Friday, August 17, 2018

Appreciation for YCDC

Consider me a BIG fan of YCDC, otherwise known as the York County Development Corporation. I've seen firsthand what this important organization does over and over and over to make the City of York and all of York County a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

York Public Schools is lucky to be able to partner with YCDC on several projects. We help co-host an annual "Manufacturing Day for Educators" every October where education professionals and school board members tour various manufacturers in York County and learn what we can do to better support the manufacturing industry that is so important to us here in York, Nebraska. YCDC was the key reason we were able to secure a Youth Talent Initiative grant in 2017 to begin our wildly innovative Manufacturing & Entrepreneurship class at York Middle School. In fact, YCDC did most of the heavy lifting connecting YPS and Cyclonaire together on this worthwhile endeavor!

YCDC helps to put on an amazing career and job fair each spring. They are always looking for ways to better promote York.

With the Chamber of Commerce and YCDC, we are extremely fortunate to have two organizations that work so well together to help York look for ways to improve and prosper. I've lived in towns without active Chambers and organizations like YCDC and I can't stress enough how fortunate we are to have both right here in Y-Town.

YCDC has been a tremendous resource in helping YPS and the Chamber of Commerce enhance our ESI - Entrepreneurship Academy each summer that benefits students from our town's public and parochial schools. YCDC is constantly working to enhance connections with places like Southeast Community College to bring a stronger presence to York to benefit our businesses and citizens.

I've been lucky enough to sit in on several presentations that Lisa Hurley and other YCDC leaders have put on to try and persuade businesses to move to York. They do a tremendous job of representing our community in a very positive fashion.

YCDC and York Public Schools have some very exciting news to share later this fall. Unfortunately, we aren't allowed to let the cat out of the bag right now; but when we do, it will bring a lot of positive recognition to this wonderful community.

The York County Development Corporation works hard for York, Nebraska. They've been caught in some of the crossfire of what is going on with the City of York's budget issues right now, and that's unfortunate. YCDC is a tremendous asset in trying to help make York even better and more stable than it already is.

I tip my hat to Lisa Hurley and the other tireless leaders of YCDC, as well as Madonna Mogul and our Chamber of Commerce staff. YPS is fortunate to also work hand-in-hand with our local Chamber of Commerce on numerous projects and we appreciate all they do for our community as well.

We are lucky to have these hard-working organizations pushing and promoting York.

Friday, August 10, 2018

A Personal and Professional Challenge

I have a personal and professional challenge for whoever reads this blog. Tell the ones you love and admire how much they mean to you without taking it for granted there will be plenty of time for that later.

Make sure your family, friends, former friends, colleagues, and teammates know that you love them, miss them, appreciate them, or whatever the case may be.

I have a sister-in-law fighting for her life right now as brain tumors and cancer are ravaging her body and it's just unbelievably sad to see her and the family going through this. Molly is the kindest person you'd ever want to meet. She is sweet and always friendly to everyone. She's the kind of aunt, sister, and sister-in-law that will drive 5+ hours to watch her nieces in a dance recital....that would drive 2 hours to see her nephews play football and basketball. Molly always puts others first. She is selfless.

She's a wonderful mother of Katie, who just graduated from Omaha Skutt. She's a loving sister that works hard to be there for all five of her siblings. She's a caring daughter that will help her parents at a moment's notice. She makes the world a better place with her kindness.

I have had some great times with Molly and I want some more. When I've been lucky enough to have some one-on-one conversations with her or go shopping with her, it was always a lot of fun. Molly just makes you feel better. Her kindness resonates with you. Most of the times I've been around my sister-in-law, Molly, there were always lots of others around as well. The in-law's house fills up pretty good at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and special family celebrations. I always got to spend time with Molly but it was 4-minutes here and 12-minutes there. On many a trip back home over the years, I would often tell myself, "Gosh, I didn't get to spend a lot of time with Molly but I will make a point to visit more with her at Christmas, or Easter, or over the summer."

I should've done a better job of making sure Molly knows how much I love her, admire, and appreciate her. I will be sure to do that tomorrow in the hospital but I should have done it years ago when she welcomed me into the family with open arms. I should have done it each Christmas.

So, as we embark on another school year and our lives are super busy and the challenges pile up, don't lose sight of the people you love, admire, and respect. Don't get too busy to let them know. Don't be afraid to reach out to family or friends and re-connect in a way that fills your heart. Life can be cruel and short.

God bless Molly and you and your loved ones as well.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Senior Year Choices

The 12th grade year can be a real fork in the road. There will be lots of "last times" that can be emotional on students and their families....the last exam, the last concert, the last practice, the last game, the last dance, the last meet, the last performance. While this is inevitable, I hope our York Dukes push it to the very end and continue to make more positive memories.

Too many high school seniors enter "coast mode" too soon. They begin to spend mental and emotional equity on things they can't control instead of finishing strong. You can't dwell on 'this' or 'that' being the last game or have to practice and play harder than ever. You have to prepare for the final ACT exam, the farewell concert, the last speech meet, the final play production, and final exam week with purpose, tenacity, and pride.

I've learned this the hard way....and that is that "Father Time" is undefeated. He always wins. Graduation is going to come. The "lasts" are going to come. They always do. They always will. YOU control how they will be remembered.

I remember my last year of high school well even though it was WAY back in 1989-90. I remember the sadness I felt on "Senior Night" of my final high school football season. I remember the butterflies I had thinking about graduation and being away from my family. That is NORMAL. Don't worry about that....almost all of us go through that.

I promise the Class of 2019 that all of the "lasts" they will encounter between now and graduation on May 12th can help lead to lots of "firsts" and "opportunities" that can set you up for the rest of your lives. Enjoy your families a little more this year. Don't be afraid to talk to them about your feelings about "the lasts" you're encountering. Hang with your friends. Be excellent role models for our younger students. Leave a legacy. Enjoy your time!

I hope the York Duke Class of 2019 enters August with a determination to enjoy every little thing about embrace each other, the opportunities they have in our classrooms, within our many activities and programs, and throughout our awesome community. Don't miss one little chance to make this year full of memories that can last you a lifetime.

This year will go by quickly....they all do. Before you know it, you'll be a 45-year old dude blogging about "lasts." Make sure your "lasts" are memorable. Make sure you give 12th grade every ounce you have!

YOU control how this year will be remembered.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Social Media Concerns

This will probably be one of my longer blogs. This topic has been weighing on my mind off and on for several years. I’m writing this mostly for students and young people but I hope adults can get something out of it as well.

Social media can be a huge problem. It’s not real life. Our happiness should NOT derive from how many retweets, likes, screenshots, or comments we get from various posts we make.

Too many people are missing out on “real life.” I’ve seen and heard teenagers and adults openly complain that their recent post about this victory, that accomplishment, or that championship not getting as much attention on social media as they had hoped. That’s crazy to me. We shouldn’t aspire to be successful so others can take notice on social media. We should aspire to be successful because it feels good, because our hard work is being rewarded, and we have the opportunity to represent and help others as a result.

Social media can often be fake.

I use Twitter and Facebook a lot to promote York Public Schools. If you look at our tweets and posts about YPS, you might think everything is amazing and we have no problems. You see, we post things about the awesome work going on in our classrooms. We post pictures of amazing artwork, wood projects, and assignments our kids complete.

We post scores of victories by our various teams and organizations, pictures of state championship banners, and videos of our dance team, cheerleaders, and band. We use social media to PROMOTE the York Dukes.

But you see, YPS is like every other single user in the universe. Everything is NOT perfect. We have tons of things we don’t post about. We have students that get into trouble. We have some staff members that don’t perform up to our standards. We have humiliating losses. We have embarrassing issues we have to address. We’re human. Just like you. Just like everyone else that uses social media.

I worry that too many of our young people look at everyone else’s Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter and think everyone else is happy all the time, everyone else is popular, everyone else is doing amazing. We’re not. None of us are.

I have more debt than I wish I had. I don’t have as much money in savings as I would like. I weigh more than I want to. I wish I was three inches taller. I’m not proud of everything that all of my family members have done. Life is NOT perfect and I don’t think it is supposed to be.

None of us have a perfect marriage or a perfect family despite how many beautiful posts we make about our vacations, family meals together, etc. None of us have the perfect job. None of us have the perfect life. We live in an imperfect world.

I want and need our teenagers and young people to understand that. We all get depressed at times. We all get left out at times. We all feel isolated at times. We are normal. We don’t typically post our biggest fears and largest shortcomings on social media but we all have them.

Kids today actually stress out about what to post on social media. What will make me look cool? Does that picture make by butt look big? Is my hair messed up on this potential profile picture?

I wish we could all relax. Social media often makes us feel like we have to compare ourselves to everyone else 24/7/365. He has 598 followers on Twitter and I only have 314 followers. Is he “better” than I am? She got 84 likes on her recent Facebook picture. I only got 42 likes. Is she prettier than I am?

Don’t do things to enhance your social media profile. Do things to make you happy and better…in REAL life.

I’m blogging this for myself too. I need to take my own advice.

YPS will continue to use social media a lot. We enjoy it. We take pride in promoting our students and staff. We want to continue our efforts with digital citizenship with our students to help them see the numerous ways social media can be used constructively. We just want our students to know that social media should never replace real life.

Many of spend too much time thinking about what we are going to post on social media instead of just enjoying the moment. As tears of happiness filled my eyes in the waning minutes of the football state championship game this past November, I had the tweet and facebook post ready to go. It would not have mattered to me one little bit if nobody else liked it or re-tweeted it. The results would not have been altered. My memories are not impacted by how many others enjoyed the posts via social media and yours shouldn’t be either!

Young people, please know that social media does NOT define you. Anyone can look good on social media. We can all fake it on social media. We can all talk a big game on social media. What really matters, is how we LIVE our lives, how we treat others, how we feel inside.

Social media makes it easier to bully others and put them down. She looks ugly in that dress. His acne is disgusting. Their team stinks. I can’t believe he can’t afford a nicer shirt to wear in that picture. That dance routine was awful. Anybody/everybody has a voice through social media. Not everyone chooses to be kind. It’s easy to be a “keyboard tough guy” with no face-to-face accountability. Avoid those folks like the plague.

Social media, if we’re not careful, forces us to judge, rate, and compare each other more than ever before. How did she afford that nice dress? My dress isn’t as fancy. How did he get a boat like that? Don’t spend your time worrying about what others have. Worry about YOU. Appreciate what YOU have.

If your sense of self-worth and happiness is going to be determined by others perceptions of you through social media, you will NEVER be satisfied. You will always need more. Take care of yourself.

Use social media in a positive fashion. Just understand it’s not always real. When you’re scrolling through Facebook before you go to bed, just know that we all have fears, shortcomings, embarrassments in our past, and things we don’t like about ourselves. We’re all human. NOBODY is living the perfect life. NOBODY is stress-free.

NOBODY else should define your happiness. You work hard, you do things the right way, and you control your attitude.

Live your life for you, not social media.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Leaders Should Not be too Proud to Ask for Help

Let me take you back to Christmas Eve 1989. It is my senior year in high school in Ocala, Florida. I'm at a very fancy Presbyterian Church and I'm way out of my comfort zone.

You see, I grew up going to Mammy and Pappy's Southern Baptist Church in Oxford, Florida just south of Ocala. At the First Baptist Church of Oxford, Florida; where Mammy played the organ for over 63 years, we did things a little less fancy than other churches. As I remember it, and this may not be 100% accurate, we took "communion" a few times a year. A big plastic or styrofoam bowl of chili crackers were passed around and you took some. You didn't say just took it and passed it on. Soon after, a tupperware platter of grape juice was passed around in plastic shot cups and you took some of those too, again, without saying anything to your neighbors in the pew. Depending on how many chili crackers you had, and I was known to take a good sized handful, you might wash it down with 3-4 plastic shot glasses of grape juice.

That was the "communion" I was used to. So, here I am on Christmas Eve 1989 sitting in between the Presbyterian preacher's daughter and his wife in the front row. Talk about a fish out of water.

As the service worked towards closure, it was time for communion. All of a sudden, these beautiful and shiny gold and silver laced platters were being passed around. There were perfectly cut bread cubes all the same size that people were taking one of and placing into their mouth in a very solemn and careful manner. I was scanning the pews intently. As the platter made it's way to my hands, the Preacher's daughter said something to me in a matter-of-fact tone. This really took me by surprise. As she said these words, the lady behind me coughed or sneezed and I was fully unaware of the words I heard and was supposed to say as I moved the platter to my left.

This whole thing probably only took 5-seconds but it seemed like an eternity. I began to panic. Because of the cough/sneeze behind me and the words coming in from my right, my brain processed that I heard, "this is broken leg of Jesus Christ for your sins." I began to sweat.

I reluctantly turned to the Preacher's wife with sheer panic in my eyes. I held out the heavy and golden platter with alligator arms afraid to fully extend and hand them over. I said, "here is the broken leg of Jesus Christ for your sins." The look she gave me in that moment will never be forgotten. I was horrified, embarrassed, and ashamed. I messed up and offended a Preacher's wife on Christmas Eve in their church! What kind of heathen was I?

Of course, what was said to me, and what I should have said, was "The body of Christ broken for you." Being unprepared and then getting an earful of sneeze/cough at the perfect time sent me into a tailspin. I should have whispered to the Preacher's daughter what I was supposed to say. I could have found out ahead of time. I could have shut my mouth and not said anything!

I often think back to this story, now that I can laugh at it, and think about leaders not being afraid to ask questions, to seek help, to pursue clarification. Saying "I don't know" is ok, even for leaders. That sure would have helped me out on December 24, 1989.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

"Lethal Simplicity"

Anyone that knows me well knows that I'm a huge fan of Florida State University since I was born in Tallahassee and raised in Ocala. FSU has a new football coach this year named Willie Taggart. He is a breath of fresh air with new ideas. He loves to use the term, "lethal simplicity" when describing how he wants his football program to run.

Lethal Simplicity means not getting too fancy. It means embracing quality over quantity. Instead of having an offensive playbook with 342 plays, it might have a playbook with 120 plays that are ran really, really well.

I think those of us in PreK-12th education can embrace the concept of "lethal simplicity" as well. We often try to do to much. We get caught up in a new fad. We add and add and add to our plate without taking anything off. As we head into 2018-19 in August, I'm going to be working with YPS to embrace a little more lethal simplicity. We need to make sure we're focused on the simple things that need to be focused on. We've had success with our "Real World Boot Camp" and "Main Things" days in all buildings and we need to continue on with that focus.

Simplicity isn't a bad thing. Simple is good. I like to brag that we don't try to get too fancy here in York. The world has enough "fancy" already. We try to roll up our sleeves and work. Hard work isn't fancy. Hard work isn't always fun. But, hard work gets the job done in all walks of life.

Be ready to hear the term "simple" a lot from the York Dukes in the coming years. It's OK to simplify. It's OK to re-focus and fine tune efforts. Hard working teams and organizations that emphasize "simple" things often outshine their fancier, less focused competition. Simple is good!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Keys to Success for College Freshmen

Below is a list of several "keys to success" I've compiled from various sources that I like to share with recent high school graduates that are preparing to attend post-graduate institutions of all sizes and locations.

• Sit in the front four rows of all classes
• Never be late to classes – shoot for five minutes early
• Be respectful of all college professors even though some of them don't always seem to appreciate it
• Sunday afternoons are a great time to work ahead and catch up on assignments
• Time management is critical – stay on top of assignments, projects, etc.....Chaos and stress are caused when time isn’t used efficiently
• Have fun and enjoy meeting new will encounter a lot of big "talkers" but surround yourself with a lot of big "doers" is cheap....surround yourself with results-oriented people
• Be careful – not everyone can be trusted, watch out for people putting things in drinks, etc.
• There are lots of freshmen that can't handle being on their own for the first time...avoid them at all costs....too many freshmen won’t make it because they’re too immature, too wild, too insecure, too sheltered, etc.
• Make sure you get enough sleep and eat healthy
• Be on the lookout for “avoidable situations” as they are everywhere…..stay out of non-winnable situations
• There will be lots of roommate drama in your dorm – avoid it and make sure you and your roommate communicate openly and honestly about your living situation, how it’s going, what is bugging each of you, etc.
• Stay in touch with your family. They love you and support you and are very proud of you. Answer the phone when your parents call. Respond to texts. They might "bug" you from time to time but there will be a time you wish they were around to "bug" you.