Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Opening Remarks as a First Year Principal

What to to say it...I can’t speak off the cuff...I think too much...dissect my thoughts...analyze my words as they come out of my mouth...I wrote my words down for you today to give clarity to what I want to say.

I have been planning for this for the past four years, I have thought about how I would answer the interview questions, how I would articulate my vision, and how in this moment I would stand in front of you equip with nothing but my words to get you to believe in the other administrators, in your den & department, in yourself and most importantly your students.

I am not afraid of failure...I am not afraid of not meeting our goals...not hitting every benchmark...the new state tests...the CPM visit...or even WASC.

What I am afraid of is not having a campus where people feel safe, safe to express their ideas, safe to express their opposing ideas and question the things that we do with the intent to make them better.  What I am afraid of is not having a relationship built on trust, respect, and compassion with each and every one of you. Today marks the first day we...the staff of Pajaro Valley High School...join together and support one another.  At times our job can seem we are being asked to do the can hurt, be frustrating and in some cases feel hopeless.

I have set some personal goals that I would like to share with you.
  1. Make classroom visits a priority to increase visibility and daily support.
  2. Timely communication to decrease confusion and assumptions
  3. Take opportunities to recognize the good work you do each and everyday

I AM...going to ask you to do what seems like the impossible...Consuelo, Deanna, Maria Elena, Matt, department chairs, den leaders, your colleagues, your students, our parents...and yourself...will be asking.

...but it is only impossible if we try to do it alone.

Will you raise your hand with me and help carry the 14-15 school year together to make the impossible...possible.

It is a great day to be a is to an AWESOME school year.

PS - They all raised their hand.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Daily Dose of Positivity!

+Planet  website launched on February 7th with anticipation (see short video documenting the event) and from that moment  the Media class at Pajaro Valley High School has turned their classroom into a place of developing instead of a place of consuming. The class launched their first website Positive Planet with the goal to "Change the world, one thought, one action at a time". The instructor, Dutch Tessier, with the help of his students cast a website together to make a space to promote positivity. Walking into fourth period you will discover the lights off and different groups of students huddled around computers, independently researching or conducting a meeting. The students are divided up into departments consisting of Local Marketing, National Marketing, Editorial, Art Department and Content Creation. Departments are acting together to market and design each aspect of the overall website and supporting social media sites. Local marketing is making a T-shirt logo and organizing a campus clean-up day. National marketing is developing a YouTube channel and fine tuning the social media sites Twitter, Instagram, Facebook . The editorial department is reviewing submissions and keeping content current. 

The buzz in the room is electric and watching students, who were behavior problems a few years ago facilitate group discussions is jaw dropping.  Watching the students work collaboratively to produce and run a website is a concrete example of 21st century skills.  The skills I am referring to are not technology based (even though those are useful) but those which engage students in critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, and communication.  The students are generating new ideas, reaching out to the community and working with each other to give the world a positive place to share.  You can't help but smile when you view +Planet. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Living the Dream"

I am stealing this quote from a few teachers on campus here at Pajaro Valley High School who respond to the question, "How's it going?" with "Living the Dream".  The first teacher who responded to me that way caused me to pause and chuckle because I took it as sarcasm.  He paused back and said, "well aren't you?".  He smiled and continued on and I began to ponder whether or not I was "living the dream".

Obviously the dream for educators does not reside in the salary or the students who have the perfectly honed skill of pushing every last button on a Friday afternoon.  The dream is more about the student who stays after class to ask for extra help with an assignment or watching a student pick up trash that wasn't hers.  The second semester sophomore who is finally getting to class on time after a freshman year of referrals to the office.  Two students who have a conflict are able to talk out their problems in your office without having to suspend them for fighting.  The senior who completed his last credit recovery class so he can graduate high school.  How about looking out into the crowd on graduation day and being proud of the top 10% but more importantly looking at the few faces who are sitting in those chairs because you were there to help them find their seat.  You took the extra half an hour to listen to their story, to advocate for, to guide, to mentor, to parent and to give that tough love to.  

Educators have a thankless job with customers who don't always recognize the work.  Sometimes we ourselves get wrapped up in the daily minutiae and forget what it's all about.  Make sure you are "living the dream" and if you haven't been thanked in a while for the job you do...thank you.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Silence the Bullies

Pajaro Valley High School has begun to tackle bullying on campus.  On the heels of "National Day of Silence" our goal was to flood the walls and doors of PV High School with anti-bullying posters and messages making it clear we take bullying seriously.  Leading up to the National Day of Silence our school resource officer (SRO) provided teachers with powerpoints and videos displaying the harsh reality of the impact bullying has on young people. Students, teachers, clubs, athletic teams and tutorial classes created their own anti-bullying posters that were hung around campus by our baseball team. 

Pajaro Valley High Schools Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club was one of the driving forces behind the anti-bullying campaign.  One of our seniors received national attention from Congressman, Sam Farr in his National Day of Silence speech. 

"The National Day of Silence is important for many reasons - to let youth know they aren't alone, and there are plenty of people ready to support them just the way they are.

As my constituent, Heidy Dimas, Senior at Pajaro Valley High School, puts it, "National Day of Silence is important to me because it's a day when you see all the support for the silent ones and that nobody is alone in ANYTHING."

I am proud of my constituents who are calling for a stop to harassment of GLBT individuals.  I am particularly proud of my constituents in Watsonville and from Pajaro Valley High School for hosting the 16th Annual Queer Youth Leadership Awards."

Since the Nation Day of Silence teachers have shown the movie "Bully" in their classes, had our SRO make classroom presentations and shared resources with each other to educate our students on the destruction bullying causes.

Yesterday during our teacher staff meeting we had all teachers create a Twitter account and introduced the idea behind PLNs.  Our goal is to educate our teachers on how to use the tools and understand them so we can better educate our students on how to be responsible digital citizens.  

Ms. Donnelly's Class Poster

Below are more "Anti-bullying" resources.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Seize the Moment and Network

Mid April marks another Leadership 3.0 Symposium conference and another opportunity to learn how others are integrating technology into their schools.  I flew in late the night before the conference and before going to sleep I checked the symposium website for check-in times.  On the home page of the site there were blurbs about sessions that were a "must see".  I noticed that one of the advertised sessions was being presented by the keynote speaker on the main day of the conference.  Having attended the conference for the last four years the keynote speakers chosen by Lead 3.0 have always been top notch and this years was also a high school principal.  

Image credit:

Eric Sheninger (the Keynote) was the presenter of my first morning session on "The Power of Personal Learning Networks".  His presentation, in the very short three and a half hours, ranged from free apps to synthesize information to the power of Twitter as a communication tool.  He talked about blogging as a professional, using Pintrest for more than just fashion and recipes, the nuts and bolts of how to create a professional learning network.  It was the best three and a half hours I had spent on my own professional development in a long time.  I stayed after a few minutes to send him an email requesting some follow-up information and he said he would send it later that day. Lunch was being served and I was in need of some nutrition before my next session.

My afternoon session was struggling to hold my attention and the thought of three and a half hours wasted was not appealing.  My head was still spinning from my morning presentation and I could not force myself to listen any longer.  As I left the session checking my email Eric had responded with the information he had promised.  Completely out of character for me, I responded with a request to meet with him and "pick his brain".  Within minutes of my request we were set to meet in the lobby.  What I learned in that lobby and later at the dinner table with my other two colleagues who joined the conversation has forever changed the way I think about education and leadership.  

I have begun to build my own Personal Learning Network.  Though it is in its infancy stage it is growing everyday.  As Eric said in his morning session, he uses his PLN to connect himself with smart people.  Here is my attempt to connect you with one of the smart people I know in my PLN (A PLN Quick Start Guide).  I have started a blog, as you have noticed by this post and have started a Twitter account for my school @PajaroValleyHS and invited parents to join.  I met with our teacher leadership team today and discussed professional learning networks and how we need to inspire other teachers to develop their own.  I started reading Drive by Daniel Pink, using Zite, Pintrest, EdWeb, Delicious, Chrome Extensions, Tweetdeck, Twitter, Blogger, and started the conversation with teachers at my site on how to take control of their professional development.

I can't stop talking to others about my last week. I can't stop reading and searching and reading some more.  I am addicted to the information I am able to find on any topic I want to know about.  In this short amount of time I feel I have become so much more efficient and focused on the road ahead.  I would like to publicly (as publicly as my first blog post can be) thank Eric Sheninger for his time and dedication to the education world and for taking the time to talk to me.  This is the beginning of great things to come for the students and teachers of Pajaro Valley High School and I can't wait to Learn, Lead and Share.  The story is just beginning...