Straight Talk by Baker Kurrus, July 24, 2015

This has been an interesting week.  We are working hard on a number of important tasks that need to be completed before school starts.  We are really trying to put our best foot forward in our schools.  We are planning for a transformational year.

I met with the Civic Advisory Committee last night.   We talked about a lot of things.  I reviewed a process map which we will use in the schools which are set to receive intensive support.  I want to be sure that each educator has a clearly defined role.  Last year we had a lot of folks who were working at the tasks, but I understand that there was some confusion—maybe too many cooks in the kitchen, or perhaps too many recipes being used.  The map is still in draft form.  The Arkansas Department of Education has worked with our team to assist with this process, and with the process map.  Students are at the top of the chart, with teachers just below the students. All of the support personnel are layered in the middle.  The commissioner of education is at the bottom, and I am just above him.   It is a servant leadership model, where everyone on the map serves those above them.   I was explaining the alignment to a group of my colleagues, and I wasn’t getting through to them.  I finally asked the group to imagine that everyone on the chart was in a classroom.  The teacher would be teaching, and the students would be learning.  Those in the middle would be supporting and assisting the teacher.  If a student were to get sick and throw up, the teacher would keep teaching.  I would clean up the floor, and the commissioner would take the student to the school nurse.    Classroom instruction would not be interrupted.  I was not joking.

A real weekly highlight for me occurred at the Dalton Whetstone Boys and Girls Club, which is right off of West 65th Street. This wonderful facility hosts a summer program for kids, many of whom attend LRSD schools.  The place was a beehive of fun activities.  I was there to tape a short testimonial about AR Kids Read, which is a program in many of our schools where adults read with our students.  The program yields real academic results for our students.  Volunteers get to know our staffs and students, and this is also a plus for our district.  The big intangible benefit is that a student gets to know an adult who is caring, committed and concerned about the student.  This alone can be a game-changer.


After the taping, I had a chance to read to the Reading Club, which consisted of about 15 or 20 students.  Most are going to Watson Elementary in the fall.   I read The Eye of the Whale, by Jennifer O’Connell.  It is a true story about the rescue of a whale entangled in crab trap ropes.  The whale holds still as divers free her.  She then gently nudges the divers, and looks closely at each, as if to say thank you.  The students sat attentively. We imitated sharks, and sang “whale songs” (think Finding Nemo). 

These kids are precious gifts to our lives, and all we have to do to receive them is be there. I told them that I would visit them this fall.   I told them to be sure and mention that we had met and shared the book.  We decided we would exchange a secret greeting, so that we could be special friends.  I would like to tell you the greeting, but it is a secret.  I will go to Watson after school starts, and we will see if my special buddies remember the secret greeting.  I think they will, don’t you?


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