Today Matters, Vantage Superintendent Blog



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

For the Greener Good. . .

Lots of people have been asking about our new solar array. I thought I would answer some frequently asked questions here, and follow up with a brief  "take away" card to give to staff and visitors to Vantage. These will be placed in our school offices, easily accessible by visitors and staff.

Here are the Solar "FAST FACTS"!

Curricular interests are the main reason Vantage pursued solar power. We have an obligation to train a skilled workforce in alternative and renewable energy, particularly since we are located within utility scale wind farms.

1. The 4200 panel solar array is located on 3.5 acres of school property.
2. Vantage leased the site to Solar Planet, and in return we buy the solar power generated for 25 years.
3. Vantage has the option to buy the array, at current market value after 10 years and thereafter during the
4. The average power estimate is 50% of the power Vantage uses daily, 80% at peak generation and usage.
5. The largest cost saved is distribution charges for electricity on the utility electric bills.
6. The price per kWh for solar power is slightly less than current utility electric rates and will remain so for
     length of the agreement. The price will raise incrementally every few years throughout the agreement.
7. The only cost to Vantage is for the power we purchase and the legal fees incurred for the contract.
8. The solar array was planned prior to the recent construction project, and is not a part of the project.
9. Roof top arrays were considered. The existing structure was unable to support the array's weight.
10. Real-time generation records can be accessed via internet-based software in the school's office areas.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Inspired Blogging

I just returned from a classroom impromptu visit. Some Vantage instructors in the English department are delving into ideas to change up their teaching methods and improve student learning. I observed a practice session of the Socratic Seminar, one of the first ways this dedicated group of instructors is seeking to accomplish their task. The underlying concept:  students must improve their "how to learn" before they can actually learn the critical thinking skills necesssary for success in our world.

What an enjoyable experience the Socratic Seminar was! I looked at the clock when the students started, 10:10, and became so engrossed in what they were doing that when I next thought to check the time, it was 10:31 a.m.! While 21 minutes may not seem like much, it can be an eternity to any student of any age when they are in a boring class. Teacher Sonya Yenser-Hammon facilitated the group, encouraging, reinforcing, complimenting, and steering the students' participation. The effect was a serene learning experience, in a supportive environment, where even the most timid student would not have left the room dreading to come to class the next day. Making this even more fantastic for me, was that I had observed this teacher almost 10 years ago, for a High Schools That Work technical assistant visit, (before coming to Vantage as superintendent). The classroom I saw then, and the classroom today were worlds apart.

Of course, I loved the lesson itself--art-based, with students focused on interpreting a Magritte painting, not knowing the title, and vocalizing their observations, responding to others' feedback, and offering names for the painting. Each student had been given a one-page summary of Magritte's life the day before, and focused on an image of the painting projected on the screen during class.

I hope to see more of this student-centered instruction in all of our classrooms. The old roles of "sit and get" or teacher as "the sage on the stage" are not methods which engage students today. Congratulations and good work, English department! You tried something new, and I like it. Hopefully our students will, also!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Time slips away. . .It's October!

Perhaps I should share my blog posts on Google+, to give me added pressure to blog regularly. The feature notifies my contacts that I added a new post. It may push me to 'micro-blogging' --yes, it's just what it sounds like--very short blogs! (Not sure I can do that . . .) I should at least start a new routine and blog first thing in the morning, (and not log into email), which jumpstarts the day in other directions!

September's gone, but I love October. The colors of fall are beautiful already and it promises to be a terrific season. Much of our activity at school is seasonal, too--particular student activities and topics in each curricular area definitely fall into a routine or sequence of instruction.

Another seasonal activity at Vantage is our annual advisory banquet and committee meetings. This event was held last week, and area employers, former students, and fellow teachers met in many training areas. Vantage values the input received at this meeting--curriculum and equipment, and teaching methods and resources are areas where we must have current information. Because we are an entry-level job training school, it will always be important that we meet the needs of employers. We must teach current aspects of each trade and know the expectations our students have to meet in their career fields. Through advisory committees, we also build relationships.

Our teachers are the most important link in this area. A successful advisory committee is built by a teacher who is connected with area employers continuously. A good meeting focuses on gaining insight from the employers and colleagues present, reviewing curriculum issues, and sharing current student accomplishments and community connections. To keep current, at least one new member should rotate into the group, annually to ensure a diverse perspective.

Vantage has some great advisory committees, which help convey our school's image of teaching quality workforce skills. We also have some work to do to bolster some committees and involve new employers. If you are interested in serving on an advisory committee, contact Vantage and find out how you can help. We are willing to change our "routine" for this important event to better accommodate employers.