The Current State of Public Education

The post is analysis of Sir Ken Robinson’s video on Education, which you can link to above.

Society is desperately trying to reform education, so students can compete in the 21st Century. The problem with the current model of education is that it’s based on old assumptions. This model, based upon the Industrial Revolution, claims if you study hard and get a degree you will be offered a high paying job. Students and parents now know this is not always the case. The economic conditions over the last ten years clearly supports the fact that this is not the case. This is why companies like Apple have training programs available right out of high school.

The current model of education is also causing an alarming amount of attention disease among students. These children are being drugged up in staggering numbers. Some of the culprits include Video Games, IPhones, Tablets, etc., because they need the stimulation to break free from boring and repetitive academic teaching. There is also a correlation between more standardized tests and attention disease as well. Mr. Robinson calls these routine teaching methods “Aesthetic”, meaning lack of engagement. He calls some teaching (ART for example), Esthetic, because it forces children to learn in the present moment and it brings your senses alive. The more direct student engagement, the better. Esthetic teaching can wakes up what is already inside of you. Mr. Robinson also speaks about production line teaching. This is where kids are lumped together solely by age instead of natural abilities and desires. Finally he wraps up the video and talks about Divergent Thinking. This is sadly something children are not taught in the regular education program.

Here is an example of Divergent Thinking. “Tell us all the ways you can use a paper clip”. A great divergent thinker may come up with 200 different ways and ask questions like, “Can the paperclip expand 200 feet and be made of rubber?” He is talking about open minds, collaboration, and creative solutions. The sad part is that Kindergarten children scored nearly perfect on divergent thinking tests. The higher the grade level the worse the results became.

Sir Ken Robinson has many great ideas on how to improve public education.

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School Budget Woes for Pennsylvania Schools

School Budget Woes in Pennsylvania

School Budget Woes in Pennsylvania

There are new school budget woes for Pennsylvania Schools this year. As this website has told you, revenue shortfalls cannot keep up with expenses. The troublesome areas are obvious. The state wants to provide relief property tax relief and the same level of education. These are two competing interests. So instead of directly confronting the problem, they plan on just shifting the tax burden. Under the new proposal, tax payers will receive an additional $700 in property tax relief by increasing the state tax on purchases. Renters will suffer the brunt of this proposal, because they get no relief from property taxes. The other interesting fact is that most of the revenue will be generated from southeastern Pennsylvania (about 50 percent). However, this region will not receive the same amount of proceeds in return (The Mercury Opinion 11-15-22).

The biggest change requires that any school tax increase will need to be approved by the voters; even the ones that are within the state imposed cap. The problem, with this change, is that most of the increases are mandated by contract or law. This includes salary increases, benefit increases, pension contributions and the requirement to fund charter schools. If school districts cannot rely on stable funding from the state education programs will need to be cut.

The Pennsylvania school board association said it best. “There are too many unfunded and underfunded state mandates and these types of referendum are really only shifting the tax burden instead of addressing it head on. Referendum treats the symptom of unpopular property taxes without treating the cause of the problem — an inadequate education funding system and too many unfunded and underfunded mandates, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association wrote in an analysis of the referendum proposal (The Mercury Opinion 11-15-22)”.

PSBA noted that not only are referendums an exercise in shifting blame for taxes, they also don’t work in the long run.

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Seven ways to motivate your workforce

Employee Motivation

Employee Motivation

A motivated workforce is a great asset that leads to better productivity and a great working environment. If your workforce is not motivated, you will never end up reaching your company’s objectives. Employee motivation is an ongoing challenge, especially in firms which fail to embrace employee satisfaction. Leaders get the best from their employees and know how to recognize and reward them.

Here are 7 different ways that you can motivate your workforce:

1. Support new ideas

When an employee comes up to you with an idea don’t disregard it. Listen carefully to what the person has to say and encourage them to pursue it. Employees coming up with ideas mean that they care about the company and if their views are valued they will be motivated.

2. Create attainable goals

Setting goals is important and fundamental for organizations. It is important however that goals are set in a realistic way. Setting hard and unclear goals will only result in a demotivated workforce.

3. Professional Development

Employees are thirsty for personal and professional development opportunities. Allowing employees to have a voice, in their personal development, is good for the company and for business. Develop a culture of constant learning and improvement.

4. Promotion

There is nothing employees value more than being promoted. This makes employees feel that their contributions are meaningful and recognized. At all times look to promote excellent employees from within the organization, before looking outside.

5. Recognition:

Each individual has their own preferences and not all individuals will be motivated by money. Some people value recognition more than money. It is important to recognize high performing employees.

6. Company Perks:

Top organizations have been allowing employees to go the gym on company time, take naps and even provide full time day care at no cost. The reason why is It works. This allows workers, who meet their objectives, a way to handle stress in the workplace.

7. Financial Motivation:

Mostly, employees are motivated by their salary. If the financial rewards are congruent with job performance and contributions, this goes a long way in making an employee happy. However, even if you cannot reward employees monetarily, always recognized them for a job well done, even in a small way

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Five Steps to Personal Excellence

Personal Excellence

Personal Excellence

Five Steps to Personal Excellence

If you master these five steps you will obtain personal excellence, and achieve your goals and dreams. This applies to all areas of your life. Self- discipline is the hardest part, but achieving your goals is very rewarding.

So develop the necessary mindset and follow these five steps:

1. Evaluating Your Strengths and Weaknesses

It is a good idea to be self-aware of your strength and weaknesses. You need to work hard and diligently on self-improvement. If a star basketball player can’t make free throws he will devote hours on becoming better. Now a former weakness becomes a strength.

2. Self-Discipline

Self-Discipline is a powerful tool in your arsenal. A great writer will wake up early and not miss a day of practicing his/her writing skills. This dedication will happen for months and years without taking a break. The key is to practice, work and refine your skills day after day. This alone will lead to self-mastery.

3. Visualize Success

Humans need to set goals and actually visualize themselves reaching them. This is a well- known psychological principal that all successful people follow. Pretend you actually have achieved your goals, like they already happened.

4. Time Management

Successful people are organized and manage their time well. They dedicate themselves to what is important and do not waste their time on trivial matters. How you plan and prioritize your time will definitely determine your effectiveness. Efficiency is a formula determined by the quality of work done within a fixed timeframe – so make sure you stick to it.

8. The Time Is Now

As a last step to achieving personal excellence, you must know that the time is NOW. In order to achieve personal excellence you must begin today and not wait for the perfect moment. There is never a perfect time, there is only now.

In the end, you should also know that all skills are learnable in life, and we are all put in this world with equal potential. We may not have the same circumstances, but we are all born to be great. Committing to your goals and being persistent will lead to personal excellence.

Joseph J Tramontana Hamilton New Jersey

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Seven Essential Qualities Of Great Supervisors

Seven Essential Qualities of Great Supervisors

Seven Essential Qualities of Great Supervisors

There have always been some poor and mediocre bosses. However, when it comes to great supervisors, the most important thing they all share is knowing what goes on in the organization, having the power to change that and fit in the organizational hierarchy perfectly well.

The technical knowledge in terms of the basic principles of management such as planning, directing, organizing and motivating are also a part of the technical knowledge every great supervisor has. But deep beyond the surface of what a great supervisor really represents, there are these seven qualities:

1. Emotional Balance – The main role of a supervisor is to handle authority and leadership well. This includes meeting targets and deadlines, which are situations that can easily be affected by emotions. That is why a proper self-control and balance is what every great supervisor must have.

2. Proactiveness – With many objectives to be achieved, planning things in advance is not easy – which is the exact reason why every great supervisor has to be committed, take responsibility and dedication to fulfill everything on-time without passing the blame to others.

3. Creativity – Coming up with responses and special efforts to many situations triggers the creative part behind every great supervisor – which should never be a compromise.

4. Self-knowledge – Being aware of the personal attributes and linking them with the job position, strengths, weaknesses as well as objectives and deadlines is what lies in every great supervisor as their own view of the job role.

5. Managerial skills – This portion of skills includes the technical, human, conceptual, diagnostic and political skills altogether as the ultimate recipe for a great supervisor. The methods and procedures in terms of technicality, the understanding and motivation when it comes to human skills as well as the abstract and general ideas are all skills that define a great supervisor.

6. Mental agility – Grasping the problems quickly and thinking about new strategic ways in the same time are all beneath the process of mental agility in every great supervisor.

7. Learning habits – Last but not least are the learning habits. Despite that the supervisor role involves directing tasks and organizing people, a great supervisor is always prone to learning how to be independent as a leader and be independent in giving the right decisions.

In the end, every supervisor is a leader and a decision maker. That is why this role is vital to the company and in order to guarantee a successful future, a great supervisor must always dominate with these personal advantages.

Joseph Tramontana School Business Administrator.

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How to address Work and Life Conflicts

Work and Life Conflicts

Work and Life Conflicts

Employers must learn how to address work and life conflicts. Organizations understand the difficulties their employees face in modern society. Society is filled with complex personal issues and problems. Many families have both spouses working, which means child care is a real concern. Employees also have to care for their aging parents in nursing homes. In today’s marketplace, employees want choices, and organizations should be prepared to offer some. Companies need to be flexible when accommodating the personal needs of their employees. Because both parents are working, family obligations become more complicated. It is also important to realize that there are many single parents in the work force as well.

There are many ways companies are beginning to address these issues. Some initiatives include flexible scheduling, telecommuting, off-site work arrangements, and employee assistance programs. Childcare and eldercare are two items at the top of the list and with today’s technology, offering alternatives has become easier. Examples include Microsoft Office, Go to Meeting, Video Conferencing, and others. Collaboration has never been easier. Companies can even monitor productivity remotely.

These policies not only support a better work/life balance, but they also can help attract quality employees. Many organizations see absenteeism rates improve, fewer disability claims and workplace accidents. These alternatives result in less time commuting, reduced stress, fewer distractions, and the ability to deal with issues like family illnesses. However despite the benefits it can be very tempting to slack off working in a home environment. Therefore, programs need to be carefully put together. One best way would be to develop a hybrid approach. For example, part of the week an employee could work in the office and the other part of the week at home. Also, employees could work from home on days they are ill, so productivity is not totally lost.

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Hiring and Recruiting Talented Employees

Hiring Talented Employees

Hiring Talented Employees

One of the most important duties, of a Human Resources Professional, is hiring and recruiting talented employees. This is a critical process that goes far beyond advertising your vacancy in the help wanted section of the newspaper. Quality employees are the lifeblood of your company.

The best place to start your recruitment efforts is with a proper workforce plan. Before you turn your recruitment efforts to the outside we need to take a close look at current employees.

Start with these questions:

Are your employees strategically placed in your organization?
Do the employees have a specific skill set for their current position; or is there a better placement?
Do the employees enjoy their work or could they be better assigned?

One critical component, of successful recruitment, is to take a current look at your job descriptions. Duties and responsibilities change over time and job descriptions need to meet your current needs. Before you advertise for a new a position, it would be wise to thoroughly update the job description. For example if the opening is in the Finance Department, sit down with the Finance Officer and review the description in great detail before posting the position.

The next step is to advertise the position in places that will attract quality candidates.

These include:

• Your Company Website
• Job Boards
• Social Media
• Professional Associations
• Job Fairs
• College Campuses
• Recruiters

There are pros and cons to all of these sources and we will discuss them in future articles.

The next step is to carefully review resumes of the most promising candidates. Look for items such as specific achievements, professional development, and education. The problem many HR Professionals have is not reducing the list to a manageable level. Despite the volume of candidates, your company can only choose one person for the position. The next part of the process is the interview process. It is important to keep the questions consistent among candidates and not to ask unlawful questions. This includes the proper and legal way to conduct credit and background checks.

Staffing is critical to the ultimate success of your organization. Without the right employees your business will never reach its long term goals or be as great as the can be.

School Business Administrator

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Human Resources as a Strategic Partner

Human Resources as a Strategic Partner

Human Resources as a Strategic Partner

Human Resources as a strategic partner. The future Human Resources professional will continue to evolve as a valuable consultant and strategic thinker to their organization.

In the past HR professionals would focus on day to day routines such as processing employment applications. Today they need to study business trends by identifying long term goals and objectives. They need to think strategically about how their business model will change by identifying future threats, weaknesses and opportunities. HR professionals can get a better understanding of what their organization needs by consulting with the leadership of the company. They no longer can function in isolation, but must serve as strategic consultant. HR professionals should examine their competition and the latest business trends. From there, they can develop recommendations regarding policies, procedures, and staffing.

Technology is also changing the role of HR Professionals. Today’s HR computer software provide powerful tools that can supply a wide variety of data. This means the role of an HR professional will become more strategic. The data and the tools will be used to drive key decisions. For example, technology, in the past, focused on maintaining basic employee records. Today technology has the capacity to train employees at, very high levels, for a reasonable cost. Training individuals is not enough it must correlate to job performance. There must be a clear and identifiable pattern of how the training boosted employee performance.

HR Professionals should spend at least 20 minutes each day on how they can set their company up for future success. Then they can be regarded as a true senior partner as opposed to someone that just provides support services and processes paperwork.

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The amazing power of curiosity

Curiosity

The amazing power of curiosity

The older we get, the more we have a tendency to close down our creativity. We do not bring the same openness and wonder to learning as we did as children. Our minds are overflowing with too much information and data. As adults, we tend to gravitate toward safety and our daily routines. Children are naturally curious, because they love to explore. If they encounter a problem they just solve it.

According to Michael Dell, curiosity may be the most important attribute for executives to have. Dell was responding to a survey, along with a thousand other CEOS, that cited open-mindedness and curiosity as critical leadership traits. Executives need to expand their view wider and deeper than ever before. Leaders need to reclaim their natural born curiosity. Let’s face it, the world is complex and even the smartest will not have all the answers. However, bringing a curious attitude will help with keeping pace with our competitors.

The CEO is the person to set the tone of curiosity throughout the organization. Lead by example and question everything. This lays the groundwork for others to question the norm and see how things can be done better. Just imagine if the entire culture of the organization is rooted in wonder and open-mindedness. This will generate a massive amount of new ideas that can be implemented immediately. Curiosity has been around for decades and was one of the reasons for Walt Disney’s great success. He had the ability to use his imagination and reconstruct it into a physical reality time and time again.

Even before Walt Disney there was the ancient philosophy of Zen Buddhism that incorporated the concept of beginners mind. “In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, in the experts mind few.” This means that even if your studying physics and you have an advanced degree it is the attitude that counts. Bring an open mind and attitude toward the subject and be open to new ideas and creativity.

Joseph Tramontana School Business Administrator.

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Two ways to develop a flexible workforce

Flexible Workforce

Developing a Flexible Workforce

Human Resources always had to cope with the issue of employee supply and demand. With today’s workforce, you will find that educated workers with specialized skills are scarce. The skills that employers seek today are niche based such as computer skills, law, accounting, and finance. The key to an effective staffing model is to incorporate some flexibility. The traditional Human Resources Model assigned work only to full-time employees. This is an antiquated model and much has changed over the years. Today’s business environment is much different. The drastic change in technology and communication means that workers need to adapt as well. Having a variable cost component to supplement a fixed cost model is crucial in today’s environment. Here are two ways to develop a flexible workforce.

Cross Training

An organization will always need their full-time key employees. These employees will handle confidential issues, legal and financial matters, technology enhancement, strategic goals and business development. However, we are also seeing a trend where employees will develop expertise and skill sets in new areas. The more expertise core employees gain, the more valuable they become to the organization.

Independent Workers

Employers are using technical experts and independent contractors to assist them in reaching their goals. These independent workers are a cost-effective way to support full time employees. Perhaps your organization has a specialized project that requires technical expertise. The organization can now choose from a wide variety of experts to assist them. However, when the project is over, they would not be required to keep these consultants on their payroll. The value of using these employees is that it avoids disrupting the existing workforce. Many consultants enjoy this working model because of the flexibility it provides them.

There is an art to developing a cohesive program that integrates core employees with consultants, and this will be discussed in later blog posts.

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