Friday, May 20, 2022

Dear Class of 2022

Dear Class of 2022,

I want to be the first to congratulate you on your high school graduation. The years you have spent in high school have been quite an adventure. You have experienced many good times and have made excellent accomplishments. There have been challenging times, and you have undoubtedly had some experiences that were difficult to accept. However, you have been strong, resilient, and 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 four-part challenge with you that will significantly help you on the next phase of life's journey if you accept. I have shared it before, but it is worth repeating.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Learn to be compassionate toward others even if they are different than 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.
  • 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 22, at your graduation ceremony. It will be a special day for me 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. Kerri Nelson

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

What Good is Happening?

Someone asked me today, "what good is happening?" It was nice to be asked this, and it caused me to recall many good things on a professional and personal level. So I thought I would share a few with you.

The District launched the IGNITE Online and Personalized Learning program about a year ago. We are currently serving 74 students who are either full-time online learners or are students with hybrid schedules. This program has allowed students to maximize their time, explore career interests and learn in a tailored way to meet their individual needs. It has been an excellent investment of time, talent, and funds. I am looking forward to seeing it continue and expand.

Spring break came at a good time when most of us felt the need to unwind and do something different. Our students needed something different as well. The District held interest camps over break to provide students at the K8 building opportunities to try something new. I was thrilled with Julie Murren's theatre camp. The students worked hard all week and even gave a performance. It was a great healthy outlet for the students and a lot of fun for them. 

Interest Camp

Saturday, March 26th, the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation celebrated 150 years of Excellence in Education. They recognized several people on staff that have served 25 or more years in public education that are on our staff. I appreciated being honored for the number of years I have been in education but was also a little overwhelmed to see the number of recognized people. There is a nationwide shortage of teachers, but our District is blessed with the wealth of knowledge and experience of many veteran staff members. 

I was also immensely pleased to learn Kyle Horn (1982 graduate) was named the Alumnus of the Year at the banquet and to be able to listen to Scott Ginger, from the class of 1976, share his experience as an educator in Nevada. They were both compelling presentations. You can read more about the event and see pictures on the KMA here KMA Article.

Connie McGinnis was recognized at the Foundation event but was also recently honored at the IHSADA convention as the Administrative Assistant of the year. This award was a tremendous honor, and she is certainly most deserving. Connie has given a lot to the Shenandoah Community School District. Her skill, experience, and institutional knowledge will be greatly missed next year because she is retiring.  

Connie McGinnis

Last night, our Boy's track team beat a school record for one of their events. It was a significant achievement, and I am proud of their time, effort, and talent.

While hiring and recruiting have been more challenging this year than most, I am glad that we have filled many of our positions. We are not entirely done yet, but a fantastic group of new professionals is joining our team, and I can't want to introduce them to you. I am thankful they agree that Shenandoah is the place to be.

It was beneficial for me to reflect on the good today. I hope you will take a few minutes to reflect and consider the same.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Introduction and Action

Over the past several weeks, the Shenandoah Community School District has been advertising and interviewing applicants for the High School Principal position. I was very pleased with the number and quality of the applicants that applied for the position. While the process took time, I found it rewarding to work with everyone involved. The feedback from the staff, students, and parents about the interviews were insightful and extremely valuable. 

Andrew Christensen was hired as the new High School principal effective July 1, 22. Mr. Christensen and his family will be joining us from Fort Calhoun, Nebraska where he serves as the Athletic Director and Assistant High School Principal. He graduated from Dana College and earned his Master's degree in Educational Administration from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. It is a bit of a bonus that he hails from Neola, Iowa, and attended Tri-Center Community School District. He has a strong focus on forming staff and students relationships, connectivity, communication, and understands the need to focus on continual improvement.

You can read more about Andrew Christensen on KMA's website here.

Our construction trades program is really off to a good start working on the house that was purchased with the intent of renovating the property. It is an exciting adventure and yes, there is a lot for us to learn. The team that has worked on the project has met on a regular basis. They used good judgment to set up a team of professionals to serve an advisory committee to help guide the process. Cindy Larson, a project manager, from CA Nelson, met with the students and staff last week to share her expertise in project management and planning construction.  The students and staff are also excited to work with Clint Wooten on Friday to talk more about design and floor plans. Tapping into their expertise will deepen the learning and improve the quality of the work. The Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation provided some grant funds to provide tools that are necessary for construction. I am inspired by the efforts of our students, staff, and community to make this project come together.

Getting Started

Consulting On-Site

Sheridan Ave Property

Students in Action

Monday, January 31, 2022


Career Technical Education (CTE) and STEM have been important areas of focus for the Shenandoah Community School District. It has been a Board goal to expand these programs and initiatives. Additionally, the staff has invested a lot of time and talent into further developing this work.

The Technology Committee spent the better part of the first semester focusing on writing learning standards for each grade level. They also formed recommendations for purchasing updated technology using ESSER II and III Funds. The Board approved purchasing the new devices for students and staff.  It is a larger purchase, but it is exciting to see the devices start to arrive and begin to plan for full-scale implementation.  

The Shenandoah City Council gave a nod of approval towards the latest development in the District's CTE department.  The District will be taking ownership of a house that is currently owned by the City of Shenandoah pending the hearing set on February 8th.  Once the District takes ownership the house will be taken down to the studs, renovated to a reasonable living standard, and sold at an affordable price upon completion. Two students, Zac Foster and Gracie Hopkins, who are seniors in the program, will lead this project. They are working with a staff team and formal advisory committee to guide and direct the project. 

Photo Courtesy of Mike Peterson, KMA

Mrs. Allensworth, the High School Principal, recently resigned effective the end of the school year. Her leadership at the High School will be missed. The District has been widely advertising the position and is currently screening applicants. A survey was sent to the High School staff, parents of the students in grades 8-12, and other stakeholders to ask for input. It is anticipated that the position will be filled by mid-February. You can also participate in the survey here. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Board Update & Appointed Leadership

Last night was the reorganizational meeting for the School Board. This was an important meeting because new Board members are sworn into office and officers are elected. Jean Fichter, Adam Van Der Vliet, and Benne Rogers were re-elected in November, so they retained their seat and took the oath of office. Clint Wooten was elected in November, so he joined the Board for his first meeting and took the oath of office.  Finally, the Board appointed Jean Fichter as Board President and Adam Van Der Vliet as Vice President.  

Jeff Hiser has two more years remaining on his term, so he did not need to take the oath of office. Kathy Langley did not run for re-election, but she attended the meeting to complete her final obligation and duty as a board member.

The Board approved William Barrett as the new School Business Official pending final release from his existing contract.  Mr. Barrett has experience as a School Business Official and has completed the state's licensure process and academy requirements to gain his full licensure. In addition, he has a background in banking, technology, and education that will contribute to this position. I am looking forward to having him join our team.

There were other actions the Board took, including appointing the District's legal counsel, bank depositories, and official publication. In addition, Jean Fichter and Clint Wooten were selected to represent the District on the Page County (Fichter) and Fremont County (Wooten) Conference Board.

The Board approved the Allowable Growth and Supplemental State AId for Limited English Proficiency request in the amount of $68,219.  Additionally, the service agreement with Rassmussen Mechanical was approved, as were the repairs to the bleachers.

The District's Technology Committee recently presented a recommendation for new student and staff devices for the 2022-2023 school year. Bids were received from four different vendors. The Board took action to accept the bid from CDW-G. The lease payment will be made using ESSER II funds, ESSER III funds, and SAVE Funds. We will make the purchase now to receive a timely shipment for the next school year.

The Board also heard a report from the Career Technical Education Department about their plans to renovate a house. Again, there was a good discussion about the project, which provided some excellent insight and direction for the next steps.

I appreciate the Board members' willingness to serve and make the District a great place for our students and staff.  

Monday, November 15, 2021

American Education Week

I have served as a public educator for many years and in different roles, including as an associate, a teacher, an administrator, and a superintendent. Each position has taught me a tremendous amount of appreciation for the work done to make our education system strong, effective, and efficient. But, more importantly, it has taught me the value of public education and the purpose it serves in our country. Public education provides the opportunity for all students to learn and maximize their potential. 

Today marks the beginning of American Education Week. It is a week designated to honor and recognize the people who faithfully serve in the public education system. I invite you to join Shenandoah Community School District as we celebrate American Education Week on Wednesday, November 17th, at 5:00 PM at the JK-8 School commons area. The Shenandoah Education Association will be announcing the Teacher of the Year, and Shenandoah Support Staff + will also announce the Support Staff Person of the Year. It will be an enjoyable opportunity to visit with the staff and honor those who serve in education.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Work and the Reward

I had a great time celebrating the District's Homecoming week, Shenfest, and other activities this fall. Several fun activities such as the color run/walk, parades, music, and other events created an exciting atmosphere in the community.  I want to thank everyone who made an effort to help with events and attend some different activities. Everyone's effort makes a difference.

I have enjoyed spending more time in classrooms this month. Our teachers and students have been engaged in some pretty impressive work.  As a former elementary teacher, the 95 Phonics instruction that is occurring caught my full attention. It is a solid, evidence-based model of instruction that provides systematic and explicit word study.  I was impressed with how the teachers used it in their classrooms and how the students interacted with the materials.

Some of the furniture that was purchased this spring was delayed in shipping and just recently arrived. The timing might not have been ideal since students were in session. However, John Finn, the Plant Manager at Pella Corporation, sent a crew on site to help put the furniture together. Their help was an incredible gift of time for the District.  It was also rewarding to see the Pella crew engage with students and allow our students to learn from them.  Thank you for the ongoing support, Pella!

The High School renovation is complete, allowing the District to work on additional projects that are necessary and will contribute to maintaining safe and healthy facilities for the students and staff.  I have shared about many of the projects that were completed this summer in previous blogs. However, I was more than pleased the Board agreed to move forward with purchasing new windows for the JK-8 building.  

Completing this project will improve the air quality and the efficiency of the HVAC system in the building. The District received approval from the Iowa Department of Education to complete the project using ESSER funds which are federal funds provided to schools during the pandemic. CA Nelson will be assisting the District with the project.  

Superintendents from around the state recently gathered to discuss relevant concerns at SAI Executive Leadership fall meeting. One of the important topics of discussion included manners in which districts address the teacher and staff shortage that is affecting Iowa.  The shortage is a real concern. I am very pleased that the Shenandoah CSD Board has been actively engaged in discussions about retaining and attracting staff to work in the District. This work is vitally important so we can continue to provide the best staff possible to support high-quality educational services for the students and families in the District.

The Board has also been very engaged in ongoing efforts to monitor the financial health of the District. Mrs. Ruzek, the School Business Official, presented an extended report at the board meeting Monday evening. You can see a copy of the presentation here.

Members of the Shenandoah CSD School Board include:

Jean Fichter, Board President
Adam Van Der Vliet, Board Vice President

Jeff Hiser, Board Member

Kathy Langley, Board Member

Benne Rogers, Board Member


Dear Class of 2022

Dear Class of 2022, I want to be the first to congratulate you on your high school graduation. The years you have spent in high school hav...