Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Supporting Residential Development in Hudson

The Hudson City Council voted on Monday night to move forward with a developers proposal to build a series of apartment buildings in the vicinity of Springfield Avenue. Conceptually, the project includes five apartment building consisting of twelve units each. The school district is supportive of this endeavor and encourages the city to move forward with this and other projects like it. Housing inventory that meets a multitude of income ranges is critical to the future of Hudson, and the Hudson Community School District. Since my arrival in Hudson almost seven years ago, the Board and I have lamented the fact that Hudson needs more housing inventory that is affordable for young families. This project is a good first step. 

As Superintendent of Schools I field numerous inquires year round from families who wish to enroll in our outstanding school system. One of the first questions I ask is, "Where do you live?" Often times and unfortunately we are unable to enroll many of these children because they are not residents. When I encourage them to move to Hudson they are unable; either because they can't afford to--or there is a lack of affordable housing inventory. While open enrollment is sometimes an option, families are often devastated to learn their application has been denied because of enrollment policies in place in their own respective resident district.

A lack of affordable housing isn't a phenomenon exclusive to Hudson or the Cedar Valley, as was recently discussed in the Cedar Rapids Gazette on November 20th. The editorial that day did an outstanding job of separating fact from fiction. For starters, the idea that affordable housing will negatively impact educational quality and drive down test scores is nonsensical. In fact, according to the Gazette, "Safe, affordable, and stable housing is a critical key to family stability that enables students to take root and thrive". We need to look no further than some of our own families in the school district who move frequently. It puts undo stress on them and leads to educational gaps, especially when a youngster may be moving from one school district to another. 

We fully understand the unique role the Hudson Community School District plays in our community. Furthermore, we are proud of the symbiotic relationship that exists between the school and the city, and want what's best for Hudson. At the same time all must certainly recognize that our success is interdependent on one another. In order for our city to thrive, so to must our school. And as the council pointed out at this meeting, the economic benefits of this decision are good for the entire community and will grow our tax base. Further, according to the National Association of Realtors, most studies indicate that affordable housing has no long term negative impact on surrounding property values, and some research indicates an increase in value (Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 20). 

Let's also be sure we understand what it is we are talking about here. This is affordable housing, which is a distinctly different paradigm from low income or subsidized housing. Affordable housing is just that: designed for young families that are working and simply don't have an income at this point in their lives that will enable them to make an investment in a home mortgage. When I graduated from college so long ago, I spent the first five years of my career living in an apartment complex that was affordable, in a small town not much unlike Hudson! 

Schools exist where there are children to educate. Obviously without children, there is no school and we have seen the devastating impact this has had on small Iowa communities all around the state. In fact, we don't need to look too far from Hudson to see how this played out. This project is certain to bring children to our community, which will have the benefit of growing our student enrollment as well as the population of our town. We are very lucky in Hudson, people want to move here! This development will provide a solution to a problem I have a front row of observing on a regular basis. When families want to move to town and have their children enroll in school, we will have a place for them to live. 

Hudson is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. People throughout the Cedar Valley recognize that. Our community must continue to move forward and I applaud the City Council on their progressive agenda of growth. I am incredibly proud of the progress that has been made over the last year and support this bold vision. Just look around: development is occurring on the Northern Tier and the second addition of Upper Ridges is open for residential construction. In fact, I eagerly anticipate moving to my new home in just a few short weeks. This apartment project is the next piece needed to move us forward. Again, I offer my strongest endorsement of this project. The school district stands ready to work with the city in any capacity that is requested. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

An Autumn to Remember

I am confident that we will remember this fall not for the brutal political campaign that we just endured, but for the outstanding success of our students. They excelled in everything they did this fall, and we were lucky enough to be along for the ride as we cheered them on to victory or watched with awe as they transformed us to another time and place during the musical. Hopefully these students will serve as inspiration to the next generation of Hudson Pirates who are eager to make their mark when the time comes. Our fall season came to conclusion this past weekend and now we turn the page and begin preparation for our winter season. We can now look forward to basketball, wrestling, and show choir. I am sure that we are going to have a lot more to cheer about in the coming months! Congratulations to all our students on their success so far this year. Here is a recap of 'An Autumn to Remember'!

Mr. Tecklenburg directs the choir in a rousing crescendo
during the fall concert.
Concert band takes the stage, while Mrs. Davis
approaches the podium stage right.
Perhaps there was some nervousness last year when our long time music teachers decided to retire from Hudson. This no doubt because the music department had a reputation, and all wanted to ensure that reputation and tradition remained intact. I can assure you that both Mrs. Davis and Mr. Tecklenburg knew there would be some pretty big shoes to fill. Excellent musicians in their own right, they were bolstered by a deep pool of very talented student musicians. And those students were certainly up to the challenge! Most recently we were treated to the fall musical, "How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying". I don't know about you, but the singing in this production was awesome! Out of fear of forgetting to mention someone by name I will refrain at this time, but to all the students that took part in this show, you set a new bar for excellence in our school! I might also point out that giving our singers the opportunity to perform with a live pit band was a great touch and super experience for our students.

Cast of 'How to Succeed in Business Without Even
Trying performing in the First Act.
But by the time the musical rolled along we weren't all that surprised that our music department was going to continue to function at a very high level. We had already enjoyed a taste of the level of musicianship that was on display during halftime of football games. Our pep band has done an outstanding job, and there is talk of taking a major step in the future. I don't want to spoil it, but I think it is going to be pretty neat for our kids! We can now look forward to hearing the pep band at basketball games this winter.

Hudson Volleyball captures runner up trophy in first
ever state tournament appearance.
Nevertheless, we don't want to forget about the amazing concert our music department had on October 25th! Both our high school concert band and choir performed that evening. It is not uncommon for the first concert of the year to sound like a first concert of the year. That wasn't the case this evening however, as our musicians sounded like they were in mid year form! Fact is, I think they were contest ready!

Football team hosting North Tama during homecoming.
Girls cross country posing with state qualifying banner.
The team will go on to finish as state runner up.
Now, we can't talk about how memorable this fall has been without mentioning the success of our athletic teams! For starters, how about that football season? If what I heard was correct, our team finished the best season they had in twenty-two years, ending up with an 8-2 record overall! We once again made the playoffs, and although our playoff run ended earlier than we would have liked, I think it is important to note that we entered the playoffs with a higher seeding than we had in the past. Finishing second in our district is quite an accomplishment, and I for one am very proud of these young men. Congratulations to Coach Brekke and his staff on an outstanding season.

Boys cross country posing with state qualifying banner.
The team will go on to finish in 8th at the state meet.
I think one of the toughest sports in which to compete has to be cross country. Think about it for a minute. You are out there all alone, competing against yourself. Sure, it is a team sport where points are awarded according to how each athlete finishes, but you are basically out there by yourself, with no one to blame if things go array. It's not like you can blame someone for a missed block, right? Both our boys and girls team had an awesome season and qualified for the state cross country meet. Our girls team finished as runner up while our boys finished in 8th place. Way to go student-athletes and congratulations to Coach Selenke and staff!

That brings us to volleyball. Did anyone catch that season we just had? Wow, they were amazing! This team made school history by being the first Hudson volleyball team ever to qualify for the state tournament. Not only did they qualify, but our girls dispatched two quality opponents to find themselves in the final match! The Pirates ended the season as runner up, which is pretty astounding considering their first trip to the state tournament yielded such a successful run. A lot of credit goes to these athletes and congratulations are in order to Coach Baird and staff.

Congratulations once again to all the student athletes, musicians, and coaches on a successful fall. We are looking forward to many more great experiences!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Wishing Success to All Newly Elected Officials

I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to all our newly elected officials up and down the ballot. In addition to that, how about a huge thank you to everyone who ran for office? I honestly don't know why anyone would volunteer for this! Political campaigns tend to make even the nicest people look like villains. In fact, the things we have seen in political advertisements this cycle are enough to ensure that my aspirations for elected office remain in check (not that I ever had any). I found myself changing the channel whenever my grandchildren were around, and not even watching campaign coverage a lot of the time. I spoke with one candidate who told me that if he were to believe the ads, he wouldn't even vote for himself! Thankfully the ads and the election are now over and we can begin putting the pieces back together-and that we must do!

I choose to believe that everyone who ran for office did so for love of country, community, or state. I choose to believe they have a pure heart and the best intentions. I choose to believe those who have been elected are going to do their best to improve the lives of all citizens. I also reserve the right as do you, to disagree with 'what constitutes improvement'. Truthfully, I disagree regularly with all sorts of policy positions and proposals supported by republicans and democrats alike. Luckily we live in a country where I can feel free to advocate a contrary and opposing position without fear of reprisal. And I do.

A lot of people are upset right now and there have been some protests around the country. That's okay I suppose, it is an exercise of free speech. But what is not okay is threats of violence or riots in the street. We had an election and must respect the outcome. Now, we have to give all our newly elected officials an opportunity to lead and serve. We have to root for their success, because their success is directly tied to our success. I heard a great comment on the radio this morning and it went a little like this, 'Hoping an elected official fails is a little like hoping the driver of your car has an accident.' Profound.

So then let's consider what happens next. One could focus on the negatives. Both a congress and a legislature controlled by one party could be cause for alarm. Especially when you consider the executive branch in both cases is controlled by that same party. After all, split party control of government is one way to put a check on keeping bad things from happening. Now, I am all for keeping bad things from happening, but guess what? Bad laws are sometimes enacted in spite of split party control. But yet also remember that split party control can also keep good things from happening! This leads to the gridlock that has become a mainstay of the American political system, and frankly what many of us find so frustrating. This election could be a direct result of continued gridlock.

Of one thing I am relatively certain. We are not going to experience the typical gridlock for at least the next two years. Laws are going to be passed. For sure we will disagree with some and will categorize them as 'bad things happening'. You can count on me to resist when bad policies are proposed, especially when they are in direct opposition to, harm either directly or indirectly, and are in direct conflict with the mission and vision of the Hudson Community School District.

At the same time, I am confident some 'good things are going to happen' that probably wouldn't with a split control government. When the next election comes up, we'll have an opportunity once again to measure whether or not the good has outweighed the bad.

As for me, at least when it comes to education issues I'll be sure to put them into their proper perspectives here so you will at least be able to understand how the varying policy proposals will impact the Hudson Community School District.

Oh, and that election that just happened? Of the 231,556,622 eligible voters in the United States 46.9% of them didn't even bother to vote.