Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Quotes, Quotes, and More Quotes

I've had a hard time coming up with a topic to blog about this week so I'm just going to share some of my favorite quotes and provide a little back-story to some of them.

1) "If she was a fish, I'd use ears for bait." I love this one from Mickey Andrews down in Tallahassee. I've used this one to describe my lovely wife because she does like to talk quite a bit!

2) "I wouldn't trust him to organize a 2-car parade." I picked this one up from Stan Wilkins in Labette County, KS. It's not a compliment but over the years, I've met a few folks that fall in this category.

3) "Tougher than woodpecker lips." One of my all-time favorites and I sometimes use it to describe my beloved York Dukes. I don't remember where I first heard this but it was back in the early 90's.

4) "You're bringing a water gun to a pistol fight." Ouch...this was often used at my high school by a plethora of football coaches when they didn't feel like you were practicing with enough energy and you wouldn't be prepared for the upcoming game.

5) "Winners are like biscuits....when things heat up, they rise to the occasion." I love this classic from Coach Bobby Bowden. It makes sense in a southern kind of way!

6) "Talk doesn't cook rice." This is my favorite Chinese Proverb. We all know a lot of talkers that don't always get around to actually "doing." I try to severely limit my exposure to these kinds of folks because they drive me crazy.

7) "What you tolerate, you encourage." I often use this quip from Coach Bill Parcells. It makes a lot of sense....if you tolerate something as a leader, in essence, you're encouraging it. You have to be willing and able to step up and not tolerate even the little things that can dilute your organization's culture.

8) "It's the little fish that steal the bait." I never heard this from anyone else but it is something I came up with while in Franklin, NE as superintendent, high school principal, and cheer sponsor (don't ask). We had t-shirts made up and our theme that year was focusing on the little issues...attention to detail, etc.

9) "All winning teams have a comfortable level of discomfort." This is another one from Coach Parcells. Boy, have I found this to be true over the years. Winning teams/organizations have to be willing to have difficult and awkward conversations. We grow the most when uncomfortable.

10) "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." I love this one from Coach Pat Riley. To me, it means that we have to stay focused on what's important. We have to prioritize. We have to stay true to our core values and mission.

11) "To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing." This one from Elbert Hubbard is so true. It's better to be a person of action and receive criticism than to lack the courage to do anything at all.

12) "A leader is a dealer in hope." I really like this one from Napoleon Bonaporte because I see "HOPE" as such an important ingredient for students, staff, parents, and everyone. Without "hope," we all suffer and can't reach our potential.

13) “It’s not the will to win that matters – everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” I love this one from Coach Bear Bryant. To me, this illustrates the importance of preparation and hard work. Good things happen to people that work hard.

14) "If you want to win, you can't be scared to lose." This one from Coach Jimbo Fisher really hits home. Sometimes, you have to put yourself out there and take some risks. Losses help you appreciate the wins. You have to be brave and bold at times and willing to balance risks/rewards.

15) "Teamwork is what makes common people capable of uncommon results." I love this one from Coach Pat Summitt. She was such a tremendous leader and did a wonderful job of fostering the team atmosphere.

I hope you enjoyed some of these. Have a great week.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

June 30, 2029

I can retire in 12.5 years! June 30, 2029 could be my last day as a public school employee. It could be. It might not be.

It blows my mind to even think of such a thing. You see, 12.5 years isn't very long. There is so much to do.

As I reflect on how much things have changed in the last 12.5 years, I can't even begin to imagine what the next 12.5 years will bring. I was 31 years old just 12.5 years ago. I will be (gulp) 56 on June 30, 2029.

In the last 12.5 years, I feel like public education has improved dramatically. We've added much more meaningful early childhood programming. We've added more dual credit opportunities in high schools. We've begun career academies and work certification programming in high schools. Before and after school programs have been added. Internships and job shadow opportunities have really ramped us as well.

What will the next 12.5 years bring? What will social media look like in 2029? How rampant will mental health issues be? Will we have more people living in poverty? Will schools be asked to do even more than we're doing now? Will school funding mechanisms change?

There are many unknowns. However, I know that I intend to enjoy the ride. I intend to work harder than ever. I intend to try to make more connections with students, staff, and patrons.

12.5 years ago, I was taking my young children to school activities and teaching Jeb and Bo how to add and subtract by using scoreboards in gyms. In 2029, I might be doing that with grandchildren!

I do look forward to June 30, 2029 but....there is much to do between now and then!

Go Dukes!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Education - A Wonderful Career

I'm extremely proud to be a professional educator. This is my 23rd year in public education and I wouldn't change a thing about the career I've chosen. I was lucky to spend my first four years out of college as a 3rd grade teacher and high school football and basketball coach. I loved being a teacher and a coach. It was so exciting to build relationships with students and their families. I can still vividly remember numerous days/events from those fun times between 1994-1998.

At the ripe 'ol age of 25, I began my school leadership career as a K-8 principal for USD #506 in Labette County, KS. While I was only a Bartlett Brave for two years, I learned a lot and was able to gain guidance from Rex Toomey and other school administrators that I still rely on.

In the summer of 2000, we moved to West Point, Nebraska and I was lucky enough to begin my three year stint as a K-6 principal for West Point Public Schools. It was during this time that I learned about the politics of public education, the importance of public relations, and how to deal with tough issues that could divide a staff and community. I also learned from 2000-2003 how badly I wanted to become a superintendent.

In April 2003, at the ripe ol' age of 30, I signed a contract that made me superintendent of schools in Franklin, Nebraska. We lived there for six years and enjoyed our time as Franklin Flyers. In addition to my superintendent role, over the next six years, my duties went on to expand to that as 9-12 principal, cheer sponsor, and various assistant coaching gigs. My time in Franklin taught me the importance of follow-through, enthusiasm, communication, time management, organization, and being able to make tough decisions and stand by them while taking lots of criticism.

Now, as I'm in my 8th year as superintendent of York Public Schools, I find myself reflecting quite a bit and thinking about how fast it has gone. Heck, I will be eligible to retire in 12.5 years! That's not very long. Just 12.5 years ago I was still getting acclimated in Franklin. It seems like yesterday in many ways.

I love the energy and enthusiasm that I get to see every day in this career. This past Friday, I was able to visit almost every PreK-12th grade classroom in YPS and it keeps me young. I love the hustle and bustle at YES where the students and teachers achieve so much together. I love the positive learning environment at YMS where the students show more independence and personality. I love the structure and supports in place at YHS as kids prepare for the "real world." I love the unbridled excitement at PLAY where our 3-4 year olds are learning so many new things each and every day.

I love school activities. I saw the best one-act performance of my life at 8:00 AM this past Saturday morning when YHS brought down the house with "Sweeney Todd." I was able to go watch Mock Trial crush it last Wednesday night in Lincoln. I'm excited about our upcoming Christmas concerts (vocal and band), wrestling season, basketball games, etc. Watching tennis, golf, cross country, softball, football, and volleyball this past fall was always enjoyable because I know how hard those kids and coaches work.

When you think about it, I don't know what it feels like to not start a new school year each August. I wouldn't know how to act if we didn't have a new theme or mission to shoot for the middle of every August. Education provides me with structure but flexibility. Each year has some of the same parameters but takes on its own shape too. There are always plenty of challenges. There is always a long 'to-do list' but it is work that is always worth doing.

I love learning about new cleaning products to make schools cleaner and safer. Heck, I love learning about LED lights and energy efficiency and all these things I never thought I would do. Let's talk about K-12 math curriculum. Let's talk DIBELS, NeSA, and NWEA MAPS. Let's talk about geothermal well-fields. Let's talk about interest rates for bonded indebtedness. Let's talk about special education programming, science initiatives, and school calendars. Let's talk about high ability learners, our Entrepreneurship Academy, or our after-school programs. Let's talk strategic planning, work certification programs, and health insurance. Let's talk about instructional strategies, technology integration, and disaster plans. Let's talk about bus chassis and snow removal chemicals....you see, I get to learn so much and be involved in so much that it makes the days, weeks, months, and years fly by. You're always a part of moving forward. You're always on the go. It's addicting.

I'm thankful that I was steered into a career as an educator. I've worked with so many amazing and selfless people. I've seen so many awesome students. I've gotten to witness lifelong memories. It's a true blessing to be in public education. These next 12.5 years will most likely be the most challenging of my career. Student and community needs seem to increase each year. It's the challenge and the pursuit of excellence that keeps most educators going.

If you're undecided about a career path, I highly recommend education. It's important work that allows you the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and to positively impact a community.

Go Dukes!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

It's OK to Agree to Disagree

I love disagreements. I really do. One of the leadership principles I buy into the most comes from Bill Parcells and his assumption that all winning teams and organizations need to have a "comfortable level of discomfort." I've found that to be very true throughout my career. When handled correctly, disagreements and discomfort can be wonderful tools for us all.

"When handled correctly" is the key point, however, from the paragraph above.

It seems we live in a time where disagreements define us instead of making us broaden our thinking and understanding. Today is election day and I feel like this is the most divisive national election we've ever had.

I love my wife more than anything. She and I don't always agree. In fact, we disagree on many things. I love my parents and family members with all my heart and we don't agree on everything. Why do we have this notion that we all must agree on things? It's crazy.

If I like Candidate A, that doesn't mean I can't be supportive of Candidate B if they win. It doesn't mean I "hate" Candidate B. It doesn't mean I should defame those that support Candidate B. If I vote "yes," I should still be able to understand why some folks voted "no."

You see, it's OK to disagree with others as long as you handle it with maturity and understanding. We can't go around with this mentality that we must hate, attack, and tear down those that disagree with us. That's insane. I love to talk to people that disagree with me about something. It is often fascinating to see the angles of thought they take. They don't normally change my mind but they give me something to think about. It is healthy to understand how others analyze situations differently than we do.

Social media has made this phenomenon of "hating those we disagree with" really escalate. It is so easy to sit on Twitter or Facebook and bash people that don't think just like you think. It's easy to be sarcastic, immature, and cruel when you have no face-to-face accountability. There are way too many "Internet Tough Guys" that must be so egocentric that they can't fathom someone might actually have a different thought about something than they do. How sad it would be to go through life like that.

Regardless of how local, state, and national elections turn out this week, I hope we can get back to a more civilized life of understanding others and agreeing to disagree from time to time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


I'm thankful for many things....too many things to list in this week's blog. I find it is important to stay grounded and remind yourself of what you appreciate from time to time. If you don't, all of the negativity and drama in the world can really smack you around!

First and foremost, I'm thankful for my family. My wife and four kids mean the world to me and their safety and health are what I pray for the most. My parents, Mammy, aunts, uncles, and cousins are doing well and for that I am grateful. My in-laws and extended family are healthy and active and that is comforting.

I'm thankful to be an American. For sure, we have numerous things we need to improve as a nation but we're still an amazing country with boundless opportunities all around us.

I'm thankful to be a York Duke. This community and school system have become a big part of who I am. This is our 8th year here and I wouldn't trade those years for anywhere else.

I'm thankful to have numerous friends across the country. I don't get to see them nearly as often as I would like but texts, phone calls, and emails help keep us connected.

I'm thankful for the brave men and women, active and retired, of our armed forces. Their selflessness and courage are truly awe-inspiring.

I'm thankful for medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists. They perform high level procedures and checkups each day that I couldn't do for all of the tea in China.

I'm thankful for farmers. They feed the world often surrounded by the uncertainty of grain prices, input/output expenses, weather, and so much more.

I'm thankful for teachers and school support staff. Working in education isn't a "job." It is a "passion." There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a teacher with that "special it" working with students. They can help improve the world!

I'm thankful to be alive and to be part of this historic time in the world. Yes, there are many scary things going on as 2016 hits the home stretch but there are also amazing things going on as well. We need to be able to rationalize both ends of the spectrum.