Sunday, September 21, 2008

Week 5: September 22 - 26, 2008

Upcoming Events:
Sept. 24 -- BAR Meeting at 7:00 in room 103
Sept. 24 -- Bus Evacuation Drill
Sept. 24 -- Department Collaboration (Odd Day)
Sept. 25 -- Tech Cohort Meeting 1 (Even Day Plan)

This week seemed, for lack of a better verbiage, strange to me. It seemed like the kids were on the edge of a precipice, deciding one or two at time whether to leap or not into poor choices. Sometimes they were lemming-like in how they jumped; other times it was just one errant lemming at a time. Like I said, strange. I am sure Jeff, Luke and Ken as well as the secretaries (Debby, Connie & Danielle for sure) we tell you the same.

This week was BIG for Benton in terms of student count. We had our September membership day on Sept 24th. That's the day that DESE officially "counts" our students. Every enrolled member, whether they attend or not, counts for us. If a student actually transfers somewhere, and we can document that transfer, then the student is not counted against us. As you can imagine, we have way too many on the list of those who are counted who are not attending. Jeff has a notebook with all the students' names. It's called the Book of Lost Souls. The reason why this is such a big deal for Benton is because our attendance rate and graduation rate are TWO major deciding factors in setting determining whether we make AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) with our actual test scores or by the "confidence interval." These are VERY important numbers, Wednesday was the day. I know we owe Debby, Sheila and Danielle a huge thanks for sticking to this to get our enrollment as accurate as possible.

The three of us (admin) attended our K-12 Administrators' Meeting on Thursday where we learned how our Data/Walkthrough Review on October 17th is supposed to look. It helped me realize that we are ready if everyone follows through with what we discussed during our professional development last week. Our SIP is strong, and our staff is fully committed to completing the action steps. We really appreciate everyone's dedication to our school improvement plan. When we all pull togther, we can really accomplish great things.

That brings me to this story I heard twice this week. It's about how MD Anderson (the cancer research hospital in Houston) has worked with everyone on staff to really focus on reaching the mission of the hospital, which is to cure cancer. When researchers went to the hospital to find out how they were so successful, they realized it upon entering the facility. When they asked the maintenance worker what he did for his job, he replied, "I cure cancer." When they asked a secretary, he responded, "I cure cancer. See, just because my name doesn't have M.D. (Medical Doctor) after it, doesn't mean what I do is any less important. In order for this place to reach it's mission, they need me to be the best I can be. That is how I cure cancer!"

You don't have to think very long to begin to apply this to our workplace. I've thought about it for a long time. I've looked at our vision and our mission statements. What I really see in all that can be boiled down to one really interesting statement that can apply to every staff member at Benton: "What do I do that impacts student achievement?" "What evidence of that can I show?"

We don't cure cancer, but I think our goals are of equal importance. We are really the final nesting place for our newest St. Joseph and Southside community members before they "fly off" to join the world as adults. Do we prepare them to be the best that they can be? Do we challenge them as often as possible so that when they are away from us, they are prepared to navigate the challenges without us? With this in mind, what could we all do to better impact their achievement?

The funny thing is, I believe the we all approach every assignment, disciplinary action, fee payment, and reaction to their requests, teaches them how to prioritize or problem solve through a situation. How often do we think we are doing a student a favor by not following up or holding them accountable? It's not that the accountability has to be detrimental -- that's definitely old school thinking -- but what if it was about the accomplishment? The library now has students serve community service for late books instead of paying a fine. The counseling center is keeping students in the class they are failing (instead of allowing a transfer to a different class) and getting them help/tutoring in order to enable the students to pass. This will impact student achievement! This will teach students how to stick with something -- even when the going gets tough -- and hopefully, with everyone working toward the same mission, we will have less and less bailing out on at least the one possession we want them all the earn -- a high school diploma!

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