Friday, January 29, 2016

State of the Schools

It is the season for Governors and Presidents to talk about the state of things – State of the Union and State of the State speeches are common in January. Recently the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce suggested that we present a State of the Schools program to our business community and we were thrilled to oblige.

I don’t mind telling you we showed off a little. We held it the atrium of the new Calvert High School.  NJROTC students served as escorts and presented the colors. Andre Jones, CHS senior, played piano.  Welding students made centerpieces. Graphic arts students designed and printed the programs. And our culinary arts students prepared an awesome meal.

Following lunch, I had the opportunity to share with our business leaders a picture of what we look like, how we’re doing and where we need to be. I’ll summarize here.

What we look like:
·         Our 15,569 kids are 73% white, 13% African American, 7% two or more races, 5% Hispanic and 2% Asian.
·         Our 1,179 teachers are 75% white females and 17% white males. (This is why we have a goal to improve recruiting for greater diversity.)
·         Our 105 administrators are 51% white females and 35% white males.
·         Our 781 support staff are 69% white and 28% African American.
·         We have a general operating budget of $196 million of which 59% comes from local support.

How we’re doing:
·         Math and Reading scores as measured by PARCC are well within the top 5-10 districts in MD, except in Algebra II, where our curriculum is not aligned with PARCC.
·         Science proficiency scores near the top.
·         SAT scores going up while increasing the number of students taking the test.
·         SAT scores far exceeding state average.
·         Graduation rate among the highest in the state for all groups.
·         Competitive teacher salaries. A pay schedule generally in the top five in any category.
·         Moving forward to bid a new facility to replace Northern High School.

Where we need to be:
·         We have not been able to fully support our pay schedule in recent years so we are losing our ability to compete for the best staff. Some teachers are behind $8,500. We need to fix that.
·         We plan to move forward to be Future Ready - putting a digital device in the hands of every student and expanding Wi-Fi access in the county so students have access to curriculum 24/7.
·         We need to improve school security with installation of security cameras in every school.

Where we need to be will be achieved by two things:
1.       Effective planning, training and execution by our staff.
2.       More money from the Board of County Commissioners.

I think we can do both.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Those who ...teach

I continue to be surprised at the number of teachers who tell me that their parents – some blue collar, some white collar, some self-employed – admonished them with “Why do you want to become a teacher?  You’ll never make any money.”  I never understood that. 

That is such an unfair way to describe the work teachers do. Why wouldn’t you want to be a teacher?  The job is so critical to our way of life and teachers are highly respected in the community.

Sure you’ll not get rich. Getting rich is not happening for most of us with college degrees. But you will be enriched while you make a decent living for working 180 days. You’ll enjoy good benefits and guaranteed retirement checks that are not dependent upon your investment acumen and not at risk if your company goes under.   

Teaching is a calling and not easy to do well. Although I’d like to and will work to pay our teachers more, I know why they do what they do and why they keep doing it even when not satisfied with the compensation.

Last month, I came across an article in the School Administrator – the school superintendent’s national magazine, written by Kirk Lewis, a School Superintendent in the Pasadena Independent School District in Texas. He heard someone use that worn out saying – Those who can do. Those who can’t teach. He got really annoyed at that tired old saying that suggests that teaching is some sort of job to settle into if you have no marketable skills. He parlayed that annoyance into creative energy composing a number of alternatives to that tired old cliché’.  With his permission, I share them with you here.

Those who can’t abide ignorance in any form…teach.

Those who can’t accept that a life of poverty is the inevitable outcome for children of poverty…teach.

Those who can’t stand to see any child disengage from learning...teach.

Those who can’t ignore the emotional and social needs of their students…teach.

Those who can’t look into a hurting child’s eyes without feeling his or her pain…teach.

Those who can’t allow any child to do less than he or she is capable of doing…teach.

Those who can’t leave unspoken any word of encouragement…teach.

Those who can’t imagine any profession more personally fulfilling...teach.

Those who can’t help but see each child as a gift to this world…teach.

Christina Yuknis said it best. “Teaching is not a 9-5 job. It is a career that can easily become a lifestyle, taking over every waking minute of every day.”