Archive for March, 2008

A Tip of the Hat to Principals

March 9, 2008

Paige Gordon, principal of Alpine Elementary, is one of many prinicipals in the St. Vrain Valley who inspire me.  I have had the opportunity to work with more than a hundred organizations in my career – I’ve seen what very good, mediocre and poor organizations look like.  Paige is someone who leads a very good organization.

Last week, Paige announced that she would be giving up her role as principal of Alpine Elementary and will return to the classroom.  Paige and her husband became parents last summer.  Their daughter is their first priority.  I admire Paige even more.

I don’t know Paige well.  I’ve had the opportunity to have one in-depth conversation with her.  But, it is clear to me – both as a professional and as a parent – that Paige understands what it takes to do the job of principal well.  Being a parent of a very young child does not necessarily fit easily with this job – too many nights away from home.

Principals of modern schools must have an absurd number of skill sets to do their jobs well.  They must know how to manage quality improvement; maintain compliance with a ridiculous number of laws; manage budgets, calendars and logistics; ensure safety and be prepared to deal with crisis situations; manage constituent relations; provide staff and students a boost during the normal ups and downs of a school year, and in our modern area act as marketing directors for their school programs.  I know I have missed roles and responsibilities of a typical principal.  But, you can see the list is long.

As I noted above, I’ve had the opportunity to work with more than a hundred public and private sector organizations in my career.  Our school buildings are the most leanly managed organizations I have ever seen.

At the ice rink yesterday, I was visiting with a friend who is a manager in one of the area multi-national, high tech companies.  He told me that his company’s rule of thumb is one manager for every 11 team members.  The maximum size of a team is around 18.

I have worked with a small private sector company for the past decade that has produced between 12% and 17% growth in stock value annually.  It is an organization that performs among the top in its industry.  The manager-staff ratio for this company of around 50 employees is one to eight.

Army squads and platoons typically have more managers (officers and NCOs) than any of our schools.

Mega business guru Jim Collins examined what sets industry leaders apart from other companies in his book Good to Great.  He tells a story of confronting the evidence.  He did not want leadership and management to be a key variable.  But it was.

The populous does not tend to value management – especially in the public sector.  People are egged on by politicians and political staff who parrot rhetoric about wasteful administrators.  I started my career as a political staffer and I could recite diatribes like this quite easily.  I also was a 20-something who had never managed anything in my life.

I understand the desire to direct as many resources as possible to impact school classrooms.  And, there certainly are ineffective managers and leaders in the public sector, including schools.  That is true for every industry.  But people who claim that there is fat in the management ranks of our schools can only be speaking from a place of ignorance – either they have never examined the reality that lies beneath the shallow rhetoric of politicos or they simply don’t understand what is required to make an organization well.

Paige Gordon does understand.  I’m guessing that is why she made her choice to step away from being a principal.  I hope it is only a temporary change in roles and that she will return when her family is older.  She will be missed in the interim.


March & April Calendars

March 7, 2008


5 – School Board Work Session

6 – Special Education Advisory Committee

11 – St. Vrain k12 Online

Westview Middle School Town Hall Meeting

Accountability Committee Meeting (I will not attend due to Westview meeting)

12 – Latino Education Task Force Meeting

School Board Meeting – Public Listening Session at 6 p.m.

13 – Central Elementary Task Force Meeting

19 – School Board Work Session (I will be absent due to business travel)

22 – School Board Retreat – discuss student achievement

24 – Central Elementary Parent Listening Session

25 – Secondary Principals Meeting (observe)

Accountability Committee Meeting

26 – Altona Middle School Teacher Listening Session

School Board Meeting

27 – Longmont Education Task Force


8 – Accountability Committee Meeting

9 – Silver Creek Teacher Listening Session (tentative)

Latino Education Task Force (may not be able to attend due to Silver Creek commitment)

Longmont High School Teacher Listening Session

Blue Mountain Elementary School Planning Committee


School Board Meeting – Public Listening Session at 6 p.m.

10 – Longmont High School Teacher Listening Session

14 – Altona Middle School Parent Listening Session

16 – School Board Work Session

18 – Education Foundation Teacher Appreciation Dinner

22 – Bilingual Principals Meeting (observe)

Accountability Committee Meeting

23 – School Board Meeting

24 – Longmont Education Task Force Meeting

30 – School Board Work Session (will miss due to business travel)

Override Revenue

March 4, 2008

Voters living in a school district can choose to approve higher taxes to support their local schools.  These are dollars raised locally and used locally.  Voters in many school districts have voted in favor of raising taxes to support their schools.  Here is a comparison of override dollars, on a per student basis, voters have approved in our neighboring communities.  To put this in perspective, a classroom of 25 students in Fort Collins has an additional $18,550 of funding compared to St. Vrain.

Click on the picture below for a larger view.


Colorado Odyssey of the Mind

March 3, 2008

St. Vrain and Longmont area schools were very successful at the recent Colorado Odyssey of the Mind preliminary tournament.  56 teams qualified to compete in the state tournament, which will be held on Saturday, March 15.  St. Vrain qualified 16 teams.  Eight additional teams qualified from Longmont area private schools.

Here are the local teams that qualified for the state tournament.

Elementary Schools

  • Alpine – 2 teams
  • Central – 3 teams
  • Legacy
  • Erie
  • Loma Linda
  • Longmont Estates
  • Twin Peaks Charter Academy
  • Alexander Dawson School
  • Longmont Christian Academy
  • St. John the Baptist – 2 teams

Middle Schools

  • Erie – 2 teams
  • Longs Peak
  • Lyons
  • Sunset
  • Westview
  • Alexander Dawson
  • Longmont Christian Academy
  • St. John the Baptist

Congratulations and good luck.

Read Across America Day

March 3, 2008

Monday, March 3 is Read Across America Day sponsored by the National Education Association.

The day is held in conjunction with Dr. Seuss‘ birthday.  He would have been 104, yesterday, on March 2.  Like many families my family are fans of Dr. Seuss.  He has helped our children learn to read.

I read to a class of second graders (including my son) today to celebrate.  I chose one of my favorite stories, The Sneetches, a tale of the foolish costs of division within communities and learning lessons the hard way.  I had a blast.

I hope you have time to read with your children, grandchildren or children of friends today – or sometime soon.