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The Superintendent's Lottery

By Chick Moorman

I have participated in enough (over 200) back-to-school opening day ceremonies to know what to expect. It doesn’t matter whether I was sitting there as a teacher or as a presenter getting ready to give my inspirational kick-off message about teaching to a student’s spirit. That first day has always been pretty much the same.

The superintendent welcomes everyone back, making a few comments about how fast the summer went. Then the building administrators are introduced. They, in turn, introduce the new staff members, who stand up while everyone claps.

At this point, the superintendent takes the opportunity to remind staff members of the mission statement, goals and objectives for the upcoming year and the importance of achievement. A review of the past year, important legislative concerns, and updates on the status of construction projects are also included. He or she reminds the staff about the importance of having positive relationships with students and with each other.

Although the names and faces and places change, the message is pretty much the same. That’s why my ears perked up when I heard School Union 98 Superintendent Rob Liebow mention the Superintendent’s Lottery on my recent trip to Mt. Desert Island, Maine.
I figured I knew what was going to happen. He was surely going to draw a name, and some excited teacher was going to win an opportunity to have a teacher’s assistant for a day. I was wrong.

Rob began by sharing with the staff how much time and effort had gone into a successful consolidation effort during the past year. He acknowledged the fact that he did not get to visit classrooms as often as he would have liked because of that necessary focus. He vowed to make it up, and then explained the details of his lottery plan.

All teachers’ names had been placed in a hat. And yes, the teachers whose names were drawn would have a teacher’s assistant for a day. But Ron stood ready to select twenty names from the hat! And he, personally, committed himself to working in classrooms at the rate of two a month. “Anything goes when I show up in your classroom,” Rob announced. “Within reason,” he quickly added. “Give me my marching orders and I’m ready to go. I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll read stories, correct papers, teach math, or tutor someone. You decide.”

Twenty names were selected that morning, as teachers clearly enjoyed the process. A high-school physical education teacher was the first one drawn. Then came a first-grade teacher, followed by a school librarian. Math, history, and theatre teachers won the lottery that day. So did a middle-school language arts teacher and a technology integration instructor.

The first scheduled classroom excursion is scheduled for later this month. One can only imagine the variety of activities superintendent Rob Liebow will get to experience or the amount of fun teachers will have ordering him around. While the level of teacher fun and Rob’s variety of activities are uncertain at this point, one thing is clear. Here is a superintendent who doesn’t just talk about the importance of relationships and maintaining the human connection. Here is one who regularly puts it into practice in his professional life. I think the entire staff won the Superintendent Lottery. And I think they know it.

Chick Moorman is the author of Spirit Whisperers: Teachers Who Nourish a Child’s Spirit, and the coauthor, with Thomas Haller, of Teaching the Attraction Principle to Children. He is one of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. He publishes a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for an e-zine, order a book, or obtain more information about how Chick can help you or your group meet your staff development or parenting needs, visit his website today: or