Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Are We Thankful For?

One week ago, I asked the readers of this blog to reflect on what they are thankful for when they think of Montpelier Public Schools.  Thanks to MHS Principal Adam Bunting, I created my first wordle by entering in all the answers I received from the various readers of this blog.

This wordle speaks for itself - I am proud to work in a community of learners that has so many substantive values.  It is a gift and I am tremendously grateful to be a part of this wonderful educational environment!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Being Thankful

What is more "November" than being thankful?  I've seen friends on Facebook posting daily one thing that they're thankful for.  As we approach the last seven student days before the Thanksgiving Break, I've been thinking about what's important to me and what I am thankful for.  Here, in no particular order, is what has crossed my mind. 

  • My Family - the love, encouragement, and support that I receive is the bedrock for the professional work that I do. 
  • The MPS Administrative Team - Pam Arnold, Adam Bunting, Chris Hennessey, Mary Lundeen, Mike Martin, and Cindy Rossi have cultivated a thoughtful, fun, student-centered instructional leadership team that works steadfastly on behalf of the children and adults in Montpelier.  We enjoy each other so much that My Bride calls Tuesday my "Laugh Morning" because of how much humor is present during our weekly Team Meetings.  
  • The Adults of MPS - In the past few weeks, I have been inspired - truly inspired - by stories I have heard and what I have witnessed first hand from the adults in Montpelier Public Schools.  From award winning teachers remarking thoughtfully about the importance of relationships over content to the dedication of instructional assistants tirelessly working with their students; from the preparation of food in our cafeterias to the consistent presence of our administrative support staff; from the visible demonstration of stewardship over our facilities personnel to the commitment to community well being by the Recreation Department to the vision of public education set by our Board of School Commissioners.  
  • The Students of MPS - what can I say about this amazing group of young people?  They are tremendous.  They model sustainability in Vermont - that's why Deborah Markowitz (Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources) came to Main Street Middle School this week to unveil the State of Vermont's new recycling logos.  They inspire - click on The Wise Owl (UES Principal Chris Hennessey's blog) to see how student centered our elementary school is.  They are leaders - regularly I see adults listening to students at MHS.  This week's upcoming Board meeting will begin with a student presentation from MHS students.  I am grateful that in MPS, when students talk, adults listen.  
Reflecting on those people, I am reminded of John F. Kennedy's quote about being thankful: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them."  As we approach the holiday season, I encourage you to find a way to say thank you to others, which for me are the two most important words in the English language. 

To the readers of this blog, I thank you for sharing some of your free time with me and my thoughts.  I wish you a wonderfully enjoyable holiday season!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What's in Your Pizza Box?

A couple of years ago, My Wife came up with a brilliant idea to collect work Our Boys are proud of: every couple of weeks, each of Our Sons chooses something from school he is proud of and My Wife or I make a choice as well.  As you can see, their pizza boxes are full - we have a pizza box for each year they have been in school.  It's a way for us to collect, as a family, the work Our Boys are proud of over a long period of time.  They're only 5 and 7 - we need a few more boxes already!

In MPS, we've been having discussions about electronic portfolios as a way for students to collect work that they're proud of, as well as a way to demonstrate improvement over time.  Part of the challenge in educational leadership is to document student improvement over time, through the lens of one student.  I can tell you anecdotally that our students across the district demonstrate improvement over time.  Our teachers consistently use pre-assessments to inform instructional decisions, use formative assessments to track progress throughout, and review results from summative assessments to establish benchmarks for future work in classrooms.  We have to have documentation of improvement - and we can do more. 

I admit that I like the idea of an electronic portfolio - it truly captures student work from developing to basic to proficient, to distinguished.  Recently, My Wife and I attended our first Parent/Teacher Conference for Our Son in Kindergarten.  During the conference, his teacher showed us two pieces of paper: one was completed in August, one was completed the week of the conference.  The one from August had a list of numbers from one to ten and while all numbers were identifiable, there was plenty of room for growth!  The one from the week of the conference showed dramatic improvement (I am proud to say) and it was fun to put the two pieces of paper side by side to revel in the work Our Youngest has done with his teacher in Kindergarten!

My Wife and I are hoping to have examples from both Boys for the balance of their educational career - work that they and we are proud of.  In MPS, we are hoping to create a way for students to track their work for their educational careers.  If given the opportunity, what would you put in the pizza boxes for your own children? 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

It's All About Spirit

This past week was Spirit Week at Montpelier High School.  There were the typical activities ranging from specific days to dress colorfully to a bonfire and a dance at the end of the week.

One new event was a Dodgeball Tournament, in which teams were organized by Teacher Advisories.  This year at MHS, there has been a renewed push to develop Teacher Advisories as a more thoughtful way to build relationships with students.  I see TAs as a way for teachers to connect more substantially with students and for students to know, really know, that an adult in that building is there for them on a very practical, meaningful level.

I know the notion of Dodgeball evokes all kinds of responses.  For some, that word conjures up memories of the 2005 movie:

I assure you, we did not experience any moments that were reminiscent of that movie!

For others, the word dodgeball brings them back to their own experienced in Physical Education.  I  remember playing with balls like this:
And to be honest, those balls hurt when you get hit with them at a reasonable speed!  However, we don't use those balls anymore.  We use these:
These Gator Skin balls hurt much less - and I can speak from experience from playing at Main Street Middle School the last two years to my particicpation at MHS this week:

Plus there is a rule that if you hit someone in the head, you (the thrower) are out; the person hit in the head, stays in the game.  More on that rule later...

It was shortly after this photo was taken (thank you Myles Chater) that a very poignant moment took place that is the inspiration for this week's post.

I was watching another game - as the team I played on had been eliminated - on the other side of the gymnasium.  Two TA groups were matched pretty evenly and the game was proceeding along as you would expect a typical dodgeball game.  As the game was winding down, there were only a handful of students left on either side.  Ultimately the game came down to two young people - one young woman and one young man.

To be fair, I observed the young woman staying relatively far away from the action during most of the game but when she was the only one left, she stepped up and was playing hard trying to get the young man on the other side of the gym out.  The young man was playing thoughtfully as well trying to get his competitior out as well.

As there were no other games going on, the entire gym was watching this one game.  It seemed as though it was a foregone conclusion who was going to win.  At one point, the young woman was out of balls on her side of the line.  While she was looking around for another ball, the young man stepped up and threw a ball at her.  She looked up, saw the ball that was heading her way, and turned away.

The ball hit her, dropped down to the floor, and all the remaining students ran onto the court cheering and yelling...

They all ran to mob the young woman - as the ball had hit her in the head, meaning the young man was out, and the young woman had won the game for her team!  She received hugs, high fives, and lots of love from MHS students and adults alike!  It was a very nice moment during Spirit Week that captured what this week was really all about.

It was the unexpected nature of the win - the underdog moment.  We all root for the underdogs, those that are not expected to win.  It's human nature of sports.  And in this case, were it not for Spirit Week, we would not have had this moment to celebrate.  Bravo and thank you to MHS for a great week!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Follow-Up

It was the first five day week in Montpelier Public Schools.  The perfect opportunity to spend copious amounts of time in our buildings, seeing thoughtful instruction, engaged students... ensuring that the smiles that were so prevalent in the first seven school days were still there.

It was also another week of "firsts" for me: first meetings.  I spent more of my week away from MPS than I care to admit.  All the meetings were important: I sat down and spent some time with a new Superintendent from another Supervisory Union.  All VT Superintendents met this week and the regional group that I belong to met as well.  I spent an afternoon learning about the Affordable Care Act, the Vermont Health Exchange, and the impact they will have on health insurance in the state.  I felt a little "meeting-ed out" and was lacking inspiration for this blog.

When I was in my office briefly on Friday I had a chance to review voicemail messages and return phone calls.  Logging into the voicemail, the automated voice tells me date, time, and length of message.  Listening to the preview of the first message, I heard it was 70 seconds.  To be honest, not many people call me and leave a complimentary message that is 70 seconds long!  It was a parent calling with safety concerns about one of our schools.  I copied down all the pertinent information and continued to listen to the remaining messages.

The last message was only 20 seconds long - it was the same parent that previously had left the 70 second message.  This was a follow-up to let me know, they had connected with the principal of that building, had a thoughtful conversation, felt heard by the principal and her concerns were addressed.  I was floored - in my 17 years as a professional educator, I had never received (nor made) the follow-up call.

This final message was simple, thoughtful, and to the point.  The voice was calm, pleasant, and warm.  While I hope to receive more messages like this, my ultimate goal is that the employees of MPS are present enough to all stakeholders when concerns arise that the end result is the same as this one.  This parent was able to communicate the concerns to the principal, the principal heard the concerns, the principal addressed the concerns (notice I didn't say fixed), the parent felt heard and validated, and walked away from this conversation inspired to call me back. 

Too often, administrators fall into the trap of "fixing," when more often than not, we need to listen and validate first.  If parents feel heard and validated, more often than not they are then in a place to listen to what we have to say.  If parents feel heard and validated, more often than not they are able to engage in a conversation about next steps.  If parents feel heard and validated, more often than not they will work with us on a timeline for a reasonable implementation about their concerns.  If parents feel heard and validated, more often than not they will see passionate, student-centered advocates who care deeply about their child and who want to ensure that their child shines in that building.  If parents feel heard and validated, more often than not they will be partners in education.  Who knows, if parents feel heard and validated, perhaps they will even make a follow-up phone call. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Superintendent Dr. Brian G. Ricca's Opening Remarks for Montpelier Public Schools Employees In-Service, August 27, 2013

Welcome back everyone to the start of the 2013 – 2014 School Year.  I am very proud to serve alongside each of you as Superintendent.  I am delighted to be starting my third year in Montpelier Public Schools.

In my seventeen years as an educator, I have come across few if any irrefutable truths when it comes to education.  One of the ones I do know and I take comfort in, both as a parent and a superintendent is this: everyone comes to serve in education for the right reasons.  Every single person – Everyone.  It is something that I firmly believe and am proud to proclaim about all the employees in Montpelier Public Schools.

Regardless of whether you are a teacher or a technology specialist, an instructional assistant or an instrumental teacher, payroll manager or principal, administrative assistant or an administrator, facilities or food service, everyone comes to this wonderful enterprise that we call Montpelier Public Schools for the right reasons and I am incredibly grateful – because every child that will come through our doors tomorrow needs someone.  But not just anyone – every one of those students tomorrow needs a hero.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

It's Only Been Three Days!

It is a sunny Sunday this Labor Day weekend, and it is the perfect time to reflect on the Opening Three Days of school in Montpelier.  In short, it was a tremendous week!

Friday, June 14, 2013

End of Year Celebrations

Montpelier High School Commencement just ended - and we have celebrated the Class of 2013 in a ceremony fitting to their talents.  There was juggling, singing, and dancing; there were eloquent speeches, hugs, and even a few tears.  The Class of 2013 goes off into the next chapter of their lives, as our gift to the world.  

While I have not been as faithful to this blog as I had hoped this year, I end the school year on a high note with the celebrations that have taken place recently in MPS.  Here is a snapshot of the amazing things happening in Montpelier Public Schools!

Rhonda Brace, Anne Giroux, and Jason Miles (MSMS) - Crafter's Edge students have had a very successful year.  Total sales for the year $10,625.20, with a total profit for this year $6,639.79.  These students are giving $500 to the Central Vermont Humane Society, $500 to the Make a Wish Foundation of Vermont, and $500 to the American Cancer Society on behalf of their teacher Ludo Buret.  

Spooky Buzzi (CO) - I was down in the gym where the seniors were practicing for graduation.  The new ramp is set up and looks like it's been a part of our graduation ceremonies for years.  Mary O'Neill, Thom Wood, Dennis Maranville, and Carrie Cook's hard work and diligence are making a student's participation in graduation possible.  This ramp will enable many students in years to come to participate in their school community events.  I have another one.  After Neil Rosenblad left, Nancy Chase continued a long time tradition with Unified Sports.  With fewer athletes and partners, she has maintained a wonderful spirit of involvement and partnership among a group of high school students.  She has a big heart and a generous soul that she uses to model her passion for all students to be active participants in their high school community.
Stephanie DiLena (MSMS) - I am writing to say that I can share something "new" I did last week that I thought was powerful.  About a month ago, I met with employee and advocate Stephen McArthur from Circle (formerly Battered Women's Shelter) to plan a week-long co-teaching mini-unit on understanding healthy and unhealthy relationships, bullying, teen dating violence, and domestic violence, gender "boxes," and stereotypes.  We did the mini-unit recently.  Steve was our guest in language arts for four days, and it was neat because he mostly goes into P.E. or Health classes but has never been invited into a language arts class.  So much of the work we have to do with students around these issues has to do with language and the many messages that swirl around them (and us!) telling them what to think, who and how to be.  It was a very powerful experience for students and adults.  

Sylvia Fagin (MSMS) - This year, a group of faculty and staff at MSMS have been meeting to discuss diversity – ethnicity, race, and economic class, and the myriad intersections thereof. We met six times from November through May, with seven people participating.  We took an appreciative inquiry approach, beginning with the questions, “What's good about having a diverse student body?” and “What skills and information do we need to be effective in building on these assets?”  We then constructed a mission statement for our time together: "We are a group of educators learning to talk about diversity [including race, ethnicity, and economics] [from our position of power] and our own backgrounds, while walking on the eggshells of public school."  The agreements under which we interacted included the Four Agreements of Courageous Conversation (Singleton & Linton, 2006): Stay engaged; speak your truth; experience discomfort; expect and accept non-closure.  For each meeting, participants read one or two articles which we then discussed as a group. We also wrote and shared our own “opportunity narratives,” autobiographical stories about the individual-, community-, and institution-level influences that shaped us.  "The group offers thought-provoking discussion and material that offers new perspective on children, society, and the people who teach them,” said participant Don Taylor.  Participant Lisa Moody noted, “Aside from enjoying the great conversations with my peers in such a safe atmosphere, I would say that the way the topics and discussions tied in with my social studies curriculum was great. We are all about culture in sixth grade, and the articles we read in the group gave me some good supplementary information for my classes.”  The desire to continue the group next year was unanimous, so we will! In September, we'll pick back up and welcome new folks who wish to join another year of interesting, challenging, timely discussion.  The readings and information about the group process we used can be found here.  Identity, race, ethnicity, and class are deeply personal issues. Talking about them takes courage and trust. I am grateful to my colleagues who went on this risky and rewarding journey with me this year.

Brian Gallagher & Liz Bailey (MHS) - Liz Bailey and I applied for this and we hope to raise some more funds in the fall to add to this amount to purchase as second AED for the school.  Montpelier High School scored very well in this year’s Health Department School Wellness Award application and was awarded the Bronze award of $1,000.  

Hilary Goldblatt (MSMS/MHS) - Music students at MSMS and MHS used Noteflight, a web-based music notation program, to create original musical compositions.  They then shared and commented on each other's scores (think facebook for musicians). Some students worked with professional composers as online mentors through the state-wide Music-COMP program.  A total of 11 students represented Montpelier at the New England Music Festival, and 17 students represented Montpelier at the All-State music festival this year.  (Hilary buried the lead on the celebrations as she and her husband Noah became the proud parents of a baby boy this semester.  Congratulations to them both!)

Amy Herrick (UES) - Our daughter is going to graduate tonight from MHS. She has been in the Montpelier schools since the first day of kindergarten and has received an excellent academic and social education. My husband and I feel immeasurably grateful to the excellent teachers, staff, and administration of all three Montpelier schools. Thank you for giving Montpelier kids such a solid and happy foundation in life.

Todd Keller (UES) - UES saved money on the electric bill again this year and our custodial staff has done a great job.  The "Facelift to our heating system" and the many positive projects that will happen this summer to make UES an even safer, cleaner, and healthier school for both students, staff, and families.  

Morgan Lloyd (UES) - Thank you to Marie Jennings and Emmanuel Riby-Williams for this biking unit to our students!  It was so amazing to watch my entire class ride off in to town! They were so happy (even the ones who like to complain).  They rode all the way to the pool and the rec fields.  On the way back, one student was overheard exclaiming, "I never knew it was so close!"  You can be sure that student will be returning to the pool on his own, now that he knows the way.  Another student, who is often seen trailing behind the group on walks, was right out in front as the class returned to UES, with a big smile on his face.  Later, two students were discussing their ride, and they expressed their appreciation that "Mr. Williams and M.J. really listen to us."  I think the students felt both honored and grateful that their proposal to ride to the pool was accepted.  I am certain that this unit will have a lasting positive impact on many of my students.  Of course, it's not only the bike riding-- My students reflected this afternoon that they have really enjoyed PE with you this year. "We do units," they said and "We learned stuff."  I reflected that although not every kid loved every unit, I thought that there was great balance, and that the PE units had offered something for everyone, and had really been engaging to all students.  I have appreciated your monthly letters to families and your focus on fitness, cooperation, and self-reflection.  Thank you both for all you had done for UES!  We are lucky to have you.

Marianne McNamara (MHS) - One of my students has been accepted at Rice and he has been given a substantial scholarship.  I'm pleased to say this story has a happy ending - he couldn't stay at MHS but now has a great opportunity at Rice.  One of my other students has applied to Castelton State College for the fall.  Three years ago this student didn't speak English.  It often takes more than five years for ELL students to become proficient with academic language.  

Melissa Pierce (UES) - Ari Markowitz, Luke Burton and Nathan Burton put on an amazing break dancing show for us at UES. I had Nathan in fourth and fifth grade and have kept in touch with him, showing support at his dance performances whenever possible. When I saw them perform this winter, I asked Nathan if they would consider coming to their alma mater to give a show. I got the parents group to donate some money and the boys readily agreed to come.  They put on two separate energetic, age appropriate shows with demos, dancing, music, Q and A, getting kids on stage, etc. Everyone LOVED it, and the hallways were filled with kids dancing all afternoon, they were so inspired. Ari, Nathan and Luke were gracious, polite, and sweet with the students. They said "Thank you for the opportunity to do this."Best quotes I heard - "Now THAT was the least boring thing that has EVER happened in the auditorium!"  "I always thought dancing was girly, but man, those guys were SICK!"

Colleen Purcell & Dan Miller-Arsenault - This quarter Dan Miller-Arsenault and I collaborated on an interdisciplinary unit based around the novel The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.  All of my Spanish 4 students are in Dan's Interpretations of Literature class where they read this book as part of the final unit of the year on magical realism.  The book takes place over the course of the 20th century in Chile ending in the early years of Pinochet's dictatorship.  Our goal was to increase the students' appreciation of the book and deepen their learning by having them explore the historical realities behind the story.  Together we worked on KUD's for our connected units and created a website with resources and assignments for both of our classes to use.  Check out the website at: https://sites.google.com/a/mpsvt.org/house-of-spirits/  Students in my Spanish class researched different historical figures/moments from the book, posted their findings and analysis on the shared website, and gave a brief presentation in each of the English classes to introduce their webpage.  All the students in the English class then visited the student webpages and commented (on the pages) about how the information deepened their understanding of the events of the story.  In looking through their comments and talking with my Spanish students, it is clear to me that this cross-disciplinary approach successfully engaged students in their learning in both classes!  It was also wonderful to work collaboratively with a colleague outside of my department!  I hope that in the future teachers at MHS are provided with more opportunities to do such collaborative work as it pays off not only in professional growth, but also (and more importantly) in student learning!

I truly appreciate anyone who has taken the time to read my blog this year, even with the limited entries.  I will do better next year.  

Have a wonderful summer!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Who We Are and What We Do

Rightfully so, much has been made of the proposed tax increase in Montpelier, based on the budget that was adopted by the Montpelier Public Schools Board of School Commissioners.  The details on the FY14 Budget can be found at www.mpsvt.org.  I would like to take some time to shed more light on what is happening in our schools and why I firmly believe that the educators and students in Montpelier Public Schools are worthy of this tax increase. 

I have been very clear about my professional opinion regarding the landmark No Child Left Behind Legislation.  It is not realistic to expect 100% proficiency in any one area for any one child, any one adult, or any one human being.  We don’t expect that (nor do we get that) from any other professional that we come into contact with.  As the educational leader of this District, what I expect to see is growth and improvement from year to year.  With that in mind, consider the following data points earned by the students in Montpelier Public Schools during this past fall’s NECAP testing:

  • In Reading, across Grades 3, 4, and 5 students demonstrated increased proficiency every year since 2007 and currently we have the lowest level of students below proficiency in eight years. 
  • Our 8th graders in Science earned the highest proficiency in five years and earned an 11% increase over scores in 2011.  Further, in Writing this same group of students increased proficiency 10% from the previous year’s scores. 
  • Our juniors at Montpelier High School earned increased proficiency in three of the four subjects they test in: Science (24% increase since 2010), Writing (25% increase since 2010), and Math (28% increase since 2009 and top proficiency in the State of Vermont). 

This is just a snapshot of what we do in this district on a daily basis.  It is in no way the definition of what we do or who we are.  However, this demonstrates growth and improvement from year to year – a reasonable expectation for the school district in the Capitol City of Vermont.  And there is more work to do. 

So if the data is just a snapshot, then who are we?  We are the professionals that keep your children safe on a daily basis.  We are the educators who thoughtfully, carefully, and with children in mind, design lesson plans and units that are engaging, creative and capture the minds of your children.  We are the guidance counselors that listen, empathize, and dry tears.  We are the Food Services personnel that prepare healthy meals to feed your children.  We are the Instructional Assistants who meet the individual needs of your children.  We are the nurses that have both band-aids and watchful eyes for unhealthy choices impacting your children.  We are the coaches that teach primary skills in sports and educate on the nuances of the games that we (and your children) love.  We are the Facilities staff that makes each building a warm and inviting place to come to on a daily basis, after it has been full of children and adults the day before.  We are the administrators who ensure that bullying, hazing, and harassment have no place in education.  We are the Board Members who agonize over the reductions in personnel, knowing that each individual in this school district has a profound impact on the life of a child, and more often than not, on the lives of many children. 

What do we do?  Education is what we do.  Educators literally make hundreds of decisions a day in classrooms, hallways, offices, and cafeterias that have tremendous impacts on the children we teach; and often we do it in less than favorable circumstances (such as standing in front of a class or in the presence of others) with less than all the information (such as whether or not our student ate a reasonable meal in the morning, following how much sleep the night before).  We are often compared to doctors and lawyers; doctors and lawyers see patients and clients on an individual basis.  We call that tutoring. 

The 21st Century is a complicated place for children, and those who graduate do not enter a multiple choice world.  Instead, they enter a world where there are so many claims to what is true and good.  We strive to be models of what is true and good in Montpelier Public Schools. 

We show our children what we value by what we choose to pay for and without question, the most valuable resource we have in our district are the employees of Montpelier Public Schools.  I hope that on Town Meeting Day next Tuesday, the voters of Montpelier will support the budget adopted by the Board of School Commissioners.  Please show our children what we value.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ask Not What Your School Can Do For You...

This year, I finally brought to fruition an idea that My Wife had for me last year: Soup with the Superintendent.  The idea was to highlight one of the skills of our tremendous MPS Kitchen Staff (we have a sous chef with amazing soup making abilities) and go to visit each school.  At each school, I would schedule a time with students, faculty/staff, and parents.

Last week at MHS, Soup with the Superintendent took place with students.  8 MHS students sat with Adam Bunting and me to share feedback, ask questions, and talk about life at the high school.  My goal is to talk less at these events - and to listen more.

However, this group had a great deal of questions.  At that time, we were in the heart of our FY14 Budget conversations and there were concerns about the teachers that were impacted by the proposed reductions.  I did spend a great deal of time explaining some of the nuts and bolts of the budget, how the budget is formed, the priorities of the School Board, and the duties of the Administrative Team as a result.  While I was happy to have the opportunity to explain the process of budgeting, I spoke more than I wanted to.

As our time together was drawing to a close, one of the young people at the lunch spoke up.  "We've been asking a lot of the question here.  We've asked of you what the school can do for us.  I want to know what you expect of us - what do you want from us?"  Both Adam Bunting and I were stunned.  In my sixteen years in education, I have never had that question asked of me; not as a teacher, principal, nor superintendent.

I don't recall my answer to this young man's question.  My mind flashed to John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address.  It was a ground-breaking challenge from the newly elected president then - and it is my hope that this is a ground-breaking challenge from the students at MHS.  The students are our consumers in an era in which education is changing drastically.  Content is no longer confined to the school day, nor is content solely the realm of the teachers.  With a new shared vision of education on the horizon, both adults and students need to ask the question: ask not what your school can do for you - ask what you can do for your school.