KASB Executive Director Blog - Dr. John Heim

KASB Executive Director Blog - Dr. John Heim

Board members need grace as they navigate pandemic in a pressure cooker

Recently, Commissioner Randy Watson told the Kansas State Board of Education that he’s never seen teachers and school leaders under so much stress in his life. I am going to double down on Dr. Watson’s statement by including parents and school board members. United School Administrator’s Executive Director G. A. Buie wrote an article for the USA journal titled “How Can Every Decision Seem Like the Wrong Decision?” How indeed?  Watching school board meetings across Kansas these past few weeks has been excruciating for the exact reason G.A. identified- every decision is wrong for someone. In my 40 years in...

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For all the right reasons, Dale has attained one-name status

Dale. How many Kansas educators can claim to be in the one-name club? Randy? Heck, I have two Randy W’s in my contact list. John? A dime a dozen. Even at KASB, you get, “Which one?” But like with Madonna, Sting, Bo, and Cher, no Kansas educator says Dale who? (Sorry, Mr. Brungardt.) That is what 60 years of service does for you. Unlike Madonna, Sting, and Cher, Dale never set out to be famous; he doesn’t jump in front of cameras or rush to the limelight. Dale grinds. As a superintendent, I knew that Dale would answer the phone if...

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To find out why, ask why, and then ask it again and again …

“Your answer in the form of a question, please …”  Alex Trebek has played the smartest man in the world for 35 years on the popular game show Jeopardy.   Even though we all know the answers are on the cards, we somehow project on him a kind of supreme knowledge. Don't we all tend to mislead ourselves similarly and think we could most definitely win at Jeopardy? We get the one answer out of ten but somehow remember that one and not the nine we missed. So maybe we viewers, and Alex, aren't as smart as we think. But the thing...

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Remember Culture, Communication, Order and Input (CCOI) as you start school

Acronyms can be helpful ways for people within a particular profession or group to communicate. I recall bringing a friend out to our Bunker Hill farm when the weekend task was artificial insemination. Friday evening, we were sitting on the porch having a refreshment and talking about AI, her feet propped up on what appeared to be a milk can or keg. She was joining in the laughs at our sophomoric jokes, so all assumed she knew what was in her make-shift ottoman. But when someone said the word out loud, her feet moved as fast as the beverage...

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Don’t fence me in

Building fence in the hot Kansas sun was one of those character-building experiences afforded to me in my youth. In Russell County, building fence often means working with stone posts. For the uninitiated, picture a chunk of limestone six or seven feet long, eight to twelve inches square, and several hundred pounds. The posts were quarried locally, many of ours from a spot northeast of Bunker Hill. My dad describes a process whereby his dad used a hand auger and a series of wedges to chip away these slabs of stone used for everything from building homes and barns,...

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The journey toward acceptance is worth taking

In my 1975-76 senior English class at Hutchinson High School, we learned a lot of things that were honestly not very meaningful at the time. As I get older, I think about some of those lessons, quotes, and ideas. We learned Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living," at a time when examining one's life generally didn't go past thinking about what was for breakfast.   Sometimes examinations are forced upon us like pop quizzes, and one in my life began over thirty years ago. It requires some context. As a group of high school friends, our small crew...

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When it comes to COVID-19, schools must learn, adapt, evolve and grow

Back in January of this year, reports were trickling out of China about a new virus. News like this is hard on the office hypochondriac and immediately people began to tease me about exhibiting symptoms. In late January, we still only had one case in the U.S. Even in late February it had not affected most of our lives to any substantial degree. A problem like a novel virus is by definition, adaptive. We must learn as new data presents itself. We must study the issue, watch the data, and change, evolve, and adapt. That is what we have...

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There will be time for critical analysis; for now let’s give grace

If one picks back through the sedimentary layers of educational gurus, one who stands out in my mind is Larry Lezotte. Lezotte and his colleagues identified the seven correlates of effective schools that we still use today. Lezotte often said that schools are designed to perform three basic functions: 1. Custodial care of students, 2. Sorting and selecting students and 3. Teaching and learning. He often lamented that the public generally prioritizes these functions in that order. He philosophized that if we focused on teaching and learning, we would have greater success at eliminating the achievement gap and improve learning...

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I love a parade! Lessons from a crisis

Suffering from quarantine-fever this week, my dog Miss Pinkerton and I went for a walk through the neighborhood. As we meandered around the first corner, we were excited to see that the whole community had come out to greet us. I had my headphones on, so I couldn’t hear what folks were saying, and just assumed they were shouting salutations our way. It was amazing that these folks knew I had been a teacher back in 1983, as they were holding signs exclaiming their love for teachers. Shot down again, I soon realized this outpouring of support wasn’t for Pinky...

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College students today want what we had

Mark Tallman has published extensively on the effects of post-secondary education on student economic success, and therefore the state’s economic success. We know that students who do not go on to post-secondary earn significantly less than their peers. Nationally, some politicians have advocated for free tuition for all, while at the state level, states like Wyoming and Georgia have implemented free tuition programs for students who meet academic standards. At the local level, Neodesha got national attention when their foundation announced that all students would have the opportunity to receive post-secondary tuition. Over the course of just a few generations, post-secondary...

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