My experience and training have made me a strong believer in public engagement. To me this is two-way conversation with your stakeholders. It is a conversation in which the agreement is: I will listen respectfully to what you have to say as long as you hear me out. On a district level it requires the superintendent to develop collaboration capacity with stakeholders to sustain ongoing improvement. This capacity will help you “see around a corner” so you are able to anticipate and respond before you are blindsided by something you don’t expect.
First and foremost, “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” recommends Stephen Covey. To interact effectively with anyone—teachers, students, parent, and community members—you need to understand where the person is “coming from.” Once you give people that “psychological air,” you can focus on solving problems. I have experienced numerous situations as a principal where people have had serious concerns or were upset about a situation. Simply listening without judging or forcing my own opinion has gone a long way in analyzing and solving a problem.
Even though I’m not a naturally “funny person,” I do have a great sense of humor. Obviously, working in the school provides plenty of opportunity for laughing. This seems to lessen the stress that exists in the work place. I think using humor can play an important role in creating and improving school climate, breaking down the rigidity of bureaucracy structures by personalizing interpersonal communications, and when appropriate, be effective in delivering bad news to teachers or community members. I also have no problem in laughing at myself concerning the mistakes I have made over the years.
I believe it is vitally important to be visible in your community. Living in a small community provides many opportunities to be seen and at the same time have conversations with people. Living in Hurricane over the past several years, working in church and community settings, has allowed me to connect and build constituency with people in such a way to build trust and break down barriers. Superintendents must know their district culture, the thinking of various school groups, and how specific groups will react to district initiatives and decisions.
In the many years I have taught and been an administrator, I have learned that it is very important to build trust with the people you are working with. This goes for the teachers and community members who are more likely to support change if they have confidence in your leadership. It is impressive when one has the knowledge to direct and organization toward a vision, but unless the leader has taken the time and effort to get to know his constituency, any kind of change will be difficult, if not impossible. Building this trust requires you to take time to listen and respond to what others have to say. Currently, I’m aware of a principal who has upset students and parents because of some of the decisions he has made. I believe members of the community would be much happier with his decisions had he taken the time to build trust.
Finally, effective leaders must get the word out to stakeholders. With technology it is much easier and cheaper to stay in touch with the people you are responsible to. A web-site that is updated often, e-mail and phone call systems are all methods to keep people informed. It is easy for people to perceive government agencies as being secretive and sneaky if you haven’t made an honest and persistent effort to be transparent.
Role and Development of Curriculum
The assistant superintendent plays a valuable in the role of the architect of the district curriculum. Assisting the school community and teachers, provide a definition of what it is students will learn, including standards, programs, goals, and content. It is important the assistant superintendent monitor the cycle of goals, implementation, and the evaluation of student results. In this role, it is important build teams of people in each of the schools who will contribute to the work in the form of collaboration. Providing direction at individual schools, with the respective principals and teacher leaders, for the implementation of standards, through teamwork, to finally putting them in workable classroom instruction, is part of the overall responsibilities. In addition, making sure the school curriculum plan is in place, can be monitored by the assistant superintendent through the prior definition of individual responsibilities so everyone knows what is being done and what will ultimately will be the product.
In the development of curriculum, the assistant superintendent must constantly ask the team members/schools: What is it we want the students to be able to know and do? Helping teachers and others understand curriculum must be authentic and real world, as much as possible. In the State of Wyoming, we do have the core curriculum in place, which is only part of the equation of putting in place a viable, workable curriculum. Of course, teachers at the classroom level of the main source for providing assistance, but it is important that administration include parents and community members (as history reminds us in Cody). Finally, I believe it is important in the development of curriculum, that the assistant superintendent function in a public, collaborative way that values persuasive leadership rather than a authoritative leadership.
How would you define the most important administrative obligations that you would have in the position for which you are applying?
I believe the most important obligation this position would have is to maintain a close working relationship with the leadership team of the district. This includes excellent communication with the superintendent, building level administration, and other support staff in the district office. In this regard, it is important to communicate to ensure an effective flow of information as it concerns collaborative efforts. I can envision working closely with the superintendent in planning to connect the instructional programs and curriculum.
Providing leadership for the articulation of programs and collaborative work among all instructional levels as well as all other pertinent district programs, is also important. The facilitation of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) within the Park #6 would be a critical part of this leadership responsibility. I have been involved with PLC for meeting school and district goals for the past 12 years.
For this position, I also feel it would be important to have knowledge of Wyoming statutory and regulatory requirements as it pertains to curriculum, instruction, and others areas as it pertains to job responsibilities. Important knowledge would also include learning theory/effective instructional practices. My experience as an adjunction professor of educational psychology has helped me be a better teacher as well as being up-to-date on current learning theory.
Finally, an important obligation would be to have the ability to collect, analyze, and interpret data. And, to take this a step further, to be able to work collaboratively with others to figure out what to do when data doesn’t support the results we seek. As I have mentioned above, I have worked closely with department/teacher level teams to analyze data and make changes in instructional methods to meet goals.
How would you go about the business of determining the teaching effectiveness of your staff and increasing their effectiveness?
It is no secret that doing a good job of determining teacher effectiveness is complex and important. Important because it is used to make decisions to improve teaching in the form of planning and revising teaching year to year in a quest to shape the quality of the act of teaching. I believe we have multiple opportunities to measure teaching, among them is the most common of administrative evaluations. The principal spends time in the classroom using an evaluation instrument to measure what is happening in the classroom. The principal then sits down with the teacher to discuss what happened and why, and then sets goals to improve in certain areas. These evaluations are also used to make decisions for future employment of teachers.
Learning outcome measures (test scores) is also common. Using data to determine what students have learned in relation to the curriculum and instructional strategies. Of course, using this method to determine teacher effectiveness is in vogue with politicians, and it does have a variety of problems, among which is isolating teaching as the sole explanation for student learning. I see test scores as an opportunity for teachers to look at gaps in learning to determine what needs to be retaught, changes in the program, or perhaps examining instructional strategies that may be more effective for student learning.
In an effort to improve teaching, I believe schools have other opportunities in the toolkit to improve student achievement. I have always encouraged, but not required teachers to have their students evaluate them. I’m familiar with many teachers who would rather receive a “whack to the head” rather than let students evaluate them. I have spent time convincing teachers that there is no better way to get real, honest feedback on teaching performance, than to have students give them input on how they are doing as a teacher. This method can be used for a principal to sit down with a teacher to go over feedback and discuss how it fits in with the teacher’s current goals for improvement, but not to be used as a formative tool in relation to a teacher job security.
Without going into a lot of detail, some other possibilities for determining teacher effectiveness could be peer ratings, self-evaluation, videos, and teaching portfolio. Self-evaluations are common as they generally part of the process of the administrative evaluation/classroom evaluation process, and a good opportunity for the principal to discuss with the teacher what they see as their strong and weak areas of teaching. I like teacher portfolio and have used them with teacher induction programs. This is another great way for teachers to self-reflect on what is working in the classroom and what is not. Not only are these a good way to determine teacher effectiveness, but more importantly gives them them the tools to be better teachers.
The opportunity for professional development is important for increasing teacher effectiveness. Professional development should be appropriate to meet the goals of the district as well as extended enough make sure the changes are institutionalized into instructional practice.
Describe your experiences in developing, implementing and evaluating a standards based curriculum?
During a 3-year time period as a middle school principal, our staff went through the Understanding by Design training. This was a great opportunity to work with teachers at the school level to rethink how they were to plan to teach the Utah Core Standards. It was obviously a shift for teachers to shift to planning course work based first on exactly what you want your students to learn, assessments, and then planning for instruction. As the school level leader, I attended all of these trainings and countless PLC departmental meetings, to facilitate the planning and implementation of coursework.
What do you believe would be your greatest attributes in the performance of your duties in the job for which you are applying?
My ability to communicate with teachers, parents, and the public in building trust, I feel, is the most important attribute I possess. Early in my career this is an area I realized was a challenge for me, therefore I have worked extremely hard to be better in this respect. I believe I’m an approachable person who is able to get along with most anyone. Treating everyone, no matter who they are, with dignity and respect, has been my motto for many years.
For several years I had the opportunity to teach educational psychology as an adjunct profession at a university. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to be back in the classroom working directly with students, trying the instructional methods/theories I was teaching, and of course getting a good reminder of the rewards and challenges teachers experience. Having the theoretical knowledge for the assistant superintendent position, would definitely be a strength for me.
The ability to take directives from those above me is a strength. This also includes personal initiative and work ethic to follow through on job responsibilities and assignments without having to be reminded. As it relates to working with others, I’m a very loyal person who will support the common cause, even though I may have difference, without criticizing.
Finally, I’m not a naturally funny person, but I do have a good sense of humor. I enjoy the camaraderie of working with people and frequently enjoying a good laugh. I see no other way to survive what can be a high pressure job, then to take the opportunity to have some fun along the way.
What has been your experience in implementing district-wide technology?
In my most recent position as a school superintendent in Wyoming, I had the opportunity to implement a one-to-one technology in our school district. From k-3rd grade all students had a Ipad with some restrictions. From 4th to 12th all students were assigned a Chromebook that they could take home to use. This program required we figure out how to insure them, train both teachers and students, and how to monitor use and effectiveness. This year the teachers were receiving 4 full days of professional development on how to use one-to-one to increase student achievement.
As middle school principal, I worked extremely hard to make as many devices available to students as possible. By the time I left in 2014, we had nearly 100 Ipads and 170 Chromebooks that were available to classroom teachers. In this case, computers were checked out nearly every class period by science, math, and Language Arts teachers. From 2010-12, the faculty participated in professional development on how to best use technology in the classroom.
Why are you applying for this position and what do you feel you offer the district that separates you form other applicants?
I have 31 years as a teacher, principal, and most recently superintendent. During this time, I have focused on good instruction and helping teachers be more successful in the classroom. I’m applying for these positions because I want to continue my career as a change agent for cause I have always felt very strongly about. Education is my passion.
I have been a lead evaluator for AdvancED for several years, which has afforded me the opportunity to visit dozens of districts and classroom to see what good instruction looks like. I have taken this knowledge to my own school and district to help improve the instructional process.
I taught Educational Psychology at Dixie State University for 5 years as an adjunct professor. Not only was I able to instruct future teachers on good instruction, but I was also able to put it in practice while teaching. Having this opportunity to be back in the classroom was a great reminder of the successes and challenges that teachers have each day.
For the last 10 years, I have been a big advocate of Professional Learning Communities (PLC). I have received a great deal of training and have put in practice in the school and district where I was employed. At Hurricane Middle School, where I was the principal, we saw steady improvement in student achievement mostly due to the hard work of teachers using the PLC concept. This was a great way for departments to work together to look at student achievement data, determine who was learning and who was not, and make changes in instruction to meet individual student needs.
While a middle school principal, we put in place a daily 30 minute intervention plan for all students, to receive additional help if they were behind or not understanding material. If students were doing well, they received enhancement opportunities. Although this took a great deal of planning, it has played a big role in reducing the number of D’s and F’s at the school.
I believe that I’m able to build bridges with stakeholders. In the communities I have lived in, I have worked hard to get to know people through organizations, church, and, of course through my role as a school leader. My experience in Wyoming has been an outlier for my career and does not reflect me as an educator. I should simply say that my responsibilities far outweighed my authority in this district, causing a rift with some of the board members. I felt this relationship was not in the best interest of district, so I decided to move on. I might add that I was not under threat of termination.
I have good health and subsequently have high energy to do the job. I have strong work ethic and don’t consider myself to be an 8 to 5 kind of person. I stay with the job until it is done.
I do believe I have great skills to work with a district who wants to see their students grow, employees feel good about the working environment, and a board who feels like they have a leader who is helping them achieve the goals of the district.
Have you ever been bought out of a contract or put on administrative leave? If yes, please explain.
As explained above, I was bought early of my contract with Big Horn School District #4. I was not forced out but left on my own volition. When I was hired by the district they hired me under the premise that student achievement was most important to them. As it turns out, this was not necessarily the case as I was not allowed to take the steps (i.e. personnel changes, day-to-day decisions) to do what was best for students. I simply couldn’t function in good conscience with the level of micro-management I was experiencing.