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.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Did You Know?

• Over 85% of our students perform at/above proficiency on state math assessments.

• Over 87% of our students perform at/above proficiency on state reading assessments.

• The Class of 2018 earned over $4.6 million in scholarship money with more than $350,000 of this coming from local donors.

• Over 950 dual credits were earned by YHS students during the 2017-18 school year.

• YPS has had an average annual spending increase of just 1.3% since 2008-09. We’ve had a 0% spending increase since 2014-15.

• We’re recognized as an exemplary school district across the state due to our diverse curriculum that offers more than 12 career academies, work certification programming, job internships, on-line offerings, and more.

• Nebraska K-12 schools receive 49% of their funding from local property taxes while the national average is 29%. YPS receives about 71% to 74% of our funding from local property taxes.

• Nebraska K-12 schools receive 33% of their funding from state sources while the national average is 47%. YPS receives only about 18% of our funding from state sources.

• The YPS Foundation continues to raise money for “Project Phil-Anthropy” in honor of the late Phil Towle to assist students in need. We have an annual fundraising goal of $7,500. Please contact the YPS District Office if you’re interested in making a donation.

• The average YPS teacher has over 18 years of teaching experience.

• Our YES and YMS after-school programs serve over 120 students on a regular basis.

• Students who take more advanced courses substantially increase their ACT scores. York students that took Biology, Chemistry, and Physics scored an average of 23.8 on the ACT Science test. York students that took Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry scored an average of 22.3 on the ACT Math test.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

OPPORTUNITY is Always Knocking

Here's one of my favorite short stories....

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. He then hid himself and watched to see if anyone would move the boulder out of the way. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it.
Many people loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none of them did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

After a while, a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to push the stone out of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.

After the peasant went back to pick up his vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King explaining that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

Moral of the story: Every obstacle we come across in life gives us an opportunity to improve our circumstances, and while the lazy complain, others are creating opportunities through their kind hearts, generosity, and willingness to get things done.

I love that educators are in the "opportunity business." It is our JOB to provide meaningful opportunities for all of our students each and every day. With that, we also encounter opportunities every day to make our team/organization better. If you ever want something done, ask a busy person to do it! Why? Because busy people are often servant-minded and willing and able to work for the good of the cause and not just for themselves.

We face obstacles every day. Winners remove them. Winners enjoy the challenge. Losers blame others for the obstacles present in the first place. Which kind of person are you?

I hope you choose not to complain about the obstacle but rather to rejoice about the opportunity. This is a wonderful time to be alive and involved in public education....remove obstacles for others and make your classrooms, school buildings, districts, and communities better. Removing obstacles creates a "sense of accomplishment." Bring it on. Let's make a difference!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

“The State Doesn’t Levy Property Taxes”

Now that ANOTHER legislative session has ended with no viable solution for Nebraska’s extreme over-reliance on local property taxes to fund K-12 education, some of Nebraska’s elected leaders continue to somehow blame school districts for causing high property taxes. They love to say “the state doesn’t levy property taxes” as a way to pass the buck on to locally elected school board members that put in countless hours to ensure their school systems are living up to the mandates and guidelines established at the state level.

These “pass the buck politicians” love to imply local property taxes are insanely high due only to local spending instead of the outdated and ineffective way we fund our schools.

For some reason, even a few leaders within the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce like to pile on and seem to take joy in blaming K-12 education for high property taxes. That’s sad because many, many others believe that K-12 education is an integral part of this state’s economic development.

The truth is the state of Nebraska forces school districts to live off property taxes. Right at 72% of Nebraska’s school districts don’t receive any equalization aid from Nebraska. They have nowhere to turn other than property taxes.

Over 70% of York’s revenue this year comes from local property taxes. The national average is just 29%.

It’s like a restaurant requiring its chef to make a nice dinner but they don’t give him/her money to buy the necessary groceries. The chef then has to go charge the items needed at the local grocery store and then gets ridiculed by the restaurant for “over-spending.”

York hasn’t had a spending increase since 2014-15 and only an average annual spending increase of 1.3% since 2009.

Since 2014-15, our local property taxes have increased $1 million but our total revenue has DECREASED by $720,000. That’s right, the increase of $1 million in property taxes isn’t even keeping up with our lost revenue from the state.

As a state, Nebraska ranks 49th in the nation for the percentage of school district revenue it provides from the state level.

You be the judge…does York Public Schools have a spending or a funding problem?