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MASA Leader - Fall 2016

MASA Feature The Fall Classic As we began another school year just a couple of months ago, superinten-dents had an opening day just like the Major Leagues. In fact, baseball has parallels to our annual events in our school districts. As school districts we have done our spring training, summer draft and made the trade deadlines for call-ups to fill our rosters. Our spring training is the professional development and growth through summer workshops, college courses, and curriculum reviews. Through these we are building our team confidence, our teaching and learning skills, and giving ourselves opportunities to work with other teachers to figure out what is best for our students and their learning. Spring brings a wave of retirements with fond memories, some relief and the sense of accomplishment. Summer is busy filling vacancies with the best teachers available. Finding the right teachers who can balance the team is what hiring is all about. Opening day of school brings joy, tears, and excitement to our students. It is festive, rooms are decorated, bulletin boards are filled with encouraging thoughts, and everyone is eager to get back into the routine. Teachers have their classrooms ready. Students have their school supplies. Teachers and students have a fresh start to a 180-day schedule covering nine months of teaching and learning. Every day brings an opportunity to up our game. And every baseball game starts with an opening pitch. Our superintendents begin their opening day with their faculty and staff with an opening address. A strategic plan, thought, or course of action will be shared. Pitchers have the opportunity to wind up, come to a set, balk, or throw a strike/ball/wild pitch. Occasionally, we hit a batter or bean our foes. Superintendents set the tone with their 28 MASA LEADER • Fall 2016 pitch and delivery just like pitchers do. We have starting pitchers, long relief, short relief, and closers. Most superintendents want a long-term contract with their specialty. We have business managers, curriculum leaders, and human resource personnel wanting to become a superinten-dent. It is our job to groom the next season of leaders. The best superintendents have broad experience. In all we do, just like throwing strikes, teaching and learning in the classroom should always be our focus. Pitchers, like hitters and fielders, have statistics. We have local assessments, ACT/SAT scores, and state tests that define our ability to educate our students. Statistics become overused, abused, and are time consuming. Like pitchers, we work hard to do our best and bring our best stuff daily. Our pundits can find someone or someplace doing better. The difference is that baseball has had similar measurements for years while education finds new ones continually. We need to settle down, find meaningful measurements, and achieve our goals—both personal and organiza-tional— in our case, set by the local board of education. We know that students learn better from those they like and respect. When expecta-tions are higher and personal, performance improves. This means that teaching and learning needs to focus on relationships, rather than test result concerns. Testing pressure has negative impacts when what we all want is one year of student growth annually and content competency. Students and parents will reap the benefits when teachers help create the relationship. Caring, listening, and understanding teachers get the most from their students. Pitchers need tremendous support from teammates. Fielding behind the pitcher is vital. The play of the fielders is equal to the work of building principals. When principals are working well with the faculty, staff, students and parents, it makes the school year much better. You know what a team feels like. The principal is essential in our world of education. When we have a weak fielder, it seems like the ball is always hit their way. We all need to know how to handle the throwing or fielding error. The swinging “K” or the double play erases the error and kills the rally. When the game is on the line, we need the support of teammates. Think back to your opening day. What was your pitch? How did you deliver the ball? Who caught the ball or strike? Every pitcher wants a great catcher, as well. A catcher can frame the pitch for the umpire or block the ball in the dirt. Catchers give signals to the pitcher. As superintendents, we get signals from the Board of Education, community, parents or colleagues. Superintendents can use this information to know how to pitch to each batter. Listening becomes vital, much like the conference on the mound. Sooner or later, a pitch has to be made. Timing is essential. Stepping off the mound is a part of the game. Pitching over the plate becomes essential. Superintendents tend to like opening day. They like to throw out the first pitch. How many innings we work is determined by the pitch count. So your words count, just like each pitch. Know what makes for an easy inning and take advantage of the opportunity to throw a no-hitter. Most superintendents just want to finish what they started—educating students to do their best! PLAY BALL! Dr. Gary C. Niehaus is Superintendent of Schools at Grosse Pointe Public School System. Contact him at 313.432.3004 or gary.niehaus@ gpschools.org. By Dr. Gary C. Niehaus


MASA Leader - Fall 2016
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