Friday, August 31, 2012

Month in Review


Can you believe summer is over?

Here are the hottest (see that summer pun there?) articles that everyone was reading this month.  Did you miss any?

Should Principals Have Facebook Friends at Work?

A Bit O' Change Leadership to Start Your Year

On Your Mark, Get Set, Interview Guest Post by Scott Rocco

5 Takeaways From the Colleps Sex Scandal

Educators, Technology, and the Olympics Guest Post by Jessie Voigts

Remember, I am available to answer you school related HR or admin type questions - just shoot me an email or fill out the form located here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tattoo Confessions

I am a tattoo enthusiast.

Most people at work don't know that about me.  I work to project a professional demeanor and image so while I'm working my tattoos are generally covered.  Over the summer I got some new ink on my forearm (nice little 'new school' sacred heart shown above) that I had placed just a little too far down. Now when I reach my sleeve creeps up and it pokes out.

My boss caught a glimpse of it during a meeting last week and was floored.  Professional image shattered.

But only for a moment.

Once we got back on topic the tattoo was completely forgotten.  I know my job, I am a professional.  My actions and performance speak with greater intensity than a little bit of ink.

Over the years I've had principals who have declared things like, "All men must wear ties." "Women must wear hose." I've always thought, "What does it matter?"

Todd Whitaker once wrote, "Teachers will dress three levels down from the principal." (butchered paraphrase)  I say as long as its within reason, let them.  Focus your observations on what the teacher does rather than on what they wear.  

Pedagogy, instruction, content knowledge, classroom management, differentiation, collaboration, community, assessment - these things speak much louder about a teacher's professionalism than a tie or a tat. 

What do you think? I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Crowdsourcing: Teacher Evaluation

Crowd Surfing

I am doing research  for an upcoming piece on teacher evaluations as a tool to develop, support, and coach teachers and would appreciate your input.  To participate simply add your answer to the document linked below.  Please included your name, position, and contact information just incase I need clarification or have a followup question.  

If I use your idea in the piece I will quote and credit you directly.  If you have question please contact me at  

Question: How do you use the teacher evaluation process to develop, support, and coach your teachers?

Click Here to Add Your Answer:

Monday, August 20, 2012

5 Takeaways From the Colleps Sex Scandal

The principal and administrative staff at Kennedale High School are having a tough week.  Their school is in the news which, in this case, is not a good thing.

Former KHS teacher Brittni Colleps was convicted this week of having sex with four students while a teacher at the school.  All of the students were over 18 at the time of the incident so she was convicted under a Texas law that criminalizes sex between students and teachers regardless of age.  Colleps, who apparently had a broad definition of group work, was identified by her tattoo in a cell phone video made by one of the boys.  The video was played in court.

Our culture tends to minimize this type of behavior when boys are involved.  The teacher gets called a few names, the boys get a wink and a pat on the back.  Let's be clear, teachers engaged in sex with students is wrong at any age, on any level.  We know that and can applaud the judge who did the right thing by sentencing Colleps to five years in prison.  

But that's not what I want to talk about today.  Today I want to talk about what you should if you find your school embroiled in a sex scandal.

  1. Don't panic.  A sex scandal at your school is a terrible, terrible thing.  You're going to get bad press.  People are likely going to lose their jobs.  You'll feel guilty, duped, and angry.  Panic will only cause you to make bad decisions and a bad situation will become worse.  Stay calm.
  2. Resist the urge to investigate.  I know you want to know what's going on.  I know you want to start protecting you school's reputation.  Stop.  This needs to be investigated by the police and/or child protective services.  An investigation conducted by the school may taint evidence or witness statements.  You may be a part of a joint school-police-CPS investigation but for now wait for direction from other agencies.  
  3. Provide for the safety and care of students.  Remove the teacher from contact with students.  If school is in session, send a substitute to the room and have the teacher sit in the conference room.  Support students but again resist the urge to question students until authorities arrive.
  4. Develop a communication plan.  Your statement will likely be something like, "That's a personnel matter so I can't discuss things in detail but please know that we have taken steps to keep children safe" but eventually you'll have to tell the community something.  
  5. Begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild.  The healing process will be slow and painful especially for the students involved.  Make sure they are taken care of.  Keep your notes and memory fresh as the case moves through the court system.  

Photo credit:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Bit O' Change Leadership to Start Your Year


I just started reading Change Leadership A Practical Guide to Transforming Our Schools by Tony Wagner and Robert Kegan.  (Yeah, yeah I'm about six years behind the times - if you're even further behind then me there's an Amazon link at the end of the post.) I heard Wagner speak at an event in late July and was intrigued enough to pick up a copy.

Luckily for me, the guy who had this office before me left a copy on the shelf - can you say, "freebie!"

In chapter 2 Wagner outlines what he calls The 7 Disciplines for Strengthening Instruction.  While there is value in all 7 of the disciplines I found myself reflecting on two as I assist principals in gearing up for the start of the school year. For context, here are the 7 Disciplines:

  1. Urgency for instructional improvement using real data
  2. Shared vision of good teaching
  3. Meetings about the work
  4. A shared vision of student results
  5. Effective Supervision
  6. Professional development
  7. Diagnostic data with accountable collaboration

I'm sure I'll write more about this (and other) works by Wagner in the future, but for start of the year here are the two that struck me as apropos.

Meetings About the Work

In my district teachers return to work a week ahead of the students. On paper this means that teachers have 5 full days to plan and prepare instruction. In practice these five days are largely encumbered by mandatory meetings and orientations.  Teachers are lucky to get 2 days of planning time. I have been guilty of planning days where teachers rotate between administrators as we each droned on for hour-long sessions about our respective areas of expertise.

What a waste!

Here's what Wagner has to say about meetings, "Ideally, under this discipline, all adult meetings are about instruction and model good teaching.  Yet in most school and district meetings, the craft of teaching is rarely a subject of discussion. Regardless of their frequency, meetings most often address announcements and operations - the administration of the work - rather than the work itself -instruction."

Make your back to school week about learning and instruction. If you have information and announcements to get out, and I know you do, write a blog, memo, video, or tweet - have your time with teachers be about the work.

Effective Supervision

How many times have you let the business of your school day keep you out of the classroom?  It happened to me and I'll lay 5 to 1 that it's happened to you. To be about the 'work' you need to be in classrooms. You need to be focused on improving instruction.

Resolve that this year will be different.

Many states, mine included, have revamped their teacher evaluation systems which makes this a perfect time to change your behavior. Work the new system. Visit classrooms early and often. According to Wagner, "...[effective] supervision is frequent, rigorous, and entirely focused on the improvement of instruction. Skip the "annual, perfunctory visit" and instead focus on "the level of rigor in the classroom or whether the students are learning what the teacher is trying to teach."  After each visit provide teachers with accurate, constructive feedback of their performance. Look for ways to help your struggling teachers and  to stretch your best teachers.


If you haven't read Wagner's book yet I highly recommend that you pick up a copy for you and each member of your leadership team. Click the link below to purchase from Amazon.

Photo Credit - (CC) Kayla Johnson

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Educators, Technology and the Olympics

I'm spending some quality time with my wife on Hilton Head Island this week (yes, it is appropriate to be jealous). Please enjoy this guest post while I'm away.

Olympic stadium and The Orbit during London Olympics opening ceremony (2012-07-27)

What Educators can learn from Technology and the Olympics

Educators can learn quite a bit from the technology used during the Olympics. The Olympics – similar to a classroom? How can this be?  Here are 4 ways that educators can look at the way technology is used in the Olympics – and apply it to their classrooms.
1.       Social Media. The London Olympics has been billed as the first Social Media Olympics. While some can view this as a spoiler (i.e., fans tweeting and facebooking results), NBC has joined in the Social Media extravaganza and will cover the Olympic Games in real time with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on other social media sites.  What can educators take from this? Social Media is omnipresent. Educators can embrace social media, and work it into their classrooms. Follow current events on Twitter. Use Facebook to do research. Create assignments that include social media in the research methods.  It won’t replace traditional research and learning, but rather, enhance it.
2.       Instant Results. No longer do people have to wait for news about the Olympics – technology means we know the results instantly. This world we live in is so interconnected that we can learn things almost as soon as they happen.  Utilize this and follow current events – elections, sporting events, chess tournaments, funerals, arts events, festivals, concerts; or connect with global classrooms to learn together.  By keeping your finger on the pulse of the world, you also teach that globally, everyone and everything is important. Teach global awareness and global citizenship by learning about things happening around the world – and their impact on locals.
3.       Stories. In the Olympics, each person has a story. We see amazing stories from around the world, of hardship, challenge, hard work, and perseverance. In real life, each person also has a story. Listen to each student, to their stories. Incorporate stories – your students’ stories, as well as everyone they come into contact with – into your classroom, assignments, and ways of teaching. When students learn the personal, they are more interested in the topic. A history assignment could include video interviews with people that have lived through it, or re-enactors. A language assignment could include finding people – and them telling their stories – in their native language.
4.       Practice. Every single person in the Olympics has spent an inordinate amount of time practicing their sport. But technology also plays a part in winning – from the technology used for keeping times and scoring, to new technology in the things athletes need to succeed (the shark suit for swimmers, shoes, gear). With limited budgets in many school districts nowadays, the latest technology isn’t always available. But you can make sure that your students have the basics of using technology – teaching them how and why to utilize the internet, videos, podcasting, etc. – and giving them the skills (writing, critical thinking, languages) for success.
Watch the Olympics with an eye to how technology allows for new ways of viewing, interacting with, and teaching about the world. Your students will thank you!

Jessie Voigts has a PhD in International Education, and is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, especially with kids (it’s never too young to start!). She has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. Jessie is the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel library for people curious about the world. She founded the Family Travel Bloggers Association, and the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program. She’s published two books about travel and intercultural learning, with a third on the way. You can usually find her family by water – anywhere in the world.

Links if you need them:
Founder, Family Travel Bloggers Association

Photo credit (CC) Alexander Kachkaev

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On Your Mark, Get Set, Interview

I'm spending some quality time with my wife on Hilton Head Island this week (yes it is appropriate to be jealous).  Please enjoy these guest posts while I'm away.  

On Your Mark, Get Set, Interview
How do you identify the best candidates from a bunch of paper? As an assistant superintendent in charge of personnel, I review and process hundreds of resumes and applications each year, yet one of the biggest challenges I face is determining how the applicant’s paperwork compares to the person. Making this determination becomes essential when interviewing for administrative vacancies because often the interview process involves a stakeholder committee as part of the process and candidates that get to that level must be of the highest quality.
My experience with administrative interviews involved a paper screening of resume, cover letter, references, certifications, and application. Those who make it through the paper screening go on to the committee round with stakeholders, and ultimately finalists go to the last round with the assistant superintendents and superintendent. The key is to get high quality candidates into the committee round so this group can effectively and efficiently identify those candidates qualified to move on through the process. The problem is the “paper view” of a candidate can sometimes be dramatically different than the in person interview. 
To deal with this issue my district has instituted a speed round of interviews between the paper screening and committee interviews. Candidates identified as qualified through paper screening are invited to this new round of interviews. The speed round includes:
  1. Each candidate is scheduled in 5 to 10 minute intervals with a 5 minute break periodically built into the schedule as a catch up period. Candidates are specifically told the structure and purpose of these interviews so that they are ready for the process. 
  2. Up to 20 candidates to be interviewed. You can increase or decrease depending on the number of people that meet your paper screening qualifications.
  3. Each candidate is scheduled to interview with two assistant superintendents and the superintendent separately. Every five to ten minutes the candidate moves on to the next administrator.
  4. Each of the three interviewers asks questions in his/her area of responsibility. The same questions are asked to all of the candidates.
  5. Each candidate completes 15 to 30 minutes of interview time by the end of the process.
What has been so beneficial in this process is the ability of the interview team to interview more candidates than has been traditionally possible in the old model of going from a paper screening to a committee interview. The speed round opens the door to about 20 candidates, which if interviewed at a committee level would take approximately 4 days to complete. It also clearly identifies how the candidate’s qualifications match with their interview abilities. This is vital when the next round of interviews is at a committee level and you want to assure high quality candidates at that level. But most importantly, it hyper-focuses the interviewer and interviewee during the process. This focus keeps the attention on aligning the candidates paper qualifications with his/her interview responses. As a result the interviewers are able to identify the highest quality candidates to move forward.
Scott Rocco is an Assistant Superintendent for Personnel in  a large suburban school district in New Jersey, adjunct professor at The College of New Jersey, instructor in the NJEXCEL program, presenter, and co-founder/co-moderator of #Satchat on Twitter. Scott presents on the use of social media for educators, school safety, marketing yourself, and various leadership topics. He is dedicated to positively and productively engaging educators in a dialogue that improves student learning, enhances instruction, and creates effective learning environments for all who attend and work in schools. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottRRocco or contact him at

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Should Principals Have Facebook Friends at Work; The Results


A few weeks ago I posted the question, "Should principals have Facebook friends at work?" and asked readers to responded via School HR's first interactive poll.  Today, in a totally non-scientific, non-cite-able manner the results are announced.

The Results

Respondents were about evenly split on the question between "No" (44.07%) and "Maybe" (42.37%) (way to take a stand there people!).  Interestingly, only 10.17% of respondents said "Yes, friend everyone."  Here's a nice pie chart of the results.

There were two comments left under "other" 

      "No, it reeks of favoritism."
      " Yes. Set security/privacy settings are important, and be professional."

Other comments received included one from a principal who didn't want to know what his teacher were doing on Facebook because then he'd have to deal with their inappropriateness come the next work day.  And another from a respondent who likened "friending" to the practice of hiring relatives.  Where I come from we call that "institutional incest." 


It looks like the jury is still out on this one - though it looks like we're leaning toward "No" when it comes to friending people at work.

IMHO it is NOT a good idea for principals to friend subordinates at work.  Quite frankly, I don't want to see Mrs. Jones in her bathing suit two fisting tequila in Cabo inappropriate personal pictures posted by staff.  There needs to be some professional separation.

I am a BIG fan of using social media to connect with teachers, students, and parents.  On Facebook I suggest using a page rather than a profile to communicate professionally.  Though attached to your profile for logging on, a page is separate and distinct from your profile.  Pages allow for easy, frequent updating, pictures, events, and the like.  Rather than friend the page owner, people subscribe to the page by pressing the like button.  Both parties get the benefit of communication with out being able to view the other's  profile. If you'd like to see a page this link will take you to mine (feel free to press like while you're there).

Your thoughts

The use of Social Media in educational settings is evolving and I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Leave a comment below and be part of the conversation.

Photo credit (CC) West McGowan


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