Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Community Outreach Committee

Community Committee Videos

In case you were unable to attend our recent community meeting, the video snapshots are available for your review at your convenience.

Next meeting TBD

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Commencement 2014 - 10 tips by Mike Myatt

Great weather, great people, great support for our graduates...what more could a Supt ask for?

Below is my speech as written (delivered fairly close to what was written). The tips are a collection from my online research...like all good teachers, there is a bit stolen from others mixed in with my own take. 

10 tips by Mike Myatt
I want to give full credit to the author of the ten tips to graduates in my recent commencement speech. Mike Myatt is a world class author and person! His tips were featured in Forbes magazine. At the time of my address I found the tips on a site where the author was listed as unknown. I should have done more work to find the original author and give them credit. Lesson learned - better late than never. 

OPENING REMARKS:
Good evening parents, distinguished guests, faculty, and students.

Ok, students, the good news is I am the last person standing between you and your diploma; the bad news is I am going to give a [long] speech. Here we go…

Graduation is often said to be the end of a chapter and the start of a new. When preparing for tonight, I sat down at the keyboard knowing that I had a tough task ahead considering the (3) amazing students speaking before me. I knew they would set the standard fairly high [and you did not disappoint]. Ms. DeVol, great advice – great speech – individuality is very important & I too learned a lot from the great Dr. Seuss – for instance this bow tie, Dr. Seuss wore bow ties. To Ms. Davis, again, great message about embracing our fears and going forward despite them. Go out there and take chances… great stuff. And Ozzie, wow, that was a textbook perfect speech; the right amount of quotes- amazing… when I first met Ozzie his passion for curing childhood hunger across the globe was impressive. Knowing that I had to follow these three amazing young adults coupled with the fact that you really do not want to hear another speech, left me feeling a bit defeated. But just when I was feeling overwhelmed and ready to quit, my son who was watching me stare at the empty screen asked “what are you doing dad”, I said trying to inspire a group of graduating high school students. He looked carefully at the blank screen, and said “that’s not going to do it”.
So a couple of hours later (with the help of Twitter #commencementspeeches) I changed that blank page into something I hope inspires our graduates. And yes, I realize that they are likely not listening but I will give the advice anyway. So here we go, 10 tips:
1. A Little Perspective Goes A Long Way Regardless of anyone’s outward appearance, everyone endures tragedies, hardships, and ridicule. The truth is, life is messy and people get hurt. The difference between those who overcome challenges and those who succumb to them is largely one of attitude and perspective. Embrace challenges and setbacks as not just refining moments, but as defining moments. Don’t fall prey to challenges; learn from them. Remember, the perception of failure through one lens can often be a springboard to success when viewed through a different filter. When in doubt, just sing the theme song from the Lego Movie, “Everything is awesome…”
2. Keep The Faith Don’t fear life. Don’t allow life’s numerous and inevitable obstacles to impede your progress. Don’t let someone else define possible or impossible for you. Here’s the truth; the plausibility of impossibility only becomes a probability with the disappearance of faith. The world can take many things from you, but your faith is not one of them. Only you can surrender your faith. Never lose hope. As Kristin said, it is ok to be afraid, just don’t let that fear paralyze you from action. Have faith in yourself.
3. Life Is All About The People – Relationships are the biggest asset you can have. Your world will be greatly impacted by those whom you choose to include and exclude from your life. Be kind to others. While some short-term success can be built at the expense of others, or on the backs of others, all sustainable achievements are built on the success they have created for others. Think selfless as opposed to selfish. Family and friends are worth more than job titles. Life is about people not things.
4. Stand Out From The Crowd - The world despises a cheap imitation and loves an original. Conformity to the norm will merely sentence you to mediocrity, uselessness, and irrelevance. Everyone has unique gifts and talents and the earlier you discover and develop yours the better off you’ll be. Build your personal brand, become an expert in something, or again from the Lego Movie – become A Master Builder… someone who sees a cool spaceship in what others see as just a big pile of dissembled lego parts. Guard your reputation carefully. Everyone has a personal brand the question is will it be built by you, by design, or will you let it just happen or let others design your brand for you. Everything you do should enhance and reinforce your story. This includes social-media, guard your social media footprint carefully. When in doubt, don’t tweet it out!
5. Any Job Is A Good Job No job is beneath you. Every day you don’t put money in the bank, you’re unnecessarily lowering your water line. It may not be much fun selling cheeseburgers with your freshly minted high school diploma in hand, but it’s a start and it’s a step in the right direction. The most important life skill you can develop is leadership ability. You don’t have to be in charge to lead and you can lead in any capacity regardless of the position you hold. Be the best at whatever you do…be the best cheeseburger cook until you become the best manager, until you own the restaurant.
6. Be Serious About What You Do, But Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously - Humor can provide needed relief when times get tough. What many fail to understand is sometimes in order to find the humor you actually have to look for it. If you want others to take you seriously, the first thing you need to do is to get over yourself. The most important barrier to overcome is the barrier of being self-conscious. Don’t waste time worrying about what others will think of you.
7. Success vs. Significance  It’s important to realize there is not just one definition of success. Success means different things to different people, and that’s okay. It’s not others definitions you should be concerned with, but your own. The funny thing is, your own definition of success will likely change more than a few times as you experience more of life, and that’s the key. As you continue your journey of personal and professional growth, it’s my hope your sights will shift from the modest pursuit of success to the passionate pursuit of significance. My advice is to find something bigger than you, and become a passionate, committed servant of whatever that cause or endeavor may be.
8. Learning Doesn’t Stop When You Graduate Sorry everyone, Learning is a life long endeavor. The minute you stop learning is the minute you concede opportunities to others. Always look to challenge and refine your thinking. View everything through the lens of learning. Life is about learning and unlearning, and developing and growing. Don’t waste any of your experiences - view them as learning opportunities.
9. The Difference Between Happiness and Joy – As I watch my own kids grow up, early on I naively prayed for their happiness. Sure, I still pray for their happiness, but I know happiness is really the wrong goal. Happiness and joy are not one in the same as happiness comes and goes - it’s fleeting at best, and at worst the pursuit of happiness above all else can lead to ruin. Joy however is something that can be found in any circumstance or setting. It’s the joyful people who stand out to me. They are the lemonade makers and the ones who see the best in people, not the worst. Regardless of the hand they’re dealt, they don’t complain or become bitter. They remain joyful and continue pushing forward in pursuit of their dream. Find joy over happiness.
10. Live Below Your Means Debt is not your friend and it’s a plague, and I’d suggest you avoid it as such. If you want to become indentured to creditors then by all means, live the high life. Accept the credit card offers that are sure to come now that your “adults”. Purchase things you can’t afford and be happy for the moment, but it won’t seem like such a great idea as you watch that new “bit of happiness” get repossessed. My advice, get a job or two (yes even if you are going to college) and spend only a small portion on your wants while saving the majority. Embrace this habit now, and you will reap the benefit forever.
(Big Finish)
Remember, a rewarding life is the gratifying consequence of living for your passions. It happens while you are doing the things you love just because you love them. Despite whether you are graduating at the top or the bottom of the class, whether you received awards Monday night or not, regardless of the journey you have taken so far, take comfort that you can decide today – RIGHT NOW - to be whatever you want!

So here you sit, all wearing the same gown and are about to receive a high school diploma – which aside from your name is exactly the same as the person sitting next to you. For those award winners (last) night - Well done! But do not rest on the feeling of self-satisfaction as your journey continues! For those who did not finish this part of the journey where you would have liked to, its ok, this is a long marathon – decide now is your time…begin your kick and work hard! This is a new starting point and this wonderful celebration a breather along your pursuit of finding a joyful life.

Congratulations – make your own good luck, and live the life you were destined to live!

Now it is my pleasure to certify that each and every student assembled here this evening has fulfilled the requirements for graduation that were instituted by the Millville Board of Education and the State of New Jersey.

Therefore, I am honored to recommend this Class of 2014 for the awarding of diplomas!


Friday, May 23, 2014

Olympic Bound; 37 Years of Tradition

Today marks 37 years of tradition as MPS celebrated Olympic Day! In our town, everything stops for the Olympic Day Parade. Beginning at City Hall, members from the County and City join together with the school district representatives and proudly parade down High Street making their way to the Arena. Students from each of the six elementary schools all participate in the parade. Marching proudly with their school's Olympic Day shirts, the students parade along with police and fire vehicles, and the local pageant winners. Along the parade route, the students in grades kindergarten through 3rd line the streets to wave their makeshift signs and banners. Each yelling out for their favorite Olympian.

Once the students arrive at the Arena, (Our Football Stadium) they all parade once around the track before entering the bleachers in their assigned areas. To start the games, the High School Band (made up of former Olympians) perform the National Anthem. Today, I was moved to hear all six elementary schools singing along with the Anthem. Following the Anthem, our Athletic Director, Mr. Dave LaGamba welcomes all of our distinguished guests. Once all of the dignitaries are introduced, the ceremonial "torch" (a wood carving of the Olympic Torch- with NO flame) is carried in by two lucky Olympians.

Once the Torch is carried, the first set of events begin. Every student, and I do mean every student eligible (must be in good standing to be an Olympian) participates in the various events throughout the morning long competition. The theme of the event has and always will be focused on participation rather than winning or losing. Score is not officially kept by the school personnel - although I am quite certain some of the more competitive students could tell you which school has the most first place ribbons. Everyone receives a participation ribbon and memories to last them a lifetime.

I can remember my own march through town as a Bacon Bear! Running the 400 relay as well as participating in the student favorite - tug of war. It is events like today that make me proud to be the superintendent for the Millville Community.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

PrincipalCast "Interview Tips"



I was recently asked to participate on the PrincipalCast Podcast program along with Joe SanFelippo a Wisconsin Superintendent. If you know of any aspiring administrators please feel free to pass this video along.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"My Little Pony Parents"

The term "My Little Pony Parent" was a new one for me. I recently read the Atlantic City Press editorial by Lane Filler on Monday and was introduced to the term. Parents described as a "Tiger Parent" was not new. That term was coined and made popular by Amy Chua, a Yale law professor, in her 2011 book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. A Tiger Parent is one who is obsessed with their children's success - and pursuit of excellence...the parent who forces their child to practice the violin for five hours a day, anything less than an "A+" on the report from school is unacceptable and they feed on competition. Amy Chua admittedly rejected a birthday card from her 4 year old because she found the quality wanting. Fortunately, I did not grow up in a Tiger Den, although my parents certainly had high expectations for my sister and I. They pushed us to do our best and pointed out when we did not. They did not shield us from disappointment but rather taught us that it was part of life. If we did not receive a trophy or ribbon it was because we were not among the best in that particular event.

According to Lane Filler, there is a new parent type that is growing, the My Little Pony Parent. MLP Parent attempts to shield their children from any and all discomfort. They never want their children to feel inadequate, instead, they go to great lengths to tell them how special - smart - and accomplished they are all the time. Fearing that if their kids were ever told they aren't the best, it would destroy them. So they set out to congratulate them on tasks that are banal.

Of course, the occasional "its ok, honey, you tried your best and that's what counts" is warranted and healthy. According to Filler, however, constantly shielding your child from the reality that they are not the best at (enter your choice here: math, writing, sports, school, singing, art) is harmful. He writes, "Earthworms try. The Confederate Army tried. Even the Jets try. Sporadically. It's the results that count, but hiding that fact from our kids has become normal for many".

Filler wrote of the implementation of the Common Core standards and how MLP Parents are reacting to it. A growing number of parents are threatening to "opt" out of having their children take the state assessments. After year two in New York, the results were daunting. The percentage of kids who met or exceeded the accepted skill level was half what it was the previous year, with about 30 percent of students statewide hitting the mark. Filler says that in light of the results, My Little Pony Parents are preparing to make sure their children don't even encounter a test (or test result) that leaves them feeling less than superb and masterful.

Filler says that the tests difficulty should be their selling point, a high standard. Sometimes feeling badly about ourselves is what makes us try harder. I know from my own life experiences, it has been after a set back that my motivation has been highest. I can think of my high school senior year for an example that is still fresh in my memory. Going into my senior year I was determined to be the quarterback - it was my turn as I had been back up the years before (playing defensive back as well). To my surprise, people came out of the wood work to point out that the underclassman backup should be the quarterback instead of me. Pointing to all of my shortcomings, height - skill - and how on both they felt the underclassman had me beat. I can even remember a preseason breakfast with the head coach where I think he was exploring the idea with me. Seeing if I would be up for simply stepping aside quietly and settling for just playing defensive back/safety. My reaction at that breakfast set the tone for camp - for the season - and for my life in many ways.

I was so angry and disappointed it made my blood boil. I could have rolled over, or pouted and complained about how unfair it was. When I went to my dad for advice, he did not try to shield me from being disappointed or go talk to the coach, instead he said, "what are you going to do to prove them wrong?"

My answer was to outwork everybody, including the underclassman - who truth be told - had more natural ability, talent, and definitely height than I did. But that year, nobody worked harder than I did. During weight training, running the mile for time each practice and the countless wind sprints...I was first. When others were in need of support, I encouraged them, I stepped up and found my leadership spirit. I earned the position and respect of my team. I wish this part of the story had a Rudy like feel, where I go on to lead our team to state championships or that I go on to get a scholarship for football, none of that happened, we did have a winning season 5-4 (we beat Vineland) and proved to myself that I could accomplish whatever I set out to do if I was willing to work. I set a school record, for the most minutes played - I played full time as quarterback and full time as the defensive safety (occasionally talked the coach into letting me run down on kick offs too). I simply refused to come off the field.

Reflecting back, if my parents were My Little Pony Parents, how would my life have been different? I probably would have never gone out for football in the first place. Since I didn't decide to play until my freshman year. My parents fearing that I would be behind the other kids - or that I was too small - may have actually forbid me to play. What if every time I was about to face a challenge in life they stepped in and made me feel like I was the best despite the fact that I wasn't? I think life would be pretty empty. Nothing is more fulfilling than setting a goal and legitimately accomplishing it (or failing while trying).

It is important to find a middle ground. Where the Tiger and Pony meet. Children are supported for honest efforts but they aren't lied to about the results.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"Don't Peep My Tweets"


A recent exchange via Twitter with one of my high school students should serve as Best Practice for us grown ups when dealing with social media! The mission should be education - we should add value to our students' lives as well as the world around us. We should model good behavior as well. Some of you are guilty of questionable statements and comments on social media too. Why would it surprise us when our children follow suit?

The scenario: I announce snow closing and/or delays first on Twitter - as an unintended result, I have more high school kids following me than I ever did before. I see an upside, at least one voice they will have no choice but to "hear" is my own. I take that as a responsibility to teach and learn with them. I do not see it as my job to police their Tweets. The student asked a great question about what the delay would mean for HSPA Testing to which I responded. What happened next was very interesting...the student wrote back (half joking I suspect) and essentially showed concern that I would look at his Tweets... I am fascinated that any of our students would send out messages via social media that they would later be worried about. Simply, they should know better. My response says it all. We need to make sure our students understand that you can't get back what is Tweeted, Blogged, Facebooked, Pintrested, etc... once it is out there, it is out there. In many ways, social media has made the administrator's job of discipline easier - there is evidence that can't be refuted in most cases of bullying or harassment. 

My vision is to help the students build a social media resume that they can be proud of instead of worrying about what will be seen by their supt. 

So, instead of spending our time policing and banning these tools, we should teach "Tech Tool 101". To my students out there... I am not looking for your inappropriate Tweets, but someone is and it tells of your character - it also has implications for your future. I promise this, your future employer or University admissions office will search to see what your footprint looks like. Don't wait until then to try to put the toothpaste back.