Tuesday, September 5, 2017

We are Human Systems - Opening message 17.18

Each year since I have become a superintendent (August 2014), the importance of opening day has grown.  This is the one day that I stress about more than anything else throughout the year.  This day  unleashes the energy that feeds the culture and behaviors of the district and sets the stage for the year to come.  

Last year in the opening message I referenced Urban Meyer's book Above the Line and it’s core principle, The R Factor, which is applicable year after year. And yes, even as a Michigan fan, I can bring myself to say that :)

The R factor is  a simple equation that says
ERO.jpg

Before the opening of this year, the administrative team and I had the pleasure of hearing Tim Kight,  the developer of R Factor, again and then completed his train the trainer workshop. During that professional development, Tim said something that really resonated with me and seemed to be the missing puzzle piece to the 2017.18 opening message.  

Tim Kight put what we do as educators into perspective when he said  “We are human systems first and education systems second”.  

So what does that really mean?  Whether you are in Mechanicsburg or any other school district, it means that what we do is not grounded in the words on paper that make up our goals, our vision statements and our core beliefs.  It means that what we do as educators begins with the core beliefs that rest on our hearts.  Let me say that again, what we do as educators begins with the core beliefs we have for our students that rest on our hearts.  

That’s the beauty of R Factor and E+R=O.  This equation is not something new, it’s merely a tool that will help us stay focused on our why, which is what rests on our hearts.    

Mechanicsburg has opened the last few years with a hashtag.  The hashtag is a way for us to consistently keep our priority at the forefront of what we do and allows us to tell our story of education in Mechanicsburg.  If we don’t tell our story, someone else will do it for us.  Don’t leave that to chance!
#KnowOurWhy  

Knowing our why comes right back around to the notion that we do what we do because of the beliefs that rest on our hearts.  

Tim Kight also talked about the notion of the edge, which is where the average version of ourselves, meets the best version of ourselves.  I was really intrigued by the notion of this edge because I wake up each day hoping to bring the best version of myself to this district and to my family.  I wake up each day with the intention to be the best version of myself but that is not always easy.  

Why isn’t it easy?  In order to break through the edge, to be the best versions of ourselves, we must develop skills that we don’t have the talent for.  

The Edge
Lesser Version of You
Average Version of You
tapping into maximizing natural gifts and talents; build skill and talent and then push through the edge.  Can’t negate having to work to your limits.  

Comfort Zone - No Growth
Talent Zone
Best Version of You
Elite” (journey to elite)

This is learned behavior and not attributed to your natural talent

The best version of ourselves takes work beyond our talents and requires 5 important things.   The best version of ourselves requires us to lead with our hearts first rather than rely on talent alone.
Breakthrough happens when we:
  • Embrace productive discomfort,
  • Give relentless effort,
  • Use mistakes as an opportunity to begin again,
  • Defeat Fear, & lastly breakthrough happens when we
  • Believe!  

If those 5 things don’t describe the staff of Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools and educators in general, I don’t know what does.  As educators we are working on the best versions of ourselves every day!

With this opening blog in the books, I am so glad that opening day has come and gone and we can begin this school year together, knowing that student success rests on our hearts.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to read the 2017.18 opening blog.  I look forward to sharing our educational journey with your this year as we #KnowOurWhy.


Yours in Education,

Danielle Prohaska

Danielle Prohaska, Superintendent

Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools

Monday, March 6, 2017

Professional Fuel or Personal Failure??

As the year moves along quickly with or without us, I am trying hard to schedule time to do the things that keep the discussion of education at the top of the list.  It is redundant for me to say that I like to find cross over from personal events to professional learning, but it is what helps me find balance when focusing on priorities.  Over the last few months, I have learned what it means to be a gymnastics mom, as my 7 yrs old Brennan competes for the first time as a gymnast.  Lots of learning curves for both of us in this latest venture but the biggest take away has to be courage.  Courage to have professional/athletic fuel rather than live with personal failure.  

At this point in the season, Brennan has had modest success in his competitions.  Medaling in some events, improving his scores, and working on form.  From earlier blogs, you can deduce that Brennan slowing down enough to work on form is a major accomplishment in itself.  Two weeks ago, Brennan and his coach decided it was time to “go big” and work on some more advanced elements than he hadn’t attempted in the past.  He went big and he went home posting what he coined “not my best day”.  

A week later, Brennan and his team were back in competition, and he was nervous to get back out there and “go big” again.  But that’s when the connection to education was highlighted.  This 7 year old had learned from the failures last weekend, working on his skills at practice, listening to his coaches feedback, and gaining the confidence to try again to show what he could do.  Feeling confident, having professional fuel after learning from those failures paid off!

As leaders, educators, and colleagues, are we encouraging our students, teachers, and administrators to take risks?  Do we have the relationships, trust, and an environment that encourages risk taking in learning?  Are we encouraging students and teachers with feedback that builds their confidence to take risks even after failures?  Are we highlighting the learning potential when we fail and responding with reflection and commitment to professional fuel?  Are we as individuals taking feedback constructively and using it to try again and improve upon our skills?  Do we live by personal failures or professional fuel? Are we truly committed to high expectations for learning, which can only be evident when we continuously seek new and better ways to engage students in the process? What is it worth to you as educators and leaders to take risks, give and get feedback, and build confidence in serving our students at a higher level?  

IMG_1932.JPG

If the smile, posture, and pride of a 7 year old standing atop the podium doesn’t illustrate the power of those qualities, I don’t know what will!

Yours in Education,

Danielle Prohaska, Superintendent
Mechanicsburg Exempted Village SD

Monday, January 30, 2017

Mechanicsburg Measures that Matter

Dear Mechanicsburg Staff, Administration, and Community

Check out our Annual Measures that Matter Report.  Measures that Matter is a reflection of the many lens of data that provide a glimpse into the teaching and learning in Mechanicsburg.  The report highlights the academic, athletic and artistic accomplishments of our students.  Community members can also find important information about finances, safety, and communication within the annual publication.  Mechanicsburg strives to prioritize the learning of all students, which would not be possible without the inclusion of the many areas shared throughout this report.  Many thanks to our teachers, related staff, administration, and community for helping to make all of these things a success.  Mechanicsburg is the "Best Small School in Ohio" because of who we serve!

Sincerely,


Danielle Prohaska, Superintendent
Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Lego Your Ego


I read an excerpt of a resignation letter from a local coach earlier this week.  That letter referenced a decision that required the coach to set ego aside. I began thinking about this statement “set ego aside” and what it meant for leadership in education.

Setting ego aside is not an easy task, and often requires us as leaders to follow in the footsteps of our predecessors.  Why is it hard to follow in those footsteps you ask?  Leaders have an intense desire, all of us, to leave our mark on education.  Our experiences, content knowledge, and desire to serve others, along with our internal drive, push us to lead.  

It is often thought, and mistakenly applied, that the ONLY way to leave our mark on a district or building is to do something NEW.  But contrary to that instinctual desire, a true leader has the courage to come in to a district, building, or classroom and continue to do the things that were already in place and WORKING! Even though the systems and structures may not be “your idea”, laser like focus on what works is the key to successful leadership.  

Set ego aside means the work is not about BEING right.  It is is about DOING what is right.  Doing with is right is always harder.  But leaders are designed and trained to do what is right whether it is popular or not.  Doing what is right is for all those around us, but never for us alone.  

Setting aside your ego in leadership also means that you have the courage and the patience to listen to and learn from those entrenched in the system.  Listening and understanding the emotions tied to each message takes time.  As we know, we often sacrifice time when we listen to our egos.   If you equip yourself with the skills to listen to others, and then balance it with the knowledge to adjust and refine as necessary, you will leave a mark worth appreciating.   

Are you focused on the right work, for the right reasons?  Are you strong enough as a leader to sustain the work of someone else, building upon the successes already in hand?  Are you leading to sustain and improve outcomes or are you leading to make a name for yourself?  Consider your motives when deciding what your leadership focus will entail.  


Be prepared to “Lego your Ego”.

Sincerely,

Danielle Prohaska, Superintendent
Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools

Friday, November 18, 2016

Keep the Rally Rolling

We know in eduction, in parenting, and in life that important messages may be repeated 10-12 times before their are really heard by others. This blog is similar to a call for action earlier in the year, but the importance of this topic reguires a persistent message. Just like telling my 7 year old son Brennan to throw away his wrappers, I anticiapte "nagging" on this topic until Ohio Superintendent's sit alongside our State Board of Education and legislators to discuss education policy.

On Tuesday November 15, 2016, over 200 superintendents, board members, and administration gathered on the south lawn of the Statehouse.  This collective group was not there in protest, spending their time to Blame, Complain, or Defend.  We were present physically and emotionally as a sign of support, pledging our time and collective knowledge to bridge the gap between education policy and its impact on the students and communities in Ohio.  Our voice was one of support, collaboration, and commitment to finding solutions that embody what is best for the students in Ohio.  

5 superintendents from around the state spoke about 3 areas in which we have agreed need our attention and support.  These areas are:
  1. The graduation cliff looming for current juniors around the state as a result of the newly set graduation points on end of course exams.  Though Mechanicsburg numbers are much lower (less than 10% deemed at risk for not meeting graduation points next year), at risk numbers around the state are staggering.   
  2. The ever changing and expanding accountability system in Ohio.  Ohio superintendents welcome accountability and high standards for their districts.  We are asking for measures that illustrate the successes and growth areas of their districts.  However, the current system does not provide us that desired information.  
  3. Over assessing our students,administering more state level assessments to Ohio students than required by ESSA.  Again, Ohio superintendents are not asking to eliminate measures of student learning.  We need and use standardized data, allowing us to benchmark our progress across the state and adjust to support student learning as needed.  However, we don’t need to test every student every year to analyze data and make adjustments that support student growth and achievement.    

This rally, a gathering of collective support, is just the beginning.  For substantive change to take effect, we must come together and remain in action as a unit of dedicated district officials.  In addition, the need to be at the table must be heard by our legislators and state board of education officials.  This is where our work really begins.  The rally is the starting point of our efforts to reach out to those charged with enacting legislation and policy.  We all must step up and contact our local legislators and state board of education representatives.  Offer them our support in discussing educational policy before it is enacted.  Pledge to be a part of the solution and a collaborative partner in the legislative process.  Commit to working proactively, with purposeful responses to guarantee the outcomes our state deserves.  

Thank you for caring so passionately about the education of our students in Ohio and for using that emotion to foster positive responses and solution minded partnerships across the state!

If you live in Champaign County, you can contact the following people to show your support for the involvement of district leadership in closing the education policy gap.  

Governor John Kasich
(614) 466-3555
joe.andrews@governor.ohio.gov (Press Secretary)
josie.barga@governor.ohio.gov

Keith Faber, President of the Ohio Senate
(614) 466-7584
faber@ohiosenate.gov

Andrew Brenner, House Chair of Education
(614) 644-6711
andrew.brenner@ohiohouse.gov

Cliff Rosenberger, Speaker of the House
(614) 466-3506
rep91@ohiohouse.gov

Keith Faber, District 12
(614) 466-7584
faber@ohiosenate.gov

A. Nino Vitale, House Representative District 85
(614) 466-1507
nino.vitale@ohiohouse.gov

Tom Gunlock, Appointed President of Ohio Board of Education
(937) 291-6318

Paolo De Maria, Superintendent of Public Instruction
(877) 644-6338
superintendent@eeducation.ohio.gov

Ann E. Jacobs, Lima District 1 School Board Rep.
(419) 229-9800
Ann.Jacobs@education.ohio.gov

From around the state, access your state board of education representative at http://education.ohio.gov/State-Board/State-Board-Members ; State Senators at http://www.senate.state.oh.us/index# ; and House Representatives at http://www.ohiohouse.gov/


Your Partner in Education,

Danielle Prohaska, Superintendent

Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Call to Action - The state of education in Ohio




During the season when many districts are preparing and delivering their “State of the Schools Address”, we must talk about the state of education in Ohio.  There is research from leading educators like Douglas Reeves that urges leaders to find their focus, concentrating on just a few priorities.  Within that focus, leaders must put aside the elements they cannot control (like poverty, ethnicity, home environment, etc.) and commit to the responses that are within their control.  Tim Kight and the R Factor illustrate what it means to have above the line responses.  With that being said, Mechanicsburg has taken the position that we would not belabor the things that come from ODE and the legislature that were outside our control.  We would take the new requirements/changes in practice, figure out how they fit in our system of teaching and learning, and continue to do what is best for kids.  


However, we have a unique opportunity in front of us now with the authorization on Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  As educational leaders and advocates, we have the chance to make our voices heard around several key issues - assessment, accountability, and teacher evaluation.  If we want Ohio to take advantage of the local control given to states in ESSA, we must communicate that need to those making policy.  We must do so early, often, and in detail.  


  • It is time for Ohio to go back to the federal minimums required in assessment.  Allow districts to continue to use their internal measures for growth and achievement and assess students/grades/subjects across the state only at the required grades in ESSA.  Urge legislators to listen and act, as our juniors and seniors over the next two years are facing a grave graduation situation.  
  • It is time to have an accountability system that is stable and allows for apples to apples comparisons of data from year to year.   Districts want accountability, but in saying that, our students deserve an accountability system that ACTUALLY produces adjustments in instruction aimed at increasing growth and achievement.  
  • It is time to embrace teacher evaluation  as a crucial piece of feedback for growth, taking away student growth requirements that make teacher evaluation more about a high stakes gotcha than feedback that improves practice.  Administrators and teachers are having powerful conversations around the teacher performance side of the evaluation tool.  Let’s put our focus where it is making a difference.  


If we want education to align to the educational model we know produces higher levels of student growth and achievement, we must seize the moment.  Our students, our teachers, and our communities need there to be action!  


The list below contains all the necessary contact information for the those that represent Champaign County and/or Ohio’s important political offices.  Share your talking points with these individuals and let our voices be heard for the sake of the students and communities we serve.  


Sincerely,
Prohaska Sig (LT BLUE).jpg


Danielle Prohaska, Superintendent of Schools
Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools


Contact information:


Governor John Kasich
(614) 466-3555
joe.andrews@governor.ohio.gov (Press Secretary)
josie.barga@governor.ohio.gov


Keith Faber, President of the Ohio Senate
(614) 466-7584
faber@ohiosenate.gov


Andrew Brenner, House Chair of Education
(614) 644-6711
andrew.brenner@ohiohouse.gov


Cliff Rosenberger, Speaker of the House
(614) 466-3506
rep91@ohiohouse.gov


Keith Faber, District 12
(614) 466-7584
faber@ohiosenate.gov


A. Nino Vitale, House Representative District 85
(614) 466-1507
nino.vitale@ohiohouse.gov


Tom Gunlock, Appointed President of Ohio Board of Education
(937) 291-6318


Paolo De Maria, Superintendent of Public Instruction
(877) 644-6338
superintendent@eeducation.ohio.gov


Ann E. Jacobs, Lima District 1 School Board Rep.
(419) 229-9800
Ann.Jacobs@education.ohio.gov

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Press Release - District Report Card

In an effort to communicate on multiple fronts, I have included the press release related to our state issued report card below. With the authorization of ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) at the federal level, we have an opportunity to refocus and create a stable and equitable assessment and accountability system in the state of Ohio. It is time for communities, district and building leaders, and boards of education to voice their concerns and bring solutions to the table. The staggering number of Ds and Fs across the state are not indicative of our education system. Students and teachers have not declined at such a rapid rate. Don't let this moment for change pass us by in Ohio. Make your voice heard!

The 2015-16 State Report Card should be released at some point today and will be covered by multiple media outlets over the next week or so. This year’s report card contains numerous changes including overall component grades for report card sections.  The 2015-16 report card results are generated from a new assessment system, which is the 3rd assessment system in three years.  What you may notice is that our ratings have declined in some areas.  To an extent, this was to be expected with so much change in the measurement system for us and districts across the state.    

The new assessment system is built on more rigorous standards and increased performance targets for students.  The accountability elements of the report card will challenge districts to meet those high standards for student growth and achievement.  However, adjustments to these higher standards will not happen overnight and reduced scores are more the norm than an anomaly throughout the state.  Though the state issued report card is an important part of the data we use to inform instruction, it is only one of the many measures that matter.  

Regardless of any changes to the state’s accountability measures, we are prepared to use this data to reflect on student instruction and implement instructional practices that will best meet the needs of all our students.  As we analyze what we know about students from a variety of measures, it is evident that students in Mechanicsburg Schools continue to grow as well rounded students.  We continue to have strong teachers, capable students, and a supportive community.  

In the meantime, our district leaders, alongside administrators from across the state, will persist in advocating for a more consistent accountability system.  This stability is necessary to allow our teachers and administrators to do what they do best for students day in and day out.  

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at prohaskad@mcburg.org or Mary J Huffman at huffmanm@mcburg.org should you want to discuss the report card further.  

Sincerely,
Prohaska Sig-03.png
Danielle Prohaska, Superintendent

Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools