We All Get Way Too Much Information.


Snow is bad.  Ice is worse (I just cancelled school… again).

That’s the bad news.No School.  One Year.

The good news is we’ve known this pre-apocalyptic storm has been coming for about a week (if you are reading this someplace warm… please know the rest of us hate you).

That’s more bad news.

One would think receiving updated updates on the weather every 4 seconds would be a good thing.  It’s not.

Society is on overload.

We have so much information at our fingertips it’s consuming our every thought.

Ten years ago, the only weather information came from the local news station.

You watched it at 6 pm, then you had to wait until 10 o’clock to get the next update.

There was time to let things soak in.

Now, the interweb has allowed us to update ourselves.

And we do.  Every few seconds (hello, Twitter).

But this also allows us to blow regular everyday happenings completely out of proportion.

As we share information, too often over exaggeration and hyperbole take the place of common sense.

One person says they’ve heard there is 3 inches of snow on the way, and the next says it’s 4-6.

Before you know it everyone has heard 27 inches and there is only one conclusion to make.

We are all going to DIE!

After a bazillion years (approximately), life as we know it will cease to exist.

You would think the more information we receive would allow us to make more informed decisions.

I think the opposite is happening.

FOX News isn’t making us smarter politically.

MSNBC isn’t helping us elect better representatives.

The local news isn’t calming our fears about crimes and accidents.

Websites are available 24 hours a day.  Some even tell us the truth.

It’s so much that it’s becoming just noise.

It’s almost like the more we know, the dumber we get.

Lots and lots of information.  But so much noise.

I need to know it’s going to snow.

But I also need to know society is going to survive once it stops.

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Teachertudes.


Another blog request has rolled into the email inbox.

Counting this one, I’m up to at least two (could be more, but I doubt it).

A loyal reader (and anyone who wades through more than one of these blogs has to be considered loyal) has asked how to keep great new teachers positive and free from the negative tainting of veteran teachers?

Let’s be honest.

Tainting is their word, not mine (don’t ask me why, but it just seems wrong).

And if I knew the answer to this dilemma (or riddle) I wouldn’t be posting it for free on a blog.

Can anyone say book deal?  This is America, so I might as well make a little money off other school administrators’ problems (have you ever noticed we all have the same 10 problems?).

But I don’t really want to write(?) a book for two reasons.

One, nobody has asked (surprise, surprise) and two, because it would be an insult to everyone who actually knows how to use an adverb.Attitude is a Choice.  Choose Wisely.

Since a book deal doesn’t seem imminent (and by imminent I mean ever), I’m going to throw my 2 cents in for free just this once (this is blog #450 so once comes relatively often).

See if you recognize this situation.

New teacher is hired.  New teacher is excited.  New teacher arrives at school early and stays late.  New teacher is upbeat and positive.

New teacher’s room is next door to a teacher who’s not quite as excited, arrives right on time and leaves the second they can, and can’t be considered either upbeat nor positive.

Plus new teacher makes the rookie mistake of eating lunch in the lounge (Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!).

What happens next?

New teacher gets less excited, is told he or she doesn’t have to arrive early and stay late, and gets less and less positive.

If it’s happened once, it’s happened 8.73456 billion times (guesstimate, but I’m close).

What should an administrator do?

Actually, I’m hoping someone will tell me (after all I’m not just here to babble… I’m also here to learn).

My suggestion, until someone smartens me up, is proximity and reward.

Separate your good staff from bad.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it’s worth a try.

If an upbeat teacher (not necessarily new) is drug down by a less than upbeat teacher (not necessarily old or veteran) there’s plenty of blame to go around.

And some of this blame should land directly on the administration’s desk.

A teaching staff has something in common with real estate:  location, location, location.

While you cant’ control attitudes, you can control where these attitudes go to thrive or die.

There’s no exact science here, it’s mostly trial and error (Welcome to Education).

Put great attitudes by bad attitudes.  Put great attitudes by great attitudes.  Mix them up.  Move them around.  Draw names out of a hat.  Try anything (kids are worth it).

Teachers (and administrators) are hired to work in a school district.  They aren’t hired to work in a particular building or specific room.

Nothing says one teacher gets to stay in the same classroom for 40 years (it’s not “theirs”… it’s the kids’).

Call the moving van (or custodian) and rearrange your attitudes.

Don’t let one part of your staff dictate the mood of a building.

Another thing worth trying is rewards.

Overwhelm your positive staff members.

Give them the nicest room, more technology, cool erasers, good parking, candy, or something as simple as a compliment.

Everyone wants to be recognized as being good at their jobs.  And nothing improves attitudes like free stuff.

This blog could have been titled Administratortudes, Principaltudes, or Pretty Much Any Peopletudes.

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We Get It. College is Great. But So is Welding.


I’ve written several versions of this blog over the last 25 years (time flies when you are cranking out mediocre content) and I’ve decided I’m going until I get a response.

Response from whom?  I’m not sure, but I’m not giving up.

Vocational education is getting the shaft (hey, I think I just came up the title of my new country music song).

In the last 40 years colleges and universities have done a wonderful job of marketing themselves as the solution to society’s problems.When Did We Decide This Guy Wasn't Important?

Too often, I think we forget colleges are not only a place to educate, but they are businesses.  They exist to make money (and lots of it).

To survive they need customers (and lots of them… who coincidently have parents who pay a lot of money)

Higher education has done quite well by advertising (radio, tv, shirts, athletics, alumni and more athletics).  They’ve convinced several generations of high school students/parents they are the answer to all of our problems.

If you want to make money, go to college.

If you want to be successful, go to college.

If you want to have a better life than your parents, go to college.

This is fine by me.  I like money.  I’m pro success.

And who doesn’t want to have a bigger house with more stuff than their parents (unless you’re Bill Gates’ kids… then it’s okay if your take home pay is 50% of what the old man makes)?

Then there’s the reason to attend college people don’t talk about.  If you want to stay out of the military (war), go to college.

While these are all good reasons, there is a problem with making a four-year degree the only path to success.

Higher education has promoted itself not only as the solution, but at the expense of other career paths.

Our country was built on hard work.

On sweat.

On skilled labor.

On middle class families who were proud they worked hard for a living.

But in 2010, students are considered failures if they want to be carpenters, welders, or pipefitters (even though they could make a lot more money than a white collar goofball like me).

If they don’t go to a four year college they’ve underachieved.

We even have levels of educational success.

How many times have you heard a teacher or guidance counselor say, “Well, at least get a two-year degree.”

It’s like saying if you can’t cut it at a four year college, at least be less dumb than kids who don’t go at all.

College is the answer for some, just not for everyone.

It also works the other way.  Skilled trades are the answer for some, but not all.

I think we our failing our younger generations by having unrealistic expectations.

What would happen if a guidance counselor told the valedictorian they will be a failure if they didn’t learn to weld.

That would be crazy.  Their parents would be appalled.

But we do exactly the same thing to other students when we say they “need” to go to college and it’s considered okay. 

Not all students have the same skills.

The truth is we aren’t all equal and that’s okay.

If we continue down this path our country is going to pay a heavy price. 

Just think what would happen if every high school graduate attended college and got a four-year degree.

In no time, you would be paying a plumber $1500 an hour (and trust me, if you need a plumber you will pay whatever they’re charging).

It’s all about supply and demand.

We need white collar professionals with college educations, but we also need ditch diggers.

And we shouldn’t label one career path more successful than another.

Our purpose as K-12 educators should be to get students on THEIR paths to success.  It’s not to judge them when they take a different one that doesn’t involve a four year college degree.

We need to be less concerned about hurting a high school student’s feelings (and their families) and more concerned about getting them pointed in the right direction.

THEIR direction.

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Randi Weingarten: Don’t Scapegoat Superintendents.


This week I read Randi Weingarten’s (President, American Federation of Teachers) article on how superintendents shouldn’t scapegoat their teachers.

I hate to say this, but I often agree with Ms. Weingarten’s positions.It's Me in Goat Form.

I want it noted I’m not going over to the dark side (not that I’m implying teacher’s unions are the dark side, they’re just the opposite side… and everyone needs a villain).

If I can sum up Ms. Weingarten’s position (and I think I can since this is my blog): teachers shouldn’t be the only ones who are held accountable for student achievement.

Bravo! (sorry, I just went a little Broadway on you…consider yourself lucky I didn’t throw in some jazz hands).

She believes responsibility for underperforming schools should also be placed on superintendents (and others, but superintendents made their way into the title of the article).

I couldn’t agree more.

Everyone has a role in schools being successful:  parents, teachers, communities, school board members, coaches, custodians, aides, secretaries and most importantly… lunch ladies (if you don’t believe me… try being great on an empty stomach).

Superintendents need to lead this charge.  They are in a position to demand excellence and accountability from others, but also ensure that teachers have the resources to help their students succeed (her words… not mine… because I’m not an attorney or president of anything).

I hate to take a hard line union position, but she’s right (I’m morphing into Jimmy Hoffa right before your eyes).

Superintendents need to have higher expectations.  They also need to put their students and teachers in a position to be successful.

She also points out we need to do a better job at collaboration and innovation.

Again, I agree.

I’m losing… power… to control… my… anti-union… thoughts.

Is it possible Ms. Weingarten is my kryptonite (superhero reference… always good for blog traffic).  Is it possible I’ve been miscast?  Could it be I’m not cut out for the role of superintendent?

Maybe I need to send the AFT several thousand dollars to catch up on my union dues.

I would if I could, but I can’t.  I don’t completely agree with her and I just can’t (you almost had me under your spell Madame President).

She’s left out one fundamental fact.

Getting rid of bad teachers is too complicated.

It’s too easy to get in a classroom and it’s way too hard to remove bad teachers once they are there.  Our tenured system is overprotective of bad teachers.  The union is only as good as their worst teacher.  This is unfortunate.  Unfortunate for students who sit in these classrooms.

Unions like to focus on their best and brightest teachers (as they should).

Superintendents are put in a position where they have to deal with the not best and brightest (somebody has to do it).

We need a system that will allow us to quickly address (i.e. remove) the teachers who aren’t helping students learn.

And I think the same type of plan should go for administrators.

If you’re bad, get out.

If you aren’t getting the job done you need to be gone today.  Not tomorrow.  Not next year.  Not after two or three years of remediation. Not when you decide to retire.

Today.

I’ve heard the arguments about this not being fair.  Evil administrators will get rid of great teachers (why would they do this?)  People need time to improve.

I’m not buying this.

Students don’t have time.

Their education is on the clock (tick, tick, tick).

We are in the business of helping students learn aren’t we?

If a child has one terrible teacher during their 13 years of education, they’ve lost 7.7% of a quality education.

It only gets worse if they have 2, or 5, or 9 bad teachers (if you don’t believe me, ask a math teacher).

I wish teachers didn’t get so much blame when it comes to failing schools.   I wish it was spread around.

But teachers get blamed because they’re 99.9% of the reason students succeed.

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Plus 1.


The Evil Spawn is lazy.

How lazy?

She’s so lazy she doesn’t dry off after her shower.

When she walks out of the bathroom she’s beaded up with water like a freshly waxed car.

Who exactly is that lazy?

I get “too lazy to clean her room”.  I even get the kind of lazy when she puts more effort into avoiding chores than actually just doing them.

But so lazy she can’t even wipe a towel across her body.

Really?

This is what I’ve had a hand in creating?  Actually, it wasn’t a hand, but that’s a WAY different blog.Just Do a Little More Than the Next Person.

This is my legacy?

This is who will get 100% of my inheritance?

What becomes of these teenagers when they grow up?

Is it my destiny she’ll be living in my house at the age of 30 because she’s in year 12 of junior college?

Actually any amount of time in junior college doesn’t sound too bad at this point.

Will I be the grandparent who has to raise my daughter’s children because I’m afraid she won’t dry them off and they will drown in their sleep?

When I get on her about her lack of effort it’s always the same response.

“Dad, I’m only 9.”

At what age will she kick in and stop being a burden on society (actually I don’t care about society as much as I could use her help emptying the trash)?

Is this just a phase or my future?

When should I start getting concerned the Evil Spawn is not the person to trust in administering my medication as I struggle through my Senior Years?

I’m going to need help.  Those adult diapers don’t change themselves.

I’ve tried (to no avail) to convince her of my theory on success.

Plus 1.

You don’t have to be great at anything, you just have to do it consistently and then add 1 repetition.

She wants to play basketball.  I tell her all she has to do is dribble everyday and practice 1 more minute than everyone else.

Over the next few years this will add up.  It will be hours and days more than other girls are practicing.

Spelling test?  Review the words 1 more time.

She will see the results in her grade.

Want to earn more accelerated reading points?  Read one more book than her classmates.

It’s not difficult.  It’s not brain surgery.

It’s just Plus 1.

This also works for adults.  People constantly tell me they don’t have time to blog

I don’t either.

I just do it consistently (remember quantity, not quality).  And then each month I try to write (?) just 1 more.

Sure, the last one each month stinks, but that’s not the point.

People also say they don’t have any more time in their busy days.

They can’t possibly work one more thing into their schedules.

They can’t read a book.  They can’t take a walk.  They can’t start a classroom website.

I don’t buy it.  Get up 10 minutes earlier each day.  That’s over an hour a week of extra time (70 minutes if you’re a math teacher).

This is certainly enough time to accomplish 1 more thing.

I’m telling you this advice is pure gold.

The Plus 1 Theory.

It takes intelligence and talent right out of the picture (lucky for me).

It’s just effort.

And who doesn’t have a free endless supply of effort at their disposal?

Although, maybe you shouldn’t take my advice.

I am the parent who is perplexed because I can’t get my daughter to dry off after a shower.

Maybe I should have had 1 more kid.

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Sending Schools More and More Money is Not the Answer.


Everyone likes money.

Schools aren’t any different.

Well, maybe they’re a little different.

Schools don’t just like money, they love money.

Love, love, love it (my point here is they love it).

They have an insatiable appetite for cash.  And more cash.  And even more cash.It's a Trash Can Full of Cash.  Get It?

It’s not unlike when I eat ice cream while watching The Biggest Loser.

I can’t get enough.  Of ice cream, not the show.

You would think my judgment would be better, but no.

You would think I would have some self-discipline, but no.

You might think my big behind might even end up on the show if I don’t back off the ice cream trough.  That would be a yes.

Before you judge me, realize I’ve simply combined my two great loves:  ice cream and watching other people exercise.

It’s an added thrill to watch them getting screamed at by trainers who weigh 98 pounds.

Schools are much the same.

They also have two great loves (although one of theirs doesn’t involve chocolate syrup… and I may or may not be talking about ice cream).

First and foremost, schools like and need money.  Secondly, they like complaining about not having enough money (actually, this may be their first love).

A bad economy has allowed schools all over America to combine their two great loves.

You would like to believe schools have good financial judgment and self-discipline, but I hate to tell you… not so much.

At least not always.

There are well run schools. 

There are also people who do sit-ups while watching The Biggest Loser (I have no idea who these freaks are, but I know I’m not one of them).

The fact is there are schools that don’t do a good job managing the money given to them by taxpayers and the government.

The idea education would be better if schools had more money is hogwash (Yes!… I can mark hogwash off the list of words I want to use in a blog… now if I can just find a place for lollygag… oh, I just did!).

To continue throwing money at schools is foolish.

It’s like throwing rocks into the ocean and expecting them to make an island (my point… it’s not going to work).

An example of this is the federal government sending school districts $26 billion dollars in aid during September.  This was done for the sole purpose of rehiring staff.  Much to their (the feds’) surprise schools didn’t rehire teachers with the money.

Who knew?

All of the schools, that’s who.

This is just another example of government thinking money will solve a problem.

More money doesn’t mean students will receive a better education.

It’s much more complicated than that.

It has to be the right money used in the correct way.

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Teacher Burnout. And Yet, They Still Keep Going to Work.


I give up.

I’m done discussing tenure (arguing… whatever…).

If you have a blog that revolves around education (and as luck would have it… I do) there’s one surefire way to get more readers (and angry emails).

Write about tenure (actually, there’s a second more powerful way… write about homeschooling, but I’m not going there… at least right now).

Tenure is blog gold.She Doesn't Look Burnt Out.

Writing about it is probably not worth the death threats, but luckily for me I have security (Buddy the Dog).

I’ve come to understand people who have tenure love it. 

I mean LOVE it.  Love, love, love it.

Absolutely love it.

Did I mention they love it (like Buddy loves to nap).

And what’s not to love.

You have a job.  You get to keep the job.

Forever.

And as most of you know, that’s a very long time (if you don’t believe me, Google it).

Tenure is a pretty good deal if you can get it.

Then there are the others.

People who don’t have tenure in their careers think it’s impractical and unfair.

They aren’t familiar with our world (hallways, spitballs, junior high goofiness, etc.)

The concept of educators having lifelong jobs is foreign to them.

They believe tenure should only be for Supreme Court Justices.

But that’s okay.  It wouldn’t be much of an argument if everyone agreed (and I do hate it when I want to argue and no one will join me).

No matter which side of the tenure argument you fall on, I know one thing for sure.  I’m not changing anybody’s mind.

So I’ve given up.

But I would like to ask for one exception.

If you publicly announce you’re “Burnt Out” this statement should lead to an automatic recall of your tenure rights (to clarify “publicly” can be in person, on Facebook, or over the phone).

No exceptions.

My theory is once someone says this out loud there is no going back.

If  a person establishes they are “Burnt Out” they can’t come back (at least in the same career).

So if you are in your 1st year of teaching or 30th year and the “Burnt Out” bug hits you, you’re done.

No tenure.

No job.

No nothing (except your pension and maybe parting gifts, but that’s it).

Because teaching is kind of important and once the passion has left you, so should tenure (maybe I will win this discussion… argument… whatever… but I’m not going to hold my breath).

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The Positive Attitude of a 4th Grader.


I wish a good attitude could be bottled.4th Graders are Cool.

Just think how much money you could make.

Just think how many people you would personally like to drown in a five gallon bucket of this goopy liquid.

As school is about to begin, there’s one question being asked all over the country.

“Are you ready for school to start?’

Answers may vary, but they generally go like this.

Adults are 50/50.  Some want school to start.  Some not so much.

When I say adults, I’m talking about people who work in schools, not parents.  Every parent in America is ready for school to begin (and they have been since June 1st… my theory is people like their kids, they just don’t want to be in the same house as them).

High school students.  117% answer no (if they answer at all… they may be busy ignoring you). 

No discussion.  No exceptions.

No.  No.  No.

They hate school.  They hate everything.

Except sleeping until noon and texting.

Junior High students are confused about this question and every other aspect of their lives (puberty does strange things to an 11 year old brain).

Some like school.  Some hate school.  Some think Justin Bieber is cool (I told you they are a mess).

Grade school students are the special ones.

Most can’t wait for school to start.

By most, I mean 99%.

They like everything.  School.  Teachers.  Art.  Music.  Recess.  Open House.  Their superintendent.  Homework.

Alright, I went a little far with homework (and maybe the superintendent thing).

As a group, they can’t wait for school to start.

Especially, 4th graders.

That’s when the good attitude about school peaks.

They are wonderful.

They have the attitude we all should have.

Positive.  Upbeat.  Hopeful for a brighter future.

If only we could bottle it.

If only I could sell it.

Yesterday the Evil Spawn was in diapers.  Tomorrow I register her for 4th grade.  I’m dreading what comes next.

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Eduvertisment.


Competition benefits consumers.

If you don’t believe me think about the most annoying monopoly in America.

Cable companies.

Every town has one.We Shouldn't Be Afraid to Share Positive Aspects of Our Schools.

And that’s the problem.  Most towns only have one.

They don’t have any direct competition.

So, if you need their help… good luck (I speak the truth because I speak from experience… and it wasn’t good).

You won’t get an appointment, you’ll get a window.

As in “We will have someone at your house between 1:00 and 4:00 pm.”

What other business does that?

Who makes you miss work so they can show up when it’s convenient to them?  Worse yet, who makes us miss work and then doesn’t show up during the agreed upon time frame?

Only cable companies.

It’s a very “Take it or leave it” attitude (and if you like TV… you take it).

Businesses with competition can’t do this.

If you look in the phone book (yes, I’m dating myself) and there’s more than one business listed in a section, that’s competition.

Dentists.  Plumbers.  Contractors.  Beauticians.  Chiropractors.  Restaurants.  Gas stations.

They all have competition, so they work for you.

To be successful they have to keep prices down and provide quality service.

If they don’t, their customers will go elsewhere.

You know a business has competition when they advertise.

In phone books (or since it’s 2010… online).  On billboards.  In newspapers (or since it’s 2010… maybe not).  Even on radio and TV (but hopefully, not cable).

But you know who doesn’t advertise.

Public K-12 schools.

Why?

Pre-schools advertise.  Colleges advertise.  Graduate schools advertise.

But public schools don’t.

Is it because there’s no competition?  We’ve never been asked to compete for customers (students)?

Just like cable companies, we are often the only option in town.

Maybe we shouldn’t take this for granted.

Maybe we should be trying to entice families into our school districts.

Maybe we should be advertising our test scores, quality staffs, and educational opportunities.

Maybe students should be allowed to shop for schools regardless of where they reside.

Maybe monopolies aren’t good for anybody.  Even schools.

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Off the Grid.


I’ve been a little lax in my blogging.  The reason… we’re on vacation.

The View From Every Window in Our Cabin.

Well, kind of.

I’m not sure if you can technically call it a vacation when you drive over 19,000 miles with the Evil Spawn and Buddy the Dog in the backseat snoring (if that isn’t bad enough, they both drool while they sleep… and neither one can figure out why the truck seat is wet).

I must admit this obnoxious snoring is better than hearing “Are we there yet?”

To get from our house to the North Shore in Minnesota took approximately 87 hours.

Or at least it seemed like 87 hours (it may have been longer because at one point I passed out).

The trip was so long that I could have sworn we were going in circles.

I kept thinking… I know I’ve seen this “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign at least a dozen times.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is I’ve been able to drop off “The Grid”.

For educators “The Grid” is a triangle.  It goes from your home to school to Wal-mart (feel free to substitute another large mega-billion shopping store of your choice).

It’s a law.  Every teacher and administrator must spend 90% of their time inside their grid (unless school is in session… then it’s 98.5%).

I think there might be some fine print in NCLB that requires us to stay inside this restricted area.

Rumor has it educators who venture outside the “Grid” too often are never heard from again.

It’s the opposite of tenure.

So it’s a fine line between leaving your grid and going insane (and not a little insane… I’m talking Jack Nicholson in The Shining insane).

Because I don’t see the need in chasing the Tech Queen with an ax, we like to go on vacation at least once a year (unfortunately these never take place during school).

This year we headed for the woods.

A cabin in northern Minnesota.

Frighteningly close to my sworn enemies… the Canadians.

People ask me what I have against the good people of Canada.

Nothing.

I just don’t trust them.

Sooner or later they are going to get sick of the cold and storm our borders with the intent of taking Florida just so they can sit on a beach.

Mark my word, it’s coming.

As I sit here and type this blog, I’m within miles of the US-Canadian border (rest easy, I will keep an eye on them and if I can’t chase them back… Buddy the Dog can… unless of course, he’s napping).

So for the next several days I’m officially off “The Grid”.

No ESPN.  No internet.  No email.  No phone calls. No meetings.

No contact with any other human beings (unless it’s on a golf course… and I do apologize for almost hitting you with my drive off #7).

I’m unreachable.

I’m a ghost.

I don’t exist.

At least that’s what I told everyone at school.

Do you think they will believe I pre-wrote this blog and uploaded it before I left?

I guess I’ll never know since I’m not getting their emails.

Or at least I’m not answering them.

It’s good to be off “The Grid”.

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Disclaimer

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.