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.

Joining Our Team & Some Board News

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