Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Clarinet Ensemble

This picture is from last Thursday after the clarinet ensemble finished their performance at the Alabama Music Educators Association Conference. This was a huge honor for our students and they represented our school in an exemplary manner.

Things I wish I Knew Before I Became an Administrator

I was recently sent an e-mail from an aspiring administrator asking me for my responses to a few questions. My first thought was, "I don't have time for this" but after doing it I found it beneficial for me as well. I am certainly not saying I do all of these perfectly every day, but these are my honest answers. I hope you enjoy them.

- Things I wish I had known before I started

I knew being an administrator was late hours, but I guess I was still a little surprised at the amount of time after school. A HS administrator can away from home 4 nights a week until 9:30 or 10:00. This is especially difficult with small children.

- What is the biggest issue(s) facing your school right now?

I would say the biggest issue facing our school is attendance. Many students and parents don’t seem to see the correlation between school attendance and learning. We try everything we know to encourage attendance, but it seems to be a persistent problem.

- Top 10 important things to remember

1.    Be honest.
2.     Be fair.
3.     Be strong.
4.     Hire great people.
5.     You will never please everyone.
6.     It is not a popularity contest. You must do what is right for students.
7.     Don’t take a job for a boss that will not back your decisions. I have been fortunate to always have a boss that would back me and I can't imagine trying to be an administrator without their support. 
8.     There will be days you want to quit, but others you see that you made a difference.
9.     Always be fiscally responsible (some call it tight, but I prefer frugal).
10.  Never give up!

- Skills that you need to have to be a successful administrator

1.    Communication, communication, communication.
2.     Technology skills.
3.     Problem solving skills.
4.     Ability to see the big picture.

- What skills, characteristics do you look for in an assistant principal?

1.    Honest, trustworthy and loyal.
2.     Hard worker.
3.     Takes initiative and can self monitor.
4.     Great people skills.
5.     Desire to continue to learn.

- Tips for being successful with students

1.    Be honest with them.
2.     Treat them fairly.
3.     Build a rapport, but always keep a professional relationship. We must be friendly, but not their friend.
4.     Be consistent.

- Tips for being successful with parents

1.    Try to always remember you are dealing with the thing that the love the most in the entire world, their children.
2.     Most parents honestly want what is best for their child.
3.     Administrators must have the courage to deliver bad news.

- Tips for being successful with school staff, teachers, etc.

1.    Treat everyone fairly.
2.    Try to spend time getting to know them.
3.    Be available for them to ask questions.
4.     Even professionals must be accountable.

- Books and/or magazines that helped you and are useful

1.    What Great Principals Do Differently. – Todd Whitaker
2.     Shifting the Monkey.- Todd Whitaker
3.     The Energy Bus- Jon Gordon

- People/organizations you follow on Twitter, Facebook, etc. that have good ideas and suggestions

1.    Todd Whitaker

Monday, January 27, 2014

No Breakfast Served on Delay Days

Due to the two hour delay on January 28, 2014, and January 29, 2014 Limestone County Schools will not be serving breakfast. Students who normally report to the cafeteria should report to the appropriate gym.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

No Breakfast Served Friday, January 24, 2014

Alert Now Message:
This is Tommy Hunter, principal at Ardmore High School. Due to the two hour delay on January 24, 2014 Limestone County Schools will not be serving breakfast. Students who normally report to the cafeteria should report to the appropriate gym. Once again school is delayed two hours on Friday, January 24 and breakfast will not be served.

Legislative Session 2014

It is that time of year when the Alabama State Legislature meets to tackle the challenges of our state government. Many bills related to public education are usually introduced along with budget talks that directly affect how our educational system is funded. This year, the Common Core and the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) will be discussed. The CCRS is the curriculum developed by the state of Alabama to prepare students for their future that is aligned with the Common Core.

I am not an expert on the Common Core and so much of the discussion has been political that it is hard to know what to believe.  I have been to several meetings concerning the Common Core and from talking with numerous respected educators I fully endorse the Common Core and the CCRS. The Common Core was not developed by the federal government but by collaboration at the state level. The federal government endorsed the Common Core and linked some funding to it in order to encourage states to adopt the standards and that is when the political storm began.

Regardless of how you feel about the CCRS or the Common Core there will certainly be many more issues related to public education addressed during this legislative session. I encourage each of you to stay abreast of the proposed bills and to make contact with your local legislators according to your beliefs. I believe in public education and the value of an educated citizenry and I hope our state continues to support public education. In my opinion, a good public education system can be a great asset to our state economically and socially. I believe we owe it to our kids to ensure they receive an education that prepares them for the challenges they will face in their lives.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Extended Day

This is my twenty sixth year in public education and I have never had an extended school day to make up a missed day; mainly because in the past it was not allowed by the State Department of Education. If you missed a day, you had to make up a whole day. Other states, such as Tennessee have been adding minutes to the existing days to make up for missed days for several years.  I am not sure which is better since this is my first try on the extended day, but I do know that either way there are going to be people who are inconvenienced and people who prefer the other way.

Once we received the word we would be adding extra minutes, the task was to come up with a schedule at the local school that would be best for the majority of our students. Of course the most obvious and easiest option would be to add a different period at the end of our regular day. For example after seventh period on Monday, first period would meet and on Tuesday, second period would meet and continue the cycle until the end of the two weeks. There were several problems with this schedule mostly dealing with tech. school and early release/late arrival students.

We decided to add a few minutes to each period and to move our remediation period to the afternoon to adjust our schedule. Two main factors drive our schedule; lunch, and tech. school. The reason for this is because they are two of the factors that may not be changed without causing personnel issues or causing major disruptions. The Career Tech Center has students from every Limestone County School, and Athens City so if we start making major changes to our schedule, they will have some major issues with which to contend.

We look forward to having a strong finish to a great year.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bell Schedule

After much deliberation and input from several groups we have finalized our schedule for the extended days. There is no way to meet everyone's needs so we tried to formulate a schedule that would be best for instruction and accommodate everyone's schedule as much as possible.

Weather Make-up Days Schedule

Release Bell From Gym     7:48

1st period        7:55- 8:54 (59)
2nd period       8:59-9:58 (59)
3rd period       10:03-11:03 (60)

4th period       11:08- 12:03 (55)
5th period       12:08-1:28 (Lunch-80) HS lunch, see alternate schedule.

4th period       11:08- 12:28 (Lunch-80) MS lunch times will be the same. 
5th period       12:33- 1:28 (55)

6th period       1:33- 2:28 (55)
RTI                  2:33-2:55 (22) (AM Tech will go to the library.)
Break              2:55-3:05 (Warning bell rings at 3:00)

7th period       3:05-4:00 (55)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Delayed Because it is Cold?

School delays and cancellations are inevitable but are very disruptive to schools and to the schedule of parents. Those that make these decisions are in a precarious situation because they will be second guessed regardless of the decision. The overriding factor always must the safety of the children. Some people consider this to be cliché’ or just an excuse but the safety and welfare of our children must be our primary concern.

Regardless of whether the cancellation is due to tornadoes, ice, or frigid temperatures, many times hind sight shows we could have stayed on a regular schedule and been just fine. However, in a county system where all schools must be on the same schedule weather conditions can vary greatly from one end of the county to the other.  This time for instance I have heard there were some icy bridges in the West Limestone district which prompted school to be canceled. All it takes is one bus to slide off a bridge and we have a horrible tragedy. Of course tragedies can occur any day, but when one can be foreseen, it is prudent to take steps so it can be avoided.

This is the first time I remember in a long time school being delayed for cold temperatures, but when you examine the details of what is taking place I still believe it was the wise choice. Limestone County has students, some of which are very young, waiting on buses very early in the morning. Diesel buses are sometimes slow to crank in subfreezing temperatures and a fifteen to thirty minute delay is not out of the question if a bus doesn't crank. None of us want a young child not dressed for single digit temperatures to have an extra thirty minutes to wait on a bus.

I am glad to say that I do not make the decisions to delay or cancel school so this is not a rationale for a decision I made. However I hear a lot of different opinions on TV and around town and just wanted to give a perspective of a school employee that deals with students and their life situations on a daily basis. Hopefully it will warm up soon and we can be back to a normal schedule. Caution is always warranted when dealing with the lives of our most precious treasure.

Friday, January 3, 2014

School Delay Phone Call Script

Hello parents this is Tommy Hunter, principal at Ardmore High School. As you probably already know, Limestone County Schools are delayed two hours on Monday, January 6, AND Tuesday, January 7. We have posted our schedule on our website for our parents and students, especially late arrival students since they will be affected more than other students. Periods 1 and 2 will meet on Monday and periods 1 and 3 will meet on Tuesday. Periods 4, 5, 6, and 7 will meet both days.