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Principal Whitney Meissner has worked in public education for a total of 22 years as a math/English teacher, an assistant principal and middle/high school principal for the past 11 years. Her observations and insights reflect the experience gleaned from her decades of experience. In an e-interview, Principal Meissner outlines her own experience in a teacher preparation program, shares her thoughts for supporting new teachers as well as components of good evaluation systems. As an instructional leader, she offers thoughts on the Common Core State Standards and the challenges and benefits associated with them. Finally, she reflects on her own continued learning and growth as a professional.

Principal Meissner has completed the University of Washington Center for Educational Leaderhship training as well as the Association of Washington School Principals Evaluation Training (2013-2014). In 2008, she was a Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) International Emerging Leader and in 2009 she received the 2009 PDK Dissertation Award of Merit. In 2012-2013, she served as the President of the Association of Washington Middle Level Principals (AWMLP). She is an active community volunteer where her newest role is serving as a Zumbathon (c) Coordinator to benefit those affected by the Oso/Darrington Landslide. She received her Ed.D. from Seattle Pacific University in 2008.

Public School Insights (PSI): Thank you so much for taking time to share your insights and wisdom gleaned from your many years in different positions in the education field. We are delighted that we can share your expertise with our readers and the wider community.

First, starting at the beginning, you've spent the past 22 years in education. What inspired you to go into teaching? Were you always interested in school administration as a part of your career?

Meissner: I think I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I used to play school in the summer with the neighborhood kids. My mom, aunt, and grandfather were/are teachers. I don’t know if I can point to one specific thing that inspired me; it was more like a ...

Today’s post comes from European PTA President Kris Garst. She has lived overseas on for a total of five and a half years and is currently living in Grafenwoehr, Germany, with her husband and three sons. She has been involved with the PTA in Europe since her oldest child started kindergarten. Kris’s post seeks to bring an understanding of the challenges and successes of military students and families, as well as why it is important to support PTA efforts towards military families both overseas and in the states.

“Wait, there’s a PTA in EUROPE???” 

During trips to National PTA events over the last few years, I’ve run into lots of people who are shocked to find out that PTA reaches as far as Europe!  In fact, the European Congress of the National Parent Teacher Association has been advocating for the children in DoDEA (Department of Defense Education Activity) schools on U.S. military installations throughout Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bahrain and Turkey since 1958.  We proudly serve the families of military members, government civilians, government contractors, and others who fall under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Defense throughout the European theater.

One Voice for the Military Child

As many of you already know, April is the Month of the Military Child, an opportunity to celebrate the amazing kids whose resilience and ability to adapt to the many changes of military life serve as an inspiration to us all.  Through deployments, frequent moves, and separation from friends and family, they support their families and each other as they, along with their military parents, serve our nation.  Over the past 56 years, the European PTA has been a strong voice for military children and families.  We’ve advocated for important change in DoDEA schools, such as the presence of school nurses in every school, regardless of size, and the opportunity for our students to receive healthy, hot meals via the ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson stood before Congress and the nation and declared an “unconditional” war on poverty in America. His Economic Opportunity Act promised a better life to those living “on the outskirts of hope,” and at the heart of that promise was education.

Sadly, the decades since have produced an even greater gulf between rich and poor, between the haves and the have-nots, between the well-educated and the poorly educated. And the hardest-hit victims of this failure to eradicate poverty are our nation’s children.

A 2013 Educational Testing Service (ETS) report, Poverty and Education: Finding the Way Forward, clarifies just how widespread and damaging the condition of poverty is for children. It reminds us that in addition to communities where generational poverty is baked into the culture, there is a fresh class of situational poor, casualties of the new century’s housing and employment downturns.

The report reveals that 22 percent, or one-fifth, of American children are living in poverty, and 2.8 million of those live in “extreme poverty” on less than $2 a day. The report also reiterates that poverty engenders numerous related disadvantages, including growing up in single-parent homes, being exposed to toxins that lead to health issues, food insecurity, and ...

Technology can be a powerful tool for change, but in the excitement of doing something new, important planning aspects may fall by the wayside. In order to support long-term success and systemic change, technological integration benefits from piloting, community buy-in, visionary and consistent leadership, and a diligence to build on successes over time.  Vail School District in Vail, Arizona exemplifies these attributes, and the district staff is proud of the collaborative culture they’ve created. As they put it, they do the hard work of getting along, and they’ve established a strong foundation for their relentless pursuit of innovative practices that support student achievement and learning in the 21st century.  ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

The story out of Uintah Elementary School in the Salt Lake City School District grabbed more than few hearts recently. Children going through the lunch line whose accounts were low had their lunches taken away.  Some thirty to forty students were impacted. They were given fruit and milk, and the confiscated lunches were thrown away. The district said it had started notifying parents about the accounts earlier in the week, but some parents said they had not been contacted.

It’s difficult and painful to see this happen in a public school in America. We believe, and most of the time we’re right, that public school teachers and officials who teach and care for our children every day are kind and that they use good judgment and common sense when they dispense that kindness. It’s hard to square that with what happened in Utah. The district has since apologized and corrected the problem. Surrounding districts were quick to point out how they deal with this issue – by working with parents individually and by giving parents the ability to pay on their mobile devices. Various stories and actions have followed this story. One was a heartwarming story of a man in Houston who ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

"Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities."

— President Lyndon Baines Johnson, State of the Union, Jan. 8, 1964

I was still in grade school when President Johnson launched his War on Poverty. In my home, Johnson was a hero, maybe because my parents had both grown up poor and never forgot what deprivation felt like. They saw Johnson as someone who understood what they understood about poverty: Nobody chooses to be poor.

The other hero in my house was my Dad, a larger-than-life figure who had scrabbled his way up to a good middle-class life. He had “developed his own capacities” in large part because he had access to the G.I. Bill, which inspired him to return to high school after dropping out and then go on to college and earn an engineering degree.

One of my favorite childhood memories was watching my dad ring the bell for Salvation Army at Christmas. Dad ran the largest construction company in the area, which meant that he knew most of the movers and shakers in ...

By Brian Lewis, CEO, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

It was nearly 20 years ago when E-Rate, the nation’s largest education technology program, was put into place.  At that time, a majority of schools (86 percent) were not connected. Mobile phone use was in its infancy and we all referred to the Internet as the information superhighway.

Fast forward to today. Nearly all schools (95 percent) have some level of connectivity. Half of our nation’s teenagers own a smartphone and three-quarters of all children have access to a mobile device.

Walk into a school today and see if you can spot a blackboard and chalk in use; it’s a rarity. In many schools, modern learning devices – screens, projectors and computing devices – that support digital learning have replaced the blackboard.  We are in the midst of the digital age.

All the technology that surrounds us and supports our students is only as good as the speed of the connectivity available. Without broadband speed, streaming video stalls, online simulations freeze and load times drag on into eternity. The impact on learning can be crippling. Students get annoyed and teachers get ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)*

While it may not be evident from voting patterns, casting votes for local school board members may have greater impact on a community’s overall quality of life than any other vote cast. Quality public schools bring the things that ensure a high quality of life — strong economic climate, better jobs, civic engagement, more citizens voting and an emphasis on the arts. And quality public schools are tied directly to the performance and effectiveness of their school boards.

All of us should pay more attention to our school boards — to electing them, supporting them and monitoring them. While many people today believe that too much local control has been wrested from local school boards, their role remains critical to the success of the schools they govern.

Voters elect a school board to represent them in the oversight of their schools. That is our system of government, and it’s a good one. School boards then spend the public’s money on educating children, touching the future as no other entity does. School boards set the tone for school districts — for student achievement, continuous improvement and financial management.

Successful school boards are made up of individuals without personal agendas and with a desire that all children have the opportunities that come with great schools. They understand that they are a bridge between the community and its schools, with one foot in ...

In the past week I’ve attended two meetings devoted to the subject of protecting student privacy in a digital learning world. The question from one of the speakers that stayed with me after both meetings were adjourned is, “How much attention are school administrators paying to this issue?”   

Certainly, the education leaders who participated in both programs – Terry Grier, superintendent of the Houston ISD; Jeff Mao, Technology Director at the Maine State Department of Education; Rich Contartesi, Assistant Superintendent for Technology Services, Loudoun County Public Schools (VA); and Jim Siegl, Technology Architect for Fairfax County Public Schools (VA) – are paying plenty of attention to the issue and providing important leadership in their respective districts and state. However, the general message conveyed is that many, if not most, school leaders are both unaware of and uneducated about the issues that could balloon into a major setback for teaching and learning in a digital world if not carefully and appropriately ...

By Hank Rubin, Co-Founder, Institute for Collaborative Leadership*

Nearly every facet of education demands effective collaboration. 

If we adopt the time-tested definition that "A collaboration is a purposeful relationship in which all parties strategically choose to cooperate in order to achieve shared or overlapping objectives" (first published in Collaboration Skills for Educators and Nonprofit Leaders,1998), then everything from teaching and learning, curricular planning, building management, parental engagement, school-community/school-business partnerships, board leadership, policy development, and school reform rises and falls on the capacity of education professionals to build and manage successful collaborative relationships. 

One would expect that, as educators, we would understand collaboration deeply. But, as we look at the collaborations we need to lead schools, build curricula, strengthen instructional teams, engage parents and community, develop policy, transform failing schools, and build public support for successful schools, overwhelming evidence suggests: not so much!

You and I know people who are born with attributes that appear to make collaboration easy; like the teacher born with such a talent for empathy that students seem to connect with almost preternatural ease. But folks aren't born with the set of skills, the knowledge and strategic sensibilities, or the habits and intentional behaviors needed for ...

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