Thursday, December 12, 2019

As most parents are probably aware – there has been extensive discussions and conversations around the topic of vaping – both from the local perspective, as well as from the responses and reactions, legislatively.  So, I wanted to start with some background information regarding vaping . . .

VAPING . . . What is it?  It’s the act of inhaling vapor produced by a vaporizer or electronic cigarette.  The vapor is produced from a material such as an e-liquid, concentrate, or dry herb.

What is a vaporizer?  A vaporizer is an electronic device that turns vaping material into vapor.  A vaporizer usually consists of a battery, main console or housing, cartridges, and atomizer.  The battery generates the power for the heating element in the atomizer, which contacts the vaping material and transforms it into vapor for inhalation.

According to some of the recent data released – approximately 10% of all Americans now vape on a daily basis; and almost 70% of those people started within the last 12 months.  In addition, 38% of all high schoolers and 13% of all middle schoolers have tried vaping… with over 20% of high schoolers and 5% of middle schoolers continuing to use vape devices occasionally or regularly.  Interestingly, over 40% of the current e-cigarette and/or vape users have never been regular cigarette smokers.

So, what’s the bottom line – New e-cigarette shaped like a USB flash drive is being used by students in school.  Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm brain development, which continues until about age 25.  The use of any tobacco product including e-cigarettes is unsafe for young people.  As a collective effort – parents, educators, and health care providers can all help prevent and reduce the use of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, by our students.

As a collective effort, we all can learn about the different shapes and types of e-cigarettes and the risks of all forms of e-cigarette use.  We all can talk with our children/students about the risks of e-cigarette use among young people and express firm expectations for remaining tobacco-free.  It’s also important to continue to set a positive example.

As we all know, the world has changed dramatically, and the acceleration of change only seems to increase.  There are dangers and hurdles seemingly around every corner for our students/youth.  There are things that we did not face in our youth, and it can be confusing for us to navigate as we try to advise our children.  Vaping is one such new development within the last several years.  As most folks know, vaping was originally marketed as a safer alternative to smoking.   But, so little is really known about the long-term effects at this point, but we are starting to see that there are some significant short-term effects that many did not predict. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

I believe that an organization that prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion creates an environment that respects and values individual difference along many varying dimensions. Addition, inclusive organizations foster cultures that minimize bias and recognize and address systemic inequities, which, if unaddressed, can create a disadvantage for certain individuals. This is not a human resources issue, it is a strategic issue. These efforts should be reflected in organizational mission, vision, and values; incorporated into strategic plans; and cascaded throughout the organization.

There is abundant research supporting the expectations for identifying and addressing the inconsistencies leading to potential bias, inequality, lack of inclusive practices all while fully supporting the diversity in our society (and community).

Many folks are likely very familiar with the graphic that depicts children standing along the wall watching the baseball game:  

In order to reassure the equity – each of the students are provided the necessary resources (boxes) in order to see the game.  In this simple case, not everyone has the “same” resources . . . but rather the necessary resources for success.  

In another simple example, here is a graphic that suggests the difference between equity and equality:  providing students with sneakers is equality; providing students with sneakers that fit is equity.

Dr. Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground blog shares some thoughts on the topic”. Why is the Relationship Between ‘Learning Culture’ and ‘Equity Culture’ So Lopsided?”  As the blog suggests, schools have made significant progress in the area of improving school’s learning culture.  Unfortunately, this is not the case with regard to equity culture.  Changing the culture of schools toward continuous improvement is the key to better learning. Gradually, many institutions worked to develop collaborative cultures within and across their schools that has positively affected student learning for the better. Much of the research has focused on the nature of the work, the relationship among teachers, the engagements of students, and the depth and impact of learning.  Understanding that gains have been realized with deep learning, but trying to achieve greater equity through only changing "the learning culture" will always be limited because of the existence of "the culture of inequity" that privileges certain groups while underserving others.”  See the full article link below.

In the District, we have begun exploring the topics of Equity, Equality, Diversity, Bias, and Inclusion . . . and what impact has the discrepancy between the ‘learning culture’ and the ‘equity culture’ played with the Liverpool Schools?  How can we find a balance between the two dimensions? And, what can we learn from our students and their families in addressing this “inequity”?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

I’ve had several community folks ask about the concept or initiative entitled:  EDUCATION 2020.  Last year, I had shared a blog that described the process for developing capital improvement projects and how aspects of the scope/work are selected.  Here is some of that discussion:

As I mentioned last year, over the past 10 years or so, the Liverpool School community has fully supported district facility improvements through building renovation projects.  During that time period, we have exceeded $150,000,000 in capital improvement costs.  These projects have included construction [in various degrees] at many of our building sites:  Liverpool Middle School, Liverpool Elementary, LHS Stadium, Chestnut Hill Middle School, Chestnut Hill Elementary, Morgan Road Elementary, Soule Road Complex, Liverpool High School Annex, Transportation Center, Wetzel Road, Donlin Drive Elementary, Long Branch Elementary, Nate Perry Elementary, Craven Crawford (District Office) and now [with Phase 3] the Liverpool High School.  These SED-approved projects (mentioned above) do not include the numerous local projects that our LCSD Maintenance staff have embarked on over the past decade as well.  Most of these larger projects were created based on the SED-required "Building Condition Survey" - a state mandate which requires school districts conduct facility evaluations every 5 years.  Most of the focus for these evaluations is based entirely on infrastructure needs, windows, doors, boilers, and roof replacements - the majority of upgrades and renovations that go unseen . . . but positively impact the efficiency, safety and long-term building needs.

As we approached the upcoming facility improvement plan – based somewhat on the required Building Condition Survey for school year 2020 . . . as I mentioned last year - we have decided to divert from the previous traditional model of prioritizing building and classroom needs to a more beneficial and realistic process that focuses on an educational values, beliefs, and needs of each school setting.  We have entitled the initiative:  
Education 2020.  Through these committee discussions, our effort is to share how schools have changed over the past years; discuss how the Liverpool School/community has changed (specifically with regard to demographics); and, talk about how our student needs have changed with regard to career readiness, higher education, and career pathways and options.  Last school year, everyone – both school staff and parents/community members had access to a survey - the survey focused on several prompts.  Specifically, we wanted to know, "What do you believe are the needs and priorities for future facility planning leading up to our next Facility Improvement Plan (Targeting School Year 2020).  Additionally, What do you value as positive school experiences; What do believe are the most essential aspects of your child's education (or students in general); and, What needs or improvements may be necessary as we evaluate the instructional resources within Liverpool?” 
With the on-going tug-of-war for funding (whether it be staffing, programs, supplies, equipment, or facilities), there continues to be a finite amount of money available within our budget.  As such, we want to be frugal and fiduciary responsible . . . yet responsive to student's needs as we continue to prepare them for tomorrow.  

The Phase 3 Liverpool High School Construction Project has been split into two separate chunks of capital work . . . the High School Physical Education/Athletics Wing (being worked on now with completion expected by August 2020) and the High School Fine Arts Wing (including the Auditorium) expected to be bid out this late Fall/early Winter with a completion date of August 2021.  In an effort to be proactive and not alter schedules at a later date – we have changed all of the building arrival/dismissal times by 10 minutes.  This was done in response to the Fine Arts portion of the Phase 3 project.  It will affect the bus line-up and traffic flow in and out of the LHS complex after Spring break 2020.