Wednesday, November 27, 2013


We are rapidly approaching the midway point of the 2013-2014 school year and I can hardly believe that today is the 77th day of instruction! It really does appear that time passes us by in the blink of an eye. Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I am very much looking forward to spending the day giving thanks for the many blessings in my life. Like many of you, we will enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal and an afternoon of visiting and watching football. I will cherish the time that I have to spend with my loved ones tomorrow and throughout the entire holiday season. We are very lucky to have the opportunity to live during this time--in this great country.

But when we gather for our Thanksgiving meal and enjoy the season that we are now entering, I would like us all to please remember those that are not able to be with their families. Just a few short weeks ago we held our annual Veteran's Day Assembly, and many of our classrooms completed special projects for our soldiers that are currently deployed around the world. I am very happy and proud of the tradition that Hudson has honoring those who have served and are serving.

After these events have begun to fade into our memories and we move on to the next important event on our calendars it is sometimes easy to fall into complacency and well, kind of forget that we have a lot of folks serving in harms way on our behalf. The top stories on the news typically aren't reports out of Afghanistan or some other hot spot in the world where our soldiers are currently serving. We become busy, getting ready  for the holidays with shopping or preparing Thanksgiving meals. 

I was reminded of this fact just last week when the top story on the evening news was a homecoming celebration for a National Guard unit from Boone returning from deployment. It was a very nice ceremony with a lot of emotion. The story reported that the unit was involved in a very dangerous operation while deployed and that luckily they had very few injuries during the deployment. What a wonderful story, and it certainly made me happy that these Veterans were now home in time to enjoy the holidays with their families.

The second story was a send off ceremony for a National Guard unit out of Ottumwa that was leaving for a deployment. Unfortunately they probably will not be around for the holidays. So tomorrow when you sit down for your Thanksgiving meal, or anytime during this holiday season when you have the chance to gather and celebrate with family and friends I invite you to say a word of thanks to all of our service members who are currently serving in harms way around the world. You can keep track of Iowa deployments right here.

And on behalf of the Hudson Community School District, Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Rigors of Math

Conferences are behind us and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Before we know it we will be halfway through the year! Now that we have really gotten deep into the school year, and you have had an opportunity to visit with your child's teacher a few questions have emerged about our new math curriculum. We really appreciate the fact that you are reaching out to your child's teacher with insight and feedback. Rich conversations are continuing with building level administration as this implementation continues. Some of the questions that have surfaced have surrounded the rigor of the curriculum, how curriculum is selected, and why we found it necessary to change curriculum in the first place. 

All are fantastic questions and the answers are somewhat related. First, there is no mistaking the fact that the curriculum is more difficult and rigorous than we have had in the past. Why? Well, the curriculum that we have adopted is aligned to the Iowa Core. All school districts in Iowa are required to adopt the Iowa Core Curriculum so this was a necessary consideration when evaluating curriculum resources. This is also a partial answer to the other question; why we found it necessary to change in the first place. The simple answer is that what we were using wasn't aligned to the Core very well.

Another important consideration was the fact that the District had not done a major curriculum adoption in more than a decade. The teaching resources predated the Core (a primary reason for the misalignment with the Core), were not in very good shape, and did not provide the necessary rigor. One common comment that has been shared by the faculty over the past several years is that there is a need for updated teaching material. Until recently the district was not in a financial position to update those resources. Furthermore, the new curriculum uses proven research based strategies and a methodology that is proven to be effective. For example, you may notice that there is much more reading in this curriculum, which is by design. This helps the students to develop their critical thinking skills and to solve real life mathematical problems that are more indicative of what it means to live in a 21st Century environment.

The next question has to be, how is the curriculum selected? Well, first we do a bit of legwork to see what other districts are using and what the strengths and weaknesses are of the different options. Our administrators spent a lot of time talking with their colleagues and it was narrowed down to two options, of which we selected Envision Math. We contacted vendors of both companies and had the opportunity to examine the curriculum and to test some of the lessons out to see how they worked. At the end of the process, the teachers rated the two programs and they rated Envison the highest. Mr. Schlatter presented his findings to me, and I asked a bunch of questions. Once I was satisfied, I recommended the Board adopt this curriculum. After they asked a bunch of questions they voted to adopt the curriculum that is now in your child's backpack. 

So here we are! Our implementation has not been without hiccups and will continue to present challenges through the remainder of the year. This is very normal and expected during any curriculum adoption. Neighboring districts that have adopted this curriculum (and others) are experiencing the same growing pains as us. The good news is that we have supports with these districts and the AEA, and we have a built in system of support with our PLC initiative. In addition to that, we are visiting with our faculty and gathering data on what types of implementation challenges they are experiencing so we can make adjustments as the adoption unfolds. Some of these adjustments include such things as the pacing of the material and additional professional development on some of the methodology embedded throughout.

Is it harder? You bet it is--but we certainly wouldn't want it to be easier now, would we?

Friday, November 8, 2013

What An Exciting Couple of Weeks!

There is no doubt that events of the last couple of weeks are likely to be some that our students will look back on with fond memories twenty years from now. It has been a ton of fun watching these young people flourish and show leadership in multiple ways!

Just this week we had the opportunity to witness the leadership of our students in the National Honor Society when they hosted the Director of the Iowa Department of Education, Dr. Brad Buck for an Anti-Bullying assembly on Thursday. The NHS has chosen to take this issue and make it the centerpiece of their work this year. I am incredibly thankful for their commitment to this important component of our school culture!

I also want to recognize all of our athletes who participated in fall sports. All three of our sports teams had successful seasons and enjoyed the opportunity to extend their play with post season competition. Congratulations are in order to the boys cross country team for their qualification to the State Cross Country Meet, and also to Amanda Cartney and Lexi Kolterman for qualifying as individuals on the girls side. You all represented our school with great pride and we are thrilled for your success! Both the volleyball and football teams enjoyed a great deal of success this season with a run in the playoffs. Congratulations to the volleyball team on your season, it was a great deal of fun to watch. Likewise, congratulations to our football team-you played so hard in the first round of the playoffs, you too represented Hudson well!

Our fine arts ensembles have also enjoyed a great deal of success this fall with a fantastic concert back on October 17th. We have such amazingly talented musicians participating in both band and choir. We are proud of Luke Huber and Laura Baridon for being selected to the Iowa All State Choir and Band on October 26th. Being selected for these ensembles is a very difficult and prestigious accomplishment. Way to go!

This fall is beginning to wind down and very soon we will begin to get ready for basketball and wrestling; and all that comes with the winter season. But before that happens I want to remind you of one other opportunity to see our students shine. This weekend you have the chance to see our fall musical 'Cinderella'. It will be showing on both Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 PM in the high school auditorium. I had the chance to see it on Thursday evening and it was amazing! This really is a must see show, and if you don't see it you will really have missed out on something special!

According to the notes in the back of the program, the production of this show required the talents of over 66 students, staff, and faculty members. While I would love to mention each and everyone by name, I don't think I could possibly do it justice. However, there are just a few folks that deserve special recognition. First to Olivia Griffith who played the role of Cinderella, awesome job! You were amazing and have such a rich singing voice! The Fairy God Mother was played by Peyton Higgins, and she is outstanding of course! Peyton has such great poise and natural ability-and appears so comfortable on stage! Christopher (AKA Prince Charming is played by the very talented and capable Luke Huber who is one of the most versatile young people I know! Thank you for sharing your talents with us!

I could go on and on, mentioning of course the outstanding performances of Maddie Hartleip, Lauren McCullough, and Alli Weaver. Your show stopping portrayal of the Step Mother and Cinderella's sisters were great! I was very impressed with your complex harmonies in Act II! The humor and wit of our Royal Family and Steward was well done, thank you Matt Bullerman, Quinton Griffith, and Bridget McCulley! Playing roles of the mice and cat can be a bit tricky and difficult to accomplish, but Tori Goodale, Kelsey Noel, Emily Kaus, and Abby Tjepkes made us all believers and you added the perfect touch of magic to the show!

Everyone was just perfect, and I loved it. I am looking forward to seeing it again tonight and would encourage you to attend. Believe me, you will not want to miss this performance! And as a final note, I want to mention and thank Mrs. Anderson for her hard work at putting this show together. As you know, I have first hand experience and know full well the complexities involved in producing a show on this level. Oh, and how about those costumes, were they unreal or what! Wow! I think we owe Mrs. Griffith a debt of gratitude for her hard work and what had to be hundreds of hours of work building these costumes! Were you as impressed as I was with the transformation of Cinderella!

Superintendent's Remarks From Bullying Assembly

Good morning and welcome to our Anti-Bullying assembly designed to promote positive behaviors through the promotion of student advocacy and empowering our young people to be ‘Up Standers’ rather than ‘By Standers’. We are thankful that friends from our conference schools have taken time from their busy schedule to be with us today.

Much appreciation goes to Iowa Department of Education Director, Dr. Brad Buck for agreeing to join us for this event. We are honored to welcome you back to Hudson and look forward to your leadership. Congratulations on your recent appointment to Department Director! Please know that you are always welcomed to come home to Hudson!

I would also like to acknowledge the fine work and leadership exhibited by the National Honor Society in planning today’s event, in particular Alyssa Klahsen, Emma Widner, Peyton Higgins and Jason Hawkins. On Monday I had the privilege of accompanying this outstanding group of student leaders to the Governor’s Second Annual Conference on Bullying titled “Mission Possible”. Our event here this morning epitomizes the theme we heard on Monday, that schools cannot do this work alone and that our student body must serve as the catalyst for a change in culture that allows all students to attend school in a safe environment.

After our screening of the movie “Bully” these student leaders took initiative and approached their teachers and counselors, wanting to make this a priority issue for the National Honor Society. While this gathering today is no doubt a culminating event, I encourage you to view it not as a capstone whereas we all go back to our daily routines at its conclusion—but rather as a call to action. This is your school. Own it!

Now, we do believe that we have some of the most comprehensive bullying and harassment policies in the entire state. Our policy includes education, remediation, investigation, and consequences. I am thankful for the fortitude our Board of Directors exhibits in the application of these policies, and am grateful for the work of our administrators and teachers resolving cases of bullying. The fact is I am quite certain that any one of you in the audience today can probably recite our bullying policies chapter and verse. Furthermore, I am confident that you all are aware of our expectations, and fully understand those ramifications. You are probably aware of instances where the full force of these policies has been brought to bear. From this, one could possibly surmise that Hudson is indeed a Bully Free Zone. But yet, in spite of those policies we know that not to be the case. If it were, the finality of Board Policy Code No. 104 would never be invoked.

The fact is that no policy, threat, consequence, or anything that the adults in our district do can stop bullying. There will always be that one time when we are looking in the wrong direction, or when the target doesn’t report it.  

Indeed our policies are important tools in our arsenal of defense and we will continue to vigorously apply them. But yet the most powerful weapon we have isn’t these policies—it’s you. Because when I am not looking, you probably are.