This time last year, I stood before you and shared established goals dealing with academic achievement, attendance and discipline. We were able to obtain two of those goals and missed the third goal, the attendance goal, by 4/10 of a percent. We continue to grow academically as results on a variety of measures continue to show increased performance by our students. On our MSA scores, while we realize there is work to do, we have student scores that reach into the top 10 in the state and in another area, the top five. We also continue to lead the state with our early childhood initiatives and are proud to take the lead in offering all day Pre-K for all students with expansion into the 3-year-old population this school year.
This year we will also continue with our initiatives that will provide our students the very best opportunity to gain the knowledge necessary to be successful. We know implementation will be bumpy at times but success will follow due to your commitment and dedication to our students. Some of those initiatives for the 2017 - 2018 school year are;
- We will complete our Project Lead the Way initiative by implementing the Gateway Program at SIS which now means we offer a Project Lead the Way curriculum K through 12 for all students.
- As many of you know, we have made a commitment to Universal Design for Learning and offered an incredible amount of in-service this summer. Remember, “What is necessary for some is good for all”.
- This year we move into a much needed inclusion initiative which will give our special education students greater opportunity to achieve at higher levels while helping our non-disabled students better understand differences among others.
- At the elementary level and intermediate level, we are implementing Mindfulness practices which will help students develop resilience during anxious moments that may arise in school and at home.
- And lastly, on Oct 24, 2017, we break ground on what will be the most impressive and much needed technical school in the State. Throughout the planning phase, our project has been called the most
important building project in the State of Maryland.
All these initiatives will help us to continue to grow and move forward in offering a well-rounded curriculum for all students and they will be successful because of what you do every single day.
This year I am not going to list three goals like the past. I simply want to challenge you in two areas. The first of those is in making an impact in our schools and community. We have shown ourselves to be leaders in our community in a variety of ways including giving of our time and personal finances. As an example, we have our United Way Campaign. For a relatively small organization to be giving at the levels that we have is unbelievable. It speaks volumes about the people that are in the system and your desire to want to influence social change and the lives of our students. There is no way that as a county we can ever give back to the United Way in terms of what has been given to us. However, there is no doubt that we are leading the way in making the effort. For larger systems and other larger organizations to see our name as a major supporter of the United Way, has spurred them on to do more and in turn has fed our desire to make an even bigger difference. I thank you for what you have done to support our county campaign because what you are doing is supporting our students and their families with vital services that they otherwise would not receive.
My second challenge is vitally important to everyone in Somerset County. I will tell you that I am sure no other superintendent in the state is saying what I am today. In addition, yes I will say it with the Board and news media here as well. Let me explain. I spend quite a bit of time with our leadership team talking about “think time” and the need for reflection. My thoughts today are a product of that time. Over the last year with the reauthorization of ESSA, I have attended a variety of local, state and national meetings. At all of those meetings we talked about what superintendents had to do, what we needed to have teachers do, what students had to do, what parents had to do and how we were going to do it. We talked about financial resources, we talked about legislation, we talked about assessment, and in fact, we talked about everything imaginable except for one thing. In addition, that one thing is assumed and that one thing is considered a given if you will. What I am talking about is building relationships. As adults, we create relationships every single day. We create relationships with family members, with friends, with acquaintances, with business partners, with parents, with students and heck, with anyone that we are involved with, at any level. However, in education sometimes we just assume that our relationships are built and we move on to the whole “do thing”.
Each of us can think back to our own experiences and there was someone that made a difference for us. Whether we were a child, adolescent, or a grown adult there are relationships that we can all think about that made a difference for us. Personally, it was Charlotte Gladding my second grade teacher, Peggy Lewis a fifth grade teacher, Dick Smith my biology teacher in HS, Grace Foxwell, my cooperating teacher, my father. Each of them worked on the relationship in good times and bad because it was important and because of that, there is nothing that I would not do for them in the past or the future!
Well, On Tuesday September 5, just about 3000 opportunities to build relationships will walk through our front doors. Some of them will be ready for school, some will not. Some will have the newest uniforms and others will wear what they wore last year. Some will have pencils, paper and anything they need for school. Others will not! Through the year, some will want hugs and praise and high fives. Others will yell at you and be disrespectful. However, no matter what their disposition it is up to us to build the relationship of trust, care and well-being. And we need to do that with our parents and each other. And yes, they need to do it as well, but someone needs to start! It is proven that building relationships will lead to success. As a superintendent it seems odd to say that I'm not worried about testing whether it's local or state, not worried about all the data pushed our way, not worried about who in Baltimore, Annapolis or any other place thinks! What I'm saying to you is all of those things will continue to improve because of our hard work and the things we have in place. I truly believe we will see great results with the building of relationships with adults in the building but more importantly our students. My charge to you for this school year is to build those relationships, foster those relationships and grow those from in your building with the staff, your parents and students. Simply put and summed up; We need to stop talking about what we're going to do to everybody and start talking about what we plan to accomplish together through hard work and building relationships with those people, big and small, that we deal with every single day. As superintendent and a teacher at heart, I wish you, your families at home and school the best in the 2017 - 2018 school year. Let’s make it one for the ages!!! Thank you.”