Tuesday, March 31, 2009

RAS Testing Myths Forum Update

I attended the myths forum tonight and have mixed feelings regarding it. The presentation was made by 2 RAS personnel that are experts in the area of testing and analysis. They did a good job of:
  • defining acronyms and the different tests
  • explaining the general history of the "accountability" movement
  • listening and responding to questions
  • describing the real flaws of NCLB (ie includes Spec ed and non-English speaking students)
  • reviewing district "avg" performance against state and national stats
  • explaining the differences and gaps by demographics
The down sides from my viewpoint:
  • spent significant time explaining flaws of current accountability systems (ie government set too aggressive of targets)
  • used too many generalities (ie possibly apples & oranges)
  • little if any discussion of specific plans to close gaps
  • somewhat misleading or unclear graphs (ie partial y axis made differences look more significant than they are, using todays performance std distribution to estimate future performance non-proficiency rates{instead of explaining that std dist curve is supposed to shift as more kids become proficient}, etc)
  • did not detail "one school" as a case study (ie explain myths in detail and how they misled)

In summary, it was a good general learning experience with some marketing / political spin. Most importantly, it reminded me that "we need to look at the details"... Not just the headlines... (ie especially with AYP results) Both sides can find their message in the data, so be an informed citizen and look for yourselves...

MN Report Cards and Data

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cafferty on Education

Love him or hate him, he does make some good points....

Cafferty on Education

Not sure if Marines are the right answer... However it is worth some discussion... Thoughts ?

Remember: Exposing Standardized Testing Myths will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 31 at Rockford Road Library, 6401 42nd Ave. N., Crystal. It is the second in a series of forums hosted by Robbinsdale Area Schools’ Legislative Action Coalition (LAC).

Friday, March 27, 2009

RDale - The Emperor's New Clothes

Once in an MBA course, the instructor made a point that Engineers were the worst at marketing themselves and their value to the company. They typically bury their head in their work with the assumption that the great results will speak for themselves, and then Managers will notice and reward them for this... The Instructor noted that this was unrealistic and wrong !!!

The reality is that there needs to be a balance between work/performance and self marketing if you want to get ahead in your career. (unless you get really lucky) Employees can market and make connections by joining teams, volunteering for company events, joining company leagues, writing articles for a company newsletter, interviewing Mgrs about their typical day, eating in the lunchroom, etc.

With this in mind, I appreciate the RAS efforts to explain how they are succeeding. It is a valid and worthwhile activity.

RDale Info Session for Realtors
Forum Exposes Standardized Test Myths

My concern is that they may be a bit out of touch.(ie see themselves wearing beautiful clothes) The continual drum beating of "choice is most important" and "ignore those No Child Left Behind results" may actually turn citizens off that want "test results" and a "good solid common curriculum(s)" across all the district schools.

Only time will tell if the cloth is real or imaginary. Thoughts?

Note: There is no guarantee that common curriculum(s) across all the schools would improve district results. However, it would save money from logistics, administration, materials, transportation, etc and this could be used in the classrooms. As long as the district did not lose more funding by kids transferring out of RAS to pursue their "choice".

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rdale Schools Divestiture Plan

This looks like a good document overall, however I find point 8 interesting.

RAS Divestiture Plan

I assume this is the "how to avoid storming clause". I agree it is legally necessary just in case something or someone goes really really wrong. However, I would be interested in seeing the ground rules for the team, and what would justify firing a volunteer or the whole team. Since storming, disagreement, collaboration and consensus building is the key reason for having a team... (ie if 20 people think the same and have the same opinions... Why do we need 19 of them?)

Also, will the recommendation be created by consensus, popular vote, "Committee Chair" summary, other...

It is worth noting that this is an Advisory Committee with only the authority to recommend, so it will be exciting to see how well their opinions are honored by the Board and Administration.

A friend asked if I would sign up for the committee because it would be a good fit. I told him that it is highly unlikely because I think my views on increasing RAS performance by promoting school competition are too far out of synch with RAS management. (ie it is likely I would get fired...)

Any volunteers or comments ???

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Team Development - What is Success?

One of the biggest challenges I face as a team lead is getting the Team's Sponsor and Team Members to agree up front to a common SMART charter. (link) Ironically, this is by far the most important factor in leading a successful team or project. Simply said, how do you proceed or succeed if you do not know what success is ???

Some reasons why people are resistant?
  • "We" all "know" what the project or team goal is... Why waste time documenting it ?
  • "We" need to fix the "whole" problem no matter our funding, resources, timeline, etc... How many resources are required is irrelevant ?
  • "We" need to fix the "whole" problem with this project or team. Besides we all share a common vision for this project, process, system, etc. Why waste time developing and documenting MGPP's? (link)
  • "We" will work it as fast as we can... Why waste time creating schedules and milestones ?

Based on experience with hundreds of projects and teams. Take the time and effort to create a SMART charter and plan. (and MGPP when applicable). The reasons why:

  • Only by writing this down clearly and specifically can you ensure everybody shares a common vision. Because "we" can not read minds and everyone enters the team with unique histories, attitudes, goals, interpretations, etc.
  • Team morale is crushed and momentum stalls when the reality of having too few resources, too big of a scope, too long of a timeline, etc becomes apparent. People like to be part of a successful team and dislike things that drag on.
  • Sponsor support and engagement is critical to maintaining team energy, they must be engaged. People want to feel someone is interested in what they are doing and they appreciate someone who helps remove road blocks.
  • Teams need intermediate goals or milestones to provide urgency and to ensure they are on schedule. Without these problems would not be identified until it was too late to resolve them.

Did I miss anything?

Monday, March 23, 2009

STOP Banning of NEW Schools

Check these out and act quickly, unless you wish to limit school competition and choice for our Minnesota students !!!

FD Stop the New Schools BAN
Speed Non-Compete

Wage Freezes and The Economy

My company like many others has reduced employee head count, instituted wage freezes and forewarned of lower compensation in 2009. (ie small to no expected bonus) The management has made these very difficult decisions in order to ensure that the company will still be in business and employing people after this economic down turn. As it has been for 100+ years...

Another reason this makes sense is that employee compensation should conform to the laws of supply and demand. As more workers become unemployed during this wide spread downturn, wages and costs should drop due to the larger available labor pool. Which in turn allows the companies to improve profitability, start growing, and start hiring again...

With this in mind: How does this apply to the Public sector?

Should Federal, State and Local government employees get raises this year even though the majority of companies and citizens are not? Of course, holding Teacher and Administrator pay stable during this downturn will be a key issue within the RAS community after just passing a referendum.... Or at the State level as cuts are made due to the deficit....

My thought is raises should be stopped if the employees are correctly compensated per the market. However raises should continue if the employee compensation lags the market. Now how do we decide the correct wage for Principals, Teachers, Legislators, Park workers, DOT employees, etc? Since Unions, laws, seniority and other complicating factors prevent true capability based competition for the positions.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Team Development - Volunteer and Assigned

As I observe the "volunteer" teams at work, I remember how fortunate I am that my team members are "assigned" by someone to help accomplish the goal. This is based on their talents, knowledge, relation to the goal, etc. I lead ~12 project teams per year with ~6 going at any one time. They typically range in size from 6 to 12 members.

I am thankful because the "assigned" team members are trained regarding team stages, tools, roles, responsibilities, etc. Also, though they have unique ideas and motivations, overall the goal is fairly clear and common. Finally, they are familiar with the company culture and can not run at the first sign of "storming". Even with all this going for us, it is difficult to get teams all the way to the "performing" stage before the project is completed. (ie we execute in the prior stages)

"Performing" is when Productivity, Creativity, Enjoyment, etc really increase. Thus it is the goal of most great team leads... The energy of it empowers and thrills us...

With this in mind, I think it would help volunteers to study up on Team Development and Execution. (see below) Many people join teams with no idea what to expect and become frustrated by the process, execution, progress, direction, behavior other team members, etc. By understanding best practices you will learn that many of the difficulties are normal and required.

Form, Storm, Norm, Perform (Wikipedia)
Team Training (NY)

More Later. Thoughts ?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cliques and Prejudice - not just for kids ...

After years of listening to people comment regarding "that school - insert name here" being:
  • BAD
  • GOOD
  • ETC
I have to wonder where all these folks are getting their information.

As I have said before, I am a huge believer that you will almost always "find what you are looking for"...(? Truth ?) For example, you can scare your self terribly if you are a parent who is looking at sending your first sweet child to Middle School, and you talk only to others in the same situation. (ie watch out for the huge size, thefts, fights, tough teachers, etc !!!!) So do yourself a HUGE FAVOR:
  • talk to kids that attend the school (they don't carry all the preconceived ideas of good and bad)
  • tour the school during the school day or volunteer in their library stacking books
  • talk to various parents at the new school (ie don't judge the school by "that one annoying person you met"... would you like them judging your school that way?)
  • talk to parents outside of your own clique or comfort zone. (ie if they think like you, act like you and talk to the same people... is their information and opinion going to help your perspective???)
  • talk to a few teachers (these are the people that you and your kids will spend the most time with !!! not the Principal !!!)
  • consciously challenge your prejudices as you observe (ie your school had 30 kids/grade, all Caucasian and they used no slang ... so what !!! Now what factors really matter when it comes to your choice of schools... )
The reality is we are in a diverse school district, and this comes with pros and cons. However since we all live in this area and many of us come from this area: the parents, teachers and kids have more in common than you may initially think. So take advantage of the RAS offers to tour and attend open houses. This is how you can best make an informed choice.

Open Houses
Tour Invite

Exposing Standardized Testing Myths ...

Forum Exposing Standardized Testing Myths

Though the title does not fill me with confidence, this is one meeting you should not miss. Given the importance that we put on State generated Report Cards, AYP, NCLB and test scores, I believe it is the duty of every citizen to understand what they mean.

Now why am I skeptical ? I am worried that it may be spun as an excuse session. (ie the scores are wrong, we are doing great) However, I'll be there hoping to learn facts and gain understanding. I hope you join me.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Blogger equals Complainer ?

So I was told twice in 2 weeks that:

Blogs are just for folks who want to COMPLAIN

I can see how this perception is supported by some postings. (even a few of mine...) However, I see blogs as a simple and convenient way to share information and support "safe" dialogue for folks who care about a topic. (and to get their voice heard by hundreds of people, not just a few)

I may not get to the point of agreeing with the other blog commenters, however I do learn knowledge and perspectives from them. And learning is almost always a good thing...

Along with the new RAS E News systems, I thinks RAS should host a RAS Community Blog. Then the parents and other citizens could see the incoming concerns and praise, along with the District's answer. With the email system I have a nagging feeling we will only see questions and answers that the Admin and Board deem acceptable to answer, possibly not a healthy cross section of the Parent's and Citizen's thoughts. Only time will tell.

Otherwise, I think the email system is a great addition to the RAS communicator offering.

So, are the bloggers out to complain or promote dialogue?
Thoughts or improvement ideas?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

RAS News and Comment

First, the ZLE PTO meeting is at 6:30 PM on Tuesday. All parents and teachers are welcome and encouraged to attend !!! (even if you are not a PTO member) They are really nice people who are working hard to improve our school for our kids, please take this 'no commitment required" chance to get to know them and learn what they do... {link to my thoughts for ZLE 2009/2010}

Second, the 281 administration and board seems to be turning down free money and limiting educational choice in our community. See my comments in Speed's "What's happening with Pilgrim Lane Elementary" Please note Christine's hint at possibly needing PLE as a Kindergarten, seems Wold's assessment may be off a bit. (get a refund?) Also, see the Notes from the Working meeting. And as always, please drop the board an email if you support or disagree with this action. mailto:school_board@rdale.k12.mn.us

Thirdly, mark your calendar to meet the Superintendent candidates. (more info)

Finally, here is a link to the latest school transition letter. Please note the intra-district transfers are going to be a problem and all schools are doing great verbiage. Not sure if this will convince the doubting parents. The upside is the open invitation to set up a personal tour, which is a great improvement and should be taken advantage of. (ie give the schools a chance, see with your own eyes) Also, don't forget to signup for RAS E news updates at rdale.org. (E news)

Thoughts ?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Conservatives Answer the Call ?

I started this posting as a challenge to my fellow conservatives to "pry open their wallets" and be responsible. My belief was that:
  • if you want to cut the government safety nets, you had better be there to catch the bodies...
  • Conservatives are too tight to actually be giving...
  • Liberals care and talk so much... So they must give a lot...
  • the religious Christian conservative had best be giving 10% of their gains back to non-profits/community, or God will have a toasty spot waiting for them...

Well then I came across this article. Conservatives have Answered Obama's Call

It seems I had better start my preaching with the Liberals... Does this article make sense to you? Why or why not?

By they way, if you did not know. I am a Republican and a Lutheran who between dollars and volunteering has worked his way slowly up to giving almost 10%/yr back to the community... The volunteering portion is primarily thanks to my incredible wife's activities. (more on that in a future post)

Also, we still have a long way to go since it looks like people typically give less than 4% (other Giving Stats)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Public Education: A Three Legged Stool

R-Five (Speed) left a great comment regarding what will the district do with the extra money, if "Parents" start providing equipment ? I guess my answer has to do with a "3 legged stool" and relative levels of "Excellence".

The 3 legs of School Excellence are:
  • Parent involvement and support
  • Administration and teaching priorities, planning and execution
  • Public involvement and support

From my viewpoint the Public is doing a pretty good job of supporting the financial aspects of the RAS schools. Sure it took some work, however the Federal, State and Community citizens are spending a lot of money on our schools/kids. Maybe not enough to make them incredible, however certainly enough to make them good solid schools that can provide a solid core and advanced curriculum. An area for continued improvement is volunteering as mentors/tutors for kids that a struggling...

The Board, Administration, Teachers and other employees are taking on the challenge of reducing fixed costs by closing schools and dealing with ever increasing expectations. There are still many productivity gains that can be made by holding personnel accountable and improving our focus on the core programs/deliverables. However RAS is definitely heading in the right direction.

The majority of parents however seem to have lost their way. I am not sure if it is all the 2 income families, folks lacking a sense of parental responsibility, the overloaded schedules, the need to "keep up with the Jones's", or what... However, financial giving and volunteering seems to be headed the wrong direction. My guess is:

  • less than 10% volunteer outside their child's site
  • less than 3% volunteer more than 40 hrs/yr
  • less than .5% volunteer more than 100 hrs/yr
  • less than 20% give 90% of the PTO's funding
  • average donation = ~$50/child/yr

Unless the parents step up more, their school's will at best be "Good". (ie wobbly stool) Also, why should the public keep supporting the schools if the parents don't think it is important enough to make it a priority?

Time for a Video (Totally improper politically incorrect video that applies to many of us - even myself at times... Thanks to Freedom Dogs for the link) With this in mind, how do us men, women, black, white, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, etc stop waiting for someone to fix our communities and schools !!! So let the Public funds support the things to make the school's very good. And I hope the parent's money and volunteering can make them GREAT !!!

As always, all thoughts welcome ...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Fun of being a SUPERHERO

Repeatedly I post things that someone should either agree or disagree with, I have many people hitting the site each day, and yet I receive very few comments. So I have to wonder if people are concerned regarding their anonymity being at risk... Well I am here to assure you again:

Your true identity is safe unless you disclose it.
Nobody incuding myself can see who you are.
This is the "from" info I receive: Anonymous (noreply-comment@blogger.com)

Just think, you can be a SUPER HERO when ever you choose. Imagine that you can help others to understand your viewpoint and possibly learn from your perspective. Or if you see my postings as an attack on somebody or something you care about, you can step in to defend what you hold near and dear. (ie To promote dialogue, I'll happily play Lex Luthor to your Superman)

I would prefer that people who leave anonymous comments sign their comment with an alias. This is so the other participants can get a feel for you, your background and beliefs. (anonymous: technical definition meaning you don't log in)

Now creating the alias is half the fun... I did it by considering the principles that I believe in, my concern that many Americans are becoming too self centered and avoiding their civil responsibilities, and robbing themselves of the happiness and fulfillment that is attained by helping others. (ie not just our kids)

With this in mind, here are some alias developing hints:
  • what do you truly believe in and what words associate with this ?
  • what are the names of fictional or real life role models that you respect?
  • what animal, car, flower, hobby, etc do you just think is cool ?

Now join into the discussions and help people understand your differing viewpoint. Or just occasionally drop a note to cheer me on and help others understand I am not alone in my crazy ideas.... Remember: dialogue is the only way to build understanding and consensus.

As always: I am likely wrong or poorly informed at times, only YOU can help me learn !!! Save me "superhero" ...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Parents Pay for Public School Perks?

After years of listening to parent's commenting:
  • "Why do we have so many school fund raisers ???"
  • "Why do I have to pay all these activity fees ???"

My questions are:

  • Why are parents so hesitant to give money to their school's PTO ?
  • Why do parent's complain about school fees for "special/choice" curriculum and activities? (ie beyond what is needed to get kids into basic jobs, tech schools and universities) Or parking ?
Most of us modern middle class parents happily spend $5,000, $10,000 or more a year so that our brood can be in soccer, hockey, dance, piano, gymnastics, baseball, basketball, performing arts, etc. Now this is fun and good, yet the reality is that Billy and Suzy are not likely to make a career out of these activities. If they even continue them into High School....

However, you can move your child's school from good to great by giving $400 per child per yr to your local PTO. Imagine the technologies and other advantages you could provide all of the kids. Now that's an incredible value !!! Especially since it is tax deductible for most of us !!!

In my case, if on average ZLE parents wrote a check for $200 per child per year, the PTO would be able to invest over $100,000 per year in the school. And for PMS that would be $250,000+. Now, that's a lot of SMART Boards, computers, etc.... And it is a lot easier and faster than arguing for additional state funding... So get out your checkbook now and make an investment that will have an immediate payback while making you feel good !!!

By the way, remember this is PTO proceeds... So you will need to buy $800 worth of wrapping paper, or better yet just write out a check... And though I bought a trip to Arrowwood resort for $200+, the real charitable party was the one that provided the gift certificate. (ie I'm getting something of value for my money.) So thank the businesses and individuals that donate those goods and services.

For more on Pay for Perks, check out this blog string..
Speed RSI (or "shifted to pay for perks")

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Parenthood, Patience Building and Fun

When I was younger, I was a TERRIBLE teacher. My technique for teaching my wife to downhill ski was to stick the skis on her and push her over to the chairlift. The result was predictably a pile of skis and a frustrated date at the other end of the lift...

Then came kids and training them to stay in their bed, teaching them to downhills ski and many other skills. I still had not figured it out.... It seemed they should be able to learn it faster and lord knows that was important !!! The result was again predictable, many power struggles and pointless disputes.

Well tonight we went roller skating and I have final figured out how to follow their lead and just enjoy the time that they NEED to hold onto me. After 45 minutes the youngest skated away from me happy and confident...

Amazingly, they seem to grow up fast enough. Make sure to appreciate the "present" and you will receive the best "gift".

Robbinsdale Blog Links

Speed Realty News (too big to succeed)
Speed RSI
Speed Education Monopoly

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Friends and Politics

There is probably a good reason why friends often don't talk politics... I made known my identity to larger group of people and it has caused some stir. So, I want to make sure everyone knows my blogging rules:
  • I only discuss things that are general public knowledge. (ie no privileged info)
  • I only link to public / posted documents. (ie school and other websites)
  • I do not post based on specific conversations or information. I only post after I have confirmed a trend or a common perception.
  • If I use a specific example, I get that persons permission first. (I screwed up on this recently, deleted the blog and apologized to that individual)
  • I have been in this district for 9 years... I think and read a lot... I talk to a lot of people... This generates opinions and ideas that I post...
  • I know I will be wrong sometimes, therefore all comments are accepted and can be totally anonymous. Also, my email is give2get@live.com.

Please contact me directly if I you feel I have violated any of these rules. I will either apologize and learn from my mistake, or explain the real source of the blog. Not surprisingly many of us are discussing the same topics or similar stories. (ie this movie is not based on any real events or characters...)

My goal is to increase dialogue, not cause ill well. Hopefully my friends will allow me my beliefs as I happily allow them theirs..

Friday, March 6, 2009

ZLE 2009 Funding and Parent Involvement

ZLE Parents:
The next PTO meeting is March 17th @ 6:30 PM in the ZLE Media Center. Childcare is provided if you RSVP. See PTO distributed materials for the agenda.

The things on my mind are the 2009/2010 PTO budget and school year:
  • Will ZLE find an energetic, organized and well spoken fund raising chair person that can help enable the fund raising teams ? (ie losing our current excellent chair at year end...)
  • The age of the PTO provided school computers and when should they be replaced?
  • How can we significantly increase the PTO funding? (ie ~$30K to $90+K) {$90K = ~$150 avg from ~600 children, seems like a bargain for the great school we attend(remember private = ~$3,500 to $12,000 per yr)} And no this is not $150 of product we would have bought anyway... it's $150 of cash or profit to the PTO.....
  • Kaleidoscope and Focus programs (ie reinstating gifted programs)
  • Will a group or an individual volunteer this year to organize the 2010 Spring school carnival? (ie was our largest and most enjoyable fund raiser, until no coordinator could be found)
  • How can we raise extra funds to purchase SMART Boards? DVD players?
  • Will parents volunteer, so we can reinstate the "Destination Imagination" program? (a great program for kids that was dropped this year due to lack of volunteers...)
  • Do we want to fund additional Teaching Assistants? (ie art, help kids catch up, music concerts, etc)
  • How can we raise some more funds yet this year to replace the cushion that was used when the playground was purchased?
Anyone else have concerns, fund raising ideas, ways to get more parents engaged, etc?

2008 ZLE PTO Budget
ZLE Mar08 Newsletter

RSI Parents Rock !!!

Now I know you think this seems like a strange headline coming from someone who is luke warm on the Spanish Immersion funding/payment model... However, let me explain why it is the truth.

Not only did the RSI parents raise enough funds to pay for foreign teaching assistants who brought with them their fluent Spanish and culture. They also volunteered to provide room, board and transportation to them while here. There have been 9 to 14 of them per year !!!

Their level of volunteerism and giving is excellent !!!!

JGW or Others, Did I miss anything? Any tricks we could all benefit from to driving this level of parent engagement?
RSI PTO Budget

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Robbinsdale Schools: Changing? Improving ?

In another blog, the following comment was made:
"We as a community have called upon the board and administration to be
fiscally frugal and focused on "getting those test score ups" (which in my mind
DOES NOT equal academic excellence). That's what they are trying to do, I'm
convinced, though I don't always agree with the means or the desired end, for
that matter. It will be interesting to see if and how the community steps up now given the 180 degree turn we've made from this time last year."

I guess I am curious, has RAS changed in the past year? Are these improvements or degradations from your viewpoint? How would you improve things further?

All opinions encouraged as always !!!

Speed: Close 3 Schools
Speed: Eliminate education monopoly
Speed: Close Sandburg ?
Speed: WMEP
Speed: Libraries, ECFE, Community Ed
Speed: TERM paper

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Good Luck Note

Since political promises and good luck chain letters seem to work, let's see if it will increase our online community and gain more input/opinions.

I promise you excellent luck and good fortune in 2009 if you take just 10 minutes to email this link to 10 or more friends who are interested in improving the RAS community or MN education in general. ACT NOW !!!*


* Only guaranteed when forwarded on the 6th Sunday of the month....

Monday, March 2, 2009

Robbinsdale Schools - PTO Funds

Why is it so critical that Parents raise additional funds ? Shouldn't the "District" pay for it all ?

Here are 2 budgets that are posted. (ie we can access them easily) You will note that most of the money goes directly to the classroom, teachers or programs. Please note: these "extras" would not exist if it were not for parent funding....

I am impressed by the RSI fund raising capability, and I guess this confirms they were allowed to fund the hiring of Teaching Assistants. This is a good thing that other RAS schools were not allowed to do. (ie deemed an unacceptable "white privilege") Hopefully other schools will be allowed to do this if it is deemed necessary by the parents...

You may also note that ZLE started 2008/2009 with no safety net. This is because the PTO replaced the broken playground structure in 2007/2008. (~$40+K) (ie costs exceeded revenues) Should safe modern play structures be a PTO or RAS expense? We thought it was a worthwhile "extra".


ZLE PTO Budget
ZLE PTO Home Page
RSI PTO Budget
RSI PTO Home Page

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Robbinsdale Schools Volunteerism

Last night I attended the Zachary Lane Elementary "Parents Night Out". This is an excellent opportunity for parents and school employees to get together in a social setting and have fun. This year it was held at the West Medicine Lake Community Center, which is a great site for such events. The activities included a silent auction, party games, a DJ, food/drink, a live auction and a lot of mingling.

As I sat there selling drink tickets, I pondered the group that was present and noticed that almost all of them were very familiar. First, they were the same core volunteers that make sure things happen at the school. Second, most of them had older kids. (9 yr ZLE veterans like myself) I then wondered what can we do to engage a larger group, and the newer parents as core volunteers. Hopefully someone is their to takeover for the veteran volunteers when they retire to middle school.

The interesting thing is that we can still find volunteers to help out at school events, in the classroom or to fill two hour shifts. The challenge is finding the core organizers who are willing to step up, make the time, and lead the PTO and its necessary fundraising events. These are the jobs that take 100+ hrs per year and are critical to organizing and funding the programs that make the school special. (ie playgrounds, academic offerings, computer equipment, library supplies, etc)

Next year we will lose the "most recent" incredibly dedicated and energetic fund raising coordinator. Hopefully, as the veterans move on the new players come up to the plate to carry on the tradition.