Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Challenges Behind Us; The Future Before Us

Today marks my one year anniversary of becoming Superintendent of the Hudson Community School District.  I think, officially, people can stop referring to me as the New Superintendent!  (Although, I think that moniker wore off around January and people now use another word in front of Superintendent!)

This past week I have had the chance to take some time off and reflect on this past school year.  There is nothing quite like the peace and tranquility of yard work to really think things through.  I sometimes think that I come up with my best ideas while cutting grass!  There is no mistaking the fact that this school year was fraught with enormous challenges, challenges ranging from student discipline to balancing the budget; with the latter being what you are most familiar with.  I don't believe anyone could have foreseen the difficulties we would face or the resulting decisions that would come to bear a year ago.  I certainly didn't, although it is safe to say that my eyes were wide open to the fact that school districts in Iowa were suffering, and that we were no different with declining enrollment and unspent balance.  Some have asked me that if I would still be here if afforded the benefit of hindsight.  I can unequivocally say yes.  Hudson is a great school, with fantastic teachers, community, and school board.  While we have our challenges, there is no place I would rather be at this particular point it time.

Whenever there are challenges such as these, there is no doubt going to be great controversy and disagreement over how best to meet and overcome these obstacles.  We heard from many that both agreed and disagreed with our approach.  While uncomfortable in the moment, we can take solace in the fact that regardless of a particular view or opinion, the argument was always centered on what was in the best interest of our students.  It is certainly difficult, uncomfortable, and stressful; but the debate remained above board and professional.  We debated issues, not people.  That is one of the great things about this community.

Difficult and painful decisions have been made, and some of our friends and neighbors are no longer with us.  We are in the process of discovering a "New Normal".  The first steps have been made to ensure that we have a sustainable school for decades to come, and we are on the right path.  However, don't be lulled into thinking that all the heavy lifting has been done.  There will be difficult decisions to come, and there will be disagreements on how best to solve those problems.  That is healthy and what is necessary to ensure that we continue to grow.

When one door closes another door opens.  June 30 marks the closing of one fiscal year, and July 1 marks the beginning of a new one.  That being said, the answer to the most pressing question "What is our unspent balance going to be", has yet to be answered.  We won't know that until after we complete posting all of our expenses for fiscal year 2011.  Please stay tuned, I am as anxious as you are to see the final numbers.

Regardless of the challenges we have faced and will continue to face, there is room for optimism.  We are busy getting ready for the new school year, and are excited for all that it will bring.  The first phase of the high school parking lot upgrade is being completed as we speak, and it appears to me to be slightly ahead of schedule at this point.  A major electrical upgrade is underway in the elementary that will better equip our classrooms to meet the demand of a 21st Century classroom.  We are completing the first phase of this project this year as well, and the centerpiece of this summer's work will feature a brand new computer lab in the elementary school.  A major technology purchase was also recently approved that will replace outdated computers, and in some instances increase the student to teacher ratio.

We are also excited to begin the process of aligning our school district more fully with the Iowa Core Curriculum in the coming months.  This is an opportunity for our teaching staff to become involved in professional learning communities, and improve their practice in the classroom by learning from their colleagues.  A new professional development website that embraces online learning for our faculty is being beta tested right now with the hope of launching it live in August.  We will be implementing what the research tells us about increasing student achievement by fully embracing the Iowa Professional Development Model.  The most important component in determining how well a child does in school is the quality of the instructor in the classroom.  We are committed as a school district to ensuring that your child's teacher is equipped with the latest techniques and strategies by providing them with a comprehensive and continual training program.

They say that change is difficult, and indeed it is.  But change provides us with great opportunity to grow.  Change provides us with what we need to avoid complacency.  Change provides us an opportunity to discover.  Change provides us with excitement, with a fire, and with a purpose. 

I am so excited about what the future holds for the Hudson Community School District, and all the challenges and difficulties we will face together!  Indeed the future is bright!

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