Principal's Meeting
Robert B. Ingram, Ph.D.

I bring greetings from the Miami-Dade County School, a place bombarded by headlines of car jackings, smash and grab robberies, home invasions, drive-by shootings and gang-bangings.

A school system where in, if you believe the press, you would believe that our system is a place where coconuts have been replaced by coke heads, coke freaks and coke parties.

A school system where:

• Our educational programs are minimized,
• Our criminals are organized,
• Our schools are terrorized,
• Our homes are burglarized,
• Our children are narcotized,
• Our Board Members are mesmerized
• Our Administrators are tranquilized,
• Our Principals are canonized, and
• Our poor Teachers are victimized, scandalized, polarized and demoralized.
• Other than that, Miami-Dade County School System is a great place to be.

Good day everyone. It's an honor for me to be here today to welcome you to a new school year. Yes, it's true - next week the 1999-2000 school year begins, and more than 349,000 students will stream into the halls and corridors of our public schools.

They will again depend on us - schools' leaders - to teach them, to guide them, and to nurture them. This year, however, is much different than other years. Not only is it a new era of time dawning upon us, with the new century just a few short months away, but a new era of education is upon us, as well.

Never in the history of American public education has student achievement been such a concern. We know that, as educators, we have always been accountable to our students and to the schools we run. Our personal pride demanded it, and our dedication to this most noble profession ensured it.

Now, public education in America is big, really big, as an example, in the 1997-98 school year, 87,631 public schools provided instruction to 46.1 million students in the United States. How and what our students learn determines their success in the rapidly changing employment market. How and what our students learn determines their self-fulfillment as productive and hopefully giving human beings.

Our students must learn. We know that in a large urban districts such as ours, test scores that measure students achievement usually hover below the national average, mainly because of the adverse deprivations that exist in our community. Yes, we have our challenges of poverty, limited language skills, and lacking parental involvement. Most believe that disadvantages such as these should not dictate poor student achievement. We agree, and seize upon these obstacles as opportunities. I believe we have always done our best to address our very diverse educational needs, but the public and most elected officials, our board included, are demanding even more.

We must be more accountable than ever. The State of Florida's new system grades schools based on test scores. As we are all aware, 26 of our schools received "F" grades and another 127 received "D's." In two years, if our "F" graded schools do not improve their test scores and eliminate their "F" grade, then students who attend those schools can receive "opportunity scholarships" to attend the school of their choice, including private schools. Funding that our school system would have received goes with them.

Admittedly, it is not good news that some of our students are underachieving. What's refreshing however, is the attention that is being given to utilize innovative strategies at our schools to help our students learn.

The superintendents COMPREHENSIVE READING PLAN and the READ to LEAD program that I initiated in District One last year are now in full swing, and guess what? Test scores are up significantly on the F-CAT, the Standard Achievement test, and Florida Writes! We're on our way. And just last week Florida got news that it will receive $26 million from the U.S. Department of Education for reading programs. It is expected that Miami-Dade County will receive a large portion of that grant.

Now, we must continue with the same finesse and tenacity to strengthen our children's math skills. We must find new ways to teach old, but very vital subjects.

The enthusiasm of the new millennium must be equaled by a renewed enthusiasm to lead. As leaders of the most important institutions of our society, we must motivate our staffs to continue doing their best. We know, and we must always keep this in perspective, that we cannot cure the ills of society that often dictate how successful a student is going to be in school. Yes, again I am talking about poverty, lack of language skills, and lack of parental interest and involvement. But we can make a child feel cared for while he or she is at school. We can encourage the child to excel.

We are the personal touch in an often impersonal world. Let's keep up the good work! Let's do our best! Let's renew ourselves and our commitments. After all, our children deserve our best effort.

And remember, in the not so distant past, some of our schools were placed on a critical low performance list. And let's also remember that those students, teachers, and the principals who led the efforts, got those schools off the list by improving student achievement. We can do it again, and we can raise our test scores even more.

I'm going to ask you to do four things this coming school year:

1. Number One Be a Positive Person

Think positive thoughts that keep a positive outlook.
Listen to positive sounds, that is, hear things that are good & pleasing to our efforts.
Look for positive sights, that is, search for that which is good in our students.
Speak positive words, words that extol goodness, grace and care, and
Perform positive deeds, in other words, lift up those who are down.

You see I have come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in this pursuit of education. It is my personal approach that create the learning climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather of our students education comfortable or uncomfortable . As an educational leader, I possess tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can humiliate. I can humor. I can hurt, or I can heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or dehumanized. I am the catalyst. Therefore, I choose to be a positive person.

2. Secondly Take Some Risks

Risks require courage.
It will take require taking some risks to conquer the obstacles that we will face as we educate our students to meet the challenges of the F. CAT, The Standard Achievement Test, The Florida Writes and our High School Competency Test.

But if you study our school system's past record,
I think you will agree that risk takers have always been around one shining example was Norma Brossard who represents our own variety of a risk takers - there exist many Norma Bossards in our school system right now.

The bottom line is this, we want you to acknowledge your risk taking ability and see change not as an obstacle but as an opportunity. A wise person once noted: "Isn't it strange, that Kings and Queens and Clowns that caper in saw dust rings/ and common people like you and me/ are builders of eternity/ each is given a bag of tools/a shapeless mass and a book of rules/and each must build or life is flown/a stumbling block or a stepping stone/."

• Taking risks means moving forward while others are waiting for better times.
• Taking risks means moving forward while others are waiting for proven results.
• Taking risks means moving forward while others are waiting for applause on their past performance.
• Taking risks seeks to strengthen our solidarity, our unity and when we strengthen our solidarity - we strengthen our educational successes.
• Taking risks is the substance of an educational liberation hoped for and evidence of an educational success not yet seen.
• Taking risks means to never give-up. To believe with all our hearts in our students, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and vitality of our struggle.
• Taking risks is that essential quality that will help us to rewrite the future, because it is that inward strength that encourages us to go on while others are quitting.
• Taking risks is to have a never give-up attitude to have the right concept, to have reliable conduct, to have realistic comportment and to have ready courage. You see I agree with Rev. Jesse Jackson it is your attitude not your aptitude that will determine you altitude.
• Taking risks can help us to build up people who have been torn down.

3. Thirdly Have Some Fun

In order to have fun in your work - you must make your work fun,
Confucius is alleged to have said "choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in you life."
I believe Confucius was right - my job is fun - most of the time.
And don't whine, there is always someone worse off that you. As illustrated in this poem, whose author is unknown:

This World is Mine:

Today I saw upon a bus a handsome man with wavy hair,
He looked so stately I envied him, and wished that I was as fair.
Until suddenly he rose to leave, and I saw him hobble down the aisle,
He had one leg and used a crutch, and as he passed a glowing smile.
God forgive me when I Whine, I have two legs - this world is mine.
Then I stopped to buy some sweets, the lad that sold them seemed so warm,
It seemed so nice to talk with him, If I be late would do no harm,
And as I left he said to me, thank you for being so kind,
It's nice to talk to folks like you, "you see" he said, "I am blind."
God forgive me when I Whine, I have two eyes - this world is mine.
Then later, walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes so blue,
She watched the others as they played, it seemed she knew not what to do.
I stopped a moment and I said, "Why don't you join the others dear?"
She looked ahead without a word, and then I know, she could not hear.
God forgive me when I Whine, I have two ears - this world is mine.
Two legs to take me where I go;
Two eyes to see the sunlight glow;
Two ears to hear what I should know.
O God forgive me when I whine, I'm blessed indeed - this world is mine!
Don't be a whiner - be a winner, have some fun!

4. Fourth and Finally Get Turned On

Ted Engstrom in The Pursuit of Excellence writes:
I was cleaning out a desk drawer when I found a flashlight I hadn't used in over a year. I flipped the switch but wasn't surprised when it gave no light. I unscrewed it and shook it to get the batteries out, but they wouldn't budge. Finally, after some effort, they came loose. What a mess! Battery acid had corroded the entire inside of the flashlight. The batteries were new when I'd put them in, and I stored them in a safe, warm place. But there was one problem, those batteries weren't made to be warm and comfortable. They were designed to be turned on - to be used. It is the same with us. We're not here to be warm and comfortable. You and I were made to be "turned on" - to put our caring attitude for our students to work.

When we work together - we divide the effort and multiply the effect.
It is possible to give our frightened students peace.
It is possible to share our warmth and compassion even when our students come to school poor & hungry.
It is possible for our commitment our cooperation and our companionship to assist even the lowest of achievers.
When we're turned on we are not overwhelmed by the challenge - we know that a journey of a million miles begins with one step and that one step can create a domino effect for other steps to follow.

1. Our children are precious, teach one;
2. Our parents are needed, reach one;
3. Text books increase knowledge, read one;
4. Goals can be achieved, have one;
5. Philosophies inspire, create one;
6. Cultural partnerships promote diversity, join one;
7. Obstacles are surmountable, move one;
8. Prejudice prevents growth, conquer one;
9. Contributions enhances opportunity, make one;
10. Scholarships are needed, provide one;
11. Positive Teachers are good examples, be one.

Now is the time to make real the promise of giving our students the world.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of "F" schools and "D" schools to the sunlit path of "A" schools and "Triple A" schools.
Now is the time to make Academic Excellence a reality for all of our children.
But we cannot do it alone.
As we educate our students we must make the pledge that we are all in this together.
We will succeed!
Now is the time!
Friends, the new millennium will be here soon, and the plain truth about moving our students to excellence is that now is the time!
Now is the time for shiftless teachers, to pep up.
Now is the time for sleeping teachers, to wake up.
Now is the time for gloomy teachers, to cheer-up.
Now is the time for angry teachers, to make up.
Now is the time for bitter teachers, to sweeten up.
Now is the time for bent over teachers, to straighten-up, and
Now is the time for gossiping teachers, to shut up!
Making a good thing better.
We are counting on you to define the educational issues and offer suggestions to improve our human educational condition as we move into the 21st century.

To me, education is essential to empowerment.

• Aristotle mastered education.
• Shakespear enlivened education.
• Booker T. Washington advocated education.
• Mary McCloud Bethune illuminated education.
• Dr. Benjamin Mays rejuvenated education.
• Sir Winston Churchill aroused education, as did Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and many others whose lives articulated the fact that one can live without air for a few minutes, without water for a number of days, without food for a number of months, but to live without education is a death unto itself.

So I've stopped by to remind you that,
When the history books are written describing what the Miami-Dade County Public School leaders did to help our children achieve, historians will have to pause to say, there taught a great people -Public School people- who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of education.

This is our challenge this is our responsibility:

1. Be a positive person,
2. Take some risks,
3. Have fun,
4. Get turned on,
And together we will make this one of our best school seasons ever.

We must show our children that the opportunity to earn a dollar knowing "Math figures" is infinitely more valuable than spending a dollar on "Tommy Hilfiger."
When this has been achieved - we will produce;
An education that can never be forfeited,
A learning that can never be circumscribed,
A joy that can never be suppressed,
A concern that can never be questioned,
A relationship that can never be disputed, and
A service that can never be clouded.
We must lift up those who have been knocked down.
We must regenerate the left out and the locked out.
We must retrieve the unlearned and the unloved.
We must revive the misfits and the unfits.
When we do these things educational excellence will run down like water,
and student achievement will come forward like a mighty stream.
We have been successful in the past.
We will be successful in the present and
We will be successful in the future.
So get up and get busy,
Our students are depending on you!
Thank you and have a great school year!

To contact Dr. Ingram, please call 305-995-1340 or e-mail