Simply Beautiful 

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. – Steve Jobs
As leaders, this message is incredibly important two reasons. First of all, it’s important for us in our own thinking. We need to press pause, get our mind right, and work hard to get our thinking clean. For us, that clean thinking is essential in the work we do. Secondly, we strive to lead others. Leadership is about service; it’s about motivating others to reach higher. It is much more effective to communicate the simple; it is easier for other to be motivated by simplicity.
Our work is simple. We want each student in our care to reach his or her highest potential. We want to personalize education – it is about the students in our buildings. Every student matters; every student deserves a personalized learning experience. 
I have your first challenge for the day . . . work hard to make the complex more simple. Today, when you press pause, take a moment as your get your mind right to simplify the problem. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

When do you push?

When do you push?

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. David Warren, President of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Dr. Warren marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. His narrative would bring you to tears; his passion is evident in every word he shares. In our conversation David asked, “Where do you find the place that you put your foot in the ground and push?”  

So I ask you, “Where do you find the place that you place your foot in the ground and push?”Do you push when I ask something of you that is makes your blood boil? Can you speak truth to power? Do you push when an adult is more concerned about comfort rather than students?

What does it take for you to put your foot in the ground?

From me to you . . . I want you to find the place where you push. I want you to be passionate, to be confident, and to be willing to push back. From education to leadership, from individual rights to curriculum, you should trust your inner core.  

When you press pause . . . when you get your mind right . . . what is your inner compass? Are you willing to place your foot in the ground and push?

We are a team; we are only as strong our collective commitment. When we are aligned, focused, and pushing together we can do anything. It all starts with you.

Pursue Your Passion

Pursue Your Passion

Do you love your job? Do you have passion for the work when you get up in the morning?

If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” how can you make changes? As Steve Jobs reminds us, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

I love my job. I am passionate about the work that we do together. I truly believe we are shaping the future; we are preparing thousands of young people to be successful in the future. As an educational leader, I am blessed with the opportunity to work with an exceptional team. I get to work with friends who inspire me, with colleagues who push me to be better, and with professionals who model true servant leadership. Honestly, there are a panoply of reasons that I am eager to get to work.

Nevertheless, there are parts of any job that challenge us. There are parts of my job that I don’t enjoy – there are tasks and responsibilities associated with being a superintendent that are simply work. You know what? It’s simply reality. I am sure the same is true for you; there are parts of your job that drive you crazy. There may be parts of your job – at given times and days – that the “grind” of your jobs clouds your passion for the work you love to do.

Today, when you encounter part of the job that brings you down – right now, as you reflect on the things that you may be dreading when you get to work – press pause. This is when it is most important to “get your mind right.” It is important to schedule time – to create opportunities – to do pursue your passion for the work. Do not permit “the work” to take the joy out of your day. It takes skill, it is intentional, and it is on purpose . . . feed your passion. Get out into a classroom . . . talk with a student . . . coach a teacher to be better. Regardless of the activity, take time each and every day to do what you love. It’s the only way to be great!

Let’s Invent Tomorrow

Ready for Tomorrow . . . It is on every building we enter; it is part of our official mission statement. We don’t espouse to have students “ready for yesterday.” We don’t strive to prepare these young people to be “ready for today.” We are preparing our students for jobs that may not even exist. We are teaching our students both academic and life skills; our students must be prepared with a solid foundation of academic skills, persistent in their approach, and relentless in their passion for growth.
Think about the changes in almost every aspect of your life over the past decade. From the doctor’s office to the post office, from the auto mechanic to bank, almost every aspect of our lives has been impacted by technology. We deposit check on our iPhones, we give our church offering online, and we monitor health information on a tablet. We order books online – and they instantaneously appear on our devices. We sync, link, and share data in nanoseconds. We can’t even imagine the world a decade from now . . . and that is the future for today’s students.
Change is challenging, but we are committed to embrace productive discomfort. Public schools are our country’s future; we are the dream makers for the next generation of American leaders. We need to step-up and step-out of our comfort zone. We need to examine how we organize and prepare students for the future. What prepared us to be adults in 2016 may not be the best to prepare students for 2026, 2036, and 2046. For us, it’s about our passion for growth. It’s about our commitment to learn new methods, explore new opportunities, and seek new paths.
Let’s celebrate our past, but realize it isn’t the path to the future. We must model a relentless pursuit of excellence.

Persistence and Determination are Omnipotent

Persistence and Determination are Omnipotent

Calvin Coolidge is credited with saying, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
As an educational leader I can promise one thing . . . I am persistent and I am determined. In my heart of hearts and soul of souls, in my unchangeable core, I believe that public education is the silver bullet. I believe that public education makes dreams come true; public education stirs imagination and cultivates creativity.
Yes, we are talented and educated – so are the educators at every other public district in the area. Yes, there are some of us with high IQs and exceptional talent. What is going to make us better is our relentless pursuit of excellence. What is going to take us to higher levels is our determination. We won’t back down . . . we won’t accept the status quo. This can’t be about autopilot – this must be about purpose and intentionality.
We will make people uncomfortable – embrace it. We will face obstacles – overcome them. We will have hurdled places in our path – clear them. It’s too important for us to fold to opposition. It’s too important for us to take the path of least resistance. We must be persistent and determined.

Curiosity Keeps us Moving

It is great to respect the past.  As Edmund Burke advises, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

The past gives us perspective, but we are not preparing today’s students for the past.  We are preparing today’s students for tomorrow.  We are preparing students today to be successful adults in the 2030’s and 2040’s.  

We are changing education . . . we are challenging the status quo.  We are creating productive discomfort for many teachers, parents, and students.  Our passion for growth is going to take us to a different level – you must be ready.  Our relentless pursuit of excellence is going to challenge many of the traditional expectations of public education – it’s “go time.”

Our agrarian calendar, our school day, organizing students by born on date, competency based grades . . . I am curious.  I want to lead us down a new path . . . I want to ask questions, open new doors, and do new things.  I believe we have an amazing future; we are going to reach new heights.

We will know our history, we will embrace our traditions, and we will respect those who have come before us.  We will continue to move forward and to do new things. 

Leadership matter . . . You are a catalyst for change.  Stop for one moment . . . this is about you . . . change begins with you.  Don’t embrace the past – respect it. 

Be curious- take the new path!


Adversity makes us stronger

Adversity makes us stronger

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my trouble and obstacles, have strengthen me . . . You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” – Walt Disney

Stop for a moment and think . . . think about a time in your life when you faced a challenge or experience failure. There have been many failures in my life; I have made innumerable mistakes. In reflection, each failure has provided valuable lessons; each mistake has opened my eyes. I’ve identified my own weaknesses, I’ve battled my own inner-demons. Life is a battle to live Above the Line each and every day.

Our journey is littered by troubles and obstacles. We are measured by what we’ve learned and overcome. We are dreamers . . . and some of those dreams have faded into only memories. We have imagined parts of a future that has only paled in comparison to our mind’s eye. Here’s the thing . . . those unrealized dreams have shaped our minds. Our imagination has led to deeper thoughts and important self-talk. We are better because of our dreams; we are more productive due to our imagination.

Never permit yourself to accept failure. Never get kicked in the teeth and stay down – get back up! Learn from the better Angels in your life . . . embrace the obstacles as lessons . . . be open to every event as an opportunity to learn and grow. Life’s a journey . . . we are on it together. It isn’t easy, but we have faith, we continue to have hope, and we continue to love and support one another.




Doing the Impossible

Reality . . . this morning is a huge does of reality.

Two weeks of sleeping just a little later, spending time with family and friends, and celebrating holiday traditions has abruptly come to an end. That alarm was like a bucket of cold water . . . it is back to our journey. It’s back to living our calling – to making a difference in the lives of children each and every day.

In my judgement, this is the hardest part of the school year. The time between early January and spring break is truly a grind. The cold weather, the holiday “let down”, and the long road ahead can become overwhelming. This is the time it is so important that we intentionally avoid BCD (Blame, Complain, Defend). Now is the time for our culture . . . for our values . . . to purposefully drive our behavior. We are stronger together; the work we do is too important for us to miss opportunities to shape the future.

Walt Disney said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” As teachers, administrators, bus drivers, and support staff we achieve the impossible every day. We ask you – in your 20 square feet – to Stand up & Own it, to Think we not me, and to live with a Passion for Growth.

Our work is difficult; we will face adversity and challenges. What is important is that we will stay focused, we continue to learn and improve, and we make the impossible, possible. We teach students to read, we guide students to reach higher, and we prepare students to be successful adults.

Our work isn’t easy; it’s too important to be easy. You have been chosen, trained, and empowered to shape the future for our students. You are the best of the best. Together, as a team, we get to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

Hilliard’s a great place to work and learn – let’s do the impossible together.

Respond to Positive Events

How you respond to positive events is just as important as how you respond to challenging events.

We experience many positive events in our lives each and every day. These positive events require an Above the Line response from us. Positive E’s still require us to press pause, get our minds right, and step up.

Think about it . . . when someone else makes a difference, when someone else creates a positive experience for us, what does it say about us if we don’t press pause and take the time to enjoy the experience. If we simply respond to positive events on autopilot we are living below the line. If we are resistant giving thanks, if we are impulsive with greed and a desire for more, we are Below the Line.

We must be grateful for the blessing we receive each and every day. We must be intentional in sharing our thanks and purposeful in creating an environment where we savor positive events. Our work is too difficult to not enjoy and celebrate our victories. The outcome of living a life Above the Line is a culture and environment that continues to build, grow, and improve.

As we break for the holidays I want to say “thank you” to each of you for being in my life. Working with you is the greatest professional joy of my career; I am truly inspired by you. You make me want to continue to get better each and every day.

I have a challenge for you. As you reflect over break – as you find yourself in a moment of self-talk and purposeful thinking about 2015, as you hear others make resolutions for 2016, and as you make personal resolutions – take some time to think about all of the positive events that have taken place already this year. Get your mind right about the positive direction we are heading; savor the victories. Yes, we will continue to embrace the productive discomfort that is inherent in living our passion for growth. We will also take the time to relish the joy we all find in our work, to be grateful for our leadership family, and to learn together as we continue to live each day Above the Line.

Belief Activates Action

Belief ignites and activates. It gives you full access to your talents and abilities. Under competitive pressure, strong belief will pull your performance up; weak belief will pull it down.

When you believe, you step up. Belief leads to action . . . It goes beyond words.

When your beliefs are part of your inner core, when your beliefs are in your heart and soul, your talent is amplified.

It must be happening in you before it can happen though you . . . You must believe.

You must first belief in you; you must be confident that you have trained, you have prepared, and you have a purpose. You must have faith in your ability to respond with intentionality, on purpose, and skillfully to any given situation. You must believe that you are going to be better today than you were yesterday.

First and foremost, unequivocally, you are your leader. It’s not up to me; it’s up to you. Others will follow you, others will be inspired by you, and others will experience you but you must first believe in yourself to be successful.

Secondly, knowing our leadership family – our team – is training together, that we collectively believe in a shared vision, and that we are committed to relentlessly pursue excellence together, we have a bond, a belief in each other.

You aren’t alone – we are stronger together.