Saturday, April 18, 2009
Me, Dr. Sweeney, and Gloria at our DoDDS Summer Institute: "AVID: The Next Generation"
I was selected by DoDDS-Europe Director Dr. Arlyn Sweeney and her committee to join Gloria Ollhoff as the second AVID Program Monitor for Europe in 1993. I was to serve the Nuernberg District AVID programs while Gloria had the Wuerzburg District. We each had a handful of schools. Superintendent Larry Philpot insisted that I move to the district office in Nuernberg and be supported and mentored by him and his staff. I resisted this idea at first, but, when Larry explained it to me, I understood his reasons. So, for the first time in my teaching career, I was out of the classroom, out of a school, and into an office with a whole new set of colleagues, protocols, and benefits.I remember the very first thing Larry had me do: "Write a letter for my signature on (something on AVID)." "You want me to do what?" He explained it again. I had no idea this kind of thing existed, but I did it and apparently successfully.
Gloria and I were the luckiest teachers in Europe. We were told by Dr. Sweeney and our respective superintendents to "Go forth and spread AVID." We had no limits on money or travel or freedom. We were trusted and empowered explicitly. Therefore, we worked our butts off to do a good job! We could call meetings, provide orders, visit schools, give workshops, and create materials. And we pretty much had to do those things to grow AVID. There was no sitting around, twiddling our thumbs.
I found out soon that, in order to be in this position, I "had to" go to San Diego for something like six weeks out of the year for Regional Directors training. And for this, DoDDS was paying a whopping amount (like $20,000/year for two years) to have me take this training. So, off I went for one or two weeks at a time, several times a year plus once in the summer, to learn all about AVID. And it was there that I met my great AVID teachers and future friends, Kathy Deering and Cyndy Bishop, who were the cornerstones for Mary Catherine's program at that time. We spent a lot of time together, both there and in Europe, over the following years as we learned and grew together.
So, for the next eight years, I worked solely with AVID in DoDDS, and it was the best job I ever had. Instead of trying to get kids to do what I wanted, I spent my time trying to get teachers, counselors, and admin to do AVID better. It was the best job in the world to go to all the middle and high schools and meet the teachers, tutors, and students in AVID.
When Nuernberg District closed in 1994, I was asked to move to Heidelberg, where Larry Philpot was to be the new superintendent. Of course, I went, a wonderful move for my family as well. When Larry was promoted to European Director, he took me under his wing to that level. When he left, I was fortunate to have a series of wonderful supervisors such as John Davis, Martha Brown, and Diana Ohman.
Gloria and I did everything. We did training of all kinds, from tutors to staff developers We built our own cadre of trainers in AVID and produced several Summer Institutes of our own. We connected AVID with the Outdoor Ed program and had several AVID student experiences at Hinterbrand Lodge in Berchtesgaden. We had a Summer Bridge Program with the University of Maryland at their Mannheim campus. We had Site Team Conferences, Student Conferences, and made appearances to make AVID connections with all the college prep subject areas. We fought the battles with the algebra teachers (first in 9th, then 8th grade), the Honors and AP teachers, we collected and shared data (the first I'd seen in DoDDS), and logged thousands of car and air miles. One year, I performed $25,000 of travel on the job. I kept track of every travel voucher. In those days, we had "open travel orders" for the whole year or semester, to go wherever we needed to go to perform our job. Ah, those were the years. We were the first to have cellphones for our job and digital cameras (thanks to Gloria). Money was not tight then.
One time, we came up short $40,000 for our Summer Institute in Garmisch. Dr. Sweeney just picked up the phone and called downstairs, "Gene, do we have an extra $40,000 for this?" We did.
We learned. We learned we had to make connections with the "decision makers," the principals and supes. We formed important relationships with them and AVID improved. We grew from seven schools in two districts to forty schools in eight districts, from Iceland to Bahrain! We soon had over one thousand students in AVID in Europe. Things happened in those days and people got lots of training opportunities, schools got frequent visits, and ideas and energy flowed.
None of this would have happened without the support of one key person at DoDDS headquarters in Arlington, VA--Anne Muse (at left with me, Mary Catherine, and Gloria). Anne was the AVID "godmother" at HQ and the person who made sure we were included in all the training, initiatives, and budgets that we needed. She kept it alive through changes in administration that were difficult. Without Anne, AVID would have gone the way of all the other "dead" programs we have seen come and go over the last twenty years. Anne spoke directly with the AVID Center. She included Gloria and me in professional staff developers training, paid all the bills, and even helped change the way DoDDS pays tutors by working with DFAS (Finance and Accounting for the federal gov't)! She was our AVID Angel from the beginning to her retirement from DoDEA this year.