#HCSD1 – A New Day

The first day of school will be a very different experience.  It won’t be the first day we’ve come to expect; it won’t be a typical first day.

First of all, thank you to our teachers.  Your unwavering skill and dedication have our district prepare for eLearning this week and, hopefully, hybrid very soon.  Teachers are essential workers, and you have responded to this challenge.

Our support staff and administrators have been working endless hours preparing for multiple instructional modes.  The team has rebuilt schedules, and class lists shifted 3,000+ students into an online academy and managed daily changes in conditions.  Our bus drivers will assist with classroom preparations for hybrid; our food service team is ready for delivery this week and boxed meals in hybrid.  It’s a new day in how we provide support and services.

Finally, to our parents and community, thank you.  Our schools are the cornerstone of our Hilliard Community.  Covid-19 has disrupted all our lives; the impact from a school perspective is significant.  We appreciate your patience with ever-changing plans and short notification periods.  We share in your frustration and understand your desire for consistency.

I wish I could promise consistency in our school schedule, but that’s not possible.  Our motivation is to get students in school, with their teachers, as soon as safely possible.  Our commitment is to be open with our communications and transparent in our decision-making process.  We will change when state orders and public health officials dictate; we remain student-focused and intentional in our decisions.

This isn’t the first day we hoped for, but it is our first day.  As a teacher shared last week, “We’ve got this.”  Let’s not lament what’s lost but celebrate what we have.  

Teachers and students will connect beginning tomorrow.  We start a journey together –  a journey that will have ups and downs.  Our Power of the Team, our values, will keep us on course.  Together, we’ve got this! 

The Amazing Power of Grace

As school districts across the country embark on a new, uncharted journey, each of us must embrace the need for grace.  It is amazing how grace –  courteous goodwill – changes our perspective.

The COVID-19 Crisis has put all of us, from the most discipline to the hyperemotional, on edge.  Our lives have been disrupted in unimaginable ways.  Yesterday’s routine, daily activities are only memories.  A friendly hug when we see an old friend, a firm handshake with a new acquaintance, or simply grabbing a cup of coffee with a colleague are remembrances from a seemingly different era.  

For schools, small reading groups on the carpet, a student section cheering at a football game, or the joyful noise from a packed lunchroom will be eerily missing from the school experience.

As we prepare for the unknown, as we respond to rapidly evolving information about this virus, uncertainty and change will be part of our school life.  No one week will be like the next; schedules, bus times, and instructional tools will be in a continuous flux state.  School officials will do their best; we will communicate what we know when we know it.

Keeping our students safe, keeping them in school is going to require flexibility and adaptability.  For families that depend on regular childcare, this year is going to be stressful and exhausting.  A single class or a school building could be placed into eLearning, quarantined, with short notice.  Games may be suddenly canceled for students, and teachers may need to shift assignments due to changing learning modalities.

We must respond to each challenge with compassion and empathy.  A school district’s changes are not from lack of planning or communication; everyone is doing their best during an unprecedented global pandemic. Moreover, on our end, our teachers and staff will give our students and parents the same grace – the same courteous goodwill.

We are all seemingly feel lost as we respond to this time’s events, but we will all be found as we work together.

Purpose-Driven Educators

“This isn’t what I signed up for.”

While just background noise on the television, I heard a reporter interviewing a classroom teacher. The teacher, holding a sign that read “No Vaccine, No School!” spoke with impulsive emotion.

Unlike doctors, educators don’t take an oath before taking the job. After years of training, educators are granted a license by the state and hired by a district. Nevertheless, there is a covenant – an implicit promise – that elite educators keep. We serve our students; we take all reasonable means to prepare the next generation.  In short, we stand up and own our actions; we make a difference every day.

Just two short years ago, our district conducted a full-scale safety drill with police and first responders. With colleagues made-up to mimic wounded victims and others blockading doors to keep out a violent intruder – the exercise was frightening. We didn’t sign-up to be educators to prevent a deadly shooting in our schools, but we answer the call to be prepared for the unimaginable.  We pray our training will never be necessary, but we are ready to respond with skill.

A well-documented story unfolded just three years ago when a student was discovered plotting and recruiting co-conspirators, for a mass shooting event. We didn’t sign-up to foil violent incidents, but we answer the bell to prevent tragedy. We’ve had sharpshooters on buildings during homecoming football games and undercover law enforcement at pep rallies. As educators, we do what’s required of us. We serve and keep our students safe.

Our commitment to our students’ social-emotional needs is codified in our policies, plans, and goals. Mental health and well-being are targeted focus areas- a focus equal to academic progress and physical health. Teachers are counselors; they are guides on a student’s journey. Many didn’t “sign-up” to be a wellness counselor, but it is now an essential job requirement.

We prepare our students for success in a rapidly changing world. Our jobs – our commitment as educators – have new demands every year. Covid-19 has rocked our world. This virus is going to be part of our lives for years to come. Nearly every aspect of normal-life has been disrupted; we have all been impacted in many ways.

There is nothing fair about what we are facing today; we are all experiencing a loss. We grieve for the security and certainty we crave. Some people are fearful of the future, while others more willingly accept a certain level of risk. Professional adults are struggling with reality – and now, more than ever, our students need us.

No one signed-up for living in a world with Covid-19; we are amid a global pandemic. Our implicit promise – as professionals – is that we serve our students. We take every reasonable step to meet their social, emotional, and academic needs. We act with purpose and skill; we are meticulous in our planning and steadfast with our safety precautions. We demand social distancing, barriers, and masks. As professionals, we step-up and answer the bell.  Our community has a renewed appreciation for our profession.  I continue to be impressed with the work of our teachers.  As one teacher said to me today, “we’ve got this.”

I didn’t sign up for this, but I will do what is required of me during a time of great crisis.  We are purpose-driven and focused on children.

Press Pause . . . It can make all the difference.

In times of crisis, when emotions are high, it is increasingly essential that we Press Pause to make the best possible decisions.

Press Pause

The current COVID-19 crisis creates unprecedented Events in our daily lives. We are managing strong emotions – loss, isolation, and fear. When we act base on emotion – rather than intention – we don’t achieve the desired outcomes.

We intentionally focus on health and safety; we save lives by being disciplined in our responses.  This work isn’t easy; we are living in historic times.  How we respond to this crisis, and how we recover from it, will determine our future.

Teachers change the world, one child, at a time.

IMG_0026Our society’s most important investment in the future is in our children.  The resources we put into our public schools, the work our teachers do in our classrooms, are the single most important factor in America’s future success.

Each child in our public schools has the potential to have a positive influence in the future.  Each individual student is a work in progress . . . our teachers are shaping our tomorrow.  We can provide the foundation of knowledge and support the development of values.

Our teachers are creating and building tomorrow one student at a time.  There is nothing more important!

Your ability to adjust and adapt in response to change, and to do so quickly in a positive & proactive way, is an essential skill in today’s world. – Tim Kight

In Hilliard, we teach our students about the R-Factor. We teach them E + R = O. We can’t control the Events in our lives; all we can control is our Response, which determines the Outcome. Our ability to “adapt and adjust” is essential in achieving successful outcomes.

Adapt and AdjustOur current crisis amplifies the need to “adapt and adjust” quickly. We identify new challenges every day. We don’t know when or if we will return to our school buildings this school year. We don’t know when it will be safe to gather for Graduation Celebrations with the Class of 2020. We know there will be a time to transition back toward normal, but we don’t know when or with what restrictions.

Your Hilliard School Leaders are considering many different options. We will be ready if we return to our buildings in early May or if we don’t return to traditional classrooms this school year. We will adapt and adjust to changing health conditions. Our district follows the leadership of Governor DeWine. The health and safety of our community is our priority.

We won’t get it right every time. We will adapt and adjust to the ever-changing time with purpose and skill. Please know, we make each decision with positive intent and with the most current information. Hilliard embraces change; we live our values. Adapting to change is a skill – a skill we value and teach our students.

Do not let the circumstances alter your faith.  Let your faith alter the circumstances.  – Jon Gordon

Faith . . . complete and unwavering trust and confidence . . . the seeds of our beliefs are our faith.

FaithWe have spiritual faith, we have a personal faith, and we have faith in others.  We have faith in ourselves, our abilities, and our values.  Strong faith leads to strong behavior and ultimately leads to successful results.  Weakness in our faith, cracks in our armor, leads to weak behavior and poor results.

When things get tough having faith in our purpose, having faith in our service to others, gets us through the tough times.  When organizations are tested, having faith in our team gets us through the challenges.

Don’t let the craziness of the world around you alter your faith.  Lean on your faith, lean on your team, and win each moment.

I never expect to see a perfect work from an imperfect man. – Alexander Hamilton

Originally post in December 2017

None of us is perfect . . . we should never expect perfection from anyone. When we Hamilton 2expect perfection, either from people in public life or people with whom we have personal relationships, we are only setting ourselves up for disappointment. We all make mistakes; if we aren’t making mistakes, we aren’t trying new things.

What we can expect are honesty and values; we are compelled to expect alignment to a shared vision and purpose. Our district has been intentional, purposeful in aligning our values and behavior. We talk about and more importantly strive to model, our focus and commitment to our culture. We all fall short from time to time, but our commitment to the team inspires support and caring.

I never expect to see perfection because we are all imperfect. It’s easy for people to be critical – especially when they are hiding in anonymity behind their keyboards in the safety of their home. It’s easy to point out other people’s flaws. It takes work, it takes effort to learn from mistakes and live our Power of the Team. We accept our Stand Up and Own it approach to leading a district and learning in classrooms. We own our behavior, learn from failing-fast, and live our lives in humble imperfection.

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today. – Abraham Lincoln

One of the greatest responsibilities in public education is change. We, as the educators preparing students to be successful in the future, are obligated to change our methods to meet the future needs of students. Change is part of the world today; we can’t hold on to the past and hope it returns.

I continue to be befuddled by those who yearn for the past, those who truly believe “the good old days” will somehow miraculously return. As educators, the simple truth is manufacturing jobs are not coming back, our students aren’t going to need twentieth-century skills, and technology will continue to accelerate at a dizzying pace. The best 1980’s school is a failure today.

We can’t escape the responsibility of change. For us to live our mission, for us to prepare each student to be Ready for Tomorrow, we must embrace the discomfort of change. We will discuss and debate our methods. We reflect on our practices; we keep what is working, improve where we can improve, and toss what is outdated.

Originally Posted in February 2018

First, think. Second, dream. Third, believe. And finally, dare. – Walt Disney

Originally posted in March 2018, we continue to dream today of a better future and dare to embrace the productive discomfort required to ensure Hilliard students are Ready for Tomorrow.

Our public education system faces many challenges. Keeping our children safe has become a topic for legislators and our national news media. Mental health issues continue to mount for the children in our classrooms. We lack alignment between our educational purpose and what’s required to prepare students for future success. We balance the costs of a high quality education with the reality of the tax burden on our residents.

It’s time to stop accepting the status quo; it’s our time to create the education we desire for our students. It’s our time in Hilliard; it’s our time to think, dream, believe, and finally dare to be the change we want to see. Yesterday’s education isn’t preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s success. It’s time to dare. Together we think and dream; we hypothesize and fail as a team. We are the dream builders; we are the believers. We dare and we succeed.