Top 20 Thinking – Pursue the Positive!

Have you heard about Top 20?
Are you creating habits that “Pursue the Positive”?

Fairmont Area Schools have been working hard to connect the schools and community together to build a positive culture for students, parents, and community members. We use four community wide themes throughout this year that help to bring everyone together. Our Top 20 community wide themes for the year are as follows:

Sept-Oct =Help Others Succeed
Nov-Jan =You Matter
Feb-March =Honor the Absent
April-May = See the problem, own the problem

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RPM is Here for You


Retired Principals of MESPA (RPM) are your colleagues who have retired from their principalships and remain active, engaged members of MESPA.

“MESPA was there for us before we retired and now RPM members want to be there for MESPA.”

Many RPM members continue to work in leadership and education related fields, volunteer in schools and the community, or have started their own businesses and companies. Please let RPM share some thoughts, insight, and support as you kick-off another school year.

Given the political climate in our country, the violence in our communities, and around the world, along with the volatile language reporting these events in the media, social and otherwise, anticipate that students may carry the psychological and behavioral impact into our schools and into our classrooms. This climate could definitely influence the learning environment. It potentially may also weigh heavily on staff and teachers. This is the time as leaders you may need to raise to higher ground the school climate and be prepared to manage and resolve, not avoid, conflict that might occur. We all need to be conscious of our moral and ethical responsibilities, avoid getting caught in the political fray, and consciously set an example of good character. Experienced principals will be prepared for this impact on the teaching/learning environment and draw on their leadership skills to handle any situations that might arise around these issues.

This may be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the importance of equity and how to resolve conflicting situations and differences of opinion. There may be a need to encourage teachers to help students become critical thinkers, problem solvers, and work at establishing good relationships. This is a good time to remember school leaders are responsible for the condition of the people, all of the people.

MESPA is always there to help you and the Retired Principals of MESPA stand with you. Best wished for a successful, enlightening and inspiring 2016-2017 school year.

Article by:
Byron Schwab, RPM Board
RPM MESPA Board of Directors Representative

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Surprises from Writing Renegade Leadership


It’s hard to believe that my new book, Renegade Leadership, is available now.  The book is about creating innovative schools for today’s students.  The process of writing a book still fascinates me, and I wanted to share a few surprises that emerged along the way.

1. As I was writing Renegade Leadership many stories from my childhood, college, and early years in education resurfaced.  I can be somewhat guarded at times, so I’m surprised at how natural it felt to share some of those stories.  Earlier versions of the manuscript featured stories from renegade artists, engineers, athletes, and business people.  However, the final manuscript turned out to be much more personal that I originally intended.


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Creating a Culture for Behavioral Skills Instruction – Increasing Teacher Efficacy and Student Engagement through a Problem Solving Process

Culture_of_Behaviorial_Skills.pngTeachers are quick to respond that one of the biggest challenges they face today in the classroom is when “behaviors get in the way of their teaching.” These behavioral challenges seem easily categorized as respect issues, responsibility issues, and organizational issues. Educators often qualify students as disrespectful, disorganized, and lazy. Typical rhetoric laments how kids are different these days, parents don’t care, and the world has changed. Truthfully, many students exhibit characteristics which look disrespectful, they struggle organizationally, and might not value the work which we hold them accountable to in the classroom; however, this does not personify them as a student. Yet schools must recognize these challenges or they can lead to further issues related to teacher morale and building climate, which ultimately impacts students.

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Leading Literacy Classroom Visits

Literacy leaders know the importance of understanding literacy learning and effective instructional practices in order to support their teachers and students. Educational leaders need a system to collect and analyze timely information about literacy instructional practices and how students engage in their learning.

Literacy Classroom Visits are brief, frequent, informal, and focused visits to classrooms by observers designed to gather data about literacy practices, identify patterns of strength and need within the school, and engage in follow up. This model looks through a focused lens on literacy, integrating instructional best practices and purposeful student engagement proven to foster student reading development. Continue reading

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Find Your “One Thing”


The end of the school year brings a mixture of emotions for teachers, students, parents and administrators. Focusing on the myriad of items on the “to do” list can send everyone into a tailspin of anxiety. What are the most important things that need to get done? What tasks support the ultimate purpose of education, academic growth for each student?

This spring my administrative colleagues in Farmington and I chose to read a book, The One Thing, by Gary Keller. The premise of this book is that there is one thing in each area of your life, that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary. I have to admit that at this time of year, that premise sounded very appealing. Is there “one thing” I can focus on that will make all the busyness of this time of year easier to handle and make life more productive? I read on.  Continue reading

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Como Park Elementary’s Elements of Success: 90-90-90 Goal, and Keeping Students at the Center with Equity Work


“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”  ~ Michelangelo Buonarroti


The 90-90-90 goal, based on Doug Reeves’ (2003) research in schools with high poverty, high diversity, and high performance, is the goal at Como Park Elementary School. According to Reeves (2003), this 90-90-90 goal is represented by 90% or more of the students being eligible for free and reduced lunch, 90% or more of the students as members of ethnic minority groups, and 90% or more of the students who have met the district or state academic standards. Como Park Elementary is similarly aligned to these demographics with 85.8% poverty, 90.5% diversity, and demonstrating 91% medium to high growth in math, and 83% medium to high growth in reading, based on the 2015 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (Minnesota Department of Education, 2016), with our continued focus on the achievement goal of 90% proficiency.

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