Monday, May 16, 2011

Difficult Economic Times

As you are all aware, due to difficult economic times, our proposed budget for the 2011-2012 school year has been negatively impacted.  Required reductions, as well as a smaller school population means that we have lost teaching and support positions, equipment updates, as well as other budgetary line items.  This situation is true of most school departments throughout Maine and we can only hope that the economic outlook will begin to improve in the not too distant future.

It would be naive to assume that our functionality as a high school will not be impacted by the cuts.  We have always worked to submit a budget that will be of benefit to our students and the programs offered.  Our measuring stick has been to insure that all proposals are initiated by a desire to provide our students with an educational experience that will best prepare them for the rigors of their lives after high school.  Working to better prepare all students for what they will face must be of paramount importance as our world has become a demanding and competitive  stage upon which our students will need to perform.  Providing our students with the most appropriate and useful tools needed in this arena is a goal that must be maintained. 

Despite the necessary reductions the doors of Brunswick High School will once again open in September.  I remain confident that our school will continue to provide our students with a quality educational experience.  Our teachers and staff will remain dedicated to creating and maintaining a culture of excellence.  The majority of our students will work hard to complete the required academic work while maintaining a safe and appropriate learning environment. 

Money has never been the driving force behind school success.  If our teachers were driven by the desire to get rich they entered the wrong profession.  If economic times solely drove the success or failure of schools, budgetary concerns would not be a discussion point.  Dedication and commitment to instructing young adults will always be the linchpin of public education. The joy of seeing a student mature both academically and socially is the intangible that allows for the feeling of satisfaction that motivates the professional educator.  I sincerely hope that this will always be the case.

We have taken a hit economically but the quality of instruction will continue.  Please rest assured that our teachers and staff simply can not do it any other way.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beginning Semester Two

With much to do I have been remiss in my attempt to keep this blog current.  Many things have been happening at BHS and it is important to emphasize the importance of the second half of the school year.

For the most part, our students have been cooperative and demonstrated outstanding effort in the classroom.  They are mature and good natured, while exhibiting a fine work ethic.  They make our school a fine place to learn and teach.  I am sincerely grateful for their commitment.  

As good as their efforts have been, we remain excited about potential student improvement. Our student body should take advantage of every opportunity at BHS and to make the most of the academic programs made available to all.  Our teachers provide an environment that is conducive to learning and all students have the ability to learn and to grow as young adults.

We are hopeful that all BHS students will improve during the second semester.  The most important thing that a student can do to improve is to come to class prepared.  This simple strategy will result in higher grades and greater mastery of the content. Our teachers recognize this effort and applaud student initiative. 

I hope to improve as well.  By working hard to prepare this blog at regular intervals I intend to keep you abreast of educational issues, concerns, and achievements.  Thanks for your patience. Please have a productive and enjoyable second semester.


Friday, September 24, 2010

A Great Start

The start of the school year has been a good one.  Our students, along with faculty and staff, quickly settled in to a productive routine with positive things happening in all classrooms.  

Despite a few days of oppressive heat, our students did not complain, but made the best of a somewhat uncomfortable learning environment.  Teachers throughout the building consistently expressed that students remained positive and cooperative.  When things like this happen, we can only be successful in our efforts to address the needs of all students.

Our decision to add an additional lunch period has been well received.  The cafeteria is less crowded and the students have a longer time to relax and enjoy the lunch break. Thanks to our food service department members for helping us to make this a smooth transition. 

The Parental Access Support System (PASS) is fully operational.  Letters with the required student identification numbers have been sent home.  The first progress reports will be posted by Friday, October 1, 2010.  With the assistance of the Brunswick School Department Technology Systems Department we are hopeful that the system will function more efficiently this year and that our teachers will be expanding the information available.  Please contact teachers involved with your student if you need additional information.

As we head into our Homecoming Week we are excited about the spirit of cooperation and commitment demonstrated by all.  This positive environment can only enhance the learning opportunities that are provided to all students.

Thanks for your assistance and continued support.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Fresh Start With Much To Do.

As the days of summer draw to a close and we anxiously await the arrival of our students and teachers, I am once again reminded that each new school year provides a fresh start for all involved in the educational process.  All educational stakeholders look to the new school year knowing that they have a blank slate to record a time of success, change, challenge, difficulty, humor, exploration, and relationships. A colleague reminded me recently that the field of education is one of the few professions where those involved have the opportunity to truly begin again each September. By looking at what we do with a sense of optimism and opportunity our students may realize their potential. Each individual needs to complete this phase of their educational experience in a manner that will provide them with the tools needed to take the next step in their journey as life-long learners.

We have much to deal with to come into compliance with federal and state initiatives. Response to Intervention, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, Gifted and Talented programs, Special Education Regulations, the Race To The Top program, the expectations of the No Child Left Behind legislation and meeting Adequate Yearly Progress, as well as how to use technology in the classroom are just some of the issues that schools must prepare for. 

While addressing the many issues that are required of us we must not forget that we are, first and foremost, an institution of high learning.  The most critical things that we do take place in the classroom during the interactions between teachers and students.  Learning opportunities take place everyday and those very precious moments can not be wasted.  The world that our kids will be stepping into is changing rapidly. To be prepared for that changing world, our students must build a foundation that will be sturdy enough to support their futures, while being expansive enough to allow for adaptation and change.  The most important ingredient in this educational aggregate is effective learning. T.H. White says it best in The Once and Future King,

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn . . . "is to learn something.  This is the only thing that never fails.  You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, . . . you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds.  There is only one thing for it then --- to learn.  Learn why the world wags and what wags it.  That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.  Learning is the thing for you."

I look forward to a new school year, and may the learning begin.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Now That We Have the Technology, How Do We Use It?

As the use of technology grows, and the related devices become more sophisticated, schools must decide "best practices" for the classroom.  We are responsible for determining not only the when of technology usage, but the how as well.  Smartphones, social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, and the use of Web 2.0 are all factors in how technology is potentially incorporated into the educational process.

This issue is one that schools across the country are dealing with.  On my Personal Learning Network (PLN), I have been in touch with administrators from every region of the continent and all are diligently trying to determine the approach that will be of most benefit to students.  We cannot ignore the learning potential that technology can enhance, while being aware that the very same technology can be detrimental to student achievement.

As we all discuss and explore this new territory, I would like to recommend that you consider two publications of interest.  The first is The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr and Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation by Don Tapscott.  In my opinion these two books provide information that can be of help in understanding the issues that schools face. 


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Parental Access Support System (PASS)

We have just completed our first full year using the Parental Access Support System or PASS.  The purpose in using this system is to provide parents and students with academic progress and other important information via the Internet.  By providing easy access, students and parents can readily obtain a "snapshot" view of academic progress as well as other pertinent classroom information at any time.

Overall the process worked well.  I received many complimentary comments and supportive feedback that were helpful and encouraging.  We also experienced difficulties with technology and user errors that resulted in frustration and delays.

During this "shakedown cruise" the hard work of many individuals resulted in a much improved product by the end of the school year.  We learned a great deal and our teachers have become more adept and confident in  the use of this reporting system.  We are optimistic that the 2010-2011 school year will be much improved, resulting in a level of communication that is of benefit to our students and their parents.  I greatly appreciate your patience as we continue our efforts to improve our reporting system.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Some Books Are Better Than Others

As an educator I spend a great deal of time reviewing publications that relate to our profession. Today there is no shortage of authors who are convinced that they have found the cure to the ills that plague public schools.  Most writers are well meaning in their attempts to provide the treatments that will help the patient to rise out of the sick bed and into recovery, otherwise known in education as improved student achievement. 

Occasionally I run across a book that is the exception to the "run of the mill" educational publication.  One such publication iItalics The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner.  Mr. Wagner is the co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has served as a consultant to many schools and school districts.

This publication touches on the practical needs of schools, students, teachers, and administrators.  Mr. Wagner's comfortable writing style, and his ability to relate his own experiences to the everyday reality of school, quickly engages the interested reader. 

I am not trying to be a book critic.  The book speaks for itself. The potential impact of this publication on improving the nature of effective instructional change is considerable. My goal is to have all of the teachers at Brunswick High School study the book during the summer months and to be prepared to discuss how we can use the tenets included to shrink the achievement gap. 

 Please consider reading The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner.  If you are interested in understanding how schools can better prepare students for the post-secondary experience, or the world of work,  you will appreciate this book.