Journey of a Superintendent: A Special Thank You to Teachers

Dr. Cynthia Lane, Superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools

Every now and again, I find myself looking back, and thinking about the different directions my life could have taken. When I do, at those points where I found my life at a crossroads, there was always someone there to gently nudge me in the right direction, to calm my fears, and to inspire me to reach beyond what I could see. And inevitably, that “someone” was a teacher.

I’m writing this on National Teacher Appreciation Day, and I want our teachers to know that today, and every day, that you are at the heart of what gives my work meaning. Your passion, your hard work, your dedication, and your belief in our children are the foundations upon which our success is built. Yes, it takes the hard work of an enormous number of people to make this district function, but at the core, all of the rest of us depend upon you, our teachers, for our success.

On behalf of the Board of Education, the more than 3,000 employees of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, and our community, I want to say “Thank you!” from the bottom of my heart. Please know that today and every day, I appreciate the work that you do, and the difference that you make in the lives of our students.

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9 Responses to Journey of a Superintendent: A Special Thank You to Teachers

  1. HCPSCIENCE says:

    You say that teachers are the priority. Smaller class size is important. And yet, I have heard that you are placing two teacher leaders in each building with an additional position of assessment manager. I believe the need for an assessment manager means my child is tested too often. Second, the way I understand, these teacher leaders don’t take any of the numbers burden off the classroom, they simply tell the teacher what needs to be done. Scores would soar if these two teachers had full classes, shrinking the class sizes of all. My child spent time is classes of 34-35 students, and extra adults would come in and take notes but never any students to teach, leaving huge numbers for one teacher while another adult walks away from what I see as the major problem. Having all the advise in the world will not give the teacher time to reach 35 kids in a class period. This district has always been top heavy, and it continues in the same direction. Class size should not be allowed past 23 students. If more more money is needed take away the excessive testing freeing up the assessment manager funds and let the principals and vice principals be the advisors freeing up two more teachers, for a total of three new teachers per building. Want to be top ten, start thinking like top ten schools, put the money where there kids see it every day!

  2. sue says:

    I agree that small class size is important. I would however, like to point out some incorrect points in your response. All schools are not adding an additional teacher leader. Some of the largest may be, but not all. The assessment manager position is not new. Assessment managers have been in the schools this year. The elementary schools all share a manager. These positions are classified and not certified teacher positions. The assessment managers take a large load off of the principals, teachers, and teacher leaders by taking charge of administering the required testing as well as compiling and organizing data to give to teachers so that they can adjust their instruction and reteach material to students. Teacher leaders act as coaches for teachers. Compare it to professional athletes. They are supposedly the best of the best. Yet, how many coaches do you see working with them? You wouldn’t say “Let’s do away with all coaches and put them on the team so that we have more players.” Teachers need and want coaching and constant feedback to improve their craft to better serve their students. Kansas City Kansas is on the way to being one of the top ten school districts. When you see this year’s assessment results you will see that our urban kids are scoring closer and closer to our suburban counterparts. While Dr. Lane’s bold vision and no excuses attitude might not be popular with all, it is making a huge difference in the lives of our children.

    • TL says:

      I appreciate your analogy of the coach and athletes. Well stated:)

    • tchnkck says:

      Perhaps one caveat to the coach/TL/ teacher relationship is the understanding of what a coach does. If teachers are confident in what they do, are learners seeking to improve their craft as professionals, and embrace collegiality, then a trusting and productive relationship can develop.
      There are teachers who believe that the TL job is to relieve them of their difficult or hard-to-teach students.
      Student achievement is based on many criteria, the most significant is an effective teacher. I believe Dr. Lane is focused on giving teachers the tools they need to be effective, opportunities to determine student learning, (CPs); TLs who are freed up to be in classrooms, brainstorm, and support; a structured GVC that takes the guesswork and whim out of what or how to teach; and finally, the belief in our learners and the capacity of our staff.
      I hope the 2011-12 school year will be energized by cohesive efforts and positive attitudes that seek understanding and trust in our leaders and the abilities of our students.

    • 11yrsstrong says:

      Excellent analogy and clarification. I do believe, however, we should be careful not to overemphasize or rely on assessment results when comparing students in KCK to other districts. Yes, our kids are making huge gains and I do not want to negate their progress, but it is essential we “assess” the whole child when determining where they stand academically. Our students need more enriching experiences than teach-test (CP’s) which “appears” to have been the case in at least some of the elementary buildings. Nothing can replace real life experiences and we must find a way to increase these type of opportunities.

  3. Concerned says:

    Not sure I would agree that the Assessment Manager is useful. I have yet to be given useful data from my AM, which was last given to me before Thanksgiving. If you are paying 30,000 for someone to talk to friends and worry about a laptop cart, then you are getting what you have paid for. If you are paying to get data to help the teachers, well you might want to think about that again. I can get the data on my own, and do. From what I have seen this year AM is a wasted position, I am not being hateful just honest. I think this money could be reused in a better fashion. The testing is overwhelming to all but this position does not aide in making it better, I think time and the data will make the stress go away.
    Now on to TL’s can we work to make sure they are the right person for the right position? I think too many are getting positions as they are part of the “in crowd”. Being nice or friends with the right people does not make one right for the job, one is right for a TL positon when one can show others they are making gains with their students and helping them rise to the top.
    I think KCK needs to listen to teachers – for real!!!! Not a survey that is manipulated, but real listening. Ask teachers how the TL’s, AM’s, ENI, Curriculum leaders has helped them be better teachers, if they have not then maybe something is not right. You can’t be a top 10 district if you make all your teachers upset all the time and don’t validate them. While your blog post was sweet, do the teachers really believe it? I hate to say it but no, this year I have seen more unhappy teachers than ever before.

    • tchnkck says:

      This may not be a popular thing to say, but our job is not to make teachers happy; our work is to serve the students in KCK and provide the best possible learning opportunities.

    • 11yrsstrong says:

      It is unfortunate you have had negative experiences with these positions. We have to remember there are inadequate people in all careers at all levels of employment. I sympathize with your frustration; it sounds like you are competent in your work and expect the same from others. I know TL’s who were not placed in that position because they were part of the “in crowd”. Also, whether or not an AM is needed may vary, depending on the size of the population being tested and amount of resources (laptops, computer labs). I hope this year provides a better experience for you and the teachers in your building. Yes, there were many unhappy teachers this past year which was expected in the first year of second order changes. I agree with tchnkck, however, it is helpful to take the necessary steps of dealing with humans when making such dramatic changes (The Human Side of School Change by Robert Evans supplies a very thorough explanation on the topic).

  4. NOT VERY COMFORTABLE says:

    I agree so many unhappy and some leaving,listen to teachers not those that aren’t hands on dealing and interacting with the kids daily,not sitting behind a desk

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