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.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

October Board Brief

The Shenandoah CSD Board met Monday evening, October 8th, 2018, for their scheduled meeting. I was able to share information with the Board about a developing partnership with Viterbo University to provide Master's level coursework for educators in southwest Iowa. Viterbo University is considering Shenandoah CSD as a location to provide a blended program which would allow our teachers to take coursework onsite and online as early as this summer. Having this type of program available in Shenandoah is good for our District and the entire southwest Iowa region.

Sam Martin, Quentin Slater, and Kayla VanRite presented information about the Soybean Project the agriculture and FFA students have taken part in over the past several months that was facilitated by Sarah F. Martin. This is important learning that is allowing our students to expand their knowledge using their research skills and collaborate with other professionals in the field including Asgrow, Helena, and Twin Oaks Lawn & Landscape.  It was an impressive presentation.

The Transportation Department provides a vital service for our students each day.  It can be an expensive area to maintain. However, it is important to consider that the expense involved is directly related to keeping our students safe.  Mr. Weinrich, the Transportation Director, identified three major areas of need for the Board to consider and provided some background information for each. This included concerns about the analog radio system, replacing the suburbans on a rotation schedule and potentially making a bus purchase, and the need to invest in stop arm cameras for the buses.

Stop arm cameras take digital photos of cars that pass school buses that are stopped with the stop sign arm out and lights flashing. Failing to stop is a serious driving violation but as Mr. Weinrich shared it is a concern that is not limited to Shenandoah.  Taking the time to stop may seem inconvenient to some drivers. However, it is important that drivers understand the safety concern for our students and also recognize the penalties they may face for violating the law (fines, license suspension, and potential jail time).

Several items were on the consent agenda, including early graduation.  It was very nice to have Jeremy Faust, one of our High School seniors, in attendance at the meeting. He applied to graduate early, his request was approved at the meeting. He greeted the Board and shared he eventually wants to attend college to teach students how to use computers.

There were several action items that were approved that I have summarized below. The items included in the summary are seemingly a simple list, but each item required a fair amount of consideration, planning, team discussion, and preparation before it actually became an agenda item for the Board to consider. I appreciate the staff's effort to make sure appropriate information was available to consider so decisions could be made.

The Board took action to approve the final resolution to pass the Instructional Support Levy tonight.  This action will provide a strong funding source for the District to rely on for the next five years. Additionally, the Board approved a request for Supplemental State Aid to support the needs of English learners (limited English proficient) in the amount of $68,841.94. The District's Federal application for Title I Funds was also approved for submission.

Service agreements were signed with KAGAN for professional development services, Shenandoah Medical Center for athletic trainer services,  and Control Management Inc  The Board also approved the purchase of the Liebert Mini-mate 2e for the technology room at the Elementary and Middle School building.

There were several other routine items on the agenda that were approved such as the District's legal counsel, bank depositories, and the publication of record. Greg Ritchey was reappointed represent the District for the Page County Conference Board. The Education Record Access and Student Directory Information policies were also read and approved for the second time.  The revision of the  High School Course book was also approved.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Principals are an Essential Piece of the Puzzle

This week is the beginning of National Principal's month. It is a month set aside to give principals honor and recognition for the work they do. Your perspective of what it means to be a principal may be different based on experiences you have had as a student, parent, teacher, community person or even movies that you have watched.  Watching movies like Lean on Me, The Principal, or even Kindergarten Cop gives a very different view of the role of a principal that may not be necessarily complete or entirely accurate, but the characters paint a picture in your mind.  While Mr. Latimer in The Principal was fearless in his pursuit, I am not sure I know too many principals that have ridden their motorcycle down the corridor of a school.

All said principals have rather superhero status in my book as they have such broad responsibility to serve hundreds of students and parents, work with teachers and support staff, and communicate effectively with the community. They also keep records, complete state reporting, and finalize program and staff evaluations. Their days are tightly scheduled and they are required to meet several deadlines. They track their budgets, make purchases, and work with staff and community groups to find additional funding to fill in the gap. They manage the school and lead the staff in making sure that our schools provide the best possible learning environment for our students.  They serve as instructional leaders and coordinate with staff to provide high-quality professional development. They are engaged in their work early in the morning and typically leave later in the evening as they are wrapping up student activities.

I could also write a long list of the great things our teachers, coaches, and support staff do, but it is October which is National Principal's month, so I want to extend public appreciation for our principals. All of our staff is important; it takes all of us working together to make things come together each day to support our students and, a high-quality principal is an essential piece of the puzzle.

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 administr...