Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Welcome Back Address to the Faculty and Staff

It is so good to see you all! It has been a long time since we were all together! My hope is that this extended summer has afforded you the opportunity to get some much deserved rest, the good fortune to vacation, and the freedom to spend time with your families! Now here we are, preparing once again for the start of a new school year.

Aren’t you excited to begin the anew? There sure seems to be something appealing about a new school year! No matter your age, position, or grade level everyone seems to be ready with nervous excitement over the prospects of starting school. We get to see all of our friends and colleagues that we have been away from during the summer. Perhaps this is an opportunity to show off our new outfit or shoes? Maybe share a few pictures from our family vacation? To be sure, I know you are anxious to get started! Many of you have taken classes over the summer and are eager to try out that cutting-edge instructional strategy, or have some new tools in your kit that will assist with classroom management. Others have new assignments and may be looking forward to seeing how your new classroom furniture arrangement will work. Wherever your excitement lies, I am confident you are patiently waiting for me to finish so you can get on with your day of learning and working! Perhaps the best news I have for you this morning is that we are not starting anything new this year! Our plan is to continue to nurture, grow and build on the already strong foundation of initiatives that are currently in place.

Last year we were among the pioneers in Iowa as one of the first 39 schools to bring teacher leadership to our state. This year, 76 districts around the state will join in this exciting work and they will be looking to districts like Hudson for leadership and guidance. We are happy to oblige them! As our teacher leadership system continues to develop and mature, I would encourage you to take advantage of everything this has to offer! If you need assistance in your classroom, help with a problem of practice, or wish to share something new and exciting that you are doing with your students, take advantage and leverage your teacher leadership team! They are here to serve your needs by being a teacher centered resource. Our mission for this organizational structure remains constant: strengthened instruction through embedded professional development. I have no doubt we will be better this year than we were last!

Two years into the implementation of our new math curriculum we are beginning to see results. District wide, we have seen the proficiency of our students increase from 80.97% in 2013-2014 to 84.27% in 2014-2015 when considering all students across all subgroups. In addition to this, growth across the grade level cohort exceeded expected growth at every grade level when considering all student groups. I have no doubt that as we move into year 3 of this implementation these scores will continue to compound, particularly in light of the power and promise of teacher leadership!

However, these resources are only partially responsible for the gains we are beginning to see in student achievement. The real magic is in your hard work and diligence; one that ensures an effective learning environment resulting in success for all students.
  • I see this hard work in your classrooms with clearly articulated learning objectives or ‘I Can’ statements. The fact is these statements connect learning directly to the Iowa Core Academic Standards, thus providing a powerful linkage for student outcomes.
  • I see this in the collaboration that is occurring in your PLC meetings each week—and I am excited as you begin this year to take an even greater risk by diving into formative assessment data, ensuring that you are intervening early when a student struggles in the classroom.
  • I see it in the way many of you have welcomed teacher leaders into your classroom to model instruction or help solve a problem of practice.
  • I see it in the way some of you have boldly accepted the mantle of teacher leadership.
  • I see it in dynamic, energetic, and engaging instruction in your classrooms.
  • I see it in the long hours and extra time that you put in to plan for instruction, the times that you stay late to help that student finish a project, benefit from some extra direction, or to be present for that student who simply doesn’t want to go home because you might be the only one that truly cares for them.
It is undeniable that we are on the right track—because of your dedication and commitment to the students you serve. But yet, much work remains to be done. Our immediate challenge is meeting the requirements of being designated a SINA school in the area of reading in our elementary school. While the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (No Child Left Behind) continues to languish in Congress, I am confident that we will finally see a bill reconciliation that will be signed by the President that removes the arbitrary and capricious sanctions that have been the mainstay of the federal accountability framework. Nevertheless, the good news is we have laid the groundwork and know what we need to do. We have the resources and the personnel to take the students in Hudson Schools to the next level. I am confident and grateful that you are the ones to do this very important work!

So, what’s in store for this year?

First, consider all that we have going on right now: PLC, AIW, new reading curriculum, new math curriculum, connected learning, pirate term, MTSS, FAST Assessments, teacher leadership—it may seem like we have many spinning plates right now! Yet if you examine this under the umbrella of teacher leadership, a system designed to flatten the leadership structure of our district by sharing leadership functions; you should be able to visualize how all of these different initiatives scaffold together and create a robust professional development program. This will enable us to reinforce our PLC work—now in our fourth year of implementation by creating an interdependent system of continuous improvement designed to strengthen instruction through embedded professional development.

Looking around, you will notice that our facilities look great! A lot of credit needs to go not only to our contractors for maintaining an aggressive timeline but to our own maintenance crew. They have worked very hard to ensure that classroom spaces and offices were prepared for your return here today. They had a very challenging summer in their own right! I especially want to thank our maintenance staff and elementary teachers for their quick scramble the last two days to make way for an added section of 6th grade. 

We also have a number of new employees this year—and they are joining us for the first time this morning. Please join me in welcoming them to our district. Introduce yourself to them and offer them a hand!

The beginning of the school year is always an exciting time as we catch up with our friends and colleagues—and look forward with anticipation to seeing all of our students in a few days. Enjoy these days and have a great start to the school year! I look forward to your contributions and am eager to join you as we work to Create Effective Learning Environments That Result in Success for All Students.

It’s Good to be a Pirate!

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