HSD 1J Candidate Forum Provides Reality Check

Here’s a post I wrote back in March of 2009 to give readers a little insight into what school board members do. The “reality check” refers to what forum attendees learn about the misconception of a) running for the Board and winning a seat, and b) single-handedly imposing their will on the district. It just doesn’t happen that way. I’ve included some updates in italics.

Straight Talk

schoolboardphoto1Folks who run for a school board position usually have a burning passion to improve local education and/or an agenda to change something in the District that unsettles them.

Then you find yourself, after surviving an election, on the Board, and — Surprise! — you have no power to change things by yourself. The Board acts as a group, and if you want group buy-in on your “agenda,” it had better be a good one, and you’ll need a lot of patience and persuasive ability, because the Board has a multitude of competing challenges.

A prudent new Board member gets humble, settles in and learns as much as they can about maintaining a good Superintendent-Board relationship, and a respectful relationship with fellow Board members. Somehow, over time, your concerns will be heard by your peers, and the Board will act…as a Board.

Five candidates were able to make the 12…

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Myron Dueck

Ok, so apparently the Georgia Senate is looking at passing a piece of legislation – Bill 364.  To read it in full, visit: http://www1.legis.ga.gov/legis/2011_12/versions/sb364_As_introduced_LC_33_4469_2.htm 

The Assembly is opposed to ‘standards based achievement’, ‘formative assessment’ and ‘assessment for learning’ (page 3). Here is what most leapt off the page for me regarding GA Senate Bill 364… 

 The General Assembly finds: “The assessment focus is on equal outcomes for all students, referred to as mastery of minimal standards, in which students can take as long as they need through the school year to meet standards without incurring grading penalties, and further, it removes grade averaging for all students, with the sole outcome based focus on meeting standards”

 Now, I may not be well-versed in Georgia politics and as a foreigner I obviously do not have the my finger on the pulse of the educational issues there.  I have read this bill in…

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“Your External Brain”

evernote_logoOkay, I’m becoming part of the world rave for EVERNOTE.

I don’t have a policy against making recommendations to my peers that will improve the quality of their personal and professional lives, but somehow, I rarely get around to it. Even when I got an iPhone 3G for my birthday last November, I didn’t tweet, face, or mention it here. And I love my iPhone.

But I have to talk about Evernote. It’s that good. In fact, it’s one of those apps that’s worth buying an iPhone for.

“Your External Brain” is the company’s catchphrase. And right they are. This app is a radical departure from the average note-taking app, e.g., Appigo’s Notebook, which I like because it syncs to the net (Toodledo) and my phone, and is accessible from any computer. So is Evernote. And that’s not all…

Evernotes can be photos, voice, text, paste, drag and drop, or you can snatch entire web pages from the net, or just parts. Evernote has character recognition (in addition to tagging and attributes), so it will search for words you input even in pdfs and legible handwritten notes you’ve photographed or scanned in.

This thing even has geographic search that works off the phone’s gps. If I take a photo of my parking spot row sign at LAX, I can search for it by asking for all notes made within a mile of the parking lot (although I think I’d tag it “LAX”).

Evernote is easy to use and so versatile that I’ll still be finding new uses for it next year.

Oh, and did I mention that a full-service version is free. After I figured out how to use it, though, I got the guilties and signed up for the Premium account (just $5 per month) that features more storage than I’ll ever use, along with high-end encryption algorithms, and a few other features.

Check out the Evernote web site, the blog, the podcasts (talky, but informative), and sign up. Mac and Windows clients are available, and the Windows Mobile phones and others will handle it too. A BlackBerry app is in the works.

Evernote was not designed to be a GTD (Getting Things Done by David Allen) app, but functions as a companion program to any of them. You can’t make good lists of things to do if you can’t remember what it was you needed to do in the first place, right? I use Evernote along with Toodledo, a task app.

As a teacher or administrator, can you imagine being able to capture and catalog all the cool ideas you’d like to implement to improve student achievement? Now you can, easily.

I still use my own brain, but it’s getting more rest now.

What To Do When the Press Doesn’t Do Their Job


Once again, the HSD 1J Board of Directors voted on action items without the witness of the Fourth Estate. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but it pains me to think that the patrons of the school district cannot read about or hear the news of our activities right from the reporters who were there on the front line.

Please understand that anything you read in the paper or hear about on the radio, or see and hear on TV about what follows is at least third hand. In other words, the reporter, who should have witnessed this meeting with their own eyes and ears to be able to report somewhat objectively, is getting the information through a second party’s filters, and who knows how objective that is?

You might wonder why I am disappointed in the press’s lack of ability to report the actions of the District’s Board of Directors. Here’s why: If they don’t report, and I don’t blog, patrons have to wait a month or so until the next regular meeting when we approve the minutes of the prior meeting (the one that wasn’t reported on) to find out what the heck happened at the meeting a month ago. And then patrons won’t find out unless they jump on the internet and go to the District’s web site.

The District does its part to keep patrons informed, but without the press, there’s a big delay. I’m trying to stand in that gap. Don’t throw praise or money, just call Clark Gallagher at The Argus (503-648-1131), and the education editor (if they still have one) at The Oregonian, (503-221-8525) and tell him or her you want some coverage.

From this point on, I’ll let you know exactly what we voted to do or not do. To catch up on what went on at a previous meetings, go here. We didn’t have any reporters at those meetings either.

11OCT2010: There used to be a bunch of links that went to HSD 1J’s Board page, but they have been updated and tracking them is a waste of time. Just check out Straight Talk or the District’s Board update (I will leave it to you to find that url, since it changes too often for my taste).

Help Upgrade [Ruben’s] Classroom Library

Some of you are familiar with Ruben’s Bronx, New York, elementary school teacher’s blog. Ruben has a classroom book drive going on, and the goal, graded readers for his students, is worthy and attainable.

What do ya say we pitch in? We can’t support every classroom in the USA/World, but I’m willing to go an extra mile for someone who’s willing to ask.

Click here to read what Ruben is asking for and how you can help.

Thank you.

New Approach…

I’ve had a real change of heart about the way I approach teachers who want to continue punitive grading practices.

In the past, I’ve been frustrated because said teachers will agree with me about the primary purpose of grading, i.e., report academic progress to parents and the student, and then further agree that the grading and reporting needs to be accurate, valid, and reliable.

The frustration comes when they say, “BUT…”

BUT (these teachers say) we have to teach them the ways of the real world…responsibility and accountability to your bosses, yada, yada, yada.”

So, I’ve decided not to disagree. I will cave in and say, “You are absolutely right! One of the latent functions of public education is to teach students to be responsible and accountable…”

“…BUT-T-T-T-T, ”

“…let’s grade and report so the child’s record of achievement is not distorted, and find ANOTHER way of dealing with the student behaviors that you don’t like. That fair, isn’t it?”

I need to get those illogical and useless “buts” working for me! 😀