Thursday, June 25, 2009

G2A Vacation

After the past 24 hours, I am going on vacation for at least a month.

I'm not sure if raising questions and concerns is worth the accusatory reactions and name calling that go with it... That will be what I will be asking myself during the sabbatical.

As a note:
I only speak for myself. Please do not
hold others accountable for my opinions.

If you do, you are doing them a great disservice.

Please feel free to leave your comments regarding the pros / cons of this blog. It may die soon.

Restatement of G2A Rules

I deleted a posting and the associated comments for the first time this morning. I posted a concern/fear I had within the G2A rules, however it was evident very quickly that I had stepped on some sensitive toes. Also, the comments were leading to name calling and me possibly violating my own rules. I apologize for any frustration my openness caused and am always available in a less public forum to discuss your concerns and frustrations.

Friends and Politics

The Present

One of my favorite books by a favorite author is "The Present" by Spencer Johnson. Here are the key points that he conveniently includes on a small card with the book:

Be in the Present
when YOU want to be Happier or more Successful
Focus on What is Right Now.
Respond to What is Important Now.
Learn from the Past
when YOU want to make the Present better than the Past
Look at What Happened in the Past.
Learn Something Valuable from It.
Do Things Differently in the Present.
Plan for the Future
When YOU want to make the Future Better than the Present
See what a Wonderful Future would Look Like.
Make Plans to Help it Happen
Put your Plan into Action in the Present
This is excellent advice that is explained in the form of a short fictional story. Definitely worth the read... Now, how to follow the advice is much more challenging...
  • How much time do you spend "really" with that person/child you are talking to?
  • How focused are you on that current task you are working on?
  • How do you release the past into the past? And not carry it with you?
  • How do you stop fretting over the future?

The reality is that the PRESENT is all you can "kind of" control at any point in time. It is definitely worth trying focus your energy there. This will improve your results, relationships and reduce your stress levels....

Any hints to help my readers?

Misc RAS Items and Thoughts

RSI Admissions Task Force
Seems like a good idea. It will be interesting what ideas they generate and how they are accepted/implemented.

ARRA Funding and Coaches
For coaches to succeed, the coachee needs to accept they have a short coming and they really need to "want" to learn/change. Also, the coach needs to be experienced and knowledgeable. (ie respected by coachee...)

How are we going to hold tenured teachers accountable to improving performance? Without some pressure to improve, it is hard for people to question the effectiveness of what they are currently doing... (ie people do what they do because they think it is the best way.. they don't do it thinking, I want to do it this way because it is wrong..)

How are we going to find experienced and knowledgeable people to sign up for a 2 yr program? Seems like outside consultants would be the only practical way. Otherwise, which experienced tenured staff is going to listen to a "probationary" teacher no matter their training ?

Most likely, we need to call them coaches to meet ARRA reqts. In reality they will be some help for the current staff. It will be interesting to see how it progresses.

2009/2010 Budget

  • Pg 2 - Salaries reflect step and lane changes and a 0% contract increase
  • Beginning fund balance = $1,399,871
  • Ending fund balance = $4,027,828
Not sure what this means exactly, however I sure hope the teacher's union is on board with this. Otherwise that ending fund balance will never become reality. Just a reminder: the board put a 2% / yr into the Supt Sicoli's contract... If the "0% contract" means the teachers get 0%, this will be interesting...

Star Tribune: Supt Sicoli interview

  • No cuts in 2009/2010
  • "I'm impressed with the International Baccalaureate program, the Spanish Immersion program ... Those are quality rigorous choice options for families. Obviously, the arts. I don't know if there's a district with as long and proud a tradition in the arts as Robbinsdale."
Looks like we will keep outspending our income and funding Priority 4 programs. I wonder when the next Referendum will be held and who will vote for it ? How does a school district learn to live within the funding granted it by the citizens ?

LAC Summary
The necessity for lobbyists is fascinating to me. The LAC is one of thousands of groups trying to inform and influence the politicians to spend money on their agenda. No wonder the cost of government keeps going up... We keep asking for more stuff...

Since it is the way the system operates, I have nothing against the LAC. I am just wondering how taxes will ever go down if the citizen's keep demanding more support for their "special interest". (ie schools, businesses, food programs, environment, farms, healthcare, parks, bike paths, local jobs programs, arts, medicare, etc, etc, etc.....)

PLE / ZLE / Sonnesyn post:
I killed this post because my concern/fear was perceived as arrogant and condescending. In other words it was going the wrong way and fast... Especially for this forum. Please email me at if you want any clarification on my thoughts and concerns. I am happy to get together for lunch if it would help.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Celebrating vs Pride

I think I understand why PRIDE made it on the list of 7 Deadly Sins... It makes people do and say really foolish things... It has been one of those weeks, so please bear with my mood:
  • If your child is not getting enough play time in the game. Don't harass that poor volunteer coach, swallow your pride, get out with your child and improve their skills... (and no, I am not the coach...)
  • If your company is losing money. Don't tell everyone how great the company is.Swallow your pride, work hard and turn things around.
  • If your district or school fails to meet AYP. Don't go around advertising that you have a great district for the few, or a great school. (email link from RAS) Swallow your pride, stop focusing on the fluff and resolve those achievement gaps. Now that will be significant !!!

It is fine and healthy to celebrate good news. So I am happy for RAS and the students.

However it is unfortunate when people start celebrating low priority successes while failing at the important things. I am concerned that people will begin to fool themselves into a false sense of contentment / pride... Thereby losing the energy and drive to fix the important things... (ie P1 - P3, or excellent effort /skills)

As always, opinions welcome !!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Low EQ and So Many RAS Employees

One reason I will not miss Mr Mack. He always seemed emotionally unaware. (ie low emotional intelligence) This does not mean he isn't smart and capable. It just mean he has a very low capability for empathy and understanding. Anyone have comments that differ from this author ?

Sun Sailor - Still Stings

This one raises the question of what do 2000+ RAS employees do when there are only 12,000+ students ? There probably is a good answer, however it is not intuitively obvious.

281 Exposed - You do the math

Comments welcome as always !!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Community Solutions mtg 2

Last Tuesday I sat in on the 2nd Listening Session. Again, it was a diverse group of citizens who:

  • are seeking to support their schools, students and communities, while ensuring the tax dollars are used wisely
  • included a couple of board members, some voter no’ers, some vote yes’ers, some parents of RAS students, some older citizens{ie no kids in district}, some RAS employees, etc
  • spent time discussing various RAS challenges and personal concerns with an effort to learn, understand and sometimes influence.

Some of the items discussed included:

  • RAS priorities (ie P1 – P3) {wonder where that input/topic came from...}
  • School communication to citizen’s without children (ie ~80% of the citizens)
  • Financial reporting clarity and consistency
  • Standardization of graduation statistics and clarification of school performance expectations. (ie who to focus on, how?)
  • Student mobility challenge
  • RAS employee expectations and accountability (perf planning and reviews)
  • Board and Admin roles and responsibility (details vs output goal setting)

I had to leave early to kiss the girls good night. (long day) However it was civil and productive for the first hour and 40 minutes. Definitely a worthy effort.

They know they will get this one improvement idea... Provide better signage... The conference in the basement was not intuitively obvious...

What else did readers that attended find interesting?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Listening Levels

Something to think about from Stephen Covey's "The 8th Habit".

I was thinking of getting a tattoo:
  1. Seek to understand
  2. Seek to be understood
Definitely worth remembering, and very hard to do....

Any tricks you have developed for doing this?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sensitivity and the Freeway

Ironically, a friend was telling me an interesting analogy that I would like to share.

Imagine that your business, life, community, etc is like a freeway, and traffic is flowing in an orderly productive fashion because it is not too crowded. Even when there is an occasional accident or breakdown, the traffic can move in an orderly fashion around the disruption.

Now imagine the numbers of cars increases significantly. This could be due to having fewer employees and the same amount of work. Or fewer dollars and a desire to maintain all the programs and services you have come to expect. Or just too many things happening in your personal life.

As the freeway becomes more congested, the slightest disruption can bring traffic to a halt or cause more disruptions/accidents... Also, as this happens it is much easier to frustrate other drivers and sometimes trigger road rage...

My point:
  • Planning becomes even more important when the freeway is busy. The consequences of poor planning/break downs are just to great.
  • Probably best to be a defensive driver and not cut anyone off. You never know what kind of a day they are having...
  • Maintaining balance in our personal lives is good...

Any additions or other useful analogies for these stress filled times...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sensitivity 101 ?

In a world where people are continually told that they need to be more polite or sensitive to the feelings of others, how do we get anything done ???

Recently I replied to what I perceived as a "critical and past oriented" email string by saying "that we can either continue doing he said /she said and becoming angry, or we could start looking forward and begin solving the problems." I then proceeded to describe some positive proactive forward looking actions that should be taken to prevent past problems from being repeated.

My honest and pragmatic attempt to shift the group from picking apart the past and certain individuals, to focusing on the future caused quite an uproar. Apparently I was too abrupt for the people involved, and heard about it... One recipient accused me of violating values I truly believe, causing a disaster and the whole hurrah... (ie felt like I was run over by a train) Since I was not intending to hurt people's feeling, I have apologized profusely. Yet the negative feedback and emotion seemed like overkill.

So what do you think after 145 posts, should I learn to be more sensitive? If I do, what topics are "safe" to raise ? Then how do we move forward ? Are people getting too sensitive ? If so, how can schools, companies, governments, etc resolve thorny problems? Or do we just agree until the wheels fall off, for fear of someone perceiving our voiced concern as showing a lack of respect?

Thoughts are always welcome....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wanted: RAS School Board Candidates

Though I don't always agree with them, I certainly respect and appreciate their dedication. And now you could be one. All it requires is a willingness:
  • to always have some constituency disagreeing with your choices and actions. (ie second guessing you)
  • to stay awake occasionally wondering which class size you should increase or program you should cut.
  • to appear agreeable enough so that a majority of people will vote for you

I thought it would be a relatively easy position after the levy passed, the Supt was selected and the facility decision was made. Unfortunately I think the state's funding delinquency is going to keep the position one challenging ride....

I'll be very interested in seeing if positive SMART platforms are raised, or if it will be an exercise in bashing the incumbents. Stay tuned...

Anybody know how and how much these folks are compensated? Comments welcome

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Community Improvement Listening Session

This group is holding its second meeting, hopefully you can find the time to attend. It is a very creative concept, and could use your support and guidance.

Community Solutions will host its second Listening Session on Tuesday June 9th at 7:00pm at the Crystal City Hall on the corner of 42nd N and Douglas Drive. We will be reporting back on the issues that were discussed at the last meeting.

Community Solutions, MN Mtg Info

G2A Note regarding last mtg

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Greed, Pride and Complacency

Who killed General Motors and what can America learn from this?

Since everyone else has an opinion on this... I figured I would weigh in.

Why do employees continually think "they" deserve more for less effort? This can be the over paid executives or the person putting in bolts. Society needs to change what they value in order to control management pay. Who is really worth more than $1 mil /yr??? As for the bolt installer and unions, if your skills/knowledge don't justify your compensation on the open market, your strikes and black mailing management just put your company at risk. You are forcing them to pay more than needed and "killing the golden goose". (ie many bolt turning GM folks retired well at ~50 yrs of age)

American investors and their thirst for short term profits absolutely kill the ability for a company to invest in research and development during down turns. Before a company could lose money for a year and investors would accept that it was a necessary investment. Now they punish the stock price, which lowers the valuation and puts the company at risk for takeover. Therefore executives find it difficult to commit to longer term improvement.

America has way too many lawyers, and far too few engineers. Engineers , manufacturing personnel, etc add value for customers. (ie product and innovations) Lawyers, sales people, etc are a necessary tax that needs to minimized. You would be amazed at how much money the American Legal system costs you each time you buy a product. All because of greed.

Pride and Complacency
In the 1950's, a guy named Deming went to GM and other US manufacturers to offer his knowledge. They ignored him, so he went to Japan. Enough said. (wiki Deming)

Execution is hard detailed "every day" work, however it seems many American managers continually look for simple solutions or "Big Improvements For Free". Also, people that pursue these positions are often motivated by money, pride and/or power. (ie not natural Servant Leaders...) Then on top of this, they like to reward people like themselves and punish the "employee/child" that points out the king's missing clothing. This works because "conflict later" is easier than "conflict today" for most folks. Besides you may get lucky and things will work out.

The American workers don't get off free here either. Repeatedly I have coached employees that are looking for that "next position" and are unwilling to learn or do what is required. Again, you are not that "special" unless you take responsibility for your continual improvement and work ethic. If you are getting above cost of living raises without increasing your productivity, you are poisoning the golden goose and should not be surprised when it drops dead.

Governmental Ponderings
The largest group of "Managers" and "Union Employees" are in government/schools, they continue to strive for job security, their view of what is right and more income, no matter the results. After looking at GM, how do you think this will work out for the USA in the long term?

Remember, you first need to look in the mirror, because that is the only person you can directly influence and change. Thoughts?