Friday, July 20, 2007

Superintendent's Day at SLCSD

Have you ever wondered what happens at Superintendent's Staff Development days? These are the couple of days just prior to school beginning and then perhaps another couple of days during the school year where your school system's faculty and staff meet to become 'developed'.

From the Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent's webpage:
The district and the Staff Development Committee have reviewed and modified the Staff Development Plan for 2007-2008. This document is required to be reviewed annually by the State Education Department, and is used to plan training/in service programs for the staff. The Board of Education will be asked to adopt the plan before August. The staff development activities planned for September 4, and 5 of 2007 include:

• A welcome back breakfast for staff, and board members
• A recognition ceremony for outstanding employees and retirees.
• A presentation to all staff by Jones Loflin on the topic "Juggling Elephants" which will focus on managing changes.
• Training on bus safety to all bus drivers
• Training for all support staff on the topic of change
• Content/department chair presentations to teachers.
• Personal health service profiles for all interested staff
• A presentation by Dr. Zacharie Clements on the topic "Miracles Begin With You."
• A presentation to all staff by Dr. Robert Sylvester on the topic "The Brain-Classroom Connection."
• Faculty meetings/classroom set-up time.
I imagine much of this time is spent doing things that NYS requires at the beginning of each school year. I'm not really sure what the Content/department chair presentations to teachers is all about because my understanding is that SLCSD does not have department chairs [UPDATE: surprise, surprise, the School Board just appointed academic chairs at their June 20th meeting. Too bad this good move hasn't received any attention in the press. It's been a long time coming]. At least not academic department chairs. I could be wrong because there really isn't alot of information presented about what is actually going on in our school district on a month to month basis.

But what about the presentation by Dr. Zacharie Clements? Dr. Clements is what's know as an "inspirational speaker". From Dr. Clements website you can see what "Miracles Begin With You" is supposed to accomplish.
Miracles Begin with You Through humor, role playing and drama in this presentation recommended for his first visit to a district, Zach:

-explores hypocrisy in contemporary society and its impact on schools (“In-my-day” disease, Responsibility buck-passing syndrome, and more);
-portrays what‘s happening within schools (retire-itis, imagined burnout, educator buck passing);
-allows educators to assess their own attitudes without feeling threatened;
-leaves educators laughing at themselves, yet challenged to make a positive difference in students‘ lives;
-rejuvenates total staff audiences, both certified and support.
So like with most "insirational talks" the point is to make you feel good about yourself (and hopefully make some changes).

"Exploring hypocrisy in contempory society" sounds like it could end up being parent and taxpayer bashing (not that some of them don't need it). But how many times in your career has someone paid to have you rejuvenated? But the main concern here is what is the point of this "inspirational talk"? Is it to help teachers make objective changes in how they make positive differences in students' lives? If so, how do we know if the "inspirational talk" had any effects?

Let's try this. After hearing the talk, how about having every teacher write out three methods they will use to effect positive change in students lives. Then, at the next superintendent's day, they can have a forum on whether their methods were effective or not? Let's get something out of this "inspirational talk" besides a day or two of "inspiration".

They have another speaker "Dr. Robert Sylvester (sic)" (actually Sylwester). There is an interview with Dr. Sylwester here which seems to be a mix of biology and psychobabble. It's confusing to me where in the interview Dr. Sylwester talks about getting a Ph.D. when he actually has an Ed.D. Yes, there is a difference.

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