Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jill Wynns, Thank You For Your Service

Susan Stauter, whom I had the honor and pleasure of working with during my tenure as CAO with the San Francisco Unified School District, presented the following at the December 13th, 2016, San Francisco Unified School District  board meeting in honor of Commissioner Jill Wynns.
My name is Susan Stauter, I am the former Artistic Director for the San Francisco Unified School District, serving for many years,(24), proudly, on the campus of the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. I left my position as Conservatory Director at the American Conservatory Theater and I am the founder of the Department of Theatre at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.
When, at the request of Ruth Asawa, I returned to public education to work connecting the students of the SFUSD to the arts community of San Francisco, I met a board member named Jill Wynns.
She was something.
She was smart, she did her homework, she listened carefully and she took no prisoners. She was not swayed by friends or foes, and she stood up for students, for parents, and she stood up for the teachers union and the dignity of public school teachers and public schools as the mainstay of our democratic system. She showed up and she fought and she would not be silenced by the many powerful ones, or by too many of those who, having won and enjoyed her support had short memories and did not stand with her when she was in need. I remember, I saw it happen. One day when I was new to the district, a high level administrator, a woman, told me not to be seen talking to Jill Wynns; the boss did not like her.
Palace intrigue the likes of which I had not even seen in the theatre!
 And here was this woman, this Jill Wynns, standing up and defending public education from privatization, defending budget choices and questioning others, actually reading the reams and reams of paperwork that crossed her desk and making time to listen to teachers and members of this community.  
Like so many others, I watched as other board members at times showed open contempt, shuffling papers, leaving the room and talking while she spoke, and this was in a more civil time when this behavior was an anomaly, not the new norm we now daily endure in public discourse.
 I once asked Jill how she could stand it, how she got through it. She told me she had a job to do, that she would not be silenced, and that the thing she hated most was fear, and she had decided long ago not to let fear stand in her way as a woman, as a leader. I remember what I was wearing, this memory is so strong; that conversation stood in my mind from that day to this. Here was a brave woman, a woman who felt the slings and the arrows, every single one of them, but would not be deterred from her sacred duty of public leadership.
Recognized nationally, her opinion sought out by leaders and thinkers, she set a tone of serious discourse, even when those around her did not. She would listen carefully, she took all manner of information onboard, and she respected and showed respect for those who too often did not return the favor.
She set a tone. She is the real deal, and she raised the bar for all the rest of us. 
She told it to us straight. Many conversations started with “You are not going to want to hear this, but..” Or, “I hear you, but I disagree, and I must do what I believe is right.” No kidding.
Anybody who ever thought Jill Wynns did anything because somebody else told her to do it was not paying attention.
A few years ago I took the rap for a decision she made that was not popular with a school community. They actually thought I had gotten Jill Wynns to do something, believing that I, or anybody had that sort of magic power.
  Jill Wynns stood in her own shoes and she spoke her own thoughts and nobody owned her. To know Jill is to accept the fact that she will do what she believes is right, and damn the torpedoes. It was not always easy; Jill’s world is one bounded by integrity and her own moral compass, and while there is loyal opposition, she does the work and she weighs the elements and I am proud to know her, I am proud to have served while she was on the board, and like so many others, I am waiting to see what’s next for this amazing woman, this leader.
In the theatre often the most important act is the last one, Act III.
The poet said hope is a thing with feathers, but in these low, dishonest times, when the toxic is ‘normalized’ and all manner of public and private evil is enacted daily all round the world, perhaps those feathers, like the ones in Anselm Keifer’s sculptures at SFMOMA, must be made of metal. 
We need leaders like Jill Wynns.  
We need to honor the wise women who, in other times, were respected, listened to, sitting in the center of campfires drawing circles round the stars from where they oversaw the marrying and the burying and the bringing of new life into the world.
Women of a certain age were not always marginalized, something we have seen ‘normalized’ this past year on every front page and on every television news show.
In these fractious times, the woman who speaks up, who dares raise her voice, is a hysteric, the woman who differs in a meeting is unprofessional, and beware the woman who dares lead….for her the abandonment of friends and colleagues, for her the lone stand of the righteous in a world where short memories too often trump loyalty, where real courage is discounted or mocked; the rolling eyes, the side glance conversations.
Let history judge these woman who continue to voice leadership, let history determine who was there when the going was tough and who came up with the answers.
I am talking about Jill Wynns.
 And let a new time come when women like Jill and so many others in this very room tonight, they are in this room right now, are honored, listened to and not asked to disappear for all the wrong reasons, not told they ‘talk too much’, when they are actually most knowledgeable, when they are the very resources that can and must save us from ourselves and lead us into a positive future.
 Read the New York Times, today’s edition, (December 14) page 12, about the new head of education whose transactional mentality matches that of all that is headed our way. These are new times, these are times when the wisdom of women like Jill Wynns must be viewed as a civic resource, when silencing the visionary is to lose sight of the road to our very survival.
Lets all take a page out of Jill’s book and speak the truth as we see it. Lets honor those amazing women of a ‘certain age’ who deserve our respect and our thanks, and lets look toward a time when the noxious fumes of cruelty and privatization and transactional thinking no longer dominate our public leadership and discourse in the public schools and in the marketplace.
And on this night lets all say thank you to one of the finest public servants to lead San Francisco in service to the children of the public schools, a hero, a leader, and let us pray in our hearts that she continues to grace us with her considerable gifts, knowledge and love.
 A lot of us are cheering you on as you enter Act III, and we need you more than ever.
Thank you, Jill.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

My Guest on District Leader, Dr. Hector Montenegro

My guest this week is Dr. Hector Montenegro. Hector is on a sabbatical, working across a broad spectrum of education related projects and activities.  Hector is President and CEO of Montenegro Consulting Group, and a Senior Associate for Margarita Calderon and Associates. He provides training on EL teaching strategies, and leadership development for administrators and instructional coaches. Hector specializes in the teacher coaching process through the use of technology, video recording and observation protocols. He is also a Senior District Advisor for the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and works with districts on systemic implementation of SEL.
Hector's teaching career began in San Jose, California where he taught math at the junior and senior high school levels. He later taught and served as a site administrator in Washington, DC and in Virginia. He later served as Chief of Staff of the DC Public Schools before moving to Texas where he served as a principal and an Area Superintendent in Austin, Deputy Superintendent for Instructional Services in Dallas, and Superintendent of Schools for three school districts in Texas: San Marcos CISD, Ysleta ISD and Arlington ISD. Hector was later an Area Superintendent for the San Diego School District in California.  He received his masters degree from Stanford University and his doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. 
As the Senior District Advisor for the Collaborative for Academic Social Emotional Learning (CASEL), a nonprofit organization based in Chicago, Hector provides technical expertise to further advance the science and practice of school-based social emotional learning (SEL) in school districts across the country. His primary focus is providing SEL professional development, research, monitoring and evaluation, policy development and implementation, and the development of SEL district standards. The goal is systemic and universal implementation of SEL standards and the adoption of evidence-based SEL programs that are sustainable and have a positive impact on student academic achievement.  
Catch the conversation on  District Leader podcast.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My Guest on District Leader, Superintendent Dr. Cindy Zurchin.

My guest this week on District Leader is Dr. Cindy Zurchin, superintendent (retired), consultant, and life coach.  Cindy started her career in education as a high school teacher for at-risk youth. She gained experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in urban education. She served as an assistant superintendent and superintendent of suburban school districts. Her last assignment was as Superintendent of the Abridge Area School District in Abridge, Pennsylvania.
     Years after her discovery that school culture was the key, Cindy created the first “Whale Done!” school.  She communicated her vision to staff and parents of “catching students doing things right”.  She then led the development of the new Whale Done! culture, transforming an unruly school into a national model.  Cindy encouraged all stakeholders to employ three principle elements: Build Trust, Accentuate the Positive, and Redirect errors and negative behaviors when they occur.  
     Catch the rest of the story on our podcast, District Leader.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

District Leader: Thanksgiving Message

District Leader
Hi everyone.  I had a great conversation with Superintendent Zurchin to share with you this week on District Leader.   But instead,  we're taking a hiatus, with the hope that you have begun to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.  We will be returning next week with my guest, Dr. Zurchin.

There is much that we can be thankful for in life. Certainly there is much that I am thankful for. We are thankful for our loved ones, our health, and more importantly, the opportunity to make a difference in the world.  As educators, the work that we do is of a higher order - transforming lives - a gift bestowed upon a few.

As you know, gratitude and generosity are values that I believe drive great leaders and great people.  Elkhart Tolle said that "It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.”   I truly believe that our calling demands nothing less.

John Wesley once wrote, “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”   How lucky are we that as educators we get to be in this space every day.

It is with a grateful heart that the District Leader team wishes you, our guests, and our listeners, a happy Thanksgiving.  May it be filled with great joy and peace. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Guest on District Leader, Superintendent Kristan Rodriguez, Ph.D.

This week on District Leader I chat with Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, Superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District in Groton, Massachusetts.  Kristan has served in a number of district leadership positions through out her career, in the area of curriculum and instruction, including Assistant Superintendent, Director of Curriculum, and Curriculum Coordinator.  Kristan began her career as a High School English Teacher, and later served as a successful Principal and Assistant Principal.   She is currently an adjunct professor in educational leadership for three local colleges.  Kristan earned her Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Boston College, a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Gordon College, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from Boston University. 
     Kristan is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer for the Rodriguez Educational Consulting Agency. For the past fifteen years, she has been a consultant on leadership and learning, and has traveled nationally to share her expertise. Kristan has been the recipient of numerous honors including the Ansin Intercultural Research Award from Boston University.  She specializes her consulting in the application of Universal Design for Learning in educational leadership.  She co-authored a book, Universally Designed Leadership, which  is the premier title for implementing UDL in systems and schools, and was ranked in the top 100 books in Educational Administration on Amazon. 
     Catch my conversation with Kristan on iTunes, or on our website at District Leader.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Continuous Learner Blog

     As many of you know, scholarship, the belief that we are always learning, is a guiding principle in my life.   Whether I am seeking ways of building capacity, reflecting more deeply, or raising consciousness,  it is important for me to try develop greater awareness of the world around me.  One source I read is the blog.  It provides me with perspective.  Numerous friends and colleagues, as well as people I respect and follow, share their thoughts through the blogs they write
    One blog I recently discovered is written by a fellow educator, Al Solano.  His blog, Continuous Learner, captures slices of life with an educator's lens, which provides for an entertaining and informative reading experience.  Give it a read, I think you'll enjoy it. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

My Guest on District Leader, Dr. Ray Queener, Superintendent at Cambridge-Isanti Schools

"Our tagline is, 'every student, every day'".  And I take every one of those words very seriously.  When we say every student, we are not talking about some of them, a few of them, or these ones, we are talking about every student, every day."  - Ray Queener, Ed.D.

     Ray is in his fourth year as the Superintendent at Cambridge-Isanti Schools located in Cambridge, Minnesota.  He is a career educator who began teaching in 1990, with the Luck Public Schools, in Luck, WI, where he taught secondary math and was a K-12 Computer Coordinator/Coach. He has held positions throughout Minnesota as a Technology Coordinator and Director in South St. Paul School District, a Coordinator of Technology in Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley School District, the Director of Support Services in Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley along with Director of Finance in Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley. He later became Director of Finance for Stillwater Area Public Schools, then onto Assistant Superintendent in Stillwater where he served until June, 2013. Ray was selected as the Superintendent for the Cambridge-Isaniti Public Schools beginning July 2013, which is the position he holds today.
     Ray has identified priorities and initiated steps which have helped in determining the success of programs in district-level departments. With continuing growth, Ray is committed to making the lives of all students the best they can be, and the greatest opportunity for ALL of them to gain constant growth in student achievement.  Ray is a huge advocate for professional development and continuing to learn the 21st Century way. He is part of MASA (Minnesota Association of School Administrators), AASA (American Association of School Administrators), ASCD (Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development), ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education), SEE (Schools for Equity in Education) which he is on the executive board, SEE (Legislative Committee for Schools for Equity in Education), and Cambridge-Isanti Rotary Club

Catch the interview on iTunes