Today Matters, Vantage Superintendent Blog



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.
Follow me @VantageSupt  #IamCareerTech @VccStudents

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Best of the Blogs! AASA magazine, November 2015

What a great way to encourage superintendents to blog about what matters to them. AASA's Journal magazine features about five blog posts from superintendents across our nation each month. While excerpts of mine have been published for the Best of the Blogs feature before, it is no less exciting each time I open the AASA email, notifying me that one of my Today Matters blog excerpts will be published in the next issue.

Let's talk about blogging--I have been blogging for about four years now, modeling after a mentor I enjoyed while a "green" sup't. She started one, to help communicate with staff, students, and the community--for whoever might be interested. I was worried and tense and wondered "what the heck will I write about?", and "who would possibly want to read this?" quickly followed. You can find any topic and all sorts of writers of blogs. I knew my blog had to be called something that might convey a variety of topics important to me, educationally and personally. So Today Matters was born. And I am more comfortable now, letting readers know a bit about me personally, mixed with the great things our students at Vantage Career Center accomplish. If I help promote career and technical education in Ohio, and the nation, all the better.

Being a career-technical school administrator for 25 years now, I've helped develop training programs which influence so many students' lives and careers, as a 16-year supervisor (assistant principal) and now as a superintendent. Although it was grueling work, we led a successful bond levy in 2009 to completely renovate and expand our school, which serves 13 area high schools in all or parts of, four counties. The new facility is approaching three years old, and it's been a valuable asset to our community. It feels good!

The concept of blogging is to be brief, yet casual in writing style. Casual writing is difficult for me as a former business education teacher, who loved teaching business writing and technical report writing, among other office skills. My goal is always to write shorter and more frequent blogs, easily read, including pictures of students or life at our school. I'm building a file of "blog pics" and have a handwritten pile of "blog topics" under my keyboard, to help me blog quickly and often. It's the pace of my sup't life that kills my blogging efforts--most of the time.

Once again, a "too long" blog--but, Today Matters. Make it great!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Big News! Ohio's 2016 State School Board Association

Local Board of Ed Member, Eric Germann, who is one of our 11 Vantage Career Center Board members, represents his Lincolnview local school district, here in Van Wert county. Unlike associate K-12 districts in Ohio, our career center Boards of Education are much larger, often 9 to 20+ members, representing each associate school district and sometimes Educational Service Centers in the career center's district.

Mr. Germann will be the new 2016 OSBA (Ohio School Board Association) President! His term starts on January 1, and he's had a busy year being President-Elect to this outstanding association.

Mr. Germann and the OSBA "media entourage" will be here any minute to do a local photo shoot in some of our career technical labs and industry shops, posing with students in their daily life. Afterward, they will drive the short distance to Lincolnview's school district, where he has served on his local school board as President for the past four years. JOURNAL, the OSBA's monthly magazine publication, will feature a news story on Mr. Germann, complete with some photos with our students, in a future publication.

We look forward to being part of the local reception later in January, when he is officially installed as our state school boards' association President. Good luck and CONGRATULATIONS, Mr. Germann! I know he will lead Ohio well in this important position. 

Some "sneak peek" photos of today's shoot, with permission from OSBA's photographer, Gary Motz. 

Today Matters.

Pictured is student Liz Lammers, Lincolnview, in her Medical Office Management class with Mr. Germann and Gary Motz, the OSBA photographer. Select photos from today will be featured in February 2016, in the Journal, Ohio School Board's monthly magazine! 

Friday, October 23, 2015

St. Henry 7th Graders Visiting our Solar Array!

It's a big day today, as it's the first official field trip today from another school to learn about our solar array. St. Henry Local Schools' 7th graders (67 of them!), from Mercer county, Ohio, will be touring the utility-scale wind farms in Van Wert county, which surround our Vantage Career Center. Their teacher has also scheduled a tour of our solar array, where her science students will learn why we put in solar power and how it works.

Our Electricity trades instructor, Mel White, will get into the finer details of how the solar power is inverted and brought into the school. I will discuss the reasons we chose to add a solar array--largely adding an alternative energy curricular area for all of our career-technical students to learn about via our science courses. And our Electricity students learn about solar power more in depth from Mr. White.

Why am I excited about today's visitors? Because it only makes sense that our school serves more people of all ages, to give more information on alternative energy. We have a beautiful new school, co-funded by the Ohio School Facilities Commission, completed in January, 2013. The solar array was not part of the project, but a separate initiative driven by me, because it made sense. The multi-million dollar, 1 megawatt array can provide 80% of our building's power, given peak generation, peak use in a day. We don't store any of the power, but utilize all solar power first, then our meter converts to utility electric power to complete our need. The district simply agreed to buy the solar power generated for 25 years, and leased our land for the array to occupy.

I love it when a plan comes together! It was worth the effort.
Below, students see a You Tube video about how solar energy is produced. And Electricity instructor Mr. White, a residential electrician, shows the 7th graders the huge diameter of the power "cord" which runs from the solar field several hundred feet underground to the school building.

TODAY MATTERS. Give it your best.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tech Time Out Day--Oct. 21!

Our Vantage Career Center's Network Systems program in Van Wert, Ohio, teaches students how to network computers and devices, trouble shoot problems, and introduces some robotic programming and video game programming, among other skills. Our students and teacher have challenged the rest of the staff to do as they will do tomorrow, on Tech Time Out Day. (Therefore I am blogging TODAY!)

Our Network Systems students and teacher will travel back to the 1985, not using any technology which didn't exist then. October 21 is the same day that Marty McFly and Doc. Brown travelled into the future. Our students will experience taking a break from computers, cell phones and the Internet.

Can you do it? I'm certain the responsibilities in my superintendent's office will not be able to wait for a day--but who knows? We communicate so much via email and texting, that I will feel terribly irresponsible if I participate. Hopefully we will have several students and staff other than Network Systems, which is taught by Larry Regedanz, attempt to live in 1985's tech world for a day.

The official Tech Time Out website is:

It will be good for our students to experience the "limited" world their parents and grandparents found to be "high tech" in 1985. I remember teaching in a word processing lab in 1985 with 7 inch floppy disks and a slow DOS operating system. The "computer" certainly couldn't do anything else without that floppy disk. Manual and electric typewriters were still present in the typing lab where I also taught business education skills to my college students.

The world has changed for the better! (Or has it?)

Today Matters. Let's use it well.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

100 posts!

I see as of my last blog, that I've made 100 posts to my Today Matters blog, since I started it a few years ago. Given my sporadic track record of blogging, I think that's an accomplishment worth noting.

Today's blog is about another wonderful group of students at Vantage Career Center. Last week we held our annual induction of students into the National Technical Honor Society chapter at our career center. Twenty-four students who excel in grades and attendance, and other leadership activity, now are members. Their parents and associate high school principals and a superintendent or two, were in the audience to honor them, along with several of our teachers and administrators.

It's events like this that fill a superintendent's heart with pride--for students, their school district's parents and staff, who help make your school such a great place to be. While the honor society induction only affected 24 of our nearly 200 seniors, it sets the bar for other student accomplishments this year and in the future. The seven attributes of Skill, Honesty, Service, Responsibility, Scholarship, Citizenship, and Leadership will be demonstrated by these 24 students this year.

Congratulations to these hard-working young people for earning their place in a national organization known for membership by school districts' best students. #IamCareerTech  @VantageSupt #GetTheEdge

Today Matters.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Too Many Good Things to Blog About!

It's Friday of another school week again, and I haven't been able to blog. Vantage Career Center has too many good things happening for me not to give our students and staff a pat on the back and a big shout out!

Two recent great accomplishments: Vantage students and staff are vital volunteers on the Van Wert County Day of Caring (United Way). The last Friday of September annually is the Day of Caring in Van Wert and once again our school stepped up. We held a food drive to collect canned goods for the Salvation Army food bank, (3000+ items and collected enough cash to purchase another 3000+ canned items for the food pantry. Several of our students provide the muscle loading and unloading the food trucks which collect food from all over town. And our Student Ambassadors pitch in and sort, stack, and count all the food items during the day at the Salvation Army.

The American Red Cross holds a blood drive in Van Wert, where our Health Technology students assist, our culinary arts students prepare lots of soup for the donors and Red Cross workers, and many of our students experience donating blood for the very first time. We are so pleased to encourage and provide community service opportunities for our young adults. I firmly believe it makes an impression on them and that later in life, they will continue to volunteer and perhaps raise their own children to follow suit.

I can't resist noting that our students and staff gave 23% of the total collection at the blood drive, and our food drive contributed to 17% of the total food gathered on the Day of Caring. Great job, staff and students!

It's the little things that make a big difference. Today Matters.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Constitution Day Recognized by Student Video Project

It's another great day to be at school! One of our social studies teachers, Mr. Tony Unverferth, sent this student's Constitution Day video out to staff today. The video will be shown both in the morning before school and during lunch periods on Sept. 17, while students are in our commons/cafeteria area. Marcy Shoppell, a Culinary Arts student at Vantage, is from Lincolnview Local Schools, and is a senior this year. Great work, Marcy! It's a great five-minute summary of our nation's Constitution and its origin.

Today Matters! Give it all you've got!
PS:  I did this WITHOUT technical assistance!  LOL

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

4.0 or 4.5?

I knew once I got there that I would be OK. Where was I going? The YMCA at 5 a.m. on the first day of school. Early morning is the only time I can count on without interruption (with the exception of our northwest Ohio winter storms which start the calamity day cell phone conversations before 5:30 a.m. and certainly before 5:45 a.m.).

What does 4.0 or 4.5 have to do with it? You guessed it--mph on the treadmill. I knew 4.0 would be comfortable, and that thought got me out of bed and driving across town to the Y in the dark. I would just take it easy, I told myself. It was appealing. I could do that. No sweat! (Pun intended).

But once I got there, I couldn't do "comfortable". I had to push myself--and I knew I would. I started at 4.0, but rapidly keyed in 4.5 and then went 4.6 because "it's only another .1". My entire run was 4.6 - 4.8, and I arrived at school energized for the first day of classes. The next Monday morning I was back at the YMCA at 5 a.m. and logged 3 miles at a minimum of 4.8, with intervals of 1-2 minutes at 5.2 and 5.5.

And do you know what? I could do it! I felt good BECAUSE I pushed myself to do more than I thought I could ( and more than I felt like doing). I hope all of our students this year will push themselves to do more than they think they can. Everyone should have a feeling of success from meeting a personal goal. And I hope our students keep pushing throughout their careers. And tomorrow morning I will again say to myself, "Once you get there, you will be OK." Today Matters. Don't let it get away from you.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Teacher Burn Out

It's the first day of school at Vantage Career Center, so why would I be writing about teacher burnout?

Check out the blog post, The Answer Sheet, by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post, for some inspiring thoughts from Angie Miller, 2011 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, a TED speaker, and a National Geographic Teacher Fellow. Strauss' blog, The Answer Sheet, features education topics--"what's important and sometimes what's not", as she describes herself in her Twitter biography.

This article resonated with me, ESPECIALLY since it's the first day of school! Being a former teacher, and a working mother, I immediately identified with Angie Miller's article, featured in Valerie's blog. Read it, you'll enjoy it if you're a teacher.

It reminds us why we do what we do every day in education. Whether you are a teacher or an administrator, you will be inspired, and perhaps have renewed purpose, as you tackle the work ahead of you this school year. Everyone who works in any occupation, can identify with Angie's thoughts.

Valerie Strauss also mentions David Whyte and his book "Consolations". I copied a quote of his for my bulletin board:  Work, among all its abstracts, is actually intimacy, the place where the self meets the world. . .it is the inside made into the outside. . .we stay alive and our work stays alive." The meaning in his words (for me) is: "Take care of yourself and you do your best work--for you and for others."  Today Matters. Use it wisely.

As an avid "list maker", I found Angie's words refreshing:  "I need to remember this list is here because it is who I am"!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Our Technology Staff is Fabulous!

Once again, our technology crew has helped me. The fact that I need help with technology is not something I like to advertise. But accessing my blog has been difficult, mostly due to creating the template years ago before blogging caught on, and having to access another Google email account to blog. It's been clumsy at best. Our techies stopped by with a quick and logical solution--I wonder why I didn't think of it myself.

Long story short, my weekly blog WILL appear weekly, and perhaps even a few times per week. More often than not, difficulty accessing my blog, and having little time (and patience) to deal with the problem, caused me to abort the mission. Too many other fish to fry in any given day as superintendent.

Vantage Career Center added a third technology-related position last year, and we have been very pleased. Former English teacher Mary Ann Falk transferred to the new role of Technology Integration Specialist/Curriculum Coordinator. She has fantastic skills, stemming from her use of technology as a classroom teacher, and her appreciation of and interest in its value for all audiences we serve, We now employ her to help all of our staff, administration and support staff included, to work more efficiently by using technology. She has also begun to network with other school districts to share both what Vantage is doing with technology, and what may be possible for them in their own districts.

Technology Support Specialist Luke Compton has been a wonderful addition to our staff two years ago. He assists our Technology Coordinator Stacie Leiter in keeping our staff and students' use of technology possible. Our staff of two maintains almost 700 computers, chrome books, hand held devices, stationery computer labs, and more. I don't know what we would do without them! If there isn't a national day recognizing "Technology Enthusiasts", we need one. Move over, national Cookie Day!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Scheduling = Sanity?

What a title! It's Monday morning and after difficulties accessing (and finding) my blog, I'm back at it! The thought that popped into my head as I thought about what to write was two-fold: how many short relaxing things I did over the summer with family and friends and meeting some personal goals (first 8K), and how, if I hadn't planned and scheduled many of those things, I wouldn't have done them! As school starts next week, it seems summer is gone too fast once again.

Taking care of self so you can take care of others, helps me meet my obligations in  my hectic superintendent life. "Make time for yourself". It's one of the items I remember clearly from our Ohio Buckeye Association of School Administrators' seminar for new superintendents in 2007. I won't say I'm good at it, but as I start my ninth year at Vantage Career Center, my first superintendency, I have learned the value of "down time".

Tired after a long day, followed by an evening event or meeting? I got into the habit of microwave popcorn for dinner. Or a bowl of cereal. Worse yet, a handful of chocolates and a glass of milk--all while reading and answering work emails, thinking I was getting ahead on the next day. Long term bad habits caused really low iron counts and zapped energy. Not to mention being too tired to exercise or relax to rejuvenate the body and soul.

Scheduling time for myself to do little things--cook, exercise, prepare more nutritious packed lunches, or simply to read the newspaper-- allowed me to better keep up with the pace at work. Scheduling came into play again, during the work day. Not packing appointments back to back, often followed or preceded by meetings, whether on-campus or off, helped immensely. I had time to think ad plan. By controlling how I spent my time, I got more done!

My father reinforced two things as I was growing up--perseverance and time management. He was right--I'll admit my perseverance level probably caused poor time management issues, as I didn't know when to quit. I've loved working in education, and I still throw myself into each day, totally immersed. After taking time to analyze where my time was going, I could fit in things that I enjoyed. It made a difference in how I approached not just Monday  mornings, but every day.

Do something for yourself today. Scheduling does = Sanity. Today Matters.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Superintendent

"Just another day" I told myself as I left the office much later than expected once again. I had literally bounced into work that same day, hopeful and feeling great that so many things were falling into place in preparation for the new school year. But I left the office feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, as only other school superintendents can fully understand.

Yes, it's July 23 and as of today our district is searching for two full-time instructors as well as a part-time cashier/cafeteria employee. We've had a "hiring season", replacing seven positions, most largely unexpected. Our district is certainly not facing the exodus of teachers and staff in the numbers which other districts have mentioned. But years ago I would have seen this late hiring scenario rarely.

Finding quality teachers is not necessarily more difficult, although today's college students have many options for careers which require less licensure and no complex evaluation procedures, and which offer more salary. Replacing career technical education (CTE) teachers brings with it some excitement, in anticipation of improvements that only a new teacher can bring, based on their unique work experience and enthusiasm. It also brings much stress, as I know how important the job is and the special qualities good teachers need to possess, in order to succeed and have a "win-win" for the teacher, students, and ultimately, our district.

And so I reminded myself, on the way home that day last week, it's "just another day in the life". It's what I signed up for. It's what I know is always possible in an administrator's day. It's what I've experienced, and dealt with, in the past. And Murphy's Law continues to prove true. The similarities in a school administrator's day to a game of Whack a Mole are not so far fetched. When it rains it pours.

I'm thankful for resilience. And determination. And a talented administrative staff to assist. And I'm thankful for the opportunity to lead--I wouldn't have it any other way. Today Matters.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Dust Settles. . .

The long haul to hire a new treasurer is almost over. The past three months have been filled with special Board meetings for planning the search and interviewing. Our regular February Board of Ed meeting is this evening, where formal action is slated to employ a new treasurer, effective March 1. To say it's been easy would be a lie.

Complicating life in the superintendent's office has been the search for a new secretary to the supt. "When it rains, it pours" proved true once again. Miriam Owens joined the district office staff as my secretary/administrative assistant in early January, after completing the interview process in December. Welcome, Miriam!

While it may seem that we've been spinning our wheels in the superintendent's office by working on these two important employment decisions, I've also kept up to date on several legislative items and related meetings. Ohio's new state budget proposal was released by Governor Kasich early this week, so "the rain continues to pour" with pertinent, sometimes urgent, work to do as we try to shape Ohio's legislation with valuable input from the education field. I'll be meeting with Senate President Keith Faber and his staff, along with Ohio Dept of Ed representatives, in the coming weeks to discuss career technical issues with the Resident Educator program (RESA) and Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES). Our staff will provide authentic feedback from the field, which we will use to impact legislation for the better--at least that's our goal. Apollo Career Center, in Lima, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center in Bellefontaine, and Vantage CC here in Van Wert, appreciate the invitation to sit down with our state leaders to make improvements.

If it seems like "wheel spinning" these past months, I need only look back to my personal goal which I set in January, 2013, to see more visible progress. Thirteen months ago I committed to healthier, clean eating diet with almost daily exercise, and lost 25 lbs. in five months. I achieved my goal of reducing my cholesterol level without taking statins, Now one year later, I've maintained my weight and learned that I CAN eat cookies again--I just need to exercise and eat clean most of the week.

My new goal is running long distances--I'm up to five miles, and am hoping to make it to 10 or 13 miles later this spring. Time will tell--apparently the dust is NOT settling in my life after all.