The Attitude of The Leader

post by Baruti Kafele

For the 14 years that I served as an urban principal in New Jersey, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the notion that the achievement gap was my primary issue. Although it existed and it was rather wide, I did not see a change in instructional practices being the solution to closing this gap. I was convinced that the problem was deeper than achievement yet within our grasp to correct. It was my strong contention then, as it continues to be today, that the attitudes of students, staff, and administrators matter. As I say regularly, attitude is everything!

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Grading for Learning: A Standards-Based Grading Journey

I was once asked what the purpose of school is. What a great question! To be honest I had to really think about the answer, surprised that such a simplistic question could cause me to pause. Schools nurture, inspire, educate; all needed and very important virtues to our students and families we serve, but what I finally landed on was learning. The Wikipedia definition for learning states that “Learning is the act of acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information.” This happens every day in each of our schools. However, this question prompted myself and our administrative team to think deeper about what our practices, procedures and policies were and whether learning was truly prioritized within our school.

If indeed learning is the business of our business, do all of our systems within our schools truly promote and reflect that?

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How Play Powers Social and Emotional Learning

playworksIn July 2015, the American Journal of Public Health published the results of a study that found children’s social and emotional skills in kindergarten are associated with long-term success.

The longitudinal study rated kindergarteners’ chances of success in young adulthood based on their levels of social competency at age five. These competencies, often known as pro-social skills, include skills such as the ability to share materials, resolve peer problems, cooperate, and listen.

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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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