Weekly Thoughts 4-21-15

Good Morning Leaders!

If I read the High School weekly newsletter correct, we have 20 days left after today. Wow! Kudos on another great year in Cat Country.

Trivia (answers at the end of the Smore)

  1. What was Magic Johnson's given first name at birth (spelled correctly)?
  2. Does cow's milk have a higher or lower pH level than pure water?
  3. How old was Elvis Presley when he died in 1977?
  4. In which book is Gilbert Blythe a character?


As I stated earlier, EdPlus will no longer let us just attend the 2 day Cooperative Learning training. Sad but true. Troy, however, is hosting Day 1-3 and would let us attend Day 1 and 2. The dates would be July 13th and 14th and the location would be the Woods Fort Golf Club on the north side of town.

I know that is a busy week for Common Assessments. Can we make it work?

Who would we need to attend? Do any of these new hires already have the training?

  1. Teah Kelly (Vicki...I defer to you if we want any or all of the SPED to attend)
  2. Jade Crotty (sped)
  3. Dawn Hickman (Shawn B...can you check to see if she has had the training?)
  4. Jeff Sargent (sped)
  5. Lyndsey Ferrell (she went to Day 1 last year and sat in on Ned this year...do we want to send her?)
  6. David Evans (I'm thinking no for AR/AD...Shawn B?)
  7. Brent Kobernus (MS Math)
  8. David Jennings (sped)
  9. Paige Steinhoff (HS SS)
  10. Brandee Brooks (HS Spanish)

Plus other new hires.



First off, the MS Principal and the Superintendent positions will be announced within the next 24 hours.

Here is what I have as still open:

  1. MS Assistant Principal
  2. MS Math
  3. MS Science

We have one resignation tonight, for MS Computers.

What I have pending tonight's meeting:

  1. Spanish - Brandee Brooks
  2. AR/AD - David Evans
  3. HS SS - Paige Steinhoff
  4. MS Math - Brett Kobernus

Does this look accurate?


IL meeting Thursday is at the HS. Neither Doug nor I will be in attendance. We have Day 3 of Cognitive Coaching on that day. We can table the walkthrough discussion for the next meeting. We might want a catch name as well.


Thank you for entering items into the Title budgets. If we could wrap that up sometime soon, that would be helpful.

As far as the July 20-23rd Reading Workshop Training, it appears that our open spots will fill very shortly. What we will do with those funds is put them into a soda account and pay the trainers fees from a combination of soda account and Title I.A. We would like to avoid depositing money into a federal account that was not federal money. As we have an amount after all spots are filled, I will lower the Title I.A by the amount we should receive from outside participants.

Friday at 10:30 a.m.

Head principals, Vicki, Jill and a few others, I will send you an invite to a meeting at Central Office for Friday at 10:30 a.m. Transition to next year will be the topic. Shouldn't take too long.


MS is going well overall. Yesterday, they had only 3 outstanding make ups. Not bad. On Friday, we are scheduled to move Chrome Carts back to West Elementary. The weather looks iffy. We may need some help moving them late Thursday (when there is no chance of rain). If you are interested in helping at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, please let us know.

MS will still have their lab for Friday makeups.


I still need the 2 from HS. Thank you.

Summer School

Our enrollment forms have slowed a bit. We are at 425 kids as of today. No Aventa kids have been entered as of yet. We hope to make hires at the end of next week, so please encourage kids to enroll so we can be as accurate as possible before hand.

Here are the numbers as of right now:

K - 48

1 - 55

2 - 44

3 - 63

4 - 61

5 - 53

6 - 45

7 - 28

8 - 14

9 - 14

Remember, those are the grades the kids will be in next year, not their current grade.

Thank you to Tina and Rod for doing such a great job up to this point. Preparation is a large part of the success of our summer school program.

Common Core Workgroups

Public Hearing #2 was held yesterday. Sounds like they are having a hard time getting folks to attend the meetings: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/common-core-workgroups-report-low-attendance/article_b4475c71-ff67-5a4d-a4a8-340e13fcf6c0.html

Myra Collins is quoted in the article. East did quite a bit of work with Myra the previous year.


I'm down to 4 books on my desk. I hope to tackle those sometime soon!

But for now, here are the articles of the week via K. Marshall.

  1. “Making Team Differences Work” by Beth Strathman in Educational Leadership, April 2015 (Vol. 72, #7, p. 60-64).

  2. “The Art of Dialogue” by Oscar Graybill and Lois Brown Easton in Educational Leadership, April 2015 (Vol. 72, #7, online only), http://bit.ly/1yLMzZp

  3. “10 Tips for Tackling Tough Conversations” by Brett Novick in Educational Leadership, April 2015 (Vol. 72, #7, p. 80-81)

1. How Teams Can Overcome Some Common Group-Process Problems

(Originally titled “Making Team Differences Work”)

“To be high functioning, teams must embrace disagreement and encourage individuals to voice their perspectives while acknowledging others’ viewpoints,” says executive coach Beth Strathman in this article in Educational Leadership. “Doing so encourages active participation, which brings forth thoughtful, relevant, and forthright contributions from group members.” Strathman identifies four common pitfalls that prevent honest, productive discussions:

Problem #1: The group meanders and gets nowhere. Solution: Communicate the essential information up front, including:

  • The reason the group has convened;

  • The expected outcome of the meeting;

  • The skills, knowledge, and abilities each member adds;

  • The timeline for the work;

  • Any standards the group must adhere to;

  • The group’s role – to provide input, make a recommendation, or make a final decision.

    With this kind of prologue, a group is much more likely to be focused, assign tasks, set timelines, and produce results.

    Problem #2: Things get personal. People misunderstand each other, and feelings are hurt for example, “He’s impossible to deal with” “She doesn’t care about kids, just her ego” and “He thinks he’s so smart with his National Board certification, but he doesn’t know anything about my classroom.” Solution: Establish and enforce group norms. “Not everyone on a team or committee will want to be best friends, but personal attacks, criticisms, and judgments cannot be tolerated,” says Strathman. Ground rules govern the time, place, and manner of group members’ behavior. Some examples:

  • Be on time;

  • Cell phones off;

  • Avoid restating what’s already been said;

  • Use “Yes, but…” to build on areas of agreement;

  • State disagreements by focusing on known facts, not judgments about people.

    Of course ground rules are worthless unless they’re enforced. Sometimes the leader has to make a statement like, “Sam, instead of referring to the 1st-grade teachers in your building as ‘incompetent,’ let’s home in on possible issues related to the curriculum. What skills do students lack as they enter second grade?”

    Problem #3: Members have group-related conversations outside of meeting times. This can signal that some members don’t feel heard or validated during meetings and feel the need to argue their points or do their complaining off-line. “As factions coalesce, bonding over gossip or feelings of superiority, exclusion, or unfairness, teams can begin to split,” says Strathman. Solution: The leader holds group members accountable for bringing up issues at meetings and pushes back when they bring up issues off-line.

    Problem #4: Discussions are lackluster, important angles aren’t explored, some members dominate, dissent is not heard, and the group goes off on tangents. Solution: Team leaders need to dig deeper, ask for examples, flush out underlying assumptions, and give weight to dissenting viewpoints – for example, “I’m intrigued by Jennifer’s comment, which seems to run counter to the group’s general opinion. Jennifer, what assumptions are you operating under?”

“Making Team Differences Work” by Beth Strathman in Educational Leadership, April 2015 (Vol. 72, #7, p. 60-64), http://bit.ly/1D68x4b; Strathman can be reached at beth@bethstrathman.com.

2. The Characteristics of a Good Professional Dialogue

(Originally titled “The Art of Dialogue”)

In this Educational Leadership article, Oscar Graybill (Socratic Seminars International)

and Lois Brown Easton (author/consultant/coach) describe four types of interaction, each of which has its place:

  • Conversations – convivial, casual, friendly talk about personal and social matters;

  • Discussions – there’s a purpose, often to make a decision; people may choose sides;

  • Debate – a structured form of discussion in which the format dictates taking sides;

  • Dialogue – people inquiring into ideas and building their understanding of an issue without pressure to choose a side, be “right,” or make a decision.

    “When members of a group are just trying to understand an issue, they may find that dialogue is all they need,” say Graybill and Easton. “Dialogue doesn’t just happen naturally; educators must consciously learn and practice it.” Here are their guidelines for a group engaging in a productive dialogue:

  • Group members speak for themselves, not trying to represent others’ views.

  • Members avoid making grand pronouncements, instead connecting what they know and believe to their experiences, influences in their lives, and particular sources of information.

  • Members refrain from characterizing others’ views in a critical spirit, keeping in mind that the goal is to understand, not persuade.

  • Members listen with resilience, “hanging in” when they hear something that’s hard to hear.

  • Members don’t stay confused; they ask for clarification when it’s needed.

  • Members don’t raise their hands; they take turns speaking and listen to what others are saying.

  • Members share airtime and refrain from interrupting others.

  • Members can “pass” or “pass for now” without needing to justify themselves.

  • Members discuss ideas rather than one another’s opinions.

  • Members talk with one another, not just the leader.

  • Members respect confidentiality.

“The Art of Dialogue” by Oscar Graybill and Lois Brown Easton in Educational Leadership, April 2015 (Vol. 72, #7, online only), http://bit.ly/1yLMzZp; Graybill can be reached at Oscar@socraticseminars.com, Easton at leastoners@aol.com.

3. Basic Steps for Handling Difficult Conversations

(Originally titled “10 Tips for Tackling Tough Conversations”)

In this Educational Leadership article, school counselor Brett Novick (Rutgers University) has these suggestions for high-stress, high-stakes encounters:

Begin with the end in mind. What’s the desired outcome?

Seat people strategically. Sitting side by side can make all the difference.

Let the other person speak first. This way you can find points of agreement.

Allow silences. Don’t prattle. Let important points sink in.

Listen. Try to understand the underlying emotions. Don’t rush in with suggestions.

Look under the anger. “You must be sad about how you feel your child was treated.”

Decide whether an issue is worth fighting for. A setback now might help long-term.

Don’t try to reason with angry people. Get them calmed down first.

Cover yourself legally. It’s sometimes helpful to have a colleague present.

Avoid trigger words and phrases. These include can’t, won’t, never, always, problem child. Rather than, “Your kid is chronically absent”, say, “Your child has been out 15 days.” Using phrases like “Help me understand…” is a good tactic.

“10 Tips for Tackling Tough Conversations” by Brett Novick in Educational Leadership, April 2015 (Vol. 72, #7, p. 80-81), http://bit.ly/1P5OCer; Novick can be reached at iambrettj@gmail.com.

Trivia Answers

  1. Earvin
  2. Lower
  3. 42...my age!
  4. Anne of Green Gables

Have a Great Day!