Monday, March 03, 2008

Rating the Superintendent Choices: Dr. Gary Norris

One could certainly argue that APS Superintendent candidate Dr. Gary Norris looks like a Southern Baptist preacher, or the host of a television game show. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

More importantly, we are above the superficiality of looks here at Burque Babble. No, we plunge deeper and instead focus on the superficiality of slogans like "NeXt Generation Learning", Dr. Norris' totally rad initiative to make his Sarasota Public Schools better. Perhaps it is our inherent cynicism that makes us leery of something called "NeXt Generation Learning", or perhaps it's our disdain for the use of old Pepsi ad campaigns to promote school improvement initiatives. Mainly it's that upper case "X". That's just about making me choke on my Cheerios this morning.

Anyway, "NeXt Generation Learning" is about more than an upper-case "X". It's about $350 million of education buzzwords to promote a "NeXt Generation" classroom (teacher included) that does the following (unlike a bad, horrible evil 1950s classroom...not to mention the segregation angle):

1950s Classroom
Receive Knowledge
Learn Alone
Learning Content
Teach all the time

"NeXt Generation" Classroom"
Construct Knowledge
Learn Together
Learning to Learn
Adapt to Learning Styles

The sales brochures for "NeXt Generation" say the "NeXt Generation" will consist of longer school days, a bunch of technology and creation of a teacher certification process that is like National Board Certification but different enough to cost Sarasota taxpayers $20 million over four years.

And now comes the clincher from a Sarasota Herald-Tribune story about Dr. Norris' status for the APS job:

Norris is credited with overseeing sweeping changes in Sarasota's 42,000-student school system, but his impending departure comes at a time when the district's ambitious academic reform, the $350 million Next Generation Learning plan, is being implemented.

Outside of having a terribly uncool name "NeXt Generation Learning" doesn't look like that bad of a concept. Sure it is full of the same buzzwords that make any education initiative difficult to assess, but things like increased technology and teachers adapting to their students is fine. What irritates is that the "inventor" of these particular buzzwords is leaving, or wants to leave, just as the thing gets started.

Perhaps my expectations are too high, but I want my radical reformer administrators to stick around for the tough days of radical reform implementation. I don't want somebody to just sell me a marching band or "monorail" and then head out to the next Shelbyville or Albuquerque.

I'm still rooting for an "out-of-towner" to be hired, but why does this process have to so closely mimic the hiring of a college basketball coach? Hundreds of thousands in pay to lure somebody who either wants to use the job as a stepping stone or, like Dr. Norris, is somewhere deep into the back nine of a career and wants to max out on his/her retirement?

Maybe I'm being naive, but I was kinda hoping we could find somebody who wanted to innovate here and stick around for the years it will take to make it happen. I don't know if Dr. Gary Norris is that guy (maybe none of them are). Add to this the fact Norris, in true college basketball coach fashion, already held the Sarasota schools hostage by threatening to quit back in 2006 and we basically have a 68 year-old, or so, Steve Alford on our hands.



Anonymous said...

Link to comments on Dr. Norris from September of 2006, the last time Norris said he was leaving but stayed on after getting a raise.

(P.S. "Anonymous" is not my real name.)

ched macquigg said...

It would appear that Gary Norris may be character challenged.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the three APS Principals, they didn't pick for the running, have more integrity than these outsiders.
I wish someone from the hiring committee would tell us why they thought these were worthy of the job.
Either way were always screwed as long as we have those Board reps.

P.S. it's easier to be anonymous-click and go

Anonymous said...

According to his resume, Norris held Superintendent positions in Kansas, Florida, and Minnesota. I can't find any information on what he did in MN. Perhaps it is on the resumes that so far have not been made available to the public.

His resume also shows that his classroom teaching experience was as a music teacher. So the allusions to Harold Hill are not totally out of line.

Anonymous said...

Gary Norris "Resume" in local article before he came to Sarasota.

Anonymous said...

Previous Link didn't post.


* Ph.d in educational administration, 1983, Kansas State University

* Master's degree in educational administration, 1977, Kansas State University

* Bachelor's degree in music, 1972, Bethany College


Salina Public Schools -- Salina, Kan.

* 1994-present -- Superintendent of schools

Indian River Public Schools -- Vero Beach, Fla.

* 1989-1994 -- Superintendent of schools

Hibing Public Schools -- Hibing, Minn.

* 1985-1989 - Superintendent of schools

Santanta Public Schools -- Satanta, Kan.

* 1982-1985 - Superintendent of schools

Junction City Public Schools -- Junction City, Kan.

* 1979-1982 - Assistant high school principal

Alma Public Schools -- Alma, Kan.

* 1978-1979 - High school principal

Chillicothe Public Schools -- Chillicothe, Mo.

* 1976-1978 - Choral music teacher

Overbrook Public Schools -- Overbrook, Kan.

* 1973-1976 - Vocal music teacher

Stockton Public Schools -- Stockton, Kan.

* 1972-1973 - Vocal music teacher

Anonymous said...

The previous comments are right on the mark. I am an elementary educator in a Salina, Kansas public school. We had a HUGE party when Norris left Salina! We were one of his stepping stones and he stepped all over us.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it seems that Dr. Norris did the same thing to us here in Salina, KS. We were told to "get on the bus, or get under it" to help pass the bond...were promised more rooms with construction, 4 teachers per grade level, the whole bit. He left right when it came to be...and guess what? We have empty classrooms and 1st grades with 27 + students!!!!! HE HAS TO BE STOPPED!

Anonymous said...

I have students in Sarasota High. They can afford multi thousand dollar interactive whiteboards, but there aren't enough textbooks for the students to take home. The change to block scheduling has been a disaster because the teachers still only teach the material from the 50 minute classes. So the students sit around for the last 30 minutes, or the smart ones do their homework. I'm just amazed at the amount of parties in class, led by the teacher, and the number of movies being watched. I feel sorry for Waterloo.

Anonymous said...

You people are way off base. I worked with Dr. Norris in Salina, KS and found him to be the most intelligent, optimistic and caring person. His energy and passion for students and teachers was endless. He organized this community to believe that education is important and then passed a 98 million dollar bond issue that helped update every school in our district. He is special and an innovator.

Anonymous said...

That last comment had to be written by Norris!

Anonymous said...

Well, he's here in Waterloo, Iowa now. This "music man" says he's going to be here 6-7 years. Wish us luck!

srq screw said...

i hope you guys in waterloo fare better than we did here! glad the guy is gone (finally)

hopefully he can make a little progress there and not give up like he has in the past.

jane said...

For ten years Dr. Norris served as Superintendent Of Salina Public schools and was not afraid to tackle tough issues. During his tenure, our district signficantly improved our buildings (he is credited with a 98.8 million dollar bond issue passed in one try) and improved district services (technology, human services, community coordination, to name a few).

However, the most significant contribution credited to Dr. Norris was increased student achievement. Dr. Norris insisted on educational excellence for students and he provided the leadership and the resources to cause it to happen.

A highly intelligent man of integrity, Gary Norris possesses the energy, enthusiasm, and the skill set to lead any district through the toughest situations. I think he is awesome!
Jane from Salina

Anonymous said...

ohhh...after reading this so much makes sense---I'm a teacher in Waterloo, and we are in big time trouble. He has already told teachers to either "jump on the bus or I will drag your bloody carcass behind it".

Great role model, huh?

Anonymous said...

As a student in Waterloo, IA at West High School, 11th Grade, Homeroom 305, I can honestly say that these transitions are NOT GOING TO HELP MY LEARNING. I am a highly advanced student, and I can tell you now that this guy is a POWER-HUNGRY COCKY UNINTELLIGENT MONGER. He's done the same thing here that he did in Sarasota, and I can't find hard evidence to why we aren't improving the current curriculum, and implementing one that has failed multiple times. Lunch is over. Hope you read this, Gail.

With Love,

Anonymous said...

I am an advanced placement senior at Waterloo West High. In the past few years Norris has been superintendent, I have watched countless classes go by as the teachers have failed to make the active boards work. I have lost many days worth of education because of technical difficulties. I have also watched many teachers let the boards gather dust. $29 million worth of dust... and our teachers are losing jobs because of the state budget cuts. We NEED the money for our wonderful teachers, NOT to update buildings and make fences. A highschool is being completely shut down.
Also, students shouldn't be cornered into focusing on a certain career before college like the Academy system he has created suggests. High school is about discovering who you are as a student and what you are interested in. Students should not have to pick a career and have their learning targeted to fit that subject by teachers uneducated in those specific fields.
It's time to stop spending money on the unnecessary.
Norris is currently being investigated for kickbacks for buying the Promethean active boards.
I secretly hope they find him guilty, so the Waterloo school system can thrive once again.
If Norris hasn't improved what he has set out to do in the past, why is Waterloo still expecting success?
The Student Opinion

Elve said...

I'm a current student at West, and I'm absolutely appalled by "Dr." Norris. I sincerely hope the FBI finds something to keep him away from students for the rest of his life.
As a student that loves music, watching these budget cuts come and go while he spent so many millions of dollars on the ActivBoards is a slap in the face. And to learn that he was once a music teacher? Appalling.
If there was any way to oust him from our district, I'm sure all of our teachers would be on board. During a school program he had the nerve to bring up politics and paid no attention to the actual ceremony.
Worst of all, many of our best teachers are leaving/retiring because of him. My absolute favorite teacher, one who has helped me get through tough times, is "getting out of dodge" because Norris is simply making it hell for any to remain.
I wish our district would have noticed his limited stays in other districts. After spending sp much money in ours.. I hope he has the nerve to fix it and then leave.
Waterloo deserves so much better!

P.S. Anyone that believes "Dr." Norris is a good man, is severely blind and weak of heart. Open your eyes and see what is really happening. If he *truly* cared about what the sudents and families wanted, things wouldnt happen as they are now. Don't let him brainwash you; afterall, he's just another politician.

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Anonymous said...

I'm in Waterloo! and.. Norris makes me crazy. I am in all the AP courses, and even I can't stand school. Morale is at a low that I never thought was possible. I absolutely hate how everything is going. He has now torn down nine homes of good families to build a school without altering the origional parking lot plan, one belonging to a family that I looked to as the perfect representatives of the american dream, one belonging to a seventy-two year old United States veteran who worked a very respectable 30 years in the deere across town. My teachers are dreading this, student protests are constant, the school board is being sued, and my diabetic best friend was refused lunch or a trip to the nurse while she waited to find out if her shirt was too close to red and not close enough to burgandy. (Turns out it was burgandy, and she ended her time in the office with a blood glucose level low enough that the meter said 'low') I need to know more about how well accepted he's been in his million other districts.. maybe a phone call if anyone who knows anything reads this? (319)830-0636

Anonymous said...

Hello i am one of his current students and i have to say uniforms? .. Activ boards?.. and millions of dollars to build a new school ....god help me.! it has been the worst down fall of waterloo. we are wasting time and money on this all and the only reason half the teacher are with it are because they are scared of them. they wouldnt do this if we had a different SA. and all the oher comments are just plain dumb. just because they are all right! this is just a descrace to the water loo community and all the other cities he distroyed.

P.S. I am only an 8th grade student and i feel this way my parents think worst.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Waterloo, Iowa where Gary Norris is our current superintendent. For many reasons, the majority of the poplultion are extremely unhappy with him. These comments are scary. Everything he has tried to start is or has failed. I'd like to see him go.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Norris is awful, just awful. He's wasting money on these Activboards and the dress code policy when they don't work like they're supposed to! The Activboards constantly break down and require countless repairs. The dress code policy is a huge waste of money. As a student at West, I can honestly say that it is not working at all. In fact, it's doing the opposite. The kids are more rude than before. He needs to leave our district NOW.

Anonymous said...

From us folks back here in Sarasota, we tried to tell you guys...