I often get the question from people outside the school system, “Do you work in the summer?” After I respond, “yes,” people typically follow up by asking, “What in the world do you do with your time since there are no students and very few staff?” I have been asked these questions so many times over the past 10 years I have refined my answer to three words: Reflect, Correct and Grow.
Reflection is only productive when clearly defined goals and deliverables have been established up front. At Georgetown, we spend a considerable amount of time in the summer reflecting upon our goals. Our ultimate purpose is to provide a world-class learning environment in which all students reach their fullest potential.
Board goals for 2014-2015
• Increase report card indicators by three percent and ACT by one point.
• 70 days cash in general fund.
• Become a school of choice for all students, parents and staff members.
Student learning in a world-class educational system
This has a two-fold benefit for our organization. First, it allows for us to see how close or far we are from the board’s goals. Secondly, it provides feedback to our actions. That is, were the actions of the people in our organization the right actions?
I can promise you that every person inside our walls works hard each and every day and loves kids, but without true reflection on data I could never promise you that the right work is being done. As we reflected upon the board’s goals with our administrative team we have celebrated the following victories…
2014-15 school year victories
• Maintained over 70 days cash in our general fund all year.
• Successfully started our own virtual academy that brought back 80 percent of our online students.
• Offered Spanish to 100 percent of our K-6 students.
• Over 50 percent of our graduates obtained a career-tech certificate or 12 semester hours of college credit. Our students were awarded $1.4 million in scholarships.
• Class sizes under 20 in K and first grades.
• 36 community members volunteered one hour a week to either mentor or tutor a child.
• Our high school graduation test results are the highest they have ever been overall.
• 96 percent graduation rate.
We have a long way to go but it has been a very rewarding experience looking back at all of the opportunities we were able to breathe life into for our students.
Celebrations are the fun part but the toughest reflection is when you have to look at what didn’t work. This is never easy. I always use the analogy that it’s easy to look at someone else’s baby and call them ugly but when it’s your own…well, it’s definitely tougher. We had some “ugly babies” this year. These will be addressed in next year’s goals and the progress will be shared a year from now. This process of correcting mistakes or flaws can be very time consuming and exhausting. With correction comes change, with change comes stepping on peoples toes, and with stepping on toes comes hurt feelings. At Georgetown, when we get to this stage I always take us back to the question that drives everything that we do, “Why do we exist?” It is at this stage that people refocus, place the needs of our students first and begin coming up with cures for our educational ailments.
It is only when we combine true, honest refection with correction that growth takes place. Our ultimate goal is for students to show growth. We want them to grow academically, socially and emotionally. In order to do this we need the adults in our organization to grow in the same manner. As the leader of this system I have to do the same thing. I have to constantly remind myself to reflect, correct and grow in a more rapid manner than those in which I lead. Summer break, for the students, is when I take the opportunity to do these three things.
Why is this process necessary, you may ask? The answer is simple, 1,045 students! The message that I shared with our seniors this year at graduation sums it up best as well as clearly identifies my deep desire for ALL students to succeed.
“The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step!” I stand here with you today and promise you, seniors, that there are no mountains that are too big to cross, no challenge too big to conquer, no dream too big to make a reality. Dream big and then place every ounce of your existence into accomplishing that dream, and watch the world become a better place as a result of your imagination. Each and every one of you was placed on this earth with a purpose and a gift. It is my hope that Georgetown Schools have helped you realize what talents lie deep within you, and that you spend the remainder of your lives using them to the fullest potential. I know that from this class will come many great mothers and fathers, many great inventors, many great employees, and most of all, many great individuals that will make our world a better place one dream at a time.