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A Year End Message for Teacher Leaders

As the school year comes to a close, teacher leaders may reflect on their work - looking mighty for the positive, can-do attitude focused on the needs of youth and children in the Schools they serve.

Each day, teacher leaders see their students grow academically and emotionally, both in and beyond the school setting. Students who are connected to their teachers learn more, and are more engaged and satisfying to work with. Student engagement is a key factor in our success, along with the high expectations we have for students and their families have for us. This work takes relentless dedication and energies on a daily basis and smart leaders appreciate what goes into the work.

Good schools facing the challenges in summer of 2010 must celebrate success and work to continuously improve. Teacher leaders find themselves in challenging financial and changing cultural times. They will need to develop innovative solutions to continue to offer the kind of programs and service that make the schools they serve thrive. They will also be mindful of the importance of relationships and how we treat our students.

Technology is changing the way we teach and, more importantly, the way students learn. Teams of faculty and staff are working to lead the changes and innovations that will allow our children to learn and engage in new and innovative ways with ready access to technology. Please learn more skills and knowledge in this area. Students are counting on us to be proficient in this area of our work.

Assessments at the school, district, state and national level are changing. Recently, nearly every state in the Union agreed to consider and review the new common standards for core academic areas. These will impact what we are teaching and what our students are tested on. State exams will, of course, be changing as well. Savvy teacher leaders are working to sort this out and will keep you posted as this becomes clearer.

The summer offers a chance to take a step back, reflect on our work, and consider how each of us working collaboratively with others has enriched the experiences of the students and faculty. Please take advantage of any professional development opportunities this summer. In the Greendale Schools, we are organized around a cohort model under the direction of the administrators and our Curriculum Facilitators and Teacher Leaders. Faculty across our schools are working in these cohort groups and participating in summer professional development.

I am convinced that those who opt out of a professional development program, not attending grad school or other workshops, may find themselves working harder and harder without a clear sense of how to meet the needs of students. New skills and knowledge are more important than ever in working with students and each other. Those who are focused on learning these engagement strategies are more comfortable in working with our students as well as in collaboration with others.

Nearly every school district is experiencing budget shortfalls due to the gap between inflationary expenditure increases and limited revenue increases allowed by law. Over the next few years, schools will likely need to continue to reduce spending due to a drop in revenue and public. Districts nationwide are cutting programs and staff at a level I have never seen before. To address this shortfall, smart leaders are proactively working with their staff and community to plan for the financial future of their schools and districts avoiding using financial reserves or surplus with the ARRA funding ending in about one year creating another budget challenge.

Effective leaders move forward in a humble yet confident manner, adapting to the needs of students and their families while respecting what excellence in education is all about.

On behalf of students and families everywhere, let me express thanks for your service and leadership in challenging times. Enjoy the summer, seek out some fun and relaxation and don’t forget about your professional development.

Image: William Hughes
About the author: Dr. William Hughes has worked in education for  31 years as a teacher, principal, superintendent of schools. He has served as Superintendent of the Greendale School District in Greendale, Wisconsin for the past 14 years. Greendale is a garden community and one of three greenbelt communities in the United States. It is a suburban district of about 2,600 students located in the Milwaukee metro area; an area known for high achieving schools.  Greendale is known for its high level of student achievement with over 90 percent of graduates attending higher education institutions, ongoing community engagement on multiple levels, along with collaborative relationships with bargaining groups while retaining a focus on children, service, citizenship and learning. He is a former board member of the Milwaukee Area Technical College, a member of the National School Climate Council, board member of the National Center for Learning and Citizenship and adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

You can contact William Hughes at
bill.hughes@cascadeeducationalconsultants.com   

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