Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summertime: Busy Time for Projects!

We have been very busy here this summer! If you have had an opportunity to drive by, you have probably noticed quite a bit of action in front of the school! This is the bike trail extension and will ultimately hook up to the existing trail out by the Coop. Contractors are working both ends of the project and you can also see progress up by Colwell Ford. The trail will move through town parallel to highway 63 before coming up First Street by the middle school and turning South on Washington. Ultimately it will end at the corner of Wood Street. We are excited about this project and the opportunity to showcase our school to visitors along the trail. A big thanks to the City of Hudson for taking this on, there is no doubt it will be a huge draw for our town! This project is slated for completion on August 26th. Although this is two days after school starts, we are confident the school portion of the project will be completed well in advance of this deadline.

Another project we have scheduled for the summer is replacing carpet in the elementary school. Unfortunately we didn't get off to a very good start! After beginning the removal of old carpet, nine inch floor tile was discovered. This size of floor tile is a telltale sign that asbestos is present. Now asbestos is present is a lot of schools, and as long as it isn't disturbed it can stay in place indefinitely. However, since we want to put new carpet down, it is necessary to remove the old floor tile. After the testing came back positive we took steps to begin the removal process, which is going on right now and will be finished up by the end of the week. An environmental air monitoring firm has been onsite all week and will remain for the duration of the project. This firm works independent of the contractors and it is their job to take air samples before, during and after the removal for safety purposes. In addition to this, we were required to notify the Iowa DNR and Iowa OSHA ten days prior to starting the project. I am very happy to report that in spite of these tight timelines, we should be back on track with the installation of new carpet early next week!

As I mentioned above, asbestos is not uncommon in many Iowa schools, and as such all Iowa schools are required to have their buildings inspected every three years and have the asbestos documented along with a mitigation plan. In Hudson we just completed our re-inspection in May. You can read about it on page nine of the annual Topics newsletter.

We are also working to remodel the bathrooms in the elementary school, notably the restrooms in the first through fourth grade wing and the kindergarten wing. Unfortunately we are not able to get to the upstairs restrooms this summer, but hope to have them taken care of next summer. As you can probably imagine, the work in our elementary is quite extensive this summer! 

The competition gym floor is also being refinished as we speak. The contractors on that project arrived this week and at this point have sanded down the floor to bare wood an put on the first coat of stain inside the three point arch. The new paint scheme is going to look amazing and provide a much needed update. I am sure you will enjoy it!

In the high school we have finished painting the commons and have new furniture on the way. The new paint will really show off our school pride and the furniture will certainly modernize the room, making it more comfortable for our students and everyone who uses that space. We are also working on a new 'Inquiry' space in the high school that is modeled after a maker-space room at the AEA. This room will feature cutting edge technology and enable all our students to engage in real world problem solving and creative thinking. 

Finally, since we were replacing the carpet in the elementary school we decided to replace the carpet in the high school auditorium and give that space a fresh coat of paint. That work is scheduled to begin right after the Independence Day holiday.

I hope you keep enjoying your summer! We are working hard to make sure everything looks great when our students return in August!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Buy and Shop Locally

Recently I became president of the Chamber of Commerce here in Hudson. While it may seem a little strange for the school superintendent to also serve as the Chamber president, I don't see it that way at all. The fact is, it is a rare occasion we may differ in our approach to a specific issue. The vast majority of the time I would argue that we are aligned in our position and share a key commonality: to make Hudson the very best that we can for all our citizens. We want to ensure our community thrives in all areas of business and education. Indeed our school does not operate in a vacuum, nor does the business community. It is through mutual cooperation and collaboration that we can improve the quality of life for all our constituents in Hudson. We must, and we do, rely on one another!

For example the school is uniquely positioned to provide a direct pipeline of future employees to our businesses. I have spent time listening to local business owners as they discuss with me what qualities they are looking for in their next hire, and by taking that information back to the district we are exploring ways in which to strengthen this pipeline. In fact, I have written about some of those efforts right here in this column. We know that post-secondary education is important, but that takes a variety of forms and doesn't necessarily mean a four year college degree. Yet that isn't the purpose of my post today. Today I want to share with you how the stewardship of our local resources are reinvested in our business community.

Most people realize and understand that the school district is one of the largest employers in town with a substantial budget. Because of this, we have quite a bit of purchasing power and try to do as much business in town as we possibly can. In fact, we actually have a policy that gives local preference. Board Policy Code No. 705.1 states the following:
As permitted by law, purchasing preference will be given to Iowa goods and services from locally-owned businesses located within the school district or Iowa based companies if the cost and other considerations are relatively equal and meet the required specifications.  
We try hard to do as much business as we possibly can locally. I hope that most would agree we do a decent job, although I am certain there are areas where we can improve. While doing business [locally] is codified for the school district in Policy, that is not the only reason we do so. We do so because of an understanding of what those businesses mean to our community. Without local business it makes it more difficult to have that high quality of life that we want for all our citizens. If our community members constantly have to go to the next town over, they may, at some point decide that it is much more convenient to simply live there. We must not allow that to happen! But as large as our purchasing power is as a school district, we can't go it alone.

Today I want to encourage you to visit our local businesses and shop locally as much as you possibly can. It is true, there are items and services offered in the larger Cedar Valley that may not be available in our home community. At the same time, there are many local businesses that would benefit from your patronage and I would encourage you to stay local.

Our community, both business and school is strong! Geographically we couldn't have it much better. I think this might be part of the reason that we are somewhat insulated from what has happened in many rural communities in Iowa. In some of those small Iowa towns schools are shuttering. Citizens of these communities are rightfully sad and believe that when the school closes it is the end of the town. That is usually not the case. That small town had likely been [barely] hanging on for some time. It probably began when local businesses began to leave.

Let's keep our business and school community strong! Be sure to shop locally!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Much More Than What is Measured by a Report Card

Public school is sometimes described as the backbone of the American democracy. And within the confines of those public schools we spend the vast majority of the time allotted to us in the development of content skills like math and reading. Sprinkled into this cornucopia of the American public educational experience are the Fine Arts. We also take time to provide our students with a well rounded educational experience that includes such things as construction trades, business, family and consumer sciences and in Iowa, well we can't forget about our rich agricultural history! If that weren't enough, a plethora of activities and athletic programs exist to whet almost any appetite.

As a society, we value these tangibles that our public schools provide. We are able to measure them, put a letter grade on them for all to see and show our stakeholders the result of our hard work. Where our content areas are measured by the letter grade students receive, our athletic team are judged by their win and loss record. I wonder if the things that are most important are perhaps the hardest, or if not impossible to measure? Those things that really make the American public school experience the American public school experience?

I believe many of those are taught within the context our guidance program and in our character development program know as the 'Eight Keys of Excellence'. Our elementary guidance counselor, Mr. Driscol starts young with the students, and years after they have completed the program can recall him reminding all of them to 'Live Above the Line'.  I might also suggest these eight keys are complimented by our Learner Performance Goals and work harmoniously to ensure that Hudson students not only master the hard skills of the core curriculum, but the soft skills that are going to be so vital later on in life.

Now then, I hope that you took notice of my phraseology in the use of the American public school. The vernacular is important here, because only in the public school do we have a mirror image, or microcosm if you will, of society. If you peer into these classrooms, you see a vast array of students that come from different races and ethnicity. Students and families who may practice a religion that is different from what we may practice at home. Students who come from families of wealth and comfort, and those who come from poverty. Students who school comes easy for, and those who struggle. Students and families that hold conservative values, and those who are liberal. All co-existing together in this great country of ours. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

School Alerts System is Being Retired

Even though all the students and teachers are gone for the summer, we are busily preparing for their return! It may surprise many of you to know that the central office remains open year around, we are usually even open when school is dismissed for snow days! (I am sure snow days are the last thing you all are thinking about on a warm June day!) Nevertheless, school is out for the summer while we are busy getting ready for the start of the school year!

Right now our focus is on summer cleaning and some facility upgrades. For a complete detailing of this work, please refer to my post on May 4. However, speaking of snow days and other important school announcements that we need to share from time to time regarding the school, I wanted to share some important news about our current school alerts system.

The Iowa School Alerts system that has been used for many school years at Hudson is being retired this summer and a new system will be taking it's place. Please visit our website to sign up. You have the ability to sign up for both text alerts and email alerts. I would recommend signing up for both. You also have the ability to sign up for building specific notifications. For example, if you are only interested in announcements related to the elementary school, please sign up for elementary only. Obviously, if you have children in multiple buildings then you might want to check multiple boxes on that screen. One of the unique attributes of this system is the ability to personalize it to your preferences. It also gives us the option of sending out press releases with more detail than was previously available through the old system. 

The subscription box can be found in the upper right hand corner of the website and looks like this graphic to the right.

You will need to submit a subscription for each medium that you would like to receive notifications through. Again, you have the option of receiving notifications through email, text or both. We have begun to randomly test the site, so from time to time over the summer you may see a test message appear in your inbox or on your cellular device. 

At the same time we will continue to utilize our local  media outlets to share  important news and announcements regarding Hudson schools. In addition to this, you can continue to count on my Twitter feed to keep you apprised of school wide announcements. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Message From the Hudson Board of Directors to the Class of 2016 by Vice President Karyn Finn

Good Afternoon My Hudson Community Family! Welcome to Parents, Faculty, Staff & Guests. Great thanks to all the dedicated personnel involved to make today’s ceremony special.

I am proud and honored to be here today as a representative of your Hudson School Board.  On behalf of the School Board, I would like to offer Congratulations to our 2016 Graduates and a few words of reflection for their future.

Parents and loved ones this will come as no surprise or shock to you that the young men and women seated here with their Caps & Gowns are some of the most precious jewels in our community.  Over the years with community support they have provided countless hours of volunteer service, provided leadership to our younger students, earned district, state and national recognition awards not only in a variety of sports but also in vocal performances, instrumental music, journalism, FFA, model UN, National History Day and Lego League just to name a few.  As a result these young people have become emerging Leaders, Collaborators, Problem Solvers, Creators & Innovators.

Those of us that live in Hudson already realize that Hudson Schools are a hidden treasure in the Cedar Valley and our students are the jewels.  As a community you have entrusted those jewels to our school team to develop their talents and skills.  We take that responsibility seriously and as good stewards we have strategically invested in technological resources and innovative problem based learning classes to provide opportunities that prepare our students with 21st Century skills.  

It is easy to become complacent when Hudson has had so many years of 97% or greater graduation rates.  We may take for granted that level of success is normal and easily attained.  I assure you it is not, as even nearby districts strive to achieve such successful graduation rates! In reality it is a daunting task that needs constant vigilance and community support. The significance of graduation rates cannot be underestimated.  A High School Diploma is a key milestone for future success - whether you are headed to a 2 year or 4 year college, Technical School, Military Service or straight into the workforce.  A primary question on all these applications is do you have a High School Diploma or GED?

I say again Hudson Schools are a Hidden Treasure in the Cedar Valley!

Graduates listen up,this is for you and your ongoing Learner Performance Goals:

Through the collaboration and investment of not only the school team but your community as well, you have been given a great educational foundation for success.  Please continue to build on that foundation as an Internal Assets Builder with personal growth and development in your sense of confidence, passion and purpose.  Be a Critical Thinker so as not to be completely influenced by 30 second sound bites and constant social media feeds of partial truths.  I challenge you to stay engaged with your community wherever you live and continue to be an informed Contributing Citizen. These goals can all be summed up with the 8th Key of Excellence:
Affirm your commitment to Success & Personal Development.

Today as you leave the stage remember that you ARE ready for the 21st Century, continue to Shine Bright as the Treasure of Hudson!

Congratulation Class of 2016!!