Last Day of Term and Stuff

Today is the last day of Term One and I am sitting in my office thinking.  There is a lot of stuff that I could be doing, or reading, or replying to, or leading.  But today I am going to have a little bit of “it’s all about me” time.  I have blogged about this before, feeling guilty about taking time during the school day to self-review, but I am happily over that (and because I know I will be in school most of the Easter break to catch up anyway).

So as most of you know I have been rather busy creating my first ever Strategic Plan, you can read about some of the troubles with that here.  But other than that small hiccup, I have really enjoying the process and now understand the importance of a strong school direction.  Honestly, I have never bothered to read a Strategic Plan before, I could never see the relevance to me as a classroom teacher, and as I had such a fantastic management team around me, I could just get on with the job with being the best teacher and learner I could be.

Now that I have switched to the ‘dark side’ 😉 I can really appreciate the hard work that goes into this process, even those awful surveys I hated filling out.  It is a real art, coming up with a valid community consultation process, which accurately gages the needs and values of a community without letting the ‘haters’ use it as a subversive means to undermine you (not that I get that here at all, I am very luck in that respect).

As I am in the unique position of having only, don’t laugh now, six families and one teacher to survey I decided to do this a little differently.  I wanted to find out three things – the values, the attitudes and the skills my community believe is important for their children to have by the time they leave as a Year Eight.  To do this I used a ‘Role on the Wall’, an old school reading activity commonly used with guided reading groups.  Basically you draw a hollow person, and the kids brainstorm the characters attributes.  On the inside of the character you brainstorm their personality and beliefs etc, while on the outside you brainstorm their physical characteristics.  For my consultation I asked the community to complete the brainstorm below and I am pleased to say that I received a 100% return rate, yep that’s right 7 out 7 😉

Community Consultation 2011

Ok, so getting 100% wasn’t so hard, but the information I received from the community (I was able to survey the kids too) has been invaluable to me while I flesh out the Strategic Plan.  The BOT also really enjoyed going through the information, collating the data (I just typed it out, verbatim, then cut it up so the BOT could sort it and stick it to the three headings Values, Attitudes and Skills) and discussing what really was important to them as well.  In the end we came up with ten fantastic values and attitudes which will help set the direction of the school.

Creativity; Self-Motivation; Individuality; Courage; Respect; Integrity; Enquiring Mind; Community Minded; Responsibility; Being the Best We Can Be.

I do realise, that this kind of method would be impossible for a larger school, but using this with staff, or a BOT maybe a really valuable process to work through.  One BOT member commented that it was really nice not being told which values they could choose from and they they felt like they could have more ownership of the process.  This made me feel great, I mean isn’t this exactly what our wonderful NZC is all about? 🙂

Good Advice from the Auditor-General

My buddy, the Auditor-General (not really my buddy, just exaggerating) sent out a “summary of a recent report that our Office has done on analysis of variance reports”.  This caught my eye as it mentioned school charters, and as you all know I have been having some discussion lately, with the MOE, about Charters …

Basically, the report has a lovely little check list for Boards and Principals to use when setting Strategic Goals and Annual Targets.  I won’t go into detail, as it is a really easy read – you can see the summary here.  Personally I like it and I will be using it as one of my resources while we develop our new Charter.  What I like the most about this little report is that it emphasizes the importance of “specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely” strategic goals.  And that, annual targets should relate strongly to these goals.

Therefore, I’m inferring that the Auditor-General would think it a good thing, for me to not rush the process of setting strategic goals.

So I’m not.

Ministry, Charters, Threats, Oh My!

Letters, Letters, Letters
Letters, Letters, Letters

So last year, at some time or another, I received an email (as did every other school in NZ) that explained that the MOE wanted our Charters in on the 31st of January, 2011.  I found this very odd, so I had a look on twitter where other, much more experience principals than I, said;  Nope don’t bother you don’t have to legally until the end of the year (Dec, 2011).

Fine I thought.  I am re-doing the Strategic Plan next year and it won’t be ready anyway … forgotten.

Then we got a ‘Pack‘ from the MOE, with a helpful guide for BOTs for writing a Charter using the National Standards, with another reminder about the 31st January date.  I though bollocks to that and chucked it out (not sure if I am going to get into trouble for that) as I thought if I really do need it, I am sure there is a copy on-line.

After that I got a few more reminders but then it was the end of the year, I went on a much needed holiday for two weeks came back after New Years and completely forgot about the whole thing, until I got another letter from the MOE.  This letter basically said, Don’t worry guys, we’re sweet, we’re hip, we’re cool, you can have until the end of February to send us your Charters.

Well that’s not going to happen, I thought.  I won’t of finished my Community Consultation by then, so that letter went on the bin.

Next I got emails from NZPF and NZEI asking if I had sent my charter in yet.  Of course I responded, Nope not on your Nelly!

Now for the life of me, I can’t remember where or when, but a couple of weeks after that, I got an email saying that only 3% of schools had complied with the MOE request to have the Charters in by the 31st Jan date.  And today, the NZEI said that from their survey only 2.8% had complied.  Phew, all good for me!

So back tracking a little bit, a few days after the NZPF and NZEI emails (I’m a bit hazy on the dates, but it was before the end of Feb), my area’s MOE minder rang and asked if she could visit my school.

Not a Road You Take By Mistake
Not a Road You Take By Mistake

I said sure, doors always open, don’t turn the wrong way or you will end up in Napier … but on that particular day I will be teaching.

She said, well not so good I need to sit down with you to talk about your Charter, so never mind maybe next time.

That’s fine and dandy by me, says I.

So I was kind of hoping that she had forgotten about me, but low and behold, Thursday morning last week I received another phone call.  Can I come out at lunch time next Tuesday? she asks.

Yep, most welcome, I reply, but I am on my own and you will need to talk to me while I am on lunch duty.

Mmmm Chuck Tailors
Mmmm Chuck Tailors

So the date was set, the meeting was imminent, which brings us back to today (of course I made sure I was dressed professionally – 3/4 jeans, a t-shirt and my favourite Chuck Tailors).

My kids greeted her (they are very good at that, so proud) and we sat down for our chat.

She proceeded to inquiry about my Charter, and was I aware that it was over due?

I replied, that I thought that it wasn’t actually due until the end of the year and it wouldn’t be ready until the 1st July, as I was in the middle of re doing the Strategic Plan.

She then explained, that no I was wrong, the ministry had changed things, and if I didn’t take action soon then we would be non-compliant and a letter would be sent to the BOT saying so.

This got me a little worried (I wouldn’t want to get my BOT in trouble), but I stuck to my guns and said that’s fine, but I am not going to rush this process, I want to do it right and won’t 90% of the schools be getting a non-compliance letter anyway?

She then said, Yes they will, but why don’t you just extend or review your last years strategic plan and then have the new one next year?

I said, No, the current plan is out of date and does not fit with the current group of children, the teachers, the families or me, I need to do this properly for my students sake, I don’t want to hang in limbo with a half done Charter, and no true direction for the school.  I want to do this right.

Then she said, (by the way we were both very polite the entire time), well the Minister is concerned and non compliance is not acceptable, and she is trying to work through this, but she may choose to “sack your whole board”. . .

Hmmm – WTF

So, being the calm person that I am, I changed the topic, offered her a cup of tea and moved us outside so I could watch the kids.  We chatted politely about how wonderful country kids are, and then she was on her way (and I didn’t accidentally send her to Napier, aren’t I nice?)

Of course, straight after school I rang the NZPF Helpline, and left my name and number.  Not ten minutes later Mr Peter Witana rang back, confirmed my suspicions that, No, legally I do not have to have my Charter in until the end of 2011 and there is no way they can fire the Board for this.

Have you noticed yet, the only part of this little tale that I have quoted directly?

I think I am a bit pissed about those words.

Attributes (Gratefully from):

Letters, Letters, Letters –

Not a Road You Take By Mistake –

Mmmm Chuck Tailors –