies programs will be implemented that I think is great!  We will roll out more details on that in the near future.  I also recognize that there are going to be bumps in the road, and there will be some things that happen that will be upsetting to some.  Change always brings with it some pros and some cons.  Productive and positive change sometimes takes a little while to bear fruit.  With that said, the students at North Fayette Valley are going to find themselves in a much more comprehensive academic environment, starting next year.  And, it will continue to grow.  School reform has been discussed at great length for the better part of my 16 years as a principal.  Now, with the Iowa Core, our focus on technology, and the attention we are giving to this opportunity, I can start to see some of this shift.  It will be great for kids!  Did I say I was excited?  I’m excited!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It Is Time To Do Something

With the new Congress in place and having averted the fiscal cliff, it appears that a number of gun control bills are going to be presented.  In the past 24-hours I have read three different articles relative to this topic, and all referencing the massacre at Newtown.  Matt Carver, SAI Legal Services Director, wrote at length in our organizations monthly newsletter.  I read a column in Sports Illustrated.  And, this morning on, I read about Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly’s interview with Diane Sawyer.  I know that as a public employee I am a servant of the taxpayers, and when I say something, it is scrutinized by “all of my bosses.”  I also know that when I say something it carries some weight because of the position that I am in.

Immediately after the shooting at Newtown, a number of prominent individuals spoke out right away about the issue of guns in our society.  I am glad that people finally have.  While they were doing this, I wrestled with whether or not I should.  I can certainly handle the criticism as I recognize that on many fronts, people are going to disagree with what I say.  I have had that many times in the past.  There will be those who would say that in my position I shouldn’t be taking a position!  However, at the same time others will expect me to take a one.  The public certainly would expect me to take a position on drugs in school, or on the topic of harassment or bullying.  So why is a position on guns any different?  I don’t think it is.

We have laws that prohibit guns on school campuses unless they are in the possession of a law enforcement officer.  With recent changes that have been made with concealed weapons in Iowa, the law still prohibits them on school campuses.  I am a strong advocate of this law.  We do not need guns on school property, and arming volunteers as the NRA executive vice president suggests terrifies me.  Arming teachers, as a congressman in Texas advocates, could create chaos.  In both instances I see disaster.  I don’t need someone like George Zimmerman, the rent-a-cop from Florida, volunteering to be on our school grounds to protect us.  I had a teacher remark the other day, “Heck, I forget where I leave my coffee cup some days.  What if I forget where I set my gun?”  More guns at school will result in more shootings.  There have been armed security personnel at some of the schools where shootings have taken place and they did not prevent the shootings.  At Columbine there were armed security personnel and they were not able to stop the two young men that put school shootings on the front page.

We have the Second Amendment in our country and while I am not a hunter or a gun owner, I respect the rights of people to own guns.  However, that amendment was written when people carried muskets, not when people have had access to AK-47s and high-compression clips.  People do not need to have those kinds of weapons in their possession and we need to do a very thorough job getting them off the streets.  In addition, we need to put forth a very strong effort to put in place universal background checks.  And, of equal important, resources need to be poured into mental health care.  It is an embarrassment that our nation does not address this.  The time is now to address all of these problems.  I for one believe that we can live in a better place and will work hard to bring that about.