Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Great American Education System

American Education Week is celebrated the third week of November each year. It is a tradition that recognizes the powerful effect of public education, the teachers and support staff that dedicate their talents and time, and student learning. I am a strong supporter of public education; I recognize the importance of providing all students with an opportunity to learn, grow and maximize their potential to be successful in society. It is why I have chosen my profession and am passionate about working with educators.

My passion for education stems from the understanding that learning isn't always an easy process or necessarily a given; it requires effort and is sometimes a struggle. This is why students are taught to ask questions, formulate their opinions, and validate their thinking. They are also encouraged to apply their learning in new and different situations.

Watching a dynamic educator set the stage for students to engage in learning is powerful. When students are engaged and can see the value and relevancy of their work, their motivation level is high, and they are more persistent and eager to accept challenges. At times students need clarification, direction, and feedback about their learning. And yes, sometimes they need the opportunity to “redo” and try again. It is how they refine their work, improve their product, and determine how to embrace new challenges. Teachers are quite masterful at creating this type of environment and instilling the desire for students to become lifelong learners.

I am being too philosophical for a Wednesday afternoon. Still, it is good to take time to reflect and think about the impact we make as public educators and the influence we have on student learning. It also prompts me to publicly thank all of our staff who dedicate themselves to our students and being part of the great American Education system.  

Thursday, October 20, 2022

It Is Worth the Effort

Focusing on school improvement and continuous improvement processes requires intentional effort and focus. Improvement is not something that naturally occurs. Instead, it requires analyzing data, asking hard questions and confronting facts, being reflective, seeking solutions, committing to a course of action, and following through with the work. It is an entire cycle of planning, doing, checking, confirming, and setting a course of action. It requires a high level of collaboration, communication, and willingness to be open to feedback.

At the last Board meeting, the Directors listened to an update about the continuous improvement planning in the Activities Department. It is an excellent example of how to make a change occur and sustain it long-term. Some have indicated that the planning is just about “football.” I see it differently. I see it as a systematic change in the thinking of how we continue to progress and improve as a high school and Activities Department. I look forward to seeing the growth that will come because of the effort to communicate, collaborate, and commit to a course of action.

Very soon, the Middle School students will be performing the musical Elf Jr.  Tickets are now available
for November 4th – 6th at 
shenmusical.ludus.comThis is the second year the District has had a middle school musical led by Ashleigh and Elliot Smith. It has been exciting to watch our students engage and develop their talents in this manner. Some students were a bit overwhelmed with the audition process, but their confidence has grown, and they are blossoming as young performers. I am thrilled to see this occurring and am excited to share Julie Murren will be leading a musical for students in Kindergarten through 4th grade through our after-school program. This is good for our students and demonstrates positive growth in the fine arts department.

The TAG program has made tremendous progress by integrating new technologies, developing a student-led business, and more. It is allowing TAG students to truly grow and cultivate their talents and abilities individually and deepen their learning experiences. The program change has required a shift in thinking, but the result has been powerful for our students.

The District has completed several successful construction projects in recent years, including the renovation of the High School. The Board has continued to act on the plan that was initiated back in 2016. I am very pleased with the status of the JK-8 Building windows that are being replaced. The deadline for bids for the project is Thursday, October 27th. The public hearing will be held on November 1st; it is expected that the Board will take action to approve bids that night. Completing the project will significantly increase the function of the building. There is good work being done.

IGNITE and the Career Technical Education program have also made solid advances. Enrollment has increased, and learning opportunities have expanded. The focus on creating internship and apprenticeship opportunities is creating strong business partnerships. Students are currently working in Shenandoah, Clarinda, Council Bluffs, Lenox, Malvern, and Red Oak.  Partnering with Tarkio Tech and Iowa Western Community College has broadened students’ opportunities to earn dual credit, licensure, and certifications. This is good news for our students and our community.

Recruiting Teachers has been more difficult the past few years, but I am pleased that we have already hired a teacher for next school year and have been interviewing for other positions. It takes time and effort to plan, but it is worth the investment. The District is committed to finding the right people to fill positions and ensuring we have the right people working with our students.

Change can be difficult, but if when we dedicate ourselves to this type of work, the result is quite powerful. As I mentioned, making these types of changes requires a high level of collaboration, communication, and willingness to be open to feedback. We do “improvement” and “growth” together as a leadership team, staff, student body and parents, and community. I appreciate your willingness to be part of the team.

Monday, August 29, 2022

A Great Start

What an exciting start to the new academic school year!  

The first week back with staff was tightly scheduled, but they were focused on the right work. The staff was able to listen to motivational speakers, spend time reviewing school safety procedures and crisis prevention strategies, and dive deep into planning for their students to start school. It was a powerful way to start the year. 

The staff heard from Dr. Plugge, the former GHAEA Chief Administrator, and Mr. Christensen, our High School Principal. They shared words of wisdom and powerful messages that rang true with the staff about service, mentorship, making connections, and shifting our mindset, which I hope we recall in the coming months.  I also appreciated the veteran staff who participated in the panel discussion. The teachers were excellent representatives of our learning community. Their voice carried much weight with the team, and their message was valued.

There were several sessions that addressed school safety and the different aspects of prevention, protection, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. It isn't possible to share a safety checklist that will work in all situations, but staff reviewed critical information and walked away with real tools. Mr. Weinrich and Mrs. Spiegel's CPI presentation, if taken to heart, should challenge all of us to consider how we interact with students, staff, parents, and community members in difficult moments. How we respond to people matters. It makes a difference and is a prevention strategy. SMC also provided Stop the Bleed Training. It is information that truly saves lives and can be used anywhere.

I absolutely loved seeing our kids back in full session. I still smile when I think about Open House. The school was packed with families, and the food was fantastic. It was a great night for our students and their families. However, nothing is quite like the energy and excitement of the first day of school. I walked through each of the schools to talk with the students and staff. It was great to connect with them and listen to their different perspectives. The tone and feel of the buildings are very positive and energetic.  

It was good to see staff taking time to get to know their students and explicitly teaching routines. I attended some of the student grade level meetings at the High School. I appreciated the clear expectations that were communicated. This time was important for the students and staff. Students need to know we care about them and also understand what we expect from them. The conversations were quite positive, and the message was clear.

I met some pretty amazing students in the middle school gym. Friends, these kiddos were excited. I am not sure their excitement was all about learning math, but they were anxious to talk to their friends, meet their teachers, and find out what was on the lunch menu. They were eager to connect with others and be a part of the school learning community. I enjoyed every minute of my visit.

It has been a great start to the school year. I am thankful that you have chosen Shenandoah CSD as the place to be and have trusted us with your children and teenagers! You can watch a quick video of some of the highlights.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Learning & Leading

The countdown is on, and it is going to be a great school year! I am really looking forward to having everyone back on campus. The administrators, teacher leaders, and many support staff have spent substantial time in preparation for the start of the school year. It has involved a great amount of collaboration, communication, and commitment, and we are nearly ready to ring the bell to start the 2022-2023 school year.  

There have been many leadership discussions this summer about how we as a system can create an invitational learning environment that intentionally welcomes students, staff, and families. In addition, we have discussed ways to make connections and move forward in a clear direction. Lead from Where You Are by Joe SanFelippo is one of the books we read this summer; it has been insightful for our team. We also spent some time connecting about Simon Sinek's work. This video, by Simon Sinek, will provide insight into our conversations as a team. I value our time together because it has strengthened our team. We learned together and had fun working together.

District's IGNITE Online & Personalized Learning School is continuing to grow, expand, and have an impact on our students. It is a powerful student-centered learning opportunity for students who participate fully online or as hybrid students. IGNITE provides education in a setting without the limitations of walls, and the possibilities are endless. If you take a minute to watch this video, you will see the powerful influence it is having on students. Seeing this video inspires me and makes me immensely proud of the work that is being done.






Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Summer Happenings

Several weeks back, Hamburg Community School District contacted the District about forming a tuition agreement with them to serve high school students. Hamburg is a K-8 school system. In order to remain accredited, they must have a tuition agreement with a contiguous school district even though they recently were authorized to operate a charter school for high school students.

Hamburg’s request was an unexpected but welcomed invitation to work with an area school to support students in the region. Hamburg has had an agreement with Sidney CSD for a number of years. However, after verifying with Sidney’s superintendent that they were unable to agree on terms to renew their agreement with Hamburg, it was decided to move forward working with the Hamburg superintendent to form an agreement with Shenandoah for the service.

Having a tuition agreement with Hamburg is beneficial to students because it allows them to participate in a broader curriculum and activities. It also allows for the Hamburg District to provide transportation to and from school. Transportation is a significant cost and is normally a factor that makes open enrollment cost-prohibitive for many students, so this is a large area of interest to families who are considering options for their students. The Shenandoah District benefits from the increased enrollment and tuition payment. To start, it is anticipated that many of the Hamburg High School students will continue to attend Sidney and there will be three or four who may attend school in Shenandoah.  There may not be a large number of students who initially come to Shenandoah, but I firmly believe it is the right decision to work with area schools and find ways to keep and support families in Southwest Iowa.

The District has also developed a relationship with Tarkio Technology Institute that will expand the Career Technical Education offerings available to students. Students will now be able to take courses in computer information technology, HVAC, plumbing, welding, and wind energy. This is good for our students and their career plans.

School safety and emergency operation protocols have been a large focus this summer.  A group of staff went to STOP training for suicide and behavioral threat assessment at Green Hills AEA. Time has also been spent reviewing how we can improve our training and response when there is a dangerous situation on campus.  We will be meeting with local law enforcement and Page County Emergency Management in July to discuss our process and consider the feedback that will help us be more prepared. Additionally, we are currently working to implement School Pass, which is software that will help us with the end-of-the-day dismissal procedures and communication with parents. This is important work, and we are committed to taking measures that will help us improve campus safety.

Summer interest camps at the JK-8 are going well!  It has been a great experience to be involved in co-teaching a robotics camp. I have really enjoyed working directly with our students and spending time getting to know them. I am looking forward to the second session in July. 

Check out this video.

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.

The Great American Education System

American Education Week is celebrated the third week of November each year. It is a tradition that recognizes the powerful effect of public ...