Speaking at a conference at a school in Arkansas, I heard a saying that has great application to our educational system in the United States:  

“Weighing the hog does not improve the taste of the pork.”

We over test and under-teach.

We overwork and under-pay our staffulty.

We overwhelm and under-appreciate the single profession that develops all other professions.

British schools are in no better shape that ours. Martin Stephen, former High Master at St. Paul’s school commented on the reasons for school failures. “You can fiddle with the engine, shout at the mechanic, pour money down the drain on service after service. But if the machine’s broken, it’s broken.”

On January 20, 1984 at Conway High School in South Carolina, we committed to our No. 1 Initiative, based on proven business principles designed to transform Teaching and Learning in our entire community. These principles were adopted by Jostens Renaissance Education and have spread worldwide to thousands of school communities. Our founding symbol was The Courtship of Eagles — the Eagles of American Education with the Eagles of American Business. Our mission is, through this marriage, to help each student find his or her passion for the future. This process is enriched when administrators and veteran teachers mentor and influence new teachers.

Sandra Reese, Technology Support Assistant at Conway High School in South Carolina shared  this story. “Tony Whitehead, an AP at Lecanto High School in Florida had a motto: ‘You can’t teach ‘em ‘til ya’ reach ‘em.’ That has stuck with me through the years. As a nervous new teacher that thinking got me through and is probably the best teacher training ever! It is so true…they are your kiddos, not a roster of students.”

Jostens Renaissance has just celebrated the 25th National Conference in Orlando, Florida, where schools came from the “four corners” of the nation for another Gathering of Eagles, where they learned or taught other schools the 10 Essential Elements and the four phases of this comprehensive system for the evolution of entire communities. At the conference insights were received from Renaissance schools from coast to coast, sharing their enthusiasm and their results.

Denise Forrest, Ph.D., is founder of the South Carolina nonprofit, Tell Our Children, an organization dedicated to mentoring and inspiring adults to think more seriously about how they t.e.l.l. children; that is, how caregivers interact and teach, encourage, listen and love their youth. She has never been involved with a Jostens Renaissance school. Her only knowledge of Renaissance has been through our friendship, but she attended the National Conference 2016. “This conference has been FABULOUS; it validates – and pushes all educators to remember why we chose to become teachers, administrators, counselors, staff — anyone working in schools to potentially impact the youth!” said Forrest. “Collectively we can have a positive impact. Imagine a conference where STUDENTS share why and how their school helps them achieve more than they ever expected. Imagine a conference where TEACHERS and ADMINISTRATORS share why and how they strive to make their school great for ALL students and each other! Imagine a conference that helps all SCHOOLS connect, inspire, and mentor one another on how to help students create a legacy!”

Airica Keller, ASB advisor and teacher at Steilacoom High School in Steilicoom, Washington was not a first time attendee at National Conference 2016. “The National Jostens Renaissance Conference in 2015 was a fundamental turning point for our Renaissance initiative,” said Keller. “At Steilacoom High School in Washington state, we have an amazing student body, staffulty and community, so finding opportunities to recognize greatness isn’t difficult. After attending the conference, we met in a big group to decide what to implement and what to support. However, it became obvious that some of our top tier leadership students that have been in the program for a long while didn’t even know some of the basics of our program. A few didn’t know our purpose, how it was connected to the overall school-wide goals or whether we have made any strides in improvement. For many years we had been creating systems that we FELT were serving our school. The leadership students were excited to serve but this haphazard approach to implementation could never take a school from good to great.”

“It was then that I knew the value of our PRIDE Factor Survey results. Earlier in the year, our principal, Ms. Debbie Hay, had created a time for all stakeholders to take the PRIDE Survey.  We surveyed all students, staffulty and over 600 parents. Our PRIDE team students learned how to manage, analyze and report out data in a student-led data committee so that we could design SMART goals, connected to the building goals for the next year. We had just finished this whole process when we went to the national conference.  After the conference, and having been immersed in our own data, it was then easy to find our direction, to explain and to guide our conference attendees to understand what programs and supports would best underpin our SMART goals and our building goals of improving our graduation rates for all students, as well as how to improve our overall results and better manage our resources.”

Remember, your community is not competing with the cross-town rival, but rather is serving parents, students and staffulty on your campus every day.

While on a tour of our National Parks, we met an outstanding tour guide named Jesse Lee in Zion National Park in Utah. He used a saying that so reminded me of Jostens Renaissance from the beginning: “Hiding in Plain Sight!” That’s what we have proclaimed for over 32 years.

Mark your calendars now so you can bring your entire team to the National Conference July 12-15 at The Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Jostens Renaissance Education launches a 41-day tour with Mike Smith and Dr. Phil Campbell on the transformation of your entire community from the inside OUT. Learn to build an entire school community with our 10 Business Principles implemented in four phases. Thousands of schools are getting more results with more stakeholders.

Larry Biddle considered the founder of Jostens Renaissance. He has been a student of the impact of recognition on individual achievement for two decades. He served as vice-chairman of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, as well as a member of the Coastal Education Foundation at CCU.Reach him at 4eagleship1@gmail.com

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