Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Power of a Positive NO

Well I have not done a book report lately, so it is about time.

The author selected today is William Ury. He authored or co-authored 3 related books on negotiation that have been very popular and successful over many years. My simple test of a good book, is it still on the shelves of Barnes and Noble after 10+ years.

The first he co-authored with Roger Fisher. It was called "Getting to YES - Negotiating Agreement without Giving In". The second was called "Getting Past NO - Negotiating in Difficult Situations". The third and topic of today is called "The Power of a Positive NO - How to say NO and still get to Yes".

He noted that they wrote the first book to help interested and engaged parties find a better solution. Then people were curious what to do when one of the parties is not interested or engaged in finding a solution, so he wrote the second book. Finally he noted that he had missed one leg of the the three legged stool... How can people be their own advocate by standing up for themselves, saying No, and yet maintain a positive long term relationship in most cases? Here are the Stages and Steps:

Stage 1: Prepare

  1. Uncover Your Yes
  2. Empower Your No
  3. Respect Your Way to Yes
Stage 2: Deliver

  1. Express Your Yes
  2. Assert Your No
  3. Propose a Yes
Stage 3: Follow Through

  1. Stay True to Your Yes
  2. Underscore Your No
  3. Negotiate to Yes
The simplistic formula is YES! --- No. --- YES?

The critical step is actually being aware of, "What are we saying YES! to by saying No." This will give you purpose !!! And empower your No !!! Here are some simple examples:

  • You finally understand that you really want to be around with your kids and grandkids when they are older. This gives you the power to say No. to the couch, TV and chips, and yes to some healthier food and activity.
  • You determine that you are worthy of and deserve a respectful loving relationship. This gives you the power to say No. when someone treats you in a demeaning way.
  • You truly understand that family relationships absolutely need to be developed and nurtured. This empowers you to say No. to cancelling a family activity so that you can work.
  • You decide that profit and honoring your Company values are more important than maximizing revenues. This empowers you to say No. to some customers regarding deals that are not aligned with your company's higher goals.
Nowhere in this book does it say that this will be easy. And if a Yes? can not be worked out with the other party, you may need to follow through with some pretty tough pre-planned actions. (ie plan B) However, what is the alternative? Continue sacrificing things that are critical to you in order to make others feel in control or happy....

Definitely worth a read. And he has much more detail and examples. My closing thoughts/questions:

  • Are you saying No. for a good Yes! ? Or should you say save your No. for a more important time. (ie especially challenging with my kids...)
  • Are you avoiding a confrontation and being walked over because you simply do not know how to say No. ? (ie been there, done that...)
  • If you could better answer these questions, would it be worth a few hours to read this book?

William Ury
Suite 101 Positive No
Leaders Direct Positive No
ADR Positive No

Saturday, May 22, 2010

RAS LAC Interpretation

Well, here is what the RAS LAC folks had to say regarding the Legislative session... Sorry for the formatting, I just copied and pasted it into the blog. It looked better in the email. Thoughts?

The 2010 legislative session ended with the Governor and legislature failing to pass an Education Finance bill. What does this mean for school districts?
This means that several great provisions were not passed that could have helped our school district during these difficult economic times. Several provisions that we were fighting for went down to defeat in the wee hours of the special session that finalized the budget agreement negotiated between the legislature and Governor Pawlenty. Click here to view the bill that could have been: House File 2: Omnibus K-12

What did pass for education?
Last year's unallotment called for late payments to schools: schools would receive 73% of their entitlement in one year and 27% the next year. This NEW budget balancing agreement has those payments shifted to 70% one year and 30% the next. These late payments have now at least been put into law that they will be repaid. The problem is the upcoming budget shortfall which will make repaying this shifted payment to schools almost impossible.
Physical education is now a state standard (passed in a heath bill).
The 1980s provision that "required" the state to borrow from school fund balances before going to outside lenders has been changed to permissive language.
The Kyle Herman bill was signed into law by the Governor on 4/26/10. This bill provided for Parent notification of child maltreatment in a school facility modifications.
Sentencing guidelines were increased for carrying a dangerous weapon onto school property.
And, of course, the payment shifts. According to the Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, "We're paying for this shift with 400 teachers a year." - May 18, Star Tribune.
What did not pass for education?
· Modification of Charter School Provisions: Provided rules governing charter school facilities and governance.
· Care and treatment bill: This bill provided a mechanism for Robbinsdale and other affected districts to be paid for the educational services we provide to out-of-state students who are in a residential treatment facility located within our district.
· Mandate reduction bill: School district mandates reduced, additional flexibility allowed, and certain fund transfers authorized.

· Safe Schools Levy increase: A proposal to increase this levy from $30 to $32 per pupil unit.

· Referendum renewal authority: This provision would have allowed school boards to renew an existing referendum for the same monetary amount and time period as the existing referendum.

Background: Prior to 1990, when voters approved local levies the vote gave local school boards the ongoing authority to levy the approved amount. In the mid-1990s, with the cry that by the mid 2000s "surely there would be a better way to fund schools," the legislature required that all voter-approved levies have a finite end, so any outstanding levy passed prior to 1990 had to sunset by 2007 and the renewal roller coaster began.
· Early childhood program for at-risk 4 year olds: Provided guidelines to provide for this early childhood program to be offered through community education.
For More Information:

May 17, 2010 - More school aid to be held up- Districts will have to borrow to tide them over, and interest will cost millions. School budgets didn't get whacked during the 2010 legislative session, but plenty of money will be slow to arrive, Star Tribune.
May 17, 2010 - Schools see delayed payments and little else from legislative session- The budget deal the Legislature passed Monday relies heavily on delayed payments to schools to balance the state's books. But aside from that payment shift, lawmakers adjourned without passing any other significant education-related legislation, Minnesota Public Radio.
April 27, 2010 -It's Time to Tackle Minnesota's Achievement Gap- We know the achievement gap exists. We know the gap in reading and math test scores between white students and students of color exists across the nation. But it is especially pronounced in Minnesota, Minnesota 2020.

The November election will be critical to the fate of our schools.
I encourage you to attend candidate forums and ask pointed questions of the candidates. How will they address the huge projected deficit? What are their plans for education?

To find out who represents you go to:
Your state senator and representative contact information is listed on the left.

The Legislative Action Coalition of Robbinsdale Area Schools was established by the school board to be an advocate for our public school district and the learners, families and communities it serves.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

School Funding and Accountability

I believe this is what gridlock looks like. I mean the schools lose some more money, the citizen's gain no methods to promote accountability within the schools, we put off the fixing the structural financial problem til "next year", and we all lose any shot at the Race to the Top funding.

In summary, the kids get the burned from all sides...
All of us adults sure are silly and selfish !!!

Here are some links explaining the impact of this Legislative session on MN Schools. Or maybe I should say the "non-impact... Thoughts?

Star Tribune: Borrow More
Parents United: Not Held Harmless
TC Daily Planet: Shifts nothing to be proud of
HomeSource: No Race for the Top
MinnPost: Keep trying for Race to the Top
Waseca News What about Education?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where are the FOR SALE signs?

The 281 Exposed folks and myself don't always agree, however this topic was on my short list of things to post about. And I think they did a pretty good job of posing the question. (281 Exposed Where are the For Sale Signs?)

"For months the RAS school board was telling the citizens that we couldn’t sell Pilgram Lane or Olson Elementary Schools because we may have to use them to house students while renovating Northport and Lakeview Elementary schools. Since the district decided to pass a “back door referendum” taking away our right to vote on tax hikes to renovate Northport and Lakeview, there is now no reason to keep Pilgram Lane and Olson. What is the divestiture committee doing right now? They have been meeting for a year and the only action has been the proposed sale of Hosterman Middle School to District 287. Why don’t we have For Sale Signs at Pilgram Lane and Olson? What is the hold up? After the facilities study, the district seemed enthusiastic about selling our surplus property, but now our guess is that the District 281 will make every excuse they can on why they SHOULDN’T sell the land. If we sell these properties we can perhaps off set some of the costs of Northport and Lakeview. We welcome your thoughts."
RAS Facility Divestiture Site

One thing I would add. Is it really necessary to house the District 287 programs in Sandburg for 2 years? Since we are still in an economic downturn and I see space for rent almost everywhere I go... Wouldn't it be better if 287 rented some of that short term excess capacity? Then RAS could finish their program consolidation now and get out of the Landlord business...

With the current plan, RAS will be in the Cavanagh and the Winnetka Learning centers for 2+ more years... This is one slow divestiture. Could you imagine a for profit business taking ~4 years to spin off excess property? I can not.

G2A Jan Facility Notes

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Education Funding Cuts?

Well, unless something changes in the next few days. It is not looking good for K-12 funding.

It also does not look good for getting non-traditional teachers in the classroom. Maybe those many many many Education Minnesota TV commercials worked to ensure only Union members could teach... I often wonder how much in dues/tax $/student funding went into those ads. Probably would have funded a couple of schools for at least a year...

Whichever side you are on, it is time to call your legislators and make your views known. See below for some updates.
Parent's United News Page
Politics in Minnesota
No Education Bill? (from RAS LAC)
Last night the senate passed SF 3063, a bill allowing some fund transfers and alternative facilities authority and SF 2598, a bill relating to the Collaborative Urban Educator Program and the Metro School for the Deaf. Apparently, these are the only bills the senate intends to advance relating to education.

The senate has not passed and does not intend to pass an omnibus education bill.

That means several important provisions are in danger of falling by the wayside including:

1) Putting the education payment shift into law to be repaid.
(If this shift becomes a cut, Robbinsdale Area Schools will be cut $15 million.)
2) Allowing school boards to renew an existing referendum.
3) Providing a mechanism for school districts to be paid for
providing educational services to students from out of state while in treatment facilities in our district.

We need your help NOW in contacting your local legislators - especially your senators - to urge them to pass an education bill that includes the above provisions. In addition, contact the following house and senate leaders with the same message.

Legislative Leadership to Contact:
Rep. Mindy Greiling 651-296-5387
Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher 651-296-0171
Rep. Tony Sertich 651-296-0172
Sen . LeRoy Stumpf 651-296-8660
Sen. Larry Pogemiller 651-2967809

Legislator Links
Rep. Debra Hilstrom 651-296-3709
Rep. Lyndon Carlson 651-296-4255
Rep. Michael Nelson 651-296-3751
Rep. Ryan Winkler 651-296-7026
Rep. Sandra Peterson 651-296-4176
Rep. Sarah Anderson 651-296-5511
Sen. Ann Rest 651-296-2889
Sen. Linda Scheid 651-296-8869
Sen. Ron Latz 651-297-8065
Sen. Terri Bonoff 651-296-4314

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Party Schools

Now when I was a freshman at South Dakota State University, I was always puzzled when those adults kept talking about something called "binge drinking". They kept saying that having 4 or 5 beers at a sitting was in some way a bad thing... I of course at that time in my life thought that 4 or 5 beers was a slow night...

The upside to my disastrous first year was that I got to learn how hard it is to raise a GPA in the remaining 3 years !!! A good lesson in weighted averages.

Now that I have your attention, this not the type of party school that I want to talk about today. No, today I am interested in your thoughts regarding Elementary school parties. I keep running into people that want to encourage students in reading, writing, math, etc by holding class wide parties. They seem to believe that doing this often is beneficial. Whereas I believe it is squandering some of the precious few academic hours that teachers and students have.

My simple math is that there are only ~935 academic hours in a year. (~5.5 hrs/day and ~170 days) (5.5 = 6.5 - 1 for recess, lunch, transitions, etc) Then it is probably under 900 academic hours if you take out the Teacher's fun in-class activities, School assemblies, Seasonal parties, Pictures, Health screening, Sub Teacher days, etc.

Now I want the kids to somewhat enjoy school, however I think:
  • The remaining ~5.2 hrs / day should be dedicated to the teacher student academic process of teaching and learning.
  • The Teacher has enough to do without people interrupting their time, flow and methods.
  • The Students need all the lecture and study time they can get to cover the vast amount of content.
  • Though Students require some extrinsic motivation, it can be overdone. They must develop their intrinsic motivation also, and this will not be accomplished through parties.
So what are your thoughts?
Should Elementary Schools be one big fun time party with some learning?
Should they be an enjoyable place of academic learning?
Should they be all academics and less fun?
What else am I missing?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Your Opinion Matters ?

This is going to be a busy week... So many interesting topics to discuss.

Today's discussion will be regarding the comments made by the RAS Supt.

Sun Sailor Guest Column
Planning for Future Financial Stability
By Supt Aldo Sicoli

In this document, Supt Sicoli discusses the good financial decisions that have been made during the past couple of years, the challenges that all public schools will face and the proactive steps RAS will take to manage the situation. The proactive step of interest to me is requesting community input on how to manage our financial situation and make our community schools excellent. Here are my random thoughts on the topic:
  • What will be heard? What will be filtered? What will be laughed at? What if the community demands more competition? (ie sell PLE building to a charter) Would this be taken seriously as a way to improve the education opportunities for the children of our communities? Or if they say IB has to go, because AP district wide is better? Will any critique of the status quo even see the light of day?
  • Will the community members that dislike the RAS administration, board and schools even take the time to show up? Or will they give up before they even try like last time where pretty much only school supporters showed up? And they wanted to offer everything to everyone, without giving much thought to the price tag of each? How can we engage those that most want to see the district changed?

So if RAS filters the input to meet their personal interests, and if the Vote No'ers stay home instead of getting actively involved in improving the situation... What is the point ?

Here are my recommendations on how to improve the RAS process:

  1. Upgrade parent portal so parent's can complete year end or quarter end surveys of their school, administration, classes and teacher's. This is almost free data and it is relatively immediate. Then act on it. Questionable Administrators, Teachers, Processes, Systems, etc need to be dealt with immediately if you truly want to improve. (ie no procrastinating because it is hard)
  2. Continue with the plan to collect input, however post all improvement ideas in a running list no matter how unflattering it seems to RAS. Only filter for language or possible liability. Affinitize the ideas and post how many times the idea has been raised. (ie a ranked list)
As for the Vote No'ers, RAS may not listen to your ideas and they may even laugh at them. However I can absolutely positively guarantee your ideas will not be implemented if you do not voice them!!! So get engaged !!!!

Thoughts ?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Protector of the Small

Well, there are many advantages in having young daughters. The ones of interest today are that they introduce me to some music and books that I would never find on my own. Yes, I have read the Harry Potters, House of Nights, Twilights, etc. And they are actually very entertaining and fun. Also, my middle daughter loves the latest country music so it is often on in our car. Therefore, today's post is thanks to an incredible book series and a great song.

The book series is called the "Protector of the Small Quartet" by Tamora Pierce. The book follows Kel, a young girl, as she works to become a Page, Squire and Knight in a world where many think girls should not be allowed to do this. Kel has very strong feelings about what is right and fair, and she chooses to act on them rather than stand by and observe. By doing this she accomplishes much, learns continually, collects many friends and gains the title, Protector of the Small. (see links for more details)
Protector of the Small Wiki Link
Tamora Pierce Link

The song is called "Alyssa Lies" by Jason Michael Carroll. This is about a little girl that meets a friend that is being abused. When she tells her father about her friend, he is uncertain about what to do. Then when he decides to get involved to help protect Alyssa, it turns out that the abuse has already resulted in her death.
Alyssa Lies Video Link

With both of these in mind, I started to wonder what our personal role should be in "Protecting the Small". My definition of Small for this purpose is victims in general, be it:
  • abused children and challenged adults
  • elderly people that taken advantage of
  • people deprived of typical human rights
  • others that you can give a human face to
Is it enough if we pay our taxes and give at Church? I mean we are funding the social workers, schools, police, hospitals, firefighters, military, etc. And they are way too expensive as it is... What else can and should be expected from us?

As I was once told... "I mean, we can't save them all !!!"

My personal opinion after looking around at some of our American excess and self centered ways is that we could do something more. The challenge is that it starts with the individual choices of each of us. My goal is to try to raise my personal bar in some way by the end of the year. I invite you to do the same.


Below are links to some local charities.. And I guarantee you will feel better and more energized after helping them than you would if you stayed home and watched TV...

Mpls Children's Crisis Nursery
Memorial Blood Centers
Sharing and Caring Hands
Feed My Starving Children
Meals on Wheels
Bolder Options
Tree House
Big Brothers Big Sisters

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ignore the Person Behind the Curtain

If you have missed it, we have been discussing immigration over on Speed's site. I believe illegal aliens are "illegal" and therefore should be arrested and deported ASAP. Others would like to tie the hands of our police and look the other way. What do you think?
Speed Angry White Mayor
Washington Times

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Prodigal Son Revisited

Well, Annie's comments got me thinking... Which is not always a good thing...

I started thinking about how giving more money to the person who has less would work in other examples. I was then thinking about the times I end up subsidizing one of my kid's activities when they run a bit short, and what lessons they may be learning from that. Then I remembered the Prodigal Son story and had my excellent example.

The Prodigal Son and The Liberal Father...

A man had 2 sons and a great deal of wealth. Son 1 wanted his share of the inheritance now so that he could use the money. The Father agreed to split his wealth and give half to each son. Son 1 spent his poorly, had a great time, ended up slopping hogs, etc, etc... Son 2 worked hard and continued building his wealth. Son 1 comes home and Dad throws a big party. Son 2 comes from the fields and questions his Father why they are throwing a party for this dead beat? And why did I not get one after all of my hard work and sacrifice?

The Father answers that he is simply so thankful that the lost Son 1 has returned. Then he turns to Son 2 and explains that he is going to give Son 1 half of Son 2's wealth. Son 2 is shocked and asks his Father why? The Father says that it only makes sense since you have wealth and he is broke...

Here ends my revisionist history. My thought is that though people are born into better or worse situations. (ie lucky or unlucky) There is no real excuse that the vast majority of people living in America can not create a pretty good nest egg by the time they retire. Now the question is were they really dedicated to working for the American dream, controlling their costs and saving consistently. Or not ???

A side question: a retiring couple is broke because they chose to have 10 children on a relatively small income. Is this being irresponsible or should they get extra funding due to their low net worth?

Thoughts on all of this?