Fishbowl Friday

It is the first Seahawk Friday of the new school year and it is also Fishbowl Friday, the annual game between Gig Harbor and Peninsula High Schools.  This is an amazing community event that is more than just a football game.

Each year, bragging rights are up for grabs in this hotly contested game.  But more importantly, it is a chance come together to celebrate the great community in which we live.  Green and Blue are the colors of the evening.  We are proud of the schools in this district and blessed to have excellent staff and fantastic students that help make the Peninsula School District one of the top districts in the state.

So we kick off  another Fishbowl and another school year.  We encourage you to “Be Part of It!” at Peninsula High School this year.  Join the fun…it is new and exciting every day!

Inside Out

Not my favorite thing when folding laundry.

But when it comes to change, the best way is inside out.  You choose to eat a more healthy diet.  You choose to exercise more.  All in the hope that you will lose weight.  The only way you will achieve your goal is to be motivated from the inside.  I have heard it said that you have to change your mind before you change your body.  That way of thinking works for a lot of things.

You have to change your mind before you change the way you teach.  You have to change your mind before you change the way you learn.  You have to change your mind before you change the way you lead.  As we continue to strive to get better, we will be focusing on changing our minds, on changing the way we see things and on changing the way we think.  Once the change takes place on the inside, we can let the change happen on the outside.

Unlike that pesky t-shirt you need to fold, inside out is the only way we want to be.

Assistant Principals

This week is National Assistant Principal’s Week.  It is a great time to recognize the hard work and expertise of our two assistant principals:  Melissa McNeish and Mark Nickels…M & M!

Thank you, M & M, for your commitment to Peninsula High School.  Thank you for believing in our vision and carrying it out each and every day.

Thank you, M & M, for establishing a culture of high expectations with student discipline.  Your focus on relationships, even when you are making a tough call with a student, shows true caring and respect for how unique and special each student is.

Thank you, M & M, for listening, evaluating, and offering input when we talk about the direction we are going.  It takes a true leader to support the vision, and when necessary, help to alter the course.

Thank you, M & M, for your commitment to improving instruction and student learning in each classroom.  You both have made it your goal to help teachers become the best they can be.  The payoff of that is seen in every classroom every day.

Thank you, M & M, for the way you tackle a project, communicate with parents, support teachers, and enjoy high school students.

But most of all, thank you, Melissa and Mark, for being great leaders, great teammates, and great friends.  Happy Assistant Principal’s Week!

The Cycle

Mid-winter break came and went.  Thankfully, the snow hit while we were out…we don’t need any more snow days.  Our first task as we enter the month of March will be to finalize registration for classes for the 2011-2012 school year.  We have gathered data from next year’s sophomores, juniors, and seniors and will be heading to the middle schools this week to work with incoming freshman on their first set of high school classes.

This is  a busy time of year and it always feels strange to be smack in the middle of one school year, while putting a ton of energy towards next year.  Before we know it we will be putting together the master schedule, preparing next year’s school improvement plan, and establishing our focus for the 2011-2012 school year.

As always, our attention is centered around results on student achievement.  The question remains, “How can we create the best learning opportunity for our students?”  I am not convinced we have discovered what is truly best.  I guess that is what makes it fun.  The cycle of the school year keeps you moving from present to future and back to present again, sometimes in the span of a conversation.

So what is the best way to achieve results?  What is the best way to improve the practice of the adults in the building?  Since there is no magic pill, we keep striving to find  those things that work.  I heard a comparison the other day that I found interesting.  In education, we all talk about “best practice” but this person was urging us to focus more on “next practice.”  This made sense to me.  The cycle keeps us moving and our first instinct is to go for what “those in the know” are saying is best.  Maybe what is NEXT is the most important thing.  I’m going to keep my mind focused on the next and see what happens.


What are we most of?

I know…one should never end a sentence in a preposition.  But in this case, I am going to say it is ok.  We asked this question of our School Improvement Leadership team to get a gauge of where we are as a school and what our next steps need to be in our journey towards greatness.  We are in the process of  “identifying our identity.”

The responses were interesting and insightful:

1.  We don’t settle

2.  We provide opportunities

3.  We create possibility

4.  We are all about our students

5.  We have an optimistic passion for what we do

What we found is that we are most of character.  Character in the form of service, integrity, hope and belief that what we are doing matters.  As we continue to strive for creating the best school possible, we look to this idea of character and how it can integrate with high academic expectations and begin to see some next steps for Peninsula High School.

As we kick these ideas around, they have began to take form on whiteboards, videos, and pages of legal pads.  Action comes next and our vision of our identity is not too far from a reality.

Education Re-Form

The word reform means to form again or to change to a different state or one that is better.  This word is used often in education when we talk about improving our schools.  Ironically, more times than not, when we use the word reform we are talking about regurgitating or reinventing or replaying what has already been done.

Education is a cyclical business.  What comes around goes around…and around…and around.  What we saw years ago is the latest and greatest strategy that will make the difference in improving student achievement.  I read an article yesterday written by an educator that was so filled with buzz words and educational jargon that I was confused by the time I finished.  Unfortunately, we educators have a knack for throwing out a lot of phrases that don’t have a lot of true reform behind them.

If we truly want to re-form education…to truly change our schools to a different and improved state, we need to begin innovating with ideas that are not copies of what has been done in the past, but new ideas that truly meet the needs of our teachers and students.  As we are fond of saying in our district, “you can do anything, you just can’t do everything.”  Why not start with the “anything” and open the doors to the possibilities of what our schools can become?

It is a great time to be in education.  Let’s take advantage of it and instead of trying to fit innovation into what currently exists, let’s make what exists fit our re-forming of our schools.

Super People

As the football season winds down and the teams for the Super Bowl have been decided, I took a minute to reflect.  I am a big fan of Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, and his “Win Forever” philosophy about football and life.  The season the Seattle Seahawks had is a direct result of the leadership provided by Coach Carroll and his staff.

A quote from Carroll’s book, Win Forever, makes me stop and think about how we lead in our lives, whether it be at work or at home.

“What if leaders saw their jobs not just in terms of getting the most production out of their people, but in terms of teaching their workers to be the best they can be.”

We can replace the word workers with teachers, students, kids, colleagues, or anything else.  So often, we spend our time focused on the results we want, hoping that our hard work will pay off without really getting to the heart of how we can achieve the desired success.  By making our target the people with whom we work and striving to help them to become the best people they can be, we are making deposits toward long lasting affects that will bring sustainable results.

So as we think about where we want to go, let’s stop and think about the people that will take us there and invest time in getting them to the top of their game.


School improvement.  This two-word phrase is repeated over and over again as schools and districts focus on increasing levels of student achievement.  There are no magic formulas, but plenty of “best practices” to go around.  If you look at the word improve, the middle letter is ‘r’.  The R stands for relationships, which means we should rewrite this word as impRove.

At the heart of any kind of improvement is the people and the relationships we have with them.  Take a look at companies like Zappos and Patagonia and they will show you an example of how important human capital is in their success.  What defines remarkable organizations is the value they place on making the people on their teams happy.

At Peninsula High School, our belief is that happy, satisfied teachers make better teachers.  Happiness and satisfaction comes from feeling respected, trusted and valued.  Our belief is that people who enjoy their work and their environment will be more effective.  I see it in my life every day.  When we talk about raising student achievement, it makes sense to focus on the most influential commodity we have…our people!


“There is something special about working with high school students,” I told someone I met this weekend when they asked me if I enjoyed being a principal.  I am reminded how true this statement is each and every day.

Last week I had the opportunity to help our We The People students as they prepared for the state competition in Olympia over the weekend.  I use the term “help” loosely because the knowledge these students had far exceeded my limits.  Their preparation, teamwork, thirst for new information, and their ability to articulate clear and concise thoughts was impressive.

Now this week we have students recruiting for Relay for Life, earning impressive honors at band auditions at Pacific Lutheran University, and getting excited about the Poetry Out Loud competition.  These are just a few things our amazing students are doing.  The truth is, every day I smile watching these thoughtful, respectful, energetic, honest (most times), and humorous students interact with adults and each other.

As I finished my conversation over the weekend, I said,”Working with high school students, you never know what each day will bring.”  And that is why it is so much fun.

Happy New Year

A new year is upon us and we have re-committed ourselves to new goals for improvement.  Whether it be healthy eating or to write more blog posts, this is bound to be a great year.

You can look for a new post every Monday as I follow through on my goal for the new year.

As I left off back in November, I was talking about our mission at Peninsula High School.

Do things better than they have ever been done before.

  • Today is the day
  • Find the good
  • Serve first
  • Let it rip

We continue to find ways to live this philosophy each and every day.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about school culture recently and I am more and more convinced that the best way to support student success is to create an environment where students, staff, and parents feel valued, respected, honored, trusted, and believed in.

As we begin 2011, I want to remind myself of the gift we have every day…to work together to help shape the lives of young adults as they navigate their way through adolescence.

See you next Monday!