Saturday, October 12, 2013

Reflections on the First Quarter

Fall intersession is over, and like always, I lament that time went by so quickly.   I have good intentions of cleaning my office first (how is it possible to collect so many papers in such a short time?) and to get other required tasks out of the way so that I can really reflect on how we are doing as a school and on how I am doing as a leader.

It doesn't seem possible that back on July 1, our school looked like this.

Today, this is what that same area looks like.

To say that the $33.2 million project has been a challenge is a understatement.  Our greatest concern is making sure that teaching and learning is not negatively impacted by the noise, the dust, and the inconveniences of the construction project. So far, everyone has been accommodating - the contractors, the community, the staff, and our students and their families.  We are truly grateful for funding for this project, and I, personally, am learning a lot about construction!  It is hard to imagine that in such a short time, the contractors have made so much progress on our new buildings!

An unexpected challenge for us this year is our low enrollment and subsequent loss of funding.  For some reason, our actual enrollment is far lower than projected.  Presently, our enrollment is 100 students fewer than last school year, and our geographical boundaries have not changed.  This lower enrollment count meant returning a large sum of money to the State since funding is based on a per pupil Weighted Student Formula. Adding to this shortfall is our loss of Title I funds this year due to a change in how Title I schools are identified in our Department. We are managing, but we will have to tighten our belts for the remainder of this fiscal year.

New teacher evaluations have been challenging.  Although this is a "practice year" with no negative consequences, we are taking the new requirements seriously and are doing our best to put systems in place so everyone can be successful.   With 74 teachers being evaluated in five different components which all require principal support and documentation, I find myself constantly reflecting on the most appropriate strategies to help teachers help themselves.  My philosophy is to give our teachers roots and wings - roots to ground themselves and provide a strong foundation so they can grow and spread their wings, to have confidence in themselves as continuous learners so they can be effective teachers. The challenge is in knowing each teacher and in asking the right questions so I am not telling them what I want them to work on; rather, teachers are reflecting and taking responsibility for their own professional growth and setting their own goals for improvement. With accountability and evaluations a reality, my responsibility as a principal is to ensure that teachers have every opportunity to improve their craft and to positively impact students.   This is where I feel I can have the greatest influence - as an instructional leader.  It is the main reason why I went into administration.

This is my eleventh year at Hale Kula, and frankly, my responsibilities as principal are more demanding now than they were ten or eleven years ago.  I believe the public expects more from our schools - not just in Hawaii but across the nation -- and we need to respond by producing students who can be competitive in this 21st Century world.


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