The Principals' Office Blog

Countdown to Summer

As the end of the school year draws near, we’d like to hear about what’s going through your mind. Here’s this month’s My Two Cents question from Principal magazine: What’s the most difficult part of closing out the school year and what do you most look forward to as the school year comes to an end?
Here’s what some of you have responded:
What I most look forward to as the school year comes to an end is seeing the growth of the students and the progress they have made throughout the year. And then, of course—summer vacation!
Tammy D. CondrenPrincipalMarion C. Early ElementaryMorrisville, Missouri
One of my two schools of which I am the principal is closing due to budget issues. The children whose school is closing are all coming to my other school, which is 10 minutes away. Therefore, I am looking forward to having all of my students together on one campus. The difficult part of closing will be not having a place for all of the outstanding teachers and staff who will be placed in other schools. Some staff will make little money and have a long drive from where they live. Tough times call for tough decisions and my heart goes out to all that are losing an integral part of their community.
Susan Summers PersisPrincipalW. F. Burns Oak Hill ElementaryIndian River ElementaryEdgewater and Oak Hill, Florida
Let us know your two cents!

NAESP Election “Goes Electronic” With eBallots

NAESP election time is fast approaching for the 2009 membership year. This year’s election will “go electronic” and use eBallots! We are very excited about this important transition to online voting. We hope this change will make it easier for our eligible members to vote and increase the overall voter turnout.
The positions being filled this year are president-elect, Zone 5 director, Zone 7 director, and Zone 9 director. Read each candidate’s bio on the NAESP Web site and look out for an e-mail on/around April 14, which will direct you to a secure Web page at VoteNet, our election provider.
Good luck to all candidates!

Farewell, New Orleans

The Delegate Assembly is held on the last morning of the convention. The main business at hand is to approve the constitutional changes that have been recommended by the resolutions committee. One of the key items to be voted on this year is electronic voting for national office, which passed.
Also during the Delegate Assembly, outgoing members of the NAESP Board of Directors are given a token of appreciation from their states.
I have considered it an honor to have had the privilege to act as the NAESP convention blogger. I hope that in some small way my contribution to the blog has been helpful to you. My best to you as you finish your school year!

Day 4 of Convention Doesn't Disappoint

This morning, I started my day bright and early at the Zone 7 breakfast. We have an election for Zone 7 director this year and have two very good candidates from which to choose. South Dakota was the host and did a wonderful job. One of the cool parts of the breakfast is the state giveaways. Each state brings something from their state (e.g., artwork, book) and names are selected to win these prizes. I would encourage anyone to attend their zone breakfast if given the opportunity.
My first concurrent session for today was titled "Teaching 2.0: Learning & Leading in the Digital Age." The presenter did a very good job of talking about the technology that is being used in his school, but also shared thoughts about how technology can be better utilized. One analogy that he shared showed a plate full of food. The initial idea is that our plates are too full already to try and use technology in education. His point is that technology should not be another piece of food but should be seen as the spices that go into making the food taste better. Technology should be a way to enhance, not add to, education.
The Third General Session speaker was Jeff Corwin. He is the well-known conservationist who, amongst other endeavors, hosts the TV show The Jeff Corwin Experience. Before he began speaking, the new chief executive director for the National Parent Teacher Organization, Byron Garrett, briefly greeted the group. Wow! I have to tell you that I was very impressed. I was able to give him my business card-I thought the national PTA might like to include some information regarding PTO in my state association publication.
Corwin shared his passion for our world and especially the natural resources that, in his words, "our world has been blessed with." He encouraged principals to do all that we can to help promote the cause of conservationism through education in our schools.
After lunch, I attended a session titled "When Consequences Don't Work: Succeeding With Difficult Students." This may have been one of the more practical sessions I have attended regarding useable strategies. I am very interested in getting Conscious Classroom Management, a book written by the presenter. A major premise is that behavior should be taught step by step, just as in teaching mathematics. When expectations are clear, the art of effective instruction can begin.
My last official activity for the day was to attend the National Distinguished Principals Reunion. I had the good fortune to have been named the 2008 NDP for North Dakota. I can't begin to tell you how impressed I am with my peers, and after getting to know them better I was even more humbled to have been given the opportunity to a part of that group. Thanks to NAESP for lining up this reunion!

Behind the Scenes, "Lap-top Time," and Networking

I want to begin today by putting in a plug for the staff at NAESP. I sat in the staff’s headquarters office for a little while on Friday as I waited to talk to one of the staff members. I have to tell you that there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes than one could ever imagine. I won’t mention names because I am sure I would leave someone out, but Kudos to all of the NAESP staff for their hard work in making the national convention the success it is each year!
I began my day yesterday with the second General Session. Former Secretary of State Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) was the speaker. He is the founder of America’s Promise Alliance, which is an organization that partners with nearly 250 other organizations to provide wraparound support so that children can stay in school and succeed. Although he spoke highly of public education in general, he did point out the alarming rate at which minorities are dropping out of high school. He stated: “kids start dropping out at first and second grade,” and “kids who are behind act like they are behind.” One of my favorite statements he made spoke of the need for more family involvement. “Kids need more lap-top time, and I don’t mean the computer kind,” said Powell. A kid coming to kindergarten knowing how to behave is a skill that could be taught during lap-top time.
In my opinion, the most crucial idea that Colin Powell shared is the importance for what he calls “An Expectation of Success.” He stated that dropping out of school was never an option when he was going through school and there was no choice whether or not he would attend college. His fear is that many of our children have lost the hope that they can be successful. I know that I have told my staff on more than one occasion that in some instances, they are the one adult in some of their student’s lives to encourage and exhibit high expectations.
The second stop for my day was the Zone 7 meeting, which was led by Zone 7 Director Rob Munson-SD. Although there were very good concurrent sessions being offered during this time slot, I felt it was more important to attend this meeting because it is the best place to find out what is happening at the national level and it is an excellent opportunity to share concerns and ideas that are then brought back to the NAESP Board of Directors. At this meeting, we also were introduced to our national candidates and talked about important topics such as electronic voting for the national election, possible changes to the time that the national convention may take place, and the possibility of having a Zone 7 booth at national convention instead of individual state booths.
The State Editors’ meeting is always one of my favorite meetings at the national convention. We are a close knit group, and we are constantly looking for ways to improve our publications and to help each other. I would encourage anyone that has publication duties for their state to contact me so that I can share the support options that are available to you. I would like to thank Deborah Bongiorno (NAESP) for attending the meeting and for her promise of support for our group.   
The national convention experience does not end with the last concurrent session of each day. Many zones and states take time to meet in a social setting during the convention. Last night, I was privileged to meet with the elementary principals from North Dakota for supper. You would think that we see each other all the time, but there are several that I only see a few times a year. After supper, we took in the ice cream social and karaoke party put on by NAESP. There is a rumor going around that a certain blogger from NAESP was the man at the head of the conga line. I'm not quite sure how that happened.
I would love to hear your comments or suggestions about what other convention events you are interested in hearing about!

Ready, Set, Go!

Today is the first full day of the convention. I reviewed the itinerary that I created through the NAESP Web site to make sure that the sessions I had looked at earlier were still the ones that I wanted to attend today. Narrowing down the options has not been an easy task.
My first session was entitled “Get Smart: Tools for 21st Century Leaders.” I serve as the elementary principal for my school, but I am also the K-12 technology coordinator. I always try to find some sessions that will help me with that area of my responsibilities. A large part of the session dealt with SmartBoards and their use in the classroom. If you have a SmartBoard question, RoseAnne O’Brien Vojtek would be an awesome resource. The presenters also provided a list of helpful Web sites as well as some vendors that their schools use for technology needs that are high-quality, reputable, and very competitive. That information might end up being the most helpful from the whole session!  
The presenters also talked about the three R’s: rigor, relevance, and relationships. Because technology makes a lot of content available to all in a very quick manner, schools are challenged with applying the three R’s to that content in order to make their students productive citizens in this ever changing world.
The first general session was in the speaker’s phrase, “Info-Whelming.” Ian Jukes is a top ten education speaker who challenged the audience’s assumptions about education, especially when looking at how technology has affected it and will continue to affect it in the future. My “tech coordinator” mind was spinning at high speed as he shared all the changes that have come to pass and are coming at us like a freight train. The problem is that the speed at which change is taking place is exponentially accelerating and our ability to comprehend can not move that fast, hence the term: info-whelming.
I also attended the “Grand Opening” for the exhibit hall. It is really nice to have a lot of the top education vendors all under one roof. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather visit with someone face to face then over the phone or by e-mail. The vendors are of course a very important part of the national convention. Hopefully many of my peers will take advantage of the opportunity to visit the exhibits.
I did not attend a concurrent session this afternoon because I was scheduled to work at the North Dakota state booth. I have worked at the booth in previous years and have found it to be a lot of fun. We are sharing a booth with Minnesota (an attempt to be more fiscally responsible), and we appreciate their willingness to work cooperatively. I really enjoyed visiting with all the principals that came by to sign up for our prizes.  
The Welcome Reception will take place later tonight, but I wanted to mention it because it is a great time to see old friends and make new ones. If you can find friendlier folks than elementary principals, I would like to meet them. As I stated in my initial post, taking time to strengthen and create professional relationships is an important part of the national convention experience.
It has been another exciting and professionally stimulating day. My wish is that everyone would have the opportunity to attend at least one national convention during their tenure. If your school doesn’t support travel to a national convention, I would be more then glad to write your school board president or your superintendent to plead your case. That’s all for now; I look forward to reporting to you in the coming days.

Principals Proudly Give All to Serve NOLA Schools

My first day at this year’s national convention will be one that I will never forget. I was fortunate to be involved with NAESP’s service project. One hundred NAESP members loaded buses at 8 a.m. to head out to three schools and a park in New Orleans to help with a beautification project that the district has been trying to complete since Hurricane Katrina hit this community. 
When I arrived at my volunteer school, I was awestruck when the principal showed me the high water mark. He said that the water from that point on the wall to the street was five feet deep. I left a state that is battling flooding so this really hit home with me. 
My group worked to replace unattractive weeds with landscaping. When we left, there was new sod, trees and flower gardens that would make any school proud. I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt to be part of this group.
The work was hard but despite rain “soaking to the bone,” the group kept at it. Nothing was going to keep us from finishing the task. One of the gentlemen that worked for the company that had been hired to oversee the project told me that he was not looking forward to “babysitting” a bunch of principals. By the end of the day, we had earned his admiration. We worked so fast that they added a project at the end because we still had time left. 
I worked with people from all over the United States. One gal told me that elementary and middle school principals only know one speed and that speed is “GO”. There were times that I think we made the folks from the management company dizzy. They thought we should all sign up for another day’s worth of work.
I think I can speak for most of the group: We were drained by the end. And although we are looking forward to the regular routine of speakers and break-out sessions, this day will always be one that we will remember. Hopefully, the kids and patrons of those schools will be reminded each time they look at the beautiful scenery and landscaping that caring principals helped make it happen.
I applaud NAESP for working to set up this important service project. I can’t remember a time that I have been more proud to be a NAESP member.
I’ll be back with another report soon!

New Orleans Convention Coverage Takes Over the Principals’ Office


NAESP’s 88th Convention & Exposition kicks off tomorrow, Thursday, April 2. Thousands of principals and educators from around the nation will be meeting in New Orleans to focus on leadership and professional development! The convention gives principals the tools to transform learning communities, and features dynamic speakers, a volunteer service day, and dozens of concurrent sessions.
To give you a firsthand account of these spectacular events, the Principals’ Office blog will feature guest blogger David M. Hanson. Follow David’s coverage of convention highlights, and don’t forget that you can ask him questions by leaving a comment at the end of the post.  
You can access more up-to-date convention coverage at the Convention News Online Web page, where you will find convention articles, Twitter updates, photos, and video.
 
Greetings from North Dakota      
My name is David M. Hanson and for the second year in a row I am going to be serving as NAESP’s blogger for the national convention. I am the elementary principal for the Wyndmere Public Schools in Wyndmere, North Dakota. We are a small rural, public K-12 school located in Southeast North Dakota.
I serve as the state editor for the North Dakota Association of Elementary School Principals (NDAESP). I have also served in most all of the NDAESP leadership chairs, which has allowed me to attend several national conventions and several national leaders’ conferences. I am involved with NAESP through the state editors group: I administrate a Web site for the state editors as well as a list-serve. 
If you have checked out the agenda for the conference, you will share my thoughts on the dilemma of picking just one speaker during each concurrent session. It appears that NAESP has done a wonderful job of preparing an awesome slate of speakers and sessions. I am looking forward to meeting with the state editors’ group as well as attending the National Distinguished Principals’ reunion. My advice is to take in as much as you can and to make sure to save some time to visit with your peers from across the nation. The networking opportunities at a national convention are top notch! 
I look forward to sharing my journey with you!David

Minority School Network Series Concludes

During the past few months, the Principals’ Office has featured the Minority School Network blog series, which focused on issues surrounding diverse student populations, such as ensuring a culturally diverse environment and how to leverage school leader and parent impact to sustain nurturing environments. Andre D. Spencer’s posting below will conclude the first installment of the Minority School Network blog series. But continue to check out the Principals’ Office blog for the upcoming coverage of NAESP’s 88th Convention & Exposition in New Orleans, April 2-6.
Communication Is KeyWe communicate with parents who speak English as a second language via translators from the district or local universities who are working on an internship. In addition, we have hired Spanish-speaking teachers to serve as translators if needed. When we send home documents, they are printed in both Spanish and English. In addition, when we send telephone messages home, we try to have a translator to speak in Spanish before or after the initial messages as we inform the parents that the next language will be spoken. 
To get parents to come to conferences, we solicit their participation with fliers in their language and send out telephone calls via a global connect system in their language. We also offer incentives for participation (food, door prizes, cash prizes, etc.).
What are your ideas for communicating with and engaging parents who speak little or no English?
Andre D. Spencer is principal of Brehms Lane Elementary School #231 in Baltimore.

Who Are Your Students?

Meeting the needs of diverse and changing student populations must be a priority for school  administrators and teacher leadership teams. This school year, our attendance zone changed after being the same for over 20 years! As a result, there are about 600 new students in our school who came from several schools in the district. Many of the new students were very disappointed to be forced to leave the schools they had previously attended. 
To better understand this issue and our new student population, our teacher leadership team planned a staff development day where every staff member—custodial, cafeteria, clerical, support staff, teacher assistants, faculty and school administrators—boarded three school busses and toured our new attendance zone. For all of us, it was a very beneficial experience that contributed to thoughtful dialogue on how we may have underestimated what our children are capable of doing. Perhaps staff expectations were lowered because of perceptions about socioeconomic class. We found out that most of our students live in nicely kept single-family dwellings that have been renovated following the devastation of a major hurricane. There are two trailer parks and one apartment complex that has been newly renovated. The activity was one of the best we have ever conducted on a staff development day.
What has your school done to get to find out more about students’ lives?
Jackie H. Daniilidis is principal of Estelle Elementary in Marrero, Louisiana. 

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