From the desk of Dr. Kirk Lewis

Updates from the Superintendent

I have to admit, I needed a break. After a few days of wrestling with the district budget and responding to a host of legislative issues, I carved out some time to spend with students and teachers at Genoa Elementary School and Rick Schneider Middle School. Getting a little face time in our schools is like that first taste of coconut pie after six months on a diet. Sweet!

Dr. Lewis and Schneider Intermediate Students

Dr. Lewis and Schneider Middle School Students

As parents and members of our community, I wish you could have witnessed what I saw. The teachers were delivering meaningful instruction and the vast majority of students were completely engaged in learning. One class that had been actively involved in an assignment groaned out loud when the bell rang. They didn’t want the class to end.

I visited one class in the hall as they returned from the library. We talked about the joy of reading. They shared the great books they had read and those they were about to read. They readily asked questions and listened with polite attentiveness and eager excitement.

Lately, we have heard some negative opinions about public education as people push hidden agendas. Certainly,  we have areas in need of improvement within the system. One can always find a few students lacking daily, necessary motivation. However, the majority of students we serve from pre-kindergarten through high school dream big dreams and desire to be successful. Our task is to clear the obstacles from their paths.

My encounters with the teachers and students were quick today, but the exposure put a long-lasting smile on my face and an extra zip in my step. Armed with that shot of educational adrenaline, bring on the budget.

 


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Unleash the Technology

During my time in high school…more than a few years ago…we thought we were technologically literate when we learned to use the slide rule and the electric typewriter. Those technologies have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Everything evolves.  Experts now tell us we can expect new technology to last five years. That’s the time it takes for an emerging technology to pass through maturity and finally into obsolescence. The speed of change creates a challenge for teachers. We know, however that student success depends on getting our teachers to use technology as a natural part of daily instruction and to release that technology to our students as tools that prepare them for the work force and for college.

This week, members of the Pasadena ISD Board of Trustees toured several campuses to see how new technologies were being used as instructional tools in the hands of our teachers and learning tools in the hands of our students. Teachers and students from elementary through high school used iPads, Kindle Readers, Netbooks, digital document cameras and projectors, Promethean Boards and complicated software in innovative ways to teach, research, assess, explore and create. I wish everyone in our community could see the high level of teaching and extraordinary level of active student engagement taking place in our classrooms every day.

We certainly aren’t perfect yet in the use of these new technologies, but we know that technology in the hands of an amazing teacher can bring ordinary curriculum to life. We know technology placed in the hands of our students can free their creative energy to find a deeper level of academic understanding. It is all about engagement.

We’ve come a long way from slide rules and electric typewriters and our students are blazing a trail to success as a result.


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Educator’s Mt. Rushmore

It rankles deep in the core of me when I hear a politician say that America’s public schools are failing. It is a broadly-stroked, thinly-veiled statement made for political gain that marginalizes the amazing work of teachers in every school across this country. We spend too much time denigrating the work of our educators, making their jobs more difficult through all the federal and state mandates that take time away from teaching and learning.

I thought this week about the presidents immortalized in granite at Mt. Rushmore. If I had my own South Dakota mountain, I’d carve the faces of four educators who impacted my life in such a strong way.

First, you’d see Ms. Wallace, a 3rd grade teacher who gathered fragments of my self-esteem and drew confidence from the inner soul of an insecure and shy boy. Second, Mr. Satterwhite, a junior school administrator who, with a sad shake of his head, let me know my behavior as a leader on campus had failed to meet his expectations; that  he held me to a higher standard because of who he thought I could become. Thirdly, Ms. Falk, a senior English teacher who would not accept second-rate work…ever…and repeatedly handed back an assignment until I had satisfied her expectations. Finally, Mr. Watts, a government teacher who taught me to look deeper, think harder and accept nothing at face value.

America’s schools are not perfect. Because of teachers and principals like those on my Mt. Rushmore, they are better than most alternatives for most students. I’m grateful to a Pasadena ISD community that recognizes the contributions of its outstanding educators.

Who’s on your educator’s Mt. Rushmore? Respond to this blog and let us know.