One Word: Impact

As 2016 winds down, getting the opportunity to reflect has been amazing! Just a year and a half ago I was trying to finish school, juggling my job, busier than ever and always “stressed.” For some reason I decided to go back to school and I was doubting that choice for a short time. During the first semester we had a professor who gave me clarity on my choice and impacted my trajectory with his leadership. 

Dr. McCullough taught our leadership class and lived in a way we should all aspire to achieve. The impact he made on me changed my attitude and who I strive to be. There was not one time during the semester he did not model positivity and joy. He was always positive with each student no matter the situation. He made me feel stronger than I believed I could be, and he inspired me not to be afraid to take a risk. 

He wasn’t the “best” content teacher I’ve ever had. I say that with the utmost respect because he was one of the best leaders I have ever had the pleasure to learn from. We rarely used the textbook, but when his class ended all of us wanted to have him again second semester! I learned more about leadership and being positive from his example than any class content in my program. He led us by being positive, choosing joy, building people up and focusing on people’s strengths. The lesson he shared was any of us can chose to do “whatever it takes” to be successful. 

As I get the opportunity to reflect on last year, I know why Dr. McCullough was my teacher, why I took the challenge to go back to school, and why our first semester at Star City Schools has been a great one. We chose our attitude. We chose to focus on the positive. While the district was at a low point financially, while people were  jumping ship, and others lamented the past, we were busy setting our WHY and being positive. We established our moral purpose and adopted the simple phrase, “Whatever It Takes” as the mission. We got on the bus with Joy.

We will be successful at Star City Schools, we have great people who believe in each other and what we do. Being positive and knowing if I fall short that I can learn, has impacted me greatly. In our district, “Whatever It Takes” means positivity and learning to bounce back from failure together. This mission has helped us to overcome some large challenges. 

In the end, one of the most important lessons in my life came from a challenge: Choosing  and monitoring my own attitude and how it will impact my life. Thanks to the impact of Dr. M, I will be successful and I hope to IMPACT others positively in 2017, “Whatever It Takes.” 

#Oneword2017- IMPACT

Redefining “Whatever It Takes”

As the summer winds down and the school year cranks up, it’s time to reflect on what we have learned. We also must set the stage for next year’s progress. In a new position as the leader in a district, many things come at you and right in your office door. Listening, looking, digging, and assessing our district has me excited to begin anew. 

Star City School District is a rural district that has so many wonderful people and exciting opportunities ahead of us. Providing a world class STEM education, access to technology for all students, teaching creativity, colloboration, communication, and critical thinking are just beyond our reach. 

Redefine means to change the way people look at something. We want to redefine our Mission statement “Whatever It Takes.” After redefining our mission, we must set the vision for our district. As we move ahead into our vision, we must include: 

Why – This is the moral purpose of the district. It’s why the district exists. 

How – This is how the school district fulfills that moral purpose.

What – This is what the district does to fulfill that moral purpose.

The work ahead is paramount to our success in the future. The challenge lies in getting our faculty and staff all on the same bus and getting there with limited financial resources. We must put students at the forefront of all decisions. Our students, families and community are counting on us. We will make it, “Whatever It Takes.”

Help, We are Building a Master Schedule…

All secondary principals, assistant principals, and counselors are charged with building a master schedule for their school. Do you have a team? Do you put students or adults first in your system? What is your process? Who helps you build this jigsaw puzzle that can fall apart?

When I first began in education, the principal handed the keys to the counselor and no one saw her for two weeks. I saw this at a few schools, then I became the principal. I realized I had no training and didn’t want to throw it on my counselor’s back with no help. I knew the adults in the building would be “upset” at her if they did not get the schedule they want.

We changed the process and made it work for us after taking a team to training with a guy we will call “Ed”. We made it a leadership team process where we invited teachers to help so they could see we weren’t just placing classes on the board anymore. Transparency was important to us, but not many teachers wanted to put in the time to help due to many teaching responsibilities. We made sure to take course selections and allow teachers to know that students drive the courses and the singletons, doubletons, and multiple sections drive the number of sections and placement. Using the conflict matrix and system, this became a challenge our team enjoyed, because it was about students not adults anymore.

We have applied a “growth mindset” as we try to make the process better each year. When we decided to go Flex Mod, collaborating with River Bluff High School was key to our growth. One of our teacher leaders helped the year before and  he knew there had to be a more efficient way. Blackhawk Flex software was born because of his dedication, and we used it to be more efficient and cleaner this year! Due to hard work of our counselors, master teachers, and dedicated teachers, our schedule was a challenge but something we all enjoyed working on together.

As I move on from my current role as principal, I’m proud to have built a team oriented, student-driven schedule system and a team that can sustain the success!

Is Your School Flexible?

Sometimes the end of the school year feels busier than the beginning! We spend most of our time preparing schedules, filing waivers, hiring new teachers, planning next years PD and trying to balance it all. I find myself spending more time preparing for next year than connecting with faculty and students. As we’ve been working to finish the Master Schedule, I find myself incredibly grateful for the Flex Mod Schedule. Our flexibility allows my team to schedule in a way that truly meets the needs of our students.

The past few weeks while working very hard at school, I’ve also been working with the team at PACE to prepare for the Flex Summit this June. We are proud to announce that not will we have Daisy Dyer Duer join us but also George Philhower! Both are innovative educational leaders with unique experience that will provide attendees with the confidence needed to take the jump and build the innovative personalized cultures that  students need.

I invite you to join us this summer at the Flex Summit at the University of Arkansas and learn how you can build a school culture that serves your students..instead of your students serving the school culture. Even if you are not planning on implementing a flex schedule, this conference will open your eyes to what you can do with innovation and a great team!

WHY CHANGE?Our Kids Deserve It…

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Flex Mod Scheduling: “Time serving STUDENTS instead of STUDENTS serving time.”

Flexible Mod Scheduling is an innovative schedule built on creating a personalized learning environment for students. How did you feel the last time you sat through an eight hour meeting? Bored? Tired? Frustrated? Now consider that we ask our students to navigate this schedule every day of the entirety of their high school career. When relegated to a traditional “one size fits all schedule”, it is not surprising that many students don’t like coming to school!

Flex Mod Scheduling focuses on students by allowing for every student to have choice in their day.  Each student averages 25% of their weekly time to independent learning time. During this time students are able to receive individual or small group tutoring, collaborate with peers, read, workout, practice an instrument or anything else that interests them.  

Flex Mod Scheduling also focuses on teachers.  With an average of 33% of the teacher work week devoted to independent learning time, the flex mod schedule provides much needed “time” to the teacher workday.  This schedule creates time for teachers to individualize instruction and work collaboratively. Teachers are now able to focus on why many of us got into education: building relationships with students and teaching the 21st Century skills that matter to our students’ future.

Right now is the time to try personalized learning, why would you wait? See you at the FLEX MOD SUMMIT!

https://sites.google.com/a/pacesn.com/flex-mod-summit-2016/

Jon Laffoon

“Time Serving Students…”

We are planning some big things for a Flex Mod summertime summit (June 29-30)! This will be open to all flex mod schools in the country and schools wanting to implement personalized learning. The flex mod summit will consist of: the “why” of flexible scheduling, planning flexible scheduling, teacher preparation for flexible scheduling, personalized learning plans for students, creating personal responsibility, relationships, & time for teachers and students.

We will also build in panels for solving problems, entering into e school, and of course-character education. The final piece is cutting costs and cleaning up facility issues through flexible scheduling.

Flex Mod scheduling is better than a curriculum canned and sold. You and your team know your school and community, so we are of the mindset of helping you build time for students and teachers. “Time serving students instead of students serving time.”

Our teachers and students have time to cover content, build relationships, learn character ed lessons together, build empathy, and incorporate 21st century skills.

More details coming later but here are a few pieces of information in case you are interested in producing a true college and career ready student.

http://pearidgehs.weebly.com/flex-mod-scheduling.html

https://chipgreenwell.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/saving/

Technology

As I spoke to a parent today on the phone, I heard something that made me realize exactly what technology is providing our students:

unlimited access to school and learning at anytime

The parent was upset about a health related situation that would cause their child to miss school. The parent then stated, for the first time in the child’s schooling while dealing with health issues, the student’s grades were good, due to the Chromebook and our teachers working to help the student.

I zoned out a minute and thought, “This student has been dealing with chronic health issues for possibly 8 years and this is the first time the school has served them?”

We have the responsibility to serve “all” students, why have many schools only made the system work for the benefit of students who can play the game?

As @DaisyDyerDuerr always tells us, technology= equalizer for student’s circumstances.