What’s Going On at The School Administrator Magazine?

Click to Visit the AASA Website.

Just when you thought the world couldn’t get any more mixed-up.

In fact, you may want to glance out your window and make sure it’s not raining cats and dogs (you can rest assured, Buddy the Dog won’t be involved… because that would require a little thing I like to call “effort”…)

My friends at The School Administrator have once again allowed PrincipalsPage.com into their magazine (this completes the PrincipalsPage Trilogy… first 2 times… the April and August 2008 editions… and yet, they have allowed me back).

This time I’m not just in the magazine once. There are 3 seperate mentions in the August 2009 edition.

The cover article (not about me… but one day… mark my word) written by Dr. Mark J. Stock of the University of Wyoming talks about the importance of Superintendents blogging.

He seems to have this crazy idea that a blog can be used as some sort of effective communication tool (maybe, but not here).

He mentions the PrincipalsPage.com Blog (appearance #1) and later lists it again under a section titled “Superintendents’ Blogs Worth Checking” (appearance #2).

At this point, even I was thinking… “What’s this guy doing to his career?”

On top of this, the August edition of The School Administrator also runs a Guest Column that I wrote… “Wrought With Danger: Being a Superintendent is Scary.” (appearance #3, for those of you counting at home).

That’s right.

Not one, not two, but…

…three PrincipalsPage.com Blog references in one magazine.

It’s a new record.

Actually it smashes the old record of one (which I was thrilled with by the way).

I know what you’re thinking. I should enjoy this while it lasts because records are made to be broken.

Sure, right about now there is some snot-nosed young blogger typing away (no doubt in his mother’s basement) in the hopes of getting 4 mentions of their blog in one magazine.

It may happen, but I can assure you I’m not going away quietly.

So until that blog punk wrestles this “record” away from cold dead hands, I think I should take a moment to reflect on what has just happened.

This experience has made 2 things painfully obvious to me.

One, I owe everyone at The School Administrator and Dr. Mark J. Stock a big thank you.

So, thank you.

Secondly, I have a bad feeling that the circulation numbers of The School Administrator may go way down after people read the August edition.

If so, I’m sorry.

If I’m wrong (which happens each day like clockwork) and readership goes up… I will be anticipating the 4 mentions of PrincipalsPage.com in the October magazine.

All joking aside, it is quite an honor to be in the magazine and it’s greatly appreciated. Here is the online link to the articles… The School Administrator.

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Buddy the Dog’s Apartment.

Buddy_003Buddy the Dog now has an “area” in the garage.

And by “area” I mean his own apartment.

His crate is for sleeping during the night.

The recliner is for sleeping during the day.

The best I can figure is he has to take two steps to get to work.

He is living the dream.


You may have noticed in Picture #2 Buddy the Dog is lying on his back.

This is to indicate that a human has not rubbed his belly in over 2 minutes.

Buddy finds this unacceptable.

Did I mention he is living the dream?

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The National Mall is a National Disgrace.

natl_mallWe visited Washington D.C. for the first time this summer. It was exciting to visit all the places I had seen on television.

The White House, National Cathedral, WW II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, National Archives, the Watergate Complex… the list goes on and on (by the way… 4 days isn’t long enough to visit Washington… you need about 87 to see everything).

I have decided to leave Ford’s Theater out of the discussion because I’m still trying to get the whole Hard Rock Café fiasco out of my head.

These places are so common to me because I have seen them a thousand times on the news, in history books, and even in movies.

Before I stepped foot in Washington, I had a picture in my mind of what things would look like.

Everything would be perfect.

With all the visitors that come to Washington, the monuments and memorials in our nation’s capital would be in the best possible shape.

I figured the government must pour millions of dollars into their upkeep.

I was wrong.

Everything wasn’t perfect. And it retrospect it couldn’t be.

The pictures I had seen over the years were taken to put everything in the best light (so to speak).

The buildings came the closest to being what I imagined. The National Cemetery in Arlington and the National Cathedral were even more impressive than I could have imagined.

Then there was the National Mall.

I was looking forward to seeing where they hold the Independence Day fireworks and all of the other great yearly events.

When we made our way to the mall, I couldn’t have been more disappointed.

To put it kindly, it’s a dump.

Trash, dirty bathrooms, stagnant water in the reflecting pool, and dead grass. If there is grass at all.

More like dead mud.

There was also a certain smell I couldn’t put my finger on. Not that I wanted to put my finger on it.

The Mall just wasn’t what I expected.

I guess I should’ve had lower expectations.

Especially since our legislators are in charge, and I figure they are hesitant to give money to the District of Columbia when they can ship it back to their home districts for very important projects (note to reader… this is sarcasm).

The mall hosts millions of visitors a year. You can’t have that many people walking around and expect it to look like a golf course.

I get that.

On the other hand I don’t think the National Mall should look like the grounds at the county fair.

Since it’s our nation’s front lawn, I think we should take care of it.

The least we can do is pay a high school kid $20 to mow it (or smooth out the mud).

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PrincipalsPage Goes to Washington D.C.

A few pictures from our trip to Washington D.C. in June, 2009. If you want to see more you will have to swing by the house and I will set up the projector for a slide show.

If you haven’t been to our nation’s capital, I highly recommend it.

Jefferson Memorial.

Jefferson Memorial.

The White House.

The White House.

Ford's Theater.

Ford's Theater.

Lincoln Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial.

The World War II Memorial.

The World War II Memorial.

Washington Monument.

Washington Monument.

The White House

The White House

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court

The Capital from the Steps of the Supreme Court.

The Capital from the Steps of the Supreme Court.

The Capital.

The Capital.

Rotunda at U.S. Capital.

Rotunda at U.S. Capital.

Lincoln's Desk Sat Here in the Capital.

The Exact Spot Abraham Lincoln's Desk Sat When He Was a U.S. Representative.

This Used to be the Center of Washington.  Located in the U.S. Capital.

This Used to be the Center of Washington. Located in the U.S. Capital.

National Cathedral.

National Cathedral.

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Teacher vs. Principal’s Evaluations. They’re Just Different.

Back to School.  Some are Happy.  Some are Sad.School is about to start.

This means a variety of things. The first thing it means is I’m already way behind schedule.

And secondly, I am getting grumpy. Or grumpier (see I’m falling hopelessly behind… how is it possible for this to be happening and school hasn’t even started???).

Even worse… stores all across America are putting school supplies on SALE.

This is code for: they would rather get rid of these pencils than count them.

Everything must go.

Paper, binders, book bags, erasers, glue sticks, and a bunch of other stuff that will eventually be lost or thrown away (don’t parents wonder where all the stuff they paid for goes??)

If you don’t believe me visit your local school’s lost and found… it has more merchandise than a Wal-mart.

Things are changing. School starts in a month (for every worried school administrator there are 400 moms filled with joy).

How is all of this possible?

Stores need to make room for the Christmas items. This my friends is a sad commentary on our society.

Before I can focus on the impending holiday season (only 5 shopping months left!), I need to get school started.

This is a complicated process.

Hiring teachers, assigning students to classes, buying some new ties… the list goes on and on.

Once the students arrive, there are certain things that have to be done.

This includes the E word.

I am almost hesitant to type it because it’s so heinous.

If you are easily offended this might be the time to look away… or at least send the kids out of the room.

Here it goes. You’ve been warned.


There I said it (or typed it…).

It’s amazing how many people dread the thought of being evaluated.

And it’s not just teachers. Bus drivers, custodians, coaches, and even principals dread them.

You would think principals wouldn’t mind. Especially since they spend their days evaluating others (and chasing down that kid who stopped up the sink in the bathroom with paper towels).

The others I refer to are mostly teachers.

Some teachers don’t exactly enjoy evaluations. That’s understandable because it’s strange to have someone in your classroom that normally is not there.

Especially when they are taking notes as the teacher is trying to teach a room full of students who know the principal is taking notes.

It’s just not natural (much like expecting a junior high boy not to talk when there’s a sub).

Evaluations must be done, but they are still a little odd.

Most teachers view evaluations as a necessary evil they must experience once a year or even every couple of years.

The good news is teachers are usually evaluated under the best possible circumstances.

They have the opportunity to prepare and make a special lesson.

If all goes well the principal sees them under the best conditions. They are evaluated when they should be at their best.

Principal’s evaluations are different.

And this is something all new principals should know.

They won’t be evaluated when they are at their best. They will be evaluated starting the day they are hired.

And they won’t be evaluated by just one person. They will be evaluated by an entire community.

More importantly, this happens when they aren’t at their best. They will be evaluated when they are at their worst.

Like when they are nervous, mispronounce a name, forget a meeting, wear brown shoes with black trousers, dribble food all over their shirt, or even when they walk down the hall with their dress shirt caught in their fly (I can assure you none of these have ever happened to me… as far as you know).

Principal’s evaluations never formally start and they certainly never end.

So good luck.

But don’t worry. You should be fine.

Just remember to check your fly before you walk down the hallway (and yes, I learned this the hard way).

If you need me I will be doing all of my Christmas shopping this year out of Lost and Found. I have my eye on 12 jackets, 27 t-shirts, 3 pairs of glasses, some tube socks, and a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers sweat bands. Some of them don’t even smell… that bad.

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Tom Watson Didn’t Win the British Open. But He Did Teach the Rest of Us a Valuable Lesson.

This weekend Tom Watson just about won the British Open. At the age of 107.

He almost accomplished (did accomplish) what no other golfer has ever done. Win a major championship after the age of 46 (or in his case… finish 2nd …no other golfer has done that at his age either).

Actually he is 59, but he could be much older and it wouldn’t have made a difference.Tom Watson on Thursday at Turnberry in the British Open.

For years, golf analysts (those geniuses who whisper when someone is hitting… and they are in an enclosed tower 20 feet in the air… and the golfer is 300 yards away from them…) have said golfers can’t compete with younger players after their 45th birthday.


I’m almost positive that the ball, the clubs, and the course have no idea the age of each golfer.

And if they did, age has almost nothing to do with playing well.

Now you can certainly make the argument that as you get older your strength decreases, you tire more easily, and your desire wanes.

But that has nothing to do with being able to play good golf. It has everything to do with the amount of effort a person puts into it.

When you don’t work hard at something you aren’t going to be as competitive as you were 20 years ago.

Older golfers simply don’t practice as much as younger golfers.

They don’t have to.

They already own a big house, several cars, a vacation home(s), have saved for retirement, and are at the age where they don’t want to travel as much.

I will admit that practice won’t completely close the gap between a 25 year old golfer and a 59 year one.

But it will lessen the distance.

Tom Watson didn’t win a major, but he did open the door.

He has shown others the way (along with Greg Norman last year) that it is possible to win in your 50’s if you prepare for it.

A golfer older than 50 will win one of golf’s 4 majors. And soon.

Age has little to do with being good. Desire has everything to do with it.

The same holds true in any profession.

I hear the age excuse all the time from people who work in education (K-12 and college).

They are too old to learn a new skill, or teach new material, or change grade levels, or take a new job, or even go back to college to get their Master’s Degree.

It’s simply not true.

They aren’t too old.

Just like they aren’t too old to exercise more, or run a 5k, or climb a mountain.

Age has nothing to do with it.

Now they may lack the desire or the interest.

But they shouldn’t blame age.

It’s just a number.

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If You Think Your Kid is Gifted. Think Again.

This blog post came to me as I stood in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (I felt a little bit like Nicolas Cage in the movie National Treasure).

It was an epiphany.

It was almost like someone was screaming it in my year.

“Write this blog, write this blog, write this blog… and stop calling them blogs…”

Oh wait. Someone was.The Rotunda at the National Archives.

No, it wasn’t Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin (the voices in my head have stopped… for the most part).

The idea came to me from my mother-in-law. She came up with this observation as my Evil Spawn (her Evil GrandSpawn) was getting reading to look at the great American Historical Documents.

Included were the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the Louisiana Purchase.

And I almost forgot. Elvis’s Letter to President Nixon (the one where Elvis wanted to lead the war on drugs… although we didn’t actually see this letter, I would have liked to…).

Actually we didn’t really “see” any of the documents clearly. Walking into the National Archives is live walking into a cave. It’s 42 degrees and dark. Really dark.

It’s like being locked in the trunk of a car (this is a whole different blog).

When we walked into the archives, I felt like a spelunker (Google it if you don’t know).

The good people at the government keep the National Archives like this to preserve “the original documents.” (Yeah, like the ones they let you see are the “originals”.)

They couldn’t fool Nicolas Cage and they can’t fool me (Copies I say! … and yes, I do expect to be audited at any moment).

During my time as a school administrator (6 years… or 42 years in getting treated like a dog years…), I have learned many things.

One of those things is that the majority of parents who are proud owners of a smart student believe their child is gifted.

To parents… Straight A’s = Gifted.

No it doesn’t.

Have you seen the Honor Roll lately? Every kid in school is on it.

C’s used to mean average. Now they mean possible IEP (but this is a rant for another blog…).

Truly gifted isn’t being in the top 20% of the class. It’s more like 1/20th of the top 1% of the class.

I have met a ton of really smart, bright, successful students and I can count on one hand the number of students who have really been truly gifted.

In my opinion public schools need to spend more time and money on the top 20% of students (or “gifted students” as mom and dad call them).

Realistically, this probably isn’t going to happen.

But the good news is gifted education is everywhere.

And this is what my mother-in-law was pointing out. The best gifted education comes from parents.

Through travel, the library, extra work on the internet, camps, and other experiences that families can provide.

Gifted education in schools is needed, but if it’s not, it can still be provided by those proud parents.

And if you think those parents are a little delusional on their child’s abilities… you should meet Grandma.

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How President Obama Can Improve Schools. For Free.

I don’t mean to be Captain Obvious, but I have noticed during the course of my career that K-12 education could use some tweaking.

You may not have picked up on the issues because they are so subtle.

Or maybe you have just been busy with NCLB and testing (the first 3 sentences can be chalked up to sarcasm and anger issues… we will now return to our regularly scheduled blog…).

The truth is education isn’t perfect and probably never will be.POTUS.

There are way too many variables to make every school great for all students.

Even though this is an uphill battle, I want to do my part.

What better way to improve education than to tell the President of the United States how he should do his job.

Let’s not kid ourselves, the man needs my help.

And please don’t thank me, it’s the least I can do.

President Obama is busy. I noticed he has a lot going on with this whole economy thing.

Saving the banks, the car companies, helping people sell their houses, trying to keep everyone employed, and making sure Vice-President Biden doesn’t say something we will all regret is a lot of work for one man.

I don’t think he has the time to focus on education.

So I am here to help (I will assume the moans and laughter I hear coming from the Blog readers are sounds of respect and relief…. and surely not mockery and disgust…).

Fixing education is a big challenge. It’s an expensive proposition and since the government can’t just print more money (excuse me for a moment… while I try not to laugh…), I think the President needs some cheap alternatives.

I have an idea that will not only improve students and schools, but the entire country.

Not just in the short term, but for decades.

It will touch the lives of every citizen in this great land.

And the best part? It’s free.

Yes, you heard me… free.

The President can use my idea to cement his legacy as The Great Education President (this sounds a lot better that “The Man Who Has to Keep an Eye on the Biden Guy 24/7”).

My advice is pure gold (if I am hyping this too much… please let me know… micsmith@principalspage.com).

I would charge President Obama, but I know he is on a limited income. He is also facing the prospect of putting two daughters through college (I feel badly for him… his wife isn’t even working… and he has that new dog to feed).

My idea: The President needs to hold a press conference on national TV and address one subject.

He should speak directly to the school children of America and say that starting today; he expects every school in the country to…


All milk cartons, cans, newspapers, magazines, and every piece of paper.

No exceptions.

All students and all schools.

He should add that these students need to model this behavior at home and get their parents and relatives to recycle.

I am positive that kids will listen to the President when he speaks directly to them.

Just think, literally overnight the President of the United States can improve schools, student’s behavior towards the environment, and influence parents and families… all for free.

It will be like reverse peer pressure. Young people changing older people’s behaviors.

After one speech the world will be a better place.

I am sure there are readers who are going to say “This would just be another unfunded mandate. How are schools going to pay for this?”

Pay for what?

Schools could use the trash cans they have now. Or boxes. Or whatever containers they can get their hands on.

State and local government should be expected to give school districts a discount or even free recycling dumpsters for all the materials they are about to produce.

What’s the downside?

There isn’t one as far as I can tell.

Nobody likes the government telling us what do, but in this case everybody wins.

The environment, communities, children, and the President.

The students of today will take this lesson and behavior into the rest of their lives and the world will be better for it.

Students will listen to the President. Especially a young, cool President.

I took the government’s advice when I was a kid.

They said in the event of a nuclear war… hide under your desk with your hands covering your head.

I did. And I am alive today to blog about it.

Thank you government. Without your sage advice, I might not be here today. I might have died while sitting in my desk with my head uncovered.

And thank you in advance President Obama for saving our planet.

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It’s An Odd Feeling Meeting People. Especially, When They Already Know You.

Every so often people read this blog.

I personally think this is a good thing.

The question: Why do they read it? The answer: I’m not sure.

It could be a sign of poor judgment. Or it could be they simply have too much free time.

Whatever the reason, I consider myself lucky.

Joe Pesci in GoodFellas.

Joe Pesci in GoodFellas.

It’s nice when people take a moment out of their busy days and stop by the Blog to read my thoughts.

Maybe it is comforting for them. Maybe my problems and issues help them put theirs in perspective.

If that’s the case, I am providing them a service.

You could even say I’m making the world a better place.

I’m doing my part to help heal the human spirit.

Ahh, who am I kidding?

I slop down the first thing that pops in my head and call it a blog.

People read it because they are wasting time at work instead of doing something productive.

That being said, something has happened with the people who read this blog.

No, they haven’t gotten dumber (although this isn’t out of the realm of possibility and is certainly up for discussion).

They know me.

Or at least they think they know me.

This realization smacked me upside the head during my trip to Washington D.C.

As I was introduced to people, they started to figure out who I was.

And they were shocked.

And possibly horrified.

And some quite disappointed.

I wasn’t what they expected.

They thought I would be taller, shorter, thinner, fatter, smarter, younger, older, and certainly wiser and… most of all…


Way funnier.

As in, “Say something funny Blog Boy.”

I believe the exact phrase went something like… “When I met you in person, I really expected you to make me laugh. And you don’t.”


My feelings would have been hurt, but luckily for me I’m a school administrator (dead inside… no feelings… in fact my middle name is Hollow).

Actually the pain (if I could feel it) was worth it.

It was a good lesson.

People who visit the Blog don’t really know me.

They read the blogs (or quickly and very politely scan them… while being prepared to hit minimize if their bosses walk by…) and come up with their own versions of what they think I am like.

And that version is way cooler than the real me.

Which is okay.

I just have to remember to not go out in public.

Or if I do, at least come up with something funny to say.

Because no one likes an unfunny Blog Boy.

Note from wife – aka: Editor in Chief – He is funny in person…VERY funny. But also quiet. And I must admit, it is a little disturbing that he is now referring to himself as “Blog Boy”. If you ask me it’s just a matter of time before he starts wearing a cape and tights… and makes Buddy the Dog his faithful sidekick.

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An Introduction to the PrincipalsPage.com Blog. I am Going to Work for the Man.

Converge Magazine.For some of you this blog is not new. But for my new reader (at least I am hoping for one…), I think an introduction is in order.

This is the first blog in a brand new chapter for PrincipalsPage.

Before I get to that, I need to catch the new reader (s??) up on what they have missed so far.

And by so far, I mean the previous 252 blogs (what I lack in quality, I make up for in quantity).

This may take a while, so you might want to consider calling your boss to say you will be sick tomorrow.

There are several things you need to know about this blog. I don’t need you complaining at a later date because you’re lost.

The first thing you need to know about this blog: It’s written for one person and one person only. Converge Magazine -Spring 2009.


I write (The second thing you need to know: I can’t actually “write”…) this for my own amusement.

This isn’t completely true. I do consider a blog successful if my wife laughs out loud as she edits it (just to review… I can’t write so I need an editor).

Please keep that in mind if you read a particular blog and you aren’t amused, I was.

And that’s what counts.

You may be wondering why I refer to individual entries as “blogs”. That’s because when I started “writing” I had no idea what the proper terminology was.

Still don’t.

It may (or may not) have occurred to you that I “write” in very short paragraphs. Very perceptive. This is because I don’t have a clue on when a paragraph should start or stop.

Some people may consider my lack of English skills sad.

They would be correct.

The PrincipalsPage.com Blog began on 07/07/07. Weird, huh? I think it’s some sort of sign, but like so many things I have no idea what it is.

The Blog began as an attempt to drive traffic to my website at www.principalspage.com (a free website with resources for K-12 Principals).

It worked. It’s almost worked too well.

Before I knew it people were actually reading and commenting on the blogs.

That was exciting. And a little disconcerting.

Turns out if you post things on the internet people will read them.

Who knew?

This put me in an odd position with my career.

There’s another thing you need to know. I’m not a principal.

Two years ago I got promoted to Superintendent (or demoted… you can decide), but by then it was too late to change the name of the Blog.

At this point I may be the only Superintendent who blogs like I do. In fact, I may be the only person not housed in an institution that blogs the way I do.

So here is what we know so far: I write the Blog for my own amusement, I can’t write, each individual entry is a “blog” because I didn’t know any better, my knowledge of paragraphs is limited, and I’m not a Principal.

And I am currently not living in an institution.

I told you a sick day might be in order.

The next thing you need to know is what I “write” about.Coverge Magazine.

Nothing. And everything.

I attempt to write about what I know. Education issues, my family, my job (in the most generic terms possible because I really need to remain employed until I find another job that pays… and blogging doesn’t), and anything else that pops in my head.

I’ve found that it doesn’t matter what I write about because there is someone somewhere who identifies with it.

Or hates it.

I have come to realize that everything in life is related to education.

While I have several degrees (which means nothing other than I had a lot of school loans), I learn more from my wife and daughter than school ever taught me.

My wife is the Queen of Technology. While she is a teacher, she also has a company (with her mom) that presents technology workshops to educators.

I am really banking on her being incredibly rich one day.

My daughter is my best and last hope for the future. At the age of 8, she is smarter than I was or will ever be. This isn’t bragging by a proud father, it is documented through NCLB test scores (not really, I just made that up to make a point).

From time to time, I will refer to her as the “Evil Spawn”. I use the word “Evil” in the nicest way possible because one day she may read these blogs and I don’t want to anger her.

She’s my only hope of getting admitted to a nice nursing home (there is no doubt she is putting me in one… my only hope is it’s nice).

The last member of my family is also the newest (and easily the most popular with readers of the Blog).

Buddy the Dog.

The most handsome beagle you have ever seen (or in your case… never seen). People literally stop us on the street to comment on his breathtaking good looks.

I’m considering using him on a brand new line of PrincicipalsPage.com Blog t-shirts. Presently, that idea is in litigation.

The evil spawn wants a cut of the profits because technically Buddy is her dog, but I am not agreeing to anything.

I don’t completely trust her (after all, I have only known her for 8 years and she is way too smart for her own good…).

Plus I figure she is going to owe me about $250,000 before I get her through college… or truck driving school.

So now you know about my family: the Queen, the Evil Spawn, and Buddy the Dog.

There you have it.

In 3 pages, you now know just as much as the poor people who have read the last 252 blogs.

I bet they are kicking themselves right about now. They had no idea I was coming out with a Cliff’s Notes version of the Blog.

The time has come (and the opportunity) to take the Blog mainstream. To the masses. Or at least one of the masses (I have my fingers crossed).

Some of my blogs will now be posted on the Converge Magazine website every Thursday. Converge Magazine - Winter 2009.

This was my dream as a college undergraduate in the English department. Oh wait, I was never an English major.

Or come to think of it… ever allowed in the English department.

Nevertheless, I am officially a writer (this is the part that amuses me in this particular blog) for a real magazine (albeit just on their website).

I am working for The Man.

This isn’t completely true. Working implies a paycheck. And I haven’t seen one.

Maybe it’s true what they say about The Man

Maybe he is keeping me down.

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While this site operates with the knowledge and awareness of the Tuscola CUSD #301 School Board, Tuscola, Illinois, the content and opinions posted here may or may not represent their views personally or collectively, nor does it attempt to represent the official viewpoint of Tuscola CUSD #301 administrators or employees.