MICE 2014

social_mediaAcceptable Use Policy that defines student, teacher, staff, and administrative use. A specific citation of social media and its use for educational means.  It needs to delineate how use is a privilege and how the privilege can be lost.









Go where the parents are!  If you are not telling your story, someone else is and you may not like how you are being portrayed!

Paris High School Facebook links

Twitter-LogoGo where the students are!  If we are not addressing student use of social media who is?  TWITTER 

Paris High School Twitter page

Paris High School Athletics on Twitter

Dave Meister’s Twitter Page

PHS Staff on Twitter

PHS Staff Tweets





Dying on the Vine.

dyingonthevineI have not truly blogged here in some time.  I have reported on events here and tackled issues that our students face daily, but I have refrained from writing about the conditions that are affecting public education for a long time because I want our building to remain positive.  I want the staff to do everything they can to make learning positive for kids.  My job is to remove barriers and support the staff in every way possible to make that happen. I have to remain positive and help the school community move forward in every way it can…..but, I cannot help but feel it is also my responsibility to raise the awareness in our community and region about the plight of public education in an era of shrinking revenues and increasing mandates.  It is not my intention to make the job of a high school administrator to sound impossible nor distasteful.  I love what I do when I am in the building with staff and students! Yet, there are conditions that exist, if left unaddressed, may make the educational experiences of our students completely bereft of meaningful opportunities for growth that are offered in programs such as the fine arts, vocational education, and agricultural education. Because the federal government bribed states to adopt the common core standards, new computer based achievement testing, student information systems, and teacher evaluation systems with AARA monies, local schools are saddled with mandate to adopt these “reforms” with less funding than they were getting before the changes were became law.  Illinois never did get in on the funding bonanza, yet we promised to make changes both to get money and to get relief from the No Child Left Behind law that said every student would be proficient in math and reading by…..2014. Illinois has failed to fully fund its education obligations for several years now and small districts are paying the price.  In order to save money, so they can pay staff and bills, many districts have cut their programs to the bare bones.  Where there were once thriving vocational programs serving students and preparing them for real work, there are empty rooms that sit idly by while students prep for the next test.  Our lawmakers seem to be saying lets let the money dry up in order to force reform and small districts to consolidate, all the while rural communities do what they can to save their schools, and their identities, by cutting their school programs to the bone.  Great way to serve kids.  I challenge local legislators to come sit in our schools for more than it takes to do a short walkthrough to wave at everybody.  Sit in our empty vocational rooms, ask the kids what classes they wish they could take, feel the pain that is being inflicted on small rural schools.  Better yet, do the politically courageous thing and legislate solutions that do more than just add unfunded mandates.  Find more revenue, look at the research and what it says about learning and the affect of high stakes testing, teacher evaluation tied to test scores, and narrowed curriculum devoid of enriching electives. You owe it to our kids.  Forget about the next election and accepting money from organizations like Students First and find real solutions.  We are dying on the vine.

Photo courtesy of Andreanna Moya Photography on Flickr

Sage Advice–A Story of Community Service

jeffery martin and james russ wilhoitGuest Post by Brett Block- On Wednesday, January 15th, 2014, the PCHS junior homeroom classes of Mrs. Block and Mrs. Stallings went to the Paris Health Care Center to visit with residents. They interviewed them to learn about their pasts and keep them company for an hour or so. The students were given life advice and got to share experiences with some very interesting people. The residents gave much insight as to what life had been like here in Paris and the surrounding communities many years ago. They shared about their family life and some of their successes and tribulations in life. Their life advice was very helpful and ranged from “live life to the fullest” to “not everything’s rosy, but you can make it work if you try”.

“It was a great experience,” said Kennedy Gladding, “Joann Vice, the woman I interviewed, was a very sweet person! It was amazing to hear what her life has been like and how much it differed from life now”. Some of the students were very interested to hear about the cars, schools, dances, and technology of the time. “They have seen so much more life than we have, it makes me wonder what will be different when we are their age,” said Kaitlin Block.paige callaway and Martha Edington This experience was definitely a positive one, and every student would recommend a visit with these wonderful people if you want something to do in your free time. Contact the volunteer department at 465-5376 to set up a time to put together puzzles, play bingo, Skip-Bo, sing a song, play music, paint fingernails, read to the residents, garden in the flower beds, decorate cookies, or just talk and listen to the great residents of Paris HealthCare! Thanks to the PCHS students that went on our visit- Steven Bracken, Aaron Gates, Karen Cook, Brianna Blair, Karissa Gobin, Haley Gates, Sahvanna Board, Kylie Gess, Jeffery Martin, Kennedy Gladding, Kaitlin Block, Ashley Bracken, Breanna Bracken, Shelby Hollis, Devon Gobin, Brooklyn Gilbert, Jordon Brading, Cris Gosnell, Shawn Gray, Paige Callaway, Tyler Blue, Austin Brown, and Nathaniel Sapp.
Thanks to those residents being interviewed- Richard Mendenhall, Floyd Tresner, Julia Dailey, Bessie Maynard, Sharon Hutson, James “Russ” Wilhiot, Joan Vice, John Taylor, Harald Connelly, Kay Snyder, Irma Landes, Olivine Hart, Bert Egan, and Martha Edington.

A special thanks to Goody Wilken (employed at PHC for 34 years!!) and to Amy McGilvrey for setting up our visit and coming to the high school to speak with our students.

Link to powerpoint of life advice from residents (good stuff!) CLICK HERE!

Community Involvement

This past Saturday our gymnasium was transformed from its normal venue of basketball court and PE room into a large stage for our spring musical Cinderella.  I have not seen too many gyms turned into a full court stage like they do here in Paris.  It has taken the efforts of many people over the years to perfect this stage and turn this gym into a place where thespians shine!  The above video is a time lapse of the “building of the stage”.  I am not sure how many people showed up to spend half, or more, of their Saturday to put this together, but their help is priceless.  You cannot buy the experiences our kids will have over the next two weeks preparing for and putting on Cinderella.  By the time it is over, half of our student body will have participated in some way.  We could not do this without the community’s help!  From the donated hours from the parents to the donated dollars of the local businesses, the contributions are numerous and generous!  Our drama program has become a very important part of not just student life and experience, it has become an important training ground for students interested in entertainment and theater.  We have had many of our graduates of the program go on to work in theater, television, and the music industry. Thank you parents, community, and local businesses!

Hey Students! About That Tweet….

Dear Students,

You might be surprised to find out I have been tweeting since 2007.  My first tweet from November, 2007:

I know, pretty profound, right?  As I write this post, I have tweeted 15,369 times.  Most of them have been about school or education is some fashion.  A few have been personal about family or sports…etc.  I have also been on Instragram, Flickr, Google +, and Facebook for quite some time.  My point in addressing this with you is not to get you to follow me or read what I have put on social media.  Rather it is to address your posting on social media. I do not purposely try to find what our students are putting on social media, but from time to time what students put on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even in text messages gets brought to my attention because of what was said or pictured.  Schools have an interest when what is said in cyberspace ends up disrupting the school day or makes someone feel unsafe or shamed at school.  I have to be honest.  Some of the stuff that has been posted shocks me!  People often post things on Twitter as though they are having a private conversation yet it is in full public view and can be found with almost any search engine.  It is not my intention to punish students for what they post, although sometimes discipline is doled out when rules are broken.  It is my intention though, to try to show you that what you put on social media can have consequences outside of school.  If your applying for school or for a job, you may want to consider what you have posted.  Read how tweets may keep you out of your school of choice or may get you fired.  You may have heard of the concept of a digital footprint, or a history of your interactions on the Internet.  What would people find if they followed your digital footsteps?  Would you want your future boss (or spouse) to read what you have written?  Once you put it out there it really never goes away, even if you delete it.  People can save, screenshot, archive, printout…etc, all the things you put out there.  Even if you have your Facebook (or Twitter) “locked down” so only friends can see what you post, they might not be your friend forever.  Former friends might just share those postings when you thought they were private.  Same with snapchat.  You think those pictures go up in smoke after ten seconds…..  Avoiding embarrassment or worse is really pretty easy though.  Answer this question before you post:  Do I want everyone to read what I am posting?  If the answer is no, then why are you posting it in a public place?  If you have made posts that could cause you problems in the future, go back and delete them.  Delete profiles on services that could cause you issues in the future.  Build a positive reputation online and do your best to post responsibly.  Social media is fun.  It allows us to stay connected to those most important to us.  Be careful to use it in a positive manner and follow the Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated.


By all Means, Hold Us Accountable!

But…..you had better take into account the WHOLE PICTURE!

This past week a had an opportunity to travel to the Effingham, IL to take in the All Apollo Conference Band Concert.  What a wonderful evening of splendid music.  Eighty of the best musicians from local high schools brought together for an all-day clinic under the direction of Dr. Melissa Gustafson-Hinds from O’Fallon High School. The event made for awesome learning experience and a very memorable evening of concert sounds.  As students were motioned to stand to be recognized for their solo efforts at the end of every song, the warm applause from the audience of parents and other family members had the students bursting with pride.  It was definitely an experience that allowed me to acknowledge to myself that there are so many things right with what we do in public education.  The value that is provided to our students and communities is so much greater than the achievement that is measured on one day of the school year.  I want our school, all public schools for that matter, to be held accountable for these types of student learning opportunities.  If we truly want to measure the value that public educators bring to the table then let’s find a way to measure:

The glow of pride a student radiates upon receiving a standing ovation from the patrons at an honor band concert

The feeling of accomplishment when a student earns a best of show in a regional art show

The effort of a teacher that, because of the time invested, uses an established relationship to talk a student out of dropping out.

The accomplishment when a student earns a presidential scholarship to a prestigious secondary education institution.

The value of programs that allow students to experience connections that has them see the relationships of learning and hard work beyond test scores and grades.

A student’s ability to create a handcrafted object that represents a challenge met. A challenge that allowed the student to grow and understand the interconnectivity of knowledge disciplines and to go beyond the mere manipulation and recollection of facts.

The ingenuity of teachers who work together to do something new for their students.  Teachers who collaborate to make multidisciplinary experiences for students that make subjects engaging and lifelike.

The lifetime effort of a teacher who dedicated hours to building relationships with students and pushing kids to do things they never thought they could do.  A coach who taught the value of respect, effort, and sportsmanship in victory as well as defeat.

By all means, hold us accountable! Test scores need to scrutinized, attendance rates measured, drop out rates included, but you had better add to the metric the true value of the programs we provide! (add your own example in the comments….please!)

My Homework Assignment….

So my friend Patrick Larkin tagged me in a chain-blogging task which obligates me to share 11 random facts about myself and then to answer 11 questions that Patrick has asked. I have been suffering from blog writer’s block.  So this gives me the opportunity to kick start myself.

My 11 Random Facts
1. I grew up in Laramie Wyoming
2. My first job, other than a paper route, was a car washer at the local Ford dealership.
3. I actually made a few bucks as a cowboy while attending college.
4. I spent a summer pouring concrete in Temecula, California.
5. My idea of spring break when I was in college was to attend the Western Athletic     Conference basketball tournament. (three years in a row!)
6. I have completed the Indianapolis Half Marathon four times.
7. I make Christmas sugar cookies
8. I am an avid fantasy baseball nut!
9. I am not sure what I want to be when I grow up.
10 This is the road I traveled to get to where I am.
11.I have a wonderful wife, two great kids, and three dogs.
My responses to Patrick’s Questions
  1. Have you ever been to Massachusetts?  No, but I would love to visit someday!
  2. What is your favorite sports team (college or pro)? Denver Broncos
  3. Besides you, name a blogger that you would recommend to others. Ira Socal
  4. When you were little, what did you dream of becoming? A pro football player
  5. How far away do you live from where you grew up? 1100 miles
  6. What is your favorite meal?  Blackened grouper
  7. If you were offered a free trip to anywhere in the world, where would you go? Hawaii
  8. Do you prefer Macs or PC’s?  PC
  9. Other than the birth of your children and/or the day you were married or met your soulmate, what was the best day of your life?  The day I went to my first pro football game at Mile High Stadium.
  10. What is the best movie you’ve seen in the last year? The Hobbit
  11. What is the last live concert that you’ve attended?  Jimmy Buffet
Now for the fun part. I have to find 11 more bloggers to keep this thing going and ask them 11 questions (hoping they have not been tagged previously).
  1. Gary Doughan
  2. Nathan Ogle
  3. Jeremy Larson
  4. Pam Moran
  5. Josh Stumpenhorst
  6. Curt Rees
  7. Colin Wikan
  8. Tom Altepeter
  9. Mike Smith
  10. Ira Socal
  11. Any other blogger that would like to join in.
 Here are your questions
1.  If you could solve any one problem permanently, what would it be?
2. What would you do over if you had a chance?
3. What is your favorite desert?
4. When did you know you wanted to be involved in education?
5. If you had a whole day to do just what you wanted to do, what would that be?
6. If you could meet anyone, at any time in history, who would it be?
7. What do you want to learn how to do?
8. What is your favorite beverage?
9. Who is your favorite artist/actor/performer?
10. What was your best subject in school?
11. What is your favorite season of the year?
The Guidelines for your Homework…
    1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
    2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
    3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
    4. List 11 bloggers.
    5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
    6. Post back here (in the comment section) with a link to your finished assignment. Go on, you have homework to do.

My Thanks this Thanksgiving–A Letter to Staff

It seems impossible that this is the day before we take a well deserved break for the Thanksgiving holiday.  This year I do not have to look far to see and feel inspiration for the coming holiday.  I am so lucky and thankful to work with such a wonderful group of caring professionals and students.  In all of my twenty five years working here, I have never been so “touched” by the kindness and caring of both our staff and our students.  Your understanding and compassion during these past couple of months has been nothing short of amazing!  Even though it was very scary to watch and hold Molly (my sophomore daughter) during one of her spells, I never felt more comforted by that fact that I knew that both students and staff “had her back”.  I will never forget that her “drama family” worked so hard to make sure she was able play her role in the fall play. They planned right down to the details of what they would do to make the show go on if she were to have an episode during a performance.  I WAS COMPLETELY AMAZED at the lengths they went to. WOW!  I am sure that each of you in your own way did your part to make her feel comfortable enough to continue to come to school despite seizing several times a day.  When you say “I see you, I got you, I love you,” you really do mean it!  What a phenomenal place to work and send my children everyday!  Again, words cannot express my thanks to you all.  I think we have a handle on the cause of her issues now and she seems to be on the road to recovery!
This weeks stuff I read is short.  http://tinyurl.com/la4xzal  I am intrigued at using MOOC’s (you will have to read to understand what they are) to enhance student course offerings here at PHS.  Heather Seaton won the contest to get her article included in the “paper”  She correctly used the #phsread hash tag when she “tweeted” the link to her article about differentiation.  I will provide a special prize for her homeroom before Christmas break.  Please feel free to share interesting articles you find while browsing by using the #phsread hashtag on Twitter.  By the way, I still think Twitter is a great place to find and learn stuff…..
Yesterday I shared a lot of data with you via your Google Drive.  The 5Essentials data from the survey we took last spring is available for you to view there.  We will have a staff meeting on Monday, December 2, right after school and our main topic will be the surveys.
Thanks for all you do!

Veterans Day

On Monday, November 11th, Our nation will recognize those men and women who have served our country in the military.  One of the things that makes me very proud of our school is how we mark this holiday with a school assembly to honor those who have made it possible for our nation to provide so many wonderful opportunities for us.  We have several veterans on our staff here at PHS and it is so good to see our student body honor them!  I posted the following on Veterans Day several years ago.  The day that I have written about in this post will be forever etched in my memory.
I can remember school assemblies when I was in grade school about Veterans Day. They were really special because every year we were able to see the same veterans and they told us intriguing stories about their experiences. One of the veterans that came to speak to us year after year was a very old gentleman that was a veteran of WWI. I can distinctively remember the gleam in his eye and the way he whistled, snapped his feet and fingers as he came to attention. To a kid of eight years of age he seemed really cool and very “with it” for an octogenarian. Sadly, he died shortly before Veterans Day when I was in the fifth grade. That year we got to hear the real story behind his service during WWI. With tears in his eyes and breaks in his voice, the post commander told us of the old vet’s experience in the Argonne Forest in 1918. I do not remember all of the detail of the stories he told us that day, but I do remember watching a grown man in uniform cry before an entire school of children. After that Veterans Day I think I was better able to relate to sense of loss that many Americans deal with every day because of either their service to the country or someone close to them sacrificed their life serving this great country of ours. I had an uncle that I never met who died in the Korean War. The family had a hard time dealing with the loss of their brother. His loss created a wound that left a large visible scar. He and another brother, Bill, were both in Korea when Bob was killed in action. My Uncle Bill escorted Bob’s coffin home from Korea. As a non veteran, I have no way of knowing the true sacrifice made by those who have served this country both in wartime and in peace. I do know this; I am thankful and know that there is no way for me to individually pay back all those I owe a debt of gratitude to. I am determined to “pay forward” and try my best to do all I can to honor todays veterans as well as do what I can to make America a better place. I implore our students to talk to their families about their history of serving this nation in the armed forces. You may find out things you never knew about your family and make connections that were never there before. You will also get a chance to say thank you!
What does Veterans Day mean to you?

The Road Forward

photo (10)Sometimes I get an idea in my head that will not go away.  Not all of these ideas are good ones but they make me feel like Richard Dreyfuss’ character in the Close Encounters of the Third Kind, (most of you will have to Google it), where he had to keep trying to shape things into Devil’s Tower. The following idea is one that continues to take shape in my mind and I am not sure where it is going (and like the linked clip, folks are probably looking at me kind of funny).  Using some funds from our vending machines, I bought a college pennant for every member of our staff.  The pennant represents either where the staff member went to school themselves or where their children attended college.  People are usually proud of their alma mater and are proud to talk about it.  I bought pennants with the idea that they would be talking points for teachers and students alike as the discuss education, both in the future tense and in the past tense.  A few weeks after the pennants showed up I got the idea about each faculty member telling their story in a short video.  This idea crystallized during a meeting I attended about community mentoring in schools.  We were discussing how hard it was to get people to come in during the school day and I mentioned the video idea to the group.  How adults could share their stories via video with the local students and they could connect using social media.  The idea morphed as I talked about it.  It came to me as I was speaking, that since the goal was to get students to contemplate their future, why not have students also make videos about their plans for the future and the action steps they need to do to get there.  The adult videos will be grouped into a genre called the “Road Followed” and the students’ work will be grouped together in a collection called “The Road Forward”.  Not sure if I know where this is going yet?  Or if I even am sure I want to pursue it?  But, in order to get others to think about the possibilities, I made a sample video about my “Road Followed”  The challenge was to try to make it informative yet short.  It may seem self serving, (and maybe it is) but I want to know if my idea has any merit….so, here is the video.  Any thoughts, ideas, or criticisms would be appreciated in the comments section!  If the video does not work, follow this link: http://youtu.be/zxyDf7U2wkg