Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Eulogies, Awareness, Improvement

Well, I attended a funeral for one of my Father's best friends on Monday. Jim was a great guy who seemed to have things figured out. He will be missed by many. It got me thinking about this previous post. Eulogy and Self Awareness

Definitely an exercise worth doing. I'll probably reread mine to ensure my beliefs, thoughts, actions, behaviors, etc still support the comments I hope to hear as I listen in from the great beyond... Thoughts?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tenure: Golden Handcuffs

As you know, I believe that tenure is wrong. Simply said: Why should any employee be assured a job? Worse yet, all you have to do to earn it is behave well during a ~3 year probationary period. I just don't understand how employees stay motivated, highly effective and focused on the School's/Company's goals without both carrots and sticks to guide behavior. This relies too much on intrinsic rewards and people just happening to have "common goals" for my taste.

Now for an interesting spin, as usual... Tenure does have a huge benefit.

For the school districts !!!

Over the past 20 yrs I have often heard teachers say that they are unhappy with their current district or situation. Me being me, I ask them if they will start looking for a new position in a different district. To date, not one teacher has been willing to give up tenure in search of a better environment. Therefore it seems that good teachers are trapped in questionable districts.

I am not sure if this is good or bad... I am guessing the teacher's intrinsic motivation suffers in this case of "feeling trapped". However, maybe the job security offsets it.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

God Works in Mysterious Ways?

I posted this previously as a comment. Maybe Christmas is a good time for this crazy idea to get its own focus. (previous link) Make sure you are sitting down for this one...

"God (choose yours) tried for thousands of years to nudge wealthy humans to share their good fortune and help those that were not so lucky. He/she did this through the words of Prophets, Pastors, Rabbis, Wisemen, Priests, Nuns, etc. Repeatedly they spoke of charity, self sacrifice, giving, tithing, respect, peace, etc. Instead of listening to and living by these scared words, people actually turned their back on the words and stopped going to their places of worship. This way they had more time to build their portfolio, and did not need to hear the words that made them feel guilty for their hoarding ways.

God, being wise and all powerful became weary with the foolish and self centered ways of many humans. He/she nudged people to create democracies that could serve as an equalizer to force the rich to practice charity, self sacrifice, giving, tithing, etc. They would also work to protect human dignity around the world.

Though it was a bit inefficient, it did create a lot of jobs and support the goal. God was very happy at last..."

Now, I know it is a bit of a stretch. However, it makes sense to a strange mind like mine... Especially with the progressive tax rates. The Lord works in mysterious ways...

Thoughts encouraged and Merry Christmas !!!! God Bless Us, Every One....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

96% or 4% ? My choice

Well folks, I have nearly the perfect life !!! In fact, I would say it is 96+% perfect !!! I mean I don't live in a mansion, vacation in Greece or have my choice of exotic sports cars. Then again what do they have to do with perfection and happiness???

Sometimes things happen or people frustrate me, and I get in a bad mood. At these times I often start focusing on the bad thing that happened, or the 4% that I don't have. (ie that I should have, by God...) Well, the reality is that negative thoughts beget negative thoughts, actions and behavior. Besides they make you feel miserable.

At these times I have learned to play a very simple game that I call the "Gratitude Game". The rules and process are simple, however playing the game well takes some practice because it requires controlling your thoughts and focus. All you need is a pen, a piece of paper and 10+ minutes of alone time. At which time you write as many people, things, experiences, etc that you truly appreciate in your life. Now this is not a good/bad list... Only the good things go on it.

Now your problems may not go away, however I guarantee you will be in a better state of mind to handle them. And for extra credit and even more positive energy, act quickly and tell those on your list how much you truly appreciate them or their actions !!!

John's Gratitude List: Wife, Daughters, Parents, Siblings/Families, Friends, Good Health of All, Career, Employed, Co-Workers, Good Schools, My Toys, Nice Home, Downhill Skiing, Pheasant Hunting, Dog, Cats, 2 wks off during the Holidays, Beer, Holiday Parties, Presents, Giving, Snow Storms, Snowmobiling, American Freedoms, Books, Blogging, Learning, Different Opinions, etc, etc, etc....

What are you thankful for? Will you remember to tell those that make a difference in your life, just how much you appreciate them or their actions? Remember: Do It NOW !!!

Excellent Link

Speed's on to something here, definitely worth a read...

Speed's Leave Your Dreams at the Door

Sunday, December 20, 2009

RAS Musical Chairs or Something More?

Well folks, I need your help here. After many years of reading company reorganization announcements that are not worth the paper they were written on... Mostly just a way to show the new leader is doing "something". What do you know and think of this one? Will this really:
"help us to be more responsive to the needs of students, staff and the community by spreading out the decision making structure,”

Kind of looks like similar titles with slightly different roles to me, not sure how it spreads the decision making. Please reply with your thoughts regarding the upcoming change and what I am missing !!!

I for one will miss Gary, he was open and willing to answer questions whenever I needed clarification. I wish him luck in his future endeavors !!! And hope the new Business Manager is equally transparent and helpful.

RAS Reorg Note 2
RAS Reorg Note 1

Not sure if "similar to other districts our size" is a good rationale. Some of Supt Sicoli's other district ideas seem pretty "Public School" protectionistic and limiting... I would prefer a little more solid and forward thinking rational. Only time will tell.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Now for Something Totally Different

To much seriousness makes John a dull boy... So here is one of the latest chain emails I received, in case you have not seen it before.

"Well, there is good news and bad news about my Christmas decorations this year ...

Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever.

Great stories. But two things made me take it down. First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by. Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder & almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that.

My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard.

Kind of feel like I gave in to the man by taking him down, but my neighbor did confirm 2 near miss accidents on the busy street next to my house. I think I made him too real this time.

So it was fun while it lasted! Merry Christmas! "


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why High Educational Stds are NOT OPTIONAL !!!

I was going to write something along these lines, however the last 3 paragraphs of this Newsweek article say it all. If this doesn't scare you into supporting NCLB/AYP, high educational standards and significantly improving the Public Education system, then spend some time reading the "World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman.

If you still don't understand, look around your home and garage. How many products do you have where the design, testing, research, marketing, development, profits, etc went to American companies and workers? First went the electronics, next the cars, now the appliances, what's next??? If the USA can not compete while being paid more, then our incomes and standard of living will lower over time. Are we ready for that, or will we keep accepting "OK"?

By the way, if you think that "YOUR" job can not be outsourced overseas... Therefore you do not care. (ie Doctor, Teacher, Butcher, etc) Just a reminder, the above mentioned "wealth creators" provide your "service industry" income. If that "wealth creation" disappears, so does your income...

The next time someone tells you the standards are too high, tell them to move to some other country that does not want to have the most capable employees in the world. I personally like the USA's high standard of living and pray we find a way to maintain it for the good of my children. Thoughts?

Newsweek "When will the Jobs Come Back?"
World is Flat Summary 1
World is Flat Summary Wiki
G2A Link to Zimmerman's Writings

Monday, December 14, 2009

RAS: To Build or not to Build

The Agenda from tonight's work session includes what to do with the Northport/Lakeview opportunity. Would a possible $39,000,000 to $48,000,000 bill get your attention and motivate you to read them ??? (14Dec09 Work Session Documents) (Meeting Notes)Thoughts or notes?

As usual, please send the link to your friends and neighbors....

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Obituary of an Old Friend

I got this from a family member via a "please forward" email. It seems in alignment with my concerns that citizens seem too interested in "Me", and not enough in "We"/USA. Thoughts? (source?)

We are mourning the loss of a beloved old friend who recently passed away. His name was Common Sense. Common Sense lived a long life but died in the United States from a vicious contagious disease.

He selflessly devoted his life to service in schools, hospitals, homes and factories, helping folks get the jobs done without fanfare and foolishness. For decades, petty rules, frivolous lawsuits, and ludicrous verdicts held no power over Common Sense.

He was credited with cultivating such valued lessons as to know when to come in from the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, and that life isn't always fair. Common Sense lived by a simple and sound financial policy. Don't spend more than you earn. Common Sense also lived by other time-tested strategies like: The adults are in charge and not the kids, and it's okay to come in second or third.

A veteran of the Great Depression and the Technological Revoluion, Common Sense survived cultural and educational trends such as body piercing, 'whole language' and 'new math'. But his health declined when he became infected with the I'm not responsible for my own actions and It's alright if it feels good viruses.

He watched in pain as good people became ruled by self-seeking lawyers. His health rapidly deteriorated when schools endlessly implemented zero-tolerance policies. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student only worsened his condition.

It declined further when schools had to get parental consent to administer aspirin to a student, but could not inform the parents and get their permission when their children were given mind-altering drugs or birth control pills; and when universities turned into cesspools of debauchery and socialist propaganda.

Common Sense lost his will to live when criminals received better treatment than their victims, the Ten Commandments became
contraband, and priests molested young boys. When a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee is hot, and was awarded a huge settlement; and when the president sold security related technology to a hostile nation, Common Sense fell into a coma.

As the end neared, Common Sense drifted in and out of consciousness, but was kept informed of new questionable regulations, such as thought control and partial birth abortion. Finally, when another president, claiming to staunchly protect the country from terrorist atrocities, yet allowing the same villains to invade the country through borders that are strangely very penetrable; being fully aware of what the grave consequences of such deliberate and ominous neglect can be, Common Sense died of sudden cardiac arrest.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife, Love; his daughter, Responsibility; and his sons, Diligence and Reason. He is survived by three stepbrothers, Deception, Greed and Ignorance. Not many attended his funeral, because so few noticed he was gone.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Performance Reviews

Well, yesterday I experienced the culmination of another year of hard work. The annual performance review....

Since I was on the other side of the desk for ~5 years, I definitely appreciate the challenges of both the Supervisor and the Employee in this yearly ritual. Assuming that both are really trying to improve and motivate via the process that starts with a performance plan at the start of the year, proceeds with quarterly updates and culminates in a year end review. I am one of those believers.

My rationale is that unknown, misunderstood or miscommunicated expectations are often the root cause of Supervisor and Employee conflict and dissatisfaction. The reality is that humans can not read each others minds, so enforcing the dialogue and documentation can help a great deal. If people actually know what they want accomplished...

Overall, it went well and both of us did work hard to make it a good learning experience. I got a couple of things to think about, and he learned some additional details regarding the feedback he had received and the projects I led.

Still, I think I would prefer getting getting a cavity filled... Let the excitement start again for next year !!!!

Anyone have an interesting performance review story or thoughts regarding the process?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reader Update & Usual Pleading

G2A's unique readers per mth history is Jul~100, Sep~150, Nov~250, Dec~190. G2A's unique comment participants per month is ~10. Therefore the 2 usual requests:
  • Start commenting - it takes almost no time, does not hurt a bit and it may help others understand a topic better. (and send me ideas / info would like covered)
  • Tell your friends, neighbors, enemies, co-workers, bosses, employees, politicians, opinionated friends, etc to google give2attain. Or send them a link to an interesting post.
My goal is to inform, and challenge people to really think and see different perspectives. Let's increase the number of people doing this !!! I need your help !!! Please tell 10 people right now !!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Steps and Lanes

I didn't know this site existed: RAS Compensation

This may help you speak schoolese: Steps and Lanes

Per DJ's question: Should the Teachers get their Step and Lane adjustments in these hard times? My belief is that the pay matrix should be held fixed, however the Teachers should get the Step and Lane increases they have earned. I don't think most folks would consider them over paid... Besides, what is good for the Supt is good for the employees??? (~2%/yr...)

Now if only the Union would give up that frustrating and limiting tenure thing...

Monday, December 7, 2009

The KMA Card

Another attempt at a light hearted post... So I am at training a year or so ago, and one of my co-workers from another facility told the following story. (we'll call him Bob...)

Apparently when Bob turned 60, a friend asked him to stop by his office to discuss some important business. The friend said that the topic was critical to improving Bob's enjoyment, creativity and productivity at work. Bob was skeptical of course, however he was interested.

Later that afternoon, Bob stopped in and his friend had him sit down. At which time the friend made a grand gesture of presenting Bob with a small business card. The friend said that the card held the secret to Bob's happiness. He explained that now that Bob was fully vested for the company's retirement benefits and an incredibly capable employee, he deserved the CARD.

He then explained that whenever a younger "know it all" Manager or Supervisor told him to do something stupid. Or if he had an excellent idea that he typically would not share because the Mgr or Spvr would not like it. He was to pull out the card and read the 3 simple words that would give him the courage to act with honor and self respect. Thereby being happier and more fulfilled.

After this Bob was very interested in this magic card. The friend finally handed it to him and all it said was:






Kiss My Ass

Now I it may not be appropriate in the workplace in most situations. However imagine how powerful it would be if all employees could speak their best creative ideas or question "strange" Managerial ideas without worrying about reprisal.

By the way, "Bob" said the card actually worked. Once he felt free of the concerns that had encumbered him at times earlier in his career, he said he was happier, more creative and more productive!!!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Incredible RAS Agenda

Okay, you have to see this.... We have the LAC platform detailed under "Special Reports", a Values presentation in "Teaching and Learning", Levy talk in "Operations" and a Top Level Admin Reorganization plan in "Consent agenda". I may have to find a way to get there for some of this !!! Remember the board mtg starts after the Truth in Taxation meeting.

RAS Board Agenda

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

RAS Truth in Taxation

Make some time Monday at 7 PM to learn where your tax dollars are going and why. Then again it is only ~$53,000,000 in local taxes and ~$177,000,000 overall, maybe it is not worth an hour of your time....

RAS Dec 7th Mtgs
Truth in Taxation Documents 2009
281 Exposed Back Pg Referendum
Community Solutions Consequences

Ironically I found I am already double booked with a BB game and Choir concert. So take good notes. By the way, I support the taxes but sometimes wonder about the spending choices. As you already know.

Sir, The Class Is Too Hard

Recently I sat in at the ZLE PTA meeting to listen to Supt Sicoli present his thoughts regarding RAS and its community. I was hoping to better understand his perspective and plan for the district.

He started by praising the district results/offerings, and mentioning the improved Action Plans that were pending. He then went on to discuss the need to delay selling the excess buildings until RAS was sure they were actually not needed... Some interesting details/comments:
  • New Hope Elementary is needed for CHS parking and Early Childhood programs.
  • Sandberg can not fit all the programs.
  • Northport and Lakeview must be remodeled or rebuilt (will need temp housing for the kids)
  • Some organizations that would not compete with RAS have expressed interest in a small portion of property / land.
  • He is interested in options to draw students and families back.. (ie possible magnet school or other)
  • A past district he worked for surveyed families that left that district to see "what would get them back?" Possible here...
  • Maybe student population loss will slow or reverse as neighborhoods turn over? Wouldn't being short space be embarrassing?
  • The $2 mil in operating savings was achieved.
  • Real estate market may get better in the future, hold property until then?
  • Due to these reasons, the process must be slowed or stopped until more info is known.
During most of the meeting he made sense and tried hard to market RAS in a positive light. In fact, he mentioned "positive RAS fact sheets" that the district is passing to some city and real estate personnel to help them see the positives. Also, he promoted that we should all spread the positive word of mouth. This makes sense, since this is a key part of his job.

Now for the things that frustrated me....

First, he avoided answering one simple question that was of particular interest to this audience. How many students/families left the district due to the school closures and boundary changes? This seemed appropriate and worthy of an answer, given all the PLE folks in the audience.

Secondly, he spent a significant amount of time bashing NCLB/AYP. And from my perspective, somewhat misleading the audience. Some key concepts he covered:
  • Minnesota's standards are way too high.
  • He said Proof is that Alabama's are much lower. (personal note: Nothing against Alabama, but is this the state you really want to be on par with? )
  • Lg and diverse schools less likely to pass AYP MAP better than MCA II.
  • "No one in their right mind would design such a system."
My biggest frustration is that given the chance to motivate Parents toward helping all students achieve excellence. He spent time complaining about the test and grading criteria, and making excuses.

I agree he should work with the State educational experts that selected the criteria if he disagrees with them, however to confuse and rile parents seems irresponsible. Below are links to State Proficiency comparison information. Minnesota did set their expectations high, however others set theirs higher. What are your thoughts regarding Supt Sicoli's methods and my perspective?

I keep thinking... What I would tell my daughters if they came home complaining that teacher's course was too difficult? Roll up your sleeves and get to work, or stand their and complain to me and your friends...

NCES Proficiency Comparison (Pg 17 and 20)
NCES Nation's Report Card
ZLE PTA Minutes Nov09