Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Lot to See at Hudson Community School District This Summer!

As I have previously mentioned, the summer is a very busy time for most school districts even though there are no students in attendance.  If you have driven by our campus lately, you may have noticed a few things under construction!  The high school parking lot construction is well underway, and we anticpate a completion date somewhere around the first part of August.  The contractor was a few weeks behind in the start date on this project, but now that they are on site, you can really see the dirt flying!  We had a construction meeting just this morning and I was reassured that everything is progressing very nicely.

A project that is not very easily seen is the electrical upgrades that are taking place in the elementary school.  You may recall this project was started last summer with phase one, that essentially replaced the electrical service to the building.  This was done to supply more power to the classrooms in an efffort to support 21st Century classrooms (i.e. more computers and technological devices).  This summer we are finishing the project by installing more receptacles into each classroom and a ceiling mounted projector.  There are also a few classrooms in the high school that will be outfitted with new projectors this summer.  Our goal for this project then is to have projectors in all instructional spaces by the end of the summer.  I have no doubt that we will reach that goal!

Sometime this fall we intend to install a fully protected wireless network throughout the district.  This will enable our wireless devices like laptops to be utlized without the need for a portable wireless Internet access point.  This summer, Mr. Murray is working hard to run the wires that will be needed to install the access points when we get to that stage.  This wireless network will useful in a lot of ways, but will certainly help us to fulfill our vision of a 1:1 laptop environment in the district in 2013-2014.

I previously shared with you that we had several groups of volunteers working around the district painting the elementary hallways, and another group volunteered to clean out and fix the landscaping in front of the elementary building.  I can tell you that both of these projects look awesome, and we certainly couldn't have done it without their help!

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the efforts of our custoidal/maintenance staff.  They have been working so hard this summer and are making tremendous progress.  In my visits with this staff they have shared with me that they are well ahead of where they have been at this time in previous summers!

High school parking lot under construction

Electrical contractors working in an elementary classroom

Doesn't this new landscaping in front of the elementary look great?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Journalism Students Earn Honors-Guest Post by Joletta Yoder

2011-2012 Journalism Students

The high school newspaper, THE PIRATE PRESS, earned numerous state awards from the Iowa High School Press Association.

Hudson won the top two awards in the Feature Photography division. Senior Emily Adams won second place for her photo entitled "Red-Handed," featured on the January 2012 cover. Senior Olivia Wright won first place for her "The New Face of Football"  photo which was published in the October 2011 issue, featuring senior quarterback Cale Henke. Wright also won first place in the Sports Photography division with this photo.

Newcomer Haylee Green, a sophomore, won a first place award for Hudson in the editorial cartoon category for her drawing entitled "The Little Things."

In the writing categories, Hudson won five awards. In Personality Profile, Hudson students took two of the possible four awards with 3rd place going to newcomers Casey Miles and Erin Rustad for their collaborative efforts on an article entitled "Teachers As Coaches." Taking first place in this category was another collaboration by sophomore Tatayana Brietkruez and senior Rachael Bair over sophomore Sara Fread entitled "Do You See What I See?". Yet another collaboration proved successful for Hudson. Sophomores Abby Hillmer and Courtney Petersen won 2nd place in the In-Depth Reporting category with an article over changes at Hudson entitled, "Times, They Are A Changin'."  Fellow sophomore Jason Hawkins brought home Hudson's only award in the sports writing division with a third place award for his piece over football coach Barry Scott entitled, "Keeping The Drive Alive." Hudson alum Jamie Miller, Class of 2011, rounded up Hudson's writing awards with a first place award in the news writing division for her piece over Hudson's inaugural Robotics Club.
Fellow Class of 2011 graduate Adrian Thompson won a third place award for Hudson in the Illustration division for her tribute to the Class of 2011, a replica of the board game, "Life" appropriately entitled "The Game of Life".

Finally, The Pirate Press won 1st place in the Graphics division, a testament for its overall look. This award was earned by managing editor Juliann Finn for her efforts on a redesign of the paper and fellow designers for the months of December 2011 and March 2012: Rachael Bair, Kelly Budreau, Juliann Finn, Jason Hawkins, Jordan Kelly, Casey Miles, Erin Rustad, Alexis Shock, Shelby Wiebers, and Olivia Wright.

News From the Board of Directors

While the pace of activity is a little slower during the summer without students in attendance, the Central Office remains open daily, twelve months a year.  The business of operating a school district doesn't take a vacation, we still have bills to pay, facilities and projects to manage, payroll to meet, and planning for the return of students to attend to.  In addition, the Board of Directors still meets to deliberate and make decisions on behalf of the district.  On June 18th, the Board met in regular session.

Relatively speaking, the agenda was pretty light.  Action was taken on a variety of technology related issues including the purchase and upgrade of servers and software, several computer purchases, and and the approval of completing projector installation in district classrooms.  Along that same vein we are in the beginning stages of installing a wireless network that will set the stage for a possible 1:1 laptop computer initiative in 2013-2014 and some preliminary wiring work for this project was approved last night.

The Board also approved the remainder of the 9-10 grade English curriculum, this will round out the 11-12 grade curriculum that was approved and adopted last year.

There was also an update on the buildings and grounds projects that we have going on.  At this time, the parking lot project hasn't been started yet.  Hopefully by the time you read this article the dirt will be flying!  Other projects are moving right along.  If you haven't had a chance to check out the front of the elementary school, I strongly encourage you to do so!  A lot of hard work and volunteer labor went into cleaning up and landscaping out front.  It looks awesome!  This next part is important, so please read on:  Toward the end of July we are planning on removing several trees in the front of the elementary school.  The trees targeted for removal are in bad shape, ranging from splits down the center to completely overgrown and ungainly.  We can't find records that these trees are memorials, so if you have any information about memorial trees in the front of the elementary, please contact my office ASAP. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Board of Director's Agenda-June

It is very quiet around the district these days, but although quiet, there is no shortage of tasks to complete.  I wanted to give a quick shout out to all the volunteers that have worked so hard on the landscaping project in front of the elementary school.  This is one more example of our community working together for something we can all be proud of!  Thank you so much!  If you haven't had a chance to walk by there yet, please do!

June 18, 2012                    6:00 p.m.

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

REGULAR MEETING                                                                                                                                                               

Call to Order—Pledge of Allegiance                                                                                                 
Roll Call
Approval of the Agenda
Welcome Visitors and Comments From Visitors

Consent Agenda-Monthly Matters                                                                                                                                                                          
Approve Minutes of Previous Meeting
Approve Consent Personnel
School Nurse Annual Report
2011-2012 Band Report
2011-2012 Title One Report
Approval of SAI Mentoring and Induction Program
Activity Fund Transfers
Approve Life and Long Term Disability Insurance Renewal
Designate Funds in Management Fund for Retirees

Approve Monthly Bills
Review Monthly Financial Report
Board of Education 
Board/Administration Work Session
Update on Facilities Work and Review 5 year Facility Plan
Faculty and Staff Professional Development Update—Work Session Topic
Items for Consideration and Possible Action                                                                                                                                               
Consideration of Grounds and Athletic Field Maintenance; Possible Awarding of Contract
Consideration for Route Driver Compensation for 2012-2013
Approval of Server Upgrades
Approval of Board Laptops
Approval of Remaining Projectors in Classroom Spaces
Approval of Desktop Computers for ASP room and HS Guidance
Approval of Wire Installation for Wireless Network
Approve Freshman and Sophomore English Curriculum
Approval of Wellness Policy Updates (Board Policy Code No. 507.9) Amend Policy

Items for Consideration                                                                                                                                     
Debrief Meeting/Items for July Business Meeting


June 18, 2012                    7:00 p.m.

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

WORK SESSION                                                                                                                                                        

Call to Order—Pledge of Allegiance
Roll Call
Approval of the Agenda
Welcome Visitors and Comments From Visitors

Work Session Topics
Highway 63 Underpass and Trail                                                                                       
Residential Housing (Existing and Development Incentives)                                
Economic Development (Incentives/Work Force Training)                                    


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Live From St. Louis!

Becky DuFour Shares "The Big Ideas" during the opening
keynote in St. Louis, Missouri.
I have the honor this week of leading a talented and dedicated contingent of faculty and administrators to a professional learning conference in St. Louis, Missouri.  I think it is quite remarkable that this group of individuals has volunteered time outside of their normal contract to participate in this conference.  It speaks volumes that teachers have been out of school for two weeks and have given this precious time to learn how to improve their craft.  When this conference ends on Saturday and we return home, our work will just be beginning as this group of educators will serve as teacher leaders for others in our district, taking back what they have learned and beginning the process of implementing these strategies in our school district.  We have long known that the most powerful component to impact student achievement in schools is the quality of instruction delivered in the classroom, and that the only way to improve that instruction is through quality and relevant professional development.  As educators, we sometimes fall victim to quick gimmicks or strategies that are promised to improve student achievement only to see these strategies and plans fall victim to the next greatest thing.

Something appears to be different this time however.  Could it be the decades of proven research?  Perhaps.  Is it the shiny presentations and words of encouragement?  Might be.  But more than all of that, I think it is the fire that we are beginning to see in the bellies our attending faculty.  If you look at the second sentence of this paragraph, you may realize that this is not new research.  What is different, at least in our case, is a realization that we have the talent, and that through this conference we are gaining clarity, and a sense in purpose.  The real key for us will be when we return to the district.  The initiative that we will embark will need to be led by our teachers.  If this is viewed as an administratively driven proposal, we could be doomed.  From what I have seen in these early stages, we have the right people on the bus and they are hungry!

Our attendance here is driven by a desire to fulfill our Core Purpose:  "We Create Effective Learning Environments That Result in Success For All Students".  Additionally, the Iowa Core Curriculum/Common Core recognizes the power of a collaborative culture in the delivery of instruction.  So what have we uncovered so far?  According to Becky DuFour, one of the architects of the PLC at work model there are three big ideas:
  1. We must first accept that the fundamental purpose of our school [and thus our work] is student learning.  Because of this, we must be willing to examine all practices in light of their impact on learning.  Almost seems like a no brainer, right?  Except that this is a huge paradigm shift for our educators.  Common thinking about schools has previously been that we about teaching.  The focus has been more on what we do as educators.  The shift is that learning is the purpose of teaching.  We haven't really thought about this before.  Teaching without learning is just presenting.
  2. We are committed to working together to achieve our collaborative purpose.  We develop our collaborative culture through the development of high-performing teams.  As educators, if you can believe it, we are used to working along and in isolation.  We view our classrooms silos and the pupils as "my kids", and thus take on the full responsibility of educating them without help from our peers.  The true 'aha' moment here is that we must recognize that we don't always have the best strategy in the school, and that someone else may have a better way of teaching a skill (such as fractions).
  3. We assess our effectiveness on the basis of results rather than intentions.  Individuals, schools, and teams must seek relevant information and data, and act on that data.  How do we really know if we have been successful unless we are able to compare our data with those of our colleagues?  If 80% of students are proficient on a test is that good?  Well, that depends.  If the other three classes have proficiency scores of 65-70%, that probably is good.  But, if the other classes have proficiency scores of 95-100%.......well you get the picture.
I know what you are thinking, these seem like pretty simple concepts and should easily be able to be implemented with fidelity into a school district.  Not so fast.  As I stated above, this is a complete paradigm shift for school districts, and it certainly will not happen over night.  If it were that easy, every school district in the country would have done it already.

The rest of this conference will be devoted to learning about the process in which to set up the PLC (Professional Learning Community), and how to generate that fire and excitement throughout the rest of the staff.  Our work toward fulfilling that vision of "Creating an Effective Learning Environment That Results in Success For All Students" will be rooted in the idea of answering four key questions:
  1. What is it we expect our students to learn?
  2. How will we know when they have learned it?
  3. How will we respond when they don't learn?
  4. How will we respond when they already know it?
Indeed this is an exciting journey that we are on!  I am so excited to be here with this outstanding group of educators from the Hudson Community School District.  I am very optimistic that they will lead the charge that will impact positive change in our district.

In closing, I would invite you to join our progress at this conference by following my Twitter Feed at To follow the conversation use the hashtag: atplc.