Welcome to the latest Superintendent Snapshot. To submit a question, send an email to email@example.com
Earlier this week someone asked me how the district is doing and I replied that I thought we’d gotten off to a remarkably smooth start. Then I remembered that it was mid-December. I mentioned this at home, that it seemed that the year is just flying by. My children suggested with straight faces that they have heard that old people think time passes more quickly each year.
My disrespectful children’s comments about my age notwithstanding, the first half of this year seems to have gone quickly but also eventfully. I am excited about the long-range facilities master plan and the bond that was approved by Granite voters last month – architects are already working on the high school rebuilds, and remodels and rebuilds for multiple other schools are kicking off as well. I really believe that the plan is a solid one for the next couple of decades, shortly falling into a cadence of a new elementary a year, a new junior high every four years and a new high school every eight. Additionally, schools will have a mid-life cycle remodel. This will ensure great learning and working conditions for our kids and employees long into the future. I’m grateful to our board of education for taking the time to develop the plan and for having the gumption to put it in front of the voters. I’m grateful to the voters for supporting the plan and thereby supporting all of us.
Another threshold our district crossed this year has to do with poverty. More than 60% of our kids qualify for free lunch. All of you are noting the impact this has on our work. Many of our elementary schools and even some junior highs have washers and dryers in the offices and kids line up to throw in dirty clothes and grab the clothes washed for them the previous day. Bless some soul, probably a secretary, who does the laundry every day. This is of course just one example but it begs the question: Is this our job? No way. But if we don’t do it, no one will. I am so grateful for all of you, pulling for these kids – some of whom seem to be fighting us the whole way. Very few solutions will fix every challenge, and I know our behavior and intervention efforts won’t solve everything, but I refuse to not do what we can do because we can’t do everything. Again, I am so grateful for your efforts and thoughtful suggestions.
I want to share a thought with you. More than 30 years ago I announced to my family that I was going to be a teacher. My dad, who was more than 25 years into his own education career, opened his mouth to say something, closed it again and then put his arm around my shoulders and told me that he was proud of me. He went on to say that there is no nobler profession than education and absolutely no more important profession than education. I used to wonder what thoughts were forming in his mind when he first opened his mouth. I say I used to wonder because three of my kids and counting are either teaching already or in school to become teachers. It runs through my mind how difficult the challenges are they will face over the course of their respective careers. Challenges far beyond how to teach this child or group of children how to master a particular math objective. But I don’t say that to them, I talk with them about the role teachers play in sustaining our society and very literally shaping the future. I tell them that there is no nobler nor more important profession than education. There are no more crucial people in our communities than teachers and those who support teachers so they can practice their profession. I believe this with all my heart, I teach it to my own kids, and I honor all of you for being who you are and doing what you do. If a team effort was ever needed, it is now. To all of you, whether you’ve been with us for six months or more than thirty years, I know you have other options, I thank you for choosing Granite. I truly believe we have the best team ever.
As many of you know, in the Bates home we celebrate Christmas, so, speaking personally and from my home to yours, Merry Christmas. To all of you, however you recognize the holidays or this upcoming break, I wish you peace and an opportunity to hold your loved ones close.
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!