Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fayette students return to school without significant problems, officials say

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I first met Michael Price as a sixth grader at Meadowthorpe Elementary in Lexington, somewhere around 1986. As a newly-appointed principal (the first from outside Fayette County since...well...Guy Potts) in those days before KERA, I was still able to perform the duties of an instructional leader by actually instructing. So I volunteered to take the school's top reading group to lower the class sizes our sixth grade faculty were dealing with - and there sat Michael Price. The class was big fun and able to be challenged. As I recall, we may have even dabbled in a little Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Now, to see him taking the helm at Breckinridge not only warms my heart but makes me reflect on the one of the most enduring truths of life: God, I'm getting old!

Good luck Michael. Do well.

This from the Herald-Leader:

Michael Price began his opening day as principal of Lexington's Breckinridge Elementary School just after 7 a.m. Wednesday by greeting the first students arriving for the reopening of classes.

"Hi, and welcome back," he exclaimed. "I'm Principal Price, and it's great to see you."

For the next two hours, Price was a blur of motion around the school, exchanging fist bumps and high fives with students, directing kids to their classrooms, comforting youngsters (and a few parents) struggling with separation anxiety, and giving pep talks to teachers.

Price, 37, was an assistant principal at Tates Creek Middle School before recently taking over at Breckinridge. He says he's always excited on the first day of school.

"It's like Christmas for me," he said, watching Breckinridge come to life again after the summer break. "I can't think of another profession where you get a new start every year and a new chance to make a difference in people's lives." ...

At Breckinridge, Price spent a good part of his morning apologizing to people for problems in getting around the school. Students and parents had to follow circuitous routes to avoid a fenced-off area of bare ground, construction equipment and stacked steel girders next to the school.

Breckinridge is one of several Fayette schools under renovation. It's getting a new administration area, some new classrooms and major improvements to its cafeteria and gym.

The work won't be complete until the fall of 2013, when Breckinridge will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.

With construction continuing, about two-thirds of Breckinridge's 550 students will be learning in portable classrooms this year.

"I know it's inconvenient, but we'll make it work for us," Price said. "And it will be worth it in the end, because we'll have a totally new school."

Meanwhile, Whitney Moffett and other Breckinridge teachers were getting their students settled. Moffett, who teaches first grade, outlined classroom etiquette — "raise your hand before speaking" — and praised kids when they quickly caught on. "You guys are awesome," she said.
Price smiled as he talked of hard work ahead.

"You know, it's amazing," he said. "We have the Class of 2024 coming in this morning. Some of these kids actually will be graduating in 2024. What is the world going to be like then, and how are we going to help them prepare for it? It's going to be a challenge."

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Anonymous said...

Being friendly is one thing, overdoing it is quite another. I get a kick out of principals, though. Photo ops like this are priceless.

This administrator has clearly read Harry Wong and is going through all the predictable moves. Yes, starting school is stressful, but so is taking on a new job, going on a blind date, or moving from one area of the country to another. If he had not been out on the steps meeting and greeting, would this school be perceived as less welcoming? I predict he'll be on teh roof in April after teh students have read 2000 books.

When does it all become too much? And, most importantly, in "It's about Kids world" is this guy going to support his teachers when they need to discipline or enforce board policy?

I'm not so sure.... I'm willing to bet, though, that the thought of losing a very lucrative pension as a principal will quickly help
Mr. Price to remain an establishment man.

Richard Day said...

Price-less. Ha. I get it.

Without the benefit of Mr Wong I worked the parking lot and hallways at the beginning of the year and even spent a little time on the roof but I can't remember why. Books probably. I kissed a pig once when Ryland Heights kids sold a bunch of chocolate.

We also did a lot of home visits, and held regular meetings for parents in the Bluegrass-Aspendale area (when it existed).

But you're right, folks (or is it just newspapers) certainly like to make heroes of principals who reach out to the community. That's probably a good thing; necessary, but not sufficient. The proof lies in a hundred other things the principal does.

I like to think that my stunts didn't turn me into a mindless company man, or prevent me from speaking truth (as I saw it) to power.

I think my former teachers would say that I was supportive of them, but I confess, that was never my goal. I wanted to support the kids by giving them the best teacher I could find, support those teachers, defend them when they were right, but correct them when they were wrong. I was never a believer that correcting the inappropriate act of a teacher ruined them.

When I was Mr Price's age I really wasn't thinking pension and I hope Michael isn't either. I'm sure I was too busy being terrified that I might not measure up. One of the first things I learned was that if someone else messes up - it's your butt on the line.

Whether Michael measures up remains to be seen. But if he starts by recognizing that we are all in the people business, I think his prospects are pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Dear Richard,

As a teacher, I'm in the people business. I love my job, but even you know that we have to keep some level as dignity as educators. I don't think Mr. Price crossed any line, but I am not sure he needed to be before the camera. He looks dignified and professional, and because I respect you for standing up to Stu and for so many on whom he trampled, I'll moderate my tone and say Mr. Price did what he did to make a difference in kids' lives. Still, I think it just becomes dangerous when teachers and educators are asked to shake hands with every student and, even worse, show up at the door to their homes before school starts.

Much of my thinking about my role as an educator comes from the fact I have been in school for a long time. Because of that, I like to be treated as a professional, but parents don't simply understand that these days. Anything that is too sentimental, too foolish, too undignified, I find demeaning. I recall once when one of the big PTSA people at our school expected me and other teachers to dress up for an open house and entertain parents in variety-show fashion. Since she was coming from the posh elementary school next door, I simply assumed she was treating us like she would her hired help. I refused to participate in her "minstral" show, but I kept my mouth shot about why I did not participate.

I'm an educator; I teach and give grades, but I'm no entertainer, and I don't like to be too close to the ham-bone. I certainly recognized then, and today I still do, that as teachers we are in the people business.

One of my best principals, retired now, greeted every student, and he ate lunch with the kids daily, but never would he pose for a photo opportunity like the above. I respected him for that then. To this day, I still do. He made a difference in the lives of many children, but would he have said being a principal is "like Christmas to me?" I don't think so....

Richard Day said...

Well happily, it’s not an either/or proposition. There are different ways to be effective.

When I think about my favorite educators they aren’t all alike. Each one approached their jobs in a manner that suited their personalities. The level where one works also matters, and I’m sure we did goofy stuff with young kids that I wouldn’t have chosen to do at the high school level. I turned down a request to cross-dress one day because of the concerns you raise, but I’m sure I agreed to do some other thing. I’m not sure it diminished my authority or effectiveness in the school but I agree that there is a line somewhere that ought not to be crossed.

That Michael chose to work the parking lot is not remarkable anymore. I don’t know if he was specifically asked to do it, but I’ll bet there were a bunch of elementary principals doing the same thing - out of the view of H-L cameras. The way it usually works is that H-L plans their obligatory first-day-of-school story by chatting up Lisa Deffendall for an angle. What’s new this year? …a new school? …a newly renovated building? …a new Principal? Once the photographer is assigned to the school, they are going to get a shot. The only question is what one chooses for them to see.

You are certainly correct to be cautious about home visits and our teachers never conducted them solo and without someone knowing where they were going – but we did ‘em.

And I also lament the lack of respect paid teachers these days. I believe it is a major factor in why Finland has been on an uptick in recent years.

Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

I understand the seasoned teachers perspective about maintaining professionalism in an effort to support respectful relationships (8/17 pm).

At the same time I think that seasoned folks will admit that the field of k-12 public education has changed significantly in terms of educators roles, expectations and behaviors. Regretably one needs only to read the paper, watch TV or read blogs like this to realize the facination which the media has with transgressions of educators. For a variety of reasons I imagine that there were far fewer mass media stories about superintendent vote buying, female teachers/NFL cheerleaders having affairs with teen boys, educators cheating on student assessements, etc.

It is my perspective that as a profession we have to become much more proactive and vocal in reclaiming the professionalism, respect and control which the responder and most educators deserve and covet. If we have the power to control the message, then why not take advantage of that instead of passively expecting parents and media to ignore the transgressing outlyers of our trade? Let's face it, the media is in the business of selling papers, advertisements etc. and not necessarily gathering the most balanced stories.

As educators we have a significant public relations problem and simply saying "just let me teach in my classroom and treat me like a professional because I am a teacher" isn't going to be enough anymore. As any seasoned teacher how their job has changed in the last 20 years in terms of credibility, control and independence. Our current accountability system focuses not on student acheivement for students sake but as a misguided means of evaluating teachers, schools and eventually colleges of education. Our curriculum is not developed by educators serving kids in the classroom but packaged programs marketed to school systems by private vendors. Media and politicians blame educators for everything from obesity to poor global economic competition of the US. Even on the ground level, many parents have not only come to doubt their child's teacher's account and come to expect individualized exemption....oh I mean service.

We all have to work toward changing this disempowerment, this culture of blame for educators. If I can take those forces and accurately use them to spin a positive perception or highlight a strength in my school, I am going to do it. I think it is clear that if we don't, no one else will.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about all of this, but I think you are missing a big story. Apparently, the school board is about to vote on proposal to increase legal fees for three law firms to $125 an hour, up to $50,000. How convenient that the school board raises taxes, then turns around and gives $50,000 of it to a bunch of lawyers. Funny thing is that I ran into Doug Barnett (a lawyer himself) at the state fair, identified myself as a teacher in Fayette County and asked him about it. He told me that he was not happy about it, said that he was "offended" that he was even being asked to consider it and that he was voting against it. He thought it was unconsciousable that the school board would vote for increasing fees for lawyers that represented it while other governmental attorneys have not received a raise in six years. I think you should be asking some questions about this. This doesn't seem to fit the "It's About Kids" mentality that's been shoved upon us.