Reflection on Loss

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It has been a while since my last blog entry. Time has a way of getting away and moving along whether one is ready or not. One of my goals for this year is to post at least once a month. I’ve a list of possible posts, so I think that is a doable goal. I apologize as this is going to be a very long post and invite you to read it to the end.

I hope you had a great Holiday Season. Mine was relaxing and reflective. Usually over breaks I use that time to catch up on paperwork, answer e-mails, update the website, etc. This break I didn’t start doing so until the weekend before going back. I had to step away from work to think and reflect, and spend time with my family.

My reflections were on what had celebrations, and challenges, during the first semester at Zuni. It had its ups and downs. Anytime one changes job or job location, there is a transition and adjustment period.

After much reflection, two thoughts stuck most in my mind. The first was the Zuni community went from a principal of seven years with Ms. Elder, to me, an unknown person, all in less than 48 hours. If you were close to Ms. Elder, or had only known her as your children’s principal due to her longevity with Zuni, I can only imagine the possible emotions you may have felt.

The second thought was of loss. Over the past year, there have been several losses for me. The death of a teacher I worked with at Chamiza, a memorial service for a teacher I’d worked with at Zia, the daughter of someone I’d worked with at Zia, the relationships I’d built over three years at Chamiza with teachers, families and students, the learning environment that had been created at Chamiza, and a neighbor we were very close to on the last day of break, are just a few examples.

At the same time, there has been a loss for the Zuni community as well with the departure of Ms. Elder. This thought of loss came even more to mind for Zuni when I received an e-mail stating there would be an open floor discussion on problems and concerns about Zuni.

I will admit I went through several emotions when I read the e-mail. My reflections on the first semester went through my mind again, and the thought of loss.

Being honest and upfront with students, staff and families is something I value, to the point of being told I’m sometimes too honest and upfront. It is part of who I am and my philosophy as an educator.

Ms. Elder and I didn’t know one another well. We were on a committee or two as administrators or saw each other at principal meetings. We were aware of each other’s professional background to a certain degree. That was the extent of our relationship. We got to know one another better when it was decided I would move to Zuni due to her new position at City Center. She has been fully available whenever I’ve had questions, which I have appreciated.

However, I am not Ms. Elder. Just as every teacher, as many of you know from experience, have different styles, so do principals. Each principal, as each person, looks at the world differently, looks at a school through their own lens, and makes decisions based on their own life and professional experiences. I am not Ms. Elder and have my own style, just as she had her own style, which was probably different from that of principal before her.

Where am I going with this you might be wondering? It comes back to loss. The turnaround time to a new administrator was quick for Zuni, and Chamiza. Within about 24 hours of turning in my request for transfer, I was going from Chamiza to Zuni. Ms. Elder and I worked to let our communities know as quickly as possible. The information presented was she was leaving and I was coming to Zuni, and a snippet of my professional history. There was very little time for goodbyes from her to you or me to Chamiza with school not being in session yet for students or teachers and staff. It was fast.

With any loss, there are stages one goes through, such as disbelief, anger, and seeking answers. Some stages we go through quickly, others more slowly, in different orders, and in varying degrees, which seems dependent on how close, or closely aligned, one is to the person/thing lost.

Some of the losses I’ve thought on for Zuni are the loss of Ms. Elder, a choice in a new principal, stability in knowing Ms. Elder’s style, redirector for behavior and some long-time teachers. Each of these might be major for you individually, for others, maybe not.

I want to speak to a few of the above items.

Zuni lost the redirector position this school year, which was decided last year during budget approval. Teachers, staff, and families in general are adjusting to this loss. It has meant more discipline, redirecting and consequences being taken on in the classroom. There is an ad hoc team—composed of teachers, staff, parents and administration—working on developing a Behavior Plan. This Plan is to replace/revise the Plan I put in place, at the request of teachers, as a working document at the beginning of the year. The Team is making progress and has had great discussions as part of the process.

Zuni has lost some staff and teachers this school year. Although we, and I include myself as a parent of four, want our teachers to stay forever when they are good. However, a teaching position is employment like any of you might have. Just as you may leave your position at any time for any reason—health, family, relocation, career goal change, personal or even a difference in philosophy—a teacher/staff member may do the same, at any time. This is a right all of us can exercise. Since it is a personnel issue, I’m not able to disclose why someone leaves. When a position becomes available for any reason, I work diligently to find someone as qualified as possible, as quickly as possible. Sometimes there are a large number of applicants, sometimes just one. I work to have a committee to interview applicants, which depends on the willingness of others to serve on the committee. What I won’t do is recommend someone to HR just to have someone in place, as this serves no one. Just as you want quality teachers/staff, I do as well. Getting that right person might take longer than we like, but is almost always worth the effort and wait in the end.

Zuni had the same principal for seven years. For some of you, Ms. Elder may have been the only principal your children, and you, have known for elementary school. Change can be scary and uneasy, especially when one has only known one thing. We are still getting to know one another and it will take time to fully get to know one another. I’m not Ms. Elder and can never be. We have our own styles in decision-making, discipline and consequences, data collection, or communication, among other things.

The one thing Ms. Elder and I do have in common is our belief in the vision and mission of Zuni as a technology and communications magnet school. The vision and mission are what brought me to Zuni, helping to make the decision to leave Chamiza, and while I miss Chamiza, I have no regrets in joining the Zuni community.

Ms. Elder and I did discuss the vision and mission more than anything else. They are why I’m at Zuni and why I will do my best to grow Zuni and lead it forward to realize its potential to be the go to place for technology integration in instruction, in preparing our students for 21st century learning/working in being able to utilize communications effectively, and how to work as a team through the use of project-based learning. We have done great things, are doing great things, and will do even better things.

This cannot be accomplished individually; it must be done as a team. I’m a big believer in building capacity and shared leadership through ad hoc teams, goal teams, committees made up of teachers, staff and families, family engagement and involvement, and seeking input from the community. This is a process and we will experience growing pains, setbacks, and disagreements, which is okay and normal. We will also experience celebrations and growth. I’ve already begun working towards growing capacity and shared leadership in a variety of ways— the Behavior Plan Ad Hoc Team, interview committees, working towards common assessments, surveys to the community, and the meetings I’ve had with staff and families—some more successful than others, and some more welcomed than others. But, that is my style and I will continue to move forward with these goals.

I want you to know I am always open to listening to concerns, and celebrations, as that is how one grows, even if we must agree to disagree. If I’m in the office, I can usually meet with you right then, otherwise we can set a time to meet. You can reach me via e-mail ( or phone (881–8313). Please do give me at least 24 hours to respond as I receive a high number of e-mails and phone calls each day.

Our common goal is, and will always be, to have our students receive the best education and be at the best school in New Mexico.

We can and will do this together.

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