Dear Mr. Trump,

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Dear Mr. Trump,

Recently I started to put together my school’s budget for the FY17 school year. Ironically, while doing so I was listening to CNN and a report came on discussing how you had announced that, starting in the New Year, you would start spending $2 million dollars a week on political ads. I wonder, would you consider just spending $1.9 million instead and donating the other $100,000 to my school?

I’ve been thinking about writing this letter to you since I first saw that news story over vacation. I am struck by the disparity that exists between the haves and have nots in this country. I am also struck by how much money is spent needlessly in this country each and every day while so many children struggle to get their needs met. How is that possible? I’m wondering if your campaign would notice the difference between $2 million and $1.9 million? How would that impact your advertising campaign? Would it impact it at all? I assure you, $100,000 a week, for even just four weeks, would have a significant impact on the children and staff at my school as our struggles are real and felt each and every day.

What I could do with $100,000 a week…even just for a month! Here’s my spending plan in case you are even considering this question:

Week 1: This week I would like to hire two additional teachers to reduce class size in kindergarten and grade 5. Currently these class sizes average 28 due to budget cuts last year. Have you ever tried to teach 27 five-year-olds at a time? It’s not easy and it isn’t much easier with 11 year olds – trust me. You are welcome to come and visit if you’d like to give it a try! We usually budget $63,000 for a teacher but, since it’s January, I would need $37,800 for six months so I could hire two more teachers for $75,600 leaving $24,400 for this week. I would like to bank that for now.

Week 2: This week I would like to hire two more teachers; this time to reduce class sizes in grade 3 and grade 6. These grades have class sizes that range from 26 to 32 again due to a budget shortfall last year. The additional staffing will be greatly appreciated by the children (and the teachers)! Again, let’s bank the $24,400.

Week 3: This week I would like to hire a social worker. Currently, with a school of 402, we only have one guidance counselor. We are lucky to partner with a fabulous organization who comes in to provide counseling to children 4 days a week, but we need more people to be able to support the mental health needs of our children. Along the same lines, I would like to provide the Responsive Classroom I course to all of my teachers – I have been trying to figure out where that $30,000 would come from since I started this position last year! This leaves $32,200 for the bank this week.

Week 4: Wow, now that we have the staffing we need, there are some projects I would love to fund so we don’t have to do fundraisers. We are looking to provide more activities for kids to do at recess and would love to build a gaga pit and a lego wall. We were going to do a fundraiser to buy the materials and build our own pit, but we can buy one for $4000 which will reduce the burden to our already financially strapped community, not to mention it will get the kids playing quicker! The Lego Wall, I am sure we could do for $1000 if not less! We are starting a school garden and $1000 should also cover our expenses there. Recently I have heard a lot of people talking about getting Spheros and drones in the hands of their kids – we could get a fleet of both for $4000. That brings this week to $10,000 leaving $90,000 for the bank.

What to do with the $170,800 that now sits in the bank? I am sure I could find a way to spend it but the fiscally responsible thing to do would be to invest much of this money so that we can continue to hire the above staff members in future years. It will be great to have them for the next six months but to truly make a long-term impact, we need them in future years as well. I would also like to set up a fund so that families who are struggling can reach out to us for support in terms of gift cards for clothes and food. Our community could really use this support.

What do you think? Can we make it happen?

Sincerely,

A Principal with Dreams for Her Kids

We’re Better Together: The Power of the PLN

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Whether it was fate or just perfect timing, I will never know, but I could not have asked for better motivation this morning than #LeadUpChat. On Friday I am presenting about the power of a PLN to a group of elementary principals at MESPA’s annual Fall Conference. My goal is to illustrate the importance of developing a strong PLN and support participants in this effort by showing them how to begin with Twitter and Voxer.

I have been reflecting a lot about my presentation and had set aside time today to put those thoughts in motion. Coffee in hand, I sat at the kitchen table, opened my computer and decided to get some motivation from my PLN by hopping on Twitter for a bit! Here was the Tweet that flew across my feed:

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As we began the exhilarating, all-be-it intense hour, my introductory remarks began to take shape and then it hit me. Why am I starting my presentation speaking about my PLN? Why not let my PLN speak for me? I grabbed several of the Tweets that resonated with me and put together a slideshow of their words that screamed the importance of a PLN from the rooftops. Here are some of the highlights:

  • @lauriemeston writes: Yes! I’ve learned more in the last year supported by my PLN than I have in previous 30 yrs in eduction.
  • @brmohr writes: I also love that I can learn from my PLN anytime of the day or week – from all over the country
  • @PrincipalOgg writes: We help each other out when we can. We develop a growth mindset of learning and helping each other reach their goals.
  • @AmyHeavin writes: Through our conversation, we share insights & ideas. When we act on those ourselves, we grow. When we share others grow too!

In the presentation (click here to download it in its entirety – it’s only 3.5 minutes) which will be my opening remarks Friday, there are 50 quotes representing NINETEEN states and three COUNTRIES!!!! What more powerful message do I need than that? In the past, to learn from that diverse of an audience, I would have had to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to go to a national conference. The power of PD in 2015 is that your PLN is there for you when you need them 24/7. The PLN breaks down, no smashes down, the walls of isolation in what can be a very isolating career.

PS: If anyone knows how to get a Power Point presentation to play as a movie WITH the music, please share your expertise in the comments below. I can save it as a Quicktime movie but the audio does not convert with it.

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Do I Follow My Own Advice?

I enjoyed reading Justin Tarte’s (@justintarte) blog post “The journey continues…” describing his pathway to administration. He is embarking on his first administrative role and his post solicits advice from current, retired or aspiring administrators. As a fellow educator who took the same plunge 4 years ago, I can empathize with his feelings and shared some thoughts with him I hope will be helpful.

For the last hour I can not stop wondering; Do I follow my own advice? Below is what I shared with Justin; an evaluation of my own efforts is in italics. Looks like I have some work to do : )

*Work to find the balance between work and your personal life – Area for Needed Growth: While this is always a goal, friends and family alike would tell you this is not a strength of mine. With July 1 comes a gym membership near my new school to get the ball rolling. I have been told that yoga should be required for school administrators : )

*Schedule time for walk-throughs – it is the most important time in your calendar. Exemplary: One hour a day is scheduled and my administrative assistant knows this is sacred time in my calendar so things are rarely (if ever) scheduled during these times.

*Stick to the schedule you created in #2. Satisfactory: Depending on the time of year, I am very dedicated to getting into teacher classrooms as I believe this is a critical component of my role as the instructional leader. Next year, I hope to manage my time better during the “busy seasons” so I can maintain this dedication all year long.

*Open door policies are only as effective as your response to the constant requests for, “Do you have a minute?” Exemplary: My response invariably is, “You can have more than one!” When I was a teacher, I regularly sought out the advice of my Principal (@bwittcoff). Her willingness to take the time to talk and reflect with me helped me become a better educator. I want to be the same support to the teachers with whom I work and work hard to make sure they believe my door is always open.

*Model what you believe in in terms of best practices. Exemplary: I work hard to “practice what I preach” in terms of my expectations of teachers and am a firm believer in leading by example.

*Find time to spend time with kids so they know you before they come down to your office. Satisfactory: The kids are my favorite part of the job – from high fives as they walk off the bus, to spending time in classrooms or at recess, the success of a day can be measured in the number of interactions I have with kids. Though establishing and maintaining relationships with kids is a strength of mine, this is still an area I need to spend more time on in the next school year.

*Find opportunities to teach because you will miss it : ) Exemplary: When I first became an administrator, I missed teaching and having my own classroom. As I grew in the position, I found that my definition of ‘teaching’ changed. I began to see conversations with others as teaching – discipline meetings with students, parent meetings discussing a child’s needs, conversations with teachers about lessons, a child study meeting with a teacher. When my lens of teaching expanded, I realized that almost every part of my day could be considered ‘teaching’. I do still enjoy participating in my ‘old’ definition of teaching and do this regularly through Student Council meetings, faculty meetings and weekly Community Meetings.

*Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions, ask questions… Exemplary: “Phone a friend”  and “Two+ heads are better than one” are words I live by!

*When making a decision, first take time to listen to the stakeholders involved and then explain your values and philosophy behind your decision. Exemplary: This lesson learned from my former principal will never be forgotten. When making a decision I think some members of the community will not agree with, I try to preempt the phone calls with a communication stating the values and philosophy behind the dcision. Click here for an example.

*Have fun! Exemplary: I absolutely love what I do and can frequently be heard stating, “How can you not be happy working in an elementary school?”

Like Justin, I will be transitioning into a new position as the principal of a K-5 school in MA on July 1. I am hoping that this pause for reflection will inspire me to work towards following my own advice more often. I encourage you to visit Justin’s blog and give him advice as he embarks on this next chapter on his journey as an educator. I then encourage you to reflect on whether you follow your own advice – it is time well spent!