Three to Get Ready…

Scott Robison, SuperintendentI signaled the “school year celebration season” some weeks ago as the calendar careened past Spring Break, into bumpy ISTEP+ testing days, and now full-on through the year-end fun of concerts, awards, parades in elementary school hallways, and so much more. The ZCHS Senior Awards event was held Tuesday evening (May 21).   Awe-inspiring positive numbers about scholarships and awards will flow once again, this time for babies now nearly grown who were on the eve of Kindergarten during Y2K! (Remember that?)

ZCS events just completed have allowed many students to offer gratitude to teachers for help and inspiration along the way.  Touching events like the STEP Program Annual Banquet and Rotary’s Top 5% Breakfast, to name just two, really highlight the extent to which excellent teachers in our midst make very clear, defining, positive differences in the evolving lives of young adults.

Using my parent eyes, enhanced by much experience in successful school communities, I have come to know much about the collaborative dance that successful communities foster for their youth. The music of this elegant human movement is as unique as each child involved. The partners step in and out as needed and the pace quickens with adolescence, driving, work or college considerations, and growing independence.

Successful school communities like Zionsville always have a core triumvirate that stays well established throughout the life cycle of the metaphorical dance to which I refer. This potent threefold team:

  • starts with parents who do right things in right ways to produce school-ready children — and then these parents stick around, remain attentive to the theme and melody that runs through their kids’ educating experiences, and then collaborate with
  • a powerful, ongoing consulting group of teachers, counselors, principals, and other supportive humans (like coaches, bus drivers, and other school experience enhancers like school secretaries, instructional assistants and more) — with the entire aim predicated upon
  • the continuous growth of children who all-too-fast become the Class of 2013 — (or you supply the proper year for a kid or kids you love).

A now-old pop song included the lyric, “It’s never easy and its never clear — who’s to navigate and who’s to steer!”

Everyone reading this knows that the years across which our children come of age go by so quickly that the dance of it is occasionally too fast. At times it brings parents and kids to dizziness. But no matter, the right partners for the dance floor on which this community lifts up children toward resilient adulthood allows the overwhelming majority of us to regain control—to find the beat anew.

Paradoxically, the frenetic pace for one child and the waltz of another’s journey run concurrently. So, sometimes it is easy and it is clear — we navigate together as we teach them to steer.

Before we know it, the tune is Pomp and Circumstance. It’s a slow walk in funny gowns, a cautious anticipation about things yet to come, and a tear-jerking review in fast motion of a life still so new — but readied by solid experiences

It takes, at minimum, three to get ready for life and best chances for success. 1) Engaged parents, 2) Mission-focused human change agents (teachers and other uplifters), and 3) Young people of uniquely composed themes that emerge through their knowledge and skill in choosing between which measures to play and which ones to skip or interpret through improvisation.

And the band plays on.

 

Scott Robison, Superintendent

Zionsville Community Schools

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Making Important Links

scott11Once a few years back I stupidly served up a whispered, “Sleep Tight” to then-age five Ben as I tucked him in. Little Mr. Rapid Fire Questions and Curiosity couldn’t sleep until I Googled the precise reason that this saying lived through all the generations up to my utterance of it in the 21st century.  (I will let you look that one up yourself if you don’t know. Pretty cool!)

I go on and on much of the time about the power of great teachers. As first teachers, parents are obviously invaluable in this process—and that early teaching is obviously sustained and filled with power as students move along through ZCS. Without this critical alliance of tutelage and mentoring, our student outcomes could not soar like they do for most students who apply themselves and have the advantage of engaged parents and fine ZCS teachers.

A couple of weeks ago my wife sent me the link to a program that she has begun with our third grader at home, and she is right that all parents of young children need to know about this. It is called bedtime math and can be found at this URL: http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/03/bedtime-math/ .

I am going to leave it there and see if I get any emails from folks who have given it a try.  Mary reports this as a great last conversation before or after our nightly reading.

And if anyone with older kids is still reading this, note that we were still doing darn near nightly read alouds when the girls were sophomores in high school. I remember laughing my fool head off with Abby when I read her A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel (an Indiana author). Mary navigated the tougher territory with readings about stark realities that needed adult female guidance.  But no matter what we were reading, the discussions that ensued set up great communications.  Even when we became, for a few years, the most profoundly stupid people on the planet, we knew we had done all we could to help these fine humans become young women of awareness and thoughtfulness.

Wherever you are on this road, make a new link or restart an old one. There is precious little time (though it seems like decades drag on and on if/when an adolescent experiences the temporary lobotomy of knowing everything and listening to no one of the parent variety). I’d give just about anything to get to have the girls at tender ages again for that “Sleep Tight” sort of inquiry and sharing. It does go so very fast, and then they are grown. We are savoring the journey once again in our Ben.

Be smarter than I was by researching the answer before you tuck in your young child sometime soon and say something like, “Are you going to hang loose or sleep tight?”  See if you get them going. See if you can make use of Bedtime Math or Bedtime Science.  Definitely make use of daily opportunities to influence the most important people in the world to you—who are also the most important people to the world—in the making—by us all!

Scott Robison, Superintendent

Zionsville Community Schools

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Celebrating Those in Special Roles

Scott Robison, Superintendent

Mary and I put our laptops on the high bar in the sunroom, and our Sunday night, side-by-side work session was on. She reminded me that she used to bring her laptop to the unfinished basement table from which I toiled over my unfinished dissertation nearly a decade ago. We were in the throes of adolescence with two girls then (both are now grown and gone), and our caboose baby boy was still a year away—though we had no clue of this at the time.

“Oh, you whined incessantly about that concrete room being so cold.” She said. “I kept fetching you coffee just so you’d keep working and get that thing finished.”

There were pokes of good fun and literal body checks that pushed her from her barstool as she read her students’ writing or fell into the Pinterest abyss. We laughed a lot and actually got some work done, too.

That recent dueling laptops event provided a semblance of “us” time as we knocked out emails and worked to reduce the coming week’s stress. At one point she challenged my writing of a quote request from a travel insurance company for our daughter’s study of biology at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama this summer. (Yeah, that was contrived so I could wedge in my teeming pride over these science smart daughters.)  But I shot back at Mary about the backseat driving.

“Uh, back off, girl. I have a Ph.D.—I think I can type a little note to secure an insurance policy.”

Another laugh between us and then some silence. Then I start again…

“I know you have an HMD (House Manager Doctorate), but I think I can do this.”

Mary scoffed and said she didn’t think the HMD was worth much, but I just could not disagree more.

HMD—House Manager Doctorate!  I don’t know about other married folks who work a lot of hours away from home and have a spouse who leads and directs the day-in and day-out operation of the home, but I don’t think we would even have a home without our family’s HMD. And this is while she is teaching a dozen or more kids in her tutoring practice and supervising student teachers for a local university while also doing an occasional consulting gig to teach school staffs about project based learning.  And this does not even mention picking out my ties and doing roughly ten thousand things every month that just go largely unnoticed. I think Hallmark needs to add an HMD Day to its bottom line stimulating list of made up holidays.

But Ben, Stella (German Shepherd), and I will make up for this daftness a bit in the coming weeks as we celebrate Mother’s Day in some special way that acknowledges our extraordinary HMD. Whether on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, I hope the HMD where you are gets his/her due this spring. We all take it for the family team in many ways, and recognition of the obvious family focus and hard work of it all is just so easy to highlight and enjoy, no matter what role you play in leading and sustaining a happy home.

See you out among the Eagles…

 

Scott Robison, Superintendent of Schools

Zionsville Community Schools

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Season’s Greetings

Scott Robison, SuperintendentSure, there is still some ISTEP testing to be done at some grade levels. There are finals and the accompanying study sessions to endure. But make no mistake, this community is on the cusp of an annual celebration.

Deserving youth and those who helped them achieve will be feted in ceremony, parties, and with words out loud or on greeting cards about life launching and congratulations…the season of graduation is soon upon us.

Emily HiggsKicking off this collection of weeks that are matched in young adult brightness by increasingly sunny days is the photo shown here of a leader among this season’s ZCS achievers with one of her mentors a-plenty (as ZCS offers this community’s youth with school services starting at age three).

On Wednesday, April 10, ZCHS senior Emily Higgs was honored by the Indiana Principals Association and the Indianapolis Star as an Indiana Academic All-Star at a reception at the Indiana Roof Ballroom.  Emily was selected from a pool of 258 regional nominees as one of forty All-Stars. Emily is pictured with her “most influential” teacher, ZCHS chemistry teacher Lee Banitt.

Salute to Miss Emily Higgs—to her first teacher parents and the steady parade of ZCS teachers and others who helped lift her up.  

Season’s greetings.

Scott Robison, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Zionsville Community Schools

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5 to 90!

Image

I am inspired and excited to be meeting smart, funny, inquisitive and confident kids every week.

My early spring rounds to read to our elementary kids have begun. Last week I was lucky enough to be a guest interviewee for some creative writing classes at ZCHS. These interactions caused me to conjure up the ratio shown above. Though very much unlike my teaching and principaling days, my role now affords me only about 5% of work time engaging with ZCS students. Fortunately, whenever it occurs, as with my reading rounds in the elementary schools, it constitutes about 90% of my joy in this work with and for the people in ZCS. These kids of yours/ours, Zionsville, they are flat out extraordinary.

The creative writing students at ZCHS asked so many insightful questions that I lost count. That time—about two hours last Thursday afternoon—well, it was the best kind of fun I ever get to have in this role. While I work constantly for and on and about the core mission, a kind HS colleague let me step in, link with, and really experience the core mission in his classes last week. I can now report once again that the future is in good hands. This is clearly true in the guidance being given ZCS’ disarmingly bright kids in classes, and the future is also secure in the hands of young people like the ones I met in English class on Thursday—thoughtful, communicative, confident, and so very smart.

What’s more, the little ones are clearly leaning forward into promising lives as well—and with a verve all their own.

A little second grader guy at Union Elementary sized me up as I was joking with some girls from his class while the group streamed in for our reading time.

“You’re a funny dude, right?”

I couldn’t resist the bait. I countered, “Funny like ‘Ha Ha’—or do you think I’m funny looking?”

Deadpan without missing a beat, he said, “Oh, sure. I saw that right away. But you’re being funny with my friends, right? I can crack a joke with you, right?”

I felt like I was meeting an FBI agent.

And this little “never met a stranger” future Senator proceeded to be a perfect gentlemen during our reading time and my usual questioning about what they like to read, how many have Kindles and Nooks, how many can name books based on the authors’ names I say, and so on.

Sure, the little ones have some fidgets and blurt out with urgency things like how much they like dogs or pizza or their teachers. But the “fix” for me of sheer kid comedy and future promise so evident in these spring rounds always resets my profound respect for our effective and hardworking teachers—and for our essential partners in this endeavor, “first teacher” parents in Zionsville who pay keen attention to the upbringing details of the community’s youth. Even very good school communities cannot be great without parent engagement.

Ninety percent of my work fun—all from just five percent of the gig. A potent blessing, to be sure!

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Chills, Bills, Skills, and Thrills — A ZCS winter hodge-podge

scott1Chills!

So, if there is really cold but really clear weather, school’s in, right? Right. But there were two cold weather two-hour delays (Jan. 22 and Feb. 1) that seemed iffy to the few folks who called or wrote to express delay dismay. Families with parents who work outside the home are seriously inconvenienced by school delays. I am definitely mindful of this. Whenever possible, I try to do evening-before notices to aid parents in making arrangements as I did on the evenings of 1/21 and 1/31.

Checking the weather history, I see that the windchill on 1/22/2013 was about -14 degrees. On 2/1/2013, the windchill was nearly -13 degrees. In the main, if I am assured of power/heat and water in our buildings, and if buses start and roads are passable for the huge, safe, warm vessels, I will default to having school on time. Sustained frigid winds with lows near or below zero (ambient temps) push me to consider at least a delay.

Parents should always make the final call because conditions can vary across our two townships and rural vs. town roads.

About Delays and Cancellations — A Recap…

  1. Delay and cancellation decisions are based on student safety.
  2. Early notice will occur when possible (usually between 5:30 AM and 6:15 AM).
  3. Parents make the final call about local/bus stop conditions.
  4. Decision is for most of district, but local conditions may vary. (Please see #3.)
  5. Sustained temperatures at or below -10 degrees Fahrenheit start the window of two-hour delay consideration.
  6. The ZCS “Morning Eyes” team informs me about local conditions in the wee hours.
  7. We may be the only school district in the region on delay, in school on time, or out of school.

Bills!

I am testifying for Indiana Senate Bill 493 — tuition grant for high achieving schools and Senate Bill 189 — Performance Qualified School Districts. Gaining new funding sources from the state formula that short-changes ZCS (SB493) and gaining flexibility to help students pursue goals beyond the minimum competency graduation exams (SB189) are my aims. (Note that SB189 passed 44-5 out of the Senate on Monday, 2/18!) I am also encouraging movement forward on the Common Core State Standards—which we have already begun to implement in lower grades based on past State Board of Education action.

Skills!

So much to celebrate—and this space will not do it justice:

  1. Students who presented to our school board about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs in our schools. WOW.
  2. Teachers and principals who reported to the board of school trustees about the success of our 1:1 technology infusion at the middle level. WOW-WOW…
  3. Students and teachers (about 200 of them!) who performed with international violin recording artist Mark Wood in the Performing Arts Center last week. Easily a TRIPLE WOW…
  4. Students and their coaches who are headed back to the International Robotics Championships in Anaheim, California. WOW with exponents!
  5. Dozens of students are engaged in early work roles with partner businesses thanks to Mrs. Noel and Ms. Davis (and their fine staff) at ZCHS. WOW to the human power…
  6. Kids from Union Elementary who were the Fox 59 feature story last week for their science classes with our great elementary STEM teaching/coaching team.
  7. Too many more things like this to celebrate…

Thrills…

  1. Where to begin?
  2. Semi-state class and grit shown by multiple ZCHS wrestlers…
  3. ZCHS Winter Guard hosts massive invitational event and showcase.
  4. Mr. Kirkham wins the coveted service award at the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet.
  5. Alex Cleveland is the state champion in the 50 freestyle @ state girls’ swim championship.
  6. Girls’ swim team rocks the waves at IHSAA championships.
  7. Girls’ swim coach Scott Kubly wins statewide recognition.
  8. Girls’ basketball finishes season following much improvement—and representing the community with the class taught so well by Coach Maguire and the whole staff.
  9. Boys’ basketball draws Carmel in Sectional Round 1 on 2/26. Let’s all go support the Eagle men.
  10. There is just too much more to mention…

Thank you for supporting the efforts of ZCS students in all of the important pathways provided them by classroom, whole school, club, sport, and community activities. It matters more than you can know.

Scott Robison, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools

 

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School Safety Update

On behalf of our Board of School Trustees, thank you to all who have assisted and scott1offered consultation about school safety in the wake of the mid-December tragedy in a Connecticut elementary school. The local arm of an international corporation recently provided on-site consultancy and recommendations. The expert’s opinions and ideas were helpful, and he offered approval of, and compliments for ZCS safety protocols, devices, and personnel in place long before the Sandy Hook tragedy. Ideas for improvement were suggested, too, and we have already begun improvements.

Our security envelope during school days has increased, and other safety layers are being expanded quickly. The Board of School Trustees met with law enforcement leaders last week. Boone County and Town of Zionsville law enforcement officials are always incredibly communicative, collaborative, and otherwise helpful.

Partners from Honeywell will install front door security cameras, picture memory devices on these cameras, and remote buzzer capabilities at all school sites this week. Vigilance, staff training, crisis drills, and knowing our students well will continue as we strive to prevent the preventable and deter the unthinkable.

Scott Robison, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools

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