Archive for the ‘President's Blog’ Category

Looking To the Future

April 20, 2011

As we come to the close of this school year, I find myself reflecting back on what the PPEA represents and has become over the years.  This past January I informed the Executive Committee that I am looking to my future and am going to start a M.Ed.  in Education Technology and will not run for any PPEA office in the spring election.  I am a strong advocate for the 21st Century Skills and believe that furthering my education in that area is the next course for me.

As I draw to the end of this term as President of the PPEA, I am proud of the problem-solving approach the Education Association, Administration, and Board of Education has built through the years.  I have been blessed to see a team effort to run a district that mosts districts do not see.  I have seen the Education Association work with the Administration to provide professional development that will provide 21st Century Skills for students and prepare them for Career and College Readiness.  I have seen members give from their hearts to make sure that Pleasant Plains School District provides a quality education for the students.

I look to the future of Pleasant Plains School District and see that the District is ahead of most other schools because each part of the District team (PPEA, Administrators, Board of Education) has been planning for the future of the District.  The District was able to save money to make necessary renovations that are occurring now.  The District has incorporated PBIS and RtI both at more fully developed levels than most other schools.  While we have some kinks to work out, problem-solving discussions are occurring that will enable the District to fine tune the process.  Professional development by both the District and the PPEA in areas of Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships; differentiated instruction; building Personal Learning Networks; and integrating technology as a tool in education have made the transition to Common Core Standards “no big deal.”

We can all agree that Change tends to freak people out.  Change is abrupt.  Change meets with resistance.  However, I am a firm believer that if the District Team continues to plan for the future, we will avoid Change and instead naturally Transition into what we need be or do.  I encourage all parts of the District Team (Teachers, Administration, Board Members) to be Lifelong Learners: to continue to learn not only what’s new, but to adapt the old and transition it into the new to make Education better for students.

As a new President is elected, I will be there to transition the President into the Executive Committee.  I can only hope that the new President can gain the sense of pride that I feel for our members when I hear of all of the great things happening in the classrooms.  I thank all of you for demonstrating that the Pleasant Plains Education Association is more than an entity looking out for the well-being of the teachers – the Pleasant Plains Education Association is, in fact, a professional Education association.  The Cardinal Code in our schools (Respect, Responsibility, and Integrity) is proudly exemplified in the PPEA and must continue for our students to be successful in the future.

I look to a future where we continue to strive for the best in students.  I look to a future where we continue to challenge students.  I look to a future where PPEA continues to make a positive difference.

John Langley
Pleasant Plains Education Association President

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Pleasant Plains School Board Candidate Public Forum

March 18, 2011
Will you be voting in the upcoming Pleasant Plains School Board Election? Come get the facts!The Pleasant Plains Education Association is sponsoring a public forum for all School Board candidates. A PPEA moderator will guide questions relating to candidates’ background, experience, and philosophies regarding education. A short follow up question-and-answer session will follow.

Candidate Forum March 23, 2011
Public Forum Flyer

It is Time

February 21, 2011

As I sit here reading the news as I do most nights before I turn in, I see articles on Palestinians protesting, Japanese activists protesting, Yemeni students protesting, and, of course, the Wisconsin public protesting.  That’s right – protests in the United States – where the public is protesting because some of our political leaders are behaving like dictators instead of working with representatives of the public to problem-solve issues.

While I have been identified as an eternal optimist and a problem-solver, I can honestly say that I am becoming disillusioned with our political leaders.  I find that too often those leaders are guided by persons or organizations that show them the money instead of accepting guidance and problem solving with the experts in the pertaining fields.

As a teacher, I am committed to making a positive difference in the lives of my students by preparing them for both college and/or future employment.  As an educator, I am committed to keeping up with emerging technologies because I know that students today are technology-based learners who do not learn the same way I was taught.  As President of the Pleasant Plains Education Association, I am committed to helping the teachers in my district keep up with the evolving learning standards of the State of Illinois.

As a citizen of the United States, I am committed to make my voice heard so that my legislators can represent me accurately.  I do not think public employees are told often enough how much they are appreciated.  As an educator, I hear complaints about education and teachers more than I hear someone giving kudos.  It is an undisputable fact that a happy employee, one who is given praise when praise is due, will perform better than an employee who does not receive praise.  Putting public employees in a position of blame for funding issues has created negativity towards public employees and has placed public employees on the defensive.

Because public education is funded by the government, educators are forced to get by on whatever the government allocates for education.  Some districts, like Pleasant Plains, wisely began looking ahead to the future and tried to plan for upcoming costs.  While this planning was a great start, the loss of State funding for public education has placed Pleasant Plains, as well as several other school districts, in a position that over time may adversely affect students.

When I see that 65,000 public employees are protesting at the capitol building in Wisconsin, part of me is excited that the American public is making its voice heard.  However, another part of me is saddened that 65,000 Americans feel that their government is not fairly representing them.  To see that union leaders in Wisconsin have agreed to increased health insurance and pension contributions if collective bargaining rights are not stripped, while the Wisconsin governor appears unwilling to compromise, utterly confuses me.  The government’s position has been about cutting costs, but a clause in the bill that attacks collective bargaining rights of public employees does not send the message that saving money is the real agenda – especially if the governor will not work with union leaders to problem-solve the issues.

I then look to Illinois where some legislators are making public employees the scapegoats for several years of inefficient management of the State’s funds.  Outside organizations funded by corporate entities are lobbying legislators to “reform” education.  While these outside organizations may have good intentions, the experts in the field are the right people to ask for advice in keeping up with the evolution of education.  Undermining the Education Associations makes no sense when those Associations are striving to work with legislators to improve public education.

It is clearly time for bi-partisan political bickering to come to an end.  This is an American issue, not a Republican issue, not a Democrat issue, not a union issue.  Properly funding public education while giving respect to public employees is the ethical responsibility of the government.

I am not so naïve to think that this is an easy task, but as an American citizen, I expect to be fairly represented.  I ask that legislators work with the unions and education associations to problem-solve the most fair resolution to the issues.  I ask of all that an end come to the “us versus them” mentality.  The political games are creating a lack of trust in all sides.  It is time.  It is time to work together to end the bickering, to work together to problem-solve the issues.

I am proud of the educators, administration and School Board in my district.  I am proud to see them work together to problem-solve issues, to strive for the best we can under the conditions we are provided.  I see innovative lessons being taught – educators and administrators working together to find ways to keep up with the learning styles of today’s students.  I see innovative professional development ideas.  I see the administrators, the School Board, and the Education Association working together to problem-solve the issues presented to the district in order to best provide for the education of students while maintaining respect for the district employees.  I see a school district that strives to better its students and a community that supports its school district.

While I have had moments the last few weeks of feeling disillusioned, I will remain the optimist.  I will continue to make my voice heard.  I will continue to believe that the voices of the public make a difference.  It is time to work together instead of against each other.

John Langley

President

Pleasant Plains Education Association

Changing Education Paradigms

December 2, 2010

Changing Education Paradigms – talk by Sir Ken Robinson.  Interesting challenge to “we do it that way because it’s always been done that way.”  Leave comments.

American Education Week, Professional Development, and Your PLN

November 14, 2010

This week is American Education Week (November 14-November 20).  Thank you to all Educators who do their best to be the best for our students!

Just as recently as a couple of years ago, Professional Development used to mean going somewhere else to attend a conference.  The teacher(s) and/or administrator(s) who attended the conference would then pass on the knowledge and ideas gained to the rest of the staff.  Professional Development may now be attained without leaving our building.

Online conferences are available for a variety of educational topics.  Several online conferences are a fraction of the price of attending an “away” conference.  A multitude of online conferences are available for free and may either be attended live or viewed as a recording afterward.  Classroom 2.0 and The Educator’s PLN are excellent organizations to join to stay in touch with the freshest ideas in education in the United States and around the world.  I am amazed that I am able to sit in on an online session with the greats of education – not as a zombie at a table in a hotel banquet room, but as an active participant.

Professional Development has shifted.  It’s time that we shift with it.  Check for online sessions on 21st Century Skills, Core Standards, RtI, PBIS.  Talk to administrators about attending online workshops and conferences.  View recordings of workshops at faculty meetings.  Get in the habit of sharing your ideas with your colleagues.  Give each other choices.  There often is no perfect “right way” in education, but choices often give educators bits and pieces of inspiration to formulate plans that work in their individual classroom.

In addition to talking to the teachers you work with (your close Personal Learning Network), join PLN’s for educators.  The best place to start is by joining Classroom 2.0 and The Educator’s PLN.  Talk to your colleagues about sitting in on an online session with you or view the archived presentations of past sessions at your leisure.

Thanks to Steve Hargadon, I received the following notice of the 2010 Global Education Conference.

 

The free, all-online 2010 Global Education Conference takes place this coming week, November 15 – 19, 2010!

We currently have 397 sessions from 62 countries scheduled, as well as 63 keynote speakers–an amazing lineup.  Please take a look at all that is taking place:  http://www.GlobalEducationConference.com.

The conference is a collaborative and world-wide community effort to significantly increase opportunities for globally-connecting education activities. Our goal is to help you make connections with other educators and students, and for this reason the conference is very inclusive and also provides broad opportunities for participating and presenting. While we have an amazing list of expert presenters and keynote speakers, we will also have some number of presenters who either have not presented before or have not presented in Elluminate–please come to encourage and support them, as they are likely to be a little nervous!

There is no formal registration required for the conference, as all the sessions will be open and public, broadcast live using the Elluminate platform, and available in recorded formats afterwards. There is a limit of 500 live attendees for any given session. To verify that your computer system is configured correctly to access Elluminate, please run the self-test at http://www.elluminate.com/support.

Please tell your friends and colleagues about this event, and watch for the Twitter hashtag #globaled10.  See you online!

Steve
Steve Hargadon
Conference Co-Chair
steve@hargadon.com
www.stevehargadon.com

Visit Classroom 2.0 at: http://www.classroom20.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network

As always, the most important thing we can do as educators is to be the best we can be for our students.

1 % Sales Tax (Plain and Simple)

October 27, 2010

Sangamon County Sales Tax

Two questions are to be answered .  The sales tax will help ALL of the 16 schools in Sangamon County.  This is the proposal for a 1% sales tax.

Here are details:

  • The sales tax will NOT be applied to:

groceries
prescription drugs or OTC drugs
titled vehicles
mobile homes
farm equipment and inputs.

  • The money can ONLY be used for school facility upgrades, buildings and/or paying down bond debt (which means districts could slow down our property tax increases ).  The money cannot be used for salaries or programs.
  • PPCUSD8 could receive approximately $900,000 annually for facilities
  • The revenue will fund the renovations and expansions at the high school
  • Phase 1 high school renovations begin in 2011 (regardless of the Sales Tax outcome)
  • Additional revenue will be used to retire existing debt and update current facilities

There are two questions on the ballot regarding the referendum:

  1. The first asks to approve the 1%.
  2. The second question asks: If the first question passes, should the County Board consider other needs of the county prior to implementing the 1% tax.
    • This question has caused controversy as the County Board already has the right to implement the full 1% or a portion of it.  The way the question is worded sounds as if the County Board could take part of the 1% and apply it to such things as the police, etc.  The County Board cannot do so.

For further information regarding the 1% Sales Tax please visit A Better Way to Fund

Pleasant Plains Schools Need Your Help

October 7, 2010

The Sangamon County Sales Tax for Education:

This short video explains the proposed Sangamon County Sales Tax, including what is and is not taxable as well as how the revenue may be used for schools.

Preparing Students for the “Real World”: Social Networking and 21st Century Skills

August 28, 2010

Wow!  I just found out this past week that the grant my school receives that covers the funding for the T1 line mandates that Social Networking sites are blocked.  With 21st century skills emphasizing collaboration, communication, technology literacy, and social skills, you can imagine my, as well as my administrators’, surprise.  Educators are responsible for preparing our students for the future – whether it be the business world or the next level of education.  The discussion of how to catch up with technology and with the business world is, and will, continue to be ongoing.  Obviously, until the issues of education funding is resolved and education is given the attention needed to prepare students (not just adequately prepare, but fully prepare) for life, educators will continue to improvise and “get by.”

While there are several alternatives to Social Networking sites (Edmodo, Twiducate, etc.), these are often reduced or “dumbed down” versions of the actual Social Network sites.  It appears that the impetus that drives blocks on Social Networks is both Fear and Ignorance.

Fear historically causes people to lash out at things that they do not understand.  I understand that there is fear of lawsuits for students bullying, intimidating, and disrespecting others.  I understand that there is fear of inappropriate social connections between adults and children.  At the same time, I also believe that it is the responsibility of educators to teach Social Networking skills and etiquette (netiquette) to students so they know how to use those tools appropriately.  Betty Ray makes that point apparent in her blog Making the Case for Social Media in Education.  She emphasizes that educators must model appropriate behavior regarding Social Networking:

“It is quickly becoming our duty as educators in the 21st century to guide our students towards responsible use of social media. We teach sex ed, we teach healthy living, we teach about drugs, we teach character ed., and on and on. We do these things each and every day, yet we are ignoring the aspect of our students’ lives that is larger than all of these things (and completely interconnected with them as well). It is our duty to our students to start modeling responsible use of social media and encouraging them to follow our lead. We can no longer afford the veil.”

People who are not taught Social Networking etiquette run the risk of making the mistakes that we often hear of in the news.  People do not consider that information (text, photos, videos) posted online shape the impression others have of them.  By teaching netiquette in elementary schools (and reinforcing netiquette values throughout the educational system) as soon as students begin using computers and the internet, Integrity will be instilled.

Ignorance (not knowing how Social Networking can be used in the classroom) is a further factor that promotes reluctance to allow Social Networking in the classroom.  My personality demands that there must be a purpose for a tool before I use it in my classroom.  I have found countless ways to utilize Twitter, Facebook, etc. with my students.  As with any classroom tools, expectations/rules must be discussed so students use the tools properly, safely, and respectfully.  My yearbook class has a private Facebook group and a public wiki.  My photography classes have online digital portfolios.  My speech class and English classes have public blogs.  With each of these technology tools, the risk of bullying, harrassment, intimidation, etc. is present.  Students are expected to adhere to Mr. Langley’s Digital Classroom Expectations.  Social Networking expectations would be no different.

Recently, educators collaboratively came up with The 30 Newest Ways To Use Twitter In The Classroom.  I am continuously amazed at the amount of advise and information that I glean from other educators at the #edchat and #edtech Twitter hashtags (the #edtech link goes to a live feed using Tweetgrid).  I have learned, collaborated, exchanged ideas more this past summer using Twitter than I have in any workshop in the past ten years elsewhere.  With that said, I would love to bring that same experience into the classroom with my students.  Again, as educators, we are used to improvising and adapting to create experiences that will emulate the real world.  I challenge educators and legislatures to accept that the time has come that we need to stop shielding our students from the real world – we need to functionally prepare them for the real world with real experiences.

The next real challenge is to educators themselves:  are you teaching students the same way every year?  Are you allowing yourself to become comfortable?  If so, Why? We got into education to make a positive impact on students lives and education.  It is our responsibility to stay up-to-date with not only learning styles of students, but also with the tools of the real world.  It is our responsibility to create a safe learning environment for students by teaching them the proper etiquette/netiquette of new technology/tools available.

With the dilemma that I am currently in, I will concede to adapt and use technology that simulates the “real thing,” but I will also continue to educate educators, administrators, parents, legislatures, etc. about the need to prepare students for the “real world” by using tools that the “real world” is currently using.  I challenge educators, administrators, legislators, and parents to work together to find a realistic solution to prepare students for the real world.

You don’t remove all of the electrical outlets in your house because you are afraid your child will be electrocuted; you instead teach your child about safety regarding electricity and the importance of using electric devices responsibly.  Instead of sheltering our students from “real world” tools, let’s teach our students the responsible, ethical way to use Social Networking and 21st Century Skills so they are truly prepared for the next level of their lives.

Personal Learning Network and 21st Century Skills

July 27, 2010

The 21st Century Skills that educators and students alike should strive for:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information, Communication, and Technology Literacy
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-direction
  • Social and Cross-cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility
  • Global Awareness
  • Financial, Economic, Business, and Entrepreneurial Literacy
  • Civic Literacy
  • Health Literacy
  • Environmental Literacy

The 21st Century Skills require a rethinking of the way we teach.  In order to be prepared for the workforce and/or college, students need a different skills set than what most schools are currently providing.  Society has evolved, and education is evolving with it.  Throughout past year, the concept of digital learners has been a recurring theme in my classroom.  Students not only learn differently than what we did, the professions that they will be in will require most, if not all, of the 21st Century Skills.  Students need to be able to take tools/concepts that they learn and apply them to new situations.  That’s what we as educators need to do to challenge them – present them with situations where they are stretched.  Failure is a result of Trying.  Success is a result of Failing/Trying until you Succeed.

Keeping up on education, your area of expertise, and the 21st Century Skills used to be a challenge.  One of the most important things a teacher can do is start and maintain a Personal Learning Network (PLN).  If you haven’t heard that term yet, you will be inundated with it soon.  Your PLN is your link to information, contacts, a network of global colleagues, etc.

A good start to a PLN is with iGoogle (TeacherTube Video: iGoogle and Building a Personal Learning Network).  Create an iGoogle page and add an education tab, a technology tab, and even curriculum specific labeled tabs.  iGoogle will automatically add popular gadgets to your tabs, and you can add more to personalize it.

After you get your feet wet, a possible next step is to join teacher networks like Classroom 2.0.  There are a plethora of teachers/organizations who are sharing ideas in education and in technology in education.

Finally, join Twitter.  I used to be avidly anti-Twitter . . . until I found out how teachers are using Twitter to exchange ideas, network, and connect.  If you want the latest, greatest info on education, the best source is from the experts in the field.  Twitter is the tool educators are using to do that.  Joe Dale‘s blog Twitter for Teachers has some video clips that make the whole Twitter thing clear.

There are several tools available to manage Twitter so you don’t get overwhelmed and lose yourself in Geekdom for hours on end.  I highly recommend TweetDeck for your pc/mac – very functional desktop to manage your social networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkIn, etc.  I use both TweetDeck and Hootsuite Lite on my iPhone.  While TweetDeck is preferable, Hootsuite allows me to email links to someone I know who doesn’t use Twitter.  Once you get really rolling, you can peruse Top 20 Sites to Improve Your Twitter Experience and Your Favorite Education Twitter Hashtags

Just setting up a Twitter account doesn’t quite get you where you want to be without knowing what to do and who to get information from.  Shelly Terrell put together an amazing training video: How to Build A PLN Using Twitter.

From there, it’s up to you.  Be the model for your students.  Don’t expect them to try anything that you aren’t willing to try yourselves.  Don’t just Talk the Talk – Walk the Walk.  Move into the 21st Century with your students.

District Cuts Announced at March 30 Board Meeting

March 31, 2010

The School Board voted to implement reductions in the two of the three possible reduction categories presented:  Natural Reductions and Management Reductions.  The reductions are as follows:

Natural Reductions

  • School Board Conference and Travel
  • Savings from Previous Year (FY10) Expense – Parking Lot
  • Honorable Dismissal due to Enrollment Drop
  • Honorable Dismissal due to Uncertainty of State Grant
  • Savings due to Retirement – Certified Staff
  • Savings due to Retirement – Educational Support Staff
  • Merge Pre-K routes from 3 to 2
  • Reduction in costs with lowering special education enrollment
  • Reduced costs associated with reduction in Pre-K for All
  • Shifting Costs of Special Education Supplies and Materials to Remaining ARRA Funds (expires June 2011)

Management Strategies

  • Reduce District Travel Costs (car pooling, use district vehicles, restrictions on reimbursement-one supervisor reimbursement)
  • Reduce fuel costs
  • Reduce Capital Outlay Purchases (only purchase needs – hold off until better economic times)
  • Hold off on purchase of new computers
  • Reduce Sub costs as appropriate (schedule training during school improvement days, coverage during secretary absences, extra duty expenses)
  • Do more in-house work (building repair and maintenance)
  • Reduce Advertising Costs
  • Reduce Postage Costs – building and district
  • Reduce Paper Costs – go green
  • Reduce supplies and material costs (building and district level)
  • Reconfigure bus routes with retirements and implement cost saving measures.  Long-term consider K-8 routes – save equipment, fuel costs, etc.  With PBIS should be able to focus on expected bus behavior and include training for bus drivers.
  • Reduce ideling time and reconfigure south campus route assignments
  • Reduce Equipment Costs (delay to better economic times)
  • Delay purchase of new buses by one year
  • Restructure building trades program (2 year)
  • Develop a district wide energy conservation program (turn off lights, keep windows shut with air conditioning and heating system

The two reduction categories combined will reduce district expenses by approximately $745,000.  There is a plan for addressing further reductions if necessary as information regarding the State Budget is available.

The Association, School Board, and Administration all expressed appreciation in the open communication and whole-district effort in solving this predicament placed upon school districts.  The School Board cautioned that money currently held in reserve has been held with the intention of remodeling the dilapidated sections of the high school.  Several members asked questions and commented on various points of the reductions, and all are asked to maintain that open communication by passing on comments and suggestions to Building Liaisons, Administrators, and Board members.

Members are urged to contact the following legislators to ask not only that they solve the budget solution and move toward a realistic means of funding Education, but to also ask these leaders to put an end to bi-partisan politics that are hindering the progress of these solutions.

Here are the addresses for the 4 leaders and the Governor:

Senator John Cullerton
President of the Senate
Room 327 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
217-7828-2728
John@senatorcullerton.com

Senator Christine Radogno
Senate Repbulican Leader
Room 309A State House
Springfield, IL 62706
217-782-9407
mfrank@senategop.state.il.us

Representative Michael Madigan
Speaker of the House
Room 300 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
217-782-5350
(No email available, prefers letters)

Representative Tom Cross
House Republican Leader
Room 316 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
217-782-1331
tom@tomcross.com

The Honorable Pat Quinn
Governor State of Illinois
Room 207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
217-782-6830
pat.quinn@illinois.gov