Wednesday, April 25, 2012

News from the Board of Directors

The Board met in a regular monthly meeting on Monday, April 23 in the board room.  Our meeting this month was a week later than normal due to a conflict with several members.  As is always the case, we accomplished a lot of great things on behalf of the students in the Hudson Community School District.  As a reminder, this update is not meant to cover all actions taken at the board table nor is it meant to supplant the board minutes.  This entry is merely to mention the highlights of the meeting in advance of publication of our monthly minutes, which can be found in the Hudson Herald.

One of the highlights during the visitors section was a presentation from Kindergarten teacher Andrea Hottle and First Grade teacher Brenda Krapfl on the implementation and use of IPADS in the elementary school.  I was personally impressed with the way these teachers have been able to weave high tech instructional tools into their classroom curriculum.  A great takeaway for the Board is that this has been a great investment in our elementary school.  This presentation will go a long way toward long range planning as we look to make additional future investments in technology infrastructure in our school district.

During the superintendent report, I discussed several items of interest with the board ranging from an update on projects, to professional development, and legislative action.  I really wanted to get feedback and input from the board on the replacement of the school nurse position, due to the retirement of Mrs. Noelting.  I had completed some research and provided different scenarios for the Board to consider ranging from sub-contracting the nursing service to Black Hawk County to hiring a part-time nurse.  My recommendation to the Board was to hire a .625 FTE nurse for the district, which was contrary to the wishes of virtually everyone I spoke with!  In the end, the Board felt it would be best if we were staffed with a full time nurse.  I think this is absolutely the right decision, and have put the wheels into motion to get this person hired in the next couple of weeks.  By the way, if you know of anyone who is interested, please have them drop off a letter of application with a resume to my office by the end of next week.  Iowa Code does require this position be filled by a Registered Nurse.

The Board also executed several involuntary transfers of certified teaching staff for the 2012-2013 school year.  As you may be aware, we have been studying our instructional schedule this year in an effort to create additional opportunities for our students while at the same time creating efficiencies in the deployment of our human resources.  These transfers have been executed with this goal in mind.

Also, the Board ratified the Master Contract with the Hudson Education Association for the 2012-2013 academic year.  The total package increase of this agreement is 3.05%, which is an outstanding agreement that recognizes the hard work of our teaching professionals while at the same time realizing the financial difficulties the school district has been trying to correct the last couple of years.  The Board also approved administrator contracts for 2012-2013, representing a 2.22% total package increase.  Classified personnel job agreements were also approved, representing a 3% increase.

Those folks, are the highlights.  If you have any questions about the board meeting you are encouraged to give me a call.  By the way, our May regular meeting will be held on May 21 at 4:00 in the afternoon.  We have set this early time so we can all attend the Gold Star Awards ceremony, which will be held at 7:00 p.m. that same evening.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Stop Bullying Now

Over this past weekend a young student from the South O'Brien Community School District committed suicide.  He was the victim of relentless bullying and harassment after he revealed he was gay about a month ago.  The taunting started soon afterward, and a horribly malicious Facebook page was posted. When school officials intervened, consequences were meted out, and the school officials had no further reports from the victim.  When there are no further reports the case is closed and the district moves on.  That is the way it is handled in Iowa school districts, once we have investigated the incident, if there are no further reports the case is closed.

We have students here at the Hudson Community School District who report incidents of bullying.  They come from victims and witnesses.  We often find that the bullying has been going on for quite some time and the victim or victims friends just can not take it anymore and file a formal complaint.  I like to think that once we start the investigation process and take it through to fruition, we are very successful.  Our consequences are severe, beginning with a lengthy suspension.  If a student violates the bullying policy three times during their career as a student they are recommended for expulsion.  And yes, we have actually expelled students for bullying.  I was very surprised in my first year when we did just that.  When my administrators brought me this recommendation it seemed a little heavy handed, but I was assured that this was the way that we do business at Hudson.  No fooling around with bullies.  No place for bullies, we are going to root it out.  I was even more surprised that when we had the hearing and presented the evidence, the Board acted swiftly and decisively.  

Indeed the consequences are severe, even after the first and second offense.  But what has bothered me over the last week is the idea that there are so many cases of bullying, probably even in our own school district, that go unreported.  In the case of this youngster, after an initial report of bullying had been dealt with, there were no further reports.  Clearly, this youngster was still being harassed.  Often times victims won't report the violence because they fear that the abuse will only intensify.  Was that the case here?  I don't think we will ever know.  

Sometimes kids will report to their parents that they have been victimized, only to be sworn to secrecy by their kids, because of a belief that the school can't, won't, or hasn't done anything.  That is a huge mistake.  In our school district, once something has been reported we act on it, regardless of whether or not it goes against someones wishes.  In fact, there have been times that an incident has been reported and the investigator has stated "You do realize that now that you have reported this, I am duty bound to follow up" (sometimes to the chagrin of the witness or parent).

Then there is the bully.  On some rare occasions, we get the parents that state, "How dare you make this accusation!  My child would never do something like that.  For crying out loud they are friends!"  They can't believe that the consequences for this type of behavior are so severe and unyielding.  Why are we so relentless when it comes to reprimanding bullies? The reason is that we can't afford not to.  We have to protect our students.  We have to make sure that this type of behavior is properly addressed and that bullies everywhere know that we are very serious about stopping this barbaric behavior.  Did you know that a school district in New Jersey was recently sued because the district didn't do enough to stop their sons tormentor.  They won a settlement of $4.2 Million.  In this particular case, the student was hit so hard in the stomach that he formed a blood clot.  As a result the student is now paralyzed and confined to a wheel chair.

Monetary motivations such as being on the losing end of a lawsuit are really not the point here.  That is truly irrelevant.  The point is that we are quite literally dealing with life and death in many of these cases.  There is no amount of money that can squelch the pain of losing a child.  As educational leaders, teachers, parents, and adults everywhere; we are not wired to bury kids.  We are wired to educate them, nurture them, and guide them toward adulthood.  We are here to teach them right and wrong, to show them that everyone deserves human dignity and respect.  Too often we hear about a student committing suicide because they  have just simply had enough and can't take it anymore.  Two of the five students featured in the documentary Bully killed themselves because they could no longer tolerate the cruelty that was directed at them.

Bullies are manipulative and sneaky.  When the question is ultimately asked, "Why didn't you do anything", our response:  "This is the first report we have heard".  

"But it has been going on for months," you say. "How could you not see what was going on?"  

The fact of the matter is that we probably haven't.  This happens out of earshot of the adults.  It happens in the hallway when no one is looking.  It happens in the locker room where no one is around.  It happens when the teacher turns his back to write something on the black board.  It happens on the school bus.   So you see, we probably didn't see it.

But, here is the good news.  Someone did see.  

For the students who may be reading this blog post:  You saw it, didn't you?  Did you intervene?  Did you report this to an adult or principal?

To those students who have sworn their parents or friends to secrecy.  Don't.  Let us help you.

To those students who may have seen something.  Tell an adult.

I think we can all agree that an intervention where an aggressor is dealt with in a swift and decisive manner is a very small price to pay. You may save a life. You may also provide a life lesson for that bully.

Finally, and in closing if you or anyone you know has been the victim of bullying and harassment in our school district, you are urged to call Mr. Lipinski immediately.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Board of Directors-April Agenda


April 23, 2012             6:00 p.m.

We create effective learning environments that result in success for all students.


1.       Call to Order
2.       Roll Call—Pledge of Allegiance
3.       Approval of the Agenda
4.       Welcome Visitors and Comments from Visitors
4.1.    City of Hudson Beautification Presentation—Jon Robertson
4.2.    Scheduling Update—Jeff Dieken
4.3.    IPAD Presentation—Elementary School Teachers

  1. Consent Agenda-Monthly Matters
5.1.    Approve Minutes of Previous Meeting
5.2.    Approve Consent Personnel
5.3.    Approval of Cooperative Sharing Agreement
5.4.    ISCAP Series A 2012-2013 Supplemental Resolution
5.5.    Approve of Student Fee Structure for 2012-2013
5.6.    Approve of IEAP Food Purchasing Agreement
5.7.    School Nurse Report
5.8.    Approve Student Teaching Contract with UNI

  1. Financial
6.1.    Approve Monthly Bills
6.2.    Review Monthly Financial Reports

  1. Reports
7.1.    Board of Education               
School Visit on May 9th, 2012
Board Development Activity: 
Graduation Assignments, May 20th, 2012
Board/Administration Work Session in June
7.2.   Superintendent                                                                                                                                     
Update on Facilities Work and Review 5 year Facility Plan
                           Faculty and Staff Professional Development Update
Legislative update/Education Reform Plan
School Nurse Discussion

  1. Items for Consideration and Possible Action
8.1.    Open Night Policy (Board Policy Code No. 508.2)   First Reading
8.2.    Approve Involuntary Transfer for Certified Staff
8.3.    Ratify Master Contract with HEA for 2012-2013
8.4.    Approve Administrator Contracts for 2012-2013
8.5.    Approve Classified Staff Agreements for 2012-2013
8.6.    Approve Addendum to Contract with Timberline Billing Services 2012-2014
8.7.    Approval of Seniors for Graduation, Pending All Requirements Met
8.8.    Approval of Health Insurance Plan

  1. Items for Consideration 
9.1.    Debrief Meeting/Items for May Business Meeting
9.2.    Commendation

Gold Star!

Congratulations to Laura Angove, one of the recipients of the 2012 Gold Star Teacher of the Year Award, sponsored by the McElroy Trust. Laura will be honored at the Gold Star recognition ceremony on May 21, 2012 at the Gallagher Bluedorn.  Mrs. Angove, we are so proud of you and honored that you will be representing the Hudson Community School District!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is This What Education Reform Looks Like In Iowa?

I feel like we have been spending most of this legislative session trying to prevent bad things from happening! Consider the current proposal that was passed out of the House yesterday afternoon that would not permit schools to begin classes before the fourth Wednesday in August.  The bill was adopted by a vote of 54-44.  Is this what we are now calling education reform?  Apparently the legislature is taking it's cues from the tourism industry, because they came right out and said so.  Seriously, this boggles my mind!  Let's take a little trip down memory lane to see where we have been since this fiasco started:
  1. Online Learning:  Well, you all know the lengths I have gone to voice my concerns about how two school districts in Iowa have partnered with 100% online virtual academies.  To refresh your memory, these school districts (through their out of state intermediaries) engaged in a direct marketing campaign to recruit students to the online academy via open enrollment.  This would of course result in the per pupil funding for that student to flow out of the local school district and to the out of state provider.  To add insult to injury, not only will it flow out of the local school district BUT 97% of it will flow out of state.  The loss of those financial resources that will have a direct impact on programs offered at your local school district.  The House version limits the program to 900 students statewide and limits the number of students who can participate per local school district.  The Senate version cuts the funding to that of a home school program. 
  2. $30 Million Early Intervention Fund In Danger: Unless the legislature acts, this appropriation will expire on June 30, 2012.  What is the big deal?  This is the money that is used for class size reduction for grades K-3 and for early reading intervention.  That's right, class size reduction.  In case you were curious, our class sizes could use some reduction.  If we were properly funded in the first place, I would be advocating along with my elementary principal for additional teachers in the elementary school, particularly kindergarten!  If the legislature fails to act, what will happen to our class sizes?  Oh, and by the way some legislators are convinced that this money isn't being used appropriately.  They propose to 'repurpose' this money to pay for components of the education reform.
  3. Early Start Date:  Seriously, this is what we have devolved to.  The Governor is so serious about this he has indicated he may direct the Department of Education to stop granting early start waivers.  Unbelievable.
Those are just a few of the little nuggets that we have been dealing with.  It seems like every day something new and even crazier than before is being brought up for a vote.  Today alone I received three different action items about proposed legislation.  Hopefully it will end soon, then we can start picking up the pieces after all the legislators have gone home.  I urge you, if you have not done so to please contact your local legislator.  Here in Hudson you can contact Senator Jeff Danielson at  You can contact Representative Walt Rogers at

Construction Trades class shows me the progress on their ultimate
mileage vehicle.  These are the kind of innovative projects that we should
be talking about to reform education!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Thanks to Our Volunteers

A few weeks ago I posted a picture that depicted the concession stand renovation project.  This project has been funded through a collaborative effort using blended funds from the school district Capital Improvements Fund (commonly referred to as the PPEL or SAVE fund), and the Athletic Booster Club.  In the last several weeks, there have been some additional contributions from some of our volunteers.  We found that the cupboards weren't in very good shape, so a very generous benefactor took care of it.  Things like that continued to 'mysteriously' be handled.  Since I don't have their permission, the names won't be divulged at this time!  In all, we were able to complete a renovation project that included expansion of the men's and women's restrooms, concession stand; and a new roof for well under $50,000.
To complete a project with this scope of work under $50,000 in almost unheard of.  The material alone almost makes it a difficult task.  How were we able to do it?  Volunteers!  A few Saturday's ago, we had over twenty people on hand to help shingle the roof and complete various other tasks around the building. 

I took joy in my daily visits to the concession stand, because each day I checked on the progress I was greeted with a new, visible improvement from the day before.  Our contractors would always give me a nod of the head and say "We are going to make it".  (The deadline by the way is tomorrow, April 5th when we host our first home track meet of the year, the Hudson Relays.)  Was there ever a touch of skepticism in their voice?  Not at all, the atmosphere was always positive, upbeat, and excited.  If I was ever concerned about meeting the deadline (and I am not admitting that I was), then shame on me!

So, here we are a little less than twenty-four hours from the 'deadline' so to speak.  The track is ready with the stop clock and timing cameras all set and ready to go.  Our athletes are warmed up and have completed their final preparations.  Is the concession stand done?  Burgers anyone?

I began this post as a salute to the volunteers that we have in our district, and we are truly blessed to have such an outstanding group of people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and accomplish these amazing projects.  It is a testament to the pride we have in our school.  I tell folks all the time that we are an awesome school for a lot of reasons, but one big reason is because of these types of projects.  It feels like a family!

Our volunteers (you) are doing something that they can be proud of no doubt; but it goes even further than that.  You see, they (you) have set a powerful example of stewardship, volunteerism, and pride; that your children have all witnessed firsthand.  You are helping to teach something that is not easily taught within the wall of the classroom, and I can tell you that it is working and having a tremendous impact.

Two nights ago, we inducted twenty-five new students into the Hudson High School Chapter of the National Honor Society.  Part of their program included the volunteerism the chapter has been engaged in during the course of the school year.  To see what these young people have done is inspiring.
So, to all our volunteers out there, whether you helped with the concession stand renovation, read books to young students in the classroom, or help out in the lunch room:  Thank You!  From the bottom of my heart, the inspiration you provide is amazing.

What wonderful role models.