Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Building Relationships & Establishing Routines

School started last week, and I must say it has been a good start to the year. I commend the staff for their efforts to be prepared for their students. Teachers are provided some planning time, but they also spend some of their personal time making sure their classroom and plans are just right.

During the next several weeks of instruction, teachers will be focused on establishing strong relationships with their students, setting expectations and establishing routines, and making connections with parents so they can be a part of their child's education.

Teachers focus on building relationships with students by greeting them with a smile and saying hello, taking time to learn their names and something about them, developing an understanding of how they learn, and taking note of what interests them. They encourage students to be involved and to participate in activities because this is good for their social and emotional development and helps them to feel connected at school. Students develop an understanding of what is expected, so teachers share what is important, clarify boundaries, and practice established procedures and routines. Teachers make an effort to communicate with parents about their students as it helps build trust and allows the parent to become a partner in education. This isn't fluff, it is the real "stuff" that makes a difference in how students relate to their teachers and classmates, understand their boundaries, and know what they will be expected to understand and be able to do.  It lays the groundwork and builds students self-efficacy and confidence in their ability to learn.

Late last week I sent out a link to a short video of our students on the first day of school over email and didn't include it in my blog. Several have asked to see it, so I have included it here. I hope you will enjoy watching it.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Off to a Great Start

It was great to welcome all of the staff at the start of the 2018-2019 school year during the opening session on Monday. We had a pretty terrific breakfast sponsored by SCIA, Green Plains, New York Life, and Wilson Insurance. This breakfast is a long-held tradition and we greatly appreciate the support from the business community. Strong schools, communities, and businesses grow together so the support these business partners extend to the District is extremely valuable.

The Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation also greeted the staff and several community members announced donations to join the Foundation's $100 Club. I appreciate the purpose of the foundation and I am pleased to support it.  I am excited to see the future of the Foundation and the relationship that is formed.

I also had the privilege of spending time talking with the entire staff about the importance of public education, being strong advocates, and taking great pride in being educators. I also encouraged the staff to not underestimate the powerful influence they have and the impact they make on their students' lives. Every interaction we have with our students leaves an impression, and we want it to be a positive reflection of their experience at Shenandoah CSD.   

Our staff is fully vested in acclimating to the start of the year and has spent a great amount of time preparing for the students to return on Thursday.
  I am pleased with their efforts to dive in so they are prepared.  Their schedules are full but they also know how to have a great time together as well.  Having fun together in the work environment is important as it helps all of us build strong relationships and effective teams.

Our students have already had their first cross country meet and open house is tonight starting at 5:00 PM.  Tomorrow is a big day for all of us.  The students will be back and we have been planning and waiting for this day for months!  Our staff is ready and committed to making this a great school year.  Join me in celebrating tomorrow as a very special day, the first day of school for our students and staff.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Last week several members of our leadership team spent time in Des Moines, IA at the School Administrators of Iowa Conference.  It was a great time of professional learning, networking, and connecting as a team.  It was time well spent as there was new learning, ideas to borrow and build on, and information presented that validates the work we are doing as a district.

I had a few minutes to visit with a friend of mine at the conference who is a retired superintendent who is also familiar with the District.  He asked me to share with him some of the noteworthy work that is being done in the District.  There wasn't enough time to share everything I was thinking about as we talked but I was able to share some of the following.

  • Expanded preschool to serve four-year-old students full day and added services for three-year-olds.
  • Focused on creating more extended learning opportunities for students after school (179 participants) and during the summer (129 participants).
  • Further developed STEM and CTE instruction.
    • Trained staff to use STEMScopes science instructional resources K-12
    • Provided professional learning for two staff members to instruct using Project Lead the Way at the Middle School
    • Continued the TEN80 STEM class at the Middle School. Students were invited and competed in their 3rd national competition and earned a  1st place ranking.
    • Received a grant from the Regional Planning Partnership 13 for new equipment for the CTE programs.
    • Initiated student internship programs with community business partners.
    • Competed in the Congressional Apps Challenge. Two of our High School Groups finished in the top five for our congressional district.
  • Implemented Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (P.B.I.S) at each school. The Elementary School was identified as an emerging P.B.I.S School in Iowa.  Shenandoah CSD is the first to use this model in the GHAEA Region at the preschool level.  
  • Demonstrated increased performance on the Iowa Assessments, iReady, and FASTBridge assessments.

The District enjoyed success in many areas last year which are not all listed here, and I can't wait to see what this next year brings for our students and staff. There are areas where the District is finding the need to improve.  However, our staff and leadership team are committed to making continual progress to make Shenandoah CSD a great place to be.

Much of my time this next week will be spent participating in professional learning sessions and spending time connecting and building relationships with our staff.  The days will be full, and that is okay because we are working on preparing for a very special day, the first day of school and an even better school year.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ready for School

It is August now, and school is starting soon. I must say I love this time of year. There is a new level of energy and life on campus.  It is busy, but it has been a good summer, and it is time now to shift some of our thinking towards what lies ahead. I am incredibly excited to see what this school year brings for our students and staff because we have spent a great amount of time preparing for everyone to return.

Brand new computers are ready and waiting for our students and staff.  Efforts were also made to improve the District's wireless access. This kept our technology staff quite busy, but it was worth the effort. These tools will help the teachers facilitate high-quality, relevant learning experiences for our students.  

The custodial and maintenance staff diligently cleaned the buildings, cared for the grounds and landscaping, and ensured the installation of the L.E.D. lights in the High School gym, new carpeting in the elementary and middle school, and other projects went smoothly.  The environment looks fresh and nice.

I previously introduced the new staff members who have been hired as teachers. I appreciate the staff who have stepped forward to help them acclimate to the system, mentor and support these new professionals in our system.  

The District worked to recruit and train additional bus drivers. Finding the right people to drive is essential as the drivers are the first and last staff members to have contact with our students each day. Good people have stepped forward to go through the process of obtaining their license with the DOT to be authorized to drive a school bus. I am confident they will take great care of our students.

Many of our teachers, associates, bus drivers, and food service staff worked during the summer to support the district’s extended learning camps. They also have participated in various training sessions, meetings and classes so they will be prepared to start the school year. Our coaches have held camps and encouraged athletes to train in the offseason so the athletes will be ready to compete. 

Some of our administrators are now serving in different roles.  This change has required them to think differently about working with people, building strong relationships, developing processes and implementing procedures in new settings.  Additionally, they have been working along-side our teacher leaders planning professional development.  This is important work as we want to provide the staff with relevant, meaningful learning opportunities and also allow them sufficient independent planning to prepare for our students.

Students are registered, textbooks and supplies have been ordered, and the secretarial staff has confirmed many details so the teachers and students will have what they need for the school year.

Our team had an ambitious to-do list to complete this summer.  It has required a fair amount of planning, follow through and collaboration to make things happen but when it all comes together, there is a sense of accomplishment and pride in the collective effort that has been made.  It is a good feeling to look back and know that together we have conquered the list and are nearly ready for the students and staff to return.   I appreciate all of the time and effort that the staff has made to make Shenandoah CSD the place to be for the 2018-2019 school year.

Joining Our Team & Some Board News

 JOINING OUR TEAM! Some Board News... The last two board meetings and work sessions representatives from Carl A. Nels...