Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Preparing for the Summer

May is finally here! If you were as tired of the rainy and cloudy weather from last week as I was, the sunshine we have enjoyed this week is a welcome relief! We needed the rain, but I don't think I am alone in saying enough is enough! Hopefully farmers will be able to get their crops in the field! 

I am not a 'count down to the last day of school' kind of guy, but wise enough to know that time is drawing near. It is really hard to believe we are in the final weeks of school! May is traditionally busy with track meets, concerts, and many other events that honor our teachers and students, so it really makes the days fly by! As we are bringing this year to a close, our work is quickly shifting to preparation for the start of the 2016-2017 school year. The board recently moved to expand our connected learning initiative to include grades 3-12, which is exciting for our young learners (and teachers)! We are also hoping to adopt a new math curriculum at the middle school. If all goes as expected I anticipate bringing that up for a vote at the May meeting. We have a few items of clarification that need to be ironed out, but are very hopeful we will be able to close that gap. 

We are also wrapping up our hiring season. A decision will need to be made about the number of kindergarten sections we will offer next year, and if the numbers hold the way they are trending I will likely recommend three sections. This is always a very difficult decision because of the fluidity of our kindergarten enrollment! That is why it is so imperative to get your registration material submitted as soon as possible. So please, if you have a kindergartner that will be attending Hudson schools for the 2016-2017 school year, fill out the paperwork and submit it as soon as you possibly can. The quicker we know what our enrollment looks like the quicker we can make our final determination on section sizes! 

By the time we get to the May board meeting I imagine all of our teacher leadership positions will be filled. That is great news because it looks like our teacher leadership system will be fully staffed up by the start of the next school year!  This is due in no small part to the work of our current teacher leaders and their collaboration with Mr. Schlatter to clearly define, articulate, and lay forth a plan of implementation for our model teachers. This is really a huge step forward for our system!

This summer we have some exciting upgrades and improvements, the majority of our focus being on the elementary school attendance center. For starters we are planning to replace the remainder of the carpet throughout the building. The carpet in many of our elementary classrooms is wrinkled and in some places fraying. This will be a huge improvement in and of itself! We will also be finishing the renovation and remodeling of the restrooms on the first floor. This includes the restrooms in the kindergarten wing and in the first through fourth grade wing. These restrooms will mirror those in the fifth and sixth grade, so a much needed improvement!

At the high school we are planning on some updates for the commons. The biggest difference will be in new furniture for the space and a new paint job. We are moving toward a more modern look and think we have something in mind the students will really enjoy. The carpet replacement theme will continue into the high school auditorium where we are planning on replacing all that as well. Mr. Dieken has been working with Mr. Lewis to design an 'Inquiry Space' room off the library in the high school that will host a myriad of experiential learning projects for our students. Although housed in the high school, the room is designed to be used for all grade levels. 

There are a few projects scheduled for athletic facility upgrades as well. For starters, we will be replacing all the weight room equipment sometime around the first part of June. A big thank you for the work of the booster club and Mr. Wurzer on this project! The good news is that 75% of the funding for this project is coming from outside sources! The booster club wrote a Blackhawk gaming grant that paid for half the project, while the other half was split between the booster club and the school district. Everyone should be aware that we are evaluating new access, privileges, and accountability measures for the weight room. We are also looking forward to refinishing the competition gym floor, and hopefully very soon we will have grass growing and a fence around the hotel property!

As is always the case, it will be a very busy summer as we make our plans to start the 2016-2017 school year! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

You Are Hired!

It has been a very busy hiring season at Hudson schools. Fortunately we are on the backside of this process! In the last month we have hired six new teachers, replacing seven that will not be returning for the 2016-2017 school year. Due to increasing enrollment, we have also hired a half-time science teacher in the middle school. Depending on kindergarten enrollment, we may need to hire an additional teacher there as well. As has been past practice we will let that trajectory continue to percolate until later in the summer. Right now we are projecting numbers in the low 50s, but it continues to be very fluid! 

Four of six teaching positions that have been filled are at the elementary level. As you might imagine those positions were incredibly competitive. The candidate pool was very deep and rich with qualified applicants. The mere speculation that Hudson will have an open position for an elementary teacher can yield dozens of applications before we even have a chance to begin the process! Admittedly, because the volume of applications is so large it is impossible to interview every qualified candidate that crosses the desk of our hiring agents. Hiring of personnel at Hudson is delegated to the building principal or department head who will be charged with supervising and evaluating that employee. Our district conducts a very thorough and detailed process when it comes to the recruitment and selection of personnel.

It starts with crafting the announcement of a vacancy. That announcement tells potential applicants what we are looking for in our teaching staff and what we value. After the position has been posted internally, it is posted externally on the employment page of our website

After collecting applications, the goal is to narrow the pool down to about four candidates. This is accomplished by screening applicants for certain endorsements, checking references, and considering the amount of experience the candidate has. Too much experience can be as much of a deterrence as too little or no experience.

When it comes to deciding which candidates will be invited to interview for our positions, the number and type of endorsements the candidate holds carry the most weight. Because of the importance we place on reading instruction in our district, a reading endorsement is considered the gold standard. Beyond that, candidates who hold special education endorsements or other content area endorsements are also incredibly valuable and key to getting an interview. Not only do these added endorsements provide a greater base of content knowledge and instructional strategies for our teaching staff, but they also provide greater flexibility in job assignments a few years down the road. Ironically, candidates who hold a Master's Degree in lieu of these endorsements oftentimes have less flexibility in job assignment.

Once the slate of candidates is set, the hiring agent will discuss the candidates with those who will be colleagues of the new employee and the superintendent. An interview schedule is developed, and candidates are invited to the district to meet with the interview team. For teaching positions, this most commonly consists of the building principal and a team of teachers who will be working with the new teacher. Following the interview, the team discusses the strengths of the candidates and selects the person they think is the best fit for the district. However, the building principal or department head has the final say regarding who will be made an offer. Yet in the vast majority of cases, the building principal and teacher group concurs with the selection. Following reference and background checks, an official offer is made. 

The following teachers have accepted offers of employment in the Hudson Community School District for the 2016-2017 academic year:
  1. Sarah Koch, (Hud '11) Special Education
  2. Sara Cartney, (Hud '10) Kindergarten
  3. Samantha Roelfs, Third Grade
  4. Kayleigh Cuvelier, Fifth/Sixth Grade (science emphasis)
  5. Nicole Davis, Instrumental Music
  6. Casey Tecklenburg, 7-12 Vocal Music
  7. Kate Thilges, Seventh/Eight Science (part-time)
We'll be sure to share more about the background of these new teachers as the 2016-2017 school year draws closer. Be sure to check our website for more information as it becomes available. Now a little advice for the dreamers and job seekers out there! 

License endorsements trump a Master's Degree most of the time. In many cases, an MA makes sense in the following circumstances: a specialized education job (i.e. guidance counselor, administrator, school psychologist, or college teacher). The MA can also be useful for those secondary instructors interested in teaching college level, concurrent enrollment courses--but be warned! This will only prove beneficial if your MA is in the content knowledge area of the college course you wish to teach. If you are determined to obtain an MA for the purposes of salary advancement, please 'get where you want to be' before starting and completing this work. 

Research your potential employer! It is critical that job candidates understand and be able to speak to the core values and initiatives of the school district. In the case of Hudson, we are invested in teacher leadership and connected learning. We have also placed a heavy emphasis on reading and math the last three years. Candidates that can speak to these initiatives and articulate how they can help the district achieve their goals put themselves ahead of the competition.

Manage your social media footprint! Candidates should be prepared to answer questions regarding their social media use. You should assume that you will be 'Googled'. Be very careful about what you post on your social media accounts. A fun picture from your days in college or on the weekend can be a disqualifying event. As an aside, if you don't have a social media footprint, this can have a negative impact as well. This is 2016! If you are not connected yourself, how can you contribute to our connected learning environment?

To those who have successfully navigated the process, we welcome you to the Hudson Community School District! We can't wait to have you join our team and contribute to our students' success!