End of the Line

This blog site is officially inactive due to retirement as Godfrey-Lee superintendent. It will remain available for archive purposes but as of June 30, no new postings will be contributed.

I have an avid interest in local history, the future of public education, equity, and the impact of technology and artificial intelligence. I’ll continue blogging in those areas as well as others on my original Rebel 6 Ramblings site at http://rebel6.blogspot.com/. Please follow me if you share those interests or are just plain curious.

One final note: Politicians and any others seeking to do harm to Michigan’s public school children, be warned. The pen is always mightier than the sword and I will not hesitate to expose any legislative or policy actions that hurt kids and teachers. At the same time, I’ll continue to challenge teachers, school administrators and local communities to redesign your school systems away from outdated 20th century structures and towards 21st (and soon 22nd) century needs for the future of our kids.

Thanks to everyone who supported me both in my military and education careers. Now it’s time for new adventures.

David

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Board Adopts 5-Year Strategic Design Foundational Policies

The Godfrey-Lee Board of Education adopted the foundation policies of our district 5-year Strategic Design during its regular meeting held this past Monday night.  These three policies, revised substantially from policies that were adequate in the 20th Century, are intended to form the basis for all district plans and actions through the next five years.

They include the following policies:

2110 – Statement of Philosophy that lays out a series of four learner concepts to be considered in the design and delivery of learning processes and supports. They are intended to guide the unleashing of creative passions in individuals and teams of learners, sparking innovation for both professional and student learning. These concepts arose from the work of our Human-Centered Design teams during the past two years with financial support from the Steelcase Foundation. Administrators, staff, students, parents, Board members and other stakeholders participated throughout this process.

2131 – Educational Outcomes Goals that establishes the Godfrey-Lee Learner Profile that will help focus all learner activities towards the attainment of the highest possible levels of the “6C” skills: collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation and confidence. Student achievement of these skills now represent the Board’s highest priority and will form the “why” of learning throughout Godfrey-Lee. The next step is for staff, students, administrators, parents and community members to craft the “how” and the “what” using the design thinking process. Many unique learning activities that have surfaced in our schools the past couple of years have already gotten a start under this process.

2132 – Educational Process Guiding Principles authorize and encourage student and adult learning experiences within a 10-point framework for teaching and learning. These will help inform the “how” and “what” and for the first time embraces risk-taking in the learning process while shifting student and teacher roles more suitable to the technology-rich 21st Century classroom. This policy also reflects the Board’s intent that the human-centered design process will be used to build strengths and address challenges at all levels, be part of adult professional learning, and be used as a critical teaching and learning tool in support of all three of these Strategic Design policies.

Please take time to click on the following link and read over these three short documents. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to talk them over with our administration and staff.

GLPS Strategic Design Foundational Policies

Interestingly enough, a Michigan group has found these same 6Cs to be a very important learning profile for the future of our state. In a just-released publication, Michigan Future Inc. echoes the work of our human-centered design efforts.

Our education policy recommendations are built on two core principles (p. 4):

First, that all children deserve the same education no matter whom their parents are. Without that we cannot live up to the core American value of equal opportunity for all. We are on the opposite track at the moment as both a country and a state.

The second is that none of us have a clue what the jobs and occupations of the future will be. Today’s jobs are not a good indicator of what jobs will be available when today’s K-12 students finish their careers in the 2050s or 2060s. We simply don’t know how smarter and smarter machines are going to change labor markets. So the purpose of pre K-12 education (maybe even pre K-16) is to build foundation skills that allow all Michigan children to have the agility and ability to constantly switch occupations – to be successful rock climbers.

To thrive in the new economy, workers have to be adaptable, have a broad base of knowledge, be creative problem-solvers and be able to communicate and work well with others. In other words, workers need to be really good at all of the non-algorithmic skills computers aren’t good at yet.

The best definition we have found for this complex set of skills comes from the book Becoming Brilliant, by learning scientists Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, who label these skills the six Cs:

Collaboration, the ability to work and play well with others, which encompasses a wide range of soft skills necessary for success in the modern workplace;
Communication, the ability to effectively get your point across and back it up with evidence, both verbally and in writing, and the ability to listen and be empathetic;
Content, deep understanding and a broad base of knowledge in a range of subject areas, rather than simply surface knowledge of reading and math skills;
Critical Thinking, the ability to sift through mountains of information and get a sense of what’s valuable and not and to solve unanticipated and unpredictable problems;
Creativity, the ability to put information together in new ways;
Confidence, which encompasses capacities like grit, perseverance, and a willingness to take risks.

If Michigan is going to be a place with a broad middle class, if employers are going to have the supply of skilled workers they need and if Michigan is going to be a place once again where kids regularly do better than their parents, it will happen because the state made a commitment to provide an education system for all from birth through higher education that builds rigorous broad skills that are the foundation of successful forty-year careers.

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This group of Lee Middle & High School students opted to spend time this summer in engaging learning activities that reinforce the 6Cs.

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These are exciting times for the people of Godfrey-Lee

As I begin the process of sorting through the past nine years worth of work in the superintendent’s office, preparing to step out of this role and move on to the next phase in my life, I came across some prepared remarks that I had delivered to our staff shortly after the Board of Education asked me to assume this responsibility.

It was the afternoon of Tuesday, November 25, 2008 and I had only been in the position a total of two weeks. It was a difficult time for the district given a sudden change in leadership and a growing distrust. I felt it was necessary to speak to the entire staff and the Board of Education agreed to close school early that Tuesday so we could meet before heading off to the Thanksgiving Break. My goal was to lay a foundation for a vision for the future while beginning to repair relationships and trust in the present.

Here are my words from that day which now seems so long ago. Because I think they not only represent the past nine years, but the years yet to come, I thought it fitting to share them with the entire community:

Good afternoon, and thank you all for stopping out here, especially given the wintery conditions that dropped in on us today. We do not get together as a district team often enough and I’m sure as you looked around the room, there were many faces you did not recognize.

Mr. Marshall Norden — Lori’s father, a member of the school board for many years, and a Class of 1941 alumnus — wrote a sequel to Mr. Lloyd Fry’s earlier history of the Godfrey-Lee district. In his publication, covering the years from 1968-88, he wrote, “These are exciting times for all the people living in the Godfrey-Lee school district, and it is the sincere hope of this writer, even though no longer a resident, that the people continue their pride in their schools, and work faithfully to assist the schools in the great task of providing enjoyable, quality education to their children, who, in such a few short years, will be called upon to assume the leadership roles in their community.”

He went on to add, “Be assured, the leadership of your schools is in good hands. The administration, teachers, and all staff personnel at every level, have at heart the best interests of your children and are dedicated to giving to them, as much as possible, of their expertise, knowledge, and experience.”

I’m sure many of you would agree, twenty years later, these are still exciting times. Godfrey-Lee has a long history of service that has produced some of the finest and most successful graduates in this area. While the economy and the culture of this area has changed over the 15 decades this district has existed, several things haven’t: Our students still want the chance to be successful at whatever they try, their parents continue to believe in their kids and the importance of a good education, and our faculty, staff, and administration is one of the finest teams of educators found anywhere in Michigan.

You can go through any of our school buildings and offices and you will see great things happening every day. The ECC lays claim to one of the most outstanding early childhood programs in the county, if not statewide. Our focus on literacy is steadfast, and as a consequence, we have dedicated reading teachers at the ECC, Godfrey and Lee Middle School, along with a dedicated, daily reading time in our high school. This year, we added a Freshman Focus program to tackle the difficult task of transitioning students from middle school to high school. Our media centers in all of our traditional schools have been re-staffed and re-focused, to the point that they are often the busiest place in school, a learning environment where students want to go. We continue to align programs at Vision Quest with Lee to ensure all Godfrey-Lee high school students are held to the same high standards, while receiving the supports they need to succeed. Our new TEAM 21 programs at the elementary and middle schools have opened up a whole new level of academic support and enrichment experiences for Godfrey-Lee kids. And, just this past summer we began revolutionizing our summer programs at the elementary level to provide our kids with a rigorous but relevant, hands-on learning experience.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! In every school building and in every classroom, we can see the results of hard work, professionalism, and dedication, aligning curriculum, improving instruction, analyzing assessment data, and challenging our students to succeed. And standing behind us is our Board of Education who believes in what we do, that reading and writing are important, that our students need opportunities to learn, and they need the necessary supports to accomplish this. In my six and ½ years at Godfrey-Lee, our school board has never once said to me, “No, we’re sorry, but you can’t have that program, or you can’t hire that new teacher, or you can’t discipline that child.” They have always responded to our needs and they deserve the same respect and admiration from us, as we have received from them.

So what does the future hold for Godfrey-Lee Public Schools – our historic District Number 7?

• I believe that while the economy in Michigan is bleak, the future of our school district is whatever we want it to be, and while I’m here, let me be perfectly clear: Regardless of what local and state politicians think, I will not willingly subjugate our programs, our values, and the futures of our students to any other district, school board, or superintendent.

• Having said that, we all must feel the sense of urgency in developing an educational program that is second to none. I believe that each and every one of our students can achieve high standards, if we just find the way to give them sufficient time and support. And, I believe that if we give our students the right learning experiences, that their effort will affect their learning outcomes just as much as intellectual ability.

• Good school systems are not created by policy or fiat. It takes leadership and teamwork. I believe that if our students are to be successful, our teachers must continue to step up and be the designers and leaders of the critical learning experiences, that will engage students in the right work necessary to achieve high standards. This will require ongoing, collaborative opportunities that take advantage of our collective talent and professional experience to develop 21st Century learning for our students.

• I believe that we can take advantage of our common purpose and gifted staff to create an educational environment that will take our district to unprecedented heights. And, I believe that for Godfrey-Lee, the sky is the limit when it comes to innovation that benefits our students.

What will it take to be successful? It requires that each of us re-commit ourselves every day to:

• Giving our students the best we can possibly give through rigorous and relevant instruction that is wrapped around positive relationships between students and students, as well as students and staff.

• Opening our eyes to new ways of teaching and learning that exploit new technologies, provide opportunities for students to collaborate and solve problems, and prepare our kids for the unsettling and unseen aspects of a world economy.

• Refusing to be mired in the American tradition of an antiquated K-12 education system that no longer serves the best interests of our students, instead looking at the acquisition of interdisciplinary knowledge and skills as the true indicator of readiness for the next level.

• Coming together as a true collaborative team that values accountability, resisting the temptation to shut our office and classroom doors to new ideas, or upholding the parochial interests of our respective buildings. Instead, let us strive together to build a partnership that is based on the bedrock foundation of honest and open communications.

• And finally, accepting the fact that our professional and support staff associations are full-fledged partners that not only represent the interests of their members, but most importantly the best interests of this district and our students. And let me assure you now, that I will work hand-in-hand, openly and above board, with the leaders of both groups as we strive together to take this district forward.

Yes, Mr. Norden, “These are exciting times for the people living [and working] in the Godfrey-Lee school district.”

Thank you for your support over the past couple of weeks, and the opportunity to serve as your superintendent. I certainly look forward with excitement and anticipation to working alongside you in a new spirit of honesty, openness, collaboration and teamwork.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving break and remember, “Always Rebels!”

David Britten, Interim Superintendent

November 25, 2008

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New Superintendent Selected

Following a second round of applications and interviews, our Board of Education has selected Mr. Kevin Polston of Grand Haven to serve as the district’s sixteenth superintendent in its 160-year history.

Mr. Polston earned his Bachelor of Arts degree and teacher certification from Michigan State University followed by a Masters degree in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University. He is currently working on an Education Specialist degree in educational leadership.

He began his career in education as a social studies teacher at Grand Haven High School in 2002, and has worked for Grand Haven Area Public Schools ever since. Mr. Polston has served for the past eight years as both assistant principal and principal at Grand Haven Lakeshore Middle School.

Mr. Polston will be meeting with the Board to discuss a contract and is expected to join the district on July 1.

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“The Last Lecture” – Final Message to Our 2017 Graduates

 

“The Last Lecture” – Commencement Address to the Class of 2017 by Superintendent David Britten

Good evening.

Ten years ago this September, a nondescript computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, walked out on a small lecture stage and caught the attention of the world.

He had been asked to present a talk in a series the university titled, “The Last Lecture.” The tradition called for the speakers to consider their demise and ruminate on matters most important to them. At the same time, it was expected the audience couldn’t help but consider the very same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

This particular professor did not have to imagine it as his last. You see, he had recently been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. However, his lecture, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” wasn’t necessarily about his illness. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment, because “time is all you really have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think.” His lecture wasn’t about dying. Instead, Professor Randy Pausch, who’s YouTube video of his “last lecture” and related videos have since been viewed at least 20 million times, and his best-selling book by the same title has sold 5 million copies to date, having been translated into 48 different languages, spent 70 minutes talking about living.

 

So tonight, as you prepare to walk through the proverbial graduation door, into a very unpredictable world, I want to share just a handful of Randy’s suggestions, quotes, and rules-to-live by:

First of all, and maybe most important, don’t complain, just work harder. You see, too many people simply go through life always complaining about their problems. It was bad enough before the Internet, but now we see it all the time on Facebook and other social media. Randy always believed that if we took one-tenth the energy we put into complaining, and applied it to solving the problem, we’d be surprised how well things can work out.

His favorite non-complainer of all time was Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. Robinson endured a level of racism most of us today couldn’t even fathom. He knew he had to play better than the white players and to do so he had to work harder. That’s what he did. He vowed not to complain no matter how bad it got.

The next important reminder is that experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. It’s something you should remember whenever you hit a wall, and at every disappointment. And there’ll be many, so it’s also a reminder that failure is not just acceptable, but it’s often essential. You see, the person who fails often knows how to avoid future failures. The person who knows only success is usually unaware of the pitfalls. And the experience learned from failure, or from not getting what you want, may be the most valuable thing you have to offer others.

All through life, you’ll encounter obstacles. Randy called them the “brick walls” of living. Most of us tend to give up when we hit a wall. I know that for a fact having run in a number of trail races that sometimes stretched for 30, 50 and even 100 miles. Maybe you thought at one time or another that school or life itself is just too hard. You find yourself thinking, “I keep running into a brick wall all the time.” But those brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep you out. The brick walls are there to see how badly we want something. Because as Randy put it, and I believe it, the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep the other people out. Not necessarily you.

So don’t let the next step in your life, whether it’s heading off to college, learning a trade, or going to work at a new job, be the brick walls that keep you from completing your journey.

I came across a blog post a few years back by Megan Milliken of the Town Creek Foundation, who I think said it best: “If you wave the white flag and surrender in the face of uncertain success and unrelenting challenges, than you do not deserve to succeed.  If a simple ‘no’ or a small bump in the road is enough to dissuade you, than you do not belong in the fight.  You have to have heart and passion to try something new and complete what you start; it is what will encourage you in the face of mounting brick walls.”

Professor Randy Pausch died nine months after delivering his “last lecture;” but more important than his death, he left us a gift, teaching us how to live. So let me wrap up tonight with a short but important list of some of the rest of his suggestions:

  • If you’re not there already, learn to be good at something; it makes you valuable.
  • Be willing to apologize.
  • Find the best in everybody; keep waiting no matter how long it takes.
  • Be prepared; luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity.
  • Always remember that loyalty is a two-way street.
  • Find a feedback loop and listen to it; after all, it’s telling you what you need to hear.
  • You can’t get there alone; find someone who will always tell you the truth even when the truth hurts.
  • If you want to achieve your dreams, you need to work and play well with others.
  • Borrowing from the airlines, if things along the way get really tough, grab your own oxygen mask first.
  • Tell the truth. All the time.
  • Show gratitude; it’s a simple but powerful thing.

So congratulations to each of you for what you have accomplished thus far in your young lives. You’ve conquered some brick walls, occasionally learned from experiencing less than success, and developed lasting friendships that will serve you well throughout life.

Now it’s time to go, to move on, to persevere, to be Rebel strong, and to really achieve your dreams.

Good luck!

_____________________

Sources used in this speech:

Pausch, Randy with Zaslow, Jeffrey. The Last Lecture. Hyperion, 2008.

Goodreads: The Last Lecture Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3364076-the-last-lecture

Motivation / Inspiration : Book Summary: “The Last Lecture”, by Randy Pausch. Retrieved from http://www.jfdperfsolutions.com/modules/news/article.php?com_mode=flat&com_order=1&storyid=21

Milliken, Megan. The Brick Walls are there for a Reason. Retrieved from https://www.towncreekfdn.org/dispatches/the-brick-walls-are-there-for-a-reason/

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Lost your LHS class ring? It may have been found!

UPDATE: Both the 1981 and1992 rings are being reunited with their owners thanks to the many of you who spotted this post on our district Facebook page!

One rarely knows what you’ll find in file drawers, especially since I have used primarily technology and hardly ever looked in the drawers of my office. But as I begin sorting through things as I get ready in just over a month to relinquish my role as superintendent to someone else, I came across two apparently lost Lee High School class rings.

The oldest is from the Class of 1981 and appears to be sized for a girl. It contains the initials “J M B” and there were two such members of that class: Either “Joan Marie Bieber” or “Jeanne M. Bouley.”

The other ring is from the Class of 1992 and is inscribed with the name “Angie Gilland.” An Angela Gilland is not listed in the 1992 yearbook but she does appear as a junior in the 1991 yearbook. From other yearbook info, she may have had a brother named Bob Gilland.

There is a note with the rings but the information on it is not discernible. I would like nothing better than to get both of these in the hands of the rightful owners before my retirement on June 30. If you have any information pertaining to either ring and/or their owners, please contact me at the school district office (616-241-4722) or by email at dbritten@godfrey-lee.org.

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District Weapons Ban

The Michigan Court of Appeals earlier this school year upheld the right of School Boards to enact district-wide gun bans on school property.  The court’s ruling is available online (PDF).

Prior to this ruling, the Godfrey-Lee Board of Education enacted policies that severely restrict weapons on any school property. These policies are available at the following link: http://www.neola.com/godfreylee-mi/. Use the index to locate the appropriate section and policy number.

1217 – Weapons (Administration)

3217 – Weapons (Professional Staff)

4217 – Weapons (Classified Staff)

5772 – Weapons (Students)

7217 – Weapons (Visitors)

8142.01 – Weapons (Contractors)

There are limited exceptions to the policies in each case. Any possession of a weapon outside of the exceptions will be considered a violation of Board policy and may be reported to authorities.

 

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