April 2012

April 26, 2012 
Happy Day Ravenna Staff: After what I know has been a stressful and exhausting week, please try to relax and “decompress” this weekend.  I was so pleased and impressed as I visited the buildings this week and witnessed the professionalism and attention to the testing environment.  Please continue to have confidence and faith that all of our hard work will yield positive results for our students and reflect in a positive manner on all of us.  We truly are all in this together!

The article which I cut and pasted below is from a regional leadership magazine that I was published in a few years ago (2007).  I often default to this thinking when I question whether or not a lengthy task will yield positive results.  Have a great weekend!

The Best Advice That I Ever Received Is To “Prepare Your Fields For Rain.”

By Dennis Honkala, Superintendent, Buckeye Local Schools

     As a public school Superintendent of a district of over 2,300 students at the age of 42, I have recently taken time to reflect and figure out exactly how I was fortunate enough to land this huge leadership responsibility.  While I concluded that a little bit of luck and great timing certainly had something to do with it, I am forced to believe that there is a little more to it than just those factors.

     While I had heard and subscribed to such theories and clichés as “those who fail to prepare, fail”, “luck is where opportunity meets preparation” and “those who fail to learn history are destined to repeat it”, none of those appealed to me as real motivation to succeed.  One evening, a few weeks ago, while watching our weekly “family” movie with my wife and two young sons; I heard advice that to date has certainly made the most sense.

     The advice comes in a parable that goes something like this:  two farmers were discussing a terrible drought that had stricken the area for several weeks.  One farmer commented that there is nothing that he can do with his fields because there is no water to nourish his crops.  He has been praying for rain non-stop.  The other farmer comments that he too has been praying for rain but that he has been taking buckets full of water to whatever plants he can reach, fertilizing what he can and working the soil throughout the fields.  He is keeping his animals well fed and his equipment sharp.  He is continuously thinking and planning as to how he can best utilize all of his resources.  He knows that eventually there will be rain and he is prepared when that day comes.

     It occurred to me at that point that perhaps this may be the best advice one could ever give or receive.  We all have goals and expectation for both the short and long term.  Some of these are achieved daily without much thought, effort or deliberation.  Others require thoughtful planning, diligent execution and more often than not, a great deal of patience.  The rain will come.  Will each of have done enough to prepare our fields for the rain?  Is the task at hand or the goal important enough to prepare your fields for rain?  Each of us needs to reflect privately and decide for ourselves if our personal and professional goals are worth preparing the fields for rain.

    This simple parable and phrase has helped me connect to my professional position on a daily basis.  Working in a position at this level does not often yield immediate results.  Although public education is one of the long standing, successful institutions in the United States, its culture and history does not afford a great deal of quick change and flexibility.  Changing a school district and community culture does come in time.  Are there enough farmers to prepare the fields of public education for rain?  Just in case, I plan to do my part on a daily basis to insure that my fields are prepared for rain!

April 20, 2012 
Hello Ravenna Staff:  Being a results driven profession, this is what we are waiting for!  Please take the time during the upcoming O.A.A. testing periods to be positive with the children and encourage them as much as possible.  If every child does their very best, I am certain that their performance will be a positive reflection of our staff and school community.  Seeing gains in our district test scores is a big step in re-engaging our community.

Have a restful or productive weekend!

April 12, 2012
Welcome Back Ravenna Staff! Although technically four days late, I still wanted to welcome everyone back from what was hopefully a restful or productive spring break!  As I wandered the halls and peeked into numerous classrooms this week, I saw a lot of energy and renewed vigor!  Very exciting!

As testing season is upon us and the end of the school year is quickly approaching, I hope that we are all on the same page with the understanding of how important it is to “accelerate to the finish line” with all of our students.  Although we have little input on our standardized tests and the pressure that it puts us all under, my hope is that everyone can understand the importance of every student working to their full potential on these tests.  Please encourage, be positive and understand that our students have worked very hard to this point and are prepared to demonstrate the knowledge that our fine staff has imparted on them.  Join me in the confidence that I have in you as well as all of our students!

Unfortunately, these test scores will be the measure of how well we are teaching and how well our students are learning

Have a great weekend!