Collaboramble

March 28, 2007

Lately, my thoughts have been drifting to collaboration since the term is so commonly bandied about. I keep hearing that collaboration is among the 21st Century skills our students will need to be competitive and successful.

I wonder, does collaboration come naturally to students and adults? Can we assume that all people in learning organizations will generally understand and practice such things as teamwork, synergy, negotiation, compromise, constructive conflict, conflict resolution, and cooperation? If collaboration is going to be so key to the future, what are we doing not only to prepare our charges but also to model best practice?

I always believe in the preponderance of good will among people, and that good will positively influences collaborative efforts. But in human dealings—or collaborations—there is no guarantee that good will even prevails.

In a recent workshop that dealt with effectively managing difficult educators, I met the dysfunctional gorillas in the living room: the whiners, the negaholics, the control freaks, the passive aggressives, the bullies, the socially awkward, the resistants, the narrow-minded, the uncooperative, the non-communicators, the creeps, the jerks, the tormentors, the despots, the egomaniacs, the saboteurs, the type A’s, the agenda-driven, the self-promoters, the drill sergeants, the back stabbers, the know-it-alls, the hotheads . . .

Aside from at times facing the gorilla in the mirror, I thought to myself: “We as adults struggle in dealing with difficult people. It zaps our energy, creativity, time, soul. It creates organizational drag.”

Kids can have the same quirky interpersonal attributes that we adults have. So, when we put our students into groups to collaborate, have we prepared them with human relations skills and strategies that can bring divergence, even dysfunction, to common ground for the greater good?

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Welcome to LeaderTalk

March 22, 2007

I would like to acquaint you with LeaderTalk, a new blog that has been running for about a month. Today was my turn to post and I wrote one about Connecting with Audience. What I find most informative about LeaderTalk is that 22 principals from across the country are adding content. Every day, one or two entries are posted by school administrators:

Welcome to LeaderTalk. The time is ripe for a blog by school leaders for school leaders. A blog that is ‘the place to go’ for insightful, thoughtful, reflective commentary about what it means to be a P-12 administrator today. A blog that expresses the voice of the administrator. LeaderTalk intends to fill this important gap in the blogosphere.

Visit LeaderTalk, and take a careful look at the photo sequence in the banner. It tells the story of school change, which LeaderTalk is all about.

We are a vibrant, growing, online community of 6 superintendents, 22 principals, 7 educational leadership professors, and 10 other central office / leadership folks.


Frampton Comes Alive

March 21, 2007

That album was a hit back in my Lee County High School (Sanford, NC) days. I had the occasion to hear a song from that album today as I drove through my adopted home town. The tune and the familiar roads brought back fond memories of the way it was back then.

I was quickly reminded though just how much and how fast things are changing.

I drove past the tobacco fields where I worked as a youth. Some were still farmland. Some were converted to real estate and other commercial ventures.

The highways from Sanford to the cities of Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, and Chapel Hill are vastly improved. You can get to any of these creativity and business centers in under an hour, and many people do that for work, shopping and entertainment.

The Hispanic population is significant…probably approaching 20% of the population. This demographic is the biggest difference from my youth. Tiendas, restaurants, and other Hispanic businesses dot the main roads, and the Hispanic influence is an interesting addition to the town’s rich Southern cultural tapestry.

The once thriving downtown was dying when I lived there in the 70’s and 80’s. The recent revitalization efforts have added restaurants, art shops, a few businesses, no-income housing, and housing for the elderly and disabled.

I stopped by the factory where I worked many teenage summers and spoke to an acquaintance going on her 30th year there. The factory was the third in the town when it relocated from Manhattan in 1974. That started an industrial boom, and the county grew to accommodate over 80 factories at one time. It is still home to significant industry, but many factories have discontinued or have highly automated their operations.

Then I drove past my sprawling high school campus which until recently housed close to 2500 students. It was about the only thing on the landscape that looked the same from the outside as it did in the 70’s. I know the challenges on that school have multiplied in recent years. I wonder how well Lee Senior or any high school in NC for that matter is responding to NCLB, shifting demographics, relevance, technology, the push for quality professionals, and the competition for funding dollars in times of scarcity.

As I drove I glanced down at a book I’m reading called Planet India: How the Fastest-Growing Democracy is Transforming America and the World (Kamdar, 2007). I thought of school funders and the kids we are serving. I wondered if we are all on the same page when it comes to the future of our kids and our country.

On my way out of town, I saw the construction of a massive highway cloverleaf designed to create an eventual bypass around the town of Sanford.

With all this unprecedented change around us, is it conceivable to think that bypasses can be built around an educational system that was perfect for the industrial age? More troubling, are bypasses to success already being built around people (young and old) who are ill-prepared for the global competition that is upon us and predicted to multiply exponentially in the no-so-distant future?


Our Kids; Our Responsibility

March 20, 2007

The PTO of Morehead Middle School has raised enough funds to lease a cart of 25 Dell 620 laptops for three years. The story was captured in the News-Times article, “PTO Doesn’t Wait, Buys Own Laptops.”

“There was so much we wanted to do and we felt technology had taken a back seat for so long,” said technology facilitator Lisa Raines. “In order for students to compete, the computers are absolutely needed.”

“We’ve got to keep up with the technology, and we couldn’t wait another two or three years. That’s another group of kids that’s not getting the education they need,” she said.

Advisory council member Stephanie McIntyre agreed.

“Coming from a county where the school system provided up-to-date technology, it’s sad that we have to do things like this to get it,” she said. “I hate that the school system doesn’t have the funds to pay for it. We’re getting behind other school systems.

I applaud Morehead Middle for the initiative to do what they had to do to secure educational resources for their students. I lament, however, that it has come to this.

Check the demographics!  We are going to see local Digital Divide issues intensify, rather than alleviate, if we as a school system and a community fail to provide necessary resources to prepare all of our students to be future-ready in a global context.

And if we don’t prepare our students to be successful in a flattened world, to whose students will we be conceding the advantage?

—more reasons to fully fund technology at Budget OneStop


And the winner is . . .

March 16, 2007

Harkers Island defended its crown as the Battle of the Books champion for Carteret County Schools today at East Carteret High School (thanks, Jane, for the hospitality). Next, the Islanders travel to Kinston High School on April 19th to represent us at the regionals. Go, Islanders!

Second place this year went to Newport Middle, and third went to Smyrna Elementary. Also competing strong were Atlantic, Beaufort Middle, Broad Creek, and Morehead Middle.

All students who participated in this year’s battle are winners by virtue of reading much quality literature and participating in such a first-class event.

Major thanks to all judges, timekeepers, scorers, proofreaders, organizers, worker bees and other supporting personnel. Special recognition to all coaches (media specialists) who give so much of their time and energy to instill in young students the love of reading. Kudos to Marty Feurer (moderator), Bill Blair and Connie Asero (awards presenters), and Dr. Pennylloyd Baldridge (closing comments).

Appreciation also to Gene Garner of Coastal Carolina Heating and Air Conditioning for continued support in sponsoring the plaques and medals.

This event was meticulously planned and went off without a hitch. For this, we are ever grateful to Maxine and Dianne (who had the asterisks by their names this year) for great organization and delegation skills.


This One’s on Me

March 15, 2007

haulin netThat title can be confusing. On one hand it sounds like I’m about to give you something; on the other, it sounds like I’m accepting blame. So it goes with language and communication. We have to be careful what we say and write.

Recently, I wrote directions that were unclear. I omitted two letters from a computer model number, and my directions were misinterpreted. The result was that an unintended set of specs was sent. This led to a chain of events that stalled a very important and significant budget process. As a result, many people had to rearrange their personal schedules to meet new deadlines and attend new meetings.

In an ironic twist, much communication occurred because of the miscommunication. But I don’t want to leave it at that. As a leader, a miscommunication event in my area of oversight is always my fault. So, this one was on me . . . and that’s my acceptance of blame. My apologies go out to all who had to bend to keep us from breaking.

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This evening the BOE met in an emergency session to complete the budget process, and — This one’s on all of us! By that I mean that every school, every Media and Technology Committee, every administrator, many teachers and support staff members, many community members, every BOE member, and many others had a part to play in the tonight’s Board of Education passage of the ’07-’08 school system budget.

The capital budget supports full funding of $1.2M in much-needed technology hardware acquisition. The school system’s hardware acquisition plan has been owned by the schools since May ’06. This year, the schools have rallied to keep our technology needs on the radar. And all who have worked so hard have been rewarded by tonight’s BOE action.

As we move into Phase Two of this process, my hope is that we continue with our intensity and passion for doing what is right in preparing our students to be future-ready and successful. We must be effective and vigilant communicators. Collectively, we must continue to add value to OneStop, the growing catalog that tells our story.


The Answers are in Us

March 15, 2007

Our group of 21 is just one day back from the NCaect conference. Most of our conference-goers have updated their thoughts in their blogs. I will share a few. Here’s an impressive and optimistic post from Lisa of MMS, the school that won the trip for five this year:

Click O’ the Mouse

I heard a lot at the conference about how no one seems to have answers on what it will take to bring change. The answers are here. They are in us. They are in every spark of an idea that comes to fruition in problem-solving products by students. Every time a teacher shares his/her idea with another teacher and that teacher in turn takes steps to bring that idea to pass in the classroom. The answers are in every administrator who stands in budget meetings telling the story of technology usage and needs in our schools in the face of a skeptical audience. The answers are in every storyteller and teacher in the blogosphere who pass on their knowledge to one more person. We are the ones who will bring change and we must keep doing what we’re doing. We must continue to be vocal, telling our lawmakers the story. If we continue, we will also grow louder and we will be heard. I have to believe that.

How impressive, optimistic, and fitting!

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