Thursday, May 29, 2014

Our Story: The Job Hunt

      Finding a job in Kentucky has been a learning process. Kentucky has 174 public school districts, and a total of 1,200+ public schools. I have applied for principal, assistant principal, and teaching positions. Of the 20+ applications that I have submitted to various counties, I have had four interviews. Two interviews were for principal positions and two for assistant principal.

Principal positions started posting in January. While I’ve only had a year and a half of administrative experience, I did not want to miss an opportunity. The selection for principal positions utilizes a democratic process that requires the SBDM (School-Based Decision Making) Council to vote and decide. Membership of the council consists of parents, teachers, and an administrator. The superintendent screens the applicants by reviewing their applications and conducting interviews. He or she then narrows down the pool and presents them to the SBDM Council. I admire Kentucky’s stance on education, as they firmly believe that “making decisions through shared decision-making results in a greater commitment to implementing decisions that will enhance the achievement of students.” 
           My first interview was a conference call while still in Vegas. And, let me tell you, I do not prefer phone interviews. I think part of your personality is lost and my nerves were even more heightened than normal. As a follow-up to the phone interview, I was given a performance event. This consisted of four questions that required detailed action plans in an essay-response. Questions ranged from analyzing benchmark data and identifying ways to coach teachers (individually and in grade level teams) in reading and in math to ensure the state goal is met. I was also asked to look at benchmark data and identify three school-wide strategies that I would implement to ensure the school reaches the state goal. Next, I had to explain how I would begin to establish a culture of excellence. And, in one sentence, tell why I was the best instructional leader for the school.
     The second principal interview was a group interview with a school board, along with four other candidates. We took turns answering a question posed by the board, each having an opportunity to answer a question first. We built off of each other’s answers. Going last meant that you either had a lot of time to take notes or your ideas had already been expressed. Questions ranged from providing examples of appropriate instructional practices, how to create a culture of academic excellence, sharing strategies for teachers who repeatedly sent students to the office for minor disciplinary issues, and how to keep focus on doing what is best for improving student achievement. The group interview was followed up by a performance event (essay), asking me to share my primary vision and first priority as principal. I was asked to return for the second phase of interviewing, but the commute would have been two hours one way. I sadly declined. As an administrator, I couldn't spare four hours of my day commuting.
     In April, assistant principal positions started posting. My first interview was with an assistant superintendent. She said she was very impressed, but informed me that the decision for hiring assistant principals is up to the principal. The next assistant principal interview consisted of a round table of 10+ professionals from that site, ranging from classroom teachers, speech/language pathologists, special education personnel, and the administrator. Questions included handling difficult parents, academic interventions, PBIS (positive behavioral intervention supports), experience with early childhood education, instructional strategies, and my approach to handling ineffective teachers.
     The process for applying requires patience, tenacity, and faith. Some counties utilize applicant-tracking hardware. These programs take the paper out of the process by storing your application, resume, transcripts, and certificates. Many times you can transfer your electronic application and materials to another county if they use the same system. Other counties still rely on paper applications. Administrative interviews require a lot of preparation. You must research and study. You need to know how to put your ideas and experiences into words. You have to have a plan. It has been a slow and sometimes discouraging process. But, it has really made me reflect on my vision for a school and the action steps necessary for student success. While I can’t say too much now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Our Story: Hope

Have you ever met someone that motivates and inspires you? Someone who stays positive and keeps going when things get rough? Many times in our lives we are surrounded by negative people with lackadaisical attitudes. They lack hope. They have forgotten how to dream. It is not often that we find a person who shows us that a dream is more than just wishful thinking. His or her goodness and courage makes our doubts and worries seem small, causing us to reflect on our own weakness. 

I will be the first to admit that when faced with challenges, it is hard to find the motivation to focus on the positive. Even when everything is good, my mind turns towards worry and pessimism. But, my husband has taught me that worry is a misuse of my imagination. I have watched him triumph over life’s struggles again and again. The other day he said to me, “I don’t have much left, but I have will, hope, and desire.”

In hearing my husband dream about wanting to move to the country, it was very easy for me to shoot down his ideas. At times I found myself dismissing them or not truly listening. Many times I would catch myself stealing his hope. He would come at me with such detail and eagerness: “I can’t wait to live in the country. I want horses and chickens. I can’t wait to fish and hunt on my own property. I want lots of land where I can build a legacy for my children and grandchildren. I can’t wait!” My mind always turned to how much I had to do for school the next day. How would we sell our under-water home? How could I leave my job? How could his back possibly handle all that work?

Since arriving in Kentucky, I’ve watched a number of movies about horses. I recently watched Seabiscuit. I was moved by the theme. It’s about a horse who, against the odds, shows his winning abilities and captures the imagination of all those wanting to believe in a dream. While the horse came from noted lineage, he was deemed hopeless. He was mistreated and written off due to numerous injuries. It wasn’t until someone believed in him that he rose from troubled times to achieve success. One of my favorite lines from the movie captures it all: “You don’t throw a whole life away just ‘cause it’s banged up a little bit.”

Within a month's time, I have watched James accomplish and fulfill many of his dreams. I am blessed to have this remarkable man in my life. He has taught me to stay positive and keep dreaming. Doubt, pessimism, and adversity will undermine even the strongest of wills. He has taught me that hope is all we have. I pray that you have someone in your life that inspires you and fills you with hope. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Our Story: In Search of Greener Pastures

My husband and I were born and raised in Nevada. I was a city girl who grew up in Las Vegas. James was a country boy who lived on a ranch in Henderson. I loved to listen to the stories of his childhood as he told me about his horses, chickens, and goats. We dreamed about owning our own property one day. For the past decade, we researched locations, looking at places all over the country. But, dreaming was all we did. Raising kids, career, surgeries and life just got in the way.

James has an extensive history of back surgery. He has five levels fused in the lumbar region of his back. He is in excruciating pain everyday. It killed me to watch him sit around in a stucco house, on less than a 1/6 of an acre in a hot, arid desert, watching TV, and waiting for me to come home from work. I knew that I needed to provide him with a better quality of life. I knew that I needed to get him to a place where he could reconnect with his childhood and heal his soul…a place where he could keep moving and have purpose. He yearned for land and horses.

During the summer of 2013, we took a road trip to Kentucky. I wanted James to see more of the United States. And, if he loved horses, we were going to visit the horse capital of the world…Kentucky! We fell in love with Kentucky and knew it was our future home.

I spent the last decade building my career as an educator and administrator, creating a home for James and his children. Now that they are grown and I have established my career, it is time for James. James has devoted his life to us, making sure that we are set in our own careers. He never waivers. Never complains. That was why I was willing to uproot my home, career, and family. I resigned from my job as an assistant principal in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 28, 2014. We arrived in Kentucky in April 2014. It has been quite an adventure!! Stay tuned for more posts on what we’ve been up to here in Kentucky.