Welcome back to school

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The following was a speech given by Supt. Pflueger to the BCEA Staff on Aug. 28, 2017 at 8 a.m. in Becker Auditorium.

Welcome back to many and welcome to our new colleagues! We have great opportunities before us!!!

I started teaching in 1977 for the March Valley School District in Arimo, Idaho. I taught special education for 11 years, mostly in an alternative program for kids who were removed from the regular junior high. Other years I taught in State institutions and self-contained programs. I began my administrative duties in 1987. I came to Bonners Ferry in 2011. I have served as an elementary and middle school principal for 25 years. During my career I did everything I could to stay away from the superintendent and school board members. I thought, “Just leave me alone and let me do my job!” I honestly thought, what is the point of a superintendent? If everyone would just do their job and get along, all is fine! Look what happens with that kind of thinking! Man, I learned sooo much during the last two years.

Let me put this in the perspective by the three word motto I am asking all students and staff of Boundary County to adhere to: safe, civil and productive. This will take all of us: the teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, bus drivers, kitchen crew, custodians, school board and community members.

My first year as superintendent was an “Oh my gosh!” year. Personally, it brought prayer back to public school for me. That year, my focus was on making and maintaining a safe environment—including both the physical and emotional side of safety for all students and staff. Many of the PEAK strategies we have learned helped us to this goal.

My second year we brought in Love and Logic. This helped me focus on the civil component of teaching. The primary rule of Love & Logic is to react without anger or haste to a problem situation and to provide consequences that are not punitive but allows a child to experience the results of a poor choice. This will enable him or her to make a better choice in the future. Foremost in our minds needs to be the academic, social and emotional well-being of the student.

If you are one of those who feel PEAK and Love & Logic are not for you—okay. If you don’t want to use these techniques, you need to have something that comes up with the same results. Many years ago I learned of an effective relationship building technique called 10 and 2. If you have a student, let’s say it’s a boy, who is constantly disrupting instruction, start meeting with him at lunch and ask him what he likes and doesn’t like. Ask him what he does for free time or recreation, what his strengths are, ask him about his family, etc. Do this for 10 days in a row for two minutes each time. This works for one of two reasons: he will see that you are interested in him personally and he will work harder to please you OR he will disrupt less to get you off his back at lunch. Either way, it is the same end result.

This, my third year as superintendent, all of us need to become more productive. It is time to raise the bar in Boundary County! To quote Charlotte Danielson’s book, “Enhancing Professional Practice, a Framework for Teaching”; “Embedded in the concept of high expectations for students is a culture of hard work and perseverance. A skilled teacher does not accept sloppy work from students or work that does not represent sincere effort; such practices convey the message that just submitting an assignment is good enough….significant learning requires concentration and intellectual elbow grease.” We need to hold our kids to a higher standard. They will respond!

This year we need to hit harder on the academic core standards provided by the State. We need to hit the academic targets that we are measured by with better results. For K-3 it is the Idaho Reading Inventory and a math measure, which we need to identify. For 4th through 11th, it’s the ISAT. Last year we had a number of teachers who used the Interim Assessments for the ISAT. It took instructional time but every student that used the interim assessments showed greater academic growth. The ISAT Assessment is not the end all in education but it is our State measure. We will teach to the academic standards that drive the test! The interim assessment blocks will be required. Test scores must improve.

Did you all know the results of the Writing Assessment every student’s takes in the Fall, Winter and Spring are used to measure your teaching effectiveness? These results are factored in your teacher evaluation, as required by the State Dept. of Education. This includes P.E. Teachers too! I might start leading student exercises while spelling out “physical education” instead of just counting down the number. Pushups and squats done to math facts and times tables also help.

Other things we need to continue to work on are parent knowledge and understanding of advanced opportunities available for their child beginning in Middle School and dual credits at the high school. What a great deal for these kids! As I started last year, I will continue to encourage students to enter the proud profession of teaching. I will ask you to help me with this for we have a teacher shortage in Idaho. It is time to grow our own. Please encourage our best students to enter this honored vocation. I am working with the College of Education to make this course of study more affordable. In addition to these avenues, I will continue to advance our Career and Technical Education Programs for our hands-on trade oriented students. I have a plan for these opportunities.

We are absolutely involved in a great business. Our career directly affects the future welfare and success of our community. When we do our jobs well, the students of Boundary County will be able to compete in a global world. It is true that the parents are the primary educator of their child, but we are also responsible for the academic, social and emotional development of every student in our schools. This is our challenge and our responsibility. It is my job, the building administrator’s job and the school board’s job to support you in this effort. It is our responsibility to remove the distractors and barriers to the critical task you have accepted. Working together and with community support, we will be successful. Please work hard to make the first 3 weeks of school positive for all students—no failure for any students. Set the table for success!

Let me end with a suggestion I offered last year: please be careful in all your actions and reactions in the community, including your interaction on the social media! Teachers are held to a high standard and you represent BCSD 24-7. I look forward to a great school year. Let me know how I can help you.

Make today a great day through kind words and respectful choices! Go Badgers!

BCSD Supt. Gary Pflueger

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