In the “tank”

For the past four weeks, at 6:45 am, no matter where I am on the road, I get the same text message from my husband, Wayne, “I am going in the ‘tank’ now.” For those of you who know Wayne, especially in his retirement years, he really doesn’t like to get up early and when he does, he takes his time having coffee, catching up on the news and just enjoying his well-deserved days off doing the things he loves- fishing, golfing and building things.  Since August 20, however, his life has been very different.  Every morning Wayne gets up in Halifax (not in our hometown), walks to the hospital and, as he says, goes “in the tank”. He is having hyperbaric oxygen therapy to repair damage from radiation that he had fourteen years ago.  During the past year, he has had severe issues with his jaw and mouth and with great dental and medical care, the correct diagnosis was made. Several steps have been taken (and there may be many more) but for right now, this is his life.  This week, I was able to join Wayne in Halifax and see what “the tank” was all about.  Right away, I knew that there was an analogy here to our school improvement work and I had to write about it.

As the Mayo Clinic describes, “hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube.  Conditions treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy include serious infections, bubbles of air in your blood vessels, and wounds that won’t heal as a result of diabetes or radiation injury. fullsizeoutput_ed7In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, the air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. Your blood carries this oxygen throughout your body. This helps fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.”

As you can see, it is a specific medical treatment that must be applied with exact precision.  From day one, Wayne was told that he had to attend at least thirty consecutive treatments. There is no option. He has to have the treatment in this very controlled environment and he can not miss any days. As I visited the hospital this week, I was thinking about some of my schools and the work that is needed right away to improve student learning.  To say that these schools need a triage plan for many of the students is not an exaggeration. There is an urgent need to do an immediate diagnosis of why a student is not learning, what they can and cannot do and a decision must be made about the “treatment necessary”.  In other words, besides knowing who isn’t learning we have to know what to do about it.

In my experience, we educators are often better at knowing who isn’t learning than really being able to determine the immediate, precise next steps of what to do about it.  We may make the diagnosis (although I might argue that we don’t often dig deep enough here) but I do not believe that we always take the time to research and collaborate with others about what exact action must be taken.  In other words, if Sarah can not read, do we really know what is missing and are we specifically addressing this? Using the hyperbaric oxygen therapy analogy, do we determine the exact treatment, the exact amount of time and make this non-negotiable?  Do we disrupt someone’s schedule, change their day if necessary, to create the time for this type of intervention and train ourselves (or others) to deliver the support? And lastly, if we don’t know what to do, do we urgently find out so that we can do the right thing?

What I do know about my schools (and others) is that educators work tirelessly every single day to support students.  They nurture them, care for them, cheer for them, provide safety and support and do their best to ensure learning is taking place.  And, I know that when they see a student not being successful, they are frustrated and disappointed.  They want to have the solutions and the right next steps. It takes courage and dedication to commit to dealing with the root cause; getting to the diagnosis and ensuring that action is taken that truly aligns to what is needed.  In our school improvement work we like to say, student by student/skill by skill. Even if it means disrupting routines, causing some discomfort as we move outside of routines and habits and asking others to work differently.  It is using all of our expertise, collaboratively, for the common goal of student success.

As I left the hospital, I reflected on how confident and competent the medical staff were and I knew that this made a difference for Wayne.  He trusts that they are doing what is needed and that if this doesn’t work that they will create the next steps.  I believe that this helps him be a confident patient.  Exactly what we want in our schools; confident learners. Confident that we are doing all we can and exactly what is needed.  And, so my challenge to you this week is to consider this; what is your current reality? Is your classroom, school or district a place where ‘triaging’ is done in a timely, effective manner to ensure learning?  Are you building confidence in both staff and students so that every expertise and resource is maximized to build capacity for teaching and learning? Have a great week and I look forward to our time together next Saturday.


The Magic in Teaching

This week I had a great chance to observe engaging, fun lessons filled with high expectations of students to learn and be successful.  This kind of teaching seems “magical” when you see it happening. Many educators are so great at it that it just seems effortless; like they are born with awesome teaching skills. However, the fact is this…it doesn’t just happen.  There is not really a “magical” formula for great classroom practice that just happens. Great instruction takes will and skill to develop.

What truly impacts effective lessons requires both intentional planning and delivery and as my great friend, Lissa Pijanowski, ( describes in her new book, “Architects of Deeper Learning” (Published by the International Center for Leadership in Education, 2018), we have to work like architects and builders, working from a well-designed plan, laying a foundation, working through the framingconstruction and inspection steps to knowing when to renovate for improvement.fullsizeoutput_ed0

I really appreciate the analogy that Lissa uses as she compares instructional design to the construction process.  It really made me think about this common thread that I see woven into many of my school visits, lesson planning seems to be a lost art. Too many times, it feels like there is an assumption made that great instruction just happens without planning.  When asked, teachers often talk to me about how little time they feel that they have and that lesson planning can be that “extra task” that they have to do.  It might be perceived as a “thing”- a lesson plan versus an “action”- planning for instruction. While I appreciate that time is truly a precious commodity with so many expectations on educators, I am a strong believer in the need to be very well planned in order to deliver an engaging lesson with high expectations for students.

No one reading this blog, would begin to build a house without a plan. You would not hire a builder who did not have the skills needed (or seek out others with the skills to help them) to create what you want.  You would want and expect that your builder would work to improve and master his or her skills.  Your expectations from design to finished product would be high and, in my opinion, every student deserves this same intentional focus of classroom practice.

Have you ever had the opportunity to assist someone who really knows what they are doing as a carpenter, electrician, plumber or other trade? What happened when you were empowered to assist and learn with the expert?  Something really hard, to you, hopefully seemed possible.  You might even have worked your way to mastery. You learned by doing and as Lissa states in her book, “students learn by doing, it’s that simple.”

Part of great lesson design includes student ownership of their learning. Gone are the days of “sit and get”. As educators, we know that we are competing with technology that engages students whether we like it or not. They are overstimulated by much of what happens in their daily lives and so they easily become bored and disinterested when they enter a classroom where little has been done to prepare a well-planned, engaging lesson. When I interview students at my schools, they are quick to talk about the classrooms that they love to be in and it isn’t because they can just hang-out and get away with little work, it is the opposite; they ALWAYS talk about the teachers who are well-organized with interesting projects and tasks for them that make them think.  In other words, they know when they meet great “architects” and “builders”.

In her book, Lissa reminds us that after we take the time to construct for knowledge we have to take the time to “inspect” our results.  This really brings us to the data-driven culture that is such a part of continuous school improvement.  It doesn’t mean that we just collect data about student learning; we actually use the data to know where students are on their learning journey. The “inspection” means that we only move on if the learning results indicate that students are meeting or exceeding our grade level goals.  In Chapter 5 (p.121), she asks very reflective questions that I believe would be helpful to every educator as this school year begins, 1) What are the differences between assessment for learning, assessment of learning and assessment as learning? 2) How do we best evaluate student work and provide descriptive feedback? 3) What role do learning goals and success criteria play in assessment design? 4) How can we engage students in assessment so they can become self-regulated learners? 5) How can we use assessment results in collaborative teams to determine our next steps?

As I continue to support school improvement, I have the opportunity to meet many principals who know that improved instructional practices are necessary but they are not always  well equipped to help their teachers get there. I want to say to you, it is the right thing to focus on.  Ensuring that you build the professional capacity of your teachers so they have a chance to understand and learn more about the “why” and “how” of great design for deeper learning is important work.  And, if you need help understanding the process, I would highly recommend Lissa’s book .

Lastly, I want to share the comparison found in the book on what it looks like to move from a “Teacher-Centered to a Learner-Centered” classroom. Go ahead and use this tool to self-reflect on where you are in creating a learner-centered classroom.  I have found this rubric to be quite helpful in supporting deeper understanding of what the work should look like.  Have a great week. Thanks for reading and I look forward to being with you next Saturday.

Teacher-Centered Learner-Centered
Focused on teaching.

1 2 3 4 5
Focused on learning.

6 7 8 9 10
Teacher delivers content and imparts knowledge

1 2 3 4 5
Teacher facilitates construction of knowledge through experiences.

6 7 8 9 10
Teacher talks; students listen.

1 2 3 4 5
Instructor models; students interact with instructor and one another.

6 7 8 9 10
Students primarily work independently.

1 2 3 4 5
Students work in pairs, in groups, or alone depending on the purpose of the activity.

6 7 8 9 10
Success is measured by test scores.

1 2 3 4 5
Success is measured by growth and engagement.

6 7 8 9 10
Instructor chooses topics and tasks are structured.

1 2 3 4 5
Students have choice of topics and how to accomplish tasks.

6 7 8 9 10
Instructor evaluates student learning.

1 2 3 4 5
Students evaluate their own learning: instructor also evaluates.

6 7 8 9 10
Rigid structures that support adult needs.

1 2 3 4 5
Flexible structures that support student needs.

6 7 8 9 10
Learning environment is quiet or orderly.

1 2 3 4 5
Learning environment is often noisy and active.

6 7 8 9 10

Architects of Deeper Learning, Appendix D, Page 201





How great when our lives lead us to the most interesting and unique experiences if we least expect them? As I work in schools with principals and teachers, I often have to remind myself to really notice the experiences that happen around me. Sometimes this means being a better listener, being really present and absolutely and intentionally noticing the small things. I arrived home on Thursday from a two-week road trip. I worked in several schools, in four states and spent the middle weekend with my daughter. I can honestly say I arrived home tired.  However, the experiences of these past two weeks kept me energized. I saw amazing examples of students wanting to learn, teachers understanding the work needed to see student learning grow and leaders committed to  doing “whatever it takes”.  And, I worked with two amazing school improvement consultants who provided me with rich experiences that I will never forget. Here are the stories…

As a school improvement coach, it is critically important that I can quickly assess the needs of the school.  Whether it is visiting for the first time or having the privilege of working with a school on a regular basis, I always have to be aware of the work already being done by the staff and the next steps needed for continuous improvement.  As I have written about often in this blog, many times this has to start with the culture of the school. Organization, collective commitments, building common understanding of the “why” of the work,  relationships, communication, etc. are examples of places that we start with in many schools to create a positive climate for learning. fullsizeoutput_ecdSchool improvement is about figuring out how to ride the bike, where you want to go and when to stop to enjoy and celebrate the experiences and, then, re-examine your route.

The bottom line is that I am there to improve student learning.  Seeing students reach their maximum potential, being able to successfully master grade level expectations and be ready for the next chapter of their lives is the “why” of school improvement.  And, in most of the schools that I work in, that means ensuring that the basics of reading, writing and mathematics are being addressed.  Schools are data rich but they can be “information poor.” In other words, they have lots of assessment data and tons of student work to look at but clarifying what it all means can be an overwhelming task for educators.  One of my roles is to help principals and teachers really understand their current reality.  What are the reasons reading scores are so low? How can they decided the individual needs of each and every student? What instructional practices can we implement to meet those needs right away? What support is needed for both educators and students to make this happen? And on this past road trip, I had the great fortune of working with two school improvement coaches who really know how to answer these questions. Meet Tammy Miller and Terri Thomas Klemm…

Tammy is a coach who knows how to dig in to the data immediately and has a proven track record of getting results. She has been known to show schools many ways to improve reading through effective programs and instruction. Teachers and principals appreciate her.  I already knew this but what I was reminded of by Tammy was that students notice our work too.  After a very long day of work, Tammy told me about a recent experience of hers when she returned to a school and a student ran up to her to hug her and thank her for “helping her teacher help her learn to read”. Tammy wasn’t bragging.  She was just saying, this is “why we do what we do”. We talked about how this kind of unexpected, unplanned experience is what can keep us fueled to stay busy and on the road. And I was so thankful that she told me about this school because it made me feel so grateful to be part of this work.

Terri is the same type of lady.  Everyone who has had the joy of working with Terri would tell you that she is hands-on and just doesn’t give up on teachers and students.  We finished a contract at a school together this past week and it was bittersweet. We don’t know when our paths will cross again (professionally) and I learned so much about strong literacy instruction from Terri. But, we know the school is able to move on without us.  As we were leaving, we gathered with the teachers to say good-bye and as Terri was thanking them, a young teacher turned to me and said, “That woman changed my life as a teacher. I am a better teacher because of Terri.” I am used to seeing students and staff warmly greet Terri when we are in schools and I wasn’t surprised by what the teacher said. I was just so glad that I experience this with her.  Again, it is what keeps me focused. As we like to say, one student, one teacher, one principal at a time….

As school begins for the 2018-2019 school year, it is important that everyone in schools can find the time to pause, appreciate the small wins and recognize the daily positive experiences that surround them  Setting short-term goals will help educators see their impact. If we wait for the end of the year and “hope” that we are successful, it sure is going to feel like a very long year. There are Tammys and Terris in every school-adults making a difference in the lives of students by recognizing their needs.

I cannot end a blog titled, “Experiences” without mentioning my weekend in the middle of this work.  My daughter and I experienced being overstimulated; musically, visually and in conversation. We saw two amazing concerts (Keith Urban and Taylor Swift). We witnessed, first-hand, the joy that people share when they love music and feel free to dance and sing and show love.  We talked to strangers who shared great stories. We both dug deep for the energy to keep up with each other and knew that this weekend was very special. I know that this has little to do with school improvement but it speaks to the way that we have to work with each other. Enjoying the moments, working hard and supporting one another when we need to do just that.  Here is to a great week with amazing experiences. See you next Saturday.

A Clean Slate

This week is about amazing leaders… all I was introduced to this week in one way or another.  A couple of the stories are from brand new leaders… principals with their very first schools, during the first days of the school year. How exciting for them…well, and, busy and scary and overwhelming and almost every other word that you can think of to describe a daunting, important challenging role to take on. Add to this mix, a school improvement coach showing up and your cup might be overflowing! Not for these two ladies who embrace it all…

Meet Ms. Paulette Bell. Ms. Bell is the new principal of Robert F Morehead Middle School in Arkansas.  As soon as I met Ms. Bell, I knew that I was going to enjoy working with her.  She said three things to me, right off the bat, that won my heart. As soon as we started to talk, she told me that her primary reason for being is to improve learning and that she would do whatever it takes to be successful in this regard.  (So, for any of you who know me, you know that she won my heart right then!). The second thing she said was that she understood that she had to be extremely consistent ensuring that everyone understood her expectations and that she had to” walk the talk”. I know it is one thing for the principal to SAY these things but I have first hand evidence that she is doing just that.  On day four of the school year, I met with parents, teachers and students and there was clear consensus that Ms. Bell has already made a huge impact on improving the culture of the school with her consistent, high expectations for order and structure. And, when middle school students are saying that they LIKE the order and structure in the school, you know that you have the right focus.fullsizeoutput_ec5The third thing that she said  and ,that I will never forget was this, “Every student deserves to start with a clean slate… every year…every week…every day… every class…”. That is such a great way to see your work in the school.

My second experience  with a new principal this week was with Mrs. Sarah Stobaugh at Morrilton Intermediate School also in Arkansas.  We had such a great day together doing very intentional planning around the next steps to ensure student success.  What I really appreciated were the questions that I was asked.  The conversations were not one-sided, it was not “sit and get”; Mrs. Stobaugh was reflective, inquisitive and so willing to collaborate and learn as we worked.  I see her focus on instruction as a real strong skill for her and I know that she is going to take the time to build caring relationships while at the same time, have high expectations for her students and staff.  I know that she plans to have her school be an exemplary school for others to come and learn from and I do believe that she will achieve this.  What a great attitude to have as a new leader.

And now on to the third principal story. Ms. Melisa Rivera is not a new principal and starting her third year with me as her school improvement coach. Needless to say, I love working with her and this one statement that she made to her staff on Wednesday says it all: “You know this school and what we need to do and I will always have your back”.  I am so proud of her professional growth and what Cherokee Heights Elementary, in St. Paul, Minn is becoming!  So proud!

The fourth educational leader I want you to learn from this week is someone who I have never met (and I hope that he doesn’t mind that I am writing about him). You see, I heard of him from one of the parents in his school community; a parent who was so excited about his amazing communication that went out to all of 1300 students and their parents prior to school started that she publicly has shared his story.  Please meet Mr. Kevin Calkins, Principal of Cathedral Catholic High School in California (www.cathedral He journaled all summer thinking about what advice he would give “his teenage self” and that is what he sent to all.

Here are a couple of my favorites from his message: 1) “Life is not a straight line. But that doesn’t mean it’s ok to be directionless. Believe it or not, there will be several times in your life – leading right up through adulthood! – where you will take a path or a job that you think is leading you to where you want to be only to discover that’s no longer true. But these are not wasted experiences if you learn from them; they are not mistakes if you right the path.” 2) “Read. It makes all the difference later in life. It matters when you are young, too. And read for fun.” 3) “Do all kinds of things, not just the things you are comfortable with or good at”.  This personal touch is such a great way to begin building relationships with his school community. The parents also love that he has a weekly “Principal Corner” message on-line to keep the parents up to date and many, many other examples of intentional communication.  So much of our leadership work requires us to be able to communicate well with others.  Kudos to Mr. Calkins for being such a fine example of what that looks like in our schools.

And lastly, I want to tell you about a Superintendent that I had the pleasure of meeting this week. Mrs. Barbara Warren is the Superintendent of Dollarway School District in Arkansas. IMG_0590 Just spend five minutes with her and you know that she totally believes in her people.  She wants them to feel safe and comfortable as employees, families and, of course, students, and she understands that this cultural piece will lead to a climate that is conducive to moving achievement.  She is determined to lead the “district of choice” in Arkansas and I know that her strong commitment to her people will get her there.

So, I close with a question for reflection. What can you do to improve your intentional focus around communication, consistency and learning?  Thank you for reading. See you next Saturday.



Lessons from a Life Lived

From 1994 to 1999, I had the privilege and honor of being principal of Lewisville Middle School in Moncton, NB, Canada.  Oh, how I loved that school and my job.  I cannot say enough about the amazing teachers and the hard work and success with our students that we experienced together.  When I think about my days at Lewisville, I know that I learned many lessons there about leadership and school improvement in general.  Still, to this day, when I am working as a school improvement coach, my thoughts often go back to that school when I am trying to think of an example or a situation that might help a principal or teacher understand what is needed. This week’s blog is dedicated to the memory of someone whom I met during those years at LMS, Mr. Philip Riteman. His impact on me as a young principal and mother of two will never be forgotten…

Mr. Riteman passed away last Wednesday, August 8, in Halifax, after a life full of emotional contrasts.  If you had the opportunity to spend time with him, you would soon understand that he had so many stories of survival, tragedy and of course, love and happiness as well. Philip was a Holocaust survivor.  He was number 98706, as his prison tattoo reminded him every day of his life.image It was only in the 80’s that he actually began telling his story from those days.  As his son Larry told the media this past week, “He got out and he told people what he endured.  And he relived it every time he told it…it was clear he had seen something absolutely awful”.  Anyone reading this who had the privilege of hearing Philip speak would know exactly what Larry means. He could not speak about his experience without the emotions.  They were raw and they were real and his message genuinely and passionately delivered each and every time…”It is better to love than to hate.” (…/holocaust-survivor-philip-riteman-dies-at-age-96-1.4045898)

I remember the first time he came to Lewisville Middle to speak to my students. We had several gang related incidents in our city and I was contacted and asked if I would like to have Mr. Riteman visit the school.  I had never met him but I knew that I wanted my students to experience many opportunities to learn from others.   As I sat in the gymnasium with five hundred middle school students, I can honestly remember being nervous about how my students might react to him. Would they be respectful? Would he have their attention? (middle school students and the word attention often do not go hand-in-hand.)  I just wanted it to go well. From his first words to his last sentence, there was absolute silence in the room. His story was spell-binding and when he finished, the students did not want him to leave.

It wasn’t just his story-telling ability; Philip used every opportunity that he had in his life to speak about love.  He reminded my students that, no matter what was happening with others, it is always better to love than hate.  I had the chance to visit Philip and his lovely wife, Dorothy in their home a few times.  We always had great conversations about things happening in the world and despite the scenarios, Philip would always bring the dialogue back to his very strong opinion that love would change the world. I know this sounds cliché and we all might say this often, but Philip lived it each and every day.

One time after I left his home, I remember thinking about how difficult it must be for him to live his life with love instead of anger.  I knew that he had to feel anger and profound sadness. His parents and seven brothers and sisters were among the millions of people killed in the Holocaust.  He survived two concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau.  And, if he could live his life focused on a positive mindset, I sure knew that I could do that too.

As I think about my work as a school improvement coach, I know that being able to believe in people, despite the challenges, is critically important.  I remind my principals and teachers every day, that, they have to believe in their own abilities and the abilities of their students.  It is so easy to fall back in to, what might be a comfort zone, of thinking that things cannot get better or seeing people through a dark and gloomy lens. That will not work for us if we intend to improve the lives of our students.

I want to end by telling you that Philip also shared some great stories about his first days in Newfoundland and Labrador (emigrated in 1946 when the war ended).  Speaking very little English and building a career as a salesman/business owner brought its challenges but he smiled his way through. Even before he was helping all of us understand his core message, he was living it. He made me laugh and he made me cry.  And, mostly, he made me think. In fact, Philip is always with me. His message of love, not hate is forever in my mind. For more reading about this amazing person, go to  Thank you for being here with me. See you next Saturday.


It’s Cool to be Kind

People… this work is all about the people I meet.  I just can’t say enough about the school leaders, teachers and other road warriors that I have been blessed to meet and work with for the past six years. You have all “read” me say (over and over again) that school improvement is hard work. It takes a willingness to dig in, see the messy truths and want to fix them.  Oh, and it takes so much heart and soul.  You know you are doing the work when you are exhausted at the end of the day but so energized the next morning to go back in and get things done!  And, what is all of this heart and soul about… the students of course.  Just making a difference… one student at a time… when all kids means ALL kids.

This summer, I have been following a story that evolved in one of my favorite schools to visit, Fox Elementary in Columbus, Georgia.  While the kiddos were off for their summer break, some very special adults, with a whole lot of heart and soul have been busy painting up a storm in the school.  Now, I am not talking about a little touch up paint in the classrooms or halls, but murals all over the place… including the bathrooms.  You have to read and hear this story…  It will warm your heart. Here is a bit of it…

Principal Yvette Scarborough, several teachers and many community volunteers led by SPARK ART’s Rachael “Smiley” White have spent hours getting ready for this first week of school.  As we educators all know and appreciate, volunteers, like Ms. White, truly impact the lives of our students.  “We don’t get to choose where we are in life, but you can be something, you can become something, no matter where you are,” White said. We know the old saying, “it takes a community to raise a child” and this is alive and well in Columbus with Ms. White and the others who generously donated hours to paint this summer.

As the students returned38655897_10217857146047479_7716608783983575040_n to school these past few days, they were greeted by Principal Scarborough and her amazing staff AND lots and lots of cool pictures and inspiring, fun messages that have been added to walls, bathroom stalls and doors. (Who could not be inspired to work hard to improve a school when you see a face like this little guy’s? He is so glad to be back and wearing Scarborough’s favorite t-shirt!!)

When I first met Dr. Scarborough three years ago, she knew she had her work cut out for her as the new principal at Fox Elementary. Besides wanting to ensure that student learning improved, she recognized the need for a cultural shift that included a focus on relationships.  With dedicated time and lots of hard work, this developed into authentically creating a school that was known for its kindness, both inside and outside the walls of the building. I have watched Dr. Scarborough’s professional growth as a principal and her willingness to accept coaching has inspired me to stay on the road and continue this work.  We have had lots of difficult but “fun” discussions about the work needed at the school (she has accepted my challenge of making the school more fun these past few years and I love her for it!).  As she said in a recent interview, “Our theme this year is, ‘We don’t lose; we win or we learn. I don’t want the students to be defined by their neighborhood or their circumstances. They need to know that they are loved.  Sometimes this is the only place they may feel it. We know things at school can be hard.  Learning isn’t always the easiest thing to do. So you may feel like, ‘Ugh, this is not what I want.’ But you know what?  I can make something enjoyable out of it.  It’s a life lesson if we don’t let the daily grind pull us down.”

If you were to visit the school today, some of the additions you would see include, “throw kindness around like confetti”, “you are capable of amazing things”, “be the reason someone smiles today”, “your mistakes define you”, “let your light shine”, “bloom where you are planted and it’s cool to be kind”. 38650049_10217857147247509_4927819375467036672_nThe hallways are themed and you just have to feel energized and happy being in the school.  We all know what happens when we enjoy what we do… we want to do more of it so why wouldn’t we want learning and school to be fun?

I know that at Fox, the hard work that has gone in to creating the atmosphere is just the first step to a life time of learning for the students.  Dr. Scarborough understands the delicate balance of having a vision for a school built on relationships and smiles that’s foundation is developed from a belief of shared responsibility for each student’s learning. I can’t wait to be back there with her later in August. As one of her walls says, “bloom where you are planted”. That sure sums up the Scarborough/Fox connection!!

So, until next Saturday, “let your light shine”.  That is what life and learning is all about.  Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful week.




Saving Lives

The biggest compliment I can receive, when I am on the road working in my schools is this…”this school improvement work is saving lives”.  I have to say, when I hear that I am reminded of the critical importance of what so many do to impact student lives.  While this is how I like to think about my work and what really keeps me on the road, I want to tell you about someone who actually has taken on the daunting task of saving lives… one Epipen at a time.

Her name is Kelly Dunfield. Kelly is a Nurse Practitioner from my home province of New Brunswick, Canada.  As much as I like to think about the work I do as saving lives, Kelly actually has taken the initiative to do that… every single day. be-ready-healthcareSo far, her initiative has saved six lives that she knows about… and there definitely may be others.  I was reminded about Kelly this week when I was in an airport and had to watch a medical team support a young lady having an anaphylactic reaction. The great thing about Kelly’s project is that is truly fits the need so many of us have in our schools to provide as many opportunities to students and adults to be in a safe and healthy environment. Here is the story…

In December 2015, Kelly and her husband John established Be Ready Health Care Inc. ( This was in response to a very successful pilot program providing public epinephrine auto- injectors (Epipens as we often call them). This pilot project was launched in the spring of 2014, when 28 public sites in Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada were identified and agreed to participate.  Each site received an alarmed wall cabinet that contained both, one adult and one child dose of epinephrine auto injectors.  Before each site installed this cabinet, education was provided by Kelly (which is still part of the implementation) to correctly recognize and respond to an anaphylactic reaction.  Within a few short months of the launch of this pilot, a life was saved and Kelly and John quickly realized the important potential that this initiative had to save more lives, and the need to promote publicly accessible epinephrine in all communities.

The cabinets are manufactured in New Brunswick, Canada and will hold up to 4 EpiPens or 1 naloxone kit or 2 naloxone nasal sprays. (They expanded the business from the epinephrine cabinets to an additional cabinet (naloxone)  being available to provide a quick response to a drug overdose). Both of these cabinets create an opportunity to respond quickly to a medical emergency similar to what cardiac defibrillators do for us in public places.  Be Ready Health Care provides the cabinets and you can buy the epinephrine and naloxone behind the counter (across Canada) in pharmacies without a prescription. I am not able to comment on the USA availability.

Kelly and John both have other “day jobs”. This project is a passion for them. Just speak to Kelly for a few minutes and you will realize what a special person she is. Kelly is determined to save as many lives as she can by selling the cabinets, and most importantly, educating people about the potential we all have to react immediately and appropriately to these medical emergencies and save lives.  Schools, universities, restaurants, hockey rinks, businesses and other public buildings across Canada and USA (as far away as North Dakota) have seen the benefit of the cabinets.

In 1996, I was principal of Lewisville Middle School in Moncton, New Brunswick. Anyone reading this who worked with me there will know why these cabinets personally mean so much to me.  We had a student who had severe allergies and we did store an Epipen in the office for her.  One day, a teacher had to administer the epinephrine to the young girl and by mistake injected in her own hand instead (she had the Epipen upside down). When she came to find me at the office, the Epipen was hanging out of her hand and the student was standing there without the drug she desperately needed.  Luckily the school was not too far from the hospital and we were able to get both of them there on time to recieve medical treatment.  One of Kelly’s kits would have provided me with an additional epipen and obviously my staff would have benefited from Kelly’s training!

This past week, I worked in Rapid City, South Dakota with the amazing, energetic staff at North Middle School. We accomplished many things and one of the goals of our time together was to agree on collective commitments by the teachers for this school year.  What would we agree to have as commitments as we shared responsibility for all students in our building?  The North Middle team described their need to have high expectations of their students and at the same time build relationships and nurture them.  One of the commitments that they talked about a great deal was their need to ensure that the students had a safe haven to come to each and every day… that the students would know, when they came in the door, that they were in a safe space.  I so appreciated the work that the teachers did this week and most importantly their undeniable belief in their ability to save the lives of their students.  It isn’t quite the same as Kelly’s cabinets but our work is right up there as critically important.

As I said earlier, Kelly knows of at least six lives that have been saved- five with the epinephrine and one from the naloxone.  If you are interested in a cabinet for your school or business, I am sure Kelly would love to talk to you. Contact here through their  Have a great week and celebrate the important work that you are part of as an educator, saving lives!  See you next Saturday!