Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gone From My Sight...

For the past 14 days I have watched students, colleagues and friends grieve over the sudden passing of two highly respected educators. Jim Letcher and Andy Kargel touched the lives of many, and their influence will be felt for years to come.

While struggling to put their lives in perspective, I was reminded of a poem that was read at the memorial service of a dear friend of mine several years ago. I hope others find as much peace in the poem as I have...

Gone From My Sight 

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other. 

Then someone at my side says, "There, she is gone."

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast, hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. 

And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone" there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!" 

- Henry Van Dyke

In loving memory of:
James E. Letcher - November 7, 1953 to March 6, 2014
Andrew Jacob Kargel - April 6, 1979 to March 13, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Saline Hornet Football - Tradition Never Graduates!

This past Thursday, the Saline Hornet Football Program hosted the 2nd Annual Alumni & Friends night at the Pizza House in Ann Arbor. The event serves as an annual opportunity for the public to support the football program and to take a look at the program from the inside - listening to recent accomplishments and plans for future successes.

One highlight of the event this year was the attendance of former Hornet coaches Jack Crabtree, Ed Gall and David Phillips. From the late 70's until the late 90's, this trio turned a lot of boys into young men. Not coincidentally, they won a lot of football games along the way too!

As I caught up with them briefly, I reflected back upon the impact they have had in my life through the years. Not only did they teach me and my teammates the fundamentals of the game, they taught us the fundamentals of life.

Even though the game is now played on turf and the Hornet offense operates from the shotgun, often with 5 WR's, (a little different than "I Gee 56 Power") the same, traditional Hornet football logo that has adorned the helmet for over 30 years will never go away. While Coach Crabtree, Coach Gall and Coach Phillips have all retired from coaching football, the Hornet Football Program remains in good hands. Coach Palka and his staff have accomplished much in their first two years in Saline, and the future looks bright. In addition, as the parent of a current Saline Hornet football player, I could not be happier that my son and his teammates have coaches in their lives that they look up to and seek guidance from just as my teammates and I did. They too are learning football fundamentals and life lessons from our current staff, and I hope that they can continue to have the same type of positive relationships with their coaches that many of my teammates and I have for the past 30 years.

Saline Hornet Football - Tradition Never Graduates!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Technology in the Classroom

What do Hewlett Packard, Google, Microsoft and Apple all have in common? Legend has it that these powerhouse tech companies all started in garages. However, at least in this context, more important than that, none of those companies had a significant presence in the traditional K-12 classroom as recently as 10 years ago. Today, Google can be properly used as both a noun and as a verb! 

The use of technology in the classroom is not a passing fad - it will not go away. The children of today have grown up with technology, some studies have indicated that our students average over 7 hours per day using entertainment media - primarily outside of the classroom. As such, those students expect technology to be a part of their learning experience. 

Our conversation needs to quickly shift from "if" we will embrace, (and fund) technology in the K-12 environment o "how" we can integrate technology in ways that will promote broader and deeper learning for our students. This cannot be a topic for future discussion - the time is now. 

Educational consultant and author Chris Lehman says it best, "Technology should be like oxygen; Ubiquitous, necessary and invisible." 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Zingermans 5-90-5 Rule

Virtually everyone who lives near or travels through Ann Arbor has heard of Zingermans. Not only is Zingermans famous for their outstanding food, they have developed a well-earned reputation for outstanding service as well.

One of Zingermans founding partners, Ari Weinzweig has written a book called "Zingerman's Guide to Giving Great Service" and one of the concepts Ari discusses is the 5-90-5 rule. Simply stated, Ari believes if he hires 100 employees, 5 will naturally give great service. In addition, 5 will likely be inclined to give relatively poor service. At Zingerman's, Ari elects to spend the majority of his time with the 90 in the middle - those individuals who are likely to "go with the flow." He says, "our job as leaders is to create an organizational structure that makes it much easier and more rewarding for them to give great service than not." 

While our focus is not selling food, Saline Area Schools also strives to provide great service. We strive to hire people naturally inclined to do so and to create a culture and climate where this is easy to do. We want to provide our students, our parents and our community with the same type of world-class service Zingerman's provides their customers! 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Best Practice or Creative Excellence

If you have ever flown on an airplane, you have no doubt heard a flight attendant reciting the pre-flight announcement telling passengers to place their seat backs in the upright position, to fasten their safety belts, turn off all personal electronic devices, stow all luggage properly in the overhead bins, etc. In my experience, just about everyone on the plane pays little attention.

I recently had an opportunity to watch a flight attendant on Southwest Airlines take a rather creative approach to the mandatory pre-flight announcement - to view the video click here

Whether or not this announcement was real or staged, it did cause me to reflect upon how we do business in education. When we identify someone who gets better results than anyone else, (whether a district, school or an individual teacher) we refer to their method as a "best practice" and then rush to find ways to duplicate their efforts. The problem is, not everyone has the same strengths and talents. As a result, mandating that others duplicate something as creative and unique as the flight attendant's rap announcement would be a recipe for failure for most. So too is it in the classroom - asking others to duplicate the unique strengths and talents is also often a recipe for failure.

Instead we need to outline the expectations and material to be covered, (just as the highly regulated Federal Aviation Administration does for the pre-flight announcement) and then create an atmosphere where the use of every individuals strengths and talents can result in unique and powerful results. Assuming a fundamental level of competency, it is not what we do but rather HOW we do it that often makes the difference!

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's Not Too Late To Answer The Saline Area Schools Holiday Challenge!

Back on December 18th I asked people to spend just 5 minutes of time to share with me one positive story of a Saline Area Schools employee demonstrating their care, compassion, commitment, competence, communication and dedication toward the children we serve. The story can be about a teacher, a bus driver, a food service employee, a coach, a custodian, an administrator, etc. - any employee of Saline Area Schools. Please include the name of the employee you are describing, a brief description of the positive contribution they made, (or what makes them special), when it happened and your name, (optional). Send your positive stories to me via e-mail at

While I have received some wonderful stories, the response thus far has been much smaller than I had anticipated. As a result, I am extending the deadline to Friday, January 10th. Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts!