Sunday, November 29, 2009

Star Tribune Bashes Charter Schools

Side Note: Cannibals string fired up again
I have to make this quick since I am using my PFT time. By the way, it is real quiet in the office. One more advantage of working during off hours.

The Star Tribune is thoroughly bashing Charters today in the name of Investigative Journalism and exciting headlines. Here is one of many articles in the Sunday paper.

By the way, I have no doubt that there were some questionable behaviors involved and that some oversight may need revision. What I find incredible frustrating is ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION of the fact that Charters have become so creative in part because the Publics are refusing to give Charters access to the empty buildings we have already paid for !!!! Maybe the Teacher's Union does have a lot of pull at the Strib.

Thoughts encouraged as always !!!

Star Tribune Charters "Out of Control"
Star Tribune Charter School Fails...
Star Tribune Want junk bonds...
Star Tribune Two Projects...
Star Tribune Low Enrollment...
G2A Public Buildings

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Paid Flex Time

A few years ago I started using the acronym PFT to described my work / vacation schedule at this time of year. Now we are all familiar with Paid Time Off, Vacation, Personal Time, Nights, Weekends, etc. They describe time that is usually "non-work" time.

Well, at this time of year I usually end up with a few Vacation or Personal days left to use. However, my projects and responsibilities at work seem to often heat up excessively at this time of year. Therefore I can either:
  • Not use all my days (ie give them up)
  • Take days, and let projects slide / consequences occur
  • Make full use of my unofficial "Paid Flex Time" option
Here's how PFT works for me. I schedule all of my days off until year end with full intention of using them. This ensures that I technically don't "give them up" and I have permission to be gone "when" I want to. And I usually use them as planned. (sort of)

Here is where the "sort of" comes in. I took Wednesday off to work around my family's travel plans. Now that I am back, today or tomorrow I will need to work 4 to 6 hours to ensure everything runs well next week. (ie variations on this include days or late nights before)

So due to plant shutdowns and vacation time, I only have 13.5 working days until year end. However I have about 20+ days of work. Therefore it looks like I will be making full use of my "Paid Flex Time" option again this year. Maybe next year I'll use my days up earlier...

Thank heavens for a job that allows flexibility!!! This may sound odd to the clock watchers out there, however I have always been salaried and project/team/results focused. Therefore this is strangely normal.

Thoughts encouraged

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Managment Perspective

Sorry for the delay in posting, I wanted to give the Empathy post and Speed's Health post some extra visibility. Besides my web editor is acting a bit funny and I can't get the next "serious" RAS post to look just right...(I'll keep working on it)

So I'm going to leave you with the following amusing texts from my "funny documents" file. They are definitely worth the read. Now, remember that I am an engineer that believes that Servant/Democratic Leadership is much better than Directive/Autocratic Leadership in almost all organizations. (link) Maybe that's why I love these and Dilbert comics....

Happy Thanksgiving !!!

Hot Air Balloons - "The Engr and the Mgr" (author inknown to me)
A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts: "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised my friend I would meet him half an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man below says: "Yes. You are in a hot air balloon, hovering approximately 30 feet above this field. You are between 40 and 42 degrees N. latitude, and between 58 and 60 degrees W. longitude."

"You must be an engineer," says the balloonist.

"I am," replies the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost.

"The man below says, "You must be a manager."

"I am," replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," says the man, "you don't know where you are, or where you are going. You have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, but now it is somehow my fault."

Appendix F - Personal observations on the reliability of the Shuttle by R. P. Feynman (link)
Introduction It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could put a Shuttle up each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask "What is the cause of management's fantastic faith in the machinery?"

Comments encouraged !!!

Additional Richard Feynman links:
Feynman online
Feynman Quotes

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Healthcare, Ethics and Cannibals

Usually I avoid the healthcare topic, but this is interesting and could have potential to get lively. Please join in here or there... Speed and the Cannibals

Friday, November 20, 2009

Learning, Giving, Empathy, Rewards

As I have implied before, I have learned a lot in the last ~5 years. Mostly because I actually started "questioning what I knew was true". And really taking the time to weigh it against the "principles" I have chosen to live by. (see graphic to the right)

Before my renaissance, I was taking an Adult Psychology course during my MBA. Being self centered, my motive was to learn why older workers did not seem as driven in the work place and what I could do about it? (ie this frustrated me as a young workaholic Spvr) Ironically this was probably one of the events that started turning on the light. The Professor explained a couple of very memorable concepts:

  • "Older employees often get smart, and figure out that life is a lot more than working." They want to do a good job, however they want a full life. (Remember: time is growing shorter by the year...)

  • "Not all Old people are Wise." Many spend their lives "knowing" that what they have been taught/experienced in their "singular life experience" is the truth. (ie birth led to country, church, school, culture, friends, etc) By not questioning this randomly selected life and learning, they stay the same and do not grow wiser.

Now where is all this build up going... One of the most important lessons I have learned is the power of empathy. To truly make a difference, we must strive to see and feel the world from the perspective of those we disagree with, strive to help, or are buying gifts for.

I used to buy gifts for people using "my frame", which of course was my view of what was a good present. Now I strive to see the world from the recipient's perspective, therefore I buy a gift that makes them happier. Which therefore makes me happier and more fulfilled...

Here is a comment I left on Speed's post. What do you all think about this topic? And remember if you like this, have a your friends google give2attain. (ie more the merrier)

Though I understand the importance of intrinsic reward while volunteering. Shouldn't giving be about the recipient?

The question then is "Does reading "My Pet Goat" do it for the 6 yr old that has no one else reading with or listening to them?" Then if it does it for the 6 yr old, will it make a difference in their life? Therefore making a real difference.

My Favorite Quote from Successories:

"Priorities-A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."

One last note: Having true empathy does not mean you need to blindly give in or do things that violate your principles. It just helps you understand why others resist, and hopefully helps the both of you find a better common ground than each would find on their own. If something does not work for you, don't do it. Just work to understand the ramifications for the other party since they are humans just like us. (ie not "them", "they", "that type", etc.)

Deep Thoughts by G2A.....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Strange Character

A brief story to give you some additional incite as to how I see the world. Not sure how I got wired this way, however I am pretty consistent.
When I was in College there was a $250 scholarship that I could apply for. I chose to not apply because I was in pretty good shape financially, and felt the money could better help a student that was struggling financially. This was and is my definition of right, acting responsibly and showing good character.
Now is this good, bad, stupid, smart?

The ironic twist to the story is: One of my best friends who was better off than me financially ended up with the scholarship. Do I regret the choice ? Not one bit....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

RAS Campaign Finance

Here are the incomplete funding numbers. Apparently another reporting is due in 30 days. Also, they report for periods of time. So funds may have been there earlier or given later. Still this makes the point, special interests apparently fund the winning campaigns....
  • Patsy Green ~ $2,602 raised ($500:Women Winning, $500:Union, $200:DFL 45th)
  • Tom Walsh ~ $1832 raised (DFL 45th:$200, DFL 43rd: $500, Union:$500
  • Linda Johnson~ $1,054 raised (Union: $500, Private Couple: $200)
  • Mark Bomchill < $750 raised (Union: $500)
  • All others <$750 or not reported yet.
Is this good or bad? Is the conflict of interest sufficient enough to be concerned? If we did something similar in business, would it warrant further review?

Maybe I should offer my Supervisor $500 because he is so nice... Maybe I'll get a bigger raise.

Here is CARE 281's take on it. Probably worth a read. CARE 281 RAS Board Election

Yes, their site is still apparently active.

Monday, November 16, 2009

RAS Board Mtg and Action Plans

I took a quick browse regarding the agenda for tonight's School Board Meeting and found these gems....

Action Plan Presentations (fixed...)

Meeting Details

The questions to the readers are:

  • Do these appear Specific, Measureable, Action based, Realistic and Time based? (SMART goals for Schools)
  • How do you think results will be measured?
  • How will people be held accountable for meeting these?
  • Advantages and disadvantages of writing goals for several years in the future?
  • What do you agree and/or disagree with in these?

My first impression is that they are a bit vague with goals often too far in the future to be useful. With that in mind, here are the questions I have:

  • What specifically does RAS intend to accomplish before June 2010 in each of these areas?
  • What specifically does RAS intend to accomplish before June 2011 in each of these areas?
  • What longer term 2014 goals would these shorter term 2010 and 2011 SMART goals support?

I think I'll try to make it to the meeting tonight. This should be interesting to listen to first hand !!! Thoughts encouraged !!!

One more personal pet peeve: Claiming the facility planning is complete...when I just listened to Supt Sicoli say that it has to be re-examined due to the renovation logistics, and potential plans to try and lure families back... it is either not done or done... I am fine with either, however, which is it ???

Friday, November 13, 2009

RAS Climate Measurement and Management

Going with Jon's comment from the previous post:

"I think there are a lot of people out there who think the way to address climate issues is to develop more complicated thermometers. "

Being a "Plan, Do, Check, Act" guy, I really like good thermometers when it comes to changing the climate. Assuming the environment is closed and can be adjusted, as it is in companies and schools.

Now, I work for an incredibly competitive company that promotes global free trade. We actively pursue productivity and efficiency gains. We consistently work to eliminate waste and still produce results. How else will we succeed on the global stage ???

Ironically, a key aspect of this effort revolves around having incredibly good climate measurement systems. Now this doesn't come cheap, however it is still an excellent investment. Some of the benefits include:
  • Employees that are unable to perform well in a position can be trained/coached or shifted to a different role that better matches their strengths and passion. Or their employment can be terminated if a good fit can not be found. This is typically good for the employee and the company.
  • Managers and Supervisors that are unable to attain results while keeping their employees engaged and motivated receive the same options and treatment as noted above.
  • Overall, the key is that the environment is maintained to ensure that Managers, Supervisor's and Employees are treated well. Therefore we all strive to achieve the goals for the good of ourselves, the company and our stakeholders.
With this in mind, I was fascinated or horrified to learn how little climate measuring and management occurs at RAS. I mean how do you manage the environment without good thermometers? Here are typical tools used at my company that should be implemented:
  • annual performance plan creation (contains~10 SMART goals directly related to the RAS goals) (describing personal improvement and performance)
  • quarterly performance reviews / discussion (Spvr/Employee)
  • yearly 360 degree feedback surveys (ie nothing fancy... send an 8 question survey to co-workers and parents with results sent to Spvr)
  • Annual Employee Opinion Surveys (example) (Identifies Enterprise issues and Poor Managers)
  • Act on the Information !!!! Need to show results or people will not believe you are serious about improving things !!!!
From what I understand, very little of this occurs... Please correct me if I am incorrect... Thoughts encouraged !!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Perils of Rating Teachers

A very interesting link from an incredibly bright reader.

Perils of Rating Teachers The Washington Post - Jay Mathews
Class Struggle Archives The Washington Post - Jay Mathews

Any thoughts regarding what we in the RAS community should take and learn from this Washington DC based post and commentary?

Remember: They have lots of variation within their student body...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Great Ways to Treat People

One day I was at Lakeshore Learning Center picking up something, when I ran across one those classroom posters that are meant to guide kids in the right direction. I bought it since I am a fan of such things. Also, my household has 2 parents and 3 kids that can use a gentle reminder occasionally. Well the poster was considered too large for the fridge door, so I put it in powerpoint, tweaked the sayings slightly and posted a couple 8 1/2 X 11's around the house.

It is amazing how simple and common sense these guidelines are, however I often find that people forget them. This includes adults that should know better, and the kids that are learning by watching their adult role models.

Anything I should improve on the list???

Friday, November 6, 2009

GV gets Best Citizen Group Award

Sorry for the small type. In the boxes is the poll number, the number of citizens that voted and the percent of registered voters that amounts to. This is technically unofficial data until the RAS Board approves it next week.

The overall actual voter turnout was 7.7%. (4,777 voters/62,075 registered voters) Golden Valley polling places were near 20% and the others were significantly lower. Someone down their executed an excellent get out the vote campaign, or they had more "important" things on their ballot. (ie important being relative to the citizen...)

At first I was wondering if that overrode the other areas. However after looking at the data quickly, it appears the results would have held if GV had not been counted... So the winners apparently had pretty solid cross district support.

Thanks to the RAS folks for the excellent data !!!!

RAS Community Common Goals

Here is the summary so far:
  • Property values increase consistently over time.
  • Community is safe with low or no crime.
  • Community's children learn what they need to be successful and productive citizens. (various responsible parties: home, community, religion, schools, etc)
  • Community's children are safe while traveling to/from school, and while in school.
  • Public funds are used in an efficient manner to support the common goals.
  • ???

Any disagreements so far? Any additions?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's not me, It's them

One of the quotes I keep on the desktop of my computer is:
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves." (Tolstoy)

In the RAS Campaign Funding post:
  • Jon thinks "the incumbents who had served well during a very difficult time for Robbinsdale schools, and that wasn't their fault."
  • Wants2Know thinks "We can simply blame the voters who didn't turnout or we can examine the election process orchestrated an entrenched bureaucracy that seriously disenfranchised voters. "

My questions are:

  • Whose fault are the current RAS challenges?
  • Were some of them aggravated by action or inaction of the current board?
  • How is the "entrenched bureaucracy" keeping people from voting?
  • What is the "State" thinking by not funding education?

Thank you for humoring me so far. My final questions are:

  • How do we stop looking at "them" as the problem and start taking responsibility for our own beliefs, actions and community?
  • How do we then start turning our community around?

Or will we fight over the fire hose as the home burns to the ground...

You can probably come up with a better analogy. The point is taking responsibility, not looking for the "problem". (Collusion)(Resolution)(Heart)


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Crucial Conversations

After covering school issues for several weeks, let's try something new.

Have you ever had a conversation when you felt you were losing it and getting angry with the other participant(s)? Or have you ever felt that someone was attacking you or your beliefs, and you wanted to run from the other participant(s)? Or you were seriously wondering if the other participant(s) was crazy or living in an alternate universe? (ie teenagers...) If you haven't, you must be a rare individual or a hermit...

Being somewhat normal and human, I used to encounter some of these situations on a regular basis. Then a coach/mentor turned me onto a book entitled "Crucial Conversations" (Patterson, etal). To save me the time of summarizing, below are some links to different summaries.

By the way, the uncomfortable situations still arise at times, however I can now handle them much better than in the past. Definitely worth the read. Comments encouraged !!!

CC Training (big bucks...)

RAS Campaign Funding?

Since it was a land slide victory for the candidates that were endorsed by the Teacher's Union, I was wondering how much campaign funding came with the endorsement?

I am fine with the Teacher's Union funding people and referendums that that they believe in. This is what I did, do and will do. I would just like to know how much this entity is influencing our community's choices.

Does anyone know if funding info similar to this article is available for the Candidate's campaign funding? (Vote YES funding) I'd love to have a link for the readers.

Also, what do you think about the Teacher's Union being a key advertiser during these community votes?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day Coverage

What a difference a year makes... Last year I had to wait in line at 7:15 AM, this time I was alone in the polling place with the polling volunteers/officials. You might want to remind like minded friends and neighbors to vote. (ie every vote may count...)

After Christine's compelling endorsement, I ended up voting for Sue Stavenau instead of Jim Oathout. I liked Sue's energy in the candidate forum and if she could pass Christine's District knowledge filter/test, she'll make a great board member.

Finally, I drove by Pilgrim Lane Elementary to confirm a rumor I had heard. Cruel irony is playing out there as PLE is the polling place for the PLE community !!! I am guessing that will definitely affect their vote as they are physically reminded that the incumbents closed their school. I wonder if it is the same for Sunny Hollow???

Any news during the day or last minute endorsements are welcome !!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

District 281 Robbinsdale Questions

Ironic Fact: G2A recently published its 200th post and yesterday finally broke the 200+ “unique readers with a month” statistic.

Now, before I lose the interest of my transient new found readers. There are many challenges still facing the Robbinsdale Area Schools and its communities:
  • 80% of the district expenses are personnel related, expenses will continue to rise. (ie pay and benefit costs increase)
  • 2 Elementary school buildings need significant renovation, and should probably be demolished and replaced with one larger and more efficient building.
  • Minnesota has frozen school funding for another year and a half, therefore cuts will need to be made somewhere.
  • RAS citizens pay one of the highest school tax rates on a percentage basis. This is because operating/renovating schools in a diverse challenging district with older buildings costs more, and the community property is worth less. (ie higher percentage)
  • The percentage of free and reduced lunch students within RAS continues to steadily and rapidly increase, due to the addition of these families and the flight of more affluent families. Though poverty is not a cause of poor academic performance or challenging students , there is a positive correlation between them. How do we keep the more affluent students while closing the academic performance gap?
Now the questions are:
  • Are you going to stay involved and informed after the election tomorrow?
  • Are you going to think beyond your own personal concerns, schedules, children, etc?
  • Are you going to roll up your sleeves and help our community work through these challenges?
  • Or not?
I’ll work to keep you informed, you just need to take the time to read my comments and some of the RAS links. And hopefully join in the dialogue !!!

Tell your friends and neighbors to google Give2Attain and get involved. Then get out and VOTE tomorrow !!!!