Sunday, February 16, 2020

Shine Shenandoah!

I took some time today to think about some of the things about our district that I really love, enjoy, and make me proud.

If you take a minute to watch these today, I received from the High School. I am confident you will sense the pride and joy that is in my heart.  I am very proud of the collective efforts of staff to provide such a well rounded student-centered learning environment.  Our students are fortunate for these experiences. It is quite rewarding to see our students excel in so many areas.

Schools cannot do this type of work alone. I appreciate the financial support we receive from the area businesses and community service groups to provide some of the expanded learning opportunities for our students.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Good things!

Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to attend a legislative coffee with Senator Costello and Representative Dolecheck. I always appreciate hearing from them and engaging in a bit of conversation about legislative issues. Of course, I take great interest in hearing them discuss topics related to public education and school finance. School finance is tight, and additional funding is needed. Representative Dolecheck was quick to verbally support the need for additional funds, and the HSB 587 was filed that sets SSA at 2.5%. This is a very good start, and the funds will be put to good use. The question remains, is 2.5% SSA enough to support Iowa schools? It is a question we need to wrestle with and find answers to as a State. It isn't an easy conversation.

It was exciting to have one of our teachers, Sarah F. Martin, receive the Golden Owl Award on Monday.  She received a cash award of $500 from NationWide and United Group Insurance.  She is now eligible to compete as Iowa's Agriculture Educator of the Year in April of 2020.  Mrs. Martin represents our district well, and we appreciate all she does for our students.

It seems much of my time has been spent planning with CA Nelson and DLR for the renovation work we are starting.  It is exciting to see things begin to come together and learn what the impact on staff might be.  I have asked different people for feedback about the samples we have looked at together.  It was a lot of fun to see their reaction and talk with them about some of the changes. Their insight has been helpful, and the smiles have been rather delightful.

Friday, January 17, 2020

A Few Highlights from the Board Meeting

January marks the period where we are involved in a considerable amount of planning and budgeting for the next school year.  One area of focus for us right now includes how the district's Modified Supplement Aid for At-Risk will be used.  The board took action to approve the service plan for the 2020-2021 school year last night. This includes continuing to support the extended school year camps at the JK-8 grade levels, the district's home school liaisons, the alternative high school program (Flex Education), and funds to expand Flex Education services to support middle school students.  Some funding was also reserved to partially fund a school resource officer position.  The district is working with the City of Shenandoah and Police Department to determine how this might work and the amount of funding necessary for the position to be added.  It will require the use of some money from the general fund to add the School Resource Officer position.

Writing has increasingly become an essential part of the curriculum and is also included in the ISASP testing required by the State.  The administrative team and Instructional coaches have investigated Write to Learn, a software that can be used to strengthen writing instruction and generate instant feedback for students. Our instructional coaches presented about this software at the board meeting this week. I was very pleased the purchase was approved. There are TLC funds that are available to pay for this expense.

Several months ago, the district was approached about passing a School Classification Equity Resolution. It is a resolution that asks the IAHSAA and IHSGAU to reconsider how schools are classified for athletic participation.  Adam Van Der Vliet, Darrin Bouray, and I were able to attend a session at the IASB convention about this and felt that it was an appropriate conversation for our district to consider.  After some discussion with the high school administration and coaches, the general consensus was to move forward to support the resolution. We believe it is in the best interest of our student-athletes and programs. The Board formally passed the resolution on Monday evening.  It will be interesting to see the impact of this decision long term. 

The consent agenda and all other action items were approved.  This includes some new staff members. Rob Addy will be joining our staff as the Director of Maintenance and Operations, and Trent Blackman will be driving van routes for us. It is also good to see Gaylen "Kim" Terry rejoin our staff part-time.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

And Hello to 2020!

And hello to 2020, what a great year it is going to be!  I will spare you the social media trend of showing you pictures of me from 2000, 2010, and 2020. However, I do want to share with you some of what I have been thinking about these last few weeks.

I tend to like January. It has that fresh, new, sparkly feel to it that makes me what to sing a bit.  It is an opportunity to put some things that distract me aside and focus on what I really need to do to accomplish established goals. I am not necessarily talking about "resolutions."  Putting aside distractions is really taking a moment or two to identify what holds one back from taking that next step that will lead to a greater outcome.  I want to focus some of my energy this year on letting go of things that are perhaps unnecessary and interfere with my ability to connect and focus on that which is most important at home and at work.

As educators, we are continually in the process of shaping and developing young people's hearts and minds. This is essential work, and our relationships need to be authentic. I want to spend more of my time focused on connecting with people (students, staff, & community) because people matter and are important. It is part of the work that makes a difference.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Board Transitions & Other Board Business

Monday evening was the annual reorganization meeting for the school board.  It was Greg Ritchey and Dr. Timothy Smith's final meeting.  Mr. Ritchey served on the board for eight years. During his tenure on the board, he served as the President and Vice President at different times. I commend him for his commitment to the district and for his longevity of service.  He made the decision several months ago to retire from the board and did not run for reelection. Dr. Smith was appointed to the board to fill a vacancy this fall. I must acknowledge how much I appreciate his willingness to serve on the board and contribute to the district for the past three months.  

Darrin Bouray and Jeff Hiser were elected to the School Board in November. They both took the official oath of office and became members of the board on Monday as well. They were both active in the discussion and decision making the items listed on the agenda.



      Darrin Bouray  (left) 
      Jeff Hiser (right)

Jean Fichter was re-elected as President of the board, and Adam Van Der Vliet was elected as Vice President of the board at this same meeting.  I appreciate Mrs. Fichter and Mr. Van Der Vliet's willingness to serve as officers and the leadership they provide. Kathy Langley is also a member of the board. She was nominated as Vice President and politely declined the nomination. I appreciate the time she commits to being on the board.

Jean Fichter                     Adam Van Der Vliet                       Kathy Langley

The board had other business to conduct.  The consent agenda and action items were all approved.  The district's bank depositories (Bank Iowa and Century Bank),  legal counsel (Ahlers & Cooney), and our publication (The Valley News) were all approved. The School Budget Review Committee applications that are submitted on an annual basis for increasing enrollment ($52,976), open enrollment out ($109,796), and limited English proficient students ($3,027.20) were also approved.  These applications allow the district to reclaim spending authority for expenses from the prior year.

The excellent progress has been made on the High School renovation work. The board reviewed and approved the permit set for items that will be sent out for bid in December and approved a second set of renovation items that will be bid separately. 

Mrs. Spiegel, the Director of Early Childhood and Special Education, made an excellent presentation about the ways in which the district is looking to serve students with behavioral mental health needs. There may be an opportunity to partner with the Green Hills AEA to provide support for students who require more support than what is currently available.  She also shared an option the district would have to grow our own program to provide similar supports.  The board did not take any action as this was an administrative report and point of discussion at this time.

All to great learning & leading together. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Bit of Thanksgiving

This the day before Thanksgiving, and yes, I must say I am quite grateful for many blessings in life. I am thankful for my family and friends. I am looking forward to spending time with my family tomorrow. It will be a wonderful time even though there will be a lot of dishes to clean up at the end of the day. A rather good problem, right? I am also grateful for the Shenandoah CSD students and their families, and all of the staff I am fortunate to work with each day. They make Shenandoah CSD a great place to be.

Last week Tammie Stettler and Anita Baker both received special recognition by SEA and SSA+. Tammy Stettler was named SEA Teacher of the Year and Anita Baker named Support Staff Member of the year at the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation's American Education Week Celebration. I was so pleased to see who was selected this year. They are both very valuable members of the Shenandoah CSD family. Skateland was also recognized as a Friend of Education. I am thankful for all Tammy, Anita, and Skateland do to support Education.

I had a fantastic opportunity to listen to two excellent speakers last week at the IASB convention in Des Moines. Hamish Brewer, a middle school principal, shared his love and concern for the students in his school, his commitment to academic excellence, and his journey of resilience. He is a bit unconventional, but he is making a difference each day! I am very thankful for educators like Hamish Brewer

We have some new staff members who have recently joined our team. I am very appreciative and thankful they chose Shenandoah CSD as the place to be a part of each day! They, along with the rest of the staff, are making a difference for our students!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Every Vote Counts!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 5th is a big day. It is an election day, and there are important issues on the ballot. It is the first time school, and municipal elections are being held together. School Board members, City Council members, and the Shenandoah CSD bond issue are all included in this election; some are calling this election Super Vote I. It is a bit of change to have elections that are combined this way. Still, it has been received well by most and a more efficient way to hold elections.

There has been a lot of discussion about each of these items and how they affect Shenandoah CSD. Hopefully, you have been able to take note and learn about the Shenandoah CSD bond referendum. If you have not been able to study this issue, you can read more about this on our website at or watch the video posted on KMA. 

We also have two open seats on the Shenandoah CSD School Board. Several candidates are running for these positions.  Information about each of them is included on The Valley News and KMA websites.  You can also read about the City Council candidates as well. I wish all of the candidates the best tomorrow.

The polls are open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM tomorrow. Each and every vote counts, so be sure to take a moment to cast your vote!

Shine Shenandoah!

I took some time today to think about some of the things about our district that I really love, enjoy, and make me proud. If you take a...