This morning, I had the pleasure of addressing all of the new hires to the teaching staff of our district.  I have done this for so many years that it has not been a speech that I spend any time preparing.  I tell them a little bit about our union; I invite them to a meeting to put their benefit package in place; I talk briefly about my own personal joys as a teacher in the district.  

    For the first time in many years, I went to deliver my remarks with a new mission and, I must confess, a great deal of excitement and pleasure.  Sure, I still welcomed them, still invited them to the benefit meeting, still reminisced about the pleasures of teaching here, but I also spent considerable time talking about how fortunate I thought they were to be beginning their careers in Plainview-Old Bethpage at this moment of transition, transition to a time of rising expectations for our students, to a time when academic standards were becoming our focus and a consensus was emerging that we want to return our district to a time when it was known as one of the best in the state and colleagues from all over came to see the exciting, challenging academic things we were doing.  I asked them to consider the extent to which the state standards arenít very high at all and how all we will accomplish when we meet them is a uniform level of mediocrity.  I told them how proud I was that our union has been in the vanguard of the movement for real academic excellence and invited each of them to contribute their thoughts, energy and imagination to this very important enterprise.  

    At the conclusion of the welcoming speeches by all of the districtís notables, I had the opportunity to speak face to face for the first time with Dr. Linda Bruno, our Interim Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.  She picked up on my remarks to the group about this being an exciting time in POB, talking very animatedly about her perception of the exhilarating atmosphere here and her own enthusiasm to be a part of what she expects to be a professionally rewarding stay in our district, her own sense that exciting things are happening here.  

    I believe very deeply that the stars are almost perfectly aligned for our district to take a giant step forward.  Iím not unmindful that what we are attempting to do is difficult if only because it will require changes that will unsettle some.  But for the first time in a long while thereís a spirit here that I know is the harbinger of great things to come.  When we succeed at academically challenging each of our students to the extent of their ability, we will free ourselves of the downward drag of the No Child Left Behind Law and an approach to the education of the young that has denigrated skills and knowledge for too long.

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