Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Iowa Report Card Gives Hudson High Marks

Last week the Iowa Department of Education released results from the Iowa School Report Card, and our schools once again received high marks. For starters, I am proud to announce to you that Hudson Elementary School (K-6) received a 'Commendable' rating, improving their overall score for the third year in a row. This is clearly an indication that our goal of continuous improvement in our school is paying off. 

This rating further demonstrates that what we have been doing in our schools is working! The professional development plans that have been implemented in the elementary that target early reading intervention are effective, and the work that we are doing to ensure alignment of our instruction to the Iowa Core Academic Standards is paying huge dividends. Consider this: In the spring of 2017, 70% of early readers in Iowa met benchmark, posting a 2.90% average gain when analyzing FAST data. In our comparability group of 16 schools, 73.29% of readers met benchmark with an average gain of .98%. And Hudson Schools? 77.20% at benchmark with an average gain of 7.8%! Folks, these kind of results don't happen by accident. They are due to the hard work and commitment of our faculty, staff, students, and families. Now make no mistake, we still have work to do, but it is apparent that we are headed in the right direction!

Not to be outdone, our secondary school (7-12) continues it's trend as one of the highest performing high school's in the state, rated in the top 9% of high school's statewide. One of the most impressive, yet often taken for granted metrics in our data is the high school graduation rate, which hovers between 99-100% consistently. You are probably also aware, as recently reported by the Des Moines Register, that Iowa leads the nation in graduation rate at 91.3%, which makes our results even more spectacular! But, ensuring our students cross the finish line only tells part of the story. In our district, 81.1% of all graduates are enrolled in a post-secondary institution within one year of graduation, compared to 70.5% of graduates in the Central Rivers Area Education Agency and 70.8% of graduates statewide. Of course if that isn't impressive, how about this: only 11.5% of Hudson graduates take a remediation course upon post-secondary enrollment; this compared to 29.1% of graduates agency wide and 21.7% statewide. Again, we have work to do--but these are incredibly impressive statistics!

The Iowa Department of Education states in their release that the Iowa School Report Card was launched in 2015 as part of the education reform legislation known as House File 215 which was signed into law in 2013. The Iowa School Report card assigns Iowa public schools a rating based on one of six categories: Exceptional, High Performing, Commendable, Acceptable, Needs  Improvement, and Priority. Several measures used in determining the rating are bases on statewide assessment results. You can read the full press release here. You can access the Iowa School Report card by following this link to see the ratings of other schools around the state.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Teaching Students Empathy #ChooseKind

I have never been a real big fan of watching movies during the school day. Yet, the management of classroom cinema is not in my wheelhouse. The responsibility of ensuring educational value is usually delegated to the building principal. Thankfully, Mr. Schlatter requires teachers to identify the educational purpose behind each proposal and articulate a connection to the curriculum. So, when the intermediate teachers proposed taking the entire 4-6 grade student body to Grundy Center to see 'Wonders', they checked all the boxes. Not only did they have a good plan, they had a great plan! 

The primary plot centers around the character 'Auggie', who is born with Treacher Collins syndrome and his foray into school. But many of the sub-plot[s] of those who come into Auggies's orbit create some of the most valuable lessons and understanding of the interactions children have with one another. Certainly they shine a light on the oftentimes unknown challenges some students face. While not offering an excuse for adolescent behavior, we do hopefully come away with a better understanding of what it is like to long for peer acceptance, and how lonely some children can be in a sea of students. 

As an example, our first interaction with 'Miranda' leaves us feeling badly for 'Via', Auggies older (and typically left-out) sister. As the one true friend and really only person that seems to understand Via, I was sad that she was so dismissive of Via and didn't want to be around her following summer break. It isn't until later on in the movie we learn that over the summer, Miranda's parents divorced. She is living at home with a parent who is coping with the breakup of her marriage in an unhealthy way. Miranda is lost, and the world around her has crumbled. While no excuse for the way she shunned her friend, we do at least have an understanding of the added stress this youngster, and many like her carry with them. 

Then we have Auggie's tormentor and primary antagonist in the movie. Toward the end of the film, Julian is finally held accountable when he is called into the Principal's office with his parents in tow. Faced with irrefutable evidence of bullying, Julian's mother comes to the defense of her son, and in a twisted way justifies his behavior toward Auggie. As Julian departs the Principal's office he turns back to the principal and says, 'I'm sorry'. Again at that moment we come to understand Julian just a little more. His bullying behavior is intolerable and he certainly deserves the consequences that are meted out. But at the same time, we come to realize his behavior is learned. From his mother.

As I was preparing to write this blog, as is my custom I did a little research. And in doing so read some of the reviews of the movie. Now, hopefully this column doesn't come off as a review as well, because if it does then I will have sorely missed the mark this week. But a comment from one reviewer stuck with me. While complementary in review, he noted that at times, "...it sometimes overplays it's hand". 

I couldn't disagree more. The fact is, these stories and subplots are all too real. You see, we have had instances in our own school, and schools all around this state and nation, where bullies and parents of bullies believe they are the real victim. We have borne witness to the wreckage that finds its way into the hallways of schools because of events and circumstances that are far beyond the control of the students who are forced to live in a manner not of their choosing. Hopefully what this movie can teach us is that we all need to look beyond physical appearance. Beyond what we see on the outside. Maybe then we can have a little more clarity, or understanding of what the children who walk the halls of our schools are going through. And then, perhaps as Miss Cuvelier tweeted out after the movie, we can all #ChooseKind

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wow, That Was Fun!

Last Friday evening our girls basketball team delivered an exciting win for our program, defeating Applington-Parkersburg in overtime. It was a lot of fun to watch the drama unfold as these girls competed for this hard fought victory! Even more exciting was the atmosphere that was created in our gym that night. We had a big crowd on hand for sure! Our student section was larger than it has been in some time, and our bleachers were packed. Besides the parents that had children playing in the game, in the band, or on the cheerleading squad; there were numerous other fans in attendance. I saw community members who haven't had a child in school for years and retired fans who were just looking for an evening of good entertainment. That Friday evening our competition gym was the place to be in Hudson. It makes sense then, that we do everything we can to encourage participation in our school events and activities. It doesn't matter to us if you are a participant or a spectator; if this is your first event, or if you have been to every single one. Please come out and enjoy the excitement!

I believe everyone would agree that we have had a lot of cause for celebration this fall. We can start with the amazing season our girls cross country team had, capturing the state championship for the first time ever! Or how about our football team? Their outstanding run took them all the way to the UNI Dome where they ended up playing for the state title, ultimately finishing as runner up. All along the way, we had a lot of people cheering our teams to victory. Yes, it has been a very special fall. A 'theory of schooling' in education suggests that this kind of success seems to make everything else in school go a bit smoother. Now, whether or not there is any truth to that is perhaps debatable, but in our case I have a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest this is in fact true. At the same time there is research that indicates students who have a strong connection to their school do better in their classes. Students who have a lot of school pride are less likely to cause disruptions to the school day or become behavior concerns. Students who attend a school where the expectations are high are, for the most part able to rise to the occasion when it comes to their own standards of personal conduct. And there is a direct correlation between participation in co/extra curricular activities and academic achievement. 

That is one of the reasons why it is so important for us to make sure as many of our students as possible are able to participate in these activities. Either as a member of the team, or as a spectator in the stands; we want them to be involved because everyone gets to share in the excitement that comes with winning a close game. Or the disappointment that comes when we lose that close game. It all builds up the character of our students, increases school spirit and pride in oneself. Further, the teamwork that comes with this camaraderie builds lifelong skills that transfer to the workplace. Everyone has a part to play and we don't want to let our teammates down (so you better make sure you get your homework done on time, study for the test, or make certain you don't get into any trouble). 

At the same time, we don't want to forget the whole point of why we are even here. The most important reason we are here is for the academics. Whether we are teaching youngsters to read or do advanced trigonometry, ultimately we are preparing them for the next challenge they will face. Maybe that is high school, college, or the workforce, whatever that might look like for them. All this other stuff that goes along with it: the athletics, the drama club, the band, choir, or student council are secondary, or even tertiary characteristics of our school. But this is all part of the recipe that goes into the American public education experience, and is why we have one of the best educational systems in the world.

Indeed, many of the athletes that are on our teams or are musicians in the band won't play beyond high school. But the lessons they learn and the memories they will create along the way will last them a lifetime. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Good Compromise

Over the last year I have shared thoughts on the need for residential development in our community. For your reference, please read my comments on October 10, 2017: 'At the Table or on the Menu'. Or if you really want to dig into the archives, check out my piece on September 29, 2016: 'Supporting Residential Development in Hudson'. The fact is, I am not alone in my support for these developments. Likewise, I would go so far as to suggest there is near universal, broad-based support among Hudson residents. At a minimum, our citizenry understands the economic impact of growth and development. The benefits to our school district have been established, and the broadening of the tax base is well known.

However, support often deteriorates when the proposed development is set to occur in our own backyard. I understand the objection from our neighbors to the North just as much as I understood the concerns of our neighbors near Springfield Avenue. Yet surprisingly enough, in both instances these residents expressed clear support for development. At the same time, they implored our city leaders and developer to listen to their concerns and allow them an opportunity to provide input into the process in an effort to make improvements that would benefit everyone. I have found this to be a very fascinating observation over the course of the last 12-18 months. Upon further reflection, I don't believe anyone has stated they didn't want these developments. Quite the contrary: they want to make them better, for those who will be their immediate neighbors, and for the entire community. Perhaps that is an anomaly. Instead of 'not in my backyard', I believe what I have heard is, 'let's make sure we do it right'.

In the interim, proposals have been modified and public hearings have been held. Engineers have 'engineered', and we have discussed traffic patterns on Ranchero Road. We even had a brief discussion about how the school bus stop is going to impact residents. Truth be told, this latest iteration probably makes the school bus route a bit more complicated, but I am confident we will be able to figure this out, just as we would have figured out the last design.

That is what happened on Monday evening. The city council took action on an amended proposal that had been suggested with input of residents. Working with the developer, I believe we have reached a satisfactory resolution and enthusiastically offer my support and endorsement of this project.

Admittedly, the process has seemed to take a bit longer than I would prefer. Certainly this has been stressful for our neighbors and our city council. But I take solace in the fact these proceedings have always been respectful. While there has been sharp disagreement with how best to proceed, I have been incredibly impressed with the conduct of everyone involved. It was through this discourse the amended plat proposal was approved by the city council on November 27 with a 5-0 vote. Is it perfect? Not at all. Is it without further modification? Probably not. Does it demonstrate a willingness to work together? Undoubtedly.

I would like to applaud everyone who has taken the time to engage on this issue. First our Ranchero Road neighbors for your thoughtful dialogue and willingness to work together for the good of the community. A tip of the hat to our developer for your open-mindedness and ability to take the input from our residents and continually improve on your concept. And finally our city council, for your bold vision and willingness to listen to the community you were elected to represent and making the hard decisions that will position us as the destination of choice when families are searching for a place to call home.

Finally, let's remember these residential developments are occurring in Hudson because people want to live here. Now, my narrow focus on the reason [why] is because of our outstanding school system. I continue to believe that. But, I think another reason has become apparent over the course of this discussion: a true spirit of cooperation, teamwork, and just being downright good neighbors to one another. With all we have going for us, who wouldn't want to live in Hudson?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

When the Student Becomes the Teacher

I can still remember my first teaching job and how exciting it was to begin my career! It was a real whirlwind as I transitioned from being in the classroom to standing in front of the classroom. Like all young adults there were a lot of things that I needed to figure out, highest on the list of priorities was finding a place to live. As luck would have it, a college buddy landed a teaching job in the same town so we were able to get an apartment together. This was great since I wouldn't have been able to afford rent on my own. 

Yes, the salary wasn't a lot but I was thrilled that someone was actually going to pay me to do something I loved to do! My first teaching contract: $18,100! We were paid twice a month, so my take home pay was around $572 (it's weird that I still remember that). Obviously this was not a lot by today's standards (well not a lot by yesterday's standards either), but at first it was enough to pay the rent and have a few bucks left to buy some groceries. About six months later the student loan payments began and it just wasn't enough. But I was living the dream, so I managed to make it work. 

Those early days may very well have set me on the path where I find myself today. While it became apparent making ends meet on a teacher's salary was going to be tough, there were other things that I just wasn't ready for, even in spite of the joy I was experiencing in the classroom. I was simply handed a set of keys and told, 'first room on the left'. From that point forward, I very rarely saw the principal. My induction program was one day long and mind numbing. After that I was on my own. Fortunately I developed good relationships with a couple of veteran teachers who were able to offer advice and counsel from time to time, but the content area we were teaching was so different that at times it just didn't apply. As the year progressed experiences began to shape my view as a teacher, and at times made me wonder if I had made the right decision. For sure, I loved teaching--but the 'stuff' that sometimes came along with it was something else! Disruptive  and uncooperative students. Unsupportive and at times hostile parents. Turf wars with other teachers. Then there was the pay; which is something we'll touch more on in a future post.

Decades late, I hope we are making the transition from student to teacher easier for this generation. For starters, our mentoring and induction program is much more robust than it ever has been before. We owe that to teacher leadership and compensation plans that have become a staple in schools all around Iowa. This has enabled us to partner our new educators with veterans who have been successful in their classrooms. This two year commitment from established teachers give rookie teachers a lifeline for all manner of encounters they may experience their first two years. We have also found these relationships forms strong bonds of collegiality between the educators. Where a veteran can help a new teacher 'learn the ropes', a new teacher can help a veteran with an emerging technology or a new teaching strategy. Over this two year period, our mentors work closely with new teachers as they navigate the beginning of their career. They are the shoulder to cry on when something goes wrong, because inevitably it will. They are there help unpack the Iowa Teaching Standards and define what makes a good artifact that demonstrates effective use and development of assessment. And they are there at the end of that two year journey when that new teacher becomes a veteran, converting their probationary license to a standard license.

Of the 10 new teachers at Hudson this year,
5 are brand new to the profession.
We have also become much more deliberate about immersing our new teachers in a professional work environment. It is sometimes easy to forget these new teachers were dependent on their own parents just a few short months prior to joining our faculty. Issues of retirement, health insurance, filling out a W-4; in most cases these are things they have very little experience with. Indeed, becoming a professional educator has a much different set of responsibilities than washing dishes in the college cafeteria or working at the desk in the university library. So, instead of handing off a set of keys and pointing them down the hall, we now have embedded a five day program at the start of their career, right before the veteran faculty return to prepare them for these new experiences. Our time together is spent learning about all of these aspects of work that have become automatic for us, and what it means to be a teacher in the Hudson Community School District. They learn about our assessment systems, our student management program, our policy and philosophy on homework, how we like to communicate; and yes, even how we go about cancelling school on a snow day.

Now that we are midway through the month of November, I am taking time to visit with each of our new teachers to see if the newness is starting to wear off. So far, I like what I am seeing and hearing. They are beginning to settle into their roles and have had great experiences with mentors, students and parents. A common theme throughout our conversation is an appreciation of all the support they are receiving from the staff.

What wasn't surprising, but nevertheless important were comments about the heavy workload. While there was an acknowledgement that evenings would be spend correcting papers, planning lessons, and analyzing data; the amount of time spent on these tasks is surprising to the new teacher. Others shared how surprising it is that technology plays such an important role in the day to day operation of school, from communicating with teachers and parents, to delivering instruction and administering grades. These teachers also have shared that some of the best things that have happened to them this year are those moments when they see the hard work beginning to pay off, and the relationships they are developing with students and colleague.

As discussed last week, if there is a looming teacher shortage it is important that we do what we can to attract and retain our talent. Now that we have them here, making sure they have the support and resources they need is but one part of ensuring we are able to keep them here.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Looming Teacher Shortage?

Teachers participate in professional development led by
Hudson instructional coach.
Last week while at a superintendent meeting we began to discuss teacher recruitment and the growing concern with finding quality applicants for some positions. Shortages in a variety of content areas have long been a challenge in Iowa schools. In fact, the Iowa Department of Education publishes a list of teacher shortages annually. And here at Hudson, we haven't been immune to the effects of teacher shortages in some disciplines. Our business education position was vacant for years prior to us finally being able to hire an outstanding teacher to fill this role. Then, of course, our challenge in finding an FCS (Family and Consumer Science) teacher has been well chronicled. We got incredibly lucky first semester this year when we were able to lure Mrs. Stanek out of retirement to help us out for the fall term. Then fate smiled on us, as Mr. Dieken, working in conjunction with our partners at North Tama were able to hire a December graduate who actually has all the requisite endorsements to permanently fill this position beginning in January. Hopefully this will, in fact, be a permanent placement and we will be able to hold onto this teacher come spring hiring season. 

The aforementioned positions come as no surprise to us, nor to any school district in Iowa. They have long been on the Department of Education's shortage area list. Further, this is exacerbated here because of the size of our high school. Full-time positions in these content areas aren't possible because the number of students we have enrolled doesn't warrant a full class load. Although with a projected increase in enrollment, this could soon change in Hudson. But, we are focused on the here and now. Luckily we have been able to collaborate with surrounding districts and create full-time positions out of part-time positions by sharing a teacher. However, if the pool of potential candidates is very small to begin with, it becomes quite challenging to attract someone to a position where they will have to travel between two districts. After all, why would you if you didn't have to? As school leaders, this can be frustrating. Nonetheless, it has been our 'modus operandi' for several years.

But there are signs that it could get much more challenging. When the teacher leadership and compensation system launched four years ago, teachers across all disciples and content areas began to assume positions as instructional coaches, curriculum leaders, professional development coordinators; the list goes on! The benefits of teacher leadership are countless, but at the same time, this created numerous teaching positions that needed to be filled in classrooms all around the state. The first ripple in the pond was a shortage in substitute teachers. I began to hear from colleagues they were having problems finding substitutes. Why? Well, those who had previously been substitute teachers began to fill the void of classroom teachers. 

Then in Western Iowa, superintendents began to report a shortage in elementary teachers. When hearing this, I was very surprised. I often have commented that in Hudson, we merely have to think that an elementary teaching position may be opening soon; and then find ourselves with numerous applicants. Now, I do believe that geography has a lot to do with our ability to find teaching candidates, but I am savvy enough to know that what happens in Western Iowa will ultimately impact our part of the state. In that same superintendent meeting last week, a colleague from not very far away from here turned to our table and stated, "We had an elementary teaching position open and only had three applicants. Two of them were 'unhireable'."

Much of this is because students entering teacher preparation programs are down. Consider this: in the mid-'90s the University of Northen Iowa was preparing roughly 600 teachers annually. Over the last 8-10 years, that number has dropped to 450. Of all the traditional teacher prep programs in Iowa, public universities have dropped by 4% in recent years while private institutions have seen a decrease of 2%. It should also be noted that this isn't just an Iowa problem. If the current trends continue, by 2025 we could see a nationwide shortage of teachers approaching 100,000.

Mobility is an issue as well in Iowa. Once we get them here, we need to keep them here! Around 6.7% of teachers change schools each year and 18.9% change schools in a five-year span. So for us, it is not only about attracting talent, but it is about retaining those teachers once we have them in our classrooms. Next week we'll talk about steps we are taking to mitigate this potential shortage and make certain we continue to employ very high-quality educators.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Planning Our Future

Based on known variables and algorithms, we are able to project and defend what we believe enrollment will look like five years from now. However, the unknown variables really are the head-scratcher here, aren't they? The biggest of which is the impact residential development will have on future class sizes. While I have no crystal ball or formula with which to base my analysis, all we can really do is speculate. So, what may that look like?

Where I live, there are approximately 26 lots under development. Then there is the apartment complex on Springfield Avenue which is projected to have around 48 units. If we add Twin Oaks into the mix, that would be another 67 households. How many school-age children? As a start, is it appropriate to assume one school-age child per home? Considering some families may have as many as 3 or 4 while others may have 0, 1 per household seems like a good place to start. So for easy math, let's assume an additional 141 students.

Now, what becomes really challenging is trying to figure out when these phantom students may materialize and at what grade levels. According to known variables, enrollment in the next five years should peak at 747 in the 2020-2021 academic year. Again, that is before assuming the residential growth that is currently underway. If we add our mystery 141, that could put enrollment as high as 888. Remember though, this is all speculative and becomes even further complicated when trying to determine what grade levels will be impacted and by how much. But for the sake of argument, we'll consider an equal distribution of pupils which would put our average class size around 68 students. At this size, our elementary school would need to be equipped to handle three sections of each grade level with approximately 23 students each. Or four sections at 17.

Good news. Right now, we are operating a 3 section elementary with the exception of one grade level that has 2 sections. Suffice to say, I believe if we had an enrollment increase in excess of 100 students we would be able to absorb this without too much trouble. However, there are some statisticians that suggest new residential development should assume 1.5 children per household, which could very easily put us in the 4 section category. Using the same math from above, this would give us an average class size of 74 students.

I'll bet you are wondering if our current facility can accommodate a 4 section elementary. I contend that it can, but we will have to get creative with how we utilize our space. Right now, we are very generous with the allocation of instructional space. If enrollment goes where we think it could go in the future, we will need to rethink how our spaces are used.

The good news is that we are thinking about it. Right now, you are aware that we are renovating the elementary school and just recently completed phase one of that project. Planning for phase 2 is underway. The scope of that project includes the North wing of the elementary, which is where the 4th and 5th grade is currently housed. If you are unfamiliar with this section of the building, it is the wing directly to the left in the photo above. The scope of this work includes new lighting, ceilings, windows, and air conditioning. We had plans to tackle the second floor of the facility with part of this phase as well, but some mechanical issues were uncovered that forced us to reevaluate our plans. The current scope of this project is slated for board approval in November with a tentative bid letting scheduled for December.

It is entirely likely and conceivable that we will commission our architect to begin a study this winter and consider what it would look like, and what it would cost to convert our building from a three section to a four section elementary. At the same time, we will need to be engaged with our legislators who will be meeting in Des Moines and ask them to consider the elimination of the sunset on the SAVE fund. I'll remind you, this was one of the priorities the Board of Directors outlined in their legislative platform this past summer. It may seem like a long time off yet, but with a 2029 sunset on this fund, it significantly impacts our ability to move some of these projects forward.

While I haven't spent much time talking about the high school, that is not to mean there aren't needs in that facility. If you have any experience with that building, you are aware that we have begun the process of replacing the roofs, and are beginning to plan for updating the mechanical systems. But in terms of space? Assuming we did have an increase in enrollment and average class sizes approaching the mid-70s, it is helpful to take a look at our enrollment history. In the 2006-2007 school year, the average class size in the high school was 73.5.

Well, I'm not sure our gazing into a crystal ball has yielded many answers. All I know for sure is that it's a good time to be a Pirate and that whatever happens with enrollment, we'll be ready.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Close Look at Enrollment

The first business day of October is official 'Count Day' in Iowa schools, and this year it fell on Monday, October 2nd. Regardless of who was attending the day before or the day after, official enrollment is based on which students were in attendance on October 2nd. That means if a student had moved into Hudson prior to that date, they became part of our official count. If they moved out of our district on October 3rd, they were still a part of our count. That also means, unfortunately, that if students move into our district on October 3rd, they are not included in our count. And since count day, we have had approximately a dozen students enroll in our school. Good news for our school for sure, but not so good when it comes to count day!

Certified enrollment is important insofar as the number of resident pupils in our district is the number that is used to form the base funding level for the next school year. Our official certified enrollment, taken on October 2nd will be multiplied by the district cost per pupil when we start to build our budget in February for the 2018-2019 school year. Again, students who enroll after that date do not count toward that budgetary number because they were previously counted by the district they just left. I know what you are thinking: how is that fair? Fair or not, it cuts both ways. Consider the student who was in our district on October 2nd and moved on October 3rd. The receiving district, in this case, doesn't get to count them, because we already did--even though they have moved away. Nonetheless, this year we seemed to have a lot more students move into our district than move away, which should always be viewed as a good thing!

A deep dive into our official certified enrollment suggests a lot of good news. Officially our certified enrollment is up by 12 students. That is the number of students that are residents of Hudson both attending our schools and those who are open enrolled to another school district. That may not seem like a lot until one looks a little closer at these figures. The number of resident students who are attending Hudson has increased by 20 students, while at the same time the number of resident students who are open enrolled to another school district has decreased by 8 students. Students from other school districts who have open enrolled to Hudson also increased by 9 students. This works out to a net increase of 29 students who are attending Hudson this year over last year. If we factor in the additional 10-12 students who have subsequently enrolled since Count Day, we are serving approximately 40 students more than last year. Then, of course, we are not considering the addition of preschool, which has added 31 students. It is also worth noting that the number of students we are serving outside the district is down since we have elected to bring those students back to our buildings and serve them here. 

While it's good to know where we are right now, our challenge is trying to figure out where we are going with enrollment. To project future enrollment, the first variable to consider is the incoming kindergarten class. Conventional wisdom would suggest preschool as a good place to start, and while it can yield some useful data, it is not necessarily a reliable indicator of kindergarten class size. Instead, what we have elected to use at Hudson is a five year rolling average as a predictor of kindergarten. Then, using the cohort methodology, we simply advance those students by one grade level for the following year. When employing this method, we come up with a forecast that looks something like this:

Admittedly, ussing an arbitrary methodology can make us wonder about the accuracy of the model, however, it has been relatively predictable, at least in the short term. This model accurately predicted within +/- 2 students the 2016-2017 school year enrollment. Further, this same model in 2013 predicted enrollment of 720 for the 2017-2018 school year, which we are currently in (however, this same model predicted enrollment of 721 in 2018-2019, and the most recent iteration of our enrollment trend indicates enrollment next year in excess of 730). 

But alas, these projections do not consider other important variables that are consequential to our enrollment. Those variables being the development of Upper Ridge Estates, the apartment complex on Springfield Avenue, or the proposed Twin Oaks development. All of these will have a positive influence on our enrollment. In an upcoming article, we will discuss how we are making plans for increased enrollment in our school district.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Take Advantage of Parent Teacher Conferences

On Friday, October 20th we will have completed the 42nd day of school, marking the end of the first quarter. At this point in the school year, teachers are deep into their content. Units of instruction have been completed and assessments have been administered. In the elementary, our teachers have finished the initial FAST screeners and have started progress monitoring. At the high school, the music department performed in their first concert of the year. Our preschool and kindergarten students are through the normal adjustment period and are now beginning the laborious task of learning to read. All around the district, student behavior procedures and plans have been written and are now being implemented. 

These are but a few examples of the plethora of activity that has occurred in this very short timeframe. Indeed we have accomplished a lot since we got the 'plane in the air' this fall. But, what of the accomplishments of your child? How have they adjusted to school? Did their FAST assessment show proficiency? What about that test last week in Physics? Is their behavior something that you can be proud of?

I'm going to guess that many of our parents out there know the answer to those questions. They probably receive regular updates in the form of [an] email from the teacher.  Modern technology also affords parents the ability to observe their child's progress from our Learner Management System, Canvas. In some cases, teachers even use programs like Google Classroom and Seesaw to give parents access to the daily rigors of student learning. Certainly, parents are aware (or should be) if homework isn't being completed. After all, that is an automatic phone call home. 

But for all the advancements in technology that enable parents and teachers to connect ubiquitously from the comfort of their home, place of work, or classroom; nothing can replace the importance and power of the face to face conversation. While modern educational amenities can give a quick update or snapshot of progress, a meeting between parents and teachers can add richness and depth into the successes and challenges a student is encountering in their learning. A face to face conversation enables both parents and teachers to reinforce their commitment to the child that is being served. It provides a venue for a more intimate conversation about student progress. Teachers are able to provide a unique perspective into learning. Parents are able to provide context into a students personality that may unlock a mystery. Both are able to share what has worked, and what hasn't. 

At Hudson Schools, we value the role that parents play in the education of their children and recognized the importance of open lines of communication. The partnership and link between home and school cannot be overstated, and the recognition of parents as primary educators of their own children is an awesome responsibility. 

Parent-teacher conferences are scheduled for October 23 and 24. Please take advantage of this opportunity.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

At the Table or on the Menu

I would like to begin by thanking the city council and staff for their bold and progressive vision of growth and development. Over the past two years, I have been impressed and encouraged by the thoughtful study, deliberation, and action with regard to many of these positive steps forward for our community. Further, I can appreciate and empathize with the stress our council must be under as they make decisions that will be met with mixed reviews. However, I believe the scales of popularity will be tipped in their favor if they proceed with this proposed development. For the record, I am in support of the Echo Development residential subdivision that will be located in the vicinity of Ranchero and Butterfield Roads. Regarding the schematics and plat configuration of this development, I will not pretend to know or understand where roads or entrances should be located. Yet I would recommend we trust the opinions and counsel of the engineers that have been hired to do this work. They are certainly more qualified than anyone else to make these determinations in consultation with the developer who is making this significant investment of capital in our community.

My opinion on residential development in Hudson is well known and documented. It has not changed from my November 29th, 2016 statement. However, at this time I would like to re-affirm this position and offer additional context through my personal experience.

When school districts hire superintendents, one of the statements school boards like to hear during the interview is that the superintendent is planning to move to the community. This makes a lot of sense for a multitude of reasons. So, when I was appointed Superintendent in 2010 my wife and I made the decision to move to Hudson. The trouble was, it was late in May and we didn't have a lot of time. Very quickly we found out this was not going to be an easy task. At that time, there were literally seven houses on the market in Hudson. None of them suited our needs, and building a home wasn't a realistic option at that point in our lives. Some of these homes were 'fixer uppers', which, within my role as Superintendent of Schools, I really don't have time for, while others were simply out of reach (not to mention Ann gets nervous if I pick up a hammer or a saw), so our search continued for a home in Hudson. Then it got cold. And then the weather got weird. Commuting from Marion wasn't going to work anymore, so we reluctantly decided to purchase a home in Cedar Falls. It literally took us one day to find a home, and we were as close to the district line as we could get at that time. 

In the intervening years, we continued to monitor real estate in Hudson but the inventory remained relatively stagnant. You all know the rest of our story. During the summer of 2016 we built a home in the second addition of Upper Ridge Estates and couldn't be happier. We are thrilled with our home, and at all the homes that are being built in our neighborhood. And I will eagerly support an expansion to the North of me when the time comes.

As I opined on November 29, 2016, housing inventory in Hudson is critically important not only to our school district but to our business community. Families who want to move to Hudson and send their children to our schools are often dismayed to learn they can't. New homes and new families to our community will create tertiary benefits that are difficult to quantify, yet scholarly research indicates job creation, and an increased tax base that will allow our community to improve amenities that will result in an overall improved quality of life for our citizens. With our geographic location to a major population center and a regent university, I have often wondered why Hudson hasn't reaped the benefits that other similarly situated locations in Iowa have. Hudson to Cedar Falls should be likened to Tiffin or North Liberty to Iowa City. Or Gilbert to Ames.

I'll remind you again that schools are located where there are children to educate. As we saw play out over the last couple of years, a decision to close a school in a town not too far away from Hudson tore a school district apart and pitted neighbors and longtime friends against one another. No one wants to see a school close, but the fact of the matter in this case quite simply was that there weren't enough children left to justify that attendance center. Stories like that are all too common in our state as we have seen school after school shutter its doors.

Granted, Hudson is not faced with that situation; we have geography and top-notch schools to thank for that (which is one of the reasons we must embrace this development), but we do have other challenges. Primary among them has been a pattern of minimal state supplemental aid over the last several years. Because of this, the only way our budget will grow is by increasing our student count. Without housing, the students will not come. And evidence suggests with this development, they will indeed come!

A few years ago the citizens of Hudson voted overwhelmingly to retain the tract of land known as the 'Northern Tier'. This decision was made with the intention development would occur, and that it would occur under the terms of our choosing. This proposed development calls for 67 single family homes, 20 Western Home Community duplexes, and the possibility of commercial development. In my opinion, this project is ideal for Hudson and will bring tremendous economic benefits to our community, protect and create jobs, increase the enrollment for our school district, and improve the quality of life for our entire citizenry.

The Cedar Valley is booming right now. You can't drive through Cedar Falls without noticing a plethora of development ranging from residential to commercial. That school district is building new schools and homes can't be built fast enough. I believe it is important for us to move forward now and do so without haste. A delay in making a decision could come with negative consequences. We can either take advantage of this boom and use the leverage and timing we have or miss out entirely. We must ask ourselves: Do we wish to be at the table, or do we wish to be on the menu?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Words of Advice from Retiring Board Member Liz Folladori

You are about to feel as if you have been thrown into the deep end of the pool. It will quickly pass. Ask questions and if you still don't understand ask again. You are about to hear a lot of new terms and have information zooming pas you that you most likely haven't dealt with on a daily basis before. The most important thing I can pass on is to remember you were elected to oversee our community's school district. It is a great honor, because without a local school, communities tend to wither and die. Remember to listen when someone tries to talk to you about a situation. Yes, the first thing you must ask them is if they have gone through proper channels already, however, they just want to be heard. If it is a situation that you can tell is really off limits for a board member to hear, tell this person in a polite and caring way that it isn't that you don't want to hear them but right now you just can't. I can't begin to tell you how many people have gotten in touch with me over the last three years and even though I have directed them to someone else, they just want to know that someone is listening to them. 

This is a wonderful learning experience. Enjoy it!

Liz Folladori

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Reflections from Retiring Board Member Jerry Griffith

When asked to reflect on my eleven years as a Director on the Hudson School Board, five of which I served as President, I have a deep sense of accomplishment as well as gratitude to those who supported the Board, Administration, Staff, and students to make Hudson Schools an outstanding environment to raise a family and have all of our children receive a top rate education.

Our family moved to Hudson Schools in 2002.  My wife, Susan, and I enrolled three children in school:  Ian, 8th grade, Zach, 6th grade, and Olivia, Kindergarten.  I always wanted to be involved in our kids’ education and soon found myself visiting classrooms in the elementary, participating on the board of the Athletic Boosters, and actively supporting the Music Boosters.

In 2006, I was encouraged to run for school board and was elected with 100% of the vote.  Needless to say, I was the only candidate on the ballot, but it was still nice to get that vote of confidence that stakeholders in the school cast their vote for me.  Ever since that first election, as well as the subsequent elections I won in 2009 and 2013, I have taken my responsibility as a school board member very seriously.  Often times, we get asked as board members why we decided to take the action or make the decisions that we do as a board.  My thoughts on this are if others were to study the issues and understand all the facts with clarity without mixing in personal opinions, rumors, or only a part of the whole story, they would very likely come to the same conclusion.

There are four areas of accomplishments of the school board over the last 11 years I would like to elaborate on:  leadership, financial responsibility, student achievement, and facilities enhancements.

One of the most important roles of the school board is making sure we have excellent leadership in our Superintendent of Schools.  During my time on the board, we have worked with four different Superintendents:  Mr. Dave Pappone was just leaving our district as I was coming on the board.  Due to the timing of his departure, after the school year had begun, we had an interim Superintendent for a year in Mr. Ron Crooks.  We then hired, in my opinion, two outstanding Superintendents to lead our district, Dr. Roark Horn, 2008-2011, and Dr. Anthony Voss, 2011-present.  It has been a pleasure to work with them in that relationship between the School Board and lead administrator of our district.

Financial Responsibility
During the first several years on the board, our financial position was slowly deteriorating.  There are many financial metrics we monitor and try to manage, but the most important gauge of our financial health is that of Unspent Balance.   It was quickly going to be in the “red” if we didn’t take action.  The primary contributors to our Unspent Balance are student enrollment and employee salaries.  We have been on a downward trend in enrollment almost every year during my time on the school board.  The good news is, there appears to be some optimism that this trend will start to reverse itself soon as we are seeing several developments and housing opportunities to allow families to move into our school district with school-age children.  But while we continued to see reduced numbers of children enrolled in our schools it became necessary to make some adjustments to our staffing and curriculum to balance our funding available and start to turn the trend around regarding the status of our Unspent Balance.  Some of these required adjustments were not very popular with certain stakeholders in our district.  They were not taken lightly and much debate and thorough analysis took place at the board table to try to make the best decision for our students, staff, parents, and others invested in our schools.  I am happy to report we have achieved a much more comfortable level of Unspent Balance during the last several years given the size of our budget, and continue to monitor it very closely.

Student Achievement
In addition to our regular review of student achievement goals, navigating our direction due to changes at the state and national level regarding the core standards for education, measures of academic progress, and funding support for new curriculum materials, there have been four paramount initiatives the board has worked hard to fund and support our administration and staff to incorporate into our learning environment:  Professional Learning Communities (PLC), the Teacher Leadership System, Connected Learning, and 4 Year Old Pre-School.

The school board has provided the funding and support for the entire staff to participate in training during the summers over the last several years to become knowledgeable and proficient in the use of the concept of professional learning communities.  This has allowed them to be more effective team members and problem solvers. 

Hudson Schools was fortunate to be one of the first schools chosen to participate in the new Iowa Teacher Leadership System.   Now, four years later, all schools in the state of Iowa have the ability to participate in this system and gain the benefits that it provides through an additional emphasis on teacher coaching and support. 

A few years ago we began our connected learning initiative, which some refer to as a one-to-one computer environment where every student has a school-issued laptop.  We were deliberate in how we rolled this out and funded this initiative, as this is a very expensive undertaking.  But when you measure this against the expense of continuing to support computer laboratories or other technology in the classrooms, the numbers started to make sense when we began the initiative, and now we have a connected learning environment at all grade levels, with laptops available for every student in grades 5-12.

I am excited to see Hudson Schools begin a four-year-old preschool this year.  For many reasons, this took a lot of persistence and persuasion by our administration to convince the state that we should be allowed to proceed, but in the end, we now can provide this education service that had been a gap for our school district relative to almost all other schools in the state.

Every graduation during the past 11 years I have had the privilege of being a participant in the graduation ceremonies.  This is, in my opinion, one of the best parts of being a school board member.  Almost every year, we have 100 percent graduation rate for our seniors.  It is with great pride we hand out the diplomas to our graduating seniors, especially when I can be the proud father to hand a Hudson High School diploma to each of our three children.

Facilities Enhancements
The last area I would like to reflect on is some of the improvements we have made in our facilities over the last 11 years.  These are often times much more visible to the public than the first three areas above that I have discussed concerning leadership, financial responsibility, and student achievement.  During each board meeting, we first focus on these items as well and then discuss our needs regarding facilities.

One of the first improvements I sought as a board member early in my time on the board was a five-year plan for investments of PPEL (Physical Plant and Equipment Levy) and SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) funds.  This is a rolling plan that is a living document and serves as our roadmap of spending for projects to improve our facilities through the use of these funds.  I have appreciated the board’s approach to funding our facilities improvements.  We have been patient and waited until the funds were available before we have taken on new projects.   We could get anxious and aggressive and try to fund much larger projects through seeking bond referendum approval, but I much prefer the pay as you go philosophy, which provides much more flexibility to changing needs and careful consideration on how the school’s limited funds are being utilized while minimizing the tax burden on our constituents.

We have accomplished many facilities improvements over the last 11 years through funding solely from the PPEL and SAVE funds directly under the control of the school board, but many projects have been done in conjunction with other school support groups such as the athletic boosters, music boosters, FFA support groups, and PTO, to name a few:
  • Greenhouse for Vo-Ag and Science curriculum
  • Parking lot and lighting improvements: East of Elementary/Middle School, North of Middle School, and High School
  • Weight Room, Concession and Restroom enlargement
  • Baseball/Softball Lights, new Concessions Building, and Dugouts
  • Acquisition and Development of adjacent hotel property for additional green space and future campus expansion flexibility if needed.
  • High School Auditorium upgrades for Fine Arts
  • Recurring budget committed for band instrument needs
  • Carpet and flooring replacement throughout campus
  • All locker rooms refurbished
  • Wrestling practice room refurbished
  • Middle School Commons and restrooms refurbished
  • High School Commons refurbished
  • High School Gymnasium bleacher seating and enhancements
  • Elementary restrooms refurbished
  • Building entrance security improvements
  • Bus, van, and automobile fleet upgrades

A study was commissioned several years ago titled Hudson 2020.  One of the results of this study was the priority we should put on updating our Elementary School facility.  As a result, we are on a several year project to do just that.  The first phase was completed this summer and as a result, 100 percent of our campus is now air-conditioned.  During the first phase this summer, air conditioning, new windows, LED lighting, ceiling tiles, exterior lighting, and handicapped parking stalls were established for the East portion of the elementary school.  Future phases will accomplish similar improvements to the remainder of the building.  But one of the enhancements I am most proud of is the completion of handicap access to our competition gymnasium in the Middle School for our students as well as our visitors via a ramp along with an ADA (Americans with Disability Act) accessible restroom in this hallway.

In summary, my goal 11 years ago was to have a better understanding of what was happening at our schools and to have a positive impact on the education for all of our students. I wanted Hudson to come to mind first when people think of a vibrant, thriving mid-sized school.  We have exceptional students, outstanding faculty and staff and a forward-thinking administration.  I worked cooperatively with fellow school board members, administration, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders in the community to continue building on the positive momentum we have at Hudson Schools.

I encourage everyone to get involved in Hudson Schools in some way, whether you have children in school or not.  The vitality of our school has a big impact on the vitality of our town.  Whether it is as a classroom volunteer, student mentor, PTO, Lego League coach, music, athletic, of FFA booster, an audience member at a fine arts performance, a fan at an athletic event, or maybe even consider serving as a school board member, all of these actions help support our students and the mission statement of our school board, “We create effective learning environments that result in success for all students.”

It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve the Hudson Community School District.
Thank you for this opportunity and Go Pirates!

Jerry Griffith
Director, Hudson School Board
President, Hudson School Board

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Flat World

This blog idea has been percolating in my draft bin since 2011. I have been patiently waiting for that moment of inspiration to arrive, and it finally has! The title is a nod to the New York Times columnist and best selling author, Thomas Friedman. I became a fan of Friedman's after reading his book, 'The World is Flat', and have subsequently read most of his work including his columns in the NYT. While the purpose of this post is not to review or provide crib notes, to briefly summarize, the book is about the power of connectivity in today's society and how that has led to, in Friedman's words a 'flattening of the world'. Modern day technology has given us the capability to connect with anyone, anywhere, and at any time. The power to collaborate globally is now on a scale that was unimaginable twenty years ago. My apologies to Mr. Friedman for boiling down his book to a few meager sentence, I certainly don't do it justice and would recommend you read it!

Nonetheless, my interest in his work is to understand how these dynamics impact our P-12 educational system and our goal of preparing young people for this ever changing and globalized work environment. Certainly, our work with connected learning in our schools has given us the tools to engage in the modern, globalized world. As one example, a colleague of mine believes the advent Google is the most transformational component of our modern educational system. He points to the way Google, for example, has made collaboration locally and globally seamless. Taken further, the use of connected devices allow teachers to transform the educational experience and take our students to places that we never would have dreamed of even a few years back. I was at a presentation with George Couros last week where he commented that while we have great teachers in our schools with deep content knowledge on a whole host of topics, there is no substitute for an expert in the field. Consider a classroom unit on space. While our teachers are knowledgeable and qualified to deliver this content, the most capable teacher would be an astronaut because of the experiences they bring to bear. Connectivity allows us to bring those experiences and 'expert teachers' to our classrooms, and teachers do just that!

Education is meant to prepare our students for the day they will be members of a global community, not students in a classroom. And indeed, we often tell our students that in many cases we are preparing them for jobs that haven't yet been invented. One of my favorite stories comes from a business internship I participated in during my preparation to become a superintendent. At that time, (about a decade ago), I sat with young college graduates who had majored in 'Global Supply Chain Management'. While commonplace now, at that time it was an unheard of field of work. These young professionals were working to ensure the supply of a raw material from China made it to the manufacturing plant in the southern United States. There was great concern of a disruption (I can't remember exactly what the problem was anymore) that would have cost thousands of dollars for every hour the line was down. I think that major or occupation probably isn't all that fascinating or unique anymore. But how about this?

What about those careers that are considered 'traditional' occupations, that are just done differently now? Or high skilled jobs that may not require a BA, but the training and knowledge one must have to be successful in these careers is just, well....fascinating!

My wife Ann and I have a son Nathan who farms South of Cascade. After graduating, he attended NICC in Peosta and completed a welding program. By the way, Nathan's welding skills were discovered and honed by his agriculture teacher at Cascade High School. In addition to welding, Nate enjoys working outdoors, in particular agriculture and farming, so he also completed a beef production program at Kirkwood. These days, Nate operates a custom feeding operation on his farm, has some row crops and has carved out a nice career for himself. I am often amazed when he explains to me the complexity of the work he does in the cattle business, the calculations that go into the feed mixtures that are used, how much corn to feed, grass, etc. With his calculations, he can tell me how much weight a particular steer is going gain each day. His cattle barns are very pretty high tech, giving him the ability to change the air flow to maintain the temperature and comfort of his stock.

But what is really interesting is how Nate has built his welding business. Now, for starters let's understand that he is very good at what he does. I'm not bragging here or anything, but the evidence can be seen in the amount of business that comes his way. Recently he has begun to see an increase in custom fabrication, and one project he completed not too long ago included installing a cab on a piece of farm machinery that wasn't originally designed to have one. The engineering that went into this was complex for sure. But what happened in the last two weeks is what really blew my mind and brings us back to this idea of a 'Flat World'.

Nate was contacted by a guy who lives in Dubuque and works for a company in San Francisco. Interestingly enough, he got Nate's number from a competitor! Anyway, the guy wanted to know if Nate would be able to design and fabricate some parts that were going to be installed on skyscrapers in Pittsburgh. Well, during the planning process he needed a little more information in order to determine what material would be best suited for the parts. He found out that the company was piloting an autonomous car project in Pittsburg and needed these parts to affix GPS locators that would be used by the cars. I'd show you a picture of the part he designed, but I think it's proprietary so better not. I'm sure you've even heard of the company: it's called Uber.

Make no mistake. It's 2017 and the jobs that we are preparing our students for are changing. Whether it is a job in the high tech field of agriculture, designing for Uber, or working as a chemist on a cure for cancer; the ability to collaborate across the country, or globally is a pre-requisite for success.

Thankfully we are making those type of learning experiences commonplace in our school district. From the connected learning environment to the inquiry space: our students have the tools and the teachers to prepare them for this future and these type of careers!

Oh, and the revitalization of our business program and the 'Entrepreneurialship' class has come at just the right time,don't you think?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A New Era Begins

I hope that everyone enjoyed the long Labor Day weekend. I think the three day break provides a nice respite for our students as they have started to return to the routine of school. I know many parents were headed out of town, perhaps to experience one final camping trip in the twilight of summer? Nevertheless, school is now in full swing and we have completed two weeks of instruction! The nervousness that comes with the start of the school year is waning and we are settling into the familiar pace of school. 

Yet for one group, the school year is just beginning. Yesterday began a new journey for the Hudson Community School District with the launch of our preschool program. Our statewide voluntary preschool program is designed to serve students who are four years old; and those who have specialized educational needs. We are so excited to be bringing this program to our district!

This day has been a long time coming. Over the last several years we have mused internally about starting preschool, while at the same time recognizing and uncovering barriers that existed in addition to the financial challenges this endeavor would bring. We would wrestle with the problem, considering multiple scenarios and configurations before ultimately shelving the project. "Maybe next year", we would decide. Meanwhile, students requiring services were staffed to neighboring districts where programs existed that could meet their needs. 'Tuitioning Out' these students was not something that we really wanted to do, but it was the option we were left with at the time. 

The urgency with which we approached the 'preschool problem' began to change one year ago with you, our constituent. Our stakeholder. Our parent. As many of you pointed out, Hudson is a growing community. A community of young families with small children. We have an apartment complex under construction on the North end of town. The subdivision where I live has multiple homes under construction. And the city council is making plans to open a new residential development at the intersection of Ranchero Road and Butterfield. Our strategy to shelf the idea of starting a voluntary statewide preschool program 'for one more year' no longer seemed a viable option. Preschool soon became a front burner issue that our community was eager to see implemented.

So then, a year of planning began. As many of you know, our hurdles were significant. But perseverance ruled the day. With the assistance of countless people, ranging from consultants at Central Rivers AEA, to even consultants with the Department of Education, we continued our journey. We even got the legislature involved when a financial hurdle seemed destined to stop us in our tracks. Then on April 3rd, we got the approval that we had worked so hard for. It was all systems go!

But alas, that was when the real work began! It was when we had to prepare a classroom, secure staffing, purchase curriculum. Develop procedures and publish a handbook. Consider transportation. Procure supplies. (As I understand it the kitchen set still isn't here.) All moving in the ever quickening pace of the first day of school. Luckily we have a great team in place. Again, we have to really give a nod to Central Rivers AEA for their assistance. Our preschool teacher, Miss Cartney, has done a fantastic job of preparing for the eventuality of this day. Her close work with Mr. Schlatter ensured everything was ready to go when yesterday finally arrived. 

Our plan always was to start immediately following Labor Day. So as school started for the remainder of the student body two short weeks ago, our preschool staff was busily putting the finishing touches on the classroom and completing home visits. The day has finally arrived!

I said it once before, but I'll say it again: Now the real work begins!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

An Awesome Responsibility: Vote September 12!

Service on the local school board is perhaps one of the most thankless jobs in public service. Consider this: of all the elected offices one can choose to run for, a seat on the school board is the only one that doesn't come with a salary. Instead, it oftentimes comes with a plethora of complaints! Class sizes are too large. The teachers are mean. The administration makes awful decisions. Why on earth are they teaching 'that' in math class? The list goes on and on, and if you ask your school board members, they may have even more examples. 

But at the same time, in my opinion, there is no better example of seeing our democratic form of government in action than the local school board. Former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil is often credited with the phrase, 'All politics is local', and I think he is more right than we realize. Think about it for a moment. How much of what happens in Washington truly impacts your everyday lives? Now how much of what happens at your local school district impact your daily lives? The Hudson Community School District will manage a total budget of $10,752,144 in fiscal year 2018. I contend school board service is rich, rewarding, and an enormous responsibility. Indeed, it is a very exciting time for our school district as we make plans for a future that includes projected enrollment growth, significant improvements to our facilities, and the opportunity to cement our place as an educational destination in the Cedar Valley. We are on our way! It is within that context that I introduce to you the following candidates for the school board. Your vote counts. Don't forget to vote on September 12!

Traci Trunck, Incumbent
Traci Trunck
Traci has local roots, growing up not too far away in Reinbeck, Iowa. As a graduate of Gladbrook-Reinbeck, Mrs. Trunck comes from a long and proud history of school board service. Following in the footsteps of her father who served on the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community School District Board of Directors while she was growing up, Traci is completing her first term on the Hudson school board. 

Mrs. Trunck earned a business degree from the University of Northern Iowa and has been employed by John Deere for the past 19 years. Currently, she serves as the Supply Management Manager for the Central West and South East regions. Traci and her husband Charlie have two children who attend Hudson schools. Elyse will be going into the 8th grade this year and Ansley will be in 5th grade. 

Traci recognizes and appreciates the responsibility of governing a school district and is running for re-election because she wants to continue to serve our community and make a positive impact on our school district. When asked about the greatest challenge facing education in our state, she points to an inability of the legislature to determine what the core curriculum should be and alignment of the state assessment to that content. She is also concerned about the lack of adequate funding for schools in Iowa. 

When asked about the challenges facing the Hudson Community School District, Mrs. Trunck first highlights our strengths: "The Hudson school district is a leader in many ways. In the past four years, we have invested in teacher leadership, mentor teachers, 1:1 technology in the middle school and high school, i-Pads in the elementary, new curriculum, and building renovations. Our superintendent and board have a strong voice in the Iowa legislature and with local representatives." She goes on to state that our school district is currently well positioned for the future needs of our district and is hopeful that our greatest challenge in the future will be to find space to house an explosion of new kids in the district! "We are working hard to build and promote an excellent school district that will attract many new families to Hudson."

Traci wants everyone to know that she is proud of this district and is invested in our children's education. She is passionate about making certain Hudson remains strong for years to come. If re-elected, Mrs. Trunck will continue to lead with students being the main focal point of her deliberations and make decisions that support student achievement, faculty development, technology investment, and school building improvements.

Matt Sallee, Candidate for School Board
Matt Sallee
Although Matt hails from Indianola, Iowa, he has been proud to call the Cedar Valley, and specifically Hudson home for over twenty years. As a newcomer to board service, Mr. Sallee is excited to have an opportunity to serve on the school board.

Mr. Sallee earned a marketing degree from the University of Northern Iowa and currently serves as the Vice-President of Marketing and Innovation at Waterloo industries. Matt and his wife Dee have been married for 21 years and have two wonderful daughters. Madison is a proud graduate of the Hudson High School Class of 2017 and will be headed just up the road to the University of Northern Iowa this fall and majoring in business. Their daughter Kylee is eager to start her career as a high schooler this year when she crosses the street to begin her freshman year. Both of Matt and Dee's daughters have been very actively involved in school and have had outstanding experiences in the Hudson school system.

When asked about what drew Matt to board service, he talks first about the experience his children have had in Hudson and he is grateful that they have the opportunities that are available in our school district. He feels this is a great way to give back to his community while ensuring that all students will have the same positive experiences as his own children for years to come. Mr. Sallee understands the challenges facing Iowa schools are multi-faceted, complex, and unique to the local context. However, commonalities facing our state educational system include safety of students and staff, managing a budget with scant funding sources, and attracting and retaining quality teachers.

Matt understands that Hudson is not immune to some of those very challenges. However, the size of our school district creates both unique challenges and in some cases opportunities for Hudson. Mr. Sallee would make it a priority to ensure that we continue to offer our students a balanced education while ensuring top quality academics as well as a wide variety of extra-curricular activities. He believes this well-rounded approach is critical for our students as we prepare them for the next step in their lives.

Mr. Sallee is excited to have an opportunity to run for school board and hopes to bring the same common sense approach to board service that he uses every day in his work life. He believes that he can play a key role in providing our students the best education possible.

Brenda Klenk, Candidate for School Board
No stranger to small schools, Brenda is originally from Ossian, Iowa where she attended South Winneshiek Community School District. Mrs. Klenk then moved to Waukon and graduated from Allamakee schools. Following graduation from high school, Brenda did a stint in the United States Army Reserve before being honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant. She continued her education at the American Institute of Business where she earned her Associates Degree. These days she can be found in the courtroom where she serves the Honorable Linda M. Fangman as a licensed and certified shorthand and registered professional reporter for the State of Iowa as a First District Official Reporter.

Brenda and her family tried out the big city life for a few years, settling in the suburban Chicagoland area before realizing it just wasn't for them. The schools were just too big, and both Brenda and Ken wanted their children to have a school experience that resembled what they knew growing up. With family in Hudson and after having visited here several times and knowing Hudson offered a great education, they knew right away Hudson was where they wanted to call home. After visiting several small towns in Iowa, they fell in love with Hudson and relocated here in 2008 when their oldest daughter Ellie was in the 6th grade. Now, almost 10 years later, Ellie is a student at the University of Northern Iowa. Annelise graduated from Hudson High School in May and is off to Iowa State Unversity this fall, which leaves Amelia who is excited to start the 5th grade. Brenda and her husband Ken have been married for 22 years.

Mrs. Klenk gravitates toward board service out of a desire to serve her community. As a parent and citizen of this community, she feels the experiences her children have had in school have been excellent. At the same time, there is a recognition her youngest child still has 8 years to enjoy as a student at Hudson. She wants to ensure all her children have the same great experience. Brenda understands the challenges that face schools in Iowa and points to a continued lack of funding for school districts and the changing demographics of the student population.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Klenk is quick to point out the strengths of Hudson schools! She points to a tradition of academic excellence that has been a mainstay of Hudson year after year and attributes that first and foremost to the amazing educators that work so hard in our school buildings. However, she understands that our challenge will be to retain these educators in light of continued funding challenges.

Brenda is excited about her candidacy and would love the opportunity to work collaboratively with other members of the board and the administration, while at the same time providing the best possible advocacy for our number one priority: the student.

Kala Featherstone, Candidate for School Board
Kala Featherstone
Originally from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Kala and her family are proud to call Hudson home! Her parents still live in Sioux Falls and she has a sister who lives in Minneapolis. Mrs. Featherstone attended Iowa State University and earned degrees in accounting and management information systems. After obtaining her CPA license she worked for a firm in Des Moines which gave her great insight and experience in multiple industries including school district auditing.

Kala currently works in the risk management division of Wells Fargo bank. She has been with the bank 13 years holding positions in financial planning, accounting controller, and technology/risk divisions. Mrs. Featherstone feels her position is a great fit for her young family because it provides the opportunity to work from home so she can be with her children before and after school.

Kala and her husband Joe have been married for almost 10 years and have 3 children who currently attend (or will soon attend) Hudson schools. Their oldest, Katie is in 3rd grade, Chase is in 1st grade, and Brooke will be in preschool and can't wait until she can start kindergarten so she can ride the school bus! Kala wants to point out they moved into the district prior to Katie starting kindergarten so their children would be in a community with great schools and people. Their children are very active, love school, their teachers, and all the friends they have made at Hudson Elementary!

Mrs. Featherstone is interested in board service out of a desire to ensure the needs of our elementary children are considered in all decisions. She is attuned to the fact that new neighborhoods are under development which will lead to an increase in enrollment in the district. Within that context, she wants to ensure class sizes don't become too large, particularly in the elementary school where studies suggest student achievement is impacted by class size. Kala also believes her skill set will be a great fit for the board and a way to give back to the community, ensuring Hudson Schools is a top district in Iowa! At the same time, she recognizes the challenges that schools in Iowa have with regard to funding and other legislative requirements and mandates.

In Hudson, Kala believes the greatest challenge facing our schools is the ability to provide diverse offerings and extracurricular activities to meet the needs of multiple student interests and remain fiscally responsible. At the same time, it is important to consider the additionals costs that parents must contribute in order to participate in these activities. She is also a proponent of new cutting-edge technology and wants to ensure Hudson remains a leader in this arena. Kala is excited about school board service and would look forward to working with school stakeholders to make Hudson a premier school district in Iowa. She feels her perspective and skillset would be a valuable asset to the board and points out that with young children, she would be able to be a voice on the board for years to come.