Welcome to the latest Superintendent Snapshot. To submit a question, send an email to email@example.com
As a combat engineer, my basic and advanced individual training took 18 weeks in the spring and summer of 1989. People had told me what it would be like so I kind of knew on a cognitive level. But about three days in, the drill sergeants had us ramped up to an outrageous level of stress that didn’t ever seem to let up – although with time we got somewhat used to it. Then all of a sudden, it was graduation and we were bussed off to the airport and home. While in the middle of it, it had seemed that it would never end, but flying away from Fort Leonard Wood, in a surreal way it seemed as though we had arrived only the day before. One thing was certain however, I’d made lots of new friends and, in large part, it was because of friends that we’d all made it through successfully.
For me at least, this 2016-17 school year was much like that. We spent quite a lot of time last summer planning for the year and then suddenly it was upon us – bowling us over and throwing curveballs that called for hurried and awkward adjustments to our best laid plans. In the middle of it, there seemed to be no end in sight. Lots of local, national and international events have kept us wound tight (that refers to the olden days when watches were mechanical and wound up by hand for those of you who don’t know). I’m confidant everyone has their own collection of memorable events and crises from this year. And suddenly we’re just hours from the end. One thing is certain, it is in large part because of our friends and colleagues that we’ve made it through successfully. Please know that friends and colleagues feel the same about every one of you – had you not been there doing your part and more, it would have been a much more difficult trip.
I’m profoundly grateful for all of you, pulling at your respective ropes and encouraging one another with helping hands, kind words and example. And we haven’t even started talking about our work with the kids! By most, if not all measures, we’ve improved over past years. This is true both in the aggregate and for individuals. I visited almost every school this year and talked with each principal for nearly an hour about their schools and the efforts of their folks. I could not be more proud. I thank you sincerely.
With this final charge through Friday (I hope no one is counting metaphors and mixed metaphors), I know everyone is staying at the top of their game. For those who get a break over the summer, I wish you a relaxing and rejuvenating time. For those who have been gearing up for a great summer push in the absence of kids and others, I wish you all maximum productivity and minimal frustration. For those of us who have a few weeks to plan for next year, as opposed to the reactive reality of the school year itself, I wish clear minds and collaboration.
Again, I thank you all, I couldn’t be more proud or grateful to be on this team with you – see you next year!
As the holidays are upon us I’ve been thinking about our work and the conditions we face both in our professional and personal lives. This very morning the news was full of reports from Berlin, Germany and a senseless attack that took the lives of many and injured scores more. As I have extended family in and around Berlin, it has been very personal to me. There were additional stories from other parts of the world this morning as well, and this year has been full of stories with similar refrains.
As I’ve thought about this, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Civil War poem (later put to music), “I heard the bells on Christmas Day,” has come to mind. I’d like to share these thoughts with you.
Longfellow looks out on his world and sees war and death, and deep divisions between former friends and even in families. Then he hears the “belfries of all Christendom” pealing a message of peace. He writes:
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then from somewhere inside of him, or perhaps from outside of him, a spirit of hope emerges and he continues:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, not doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Without question we live in a world and in a time with considerable turmoil. Much more so than in 1864, modern media brings the images and sounds of turmoil into our homes and increasingly into the very palms of our hands. The images and sounds strongly send the message that hate is strong and that hate mocks the song of peace on earth and good will. However, drawing strength from either an internal or external source, my hope for each of us is that we can transcend despair and live our lives with hope and joy.
This past Sunday pipes froze and then burst at Pleasant Green Elementary. Almost immediately plumbing and cleanup crews responded and worked through the night to have school open and safe for kids Monday. Four classrooms were severely disrupted with damage to equipment and personal property. Last night I got an email from Sharon Prescott the principal, letting me know her gratitude for the people who responded and worked to secure, clean and prepare the school. She didn’t minimize the loss or the difficulty the affected teachers are experiencing, but she wanted to be sure that those who had gone above and beyond what might have been expected were recognized and thanked.
Those thanks have been extended, but I also want to thank Sharon and so many others of you, leaders every one regardless of title, who keep good will in your hearts and words despite conditions all around you. Your voices and good will strengthen me and, I suspect, each one of us with your positive outlook – not minimizing the challenges or difficulties, but choosing to see and call out positive things that are also all around us. Again, my sincere thanks to all of you.
In my home we celebrate Christmas, so from our home to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas. Many of you celebrate differently than do we and I wish you the happiest of holidays during this time. Regardless of our celebrations, may we all take the opportunity to express love and appreciation to our family and friends, recognizing and thanking those who sacrifice on our behalf and in their own ways spread peace on earth and good will to men.
Thanks to all of you, for being with us and for all you do!
The year is quickly winding down – not quickly enough in some respects, this has been as nutty a last couple of weeks as I can remember! Anyway, before most of you pack it in for the summer I wanted to express my thanks and share some thoughts.
In January of 1991 my national guard unit was called up to serve in Desert Storm. We processed into the active duty ranks and shipped quickly to Germany. Our orders read “for 360 days unless later shortened or extended.” I was part of a combat engineer battalion, and while the basic and advanced training for a combat engineer is only a summer long (making it an attractive job for college students who don’t want to miss a semester), the average lifespan of a combat engineer in action is a matter of weeks (making it somewhat less attractive in the event of a deployment). As most of you will recall, the “ground war” itself was over in less than two months. In those eight or so weeks, all we did was sit on our duffle bags in barracks next to an airstrip, awaiting direction to board our plane. It was more than unsettling. Interestingly (in retrospect), the unnerving ambiguity really came when the war ended and the wait began for orders to return home. Finally, after an additional four months, in June we flew to Ft. Lewis, Washington for out-processing and a few days later flew back home to Utah. As the jet was taxiing towards our families at the national guard hanger, the “fasten seatbelt” sign notwithstanding, all of us were on our feet pressing towards the exits. In fact, persons who were never identified opened the emergency exit doors on the plane as it taxied so we could see better while we were standing. I don’t know what regulations were violated…
I share this story for a couple of reasons. First of all, as the end was coming into view, we did some things that were perhaps imprudent but reflected our emotional exhaustion. Secondly, as we got off the plane, hugged our families and drove home, we were not in a hurry to put the uniform on again. In fact, while our unit typically met monthly, I think we weren’t called back for a weekend drill for several months. Frankly, there were quite a few folks I didn’t want to see for a while, preferably a long while. By fall, after a long break, we were ready to get back together, sharing pictures (remember, this was back when film had to be developed) and stories. We were ready to go back to work – which we would not have imagined possible in June.
There may be some similarities to the ending of a school year. I truly believe that we can be proud of the ground that’s been covered and of the great work that’s been done this year. I brag about us every chance I get. I mean that absolutely sincerely. That having been said, I’m also conscious of the unnerving ambiguity of so many things going on in our profession, and I’m keenly aware of emotional exhaustion and stress fractures that many of us feel particularly as the year comes to an end. I can also sympathize with the feeling that there are some folks you might not want to see for a while. But I also truly believe that the work in which we’re engaged, regardless of a specific job title, is the greatest of all works. We help kids form a foundation that they will rely and build upon for their entire lives and for their families’ lives. Because it is such a great work, it is also a hard work and I want to personally and sincerely thank each of you for doing your part.
I’m also conscious of some friends for whom this year is the last. Some crazy part of me wishes the year would slow down because I will miss you dearly. All of us need to give a special thanks to those colleagues who, after years and sometimes decades of shoulder-to-shoulder work, are retiring.
Please, go home in a few days (it would be best if you’d wait until Friday afternoon!) and rest. You’ve earned it and deserve it. Take time to recharge with your friends and loved ones.
We’ll see you in the fall; bring pictures and stories to share!
Thanks for all you do – I mean it,
Welcome to the latest Superintendent Snapshot. To submit a question to Dr. Bates, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question – As faculty and staff, we used to be given a small card that allowed us to get into district sports events, musicals, plays, etc., for free. Then we were no longer given the card, but were told that our teacher ID badge would get us in for free. Since we get so few perks as teachers, I really loved this one. I would get in free and often bring someone else with me who would buy a ticket. However, in the last few years, some schools no longer allowed us in for free. I also believe that new teachers don’t even know about this. So my question is, does this great perk still exist? If so, is it across the whole district or does each school get to decide if they’ll honor it or not?
Answer – Unfortunately, this perk never “officially,” existed. In fact, the card really came to be in pre-computer days to help employees with HR and benefits identification purposes. That having been said, many schools, including community ed., did give discounts to employees and the card was a practical tool to demonstrate employee status. Over the last 20 or so years, the cards stopped being necessary for their intended purpose and they haven’t been printed for quite some time. HOWEVER, many of our schools do allow free or discounted employee access to events. The District allows individual schools to make those decisions. If there is a school event you’re interested in attending, by all means check with them in advance to see if free or discounted access is offered before finalizing your plans.
Thanks for your question!