KASB Executive Director Blog - Dr. John Heim

KASB Executive Director Blog - Dr. John Heim

Must acknowledge ignorance about race

Several times over the years I have attempted to write a blog about race. Each time it ends up dumped in the trash -- a series of observations with no coherent point, espoused by a privileged old white guy. This year may be the same, but at least at this early point in the blog, my intention is to share it. I’m emboldened by some new observations and the desire to give some credit where credit is due. Let’s start with a reunion of sorts. Three high school friends got together last fall, one of whom had drifted away on [...]

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Don’t fumble this close to the goal line

“Keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys!” Forty-nine years ago, I was a sixth-grader at Ridgeview School in Olathe. This is easy to remember because the year was 1970 and the Kansas City Chiefs were going to the Super Bowl! In my then short life, I had only known the Chiefs were great. They had been to half of the four Super Bowls. This was bound to last a lifetime. Little did I know, it might be the chance of a lifetime. Since that time, Chiefs fans have experienced the Christmas Day game, aka the Longest Game, the Montana Injury [...]

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Here’s the scoop: Kansas politics is a swirl

There is an old adage that one shouldn’t talk about politics or religion in polite company. The saying always made little sense to me because to the best of my recollection that is all we ever discussed at family gatherings. In these tribal times, maybe it is best to talk about one thing upon which we can all agree: Ice cream is pretty much a gift from heaven. (Whoops, allow me a little religion.) My mom’s homemade ice cream is the best in the world, and when the recipe is handed off to my older sister there is nothing quite [...]

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Dirty fingernails deserve respect

How we assign value to jobs and the people who do them is a theme of Sarah Smarsh’s book “Heartland.” I often talk about my experiences of summers on a Kansas farm in Bunker Hill, Kansas in romanticized fashion. Smarsh’s experiences as a farm kid were similar to ours, until the farm crisis of the 1980s took that life from her and thousands of other family farmers. My mother’s parents also lived in Bunker Hill. My grandfather worked in the oil fields and my grandmother was a telephone operator in Russell. Though they lived in “town” they kept a garden, [...]

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Redesign: Its no bull…

Recently in the KASB offices we discussed what makes school redesign so difficult, and even scary. It can be a dangerous business and requires a delicate dance of agreeing upon a mission, establishing clear goals, planning strategies and tactics, teamwork, adaptability in working toward a common goal. As often is the case with trauma victims, it caused me to recall a moment from my younger days.   In the early 1980’s, when my dad decided to become a gentleman farmer/rancher, the decision was made to make a dramatic change in breeds of cattle from the pet-like polled Herefords that were the family tradition, to a more, shall we say, [...]

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It’s Just Math, Boys!

Some friends convinced me to go to a casino recently, I think maybe the third time I have been in my 60 years.  The idea of giving someone my money for no reason just doesn’t appeal to me.  Although I didn’t put any money down, I’ll admit it was fun to watch people I know lose their money.  Spirit of competition and all that. Two bright gentlemen showed off their “systems” at the roulette tables.  One system involved betting on pretty much every number.  That person was able to maintain a large pile of chips that took some time to dwindle to zero.  Another “system” involves establishing a “lucky number” and then [...]

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Veteran advice: ‘When they are at their worst, they need us to be our best’

Well, the Royals are dying on the vine, unrealistic expectations for the Chiefs are blooming, and the seeds of Jayhawk football victory are being sown . . . wait until basketball season. It must be time for the best day of the year: The first day of school!  This year I had the opportunity to attend a school convocation and it brought back so many good memories. The sight of students walking to their cars after morning weights, the sound of the diesel engines cranking, the touch of handshake and hug greetings, the sweetish smell of disinfectant and the taste [...]

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Nearly half of Kansans fail simple test

August and November are coming: How will you score on this important metric?   Although they originated with a Kentucky court case, the seven Rose Standards are well known to Kansas educators and policymakers. Cited by the Kansas Supreme Court, adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education, voted into law by the Legislature and signed by the governor, there is general agreement the standards are an excellent foundation upon which to build a system of education. There is also general agreement that the standards are difficult to measure. Serving on the Governor’s Education Council and co-chair of the council’s metrics committee [...]

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What makes a great sports team could also make a great school board

Kansas statutes require that boards organize themselves formally at their first July meeting. I’s must be dotted and t’s crossed. Technical processes and procedures operationalized. But the most important thing the board does at the July meeting is select a president and vice president. I was thinking about this while reading a book called “The Captain Class,” by Sam Walker. Walker takes an interesting (and fun) approach to the study of what makes teams successful. Using specific criteria, he identifies the 16 best athletic teams of all time. (Since publication, he added the New England Patriots as a 17th.) The [...]

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What do we want for our kids?

As the school year draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about the mission and challenges of public education in Kansas. Each year in August, we welcome more than 400,000 Kansas kids to our schoolhouse doors. Some of those kids have spent the summer playing sports, going to camp, hanging out at the pool or working on their 4-H projects for the county fair. Some have been flipping burgers, mowing lawns or babysitting to save for a car or other fun stuff. Maybe they’ve done an internship somewhere. Other Kansas kids hit school in August after working not [...]

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