​​Dena R. Cushenberry 
Superintendent, Warren Township in Marion County, Indiana 
The Center for Appreciative 
Organizing in Education 
The first day of school! In the past thirty-seven years and through the last thirty-seven first days, nothing has proved more rewarding than my annual tour of the district. By 1:45, I’ve been to seventeen of the schools, and as I take a moment to breathe in the lobby of my next stop, I’m struck once again by everything I’ve seen: smiling faces, shining uniforms, and teachers teaching by the CORE matrix.
This is the last year of our Race to the Top grant, and I can see real, tangible proof that the results of our work with Education Elements, our partner in personalizing education, really are far exceeding our expectations. This new plan for personalized learning is being piloted in five schools and is well on its way to becoming a permanent fixture throughout the district.
Which means that we’re on our way, too.
One of the teachers I visit writes to me, and her note sets the stage perfectly for the coming year. During my visit, I had reminded her students that they were so smart that I could feel them absorbing my brainpower – this, of course, drew out smiles from all around the room. Imagine my smile when I receive this in my inbox:
“I have this fabulous class of very curious 2nd graders this year. They were so intrigued by your visit. They wanted to know what I meant by ‘big boss’ and asked if you were another new principal for our building. I told them you were a superintendent and they gasped, ‘So she’s a super hero.’ I laughed and said that you were a superhero in our Township. They had a hundred more questions, so we talked about what a superintendent was. It was such a fun conversation that we decided to do a superhero project about you just like the ones they were doing for themselves. We will send it to you as a thank you gift for visiting us. Each child contributed something to the project, and we worked as a group to come up with the ideas for the boxes. I wish you could have been a fly on the wall when they were discussing all the strengths they felt you would have as a SUPERintendent, and the powers you would have as a super hero. Priceless!
They were also very fascinated by the idea that you felt the power in our room. They asked me if that was true. I told them that learning is one of the most powerful things in the world and that since they are learners, there is a lot of power in the room. I think that ‘mind power’ be our reoccurring theme for the year. Thank you for that! 
Please feel free to stop by and visit the Room 7 Superheroes anytime!! They will love it. I have attached pictures of their projects and I will send yours in the pony. Enjoy!!”

And I’ll be sure to take her up on that – the Room 7 Superheroes, like the superheroes in every room in every school in this district, are the reason it’s going to be so difficult to face retirement at the end of the year.
But why focus on that now? The year’s got a long, long way to go, and even after the summer’s come and gone, all those smiles and that teacher’s email will stand proud in my memory like trophies in a display case.
Because it’s the students that really matter.
And that’s where CORE comes in.   
Next Up: What CORE Means to Us and Could Mean to You