Thursday, May 22, 2014

Congratulations Hudson! The Bonds Are Paid in Full!

If you happened to read the board agenda from this past Monday night, you may have noticed an item included under the reports section titled "Bond Payoff". Although this particular agenda item was tucked deep within the agenda, that should not take away the significance of what was discussed in regard to this particular item. 

All of you homeowners out there should know what I am talking about! If you are like me, every month you write out a check to a mortgage company. It seems like a never ending process. Maybe you have a 10 year note, 15 year note, or 30 year note. It doesn't really matter though, because month after month, you write out that check. If you are lucky enough to have written out your last check and now own your home free and clear, then I am sure that was cause for celebration. If you still have a mortgage payment, I would imagine that is a day that you continue to look forward to and perhaps dream about!

The good news is that day finally came on May 1st, 2014 right here in Hudson! That day, the final payment on the General Obligation Bonds was wired to the bank. At this time, Hudson Schools no longer has any long term debt!

The original bonded indebtedness for this project was recorded in the school audit report dated June 30, 1995. Including interest and principal, the original note was for $7,018,885. In the intervening years, the debt was restructured to take advantage of lower interest rates. The most recent restructuring took place during my first year as superintendent, where we were able to reduce interest rates and save the district approximately $23,000. Throughout this process, the steady march toward May 1, 2014 continued.

The groundbreaking of the new high school happened on May 25, 1995 at 7:00 PM and was preceded with a community picnic and followed up afterward with a band concert. At that time, Allen Scneider was the President of the Board, Maureen Hanson was the Vice-President, and Dr. Jim Grover, Harold Sorenson, and Joel Iseminger were Directors. The superintendent at the time was Dr. Jerry Trullinger. A special thank you is in order for these leaders who had the fortitude to bring this vision to reality.

While reviewing the archives, I came across a 1997 report from the high school principal at the time, who described the date the students moved to the new building. It was Friday, May 9th, 1997:
"On Friday, May 9th, students in grades 7-12 assisted teachers by packing and moving items to the new high school. By noon, the move from the old high school had been completed and most items were unpacked an put in place......The new high school is a fantastic facility. We now have 21 new classrooms, 3 state of the art computer labs, an outstanding media center, an enlarged guidance office area with a conference room, 2 special education classrooms and conference center, a music wing...."
The 1997-1998 school year was the first year that the new high school was occupied. The superintendent at the time was quoted as saying, "The district completed its first full year occupying the new high school. This is the culmination of years of planning and hard work by the community. It signifies the commitment to education this community has and it provides the students in the district with high quality instructional space."

I agree and concur with my predecessor wholeheartedly. Congratulations to all of Hudson on reaching this very significant milestone!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Words of Encouragement to the Class of 2014 From the Board of Directors

By Board President, Jerry Griffith

Good afternoon.  I am Jerry Griffith, and on behalf of the Board of Directors of Hudson Community Schools, I would like to extend our congratulations and welcome to the students, parents, guardians, family members, faculty and friends of the class of 2014!

Some of you have been a student at Hudson since kindergarten, while others have moved or transferred onto this Pirate ship along the way. But together you formed a crew and set sail on a very successful journey!

Success in academics, band and chorus, athletics, journalism, FFA, and much, much volunteerism make you a hard class to follow.  You piloted the anti-bullying program to protect our school from the devastating effects of bullying.  I am proud to have signed my UPSTANDER pledge card along with a vast majority of Hudson’s student body and other stakeholders.

Your ship was full of Cinderella songs and State Championship cheers, and you truly lived the words of the legendary coach Vince Lombardi when he said, “the quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their field of endeavor”.   Just like in this quote… you gave a winning effort at everything you did.

But now is the time to change course. High school is over and what is next?  Has anyone here watched the T.V. show Gilligan’s Island? Well, it was one of my favorites growing up and in this scene, as usual; Gilligan in his goofy way makes us think. 

Gilligan says: “Hi ya, Professor. What are you doing?”
Professor replies: “I’m making notes on a book. It’s to be a chronicle of our adventures on the island… I think it’s a book people will want to buy, don’t you?”
Gilligan responds: “Sure, I’ll buy one. I’m dying to find out what happens to us!”

I bet you guys are just like Gilligan, dying to know what happens in your life.   Well, I will let you in on a secret, you are about to set sail on quite a trip.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “we are all inventors, each sailing on a voyage of discovery, guided by our own private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.”  Believe that, because it is so true.  I predict that there’s going to be calm waters, and lots of scary storms, but there will also be many, many beautiful sunsets in your future.

Some of you may have heard this next little story before…
Two people are out sailing, when suddenly a hand appears in the sea.
“What’s that?” asked one of the sailors, “It looks as if someone is drowning!!!”
“No,” said the other sailor,” It’s just a little wave.”

It’s time to wave goodbye … class of 2014.   Dock that pirate ship and get your boarding pass to the next boat!  Your destination may be a university or college, the military, the working world, or perhaps destinations unknown.   Put on your captain hat, grab the helm and take off!

I would like to finish with the words often attributed to the great Mark Twain.  “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore...Dream... Discover.”


Superintendents Message to the Class of 2014: You All Get to Be Line Leaders Now

Candidates for graduation: I am honored to be among the first to congratulate you on reaching this important milestone!

The date was August 16th, 2001. Your first day of kindergarten. No doubt, an important moment in your academic journey. During your kindergarten year, much time was devoted to learning the processes and procedures that form the norms of schooling. In other words, we were teaching you how to go to school. We answered questions for you like,

  1. Why we raise our hand to ask or answer a question. 
  2. How you go to lunch.
  3. Playground rules and the importance of taking turns. 
  4. Walking quietly in a straight line down the hall, and most importantly; 
  5. Who gets to be line leader? 
Admittedly, I have only had the privilege of getting to know you these last four years, but it has been a great deal of fun watching you grow from your freshman year in high school into the adults sitting here today. We are proud of your accomplishments not only this year, but all during your time as students here. This school year in particular is certainly one that will stand out for all of us that had the opportunity to share it with you. Indeed you have thrilled us and shined in so many areas. Academically you have impressed us with your achievements in the classroom, attaining scores on college admissions tests that I could only dream of. The critical thinking skills that I have witnessed and the problems that you solved will position you well to solve the problems of our world. Athletically you have thrilled us with nail biting victories, set records and given us memories that will forever be goals and aspirations of classes that will follow. Musically you have carried on a tradition of excellence with amazing performances that have been inspiring, uplifting, and at a level not often seen by a high school music program. But what has been really inspiring and stands out most (for me) is what you have done for one another. This year I have seen you stand up. You have taken a stand against bullying and harassment by leading the entire school district in an effort to be 'Upstanders' instead of 'Bystanders'. You have organized and participated in blood drives that will help save lives. You have collected and distributed food to ensure that your neighbors and fellow citizens are well cared for. There is no doubt that all of the events that have occurred in those years since kindergarten have shaped you into the adults you have become today.

Now you are poised to make, or in  many cases already (have) made your first adult decision, and that is what comes for you next. I am convinced that your future is bright! Some of you have decided to become Quality Producers by choosing to enter directly into the work force. Those of you that have elected this path have done so deliberately, positioning yourselves in a manner that will ensure your success. Others have taken the path of Contributing Citizen by volunteering for military service either through direct enlistment or college ROTC and National Guard programs. And yet, many of our Knowledgeable Person(s) will go to college to become engineers, or even cancer researchers. What is most exciting for me is that you all have a plan, a plan that has very little separation between what you want to do with your future and our own goals for you that have been articulated in the Learner Performance Goals. 

The last 13 years of school have been carefully orchestrated to get each of you to this point today. Even this ceremony here today includes important symbolism. Along with Mr. Dieken and the Board of Education we led you into this gymnasium. We are your last line leaders. In a short while, we will ask you to lead us as you exit this school not as students, but as graduates of Hudson High School.

You get to be the line leader now.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Every Door Open for Everyone Who Graduates

On Sunday, 63 students will graduate from Hudson High School. It is a momentous occasion for these young people and their families, and most certainly a cause for celebration. We are proud of all they have accomplished not only this year, but during their entire career as students in our school. Sunday has been a date circled on the calendar a long time for these students and their families. What happens next for these graduates? If we have done what we set out to do then they have the skills and knowledge to do whatever they want.

In his May message to the field, the Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck shares that our goal as a statewide educational system should be to ensure that every door is open for everyone who graduates. Simply put, our new alumni should be able to decide for themselves what they want to do. Regardless if they want to go to a four year college, technical school, the military, or enter the world of work; we need to ensure that they have the skill set to do just that. 

To achieve that goal is no small feat and it means a different set of skills for a diverse population of learners. It means asking critical questions about whether or not it is necessary for every student to take chemistry or industrial technology in high school. The answer to that question is that it is not necessary for each student to take the same courses as everyone else. After all, we are not a widget factory. For the record I did not take chemistry in high school but did take every woodworking class and industrial technology class that was offered. (Some of you probably think that is a bit humorous considering my lack of expertise in the shop!)

It doesn't stop with determining for each student whether or not they should take calculus. After all, we have acknowledged that not all learning takes place in within the walls of the regular classroom setting. It is in preparing our students for a world that is much different from the one that you and I grew up in. It is ensuring that our students have access to a global network, understand the power of collaborative work, and know what it means to work and live in a Flat World. This sometimes takes new, innovative approaches; many of which we have embraced here at Hudson.

I had the opportunity to join my colleagues from educational systems around the Cedar Valley in a round table discussion about this very topic. Our consensus is that while technical skills are crucial to ensuring success in the world of work, we also need to ensure that our students have well developed skills in communication and critical thinking. Schools need to ensure that our students are engaged in what is going on in and out of the classroom by making learning more applicable and hands on, addressing real world problems.

The question then becomes, what are we doing to ensure those very things are woven into the fabric and culture of what we do at Hudson. The good news is that they are alive and well in our learner performance goals. Students must demonstrate that they have met the learner performance goals with examples as a requirement for graduation. We are also in the second year implementing our Pirate Term, which is an opportunity for students to more fully develop communication and critical thinking skills by participating in real life experiential learning. Then there is the connected learning initiative, which studies have shown has significant correlation to student engagement-which does have a positive impact on student achievement.

As these students graduate on Sunday, you can be assured that every door is open for every student that graduates.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Teachers Make it Happen

This has been a truly remarkable year at Hudson. A common theme has begun to emerge in the last several months. That theme: 'It's Good to Be a Pirate'. This isn't something that I alone have noticed, or a phrase coined by me. It is a sentiment shared by many, and has been a topic of reflection as we prepare for next year. Hudson Schools is a great place to be and a great place to work, due in large part to the effort of our teachers. In fact, I would place this year as a highlight and one that I won't soon forget. We can point to significant and monumental accomplishments-the launch of a connected learning initiative, a new 'reformed' math curriculum, and even being a leader in the state when it comes to developing and implementing a system of teacher leadership. 

It has been a joy to experience and share in the accomplishments of our young people. From their success in sports to the progress they have made in the classroom, we have a lot to be proud of. I am quite certain each teacher in the district can think of a particular student or circumstance where a little 'Hudson Magic' happened. Perhaps it was that first grade student that was able to finally say 'I Can'; or the high school senior who not only will cross the finish line next week, but will even go on to college. Maybe that is when you were reaffirmed, realized or even remembered that it was all worth it. 

We have tremendous momentum right now, and for all the great things that have happened this year I can only imagine they are going to get better. Our district is poised to do amazing things, to be one that is looked upon and emulated by others. Why is that? It is because of the commitment our teachers have to the students they serve and the amazing things they do each day.

Our teachers have been challenged this year. A year ago in December we asked the secondary staff if they wanted to begin a connected learning initiative. We were upfront in our hypothesis that moving in this direction would not be easy. In fact, it was going to require everyone to put in more time, to engage in a rigorous training program, and to step outside of their comfort zone. A year and a half later, teachers are surpassing those expectations. In the elementary, our staff has been deeply involved in the implementation of a new math curriculum. There is no mistaking that these challenges required the acquisition of new knowledge, a break from past practice, and embracing reality outside of existing paradigms. We are almost a year into this implementation and beginning to hit our stride. 

While it is true that we have a lot going on right now, it is also true that everything is interrelated and connected. We are moving toward one common goal, and that is to 'Create Effective Environments That Result in Success for All Students'. That vision will be realized by strengthening instruction through embedded professional development. That vision will be brought to bear through the continued commitment and dedication of our teachers to the students they work with each day, and the collaborative environment that is beginning to be embedded in our culture.

The work that we ask all of our teachers to to is hard. It is exhausting. It is noble. So thank you teachers, for all you do to make it 'Good to Be a Pirate'!