Thursday, December 6, 2018

Let's Talk About the Weather

The weather has shifted, and we are starting to see colder days and more snow.  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 want to receive school messages related to weather and or emergencies via text message, you will need to opt in. You opt-in to receive text messages following these directions or by texting Text “Y” to 67587 from each wireless device they wish to receive texts. If you have blocked school messenger calls, emails or texts you will not receive these notices. 

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.  It is my preference to make an announcement the night before to allow families the maximum amount of time to prepare for a change in schedule. If a decision is not made the night before, an effort is made to make some type of 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 be different than 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 do 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 to be our best-informed estimation of what might occur.

What Do the Decisions Mean?

Two Hour Delays are normally called when it is anticipated the 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 buses 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 on days 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 shifting and it 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 occur related to weather there will be no school activities, practices or events held.  It may also occur when there is a serious problem with the facility or safety concern that must be addressed. 

If school is closed for the day there will be no school activities, practices, or events.  This is due to several factors.  One school is closed if the weather is anticipated to be severe, and normally that means that travel is not advised. It also may 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. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Together We Can Make a Difference

Last week I sent a letter to parents District-wide about school safety and threats.  I believe it is important to continue the conversation as we must work together to create a safe learning climate and culture that is free of threats and also bullying and harassment.

Making threats is completely unacceptable and contributes to creating a climate of fear and intimidation that is not healthy whether the actions are real, perceived or intended to be sarcastic or humorous.  “Humorous” threats are not funny and are not okay. Bullying and harassment are also wrong and also contribute to this same type of dysfunction. These types of behaviors are entirely inappropriate and dangerous in nature whether they are made using verbal, physical, written means or using social media.  

I recently highlighted a blog written by Maci Slater and Cambre Millikan, two of our middle school students, about efforts to stop bullying and harassment at Shenandoah Middle School. Their efforts should be commended as they understand the destructive nature of these behaviors.

Sometimes, people ask about the difference between good-natured teasing, not being nice, and bullying and harassment. The District does have policies that define bullying and harassment that you can locate herein our handbook, and on our website.

I would ask for your help as a community to continue to help guide, direct and support students in fully understanding threats or violence of any kind, bullying, and harassment are unacceptable and may have severe consequences. It isn't necessarily an easy conversation to have as children and youth are exposed to a great amount of these types of behaviors through all kinds of media, video games, movies, and TV.  However, together we can make a difference by modeling desired behaviors and responses to difficult situations that arise, spending time talking with and mentoring youth, intervening by reporting valid concerns to authorities, being an advocate or support for someone who needs assistance and continuing to have the conversation. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

November Board Matters

School has been in session for several months now, and there is much work in progress.  It was great to have a few different staff members present at the Board meeting tonight about the positive strides that are being made.

Mrs. Trowbridge, the High School World Languages teacher for Spanish, shared information on the Biliteracy Seal that the Iowa Department of Education is encouraging schools to offer. Mrs. Trowbridge has agreed to coordinate this effort for the High School. This will be an excellent opportunity for the District.

Mrs. Andrew, Mrs. Johnson, and Mrs. Martin presented information about the Illustrated Math curriculum that is being implemented at the Middle School. This team of teachers is doing very good work. I appreciate their efforts to implement a new curriculum, try different methods, and make a positive contribution. On an additional note, Sarah Martin, one of the Middle School Math Teachers, was recently recognized by the Open Up Resources as Teacher of the Month for her online leadership efforts using social media to help other teachers implement this curriculum, and was also selected to serve on the statewide Mathematics Leadership Team. 

Mr. Shaffer talked about the potential use of a trained drug dog at the High School and how this will be approached. There was a good discussion about the procedures, process and consequences that will be used if the drug dogs identify an illegal substance on campus. 

District financial matters are on the agenda each month and are published on a regular basis. Mrs. Ruzek provided a comprehensive presentation tonight about the financial status of the district. Our unspent budget authority has increased by over 1.5 million the past three years.  This is a positive trend and something that was necessary to do for the overall financial health of the district.

There were several items on the consent agenda that were approved.  Additionally, there was a closed session that was held.

The Board approved hiring Aaron Burdorf and Jon Weinrich as interim softball coaches. The Board fully supports both Mr. Burdorf and Mr. Weinrich as administrators and also recognizes they are both very talented athletes and coaches. So why interim?  There was a discussion about the amount of time and impact coaching has on administrative job functions and whether or not it should be something the District does. The Board agreed to approve it with interim status so the coaches and team can move forward planning for the season. I appreciate both Mr. Burdorf (Head Coach- Interim) and Mr. Weinrich's (Assistant Coach-Interim) willingness to step forward to coach our athletes.

The series of policies related to Education Records Access and Student Directory Information were both approved on the third (final) reading. The School Budget Review Committee (SBRC) request for budget authority was approved for the open enrollment out ($79,968) and for limited English proficient ($1,481).  The Board also agreed to replace the scrolling ad in the high school gym with an LCD Sign.

Last month, Mr. Wienrich presented about different transportation department related needs.  He consulted with two different firms and received quotes for radio systems from Electronic Engineering and Bi-State Electronics. The purchase from Electronic Engineering for $14,916.46 was approved.

The fire alarm systems at the High School and JK-8 schools need to be replaced.  Mr. Rogers presented two different bids that were very different in price.  It was noted that the District did seek out additional guidance from the District's architects about the differences in the bids, and there were no concerns mentioned about the quality of the proposed work in the bids. There was some conversation about whether or not we should wait to complete the high school until after the HVAC work is complete.  After some discussion about the bid, the difference in price, the timing of the work, and the budget it was agreed to move forward with the bid from FELD for $190,132 for both the K-8 Building and High School.

Once again, there was a lot of action that occurred tonight. I appreciate all of the time and energy the staff put behind making the presentations meaningful and providing information to the Board so they could make appropriate decisions.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Guest Authors Maci Slater & Cambre Millikan

Last week I had the opportunity to visit with Mrs. Perry’s Middle School Digital Stream class about different types of communication and the impact of social media and blogs. It was fun to talk a little bit about some of the generational differences in how social media is used. While they love to Snapchat, it is just not my thing.  I was so impressed with this group of students that I agreed to allow them to be the author of a guest blog that I would publish for them. I hope you will enjoy their article and hear their voice.

Shenandoah Middle School Supports Stomp Out Bullying Day
By: Digital Stream
Maci Slater and Cambre Millikan

Bullying is just one of many topics covered by the Digital Stream class taught at the Middle School. This class strives to report in a responsible manner the events happening throughout the 5-8 building, then connecting those events to the world. To do this students are taught skills in how to write, usage of multiple types of technology, various forms of reporting techniques, how to become a leader, and the skills of perseverance and grit. The class works together as a team to brainstorm coverage topics, then they divide and conquer to produce those topics on the Pony Express.

Bullying happens on and off school campuses, and Shenandoah Community Schools would like to take a proactive stand to help alleviate the causes and effects of bullying. If you saw all of the people wearing blue on Monday, October 1st, you may have wondered why. The month of October is designated as National Bullying Awareness month. To show support in trying to educate and bring an awareness to what bullying can do to a person, Shenandoah Middle School participated in national Stomp Out Bullying Day by wearing blue. Students were encouraged to dress in blue to say, “YES to accepting others ... NO MATTER™ what they look like, their race, their beliefs, or their sexual orientation or gender, and YES to becoming responsible and kind digital citizens” (STOMPOut Middle School Student Council also provided an assembly that day titled Bullying, depicting why a person bullies, how to respond to a bully, what to do if you are bullied, and how you can help if you see someone being bullied.

If kids see somebody being bullied, then they can try to take the kid out of the situation and take them to a safe place where the bully will not try to hurt them anymore. Schools can have classes and programs that teach kids about bullying and that it can really hurt kids. If you are the one being bullied, Kate Lantz, Student Council President provides this advice, “Definitely tell an adult or a teacher to make sure that the problem can get resolved.”

The next time you see someone being the victim of a bully, do not be a bystander. Ask yourself, “How can I help, what can I do to help stop this situation?” Here at Shenandoah Middle School we aim to Stomp Out Bullying by building a positive, supportive culture where bullying is not acceptable.

You may click here to see pictures of Stomp Out Bullying Day at Shenandoah Middle School.x

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Conversations with the Board about Facilities

The Board of Education previously completed an exhaustive study of the District's facilities. The study provided the District with a comprehensive view of what is needed to maintain solid facilities, what is required to broaden and expand the curriculum and available programs, and what would be nice to have if adequate finances are available. The District has used this study to guide decisions and recommendations for projects that have been completed.  We now need to move to the next level of work, and that requires a lot of conversation and consensus building with stakeholders.

The Board of Education has been active in recent months discussing facility needs and what finances are available to complete priority projects.  One of the steps the Board has taken is to send representatives to tour Columbus High School, in Columbus, Nebraska and also Riverside Community School District in Oakland, Iowa. The Board will also visit a facility in Maryville, Missouri. These visits are important for us to attend as they are helping us visualize what type of space is most appropriate and necessary to expand our career technical education (CTE) and STEM programs.  It has also been good to see the different types of construction and how they fit into each campus.

So what are we really talking about here?    The infrastructure of the High School has some larger needs. This is not unexpected, the building is aging, and systems eventually need to be replaced and updated. Some of these items include HVAC Systems, electrical work, replacing windows and resealing the building. The space for career technical education (CTE) and STEM programs needs to be expanded and redesigned to support agriculture, industry and manufacturing, welding, automotive technology, robotics, and science labs.  The current space at the High School is too small and limits that type of instruction that can be done.  Additionally, there has been a conversation about the need for additional gym space to support our athletic programs and also be used for team practice, community access, and tournaments. These are all important aspects of maintaining our facility, providing adequate and appropriate facilities for our students to maximize their learning and be productive in the workforce, and having strong athletic and wellness programs.

The Board is continuing to discuss which projects can best be addressed using current funds such as PPEL or SAVE, and which projects may require a bond issue to address.  As I mentioned, to move to the next level of work will require a lot of conversation, communication and consensus building with stakeholders. I am looking forward to facilitating more focus groups and community meetings as we continue to work on identifying what is best for Shenandoah CSD.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Parent-Teacher Conferences

I think of my fourth-grade teacher every year at parent-teacher conferences. I loved my fourth-grade teacher.  I can clearly remember being asked to write my first research project using a real encyclopedia. She made such nice comments about my work but also gently reminded me that using quotation marks and citing my sources was something I needed to do.  I also remember her perfect handwriting.  We spent a great amount of time practicing how to shape our cursive letters just right. I liked to do this a lot and tried to write just like her.  However, I have lived with the guilt of knowing that I shot a rubber band across the classroom the very day of parent-teacher conferences.

I do not know what I was thinking! My mother was a teacher, and this type of behavior was just not the kind of thing I wanted her to know or for my dad to find out.  I was in anguish about my mother going to conferences, and I did everything I could to avoid the subject when she came home.  I don’t recall much about my parent’s response, but I remember the stress of wondering what they knew. 

I share this silly story only to remind us all the parent-teacher conferences are intended to be an opportunity for teachers and parents to have open conversations about their students. And, that is a good thing! Parents and teachers can learn a lot from each other and benefit from working together to help students.  It takes teamwork for our students to succeed.

At times, conferences can be intimidating for parents to attend because they may not know what to expect, what questions to ask, or they may be concerned about what they may hear from the teacher. If you are feeling anxious or nervous about attending you may want to consider planning for the conversation. Public School View and  Care.Com  have some great suggestions for parents to consider as they prepare for conferences that may help you feel more confident with the process.

The relationship formed at conferences is intended to be a partnership, not something that is feared.  It is really about working together to meet the needs of our students. It is time well spent.

Friday, October 19, 2018

What Do We Stand For?

What do We Stand for?  I was asked this question earlier in the week by a non educator wearing an I Love Nebraska Public Schools shirt. While I had an immediate response in mind related to my faith and family, I paused for a moment and reflected a bit as I considered my occupation. I am a superintendent, but more than my title, I identify myself as an educator.  I am a public educator and consider public education to be of critical importance.  It is something that I do as a “job,” but I have dedicated myself in this work because I believe public education is central to our society.

Yes, there are additional options beyond public education that have merit.  However, I am convicted in my belief that public education offers something different for students.  It opens access for all students to come, where all students are welcome and where all can experience the success of learning.  It is a place where students can learn to not only to read and write but also become critical thinkers, solve complex problems, obtain the 21st-century learning skills necessary to be productive citizens and develop the ability to be successful in a work environment that our generation has not yet envisioned.

Public education is not a perfect system; there are areas of great strength and areas that need continual improvement. Public educators create a learning environment for our students to maximize their learning potential and open access to future opportunities. It is what public educators do, what we provide, and the responsibility lies in our hands.  It is a large responsibility that cannot be dismissed. It isn’t something I take lightly, instead; I feel compelled to continually invest myself in public education and commit resources to create opportunities for our students.

I could continue to go on and write more about this, but I think the most concise and accurate response to the question of the day is I also stand for public education.  It is something I can support and advocate for as it makes a difference for our students.  

Let's Talk About the Weather

The weather has shifted, and we are starting to see colder days and more snow.  It is necessary to adjust the school schedule at times. The...