Wednesday, May 5, 2021

To the Class of 2021

Dear Class of 2021,

I want to be the first to congratulate you on your high school graduation. While much of the country shut down over this past year, you joined me in the effort to reopen the school safely. It has been difficult at times to accept the changes that have been made, but we have not given up, and as a result, our school learning community has continued to thrive amid adversity. 

I am writing to you to share a challenge with you that will significantly help you on the next phase of life’s journey if you accept.

  1. Take time to understand how your past has shaped you, but do not stay there. Allow yourself to listen, learn, and grow due to the relationships you form with other people and the experiences you will have. 
  1. Pursue your dreams, passions, and career interests. Develop a strong work ethic, be diligent, and have a plan. You will need these things to get there. Recognize that having a plan “B” isn’t a failure; it is a good strategy, problem-solving, and smart.
  1. Learn to be compassionate toward others even if they are different then you. Care about those who are less fortunate, give comfort to those who are hurting, and support those who are in need. Empathy, compassion, and concern are vital life skills.
  1. Accept the responsibility that comes with your new sense of freedom from “becoming an adult.” There will be many decisions to make, so choose wisely and consider the natural consequences of your actions. What “feels” right, fun, and easy can be deceptive, so surround yourself with wise people who can guide, mentor, and support you as you make decisions about your future. 

I am looking forward to greeting you and talking with you more on Sunday, May 16, at your graduation ceremony. It will be a day that I treasure because I will serve as a witness to one of your greater accomplishments. As you consider your future, please know that I am proud to have been your Superintendent and honored to be a part of your Shenandoah High School legacy.


Dr. Nelson

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

From Snow to Sunshine!

Yesterday's mini snowstorm was not what I had in mind for a day in mid-April!  It caused me to become quite concerned about my strawberry patch in my garden box. I took Mr. Burdorf's advice, though, and decided to choose my mindset. I even tried to convince myself and others at the supper table that I had the "joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart"... for some reason, no one seemed to appreciate my singing, so I will spare you the experience.   

This weekend, I attended the Disney musical, "Freaky Friday," at the high school.  Wow, what a fantastic performance by our students.  The theme song, "I Got This!" was quite relatable to anyone who has ever parented or worked with a teenager.  It was a fun experience; I applaud our students and staff for their efforts!

It is April, and that means, as a staff, we are working on wrapping up the end of the year, and we are also quite vested in planning for next school year.  It has been a bit of a different year, and it would be dishonest to say COVID has not been a concern.  However, when I think about the frustrations and challenges that have been present,  I remind myself we have made some accomplishments that have left me "Walking on Sunshine."  I started making a list today that is not quite complete, but I thought you might like to read it.

A large team of staff worked diligently on a COVID mitigation plan and a remote learning option for students. School reopened on August 26th and has remained in session all year. Remote learning has been available by parent choice and for students who were quarantined.

COVID data was reported on the District website to be transparent about the extent of what was happening in our schools.

Staff and students learned new technology skills that have allowed remote learners and face-to-face students to experience success. Something tells me that the skills they are learning will be quite relevant for years to come.

An increased focus on reading intervention has led to improvement and a solid increase in testing results for elementary students.

The leadership team was restructured, and Mrs. Allensworth (High School Principal) and Mr. Newberg (Assistant JK-8 Principal) joined the Shenandoah CSD leadership team.  While the administrators have been working in different roles this year, a strong team has emerged and is focused on creating a strong school culture and climate in our learning community.

Mrs. Andrew has diligently worked to create an alternative program for at-risk students at the middle school. The program has been very well done, and the students have grown tremendously. 

The Iowa Department of Education approved opening the Ignite Online & Personalized Learning program to serve students this fall.  The program will allow students to participate in online instruction full-time, to have a flexible hybrid schedule to meet their learning needs, or to attend classes face-to-face and along with a few online course options.  

I am also doing a bit of a happy dance because we have been able to hire new staff members for next year who will add a lot of value to our team.  Allow me to introduce a few of them here. We are very pleased to have them join our staff. There will be more to add; we are just waiting on pictures! 

Jenna Decker
 5th Grade Teacher

Dan Autry
Business & Technology Teacher and BPA Sponsor
Denise Green,
Secondary Remote Learning Coordinator

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Ignite Online & Personalized Learning

I am very pleased to share that Shenandoah CSD received authorization from the Iowa Department of Education to become an online education provider. Starting this next school year Ignite Online & Personalized Learning K-12 School will open as part of Shenandoah CSD.

Ignite is a great opportunity appropriate for families who currently homeschool or participate in remote learning and want to continue to do so. There are many options for the District to support your child that may be on-campus, off-campus, in small groups or online learning while they learn from home.

As a virtual learning option, Ignite will maximize student learning potential using a personalized education plan that includes access to core instruction through traditional or online learning, career technical education programs, or other specialized teaching and learning.  Students will be engaged in a continuum of service, which could include one or more of the following: online learning, blended learning, project-based learning, and work-based learning and/or apprenticeships.

Why Ignite? 

• Flexible class schedules to suit your child's needs and goals

• Full access to school sports, fine arts, clubs, and other events and activities 

• All courses are taught by licensed teachers utilizing Edgenuity and the Iowa Academic Standards.

• Inclusive programming for students with special needs, English language learners, and talented & gifted students

• Open to ALL K-12 students in the Shenandoah District, open enrolled students, and dual-enrolled students

• Access to dual credit classes through Iowa Western Community College for high school students.

If you are interested or would like to receive more information about Ignite, please complete this form. Completing this form does not bind you to a decision related to how your child attends school this fall. We want to partner with you to find the best possible learning opportunities for your child.

 Ignite Interest Form

Monday, February 8, 2021

Can We Talk About the Weather?

The weather has shifted, and we are starting to see colder days and far more snow. I would encourage you to talk with your kids about dressing appropriately to the weather conditions. It can get a cold waiting at a bus stop even if it isn't snowing at the time.

It is necessary to adjust the school schedule at times. The following information will help you be prepared and understand the announcements made on School Messenger and or text message.  If you have blocked School Messenger calls, emails, or texts, you will not receive these notices.  Please call the school office if you want to receive them and have not been. The staff will be happy to assist you.

How is the Decision Made?

The decision to delay, close, or dismiss school early is largely dependent on the current weather conditions and what is anticipated to happen in the hours to come.  I prefer to announce the night before to allow families the maximum amount of time to prepare for a schedule change. If a decision is not made the night before, an effort is made to make a decision and announce it around 5:30 AM.  Some find this too early, but we do have staff and students at school as early as 6:00 AM for work assignments and practices.

Weather decisions are frequently made in collaboration with area superintendents, transportation and maintenance directors.  At times it makes sense to make a common decision between districts, but this is not always the case. Weather conditions vary; what is happening in the Shenandoah District may differ from what is happening in a different district.  Ultimately, a decision is made that is believed to be safe and appropriate for the Shenandoah District.

Road conditions are a very important part of the decision that is made.  We check roads using information from the DOT, specific internet sites, driving some roads and routes, and consulting with others in the area. It may be that some roads are better than others and it is not possible to drive every road. We understand, you as a parent/guardian will need to make the ultimate decision about the safety of the conditions and ability to bring your child to school.  Please contact your school office by phone or email to communicate with them about your student’s attendance.

Weather predictions are not always accurate. Advancements with technology have helped us be more accurate, but making weather-related decisions remains our best-informed estimation of what might occur.

What Do the Decisions Mean?

Two Hour Delays are normally called when the anticipated weather conditions or roads will improve with a little more time. This type of decision allows road crews and staff more time to clear roads, parking lots, and sidewalks to make travel easier. It also allows additional time for students, staff, and parents to arrive at school and work safely.

School start times and bus pick-up times will be two hours later than normal. If school normally starts at 8:05 AM, it will start at 10:05 AM when there is a two-hour delay.  A bus that normally picks up at 7:10 AM will pick up at 9:10 AM.

Any school activity, practice, or program that occurs will start two hours late unless it is specifically announced as canceled for the day.

Morning Preschool for Three Year Olds is not held when there is a delayed start to the day. There will be afternoon Preschool.

Mid-day Early Dismissals are understandably difficult for families and caregivers, but they are necessary at times.  This type of dismissal occurs when the weather is rapidly changing.  Dismissing early is important to allow students and staff to arrive home before the weather becomes more serious or transportation is not possible. When mid-day early dismissal occurs related to weather, there will be no school activities, practices, or events.  It may also occur when there is a serious problem with the facility or safety concern that must be addressed. 

Hard Surface Routes Only is announced when gravel road conditions make it difficult for a bus to pass through. 

If school is closed for the day, there will be no school activities, practices, or events.  This is due to several factors.  School is closed if the weather is anticipated to be severe, which normally means that travel is not advised. It also might be because there are conditions in the building or on the grounds that need to be addressed, such as roof conditions, heating problems, and clearing entryways before we allow people on campus.  If there is a significant change in the weather, a home event or a state-level contest, or an unusual circumstance, a different announcement may be made. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Getting Better

I really enjoyed how I was able to spend more of my time at work the last several weeks. It provided me with some excellent insight into the work done across the district, the successes, and some of the challenges.  I found it quite rewarding to see some of our young students engaged in different learning types, using technology, engaging in literacy and math.  Sometimes it is easy to underestimate their abilities, but kids are so talented, capable, and willing if we provide the structure to allow them to learn.   

January 18th was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While the students were not in session, the staff was engaged in professional learning.  We spent time learning together about different ways to support our students and families by allowing staff to attend various sessions on changes in special education law related to seclusion and restraint, instructional strategies to differentiate instruction,  understanding the impacts of trauma, and diversity awareness.  

I was pleased we were able to spend time engaging in conversation about our district's future direction.  Our staff has great talent and is creative and innovative, so this was time well spent discussing how we can stretch our thinking, be bold and improve upon our work. Continuing to expand Career Technical Education and Remote Learning surfaced as areas of interest that we want to continue to develop and prioritize.  We have invested a substantial amount of professional time and expense into each of these areas and are committed to bringing resources to further develop these educational programs.  

Recent legislation (SF 160) has been a little confusing to some of our staff and the public.  The legislation requires all schools to offer 100% in-person learning effective February 15, 2021. Our District is currently in full compliance with this legislation because we currently allow parents to send their child to school full time or participate remotely.  SF160 does not eliminate voluntary remote learning options and does not prohibit a district from becoming an online provider. The legislation affords more options for parents to consider.  I anticipate our district will continue improving, expanding, and growing our remote learning and online learning options rather than eliminating them.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Young at Heart

Last night, I stood outside gazing at the majestic sky, looking for the “Christmas Star” or, in actuality, the rare alignment of the planets Jupiter and Saturn. I hadn’t been there too long when I heard the voices of a few of the neighborhood kids who were playing outside. One of them called me by name and told me I could come to stand with them in their yard so I could see it better. I was ready to go inside, but I could not refuse his invitation. It was a very kind and generous gesture for a middle school boy to offer his help while shooting hoops with his friends. It was quite delightful to hear his explanation of what was happening and what he thought it meant. 

While numerous photos appeared online this morning, I wish I would have had a camera to take pictures of the sky and record the short conversation we had.  It reminded me that sometimes we (adults) need to take more time to stop and listen to kids and learn from them.  Adults, at times, underestimate what young people know, understand, are able to do. They often have some pretty remarkable talents, abilities, and intellectual capacity. Kids love their friends, free time, and activities; however,  they also crave interaction and attention from adults. They like to share what they know, and if we take time to listen, we might learn a thing or two from them. As educators, we are in the position of educating and nurturing young people’s hearts and minds.  And at times, they also educate and encourage us as well.

In the rush of this busy winter and holiday season, I encourage you to spend a little time with some young people over the break.  A little star gazing might be a nice way to spend some time as well. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A Mindset of Gratitude

I have been a little bummed about how the pandemic has changed my family plans for the holidays.  Still, the meaning of Thanksgiving is significant, and I do not want to forget just how important it is to be grateful and generous.  I reflected on this as I drank my coffee this morning and was reminded of a few things I think are worth sharing. 

Being grateful is helps people in many ways.  It can help them to be more optimistic and work through challenging times. According to some research, if a person has a gratitude mindset, it can even improve their health and general well-being.

Friendships and relationships with coworkers are often improved and enhanced when we express gratitude.  Simple things like taking the time to say thank you, sending a note, and acknowledging another person is often the cornerstone of a new relationship. It can also restore a damaged relationship. It is good to recognize and be genuinely appreciate the success of others. I know this is much easier to do when I am focused on appreciating what I have rather than being envious of others.

I believe that expressing gratitude has psychological benefits as well.  I know I am much happier when I remember all that is good, right, trustworthy and my blessings. I tend to be far less frustrated even when I face adversity and difficulties in life.  It also helps me to be more empathic to others and willing to lend a helping hand.

While this is more of a personal post, I wanted to share my thoughts and message with you as I think it is important for me to take a moment to express my gratitude and appreciation for the students, staff, families, and community members who are a part of the Shenandoah CSD learning community. You are a wonderful gift and blessing that I will list and count on Thanksgiving Day. I appreciate your time and talents and our relationship as they contribute to making Shenandoah CSD the place to be.

To the Class of 2021

Dear Class of 2021, I want to be the first to congratulate you on your high school graduation. While much of the country shut down over th...