Month: September 2014

Somebody Should Fire This Guy – Part 2

My last post was by far my most popular post since I started blogging 3 months ago.  The post seemed to resonate with school leaders in a very personal way. It also resonated with news media across the state of Iowa. Finally, the decision to put Wifi in school buses resonated with citizens across the state.  I have republished an editorial piece that appeared in the Ottumwa Courier on Saturday, Sept. 27th edition.   I thank my friend, Mark Newman for sharing his thoughts about change in the following article.

A Newsman Finds The Facts

WiFi on Cardinal Buses Creates a Buzz


ELDON, IA— Is it easy to criticize educators, or just fun?

As a kid, it was a little bit of both. While teachers, school boards and administrators always receive their share of insults, they can make it worse on themselves. Change does it, as does being the first to do something new.

One of Wapello County’s school boards and their superintendent received a lesson in how an attempt at improvement will raise the hackles of folks more than 100 miles away.

In case you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about Cardinal of Eldon: Out in rural Iowa, the kids don’t always have access to the internet. Superintendent Joel Pedersen decided to put WiFi hot spots on each bus. All grade 6-12 Cardinal students are given a laptop for the year.

Local media reported, but then the story broke state wide.

Pedersen told us that it was possible kids would play games. He knows that, and so does the board. But one thing was sure; his students, he said, deserve at least the opportunity to study. If kids did want to do internet research (a big part of today’s school curriculum), they had to have access to the internet.

They get to choose how to use that time. Keep in mind, however, one of the other innovations at Cardinal: Mandatory homework. There are no “incomplete” grades. You will do your school work. If you don’t get homework done, children are ordered back to school over the weekend; teachers oversee homework completion — outside of their contract days, which is to say, without pay.

For many of the rural kids, Pedersen said, that 45 minutes spent sitting on the bus for the ride home is the last chance to hook up to the ‘net. They certainly can’t access the broadband from their house.

“The infrastructure just isn’t there,” he said of his largely rural district.

The Eldon kids thought it was a great idea. The parents … well, they were hesitant, though generally said they’d wait and see. The concern was that rather than doing research or homework, the children would play with their laptop computers or, perhaps, watch funny cat videos.

Viewers watching Des Moines television used Facebook to judge the small community’s decision on Facebook. Some opinions, even negative, were well thought out. With others, it was hard to tell whether they’d read (or watched) any of the interviews with Pedersen. I will never say which category any of the following fall into.

Jenna Rozinek  queried “Couldn’t the money be used for something better, like maybe new books …?

Shelley McGuire Nelson suggested we “have them open their textbooks and do homework … Waste of money.”

Jennifer Zagar inquired, “If the computer is what is teaching them [why] do we need teacher?”

Amanda Stone-Janssen “My first reaction was omg that’s dumb, who is really going to use the WiFi for homework? But then I actually thought my response through….. While the schools provide the laptops [to take home], they do not provide the Internet it takes to use them. Not all of us are blessed enough to have the Internet at home, financially or simply because affordable Internet isn’t available in some rural areas … If this gives those kids, however few, time and resources to get their work done, then so be it.”

Jamie Blakley said that if the rides were shorter, she would ask why they’d bother. But at up to two hours on a bus, the addition “is a very nice thing for the school district to do. Especially if some of these kids don’t have it at home. The instinct is to say ‘back in my day we didn’t’ but we aren’t [in] those days…”

Nick Hansen wrote, “I rode the bus all the time when I was a kid … we didn’t have it then and we were fine.”

Theresa McDonald Dowd stated, “I rode the bus for 2 hours every day when I was a kid. I did not have wireless internet and I still managed to get my homework done. What a waste of tax dollars.”

This week, Pedersen used his blog to address the criticism. He showed the Facebook posts, but did not criticize any poster individually.

“My post is not about convincing anyone about the merits of adding WiFi on school buses. I’m sure arguments could be made for both sides of this implementation. I do want to mention the challenges we face as leaders when moving into uncharted territory.”

There’s the crux of the matter for me: As the world changes, do we prepare students for the former world or for the one we’re sending them into?

Kevin Schlomer wrote a long post on Facebook; I had to shorten it so it would fit.

“The world is changing. We have to prepare kids for their future, not 1985. Many curriculum materials are moving entirely online. They are more current, more interactive and much cheaper than trying to constantly update paper textbooks. If kids sit on a bus for 2 hours why not give them a chance to work on homework? I think it’s a great chance for all districts to watch and learn from this school.”

— Ottumwa Courier reporter Mark Newman can be contacted via


Somebody Should Fire This Guy?



Cardinal CSD recently made the decision to add high speed Internet on our bus fleet. My school board vetted the idea and decided that the need was there for our students. The 3 main reasons the board cited were:

  1. Many of our students ride up to 2 hours a day on the bus because of our rural bus routes.
  2. Many students do not have access to high speed Internet because of low family income or lack of Internet infrastructure in our district.
  3. Our students would have access to Internet to help with school assignments especially on long activity trips during the week.

Change Is Scary

My post is not about convincing anyone about the merits of adding Wifi on school buses. I’m sure arguments could be made for both sides of this implementation. I do want to mention the challenges we face as leaders when moving into uncharted territory. I have posted a few of the nearly 60 comments that have been posted on KCCI Facebook page since the story aired last Friday. Please note the post by AJ Lewis:


Leaders must be prepared for harsh critics who see the world differently than you. Don’t take it personally and also believe in what you are doing.


My challenge to YOU!

Leading change takes guts and perseverance to challenge the status quo. Taking risks is what moves the human race forward. Some people will “call for your head,” while others will applaud you. It is always about doing what is best for kids! This thought will always guide you and allow you to take risks.

Remember to find your champions during the “dark days” of implementation. The post below is a champion post. Remember to look for champions like Jamie. By the way, I have never met Jamie Blakely but I appreciate her!


#Oneperson Action Item

As always, I leave you with an exercise that you can do with your school staff to help remind educators why we are in the business of making the world a better place.

A Toast for Culture

Starting a new initiative or has your school worked extremely hard to improve student achievement? If so, the toast for culture might be just what you need to do as the “Lead Learner” of your district of school.


  1. Find some plastic flute glasses. They are sold at most grocery stores.
  2. Order sparking grape juice (white or purple)
  3. Keep in mind that the store may pack your bottles in wine boxes because of the weight of the bottles… don’t panic!
  4. Have the glasses on the table and make an awesome toast. Don’t forget to Tweet out a picture.
  5. This is a great activity to start or end a professional development day.


How Full Is Your Bucket?

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I recently had the privilege of spending a day at Meskwaki Settlement School in Tama, IA. I was asked to speak about the importance of school climate. Hopefully, I shared a few tips that my new friends can use. While I was speaking, a longtime teacher asked if I knew about the “Theory of the Bucket and the Dipper.” This is a simple but powerful theory, which actually formed the foundation for the culture building at Davis County Middle School in Bloomfield, IA several years ago. This post is for anyone who has never heard of this theory created by the late Donald Clifton.

I will take the description right from the Gallup poll website:

The Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket

Each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful.

Each of us has an invisible dipper. When we use that dipper to fill other people’s buckets — by saying or doing things to increase their positive emotions — we also fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to dip from others’ buckets — by saying or doing things that decrease their positive emotions — we diminish ourselves.

Like the cup that runneth over, a full bucket gives us a positive outlook and renewed energy. Every drop in that bucket makes us stronger and more optimistic.

But an empty bucket poisons our outlook, saps our energy, and undermines our will. That’s why every time someone dips from our bucket it hurts us.

So we face a choice every moment of every day: We can fill one another’s buckets, or we can dip from them. It’s an important choice, one that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health, and happiness.

The challenge:

  • How could you implement this theory into the culture of your school?
  • Would this make sense to staff and students?
  • Did you know students could write drops to their teachers?
  • As a leader, will you confront staff members who are always dipping from others?
  • Do you thank staff members who are constantly filling students’ bucket?
  • Have you considered students who come to school with empty buckets due to their home situation?
  • Would it help to your school culture if you increased the amount of bucket filling happening at your school?
  • Could a positive phone call home fill our parents’ buckets?

See Java with Joel video for a bucket filling opportunity!

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As always, I leave you with an exercise that you can do with your school staff to help remind educators why we are in the business of making the world a better place.

#Oneperson Action Item

Java with Joel

Could you do something like this?

Btw…. My tech coach, Alecia Gardner, helped me with this video:

Bucket Filling is all about Emotional Intelligence!