Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Buy and Shop Locally

Recently I became president of the Chamber of Commerce here in Hudson. While it may seem a little strange for the school superintendent to also serve as the Chamber president, I don't see it that way at all. The fact is, it is a rare occasion we may differ in our approach to a specific issue. The vast majority of the time I would argue that we are aligned in our position and share a key commonality: to make Hudson the very best that we can for all our citizens. We want to ensure our community thrives in all areas of business and education. Indeed our school does not operate in a vacuum, nor does the business community. It is through mutual cooperation and collaboration that we can improve the quality of life for all our constituents in Hudson. We must, and we do, rely on one another!

For example the school is uniquely positioned to provide a direct pipeline of future employees to our businesses. I have spent time listening to local business owners as they discuss with me what qualities they are looking for in their next hire, and by taking that information back to the district we are exploring ways in which to strengthen this pipeline. In fact, I have written about some of those efforts right here in this column. We know that post-secondary education is important, but that takes a variety of forms and doesn't necessarily mean a four year college degree. Yet that isn't the purpose of my post today. Today I want to share with you how the stewardship of our local resources are reinvested in our business community.

Most people realize and understand that the school district is one of the largest employers in town with a substantial budget. Because of this, we have quite a bit of purchasing power and try to do as much business in town as we possibly can. In fact, we actually have a policy that gives local preference. Board Policy Code No. 705.1 states the following:
As permitted by law, purchasing preference will be given to Iowa goods and services from locally-owned businesses located within the school district or Iowa based companies if the cost and other considerations are relatively equal and meet the required specifications.  
We try hard to do as much business as we possibly can locally. I hope that most would agree we do a decent job, although I am certain there are areas where we can improve. While doing business [locally] is codified for the school district in Policy, that is not the only reason we do so. We do so because of an understanding of what those businesses mean to our community. Without local business it makes it more difficult to have that high quality of life that we want for all our citizens. If our community members constantly have to go to the next town over, they may, at some point decide that it is much more convenient to simply live there. We must not allow that to happen! But as large as our purchasing power is as a school district, we can't go it alone.

Today I want to encourage you to visit our local businesses and shop locally as much as you possibly can. It is true, there are items and services offered in the larger Cedar Valley that may not be available in our home community. At the same time, there are many local businesses that would benefit from your patronage and I would encourage you to stay local.

Our community, both business and school is strong! Geographically we couldn't have it much better. I think this might be part of the reason that we are somewhat insulated from what has happened in many rural communities in Iowa. In some of those small Iowa towns schools are shuttering. Citizens of these communities are rightfully sad and believe that when the school closes it is the end of the town. That is usually not the case. That small town had likely been [barely] hanging on for some time. It probably began when local businesses began to leave.

Let's keep our business and school community strong! Be sure to shop locally!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Much More Than What is Measured by a Report Card

Public school is sometimes described as the backbone of the American democracy. And within the confines of those public schools we spend the vast majority of the time allotted to us in the development of content skills like math and reading. Sprinkled into this cornucopia of the American public educational experience are the Fine Arts. We also take time to provide our students with a well rounded educational experience that includes such things as construction trades, business, family and consumer sciences and in Iowa, well we can't forget about our rich agricultural history! If that weren't enough, a plethora of activities and athletic programs exist to whet almost any appetite.

As a society, we value these tangibles that our public schools provide. We are able to measure them, put a letter grade on them for all to see and show our stakeholders the result of our hard work. Where our content areas are measured by the letter grade students receive, our athletic team are judged by their win and loss record. I wonder if the things that are most important are perhaps the hardest, or if not impossible to measure? Those things that really make the American public school experience the American public school experience?

I believe many of those are taught within the context our guidance program and in our character development program know as the 'Eight Keys of Excellence'. Our elementary guidance counselor, Mr. Driscol starts young with the students, and years after they have completed the program can recall him reminding all of them to 'Live Above the Line'.  I might also suggest these eight keys are complimented by our Learner Performance Goals and work harmoniously to ensure that Hudson students not only master the hard skills of the core curriculum, but the soft skills that are going to be so vital later on in life.

Now then, I hope that you took notice of my phraseology in the use of the American public school. The vernacular is important here, because only in the public school do we have a mirror image, or microcosm if you will, of society. If you peer into these classrooms, you see a vast array of students that come from different races and ethnicity. Students and families who may practice a religion that is different from what we may practice at home. Students who come from families of wealth and comfort, and those who come from poverty. Students who school comes easy for, and those who struggle. Students and families that hold conservative values, and those who are liberal. All co-existing together in this great country of ours.