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


Friday, September 10, 2021

Beginning of the School Year

All summer, I look forward to the start of the school year. It is exciting to see the staff come together to focus on professional learning and preparing for their students. One of my favorite events of the year is Open House. We could not have events like this last year due to some of the COVID restrictions that were in place at the time, so the staff took extra care to make it a great night. There was a great crowd, and families who attended seemed to really enjoy the opportunity. It was also great to have several of our school board members volunteer their time to be there. I enjoyed watching teachers and support staff being intentional about forming relationships with our students and their families. I also appreciated the opportunity to meet some families and help them make connections with the school staff. There were hot dogs, door prizes and many smiles.

It has been good to spend some time in the buildings these last few weeks. I must say I was very impressed with the professional learning sessions that were held. I recently observed a high school staff meeting led by teachers for teachers at the High School. They were focused on implementing a new Multi-Tier Support System (MTSS) structure and discussing how they could use a data dashboard to support their work. I was also pleased with what is happening at the JK-8 Building with interventions, #horsepower time, and conscious discipline training.

We have several new staff members this year, so I want to share this video with you. They are an impressive group of people; I hope you take the opportunity to get to know them.

One of the most difficult days this fall was learning Grace Johnson passed away as a result of the injuries sustained in a tragic car accident. I am unable to fully understand or imagine the pain her family felt and is still experiencing. I have been so thankful to witness our students, staff, and community come together to express concern and extend kindness to honor Grace and support the Johnson family during this difficult time. It has made me very proud to be part of a community that finds comfort in doing good, being kind, and helping others.


Friday, July 30, 2021

Wrapping Up the Month of July

This summer has been full of activity and, at times, a bit busy.  However, I must say many good things are happening, which makes the effort worth it.   

I was really pleased with the board's process to appoint a new Board member to fill the vacancy created by Darrin Bouray's resignation. The Board only had 30 days to fill the vacancy, so there were several steps that needed to be taken in a short amount of time. They interviewed six applicants in an open session at the special Board Meeting held on July 22nd.  It was interesting to listen to each of them speak and talk about their reasons for wanting to serve on the Board.  Each of them had some good insight to share.  

Benne Rogers

After the interviews, the board decided to appoint Benne Rogers as an acting member of the Board. He, and his wife Melissa, have been active volunteers in the District for several years and have children who have attended Shenandoah CSD. Their daughter is currently a student at the high school. I look forward to working with him in his role on the Board.

Our leadership team has worked diligently to fill staff positions this summer. I am thrilled to announce that Andrew Lynes (School Counselor, JK8 School) and Hannah Rodgers (Associate) have committed to joining the Shenandoah CSD team. They are terrific people and will add value to our team. 
Hannah Rodgers

Andrew Lynes

The Maintenance and Technology staff have made a stellar effort to take on several projects this summer. I have included a few photos here, so you can see some of the progress that is being made in some of the different areas. Unfortunately, I couldn't quite capture it all, but I think you can see good work is being done using the District's PPEL, SAVE, and ESSER funds that will make a positive impact.

Bus Barn

Bus Barn

JK 8 School

New Technology

New Technology

Preschool Classroom Flooring

Preschool Classroom Flooring

Resurfacing the Track

Resurfacing the Track

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Summer Happenings

I am doing a little bit of a happy dance as I write today because we have some new staff members joining the Shenandoah CSD team. Let me take a minute to introduce some of them who have recently committed to our District. 

Melissa Crawford

Jason Guerin
Julie Murren

Melissa Crawford is joining the team as an associate. Jason Guerin will be a content specialist working with us in the area of science with the IGNITE Online & Personalized Learning Program. Julie Murren will be serving our students as an academic interventionist at the JK-8 building.  These are some great people and will add a lot of value to our team! Let's be sure to make them feel a part of the Shenandoah learning community.
Our work in the summer is different because not all of our students are on campus, but I am excited about some of the great work that is continuing to be done. For example, one area that the District continues to expand is the Career Technical Education (CTE) program. In this video, you can learn more about how the program connects students with work-based learning opportunities and prepares them for future careers. You can read more about this on the district’s CTE website as well. 

It has been good to see our students participate in our summer extended learning interest camps. There are opportunities for students to participate in everything from HS credit recovery, Preschool & Kindergarten social, emotional learning camp, kindness camp, outdoor camp, games camp, construction camp, STEM camp, and TAG camp. It has been a great experience for our students to have several options to consider. I appreciate the staff’s effort to create these experiences for our students! 

Darrin Bouray
Darrin Bouray has been a member of the Shenandoah Board of    Education since 2019. Unfortunately, he recently resigned from his board seat because he is relocating outside of the district’s boundaries, making him ineligible to complete his term. He has served well, and his leadership will be missed. The Board will be appointing someone to fill this position until the November election. You can read more about the process on our website at

Friday, June 4, 2021


I have spent some time reflecting on this past school year. I found myself in a place of deep appreciation for our students, families, staff, and community, who rallied together to make the best of a year that may not have been precisely the way we envisioned it. We have had different experiences and stress factors, but we have walked this path together. I am thankful for the support, patience, and understanding. It has been invaluable. 

The summer is allowing us to revisit our policies and procedures related to COVID 19 mitigation. I am hopeful for next school year because we have learned a lot about what has worked, what has not worked, and where we can make appropriate changes. I will continue to keep you informed.  A few weeks ago, there were rumors about required COVID 19 vaccinations for students. I want to clarify our District will not require students to be vaccinated unless there is a state mandate that we do which is the case with all other vaccinations that the District requires. 

The creation and development of the IGNITE Online & Personalized learning program is a positive outcome of this past school year. I have written about this before, but it is hard to hold back and not share more about it. Keep in mind that this shift in thinking will allow us to serve students with greater flexibility. Students may participate differently based on their individual needs. They can attend exclusively online, as hybrid students who participate in online and Face 2 Face instruction, or take an online course to supplement their learning. A personalized plan will be developed to meet the needs of the students who participate. I look forward to seeing this program grow, expand and positively impact students.

You can watch the video here to learn more about IGNITE.

We have some new staff joining us next year. Allow me to introduce them.

Arryn Gillespie and Kennedy Hughes will be teaching Kindergarten.

Kennedy Hughes

Arryn Gillespie

Grant Staats will be teaching Math and coaching for the District.


Grant Staats
Grant Staats 

John Coltrain joined our custodial staff in April.

John Coltrain

All of them have strong connections to Southwest Iowa, so I am honored they have joined the Shenandoah CSD family.

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

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 ...