Clarkstown Central School District

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Superintendent's Blog

  • PTA Members Begin Book Study of The Advantage

    Posted by Martin Cox at 3/29/2017

    "The first step a leadership team has to take if it wants the organization it leads to be healthy - and to achieve the advantages that go with it - is to make itself cohesive."

                                                -Patrick Lencioni (2012)
                                                 Author of The Advantage - Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business


    Author Patrick Lencioni's steps to build a cohesive team include trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and results.

    Four members of the PTA Council and I met for the first time last night to begin a book study of those concepts as stated within The Advantage. In addition to reflecting on our reading, we began making connections between the author's research and our work as leaders in the Clarkstown Central School District.  Members of the book study include Jessica Rich (Link Elementary), Shauna Wold (Little Tor), Frida Levitas (Woodglen) and Michelle Kleinman (Bardonia Elementary).

    I offered the concept of The Advantage Book Study last fall at a PTA Council meeting for the purpose of studying a research based approach to organizational systems and communications within the District. Our first task was to read Chapter One titled Building a Cohesive Leadership Team. We also discussed nine questions, a sampling of those which are listed below:  


    1) Lencioni (2012) stated, "It's worth stating that most of a ledership team's objectives should be collective ones" (p. 25).

         *What is your reaction to this statement?

         *How does this apply to our work in Clarkstown?


    2) What is your initial recaction to Lencioni's (2012) pyramid revealing the five principles of a healthy organization: Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and Results?

    3) What happens within a team when members assume the worst of others, as Lencioni (2012) calls it, "misattribution," and trust is eroded?

    4) Lencioni (2012) stated, "Contrary to popular wisdom and behavior, conflict is not a bad thing for a team.  In fact, the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems" (p. 38).

        *What is your reaction to this statement?


        *Why might it be essential to have conflict within an organization?


    The questions allowed members of our book study to engage in conversation not only about their viewpoints, but also their connections to their roles and responsibilities within the school community. I was particulary interested in the importance of the last question regarding synergy as noted below:

    9) Lencioni (2012) continues on the topic of collective goals, stating "When the marketing department defines itself by how well it does marketing and the other departments do the same in their functional areas, there is not reason to expect synergy within the team. As simple as that may sound, most leadership teams still do not seem to understand this."

        *What is synergy, and why is it important within an organization such as the Clarkstown Central School District?


    When closing the study on the topic of synergy, I emphasized the importance for members of a team to be mindful of considering a "third alternative" when decisions are made, a strategy that is important for me in my role as Superintendent while seeking to understand ideas from members of a team.

    I believe the author Stephen R. Covey (1996) summarized the concept of synergy best when he stated, "The essence of synergy is to value differences - to respect them, to build on strengths."

    Moving forward, our study group will continue with the reading and discussion of Chapter Two in The Advantage titled Create Clarity.

    I am appreciative of the willingness of these four PTA Council members to take the time to engage in the book study while anchoring our reactions and discussion points to the research of the author.


    The Advantage Book Study

    The Advantage (Lencioni, 2012) Book Study members include (left to right) Marty Cox (Superintendent of Schools), Michelle Kleinman (Bardonia Elementary), Shauna Wold (Little Tor Elementary), Jessica Rich (Link Elementary), Frida Levitas (Woodglen Elementary)






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  • Embedded Coaching Implemented at Link Elementary

    Posted by Martin Cox at 3/27/2017

    "Effective professional development affects many teachers as opposed to some, and many students as opposed to a few. The new definition calls for every educator to engage in professional development as part of the workday."

                                 -Stephanie Hirsch (2009)

                                  Executive Director, National Staff Development Council


    Stephanie Hirsch's research on professional development supports the concept of teachers being engaged in job-embedded coaching.

    In the Clarkstown Central School District, this professional growth concept is highly visible as part of the Columbia University Teachers' College Writing Program. Last week, I saw Embedded Coaching in action at Link Elementary when TC Writing Staff Developer Jonathan Aldanese brought Third Grade teachers and students together at the same time.  In essence, Mr. Aldanese taught the students and the teachers collectively.

    First, Mr. Aldanese met with the teachers - Beth Ann Garvey, Cristen Edwards, Gina Connignton, and Jeanne Gereco-Butler - as well as their Principal, Fran Cuccia, and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Susan Yom in a separate conference room away from the classroom. He reviewed and reinforced the concepts of Voice and Domain Specific Vocabulary.  Mr. Aldanese stated, "With Information Writing, it's harder to be precise with details."  He continued, informing the group about the importance of conferencing with students after a mini lesson.

    Moments later in a Third Grade classroom, the aforementioned group of teachers and administrators joined the Staff Developer, along with Special Education Teachers Lauren Haugh and Jen Nelson to implement the components he had just discussed in a pre-lesson meeting.  Within the classroom setting, I noticed one of the key components of Embedded Coaching practiced by Mr. Aldanese: in addition to teaching the students, he periodically stopped and provided timely tips to the teachers in order to provide insight and clarity about the writing strategies.

    Next, when the students broke the group meeting and went to their desks to practice their craft of writing, the trainer as well as all teachers and administrators present were able to engage with students and each other to make the entire process meaningful.

    In summary, I believe the Embedded Coaching professional development I observed at Link Elementary can be summed up best when referring to the author, Hirsch (2009), who stated "When schools become 'learning schools,' every student benefits from every educator's expertise, and every educator grows professionally with the support of his or her colleagues. Collaborative professional learning is a powerful way to ensure great teaching for every student every day."


    TC at Link  TC at Link

    TC at Link  TC at Link

    TC at Link  TC at Link

    TC at Link



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