Site Meter Josh's Blog: October 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007


This week the Board of Education, Winnie Hamilton, and I met with a dozen students from the editorial boards at Westhill, Stamford High, and AITE. The students were well-prepared and asked good questions about the recent bomb threats, budget cuts, redistricting, rumor control, and why there are no teachers on the BOE. What particularly impressed me about these teenagers was how finely-tuned their senses are to everything we say and do. During the course of the 90 minute discussion, students from all three schools expressed positive feedback about how administrators deal with their concerns and questions. Students from AITE mentioned Paul Gross’s strong presence and that while they enjoy Cheryl Faga-Milo in her new role as Administrative Intern, they miss her in the classroom. Westhill students said when rumors fly, as they did recently with a false report of a new technology building proposed for the campus, they go directly to Camille Figluizzi because she is always open and accessible. Students from Stamford High mentioned that in his first couple of months as Interim Principal, Rodney Bass has made it a point to be in the hallways and visiting classrooms and because of this, they feel he is looking out for them.

I know that our administrators and teachers are spread pretty thin doing all these things and more each day. My point is that even though we may think no one notices the 150% effort, they indeed do. Students are looking, listening, and learning from us at all times – and in conversations like the one we had this week, they let me know what powerful models we are for them.

A great day

I had a great day on Thursday this week. I started the morning with a breakfast meeting with Kelli Wells, who heads the College Bound District Program for the GE Foundation, and is a Stamford resident. (I highly recommend the City Limits Diner). After breakfast we went to KT Murphy school to see a 1st grade class engaged in Everyday Math. I wanted to show Kelli the great work our teachers are doing in implementing EM. Along with Rebecca Thessin, Barbara Friedman and Joanna Nicholson, we sat in Ms. Cassidy's 1st grade class for an hour. She did a fantastic job of engaging all of her children in the "penny grab game." What I found most intriguing about the lesson is that it taught children multiple concepts - counting by one's, greater than/less than, and money. Additionally, because the children had to play in pairs, they were also developing important SEL skills.

In the afternoon I went to a meeting of high school department heads and administrators. They were in a two hour training on PLC's with Kathy Mason, a former HS principal. Winnie Hamilton arranged for Kathy to provide training on specific PLC protocols that we can use to look at student work together. I was only able to be there for 45 minutes, but it was wonderful to see our HS instructional leaders fully engaged with each other in learning about how to facilitate groups of teachers looking at student work. This is no easy task for any group of teachers and HS teachers typically don't have enough time to collaborate and share. Yesterday our department heads and administrators had an opportunity to learn with and from each other - across schools and departments - while also learning practical skills about how to help teachers look at student work. Their written feedback showed how enthusiastic they are about this wok.

Finally, I had a "conversation with Josh" at Rogers at the end of the day. I love these conversations, as they're a great opportunity to get to know teachers and to hear about what's on their minds. Among other things, the Rogers group asked probiing questions about redistricting and the future of the IB program, and they gave me feedback about Everyday Math. Their committment to the IB program and the success of each and every child was palpable, and it's one of the main reasons why Rogers is having so much success.

Yesterday was another reminder of how committed so many of our teachers are to improving their practice and ensuring that our children have opportunities to be successful in school and life. The support we have from the GE Foundation and the dedication of our administrators and teachers serves to strengthen my conviction that we are soon going to be the highest performing small urban school district in the country. It was a great day.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Community Forum

Last week’s Community Forum at the Yerwood Center had a record turnout of 250 people. In case you missed it, the topic was the Supreme Court’s decision on school integration and its implications for Stamford Public Schools. We watched and discussed a portion of the compelling documentary, The House We Live In. Following that, I gave a presentation on the history of school desegregation in Stamford, offered some legal history, and explained the Board of Education’s proposed revision to the district’s student assignment policy. Please press ctrl + click on the following hyperlink to view the presentation:

Those who attended the forum brought a level of thoughtfulness and intelligence that was truly refreshing. The evening demonstrated to me that people need and want the context, history, and rationale behind the major issues we face as a society and a school system. I also realized how powerful it can be when we take the time to explain the back story. Our discussion about school integration is a building block to all of the issues that confront us, whether it is the budget, redistricting, or the need to respond to federal and state mandates.

Thanks to all of you who attended this forum and many others. I would like to announce that the first Community Forum Perfect Attendance Award goes to Dr. Mary Savage, who has attended every forum since I arrived in Stamford. Linda Darling also deserves top honors!