Why I Vlog – PrincipalMKelly Vlog Episode 10

I included this video in a staff newsletter to explain the purpose for creating a Vlog, and some application for admin, teachers and students.


Building a Team

Building a team can be a difficult task. For sake of clarity, teams exist at the teacher, building and central office levels. Each level has their own set of roles, responsibilities, and challenges. When developing a team, it is important to have a process in place to ensure you select the best candidate for the needs or your organization.

When building a team, we sometimes look for people who are just like us. People who have a similar set of beliefs; similar personalities; and sometimes similar educational backgrounds. When evaluating candidates for hire, we sometimes think, “this person is just like us. They’ll fit right in.” A candidate who fits right in your team is probably not the right candidate.

-To have and keep in one's grasp- held the reins tightly.

The first step in developinga team is to evaluate the your needs. This starts with a leader’s own self-awareness. A leader must consider current strengths, and identify areas in which a team may not be as strong. Once these areas are identified, start developing a candidate profile to use as a guide when evaluating candidates. When filling an open position on a teaching, building admin, or central office team, you are looking for someone who brings strengths you are missing. Someone that will move your team forward. This sometimes means passing up on quality candidates that are too much like everyone else. In my experience, this has been difficulty, but necessary.

In my school, we have had teacher teams who lacked someone who was being innovative with integrating technology. Or someone who was really good working with data. When filling these positions, we sometimes had to pass on people we really liked, for people we really needed. It is important to include staff in creating the profile for the candidate you hire. This way, they will understand the need to pass on someone they really like, for someone they really need. This is a step in which I still need to improve in our process. We often discuss things we are looking for in a candidate, but I haven’t taken enough time to collaboratively develop a profile with our hiring team.

When filling an open position, it is important for leaders to be self-aware (of yourself and your teams); identify the needs of your team (especially what you lack); create a candidate profile; and select a candidate that will help move the rest of your team forward. Using this process will help guide your hiring decisions, and help identify candidates that will improve your organization.

What process do you use to fill an open position? What are some important steps your hiring teams follow?



Eliminating Marking Periods

MarkingPeriods (1)

Our Story

Over the past several years, our school has been working to improve our grading and assessment practices. This included identifying flaws in traditional grading practices, and identifying more effective approaches. As a result of this work, we reached a point where marking periods became an obstacle to implementing our practices. More background about the origins of our story can be accessed here and here. Ultimately, we decided to remove marking periods entirely, and transition to a year-long grading period.

Two years ago, after meeting with and getting permission from our Superintendent, our school piloted a “continual grading period” in sixth grade. We gathered a lot of data in our first year, and solicited feedback from students, parents and teachers on multiple occasions. In addition, my assistant principal @Murphysmusings5 and I were lucky enough to get some guidance from grading guru’s Myron Dueck and Doug Reeves. This definitely helped with communication, planning and implementation.

After making some adjustments, last year we implemented our continual grading period into both sixth and seventh grades. Our second year of implementation went a little smoother, and the overall feedback we gathered was increasingly positive.

A Sign of Success

Last year, thanks to the amazing efforts of our teachers, we ended the year with no retentions, and not one student who qualified for summer school. I’ve always disliked summer school, feeling it was a poor approach and ineffective. A few years ago, my former assistant principal @mr_tbloom came up with the idea to “put summer school out of business.” We thought that if we implemented remediation and support programs throughout the year, addressing deficiencies and low grades before they grew too large to overcome, we could eliminate the need for summer school. Last year, that vision came to reality. It wasn’t the elimination of marking periods that led to this success, but rather the hard work and effective grading/assessment practices of our teachers which ultimately helped us reach our goal. However, removing marking periods removed a barrier to those practices, allowing them to be more successful.

The Death of Marking Periods

This year, we are implementing our year-long marking period into all grades in our school (sixth through eighth). We are putting to rest an outdated practice which creates arbitrary timelines for learning, and is an obstacle to effective grading and assessment practices. I am proud of the way our teachers have embraced this change, and excited about the success it has yielded. Our staff showed a willingness to take a risk, and so far, it has paid off. Trying to change traditional, entrenched practices such as grading, is often seen as a daunting, if not dangerous task. However, as leaders and educators we have to be willing to challenge the status quo, take a risk, and embrace change. It won’t always be successful, but when it is, it’s pretty cool.

Do marking periods still serve a purpose in your school? Are they an obstacle to effective grading and assessment practices? What are your thoughts?