Friday, July 31, 2009

RAS Transitions - Realistic Expectations

My current read is "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Coleman and it is excellent. I am certain that some of my readers would agree that I really "need" this book, and I whole heartedly agree. My "Strength Finder" top 5 are Learner, Communication, Connectedness, Analytical and Achiever. Therefore I always have to work hard to be somewhat proficient at some of the softer categories like Empathy, Relater, Harmony, etc. Well more on the EI book later, however here is the paraphrased point from the book that I am interested in today:
Anger is often a result of unrealistic expectations
With so many RAS families and staff undergoing significant transitions. I think it may be worth discussing expectations. Now the theory I am posting is purely based on math, so please don't read too deep into it with regard to my motives. (ie remember I am analytical and like math)

Imagine that 2 schools merge. Each school has approximately 100 unique yet similar "features" (ie traditions, volunteer positions, fundraisers, parties, methods, etc) that make up the culture / school. Here are 3 variations and a simple math generated potential solution for each.
  1. School A has 10 students and School B has 990 students. Expectation by ratio: 1 School A "feature" and 99 School B "features" exist in the new School AB?

  2. School A has 200 students and School B has 800 students. Expectation by ratio: 20 School A "features" and 80 School B "features" exist in the new School AB?

  3. School A has 1000 students and School B has 0 students. Expectation: 100 School A "features" and 0 School B "features" exist in the new School AB?
I envision example 1 to be a group of new families joining an existing school. Example 2 is typical of what many RAS schools are experiencing. Example 3 describes the RSI move.

Now this assumes that both schools and their features are equivalent in all ways. This means they may be different, yet they are equally capable. Just a matter of preference and what people are used to.

Though reality is much more complicated since people are involved with all their hopes, beliefs, nostalgia, dreams and fears. This would be a math generated rough level setting, and I propose that there will be excessive conflict if people pursue "quick changes" that are significantly different in magnitude. My rationale is that most people like stability and are comfortable with the "features" they are accustomed to.

I am certain and hope more long term changes will occur as the populations merge and new better ideas are generated by the new combined population. My belief is that it will be better for the schools and students if everyone starts with an open mind and realistic expectations.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interesting RAS & School Blog Links

Here are links to some other relevant blogs and some notes. Sorry for the large number, but it has been a month...

First note: There is some discussion of Supt health and dental benefit costs in these text strings. I did get an answer and 281 Exposed was correct. RAS pays ~$29,000/yr for Supt family coverage. (and yes Stan gets it for ~5 more years) The good/bad side is that this is not typical of the other RAS employees. RAS pays in the more normal range of $8k to $12k for these employees. The positive is that since RAS is self insured, the premiums are paid into a trust. If the trust has extra money left in it at year end, this can be used to reduce the next year's premiums. (ie not disappearing into an outside company's profits)

G2A Misc RAS Items
A reader clarified that the district will likely use experienced and highly effective RAS teachers as the ARRA funded coaches. (possibly as TOSA's) And typical retirements will likely allow re-absorption of the teachers in 2 years when the funding is removed. They also noted that the Supt's raise will be between 1 and 2% per year, not the full 2% I reported.

Community Solutions June 9th Notes
Speed Are you of the Body
Speed Too much Government
Speed Fountainhead
281 Exposed Test Scores
281 Exposed Board Candidates Wanted
281 Exposed Quitters Prosper
DJ's Craziness Out There
DJ's To Run or Not to Run

281 Exposed You Do the Math
DJ's You Do the Math - Details
These are definitely worth a read, since the head count seems to be somewhat confusing and not too transparent. DJ does a good job of trying to explain it.

Please feel free to comment on any or all...

Friday, July 24, 2009

G2A Rules - Updated

Here are my updated G2A rules. They change because I continue to learn more about blogging each month, posting, conflict, etc. Before they were exclusively there to reassure friends and acquaintances that I would honor "private" information that I am privy to.

Now I am adding one to clarify when I will exercise my authority as blog moderator. This pretty much means I make the comment disappear. Something I have not done in 9+ mths of blogging.

The intent of the rule is to keep the debate polite and topic focused by not allowing name calling or labelling. There should be no reason to label the person making the comment, while clarifying your counter opinion or correcting a misstatement of fact. For example, I wouldn't expect to see Obama call McCain a bigot while discussing policy or belief differences at a debate. And I do not expect that behavior on this blog site.

G2A Rules:
  • G2A will only discuss things that are general public knowledge. (ie no privileged info)
  • G2A will only link to public / posted documents. (ie school and other websites)
  • G2A will not post based on singular specific personal conversations or information without permission from the information provider.
  • G2a will only post after observing common themes, issues, discussions, etc. (ie it is out there and people are talking about it)
  • G2A will moderate any comments that apply derogatory labels. Be it to G2A, another commenter, group of people, etc.
  • G2A will moderate any comment that includes offensive language. (ie swearing)
I have been in this district for 10 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.

My email is Please contact me directly if I you feel I have violated any of these rules. And always, please remember:

I only speak for myself.
Please do not hold others accountable for my opinions.
If you do, you are doing them a great wrong/disservice.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apologies, Timeout & Giving Power

Now that I am back, I want to deal with some past issues before moving forward.

First, I want to apologize to the people I offended with my June 24th posting. It was insensitive and wrong of me to violate that well written and touching eulogy by linking my comments to it. I realize this now and will try to be more sensitive in the future.

Second, I apologize to anyone who may have taken offense at this comment. "The irony is I truly would have been happy enrolling my kids in ZLE, PLE, Sonnesyn or Sunny Hollow. To me they are all good schools with caring staff and parents." Someone close to me mentioned that this may be perceived as an insult to the other RAS elementary schools. The reality is I know little or nothing about the other elementaries, so I was not willing to commit to them in writing without further research. (cliques link)(ie integrity principle) Whereas I am familiar with these schools and communities, and was certain I would have moved the kids without hesitation if ZLE had been closed.

Third, why a timeout? After my insensitive remarks, a group of people reacted very intensely and this made me very angry, frustrated, sad, etc. Therefore I self imposed a one month time out to ensure I honored my principles, did not say anything inappropriate, escalate the situation further, etc. It gave me some time to manage through those feelings before going back to posting.

Fourth, this gave me a chance to further reflect on the concept of "giving power" away to others. The reality is that others will sometimes say or do things that we disagree with. The questions are then:

  • How are we going to let it affect us personally?
  • Will we allow their words or actions to hijack our emotions, thoughts, actions and behaviors?
  • Or will we remain in control of ourselves?

The reality is that making the choice to not give others control is hard, especially when we are anxious, tired, worn down, etc. Simple examples:

  • Staying calm when the kids misbehave at the end of busy day.
  • Maintaining a calm dialogue when your spouse brings up a sensitive topic.
  • Continuing rational discussion while you believe you are being criticized or threatened.

In hindsight, I freely gave away far to much of my personal power when I let my critics cause me so much concern. And I believe they gave me far to much power when they let my comments cause so much angst.

The reality is I am one guy who is trying to make a difference by:

  • raising topics that are not always too popular or comfortable
  • challenging paradigms and belief systems through polite debate and dialogue
  • challenging other bloggers that sometimes stray from the facts and data
  • encouraging learning, self awareness and community involvement
  • distributing some of the things I have learned over the years.

Since, I am going to continue to do this.

  • If you dislike the blog or blogger, please keep your power by not reading it. I have no interest in working people into a frenzy or causing strife in our local schools. I truly respect your right to believe what you choose. It is the great thing about America.

  • If you like the topics, challenging ideas and open dialogue of this blog, tell your friends and actively participate often!!!! Only by listening with an open mind and freely sharing our beliefs and rationale can we hope to understand each other.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Don't Worry Be Happy

Well, I am violating my self imposed "time out" to post something I remembered I had. It helped me with my decision to keep blogging, and I think it can help many people during these worrisome times of change. It is a summary of "How To Stop Worrying and Start Living" by Dale Carnegie. Defintely worth a read.

Ps. To the "Atlas Shrugged" fans, I'm 3/4 through it and it is also motivating me to return. Back to the discussions in a 2+ weeks.

Fundamental Facts You Should Know About Worry

  • If you want to avoid worry: “Live in day tight compartments”. Don’t stew about the future. Just live each day until bedtime.
  • The next time “Trouble backs you into a corner”:
    • Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can possibly happen if I can’t solve my problem?”
    • Prepare yourself to accept the worst – if necessary.
    • Calmly try to improve upon the worst – which you have already mentally agreed to accept.
  • Remind yourself of the exorbitant price you pay for worry in the term of your health. “Those who do not know how to fight worry die young.”

Basic Techniques in Analyzing Worry

  • Get the facts. “Half the worry in the world is caused by people trying to make decisions before they have sufficient knowledge on which to base their decision.”
  • After carefully weighing all the facts, come to a decision
  • Once a decision is carefully reached, ACT! Get busy carrying out your decision – and dismiss all anxiety about the outcome.
  • When you, or any of your associates, are tempted to worry about a problem, write out and answer the following questions:
    • What is the problem?
    • What is the cause of the problem?
    • What are all possible solutions?
    • What is the best solution?

How to Break the Worry Habit Before It Breaks You

  • Crowd worry out of your mind by keeping busy. Plenty of action is one of the best therapies ever devised for curing the “wibber gibbers”.
  • Don’t fuss about trifles. Don’t permit little things – the mere termites of life – to ruin your happiness.
  • Use the law of averages to outlaw your worries. Ask yourself: “What are the odds against this thing happening at all?”
  • Co-operate with the inevitable. If you know a circumstance is beyond your power to change or revise, say to yourself: “It is so; it cannot be otherwise”
  • Put a “stop-loss” order on your worries. Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth – and refuse to give it more.
  • Let the past bury its dead. Don’t saw sawdust.

7 Ways to Cultivate a Mental Attitude That Will Bring You Peace and Happiness

  • Let’s fill our minds with thoughts of peace, courage, health, and hope, for “our life is what our thoughts make it.”
  • Let’s never try to get even with our enemies, because if we do we will hurt ourselves far more than we hurt them. “Let’s never spend a minute thinking about people we do not like.”
  • Gratitude:
    • Instead of worrying about ingratitude – let’s expect it. Let’s remember that Jesus healed 10 lepers in one day – and only one thanked him. Why should we expect more gratitude than Jesus got?
    • Let’s remember that the only way to find happiness is not to expect gratitude – but give for the joy of giving.
    • Let’s remember that gratitude is a “cultivated” trait; so if we want our children to be grateful, we must train them to be grateful
  • Count your blessings – not your troubles.
  • Let’s not imitate others. Let’s find ourselves and be ourselves, for “envy is ignorance” and “imitation is suicide”.
  • When fate hands us a lemon, let’s try to make lemonade.
  • Let’s forget our own unhappiness – by trying to create a little happiness for others. “When you are good to others, you are best to yourself.”

How to Keep from Worrying About Criticism

  • Unjust criticism is often a disguised compliment. It often means that you have aroused jealousy and envy. Remember that no one ever kicks a dead dog.
  • Do the very best you can; and then put up your old umbrella and keep the rain of criticism from running down the back of your neck.
  • Let’s keep a record of the fool things we have done and criticize ourselves. Since we can’t hope to be perfect: let’s ask for unbiased, helpful, constructive criticism.

Six Ways to Prevent Fatigue and Worry and Keep Your Energy and Spirits High

  • Rest before you get tired.
  • Learn to relax at your work.
  • Learn to relax at home.
  • Apply these four good working habits:
    • Clear your desk of all papers except those relating to the immediate problem at hand.
    • Do things in order of their importance.
    • When you face a problem, solve it then and there if you have the facts necessary to make the decision.
    • Learn to organize, deputize, and supervise.
  • Prevent worry and fatigue, put enthusiasm into your work.
  • Remember, no one was ever killed by a lack of sleep. It was worrying about insomnia that does the damage – not the insomnia.