May 18, 2015

The Billy Martin Effect on Educational Leadership

Currently, I am reading Seasons in Hell: With Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and "The Worst Baseball Team in History, the book about the 1973-1974-1975 Texas Rangers written by Mike Shropshire. It's a fun book to read and it keeps the reader interested. I just finished the 1973 season and suddenly former Detroit Tigers manager Billy Martin has joined the fray. Billy Martin is an interesting manager, some people call him a baseball genius for the way he could explain the game to others but also for the way he could pick up on the smallest nuances of a baseball game. Martin was hired and fired many times in his career, but he was the type of manager who could have a quick impact on a team. He was a turnaround manager before the concept had been fully developed.

Reading the book (which reads like a novel, by the way) and then following up on Martin (other books, internet sources) caused me to think: would a turnaround manager who turned things upside down in a school district and still led the district to immediate academic and financial gains be a positive development or negative?

Really, is there someone out there who is both a financial and curricular manager who could cause immediate improvement in a school district but whose magic touch would wear off after 18 months or two years? If educational leaders/managers like this do exist, why doesn't this type of situation occur more?

What do you think?

May 12, 2015

A Seven Nation Army


Right now, the coolest walk–up song is when Jose Iglesias comes to the plate in Detroit and the Comerica Park DJ plays “Seven Nation Army” by Detroiters White Stripes. Iglesias is a Detroit Tiger and he bats to a Detroiter’s song. I’m not sure when the walk-up song came about in the Major Leagues. Derek Jeter used to get pre–release songs from Puff Daddy in the mid–90s when he arrived on the scene, according to Newsday. That’s not the point of this thought process, though. I think the walk-up song is a cool happening in baseball.

The Kid from Kalamazoo

The one thing that I think would make sense would be for a local baseball player to have a local rock ‘n’ roll, rap, or country star create a customized walk-up song. If you play for the New York Yankees, why not contact Billy Joel and see if he would write and record a custom walk-up song? Imagine Derek Jeter walking up to the plate to the song “Kid from Kalamazoo” or something like that. Apparently, Puff Daddy used to give songs to Jeter prior to their release. Tom Petty recording “California Kid” for Evan Longoria (Florida singer, California athlete, Florida player …)

Kid Rock Got Me Thinking About This

This thought goes back to the Superbowl XL in Detroit in 2006. I could not understand why the National Football League did not use Kid Rock as an ambassador; it would have made TOTAL sense for him to do the halftime show. This comes up with National Anthems played at World Series sites, as well. I continue to think, though, as much as Kid Rock gives to the metro Detroit area and the State of Michigan, how cool would it be for Miguel Cabrera to walk up to the plate to a piece of a track that Kid Rock recorded for him? “Slugger” could also end up as a hit song or something … As a Tigers fan, I can think of a number of local artists who could contribute: Eminem, Kid Rock, Bob Seger, etc. Imagine if those artists were able to record songs for our baseball players as they bat. I think there should be more interaction between entertainers.


I’m sure that there would be copyright issues involved as well as record company concerns and other things I’m not thinking about right now. In the modern age of the MP3, it would seem that the copyright issue would be null because the record company could immediately release it on iTunes or Amazon and it would be available for purchase. And baseball fans would likely purchase exclusive walk–up songs.

May 03, 2015

The complicated simplicity of education

The Complicated Simplicity

Focusing and fewer flavors of the week

The time has come to simplify education instead of continuing to use the "flavor of the week" and muddying the waters. With Yoda in mind, I push us forward and say "Do or do not. There is no try." We must place the focus on our children's education.

High Expectations Are a Key Ingredient

Educators must truly believe in high expectations for all. That doesn't mean that you expect every single student to achieve at the highest expectation, but that each child should have that possibility in front of him/her. One of my professors told our class (years ago), "A 'C' is a most honorable grade." High expectations only make schools better. 

Educational Leadership

Create a culture where the principals are expected to be the instructional leader. I believe the superintendent has to be the educational leader, but each principal has to be the instructional leader in his/her building. Instructional leadership is a phrase that has gained a great deal of traction in the last few years. The instructional leader has to understand and lead curriculum, instruction, and assessment all through the lens of school improvement. Mike Schmoker identified effective teamwork, measurable goals, and performance data as key ingredients for school improvement. The principal must be the leader of instruction. 


Create a mission and stick to it. The mission of the school must be clear, understood by all, and shared. Following the mission is a key ingredient not only in leading the school but also designing the school improvement plan. A general guideline I always use when developing a mission is the underlying idea that states, "What do we do on a day to day basis?" At the elementary I used to be principal our mission statement was "Preparing today's students for tomorrow's world." Simple. Effective. 

Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Within the curriculum, instruction, and assessment "system" led by the principal, ensure that students have enough time to do their school work and that teachers are embracing that time and allowing what is called "time on task" by Larry Lezotte and others who have worked on creating and studying effective schools and identified the "seven correlates." Ensure that the aforementioned culture is sound and that the school is a safe and orderly environment for all — students, teachers, families, etc. The factors that play into this include the school calendar, the daily schedule, and a focus on making sure that students are engaged in excellent instruction every day. One superintendent I know suggests that we build our systems around "response to instruction" moreso than "response to intervention." Furthermore, there should be regular and systemic checks for understanding of student learning. 

The Home and the School

Create a system where the school has good home/school relationships. The connections that are necessary between home and school can create such positive outcomes for kids (and families). A school's relationship with the community helps to establish boundaries. 

Yoda, Flavors of the Week, & Significant Factors

The above thoughts are based on the work of Lezotte and Schomker as well as Marzano and others. In 20 years in education, I've learned a great deal about "how" we get things done in a school. I've also learned the vast importance of making sure people understand the "why" that we do what we do. It's imperative that teachers remember that they went into education to make a difference in kids' lives. It's been my experience that we go through so many different processes in education, always finding the latest and greatest flavor of the week. We must create a focus on the classroom, the school — with the background of the district. Education is simple, but every time a principals goes to a conference and brings home a new "flavor," we take so many steps back. Education must be simplified and we know how to do it. Face it, there is no longer "try," we must do. 

April 25, 2015

So Much On My Mind

Rick's Rambling (ramble on, ramble on …)

Rick Discusses Tragedy, Baseball, and Curriculum in Today's Post  

It's been a busy month. I have written a few posts lately, but continue to edit them. I've written about one of my heroes and how I found out that the hero was actually a jerk. I've written some more about curriculum and I've posed some thoughts on baseball walk–up songs. I am in this mode, though, where instead of following Seth Godin's advice and "shipping," I'm working on editing and revising for my blog more than I ever have. I don't really know why. Today, I'm going to talk about three things — and I'm not going to edit those thoughts. I'm writing and shipping today. Tragedy, the long baseball season, and even a couple words about curriculum. Hang in there and enjoy these thoughts.

Another Day in This Tragedy

At Buckley, we are experiencing tragedy for the second time in four years. One of our students was killed in a car accident, just one week ago. Tragedy hits hard and affects so many people. As leaders, however, we still have to stay strong, help people cope, and "be there" for so many people. From the moment the phone call comes in, EVERYTHING changes. The events that follow contain many moving parts and everything happens quickly.

Baseball in the Winter

The weather has been lousy for the last week or so, especially for baseball. The Tigers came out of the gates playing incredible baseball and have struggled for a few days. It's a LONG baseball season filled with many ups and downs. The Tigers have lost four games in a row. Heck, they will probably have three or four periods this season when they lose four in a row. It's a long, 162–game season. This is a solid team who will win a lot of games. The bullpen still has some problems and the bench is empty, but this team will overcome and compete. It's going to be a fun season in the D.

Iggy makes a huge difference up the middle. It will be an upgrade having Jose Iglesias playing short stop for this Detroit Tigers team. 

Curriculum and the State Standards 

I won't beleaguer the subject, I promise. We have transitioned from the Michigan Curriculum Framework to the Content Expectations to the Common Core State Standards, er, um, ah ... The CCSS became so controversial that Michigan apparently is not going to use the CCSS. Except the State is going with new standards, the State Standards. This was never announced via memo, podcast, or anything. It was Tweeted out on the first day of the MSTEP (replacement for the MEAP and actually the Smarter Balanced Assessment) that Michigan teachers have been preparing the the MSTEP since 2010 by transitioning to the State Standards. That was the first reference to the State Standards that I heard.

Have a great Saturday!

March 21, 2015

There's Only One Place Like It …


Detroit. It’s one of my favorite places. I’ve like the city of Detroit since I was a youngster. Sure, it had a great deal to do with my love of the Detroit Tigers. In fact, when I used to go to Tigers games, it was the same as everyone else: drive in to Detroit, park, go to the game, and drive out as soon as possible.

Several years ago Lori and I discovered there was a hotel in the city where we could stay. We started staying at the Holiday Inn Express. Loud, rowdy, dismal. Not a great place to stay but it did the job. Then, we tried Priceline in Metro Detroit and ended up at the Renaissance Center. Then the Westin Book–Cadillac.

Now, every time we decide to visit Detroit, we stay downtown. At times, we have had to stay in Dearborn but usually we stay downtown. There is so much to do in the city, so many places to visit. We try to find new places to visit, but we always find ourselves going to certain places over and over. Slow’s is an incredible barbecue place in Corktown, which is where Tiger Stadium used to live. We also enjoy sampling beverages at the Atwater Block Brewery on Jos Campau in the shadows of the Renaissance Center. We enjoy a Chicago–style pizza at Pizza Papalis in Greektown. (We also enjoy Five Guys in Greektown, but that is not Detroit fare, but it’s good). Of course, secretly, I try to find a way to check out some of Elmore Leonard’s sites as well, but don’t tell anyone.

Sometimes we check out the ruins of Detroit like the Packard Plant or the Michigan Central Station or even the Grande Ballroom. I’ve visited the Vernors plant, the Faygo plant, and even the old Stroh’s building. One of the coolest things I visited with my good friend Chris Brown was the armory outside of the city that used to house Olympia Stadium, the home of the Red Wings. Never able to see a game there, I have to believe it was an experience. Mr. Brown and I also jumped off the People Mover and accidently became the first people ever to walk under one of the bridges near the Joe Louis Arena. Finding places like Nancy Whiskey make the Detroit experience all that much better.

Getting pictures by the Spirit of Detroit, Joe Louis’ fist, and in front of the Ren Cen are highlights that everyone needs to do when the visit Detroit. In January we stayed at the new Crowne Plaza, which just happens to be the former Ponchartrain. There are lists on the Internet about things you must do in Detroit, places you must eat, and where you can get the best beer.

March 17, 2015

Economy of the Downsize

The Market Driven Economy of the Downsize 

We live in a world that constantly downsizes.

"You aren't doing anything right if you haven't downsized, it seems."

"You have to try downsizing."

"Mikey downsized … he likes it."

We hear about it often. We often watch it on the TV news.

"Everyone's doing it."

Every time I go to my favorite shopping center, it seems that fewer and fewer aisles are open. The lines at the self–checkout are growing constantly. Many, many people stand in line and then ATTEMPT to check themselves out.
It seems to be a struggle for most people. The lines at the self–checkouts grow and move slower. It's annoying, but then you look at the lines at the regular check–outs and they're getting longer and longer.

And when all the lines get longer and longer more and more people get more and more frustrated. Then, they start shopping elsewhere. Of course, the selections may not be as deep and the costs may even be more, the the cost/benefit of not waiting in line for 20–30 minutes has great potential.

What happens when everyone starts doing the same thing — and nobody can successfully shop? It's caused by the economy of the downsize. It's happening everywhere and across all types of work. it's not the greatest direction but we have to determine how to react … the right way.

March 13, 2015

My Favorite Short Stop of All Time, Alan Trammell


Courtney is in Lakeland, Florida, visiting her Grandparents and the Detroit Baseball Club of the American League. She's having a great time, attending games, and talking to baseball players. Yesterday, she even met Justin Verlander's girlfriend, Kate Upton. My Mom, Sally, is helping out with lots of photographs and daily visits with Mr. Leyland. She took the nice shot of Mr. Trammell which you will see below. 


She doesn't know how cool one of the signatures she scored yesterday is, though. Alan Trammell is a Detroit Tiger. He might become the next Al Kaline as far as Tiger lore. Tram may never get elected to the Hall of Fame. As a fan or follower of the game, you are either YES of NO on Tram getting elected. He's not one of those in–betweeners. Tram played the game right. He hustled. He hit well, ran well, and played great defense. He should have won the American League MVP in 1987, as he had an incredible year. 

From rookie to star

A kid who had arrived in the late–70s looking like he would never hit more than three or four home runs in a season was suddenly cast as a clean–up hitter. And he raked in 1987. George Bell of the Tigers' rival, Blue Jays, won the AL MVP. It was a rip off. But, there is no need to digress. If you were a fan of the Tigers in the '80s, you were an Alan Trammell fan. He was a guest speaker at the University of Michigan Baseball Camp I went to in 1987. It was so cool to hear from a legend. 

Of pizza boxes and baseball cards

Courtney was able to get Mr. Trammell to stop and sign a baseball yesterday. In my baseball collection, each ball or card or pizza box has a story behind it. I just like the ability to meet the players, tell them THANK YOU, and get them to sign something. A couple of years back I switched to Rawlings Official Major League Baseballs — it just seemed to be much cooler. Not to mention, working with baseballs is much easier than leafing through baseball cards, trying to find the right one for the player to sign. My first two signatures, gifts from my Grandpa Morgan, were on official baseballs: Mark Fidrych (in '77) and Kirk Gibson (in '80). I had asked for Pat Underwood's autograph and Grandpa has the kid from Waterford sign the back of the ball — it's quite a highlight and a great story! 


You can check out the success and fun of Court's trip by visiting her Twitter, @courtheitmeyer. Ben Verlander used her photo in his own Tweet yesterday, which is what happens when you take a great photo at a Spring Training baseball game.