Friday, February 9, 2024

Now that the Snow has Melted

I have talked to each of you quite a bit this month with all of the announcements about school cancellations and weather decisions. However, now that the snow has melted and the sun is shining, it has prompted me to take down my snowman wreath and be more interested in writing about better topics.  

Legislative discussions regarding increasing teacher base pay currently have my full attention. Increasing teacher salaries and proposed changes to the AEA are coupled in the same bill, making it a more difficult conversation. I support the teacher salary part of the legislation if it is fully funded by the State, and I would note our district has made notable progress in increasing base pay for our teachers over the last several years. Increasing base pay for teachers is important because it helps districts attract new teachers and retain them once they enter the field of education. The way it is structured may cause districts to potentially need to rethink existing salary schedules that have been in existence for several decades. It may even be a bit of a challenge to accomplish. However, I am up for the challenge and would embrace the opportunity to work with the board and collective bargaining to find a reasonable and well-thought-out solution.

Speaking of teachers, I am very pleased we have been able to start to offer contracts to staff for next school year. We will be welcoming home Logan Hughes, a Shenandoah High School Alumn to teach Health and PE,  and Amy Smith is joining us from Osceola, Iowa, to teach Special Education. It is a good place to be to start off the hiring season.

I was very pleased to read Mr. Burdorf's update this week. If you haven't read it yet, I think you should look through your email to find it. It included some of the preliminary FAST results. It is more than exciting to see the notable progress in the percentage of students who are proficient and are reaching their growth goal in reading. The students and staff are doing very good work, and they should be commended.

Monday, December 18, 2023

December Board Matters

The recent election resulted in two new members joining the school district's Board of Directors. Glenn Mason and Brent Twyman were officially elected and seated at the Board meeting held on Dec 11, 2023. I am pleased they have joined the Board and look forward to collaborating with them as part of the team. Jean Fichter was reelected as the Board President. Adam Van Der Vliet was reelected as the Vice President. Mrs. Fichter and Mr. Van Der Vliet have served in these roles before; I am confident they will continue providing strong leadership.

One of the items on the consent agenda was to approve the receipt of a grant for $25,000 from the May Family Foundation. The grant aims to increase access to daycare and provide mentoring support for young parents and caregivers. The District submitted this grant in full collaboration with the M.A.Y. Mentoring program, IGNITE, and our preschool program. I am most pleased with the cooperation between the programs and the intent of reducing duplication of services. I fully anticipate using the grant funds will result in positive outcomes for our students and their families.

Setting and guiding the development of policy is one of the primary functions of the Board. Currently, they are working on a policy required for Disciplining Students Who Make Threats of Violence and the supporting regulation. This is a newer policy that is required by the 2023 Iowa Acts, chapter 96 (House File 604), which Governor Reynolds signed in May of 2023. Additionally, they are finalizing a revision to Board Policy 705.01-R(2) - Purchasing – Bidding – Using Federal Funds in Procurement Contracts.

Starting in January, the Board will consider a new series of policies to review so that we can stay current with our policy revisions. Additionally, they will expand their focus to develop new priorities and goals for the upcoming year. I am looking forward to these conversations and being part of the work that will be done. It is typically rewarding to take part in the process and experience.

Winter break is just around the corner! I hope you enjoy celebrating the holidays and can connect with family and friends you hold dear. It is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the gift of time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. I will look forward to reconnecting with you in 2024!

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Feeling the Time Crunch?

It is the time of year when we start to feel pressed by the busyness or tightly scheduled nature of balancing the work we do with the excitement of celebrating the various holidays of the season. Students and parents alike also feel the crunch of the semester's end and attending extracurricular activities. What do you do when you feel the time crunch? The adrenaline tends to kick in, and that can cause undue stress. To manage this, we need to remember and intentionally do some of the essential elements of self-care care, such as eating reasonably healthy foods in addition to the pumpkin pie, exercising, getting proper rest, and maintaining connections with other people in our lives.  

During this season, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on how you can take care of yourself and help those around you do the same. It will help you manage the time crunch and feel better about your day.

I also want to share some good news with you on a very different note. I want to commend our Middle School students and staff on their work and say well done! Shenandoah Middle School was noted as a top-performing school in Iowa by US News & World Reports. This is a considerable accomplishment, so let's join together to celebrate this good news.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Addressing the Elementary and Middle School Building Needs

The Elementary and Middle School building has been in full operation and used for over 20 years by approximately 800 people a day, which means many finishes and equipment are near the end of their expected usable life expectancy. The District used Federal ESSER dollars, PPEL, and SAVE funds to replace windows and storefronts at the building this summer. These were necessary improvements that will contribute to the overall functioning of the building and will contribute to maintaining the facility for many years. However, there are additional needs that require attention in this building. The HVAC System has required continuous maintenance, and some replacement parts are difficult to locate and are no longer readily available. It brings into question whether we need to replace the system or if there are alternate, more cost-effective solutions to consider. The classrooms and gyms have been well used, which means the flooring, paint, and other materials need to be updated. There are also concerns with the pavement in front of the school.  

Mr. Addy, the District’s Director of Maintenance and Operations, and I have discussed a long list of needs at the Elementary and Middle School building. However, we both agree that we need to take time to create a well-crafted budget and plan that prioritizes the needs and wants of the building and addresses them in a comprehensive and cost-effective manner. I brought these concerns to the attention of the School Board in October. I made a recommendation at that meeting that we secure a partnership with CA Nelson & Co. to assess the overall condition of the HVAC system to formulate a proposal about what should be done and work with us to create a budget and plan to address the remaining issues in the building that require renovation.  

I am pleased the School Board accepted this proposal and approved a contract with CA Nelson & Co. for the service. I expect working with them will result in a positive outcome. Their expertise helped the District stay on track and reduce costs with the High School renovation. As you may recall, the District renovated the High School in 2020. This work made a substantial difference in not only the aesthetics of the building but also extended the life of the HVAC system, improved the technology infrastructure, and improved the interior and exterior lighting. It was a rather impressive project, noting that the work was completed on time, under budget, and much of it took place during the COVID shutdown.

It is anticipated it will be expensive to address the issues in the Elementary and Middle School building. Still, the District is engaging in the proper work to assess, plan, and prioritize the work needed. I look forward to working through the process.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Reasons to Celebrate!

A few weeks ago, I received a text message from a community member and a staff member within a very short amount of time; both were letting me know some exceptionally grand news. They noted that Shenandoah High School was named by U.S. News and World Reports as one of the best high schools in Iowa. It was rewarding to see this report. I am incredibly proud of the work our staff and students are doing to continually improve and maximize their potential. Their effort is well noted and is to be commended.

The last two Saturdays, I had the opportunity to spend time in Essex at the Labor Day parade and Hamburg at Popcorn Days, watching the Middle School and High School bands perform. Each week, they have performed well and improved. It lifted my spirits and brightened my day when I heard the announcement that the Middle School and High School bands received first-place trophies for their performance in Hamburg! I want to share a picture of the drum majors that was sent to me. Their smiles communicate their pride and excitement about their recent achievements. 

This has been an energizing week celebrating homecoming! We have had a good turnout for the scheduled events, and it has been rewarding to see our students, families, and alumni join in the fun. The Color Run was held on Sunday evening. This has become a hallmark annual event loved by all who dare to join it. The week has been full of activities. Something is planned for nearly every age group, and there are opportunities for the community to join the celebration! I hope you will join us at the parade on Friday afternoon and the game on Friday evening.  


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Welcome Back!

Welcome to the start of the 2023-2024 school year! The staff has had a fantastic week of professional learning and preparation for the arrival of our students. It was a powerful week of speakers and training that benefited our team. It was also great to see the turnout at an open house. The energy and excitement for tomorrow were evident; I look forward to having our students back on campus.

We do have several new staff members this year. Becoming acquainted with them in the interview process and working with them more closely this week has been an immense pleasure. They are fantastic additions to our team. They are talented and passionate about teaching and learning.

Additionally, the District is thrilled to introduce David Erickson as the new Student Resource Officer (SRO). I enjoyed having him attend the open house on Monday night. Watching him interact and engage with the staff, students, parents, and guardians in attendance was terrific. I am confident he will look out for our students and staff's best interest and safety. Some have asked what types of support an SRO provides in a school setting. SROs actively engage with students, parents, guardians, and school administrators, offering educational programs and mentoring initiatives to promote character development and social responsibility. Officer Erickson will embody a proactive and community-oriented style of policing while fostering positive connections with students to build trust and understanding. This position will bring a lot of value to the system.

I am eager to invest my time working with our students, staff, and families this year. There are great opportunities that lie ahead, so let's do the work together to make this one outstanding school year! 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

They Overcame the Challenge

I felt immense pride and joy seeing our students walk the line and receive their diplomas at graduation this weekend. The Class of 2023 experienced many good times and has made excellent accomplishments. Some students in this class have earned National AWS Certification for welding,  A+ Networking Core 1 Certification, Avenue Scholar Scholarships, participated in internships, succeeded in activities, and were awarded over $150,000 in scholarships toward post-secondary education and other significant honors. They also have learned to overcome challenges such as the COVID shutdown and adjusting to what school would be like when they returned. They chose to thrive versus be defeated by such changes. We can all learn from them, knowing they have demonstrated strength, were resilient, and did not give up.  

Now that the Snow has Melted

I have talked to each of you quite a bit this month with all of the announcements about school cancellations and weather decisions. However,...