Today Matters, Vantage Superintendent Blog



Friday, September 30, 2016

Students Experience Community Service

Today is our Van Wert community's United Way Day of Caring. Loads of Vantage Career Center students are helping at the Salvation Army's annual food drive, held this year in our bus barn at Vantage. Others are serving food and registering blood donors at the American Red Cross blood drive at Trinity Friends Church nearby. Throughout the community other random and planned acts of kindness occur, but these two events have significant impact for months to come.

As an added bonus for students getting in up to their elbows in service work today, the American Red Cross counts the pints of blood donated today from our Vantage students and staff, and awards a student scholarship. Many of our Health Technology seniors vie for this scholarship award as they look toward college after graduation. The more pints donated by Vantage during this school year increase the amount of the scholarship!

A lot of work behind the scenes, by several employers and schools in the county, is evident at the end of the Day of Caring. The Salvation Army's goal was to receive 40,000 food items, all of which are being sorted, stacked, loaded on pallets to fill their food pantry. We'll have a final count next week, but our own students and staff raised $1900 and bought as many cases of vegetables and other helpful food and hygiene items as possible for today's collection.

Over 77 high school students at Vantage gave blood today at the blood drive, many for the first time--and hopefully building a habit for their lifetime. It feels good to care. Vantage is glad to support the United Way Day of Caring in Van Wert County. Today Matters.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sweat the Small Stuff!

Isn't it the little things in life that mean a lot? They also make a difference.

This "sweat the small stuff" blog has a different purpose than preserving your sanity through not sweating the small stuff, the focus of a short book "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" by Richard Carlson. I came across a copy of his book early in my education career as a business teacher, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It also inspired me to show my students the times when doing the exact opposite--sweating the small stuff--while writing business letters and honing their skills and resumes, would be helpful!

Personally, I've always thought "sweating the small stuff" is important.

After helping our administrative team do the weekly recycling today, I can honestly say sweating the small stuff matters. The small action of sorting cans and bottles buried in the paper in your recycle bin and breaking down the boxes, will make a big impact on several other people every week in our school! Not only would this small action save time in our weekly recycle collection, it would also be considerate. A little time spent by each individual will help a lot of people doing the other end of the job.

Sweating the small stuff applies to so much more than recycling, and it has more benefit than making a job easier for someone else. The little things, which take hardly any time at all, are usually easy things.  Take time to give a kind "hello" or "how are you doing today?" to the people you pass or at the service counter in the automotive garage after work. Go even further by taking time to listen to what they say. Some people call it "being in the moment" or "be where you are". You can send a message of caring to someone who may feel hopeless or alone, just by taking time to listen. And you may do yourself some good.

Life is full of good things. It's full of great human beings and wonderful community efforts. It's full of young students with ambition and plans for their life ahead. The ability to sift out life's junk and bad moments and hold onto those things that will make a difference to yourself, your family, or others is vital. Our students will be a bit better prepared to successfully enter the world after high school if they can focus on what's important now. Stay in school. Be here every day. Be kind to others. Work hard to be the best "you" possible, whether it's taking time to do the math assignment right or sweeping the shop floor at the end of lab. Practicing these small actions every day just might turn into lifetime habits.

Today Matters. Sweat the Small Stuff!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

2016-17 Year Starts at the Bell

The time is near! The administrative team and summer staff can feel the excitement and energy as new and returning students drop by for student orientation or to pick up their senior schedule. Teaching staff have been working to set up their classrooms, make bulletin boards, prepare lesson plans and sort and stack piles of career tech supplies for students to be issued on the first day. The first official teacher work day is tomorrow, Friday, August 19, but several staff have been working in the month of August to prepare for their incoming students. At 8:23 a.m. on Monday, the bell will ring and (almost magically) every new student finds their way to their first class of the 2016-17 year.

And for me, it's back to "normal" in a daily schedule, meant to be filled with busy hallways and full classrooms, knowledge exploding from teachers, student-led group projects, and the synergy of engaged learners--all anchored by a competent and dedicated staff--from the cafeteria crew to the maintenance crew to the media center staff and the technology crew and all the support staff, teacher aides, counselor and administrators who encourage, guide, and serve students daily.

Our students are the future, and we will give them our best. After all, students and parents deserve no less.

Vantage Career Center will start its 41st year of career-technical and academic instruction for 13 area high schools' juniors and seniors on August 22, 2016. It's something special to watch these students grow in confidence and training, in knowledge and social skills, as well as enthusiasm for their future after high school. But in the first weeks of the school year, students are getting used to a new school setting and students from a dozen other schools in Van Wert and neighboring counties. Juniors beginning their year with us are leaving a school district which many have attended since kindergarten--leaving more than a few good friends and classmates to pursue workforce training. That's a big adjustment in itself for high school students. They'll still be a part of their "home" high school and graduate from that district in May, if they earn the necessary credits while attending Vantage. But their own "normal" routine has changed. Vantage students will form new patterns of contact with friends and home school staff, all while growing in confidence as they pursue a career and/or college training in their workforce field.

Vantage Career Center has nearly 450 juniors and seniors attending this year, each enrolled in one of 17 different career and technical education programs. I wish each of the them the best of luck in meeting their goals this school year. WELCOME, STUDENTS!

Remember, TODAY MATTERS. Make it great.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Non-Google Users--Update on Blog Access

Blogger has recommended posting a message that if you are a non-Google user, you won't be able to follow my blog on January 11 and thereafter.  If you would like to still follow my blog, all you need to do is sign up for a Google account and re-follow me. My Today Matters blog can still be accessed directly at, is posted to the Vantage Facebook and Twitter feeds, and will still appear on the digital version of AASA's monthly magazine, School Administrator, which can be accessed on the AASA (American Association of School Administrators--the school superintendents' association) website under "Bloggers" or "Superintendent Blogs". Scroll through the list of names until you find Staci Kaufman.

Our school district "went Google" a few years ago, and we love it. We've designated a teacher who is particularly informed of educational technology use, and used it to enhance instruction and to accommodate varied student needs, as well as to create a more engaged classroom. Vantage was pleased to be able to designate her as a full-time education technology specialist on our staff a year and a half ago. Mary Ann Falk has exceeded our expectations in this new position.

Her skills and knowledge in meeting our staff's needs and interests in increasing technology in their own classrooms, as well as helping our administrative and classified staff to use new Google tools and increase our use of technology has been a tremendous asset. Go Google if you're not already there! The Vantage district has gained a lot of efficiency and is seen as a leader in the use of educational technology and Google in our county and neighboring counties.

I especially like the effort Mary Ann has made to teach others in nearby school districts, how to effectively use Google and what it can bring to education and office procedures. Here in Van Wert county, we're submerged Google and loving it!
#IamCareerTech #GetTheEdge
Today Matters.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A New Year?

It's January 4, 2016. While it's a new calendar year, chances are any new resolutions or approaches I come up with for my personal or professional life will be identical or similar to previous years. I am, like it or not, a creature of habit--most of the time!  And while it's another new semester ahead for students and staff, it serves mainly as a chance to start fresh with lesson plans or homework and better attendance, less tardies, less visits to see Mr. Miller in the attendance/discipline office. It definitely marks for some people, the "halfway" mark to another school year's end. Not for me.

I have never been, and never will be, the type of educator who counted the days until a vacation or summer. To do so never occurred to me, nor did "counting down" appeal to me. Frankly I don't understand it, because I enjoy coming to work daily and doing whatever tasks are at hand--it doesn't matter how many days are left to do it in. Counting would probably add to my stress. . . That said, being an educator, both a teacher and an administrator, suited me. I'm so glad I was prompted to consider a teaching career during my business courses in college. June, 2016 marks my 34th year in education. I can still say I am invigorated by new challenges the superintendency, and the field of education, bring. It's exhilarating to have a new initiative to conquer (or at least launch). School administration has caused me to grow personally and professionally, and to have greater insight about myself as an individual. I can't imagine where I would be without the influence my career in education has had on me, as an individual.

So what will my new year's resolutions be? I know I am committed to cleaner eating, more frequent exercise, NOT training for a half marathon (at least not in 2016), and making some regular "me" time to read, paint, and recharge. 2016 will be about "balance".

Friday, December 4, 2015

Student Service Projects--Cards for Veterans and Haitian Carpentry Program

What a wonderful action by our student ambassadors! We recently had a fund raising event for an international service project, and students took the opportunity to set up the Christmas Cards for Veterans table and ask students and staff to sign a cards for veterans who are recuperating in a Dayton VA hospital.

I signed one myself, and felt really good that I could thank one USA soldier for the courageous service they do to protect our country and help other countries. Our student ambassadors learned that some of these soldiers have no one, not even family, who may remember them at Christmas.

As one of our staff members said in an announcement promoting the event: Thank you in advance for making Christmas a little Merrier for those who have given so much for us.

The proceeds from our Haiti Carnival, which took place in our commons area for an hour or so, before dismissal, go to help pay a Haitian carpentry teacher's salary. Our Rotary Interact club sponsors a carpentry program in a mountain village, Bordes, near Cap Haitien. Because we are a career training school, we wanted to help others learn a skill to support themselves and their families. We hooked up with a church in Lima, who was doing mission work in Haiti, and learned of the need. The church built the primitive cinder block building, which houses our training program. After two years, students "graduate" and are presented with hand tools with which they can get started earning a living, using their new carpentry skills.

I've had the privilege of visiting our carpentry school in Haiti once, a few years ago. It was more than heartwarming to see the young and older male Haitians learning so earnestly. And we produce beautiful furniture pieces, with no electricity, as there is none available. Some students ride bicycles for hours each way, to get to the school on the mountain side. Below are two of the hundreds of pics I took while visiting Haiti. More from the carpentry school itself and the teacher, coming in future blogs.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Health Technnology Students on Clinicals

Being an Ohio career center superintendent gives me great pleasure because we do so many good things for students. Basically they learn skills to become employed in a variety of occupations. For instance, this week our Health Technology seniors are out on clinical experiences at Vancrest nursing home in Van Wert, 6:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. for two days. Our two instructors are experienced RNs, which qualifies them to become licensed to teach the health tech curriculum to high school students. Our students earn their STNA license, which requires this clinical experience on the job in a real health care facility.

Ohio's alternative teacher licensure program can only be entered upon employment by a career center to teach in a career technical program. So our teachers represent all sorts of occupations, many with 10-20 years of great hands on experience in welding, precision machining, culinary arts, cosmetology--and the list goes on. But learning to teach your trade or occupation to high school juniors and seniors doesn't come naturally to all. Our new CTE teachers must figure out how to relay the skill and wisdom they've learned over the years, while doing the myriad of tasks that we in education know all too well. Just think about a welder reporting to school in August, facing 25 high school juniors to who he will teach welding for two years.

Where does he/she start? That's why we have a solid alternative licensure program in Ohio to steer them through the crazy first years. And good administrators know how to support new teachers-- the new college grads gripping their first teaching license, AND the 40 year-old precision machinist who was hired to teach his trade.

Classroom management, parent conferences, even adapting to how best to address attendance or tardy issues with a student, disciplinary procedures. . .educators know the importance of doing these things well. But it often takes practice. Our alternatively licensed CTE teachers in Ohio juggle the daily teaching world and then take 25 semester hours of college coursework in education over two years to earn the alternative license. Remember they also are writing lesson plans, grading papers, planning field trips, advising their program's student leadership organization, such as FFA, Business Professionals of America, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, and Ohio SkillsUSA.
And in Ohio, our alternatively licensed teachers must complete the Ohio Resident Educator program, to qualify for their five-year license, allowing them to continue to teach. Don't forget, folks, these working adults often have families at home, too.

So when I saw the email from one of our health technology teachers, announcing the student roster for clinical placements this week, I quickly added it to my pile of blog topics. Instructor Leigh Carey, R.N., who recently completed all these requirements and earned her five year license, is in her fifth year with our school. I'm pleased, and proud, of all of our teachers because I know what they go through to teach. It feels great to see them complete all the state requirements, and remove some of these hurdles from their daily life. And that's good for kids, theirs at home, and "ours" at school.

Today Matters.
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