Coming Home to Excellence

There’s a way to do better… find it.

~Thomas Edison (1847-1931) American Inventor

Week 6 in Review

I learned so much last week.  Let me start by saying thank you once again for everyone’s work on Super Assessment Day.  I know there were areas we can improve in the process, but when you look at the big picture  — the day was a tremendous success.  We appreciate everyone’s feedback on how to make our newly named Radical Assessment Day better next year.  We will definitely implement many of your suggestions.  They were very helpful, and we learned specific ways to make the process better.

On Friday we met with the students again in our CAMP Congress.  Thank you for sending your CAMP representative to our session with the collaborative input of your class on the upcoming technology pilot implementation.  The students’ questions were very helpful in giving me an idea of what information we need to communicate better.  We will be sending out a FAQ sheet shortly with answers available to continue to improve the process.  The students also asked to meet more often, so we will be meeting weekly now to offer more opportunity for student voice in guiding the direction of our school.  Please make sure you take the time to allow the students to debrief with your CAMP and to prepare for each session.  It really is helping us find the exact ways to make Benton better.

Week 7 — A Look Ahead

It’s HOMECOMING!  The week is here and the kids are excited!  Please join them in the celebration and share in the festivities.  If you are not into the “dress up days,” that’s okay, just make sure you support our students and encourage their participation.  Also don’t forget to share the announcements, which will include the names and photos of our homecoming court candidates.  Thursday is special because not only do we vote on whom the students want to see as their homecoming royalty, but we are also kicking off our ACT Academy with 12 students heading downtown to the Northwest Center for some intense learning.  On Friday, we are going to have an incredible assembly, which will start at 1:40 p.m. where we find out the freshmen, sophomore and junior court winners.  The King and Queen winners will be announced right before the game that night.  It’s going to be an incredible event!

Don’t forget, we have departmental professional development this week during your plan/collaboration period.  We will send out a reminder tomorrow for times and locations.  The topic of learning is data teams, and your department will be learning about the process, setting a timeline for the research, as well as drafting your improvement plan.  Your admin team and instructional coach will be leading the PD, and we are excited to work with you on getting this process going.

Excellence is journey not a destination.

Testing our Excellence

Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it.  The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character.  ~T. Allen Armstrong

Week 5 in Review

I missed you all last week, and I was thinking about you all more than you can imagine.

If you didn’t already know, Kurt and I moved our oldest son Matthew to San Antonio to start his career in the Air Force.  Matt is my oldest.  He’s a graduate of the St. Joseph School District – Lafayette High School – and he’s also a Mizzou alum (go Tigers!), and he’s about to become one of the USAF’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) pilots.  As we all traveled south, I reflected constantly on how many skills Matt was using in his transition to begin his career.  These skills, many of which I am sure he first learned in high school, were critical to his success.  His success was dependent on his ability to adjust, try new things, ask others’ opinions, and remain open to learning.    I realized then that his progress in getting started in his career and his success in making through pilot training was the ASSESSMENT for all the learning he had done in high school and college.  It wasn’t just the math, science, English, history learning that was making him a success at this test – it was his interactions with all the adults in his life who guided his thinking and challenged him beyond what he was comfortable with.

Like I said, I have been thinking about you all more than you can imagine.

I know last week you prepped for our Super Assessment Day, CAMP, IEPs and our literacy plan. Thank you for that time in professional development.  I heard from many of you about problems you solved, problems you gained, ideas to make our school better, and ways to make yourself better.  What I hope you all realize, is how important that is to our students.  I beg you to share your own learning with our students.  Challenge them to be more than they think they can be.  Help them by guiding them in their post-high school plans.  As a parent, I am so grateful to all the teachers at Lafayette who did that for my son.  It’s hard sometimes to see the forest through all the darn trees – but we are getting our students ready for life.  The benchmark for that is what they see and say to us each day.  The final assessment – the super assessment – is how they navigate their lives after they leave us. Thank you forward for the difference you are making in the future of someone else’s son or daughter.

Week 6 – A Look Ahead

It’s going to be a fun week. Light the flames of learning.  Here we come…

Monday we have a fire drill at 1:15.  Make sure you review with your students as soon as you enter 4th block.

Tuesday is THE DAY.  Super Assessment Day.  We report to CAMP first to give directions.  If you have questions before Tuesday, don’t hesitate to ask.  K’Lea Steeby (assessment counselor) and the rest of the counseling department have taken the lead on this day, and they are working diligently to make it all a huge success.  Please give them grace and support as we get through the day.   It’s really important that our students take the assessments seriously.  This information will help us help our students with data on areas to improve academically as well as goals for their life after high school.

Wednesday we have our next Leadership Team meeting at 7:00 a.m. in Room 103.

Friday is our faculty lunch.  Don’t forget to bring your items for lunch to Room 103.  We will dine in there together each lunch period.  I know it’s going to be a great day.  I will send out a reminder before the day to make sure we all are ready for our excellent dining experience.

A quick reminder – week after next (week 7) is Homecoming Week.  I encourage all teachers to make this one of the weeks you participate and join with our students to make memories of their high school years.  Our Student Council is dedicated to making our school more spirited and fun for everyone. I would be understating how much they want you all to participate with them, if I said it a thousand times.  They LOVE IT when their teachers join them in their craziness and fun – and they remember it for a long, long time.  🙂


Images:  Matt by me; MQ-9 Reaper from; in CC on Flickr Flame Colours by scienceatlife.

Excellence in Working Together

Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.  ~Henry Ford

Week 4 in Review

It sure was nice to have Monday as a holiday; it makes the week seem to fly by even faster.  I want to thank everyone for their work this week in getting our seniors signed up for the ACT Academy and for reviewing their Arrow Forms.  It’s really important not only for our school improvement (to raise ACT scores), but it really helps guide the conversation with our students on what they want to do when the graduate.  I hope you will continue that conversation with them all year long.  In the senior survey, it’s one of the most noted items that students remember in getting them ready for their future after graduation.

I want to share with everyone the information I collected from what we are now calling the “Student Congress,” which is the collected group of students you sent to the auditorium – one representing each CAMP.  We learned quite a bit from the students in this meeting.  Their number one stated goal for improvement will not surprise you.  They want better lunches.  I told them we would work on that immediately, and we are. I had a meeting with nutrition staff and district nutrition director on Thursday.  They are committed to improvement along with the rest of us, including different ways to serve CAMP lunches on early out (perhaps offering family style or ordering “themed” meals for you to serve as a CAMP).  We also discussed offering healthier options, and I think you should see the changes very soon including a salad bar, taco bar and/or potato bar.  I know they are going to put out a Suggestion Box too, in order to get a more accurate feel for what they could do to improve.

The next area of improvement that our students talked about – and they were passionate about this – was how you all are conducting CAMP.  They LOVE the teachers who offer team-building activities, interact with them and work on learning about them, and continue to work with them on their future goals.  There were at least 1/3 of the students in the congress who raised their hands and claimed that their CAMP teacher could and should improve.  Are you one of the teachers they were talking about?  How can you change to make sure your students are getting what they need out of CAMP?  Don’t be surprised if they are shy about telling you in front of each other – it’s cooler to say they don’t care and don’t want to do anything than to admit it’s important.  Please be a teacher who steps in and makes a difference.  I think it means more to your students than you can ever imagine.

Week 5 – Looking Ahead

This is going to be a busy week.  We have JEPD on Wednesday, and it will include all the information for our Super Assessment Day.  Be ready to learn where you will contribute as well as another literacy tool.  CAMP information is also on the agenda – we are trying to constantly keep everyone up to date on what we need to accomplish in CAMP – especially when our students continue to say it’s so important.  We will send out more information prior to Wednesday, so look for the agenda and schedule for block period and location of your PD.

One other important event this week is the Southside Parade.  If you can join us in representing Benton High School in the parade, please take a fun moment on Saturday to bring your family and jump on our BHS trailer.  Luke is working hard to get a good group together, and we have candy enough for everyone to toss to the crowd.  It’s always a fun time.  You will not regret bringing your family to this to ride along with us, waving to the crowds, and enjoying all the festivities.  Go Cardinals!

Images in Creative Commons on Flickr:  Motion gears-team force by ralphbijker; Pencil Blossom by a.c.muller

United in the Journey to Excellence

“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.” –Pearl Buck

Week 3 in Review

We delved deeply into data last week in all our department meetings.  We examined our organization in a way we never have, and we were able to do that because we have a staff that is dedicated to students, learning, and improvement. I was humbled by how honestly every teacher committed to our journey of excellence.  In summarizing the feedback, we were wise to conclude that there is a pattern to the data that we must understand in order to more accurately share with the public how solid our school really is.  I also think it was refreshing to hear so many of us share how great we are at Benton, how well we have it compared to other schools, and how good our morale is — and how great it will be as we continue to build trust and relationships with each other.

Luke shared it best when he said improvement is excellence.  I don’t think very many staff members would deny we are on a constant journey of improvement.  Our improvement includes plans to increase our opportunities to get to know each other, routinely listen to the students’ voices about what is important to them, and continue to build our school spirit and recognition in our assemblies and games.  I think we were all challenged to step up and make a difference.  If we are all working toward improvement, then we should add one more game to go watch the kids or take the opportunity to smile more often at each other when we pass in the hallways.  Those small things make such a big difference to us.  How do I know?  We said so collectively.  What does it mean to be excellent in our school?  It means to try to do better each day at reaching out, building up, and joining more.  I want to thank each of you who reached out on Friday to respond to the email about starting a school store.  From one staff member who asked to the many who responded with support and ideas – that’s what it’s all about.  Thank you for taking the first steps in making a big difference in our school!

Before I move on from last week, I want to share with you two exciting meetings I was honored to be a part of.  The first was a meeting of ALL the Southside principals in the SJSD.  Our feeder schools’ principals from Hyde Elementary, Lake Elementary, Hosea Elementary, and Spring Garden Middle School visited Benton to meet about an opportunity to bring all our schools together for an exciting opportunity.  We decided to have a Southside Rally at Hyde Park before our football game on October 21st (our game against Savannah).  Our bands will play together, our Cardinelle Dance Team will dance with future pom pon girls, and 5th graders from across the Southside will sing the National Anthem at the game.  We are hoping to offer hotdogs and chips at the park before the game then walk up the hill to bring everyone to our football game.  This is a first for us.  If you are interested in helping with this, please come talk to me.

The second meeting I want to talk about was our Benton Leadership Team (BLT) meeting.  The leadership of this school is so good.  Actually, it’s great.  I hope you know that.  Your department chairs are solid leaders.  If you spend any time during this next week building up anyone, I hope you tell your department chair how much you appreciate him or her.  They represent you with grace and compassion.  They are such smart people.  They know what is good for Benton, and they are not afraid to say so.  Your leaders are here to represent you.  Make sure they stay strong and know what you want.  That’s how you build your voice, and that’s definitely how we make Benton stronger.

Week 4 – Looking Ahead

This is a busy week for us.  Tuesday brings our BUS EVACUATION DRILL starting at 9:15 a.m.  It’s the opportunity for all students to learn bus emergency protocols in the event of a variety of circumstances.  The drill usually goes quickly, and this year Jeremy ordered nine busses to make the event flow quickly.  Also on Tuesday, I will have our first CAMP representative meeting, so listen for me to call ONE student from each CAMP to meet me in the auditorium.  This first meeting, we will ask student representatives to share ideas for areas of improvement at Benton.  If you get a moment, open your CAMP with that question so your representative has something to contribute in our meeting.

Thursday is the last day to submit an application (to the counseling center) for the ACT ACADEMY that starting 29 September.  This is the district ACT Academy (held at the NWMSU Center downtown), and we only get 8 spots for the 21 Academy and 3 spots for the Bright Flight Academy.  If you think your CAMPer must get into this academy, make sure you encourage him/her to apply.

Finally, Friday we have a Pep Assembly to recognize our band, cheerleaders and Poms.  Our game is against Lincoln Prep and it’s our last home game for two weeks.  Our next home game is the last week of the month and it’s HOMECOMING week with our game against the Maryville Spoofhounds!

Thank you again for a great week last week.  I will send out an all staff email this week and post on the Virtual Southside forum sharing ideas about your department walkthroughs that we talked about in our meeting (Science and FACS, I forgot to tell you about this).  I want to open up the conversation and give everyone a chance to ask questions and keep this event POSITIVE.  We are building each other — proving to ourselves how great we really are.  I do not want it to be anything less than that.  And thanks to all of you who shared your comments freely and who agreed that we really do have a great thing here at Benton.  Sometimes, I think we just need to own that.  It’s true.  You really are amazing.

One Team Poster by Avinash Narula CC on Flickr; Logitech Marble Mouse by Jeremy Jenum CC on Flickr.