Tonight’s the last night of the superintendent forums in Lynden. Again, Michael Boring, search consultant for the district, is serving as the moderator.
Jim Frey is the assistant superintendent for the Mount Baker School District.
In Thursday’s paper (tomorrow) there will be a story giving an overview of all three forums.
All input about the superintendent candidates is due by Thursday.
Meeting is starting.
Frey started teaching in Brewster, WA in 1989 as a junior high social studies. He taught for three years and then became a counselor, staying for 8 years. Then he earned administrative credentials and joined the Mt. Baker District as an assistant principal. He was the principal of Harmony Elementary for awhile before becoming the assistant superintendent.
He’s been married 20 years, to a Lynden grad, and has 3 teenage kids. He enjoys being outdoors and being with his kids. He grew up in LaConner, WA.
My interest in Lynden is a community sense of being and pride that is evident here. The positive school system our students go through… and the support the community has for the schools. He’s looking for a place to be long-term.
His role as assistant superintendent has prepared him well to be a superintendent.
He’s worked on curriculum instruction, leadership, technology, employee bargaining, etc.
Question: What are your budget experiences?
Frey: The experience had in planning over the last 4 or 5 years… in my experience in baker, we’ve had to cut resources out of the budget because we’ve had declining enrollment. We’ve had to trim back in ares that make sense, a lot of that through attrition, he said. It’s a hard thing when you have to eliminate jobs. I have been part of a long-term budget process that prioritizes the needs of the district.”We have all these things we want to do, but what’s most important.” Have to make some tough decisions with program and staffing because you want to keep all that stuff and it’s all important. He feels he’s had to make those decisions too often. His priority is the classroom and then things go from there.
Question: What would be your vision for developing special education programs that involve parents?
Frey: There are specific needs kids to be successful in school. He doesn’t know of a parent-advisory board or group for special education, and is something he’d need to look into. As go through process of looking at children and what need, need to keep in mind we’re there to serve that child. Also sees it important to be in partnership with the parent.
Question: Be strong supporter of agriculture program?
Frey: Yes. I believe programs such as agriculture through CTE provides an avenue for students to apply their learning, to learn job skills, to learn skills going to take and apply after high school. He sees role of school to prepare students for after high school.
Question: Are you aware of the land purchase?
Frey: I think it’s a wise decision to look out into the future to project what our needs will be… I know there are some facilities here in the need of repair or upgrade. Working with the school board in that context would be a big part of the process. He’s not run a bond, but he’s part of a maintenance and operation levy, but he has been a member of small-scale building projects that are complicated in the public sector. There’ s a huge commitment in order to do that right because using tax payer money to build a school or facility and you wan tot make sure all the ts are crossed and is dotted. He sees it to be important to be VERY clear about building details so that things aren’t put in and charged for that don’t want. We have a huge responsibility as public entity to be good stewards of the money the public gives us. Schools should reflect educational values.
Question: Feel emotions, opinions and personal value very important. In successful school situation, staff have to feel valued and I think there’s been some bruises as gone along the past couple years. I also feel that administration sometimes might not be someone we can go to comfortably. How would you handle that as leader?
Frey: When someone has a concern or hurt need to discuss and can’t go to supervisor, way work now is have an open door policy. The superintendent and I have discussed that process at length. Not that we want people to skip over the chain of command, but will listen and direct them back to the proper place to solve the issue. The leadership activity there would be clearly establish what the chain of command would be. As it gets to me, without having gone through that step, I will listen, but I will say we need to go back to this place to address it. That’s how they’ve done it in MB, and sometimes it’s successful and sometimes it’s not. We have to build that trust in and that doesn’t happen in a short amount of time if there isn’t trust there already. Need to address the root of the problem.
Question: How available will you be?
Frey: I don’t want to be behind a desk. My operation stands right now I’m out in schools, I meet with principals at the elementary level once week, get into classes, meet other principals. “I’m out and about as much as I can be.” I think over the course of time… my door was open. “If we shut people out it’s going to continue to contribute to the mistrust.” He plans to have an open door policy.
Question: chain of command?
Frey: Problems should be solved at the level it comes up. If a parent has a curriculum question, they’re first point of reference is the teacher, then the principal, then the curriculum director, then the asst. superintendent, then the superintendent and then the board. If there were concern about athletics, first stop is the coach. He’ll listen to you, but he’ll still direct you back to the coach. Depending upon the circumstance, identify who is responsible for that particular topic. He’s the personnel director for Mt. Baker too.
Question: What’s your vision for #2 spot in district?
Frey: I’m not sure have vision for what should be like. I do know the responsibilities that need to be taken care of and upon getting job do assessment to see who should be there and what the needs of the district are. It’s not done without having some more information regarding what the district needs and what the priorities are. I do know that HR is one big one, curriculum/assessment and instruction is another.
Question: Budget issues over the past couple years. What are your specific ideas to assist ESL students, who have been hurt through budget cuts.
Frey: He doesn’t think he has enough information to be able to talk about it much now. He needs to do more research about the kids and the program in place.
Question: Block schedule?
Frey: He was involved in changing from regular schedule to block schedule. He says it has benefits as well as issues. The four period day is not a perfect schedule and neither is a 6 period day. I personally like the 4 AB schedule, like the longer blocks of teaching time and it does provide continuity for classes that need it. To go back to a 6 period day means you give up some of the depth. More importantly than the schedule, need to look at what is going on in the classroom… the instruction that takes place in the classroom is really what impacts kids. The critical piece is what’s going on in the classroom regardless of the schedule.
Question: strengths and weaknesses of self?
Frey: Collaborate well. We can’t shut doors and work in isolation. I get along with people and able to value and honor them for things they do well. He talks to teachers about what’s ‘going on in classroom… calls himself an instructional-focused person. Something need to get better at. I think I communicate pretty well, but something can always get better at. Also continuing to explore and learn more about leadership and educational theory and practice. “I would hate for people to think that I have it all together and that I don’t have any other work to do… that’s a continuing area of focus.”
Question: Early intervention for childhood development. What would be your vision for early intervention for preschool
Frey: Research is abundant on getting students ready for school early. The work in schools among the area of RTI… tiered approaches to looking at students. That’s something he’s committed to because it focuses them to look at individual kids all through the system. As that relates to budget cuts gotta make tough choices for where priorities are. We need to make sure we’re making the best decisions possible for the whole organization. The superintendent, possibly better than any person in the district, has a view o f the whole organization. We’re going to have to make some decisions about programs we may not want to reduce. “We need to make sure people have a say and have been heard.” If don’t engage in a process there’s an absence of information and people assume that decisions are being made behind closed doors. “We’d work real hard to make sure people are heard and explain why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
Question: Mentioned teachers shouldn’t work in isolation. How do you see teachers collaborating?
Frey: Collaboration for teachers should be around student work. A group of teachers who are meeting around student work… they are assessing how students are doing based on the standards that are set. Then need to use those discussions to make sure students are reaching their potential. It’s hard to find time to do all this though.
Question: What is your personal philosophy and curriculum and regulating it.
Frey: I believe there is a district adopted curriculum and we need to teach it and put things in place to monitor it. It should be aligned vertically as well as horizontally.
Question:Sometimes have to make decisions not everyone likes. How do you respond to individuals with different perspectives
Frey: He’s spent time at a leadership academy. Dialogue around ideas is really important. Even though have different opinions can use that dialogue to make sure people feel heard. I don’t want to pretend to have all the answers but if i”m closed off to listening to someone else… we’re not going to get to the solution that’s best for everyone. It’s about the dialogue and putting things on the table. As opposed to the spirit of, ‘I have the right answer.’ And eventually you need to make a decision. We’re going to have dialog and define how decisions are going to be made.
Question: Feeling very hopeful about the school district at this time and the superintendent selection in crucial. How do you balance the uniqueness of Lynden with change?
Frey: I would say that circumstance in Lynden of having some unique characteristics that are well entrenched is not unique to Lynden. Been involved in two districts and change is tough wherever you go. The idea of assuming positive intent is high on priority list. He thinks there are always different, and possibly, better ways of doing things. “Not that what doing is bad, but there may be a better way.” In Mount Baker, they have a continuous improvement culture, but if use that then need to make sure that process is well defined.
Question: What do you expect to be done with test results?
Frey: I would hope we could predict what those scores are when they come back. We should use them as instructional tool to say where do we need to tweak, where can we do better. Need to be careful about taking one test done at one day in time to make big changes. It has specifics and significance to us, but not the only thing used to make sure students are meeting standard.
Question: Examples for teacher collaboration with time?
Frey: There are some local decisions to be made about how use time. In MB, used some district directed time throughout the year for teacher collaboration. There are data reviews, which are teachers getting together to look at student data, which is handled through release time. There are grade level meetings. Sometimes students go to an assembly so teachers can meet. There are also a significant number of teachers who feel its important enough to do it on their own.
Question: What’s going on with science in MB?
Frey: He says science improved with science grant from few years ago, the NCOSP grant. They did a lot of professional development, and then with the continuous improvement process, contributes to the science success.
Question: How do you see Lynden in a few years from now?
Frey: I can tell you what I’d like it to look like. What do we want people to say after they’ve gone through our system? Main thing is that we take seriously our charge to teach every child… to ensure every child has the education appropriate for them to move beyond high school to the post secondary option for them. “When our kids leave us, they are very well prepared, and people can say, that kids from Lynden.” He’d also like to see pride for people who have gone through our system. He would also like to see the appropriate facilities are there, but that’s secondary to the core classroom.
Question: about sports
Frey: I love athletics, but it’s a byproduct of what we do. Sometimes in a passionate way we miss that focus. He can say this contributes to what we do at the school level, but it’s not life or death. He played basketball in college and coached in Brewster.
Question: What have you done personally to advance teaching and learning?
Frey: One of the things we’ve done pretty well is establish what the standards are for improvement and process for the instructional core. We’ve established what the standards should be for that. We’ve established standards for collaboration – what’s it going to look like when teachers gather around student work. The goals are well articulated and well administrated. Other thing they’ve done is establish process and formula for continuous school improvement. Results in high engagement, high rigor and high expectations for all students.
Question: Would you consider an alumni association?
Frey: I’ve seen not necessarily an alumni association, but PTAs operate kind of in that fashion in MB and other districts. He doesn’t know enough about them to speak about it. in regards to engaging people who want to help, there should be lots of opportunities for people who want to do that if structure in the right way.
Question: With budget cuts, seems like arts first to go? How would protect them?
Frey: It comes down to a forced choice sometimes… I think the arts are a critical part in our child’s upbringing.” “I would fight for that as far as I would fight for the other things getting cut as well.” The difficult thing is to determine what those priorities and balance out needs of all students rather than just one group of students.
Question: Confused about the latest vocabulary with instructional core and instructional framework.
Frey: My definition of instructional framework and why it’s important. We need a consistent way to talk about instruction and a framework does that. It keeps everyone speaking in the same vocabulary. A common vocabulary and applying it in the classroom so when talk about instruction and student engagement, you know they’re talking about the same thing. Helps people districtwide understand each other when talking about learning goals, curriculum, etc.
Question: If have framework, and aligned curriculum, are you expecting everyone to be same?
Frey: It speaks to the discuss we have around the classroom. People have different learning styles and different teaching strenghts in how engage kids. Not looking for a cookie cutter approach.”
Question: How do you choose an instructional framework in place?
Frey: Now in MB, they’re learning about a framework and trying to implement it. They hope to implement it in a soft way. I think it really depends on what doing now in regards in instruction and also a decision that should be done with input. As principal, the power teaching and learning methodology was coming out, so began that process of looking at the STAR protocol and engaging staff about it. Ended up getting a grant to be part of the Cetner for Education Leadership.
Question: Written any grants?
Frey: Yes, some successful and some not. Just got grant for energy efficiencies in the district. He worked with an energy services company to co-write. He wrote a small repairs grant too, told he was approved, and then they took it away.
And that’s the end!