A Great Deal to be Thankful For!

Here we are at another Thanksgiving!  My, how time flies so fast.  While planning for what I call the F’s of the season (Faith, Family, Food, Football) I always try to reflect on what I have to be thankful for.  There is certainly a lot!

From a personal perspective, I am so thankful for my wife Kim. She is simply the love and support in my life that no one could replace.  Besides being the smartest person I know, her encouragement, honesty, and unconditional friendship are forever a constant.  I am so thankful for my son Josh.  The conversations we now have as he has grown into a fine young man are priceless.  I have learned a great deal from him this past year about drive and determination. I swear he always has a smile on his face which is a great thing to visualize when thinking of a person!  My daughter Abbie continues to be a light of the world.  She has shown so much perseverance over the years and continues to teach me in ways that I never expected.  Her constant focus on the here and now is something I try to improve each and every day within myself.  No one has taught me more on this Earth!

From a career perspective, I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve the Grandville Community.  This is truly a special place filled with people who care for one another and go out of their way to help a neighbor in need.  The partnerships we have with our city, local businesses, and service agencies is second to none. Wow!

I am so thankful for an amazingly supportive Board of Education focused on life-long learning for all kids.  Their efforts and teamwork are so inspiring!  Also, I am very thankful for the staff of Grandville Public Schools.  The administrators, teachers, and support staff of this District are simply the best anywhere.  I am so proud of our continued efforts to provide all students with educational excellence!  We are so blessed!

So what are you thankful for?  I encourage you during this time of hustle and bustle to stop and appreciate all that you have been given.  Grandville is such an awesome place filled with so much love and support.  From me to you thanks for making our community so special! Happy Thanksgiving!

Teachers make THE Difference!

Someone recently asked me what I believe is the biggest difference-maker in student success at school?  I responded “Without question it is a collective team of teachers owning a commitment to high levels of learning for every student.  Simply put, nothing has more of an impact than that.”

I walk the halls of school buildings almost everyday.  I see the dedication to kids, parents, and community.  I see the evenings, weekends (and yes summers) dedicated to professional learning and providing the best possible learning environment for our students.  I observe the smiles, sweat, and tears teachers share with students and families as they work through societies ups and downs. We have outstanding dedicated people working with our kids!  Their commitment is unwavering.

What concerns me, however, is that there are not a lot of quality young people lining up to join the profession.  Visit a university job fair and you will see very few future candidates for teaching positions.  Recently, at a state conference I attended, Superintendents were asked to stand if they had vacancies still unfilled. I was shocked at the number who stood!  Add to this the fact that many veteran teachers are either retiring or finding a different career field.

So why is this?  I am sure there are many reasons including demands of the profession, changes in healthcare costs, pensions, etc. that make other professions more attractive when a young person considers a career field or a veteran teacher weighs options when providing for a family. Also, I would imagine they see and in the veteran teacher’s case experience the increased pressures dealing with unfunded mandates, social media, mental health issues, health and nutrition, and homelessness that continue to provide challenges of getting kids what they need before we can expect them to engage in what it is we are trying to have them learn.

So what can we do to help?  The teaching profession is still one of the greatest professions when considering how a person can make a huge impact on citizens of the future.  Teachers feel every societal pressure and often get criticized for not having the answers.  What can we do?  We can uplift this great profession and the exceptional people in the trenches day to day.  We cannot keep losing to other jobs the great people we have working with our kids.  They are amazing and as a society we need to praise their efforts like never before.  After all, there is no more important impact on student success than a collective commitment from our great teachers.  Please join me in praising their efforts!



A Victory for All!

This past Saturday, we were blessed with one of those school events that truly captures why we exist!

Two of our exceptional educators, Eric Stiegel and Katy Schroeder developed a morning filled with inclusive opportunities, laughs, tears, and brought all of us a little closer together.  The third annual Victory Day at Bulldog Stadium did not disappoint!  Students with disabilities and their mentors joined hand in hand as the voice of Grandville Football, Mr. Brett Kempema introduced the days stars in a way he only can to the cheers of our cheer team, athletes, parents, teachers, and community.  What a cool thing!

Then, our students who battle many challenges on a daily basis worked with their mentor as they took the football around the 50 yard line and weaved through the tough Grandville defense for a touchdown!  Some spiked the ball, some jumped up and down, some celebrated with their mentor, and some ran over to the cheerleaders to celebrate with them.  Each touchdown brought huge applause, some tears from parents and teachers, and major smiles from everyone in attendance as Mr Kempema’s voice would ring out “That is another Grandville Bulldog touchdown!”

There are many negative influences in our world.  The power of social media tends to add to that.  However, what I witnessed Saturday morning exemplifies what I see in our youth,our staff, and our community on a regular basis here in Grandville.  I want to personally thank Eric. Katy, and all of our staff for making the event so special.  I want to thank our football team and cheer team for being there and encouraging the students who switched roles and participated in the event!  Also, thank you parents for sharing your kids with us and helping make their dreams come true.  Simply put, there is no finer game than the one that takes place on Victory Day!!

A New Beginning

It is the most wonderful time of the year!  School begins next week in our wonderful community.  We have been working hard to prepare for an incredible 2017-18 for our students.

I always look at this time of the year as an opportunity for “a new beginning.”  The slate is wiped clean and we are embarking on a fresh new experience.  One that we can make the best ever no matter what role we play in it.

My question for you is, will this just be another year that flies by and is taken for granted? Or, will you join me in striving to live in the moment and come together as an even stronger interdependent team to make things even greater for all kids in your school and community?

Every person in a school community plays an integral role in the commitment of high quality learning for every student, every day!  A culture like this cannot be created from an individual, but collectively we can take what is already really good and make it even better.

Many so-called experts claim they have a resource or a program that will take a building or a district to new heights in student success.  While these tools may be helpful, I believe the experts are right here in our amazing schools and communities!  We have the expertise to provide what every student needs to be successful and when we work interdependently and share our expertise with each other, our students succeed more than ever! This has been proven in studies of schools many times over including places where poverty is high and resources are quite limited.

So, are you with me?  Let’s continue our commitment to high levels of learning for ALL students by working interdependently to determine the path for success for every kid  who walks through our doors. After all, we are not about success for some.  We are about success for all! Let’s create “a new beginning” that breaks down barriers to learning and takes all of our students to places they have never been before!

The slate is clean.



The grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side!

You often hear the phrase “the grass is greener on the other side” in our world.  It is common for us to think about how others have it better:  a better life, a better job, or nicer things.  Wouldn’t it be good to be …. ____________fill in the blank.  It is like one of my cats who always seems to think it will be better on the other side of the door, but always seems surprised when it isn’t.

Recently at a superintendent’s conference, I heard a phrase from Dr. Jim Mahoney that makes so much sense, yet we often do not look at our daily lives this way. “The grass is greener where you water it!”  Eureka! So simple, yet easily overlooked.

If we want our current reality to be better in any aspect of our life, we need to spend more time tending to its needs.  Do not complain, do not spend time coveting another’s life, or job, or things. Be thankful and celebrate the incredible things already present in your life and set a course for greatness in areas that you wish were better.  Now that is living!

As we move closer to a new school year, I encourage you to join me in beginning your journey with the same approach.  I am so thankful for my role as a husband, dad, and superintendent in our great community.  However, I have some areas that I want to take to another level in all three of my main roles.  I am committed and focused.  I am getting my sprinklers ready!

One Educator’s Legacy

We can learn so much from others!  A great educational leader, Dr. Rick Dufour, recently passed from cancer.  He had a huge impact on my outlook as an educational leader! Dr. Dufour, one of the primary trailblazers of the Professional Learning Community movement, battled stage four lung cancer although he was not a smoker.

Through Dr. Dufour’s journey through treatment, he learned a great deal about how the medical field conducts its business treating patients.  While visiting The Mayo Clinic, he came across their mission statement/guiding principles.  I am aware of these as I remember reading their mission statement while at the Mayo Clinic with my daughter Abbie.  They are:

• The needs of the patient comes first.
• We will meet those needs through unsurpassed collaboration.
• No one is big enough to work independently of others.
• The combined wisdom of one’s peers is greater than any individual.
• We will use a teamwork approach, share our insights, and take a continuous interest in     each other’s growth.

Reflecting on this, Richard wondered what would teaching and learning be like if we took these same guiding principles and replaced the word patient with the word student?  They would read:

• The needs of the STUDENT comes first.
• We will meet those needs through unsurpassed collaboration.
• No one is big enough to work independently of others.
• The combined wisdom of one’s peers is greater than any individual.
• We will use a teamwork approach, share our insights, and take a continuous interest in each other’s growth.

As I reflect on the rewritten principles, it is evident that they should guide our work.  Our duty is to provide high levels of learning for all students through unsurpassed collaboration.  Our goal is to learn strategies from each other that grow our expertise because when we do this, we know student achievement grows exponentially!

Richard Dufour left an amazing legacy for us all through his work and through his experiences.  He will be missed, but his message will live on in the hearts and minds of educators and therefore students for generations!


Attack this day…

with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!  My favorite coach, Jim Harbaugh, brought the phrase with him to Ann Arbor upon his return.  It reminds me of many things as I walk in my leadership role:

  1.  The only thing we are promised is right here, right now.  Approaching each day with enthusiasm and a focus on working with each other to create exceptional learning for all students creates a powerful culture that will provide incredible results for our kids.
  2. We are given a choice daily.  We can go through the motions and waste the time we are given or we can focus on getting better which includes trying new things, learning from mistakes, and asking ourselves “is this really the most effective way to facilitate learning for all students or is it just the way we have always done it?”  If it is the best way, great!  Get better at doing it.  If it is not, abandon it and try something different!
  3. The most important part of our journey in life and in our work is the journey!  When you look back at accomplishments and successes, it is the daily grind of improving your craft and working with others to collectively get better that is remembered.  I think back to my days as an athlete and a coach.  The days I remember aren’t championships won but rather the day to day practice of honing my skills, working to improve, and most importantly the daily grind and improvement shared with my teammates!  I often told the players I coached that what you want to say down the road is “Boy we worked hard collectively, got better each day, and had a whole bunch of fun enjoying the journey together!”  I want my life and career to be the same way!

We have the most amazing teachers and students anywhere!  My daily journey reminds me of this as I travel from building to building.  So I ask .., why would we not want to approach our daily grind with an enthusiasm to make each day the best day ever?  After all, it is the only day that we are promised on this Earth.  Let’s work hard collectively, get better, and have a whole bunch of fun enjoying our journey in our wonderful community!!