Friday, August 31, 2012

Part 2 of Fun; Building Suspense Around Opening Day

Before Watching the webcam video of August 31, 2012, see the post below and watch the Extravaganza Movie. Both were filmed in fun as we created a buzz around our 'top secret' opening day celebration. *No administrators, educators, staff or students were harmed in the filming. This is in noway meant to offend those who have been real victims of kidnapping or terrorism. We were just having some fun...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How do you generate a positive Opening Day?

Earlier this summer, while I was doing a little research online about motivating your staff, I stumbled upon a Tony Robbins video from one of his latest motivational retreats. It was at this moment, I realized that if I wanted to get unusual results that I would need to do the unusual. Motivation comes from working at a place where people feel connected to something bigger than themselves, a place where they can grow and evolve, and lastly when they are providing a service to others. This combination is the perfect storm for motivation. Truth be told, while we all expect to be paid for our employment, money alone is insignificant to motivate people for the long haul. Ultimately, it is never enough. So to feel motivated, positive, and alive everyday people want to work in an environment that affords them an opportunity to grow professionally - take new risks - try new ideas out without worry of ridicule. Additionally, they want to know that the work they do matters - that they are somehow making the world a better place. By providing a service to others we can see that we matter. This year, I wanted to make the point that every single member of this school district is as important as the next. In order to truly achieve a world class level of service, everyone must connect with their purpose in the organization. Our back to school opening "Event" includes EVERY member of the staff. No exceptions. Yes, this means we will close buildings temporarily so that everyone can attend.

The power in this message could not be conveyed without taking such a drastic step. From the moment I stated that every employee must report on opening day their has been a buzz. What is this all about? Does he mean me? I wonder what we will do? Will it have meaning to me? I wanted to keep people in suspense, so I only included a few key people in the planning at first. People generally like surprises, especially ones that are fun. We have such a morning planned for the staff at Millville Public Schools. The movie clip below is part of generating and adding to the buzz about the opening day. Those who are in the video were willing to have fun, and sort of make fun of themselves, for the greater cause of getting everyone excited about a new school year. The film is about the "Quest for opening day information" and the actors, staff members, involved are great sports. Truthfully, they do not have the details of the opening day either. Only Dr. Moore, assistant superintendent, and myself have the full agenda. I hope we deliver a fun, exciting, opening day kick-off that will be talked about positively by all. Spoiler alert - if you are expecting Oprah to show up and give away some of her favorite things - you will be disappointed. I am sure we will all have fun.

I am looking forward to beginning a new with all of you in an effort to move us one step closer to world class.
 Special thank you to those involved with the filming-
Stephanie DeRose, Spike Cook, Kathy Procopio, Kelly Crawford, David LaGamba, Chris Finney, Tom Denning, Larry Perry, and Pamm Moore
& special thank you to Millville Police Sergeant Deckert

Power of Connected Educators

What started with a simple tweet at 1:30 yesterday resulted in the long list of tips, ideas, and resources all tailored for the New Teachers & Staff members at Millville Public Schools. Some, offered simple statements while others pointed the group to links with deep resources. All were offered out of good faith for trying to help other educators starting a career by others who have been there - done that. Did I mention, all of the professional support was FREE. It is an amazing time we live in. I am hopeful that we will start the revolution that will abandon the concept of linear education (standardization) to a customized era of education that allows students to explore, through their talents, the world around them. My hope is we will see an era free of standardized assessment which is used primarily to label schools and teachers as failures, where we learn that children (no different than adults) learn at different rates of speed and in different modalities. Our schools should become learning labs, where students can freely apply their learning in a way that is respectful of their dreams. Some day...

Resources -

Michele Mislevy @pashell
Don't reinvent the wheel. Check out Livebinders for resources. . Free to use and make. #ntmps
BethRitterGuth @BethRitterGuth
Best of luck to #ntmps!! Have a sensational year! Advice: Your facial expressions can make or break a student. Be kind. Be fair. Smile.
Andy Fogg @foggandy
@drgentile_mps #ntmps ensure students work harder than you during lessons
 in reply to @drgentile_mps
Chris Curtis @Xris32
RT @syded06: #ntmps Twitter allows for collaboration, conversation and confidence building. Plus someone out there can help #edchat
Jennie Snyder, Ed.D. @POUSDSupt
RT @tomwhitby: A Simple Comprehensive Guide on The use of Personal Learning Networks in Education #Edchat #ntmps
Jamie Heard @jamieheard
@drgentile_mps Always show students that you care about them and never stop being a student yourself. #ntmps
Dr. David Gentile @drgentile_mps
Thank all of you! Great tips and insights #ntmps I want them to see the power of connectedness! #suptchat #njed #edchat #ntmps
Jimmy V @jimmygunner
RT @WHS_Principal: Twitter to me = learning anytime, anywhere with anyone that wants to share their knowledge and experiences. #ntmps
Kevin Carroll @WHS_Principal
I created a school twitter account @WaldwickWHS to keep my school community informed #ntmps
Kevin Carroll @WHS_Principal
I use twitter everyday to connect with other educators, share ideas & gather info that can help my school & teachers #ntmps
Kevin Carroll @WHS_Principal
Twitter to me = learning anytime, anywhere with anyone that wants to share their knowledge and experiences. #ntmps
Kevin Carroll @WHS_Principal
Welcome to Twitter from Waldwick HS in New Jersey #ntmps
Alicia Discepola @AliciaDiscepola
RT @drgentile_mps: Cont'd call for help. Tweet a tip/resource 4 my new tchers to #ntmps I want them to see the power of connectedness! # ...
Steve Constantino @smconstantino
RT @jleib75: Don't forget to listen and be sensitive to parents anxiety, it maybe greater than kids #ntmps. Use your mentors!
Jesse Leib @jleib75
Don't forget to listen and be sensitive to parents anxiety, it maybe greater than kids #ntmps. Use your mentors!
Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal
@drgentile_mps The motto of connected educators - "Together we are better." What better way to learn/grow than from each other #ntmps
 in reply to @drgentile_mps
Dr. David Gentile @drgentile_mps
Cont'd call for help. Tweet a tip/resource 4 my new tchers to #ntmps I want them to see the power of connectedness! #suptchat #njed #edchat
Pilar Pamblanco @englishteach8
RT @syded06: #ntmps Twitter allows for collaboration, conversation and confidence building. Plus someone out there can help #edchat
Beth Gryczewski @Gryczewski
@drgentile_mps #ntmps Some of my favorite history sites for connected history learning: Enjoy, and welcome!
 in reply to @drgentile_mps
Jo Neale @jmpneale
@drgentile_mps #ntmps Fab resource for drama. Love your idea.
Anthony Fitzpatrick @antfitz
FREE resources from dozens of TAH grants in one place! professor ppts and teaching strategies! #sschat #ntmps
Chris Chivers @ChrisChivers2
RT @syded06: #ntmps Twitter allows for collaboration, conversation and confidence building. Plus someone out there can help #edchat
ELP @ElearningProf
RT @verenanz: #ntmps I love MightyBell 2053a95d1c8b5dbe- Gives students a way to create ePortfolios and Edmodo for social networking in "secure" enviro
Lisa Jane Ashes @lisajaneashes
RT @syded06: #ntmps Twitter allows for collaboration, conversation and confidence building. Plus someone out there can help #edchat
Alex Anemone @HTSSupt
@drgentile_mps #ntmps Arrive early; stay late; communicate with parents; volunteer for activities.
Alicia Discepola @AliciaDiscepola
My #ntmps tip: We have tons of awesome educators at #millvilleboe! Ask for help- especially from your district's ed tech specialist! :)~
Helen Wilson @hmw239
@drgentile_mps #ntmps get organised in your life - use a good to do list (tech or otherwise) and set aside time in week for YOU and work.
 in reply to @drgentile_mps
Alicia Discepola @AliciaDiscepola
Tweet new teacher tips to @drgentile_mps using #ntmps. Will share at staff orientation tom! #cpchat #edchat #elemchat #edtech #njed
Sandra Bornstein @SandraBornstein
RT @drgentile_mps:… #ntmps Teachers interested in multicultural picture book reviews-
Alicia Discepola @AliciaDiscepola
HELP! Tweet new teacher tips to @drgentile_mps. Use hastag #ntmps… #edchat #njed #suptchat #edtech
Verena Roberts @verenanz
#ntmps I love MightyBell 2053a95d1c8b5dbe- Gives students a way to create ePortfolios and Edmodo for social networking in "secure" enviro
ulimasao @vanschaijik
@drgentile_mps #ntmps @arti_choke from New Zealand A connected Educator from New Zealand #SOLOtaxonomy
Tanya @Tanya_ISE_MN
#ntmps Helpful for WL teachers who travel with students to develop 21st Century skills.
PJ Caposey @PrincipalPC
@drgentile_mps #ntmps Being connected and wanting to improve are choices! Make that leap today and reap the benefits each day forward
 in reply to @drgentile_mps
Daniel Edwards @syded06
#ntmps Twitter allows for collaboration, conversation and confidence building. Plus someone out there can help #edchat
Jerry Blumengarten @cybraryman1
Hi from Florida! Twitter connects great global educators to collaborate & share ideas. My Twitter page: #ntmps
Dr. David Gentile @drgentile_mps
changed the hashtag Calling all TwitterEducators #ntmps… #edchat #njed #suptchat #ntmps
Dr. David Gentile @drgentile_mps
sorry for any confusion this causes…but PLEASE use #ntmps as the other #nt is already being used. THANK YOU #njed #edchat #suptchat

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Calling all TwitterEducators #ntmps

I have the awesome responsibility to meet with our new teachers/staff members tomorrow during the morning session of the orientation program. I really want to show them in real time, the power of being a connected educator: Here is what I need from you

"tweet your best tip or words of advice to hashtag #ntmps. This can include useful links or other resources that you feel all new teachers/educators should know about"

I am confident that with your help, by tomorrow morning, I will have a long list of awesome resources for the new staff members. This will show them, that by tweeting your network at 1:30 pm on a Tuesday, by 7:00 am Wednesday your support network will come through.

Please don't let me down!


changed hashtag to:
#ntmps (new teachers millville public schools)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Flipped Classroom

This is the term being used for a new way of thinking in education. For many, it marks a new paradigm and will forever change the way they approach teaching. I believe this is the reform education needs to ensure we prepare our children for the uncharted future ahead. In a Flipped Classroom, the teacher's lecture or guided instruction is given to the students as homework in the form of watching youtube videos or video clips (there are many applications for teachers who wish to Flip) which allows the student to watch, pause, rewind, fast-forward the lecture as they require. Students use their personal learning devices, such as smartphones or Ipods, to do so - think about how this increases the likelihood that a student would be willing to admit they didn't understand something, and rewind it until they did... there are no other classmates watching so the student would not worry about their appearance. Once the student has viewed the lecture as often as necessary the night before, they enter the classroom the next day ready to apply their understanding. What might have been homework or a lab assignment can now be the center point of the class time. The teacher is free to observe, assist, and coach the students at various levels of readiness. We learn by doing, the power of a Flipped Classroom is the doing is center stage under the watchful eye of a professional teacher. Using various technologies, the student can watch the lecture or background knowledge at their own pace and many teachers are allowing students to ask questions about the pre-recorded lecture through free applications like Twitter. Watch the link below to see the President Award Winning teacher in action:
The Flipped Classroom

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How do you engage your Board of Education?

Every positive change starts with MVVG. More specifically, Mission - Vision - Values - Goals are the keys to transforming an organization. As I have written about before, in MPS, I was hired July 2010 and from that moment I began cultivating the Mission, Vision, clarified the collective values of the organization, and began developing strategic Smart Goals in order to deliver a quality education to every single Millville student. The road to excellence, is always under construction (as the title of my blog illustrates) but it is important there is a clear plan that is driving the work. 

Thankfully, I was able to engage the board of education leaders from the start of my time here in the planning process. It was critically important to me that they understood their role in the process. Absent clearly defined board roles, even the well intentioned board member can get pulled down into the 'weeds' or into micro-management. I fully believe boards are partners in setting the Vision of the district, and from there, the mission becomes clear - it is the superintendent's job to help the organization establish a common set of values by which everyone will operate. In MPS, we came to consensus that our operating values are - Competence, Accountability, and Honesty. From there, it is everyone's responsibility to hold their colleague to this standard. Following this process, we begin to identify the problems keeping us from achieving our vision. For MPS, our vision is to be world class and since setting this vision we have spent hours operationally defining what exactly 'world class' would look like, sound like, and feel like. Once we identify a set of critical problems we set out on the daunting task of determining the root cause of the problem. Too often in education, we identify a problem - a cause - and a solution all in the same breath. This results in the district resources being allocated to so-called solutions, such as a new program, only to later realize the problem still exists because the root cause was never addressed. This takes fanatic discipline to make sure as a leader I do not let the cart get put ahead of the horse. Root cause analysis is a long - painstaking process; when done properly though, root cause analysis will save an organization time on the back end. 

We are now entering year 3 of our strategic plan. This is the brief I delivered recently to my board of education during a work session. Although, many of the indicators may not mean much to you - or you may say "so what", the metrics displayed in the chart are critical to our long-term success. What is on your dashboard as indicators of success? What we measure gets done and we must ensure it is aligned to a strategic vision. As a superintendent, I must keep the board informed at the monitor level to ensure alignment to our vision. What's on your dashboard?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

8 Problems with Common Core Standards

I very rarely - if ever - simply read someone's work, copy it, and past it to my blog. For two reasons, 1st - it is rare that I ever completely agree with everything the author has written and 2nd - this is the place for my thoughts, opinions, and beliefs and if I'm simply pastiing someone else's thoughts this is not my blog. Today, however, is different. Marion Brady has captured the problem with the 'new' common core - which eventually will get replaced countless times in my lifetime with the 'new' common core. Please enjoy her writing...

Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 08/13/2012
Eight problems with Common Core Standards
This was written by Marion Brady, veteran teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author.

By Marion Brady

E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s book, “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know,” was published March 1, 1987.

So it was probably in March of that year when, sitting at a dining room table in an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, my host — a
Third grade teachers learn how to teach common core mathematics in Tennessee. (Mark A Large/AP) publishing executive, friend, and fellow West Virginian — said he’d just bought the book. He hadn’t read it yet, but wondered how Hirsch’s list of 5,000 things he thought every American should know differed from a list we Appalachians might write.

I don’t remember what I said, but it was probably some version of what I’ve long taken for granted: Most people think that whatever they and the people they like happen to know, everybody else should be required to know.

In education, of course, what it’s assumed that everybody should be required to know is called “the core.” Responsibility for teaching the core is divvied up between teachers of math, science, language arts, and social studies.

Variously motivated corporate interests, arguing that the core was being sloppily taught, organized a behind-the-scenes campaign to super-standardize it. They named their handiwork the Common Core State Standards to hide the fact that it was driven by policymakers in Washington D.C., who have thus far shoved it into every state except Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia.

This was done with no public dialogue, no feedback from experienced educators, no research, no pilot or experimental programs — no evidence at all that a floor-length list created by unnamed people attempting to standardize what’s taught is a good idea.

It’s a bad idea. Ignore the fact that specific Common Core State Standards will open up enough cans of worms to keep subject-matter specialists arguing among themselves forever. Consider instead the merit of Standards from a general perspective:

One: Standards shouldn’t be attached to school subjects, but to the qualities of mind it’s hoped the study of school subjects promotes. Subjects are mere tools, just as scalpels, acetylene torches, and transits are tools. Surgeons, welders, surveyors — and teachers — should be held accountable for the quality of what they produce, not how they produce it.

Two: The world changes. The future is indiscernible. Clinging to a static strategy in a dynamic world may be comfortable, even comforting, but it’s a Titanic-deck-chair exercise.

Three: The Common Core Standards assume that what kids need to know is covered by one or another of the traditional core subjects. In fact, the unexplored intellectual terrain lying between and beyond those familiar fields of study is vast, expands by the hour, and will go in directions no one can predict.

Four: So much orchestrated attention is being showered on the Common Core Standards, the main reason for poor student performance is being ignored—a level of childhood poverty the consequences of which no amount of schooling can effectively counter.

Five: The Common Core kills innovation. When it’s the only game in town, it’s the only game in town.

Six: The Common Core Standards are a set-up for national standardized tests, tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can’t avoid cultural bias, can’t measure non-verbal learning, can’t predict anything of consequence (and waste boatloads of money).

Seven: The word “standards” gets an approving nod from the public (and from most educators) because it means “performance that meets a standard.” However, the word also means “like everybody else,” and standardizing minds is what the Standards try to do. Common Core Standards fans sell the first meaning; the Standards deliver the second meaning. Standardized minds are about as far out of sync with deep-seated American values as it’s possible to get.

Eight: The Common Core Standards’ stated aim — “success in college and careers”— is at best pedestrian, at worst an affront. The young should be exploring the potentials of humanness.

I’ve more beefs, but like these eight, they have to do with the quality of education, and the pursuit of educational quality isn’t what’s driving the present education reform farce.

An illustration: As I write, my wife is in the kitchen. She calls me for lunch. The small television suspended under the kitchen cabinets is tuned to CNN, and Time cover girl Michelle Rhee is being interviewed.

“On international tests,” she says, “the U.S. ranks 27th from the top.”

Michelle Rhee, three-year teacher, education reactionary, mainstream media star, fired authoritarian head of a school system being investigated for cheating on standardized tests, is given a national platform to misinform. She doesn’t explain that, at the insistence of policymakers, and unlike other countries, America tests every kid — the mentally disabled, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the transient, the troubled, those for whom English is a second language. That done, the scores are lumped together. She doesn’t even hint that when the scores of the disadvantaged aren’t counted, American students are at the top.

If Michelle Rhee doesn’t know that, she shouldn’t be on CNN. If she knows it but fails to point it out, she shouldn’t be on CNN.

It’s hard not to compare Rhee with Jennifer, a friend of my oldest son. He wrote me recently:

…I asked Jenn if she was ready for school.

“I’m waiting for an email from my principal to find out if I can get into my classroom a week early.”

“Why a whole week?”

“To get my room ready.”

She teaches second graders. I ask her why she loves that grade. She laughs and says, “Because they haven’t learned to roll their eyes yet.”

But I know it’s much more than that. Her sister was down from Ohio for Jenn’s birthday, and when she asked her what she wanted, Jenn said she needed 18 sets of colored pencils, 18 boxes of #2 pencils, 18 boxes of crayons, construction paper, name tags and so on — $346 dollars total.

She’s been doing this for 25 years. I’m sure she makes less than I do, but they could probably cut her salary 25 or 30% and she’d still want to get into her room early.”

Rhee gets $50,000 a pop plus first-class travel and accommodations for putting in an appearance to tell her audiences what’s wrong with the Jennifers in America’s schools, and what clubs should be swung or held over their heads to scare them into shaping up.

Future historians (if there are any) are going to shake their heads in disbelief. They’ll wonder how, in a single generation, the world’s oldest democracy dismantled its engine — free, public, locally controlled, democratic education.

If they dig into the secretive process that produced the Common Core State Standards, most of their questions will be answered


Follow The Answer Sheet every day by bookmarking .

By Valerie Strauss  |  06:00 AM ET, 08/13/2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Our Story; Featured in ASCD's Latest Instructional Video

I received a phone call about 5 minutes ago from my right hand, Dr. Moore. She could barely contain her enthusiasm as she asked, "did you open you mail today?". My response was "uh, not yet (my administrative assistant is out today and everything goes off track when I am left on my own). She said, "I will be right down". As I attempted to say ok, I hear her coming through my office door (three flights of steps) - as she came in she was waving the pamphlet from ASCD (shown below). Within seconds I realized that one of our all-star teachers - Jamie Sutton, was prominently featured on the cover of the video series. Our students could also be seen. To say that we are proud of our people would be a dramatic understatement. WAY TO GO!!!!!! MPS is on the road to excellence, and I am proud to be traveling with people like Dr. Moore, Jamie Sutton...and the list goes on and on-

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Hello? Is this thing on?" Watch my first attempt at using a webcam and Youtube

Video #2 "Here, I share my reaction to a video titled 'Global Transformation in Education' which I watched thanks to my new Personal Learning Network (PLN) thanks to Justin Tarte! Thanks for the introduction to the Educator's PLN at Educator's PLN Justin"

Will Richardson Interview; How to Utilize Web 2.0 in Today's Education

If you haven't seen Will speak about the future, you need to!

Will Richardson Interviewed Web 2.0

Monday, August 6, 2012

"Fanatic Discipline"

In his latest book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins planted a seed in my mind regarding his concept of a "20 mile march" that I would now like to plant in yours. 

According to Collins, a good 20 mile march uses performance markers that delineate a lower bound of acceptable achievement. They create productive discomfort, much like physical training or rigorous mental development, and must be challenging (*but not impossible) to achieve in difficult times. A good 20 mile march also has self-imposed constraints. This creates the upper bound for how far you'll march when facing robust opportunity and exceptionally good conditions. These contraints should also produce discomfort in the face of pressures and fears that you should be going faster and doing more. Think of this image, two men, both on a quest to walk from California to New York. The first, wakes up early on day one - seeing sunshine and feeling energized by the journey ahead he sprints out and completes nearly 40 miles on the first day. The second, decided each day he will awake at 7am, eat a full breakfast, and walk 10 miles before stopping for lunch and ten more after lunch before his dinner. He will complete 20 miles and stop at 20 miles each day no matter what. The second day, a terrible rain storm sets in, the first man tired from his day one 40 miles says "I will rest today and start again tomorrow" - only to wake on day 3 and 4 with blisters and aches from overdoing it on day one - he doesn't go out again until day seven. The second man, gets up - repeats his routine - and completes 20 miles a day... you can easily see that the second man will reach New York long before the first - and I have some doubt the first will ever make it. It is easy to sprint when all the conditions are perfect for us, it is very difficult to have the discipline to run regardless of the conditions. 

You must pay attention to the details...regardless of how small they might appear...and make sure that you accomplish "20 miles of marching each day" to accomplish the targets that were set. In MPS's quest to be world class, and to achieve the coveted Baldrige Award, we set out on a journey of 20 mile marches nearly two years ago. Throughout this time, some targets were not open for debate - you simply did them, for example, we set out to complete 10 classroom walkthrough observation visits a week - every administrator in the district agreed to this target. The thinking was we need to become fanatically disciplined with our time to make sure our visits were complete and of high quality. This would later become the springboard for new targets based on the data collected from nearly 30,000 walkthrough visits. Despite pressure to do more - or skip ahead, we remained focused on doing what we said we would do, the lower bounds set - 10 walkthroughs a week by each - and resisted the urge to jump forward, - the upper bound.

Ultimately, if you want to be a 'beat-the-odds' organization, you can't rely on silver-bullet reform initiatives from the Federal or State Departments, you can't put any hope into finding the 'perfect program' for reading, or math, you must instead take action - decide on the 20 mile march targets, pick good programs and instill fanatic discipline to make them perfect! Lastly, remember results take time - sometimes longer than you or I would want (or our Board's of Education) but we must stick with it despite pressure or feelings that we should abandon our march for something else that 'might' look better.