A Huge Tesla Fan Chats with his Pragmatic Wife about the Brand and their Test Drive

http://jeffmyrick.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Tesla-conversation-7_8_15-9.06-PM.m4a   My wife is very wise, but also very cautious.  She tolerates my rabid interest in Tesla but would certainly not consider such a purchase even if we could afford it.  In this audio blog post, she and I talk through how she went from not interested to very interested in Tesla’s challenge to think differently about...

Letter to the Williamson County School Board

Below is a letter I sent to the school board of Williamson County Schools in Franklin, TN. WCS School Board Members, I’ve put this off for too long and I’m wrong for having done so. I’d like to share some thoughts with you from the perspective of a WCS teacher. Hopefully today’s volatility won’t be too much of a distraction to receive my input. I’m not writing to endorse Dr. Looney or to request that you extend his contract; however, I would like to briefly address his tenure. Dr. Looney and I are only acquaintances at most; but I’m thankful to have served on committees or district level teams that he has been an active part of. I’ve also observed his participation and/or oversight of several board meetings and community meetings. In short, I’ve seen Dr. Looney share new ideas, respond to new ideas, share difficult news and information, engage in light banter, respond to awkwardness and hostility, and brainstorm. As a WCS teacher, I’ve been affected by decisions he has made and the culture he has established. I do not agree with every decision Dr. Looney has made nor the way he has delivered every sentence I’ve heard him deliver. If he were aware of every decision of mine and of every sentence I’ve delivered, he would likely feel the same about me. However, overwhelmingly, Dr. Looney has provided world-class leadership. He is a visionary. That can be very frustrating to those of us who are more pragmatic; but most great senior executives are vision casters. It’s worth noting as well that he has a solid understanding of top-notch instructional leadership. He understands the craft of teaching and is aware of best practices. The ability to both provide organizational leadership and display a solid understanding of an organization’s craft is a coveted skill set. He is amazingly comfortable with a wide spectrum of stakeholders and most importantly, I have only ever seen him operate with integrity and a willingness to recognize shortcomings. In short, it is highly unlikely that WCS could replace him with a comparable leader. However, I’m not at all concerned about the possibility of him leaving, especially to MNPS. I have for years expressed a belief that WCS should have at the center of its mission to engage in the kinds of innovative practices we have the luxury of tackling given our unparalleled student quality and parent engagement in order to assist, reinforce, and support districts in much less favorable circumstances. None of us have operated under the illusion that Dr. Looney would stick with WCS for the remainder of his career. What better place for him to put to work the world-class skill set we’ve helped him develop than in a city the entire world is watching right now? Rather, my concern with the possibility of Dr. Looney leaving is about timing, and that leads me to my second point. Over the past year, the goings on of the WCS School Board have been embarrassing to put it mildly. However, I want to say very clearly that there has been no tragic occurrence or loss for which the Board is to blame, thankfully. The catastrophic and unquantifiable downfall has been in the form of opportunity cost. Amid the debacle of the past year, the district has missed out on an unknown number of opportunities. WCS is not a district in crisis, in need of a major overhaul, or in need of outside intervention because of a failure to meet the needs of students. Districts around the state and around the entire nation look to Williamson County Schools for leadership on a variety of topics. A Williamson County School Board has the opportunity therefore to be forward-thinking and innovative. It has the opportunity to identify new avenues for success in a sector very much in need of real-world leadership: public education. Consider the enormously prosperous area in which we operate. Consider the innovative work taking place in entertainment, healthcare, technology, and finance. Now consider the wealth of human capital in our talented staff. While diversity is not necessarily at the top of the things for which we’re known, consider the handful of schools in our district with less than glowing data. Those are not threats; they’re opportunities to utilize our resources in settings that are a little bit more akin to the rest of the nation. And let’s not miss the fact that even some of our lower performing schools are more successful than similar schools in other districts. One more year of missed opportunities would be too great, even with Dr. Looney at the helm to counteract the Board’s...

What Business Does a Teacher Have Test Driving an $80K Tesla? …Plenty.

What Business Does a Teacher Have Test Driving an $80K Tesla?  …Plenty.

This is about Education. It’s also about innovation, creativity, thinking differently, technology, opportunity, sustainability, and the future. These are all things teachers are passionate about! It’s also about an amazing car, and I’m pretty passionate about those as well. Why am I such a fan of Tesla even though they’ve never so much as favorited a tweet of mine? Because, like Apple did with computing and mobile tech, they are going to transform the way my children perceive transportation and energy. They aren’t the only ones mind you; but their role will be significant. Right now the brand is primarily associated with cars, but the really exciting part is that they (specifically Elon Musk) are focused on infrastructure and renewable energy outside of transportation as well (TheVerge article re: utilities). Here’s a link to a recent post of mine about Tesla that addresses some big-picture things. My job here is to let you know that innovative technology has arrived and to describe it first hand. Over time, the price point will come down, so I want to spread the word sooner than later. And maybe they’ll learn a thing or two about customer experience from Discount Tire or Warby Parker along the way. And just so we’re 100% clear, this is all me. I admit my interest in Tesla is stalker-like, but I’m receiving no compensation, I promise. The Car The Tesla Model S is kind of like the Batmobile for the whole Wayne family. It’s big and crazy fast. But it uses no gas. It performs like a Porsche, but has 31.6 cu.ft. of cargo space (trunks in the front and back) because guess what’s not in the front? An engine. Look at comparable cargo numbers below: Lincoln MKS: 19.2 cu.ft. Chevy Impala: 18.8 cu.ft. Mercedes S550: 16.3 cu.ft. There are two options for the Model S based on battery type: 65kWh and 85kWh. There’s a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive option as well, but that’s a separate ball game. I drove the 85kWh. It has a realistic range of about 250 miles. The tour started with the massive touch-screen that controls literally everything. (Click the images for better detail.) In the above picture you can see that we’ve chosen to display navigation across the entire screen. The red dots are Superchargers. From where we are in Brentwood, I pretended like I needed to travel to Atlanta. I selected a Supercharger in Atlanta and with the help of Google Maps, it told me that I would be about 12 miles shy of my destination without recharging.  It recommended that I stop in Chattanooga at a Supercharger for about 20-40 minutes, just long enough to grab some coffee or lunch and use the bathroom.  If you don’t know what I mean by “Supercharger,” read my other post. When the Energy app is selected (above), it offers some customizable range data based on driving habits. It also lets you know when you actually gain energy. More about that in a second. This image also shows how you can customize the screen to split as needed. The settings screen above causes you to realize that you’re actually using a device similar to your smartphone that also happens to be a car. There are several fascinating features here but I’ll address just two: Creep You know how your car will “creep” forward when you take your foot off the brake? An electric doesn’t do that. So “creep” makes that happen. Why? Because you’re used to it. Regenerative Braking When you take your foot off the accelerator, the car is able to actually create energy through regenerative braking. In “standard” mode, you’ll actually feel that the car is braking as soon as you let off. In “low” mode, it will feel more like your current car coasting as you let off the gas. Why? Because you’re used to it. There are some incredibly cool features related to traction and suspension, but I’ll just quickly address one that blows my mind. Assume you have a really steep driveway. One that typically causes your car to bottom out. You can set the suspension to lift the car when you arrive at your driveway. But how is it going to know when you arrive at your driveway? Are you ready? GPS! Imagine that same technology at work in the P85D with a top speed of 155mph. You can research that on your own. The Web app is exactly that. But video is not an option for safety reasons. The camera feature is available not only in reverse but any other time as well. When parked, the bottom half of the image below shows anything...

Takeaways from Senate HELP Committee on Fixing No Child Left Behind – 1/27/15

Takeaways from Senate HELP Committee on Fixing No Child Left Behind – 1/27/15

This was an unexpected opportunity. Our Tennessee AMCHP team was scheduled to attend the Tennessee Tuesday event Senators Alexander and Corker host each Tuesday, but I had no idea until that morning that the Senate’s HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) committee was holding a hearing on “Fixing No Child Left Behind:  Supporting Teachers and School Leaders” the same day.  My wife and I were able to catch about 90 minutes of the two hour hearing. Senator Alexander and Senator Murray co-Chair the HELP committee. I was very impressed with the bi-partisan manner in which they exhibited preparation and knowledge about the issues related to the craft of teaching and the educational landscape in their opening comments. Using this link, you can view the hearing and read the prepared comments of the witness panel. Overall, I was disappointed that the only Senators who participated in the entirety of the hearings were Senators Bennet and Baldwin, and the co-Chairs, Senators Murray and Alexander. The others in attendance, Senators Cassidy, Burr, Warren, Isakson, and Franken, asked questions of the panel and left when their questions were answered. Several were not there at all. I realize this might be commonplace and may meet a sympathetic response from many of you, but I was not pleased in that it took my full concentration to follow the complex nature of the issues being addressed, and this is my craft. There is no way to fully digest the intricacies of this topic without listening to more than just answers to your own questions. This is why constituents are sometimes frustrated with politicians. Too often the emphasis is on the sound bite or the leading question rather than an authentic desire to fully grasp the topic. After all, the meeting was only two hours long and moved incredibly fast. To close this point, Senator Cassidy’s line of questioning was hostile and felt much more like that of a prosecutor to a defendant than a servant of the people focused on listening with humility. The purpose of the hearing was to allow subject matter experts at various levels on the educational career ladder to share what they believe are the most pressing educational concerns toward which the federal government should put its focus. The witnesses were also given the freedom to share best practices and innovative ideas. Interestingly, in their opening comments, both Senators Alexander and Murray addressed the need for a career ladder for teachers. I have several times lamented the fact that there is no career ladder for teachers. Specifically, a teacher cannot move into a leadership role and receive a significant increase in pay without exiting the classroom and entering administration. We often lose our best teachers to administrative roles for this reason. Dr. Terry Holliday, Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education, explained “Kentucky is working to develop specific career pathways to provide multiple pathways for teachers to become leaders. Many teachers want to gain leadership roles without giving up the ability to teach. Kentucky is working to model what the most successful systems in the world provide to teachers for career pathways.” Both also addressed some of the complex sticking points of this debate such as teacher evaluation and what it should be based on, NCLB waivers, and the primary contributors to student achievement, especially in the most difficult environments. Each of the witnesses made their own unique contributions based on expertise and experience. Dr. Dan Goldhaber is Director of both the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research at the American Institutes For Research and the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington. As one might expect based on his titles, he did a fantastic job of pointing to solid research on some of the most critical aspects of public education: Encouraged no change to annual testing requirement Overall, underscores significance of the profession – ties teacher quality to long-term consequences for students’ later academic and labor market success Leads to idea that educator quality affects nation’s economic health Reveals that teachers differ significantly from one another Disadvantaged students tend to have less access to high quality teachers Generally, there are small differences in terms of effect between the two major teacher prep tracks (traditional certification vs. non-traditional such as Teach for America); however they are not equal; the small differences could be due to several reasons Professional development is a ubiquitous strategy but the evidence suggests it does not make a strong contribution to teacher effect Financial incentives somewhat address this problem but the impact is small Other contributing factors toward teacher retention are the quality of leaders and collegiality with...

TODCFORCYSHCNATAMCHP

TODCFORCYSHCNATAMCHP

This post is heavy on acronyms so I thought I would keep that theme in the title.  My wife didn’t see the humor in it either. I serve on the Family Advisory Council for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and I love every minute of it. This group explores ways to combine innovative healthcare solutions with high levels of customer service to people who are in complex situations. I have for years enjoyed finding opportunities to serve people well in the public sector (not always known for stellar service). Recently, I received an invitation to serve as Tennessee’s family delegate to the AMCHP (Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs) Conference in Washington, DC. I’m very thankful to the Tennessee Department of Health for the opportunity to serve in an area of interest and I’m pretty excited about going to DC as well. Simply put, AMCHP members consist of state directors of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Programs and Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) Programs. These programs are funded by what is referred to as the Title V Block Grant (Title V of the Social Security Act). My focus is to fully understand what resources are available to CYSHCN and advocate for those families. Hopefully, whatever your politics, you can see this kind of work as within the role of government. Many of you know I have a son with Down syndrome. As a disclaimer, he is not a recipient of Title V funds. Tennessee’s CYSHCN Program is called Children’s Special Services and falls under the Department of Health. In short, “a child/youth is eligible for the program if s/he is under the age of 21, and has been diagnosed with a physical disability which requires medical, surgical, dental or rehabilitation treatment.” Clearly identifying diagnostic and financial eligibility requires research and the department is aware that not every family in need of the resources has access to this information. There lies the need for advocacy. Children’s Special Services of Nashville also offers a clear and concise summary of services. A quick Google search for MCH in your state should put you on your way toward resources. While at the conference, I plan to tweet about what I learn, so feel free to follow me on Twitter @jeff_myrick from Sunday, January 25th – Tuesday, January 27th and learn with...

If You Know a Teacher, Encourage Them…

If You Know a Teacher, Encourage Them…

If you know a teacher, encourage them as they step into a new semester with some nerves and anxiety. The task of a teacher is extraordinarily difficult these days with an unprecedented scope of work and often unrealistic expectations. With few exceptions, teachers are professionals and experts at their craft. Ask them if there is something specific you can do for them to help make this first week back go as smoothly as possible. If you are a teacher, know that your work is no less important than that of a soldier. You are a public servant by choice and our nation benefits from what you will do over the next 18 weeks.

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