Happy New Year to you all! I hope that each of you had a very Merry Christmas and were able to spend some quality time with your families. Now we are at the dawn of 2018 and hopefully looking to this year with a renewed sense of optimism and hope. Tomorrow we will begin the second semester, giving our students the opportunity and chance for a fresh start. Yes, January 4th we will start anew with our pupils, working hard for the next two and a half months, the entire third quarter of the school year! I sometimes refer to this period between the holidays and spring break as the 'Long Stretch'. With no scheduled instructional breaks between now and March 9th, we are getting ready to settle in for a long stretch of learning. I suppose that is what makes the occasional snow day such a special treat!
But, I like to think this long uninterrupted period of time is ripe for huge gains in student growth and achievement. After all, it's too cold to be outside long. There is a lot of evidence to suggest this cold period of the school year is where we see our students make the most progress. Our teachers have long since figured out how to take advantage of this long stretch to get the most out of our students. Indeed, they will be taking advantage of a great opportunity!
In about a week the legislative session will begin, which hopefully will provide us with opportunities to help shape an agenda that improves public schools in Iowa. There will certainly be areas of sharp disagreement with some members of the legislature over areas of policy, but at the same time we will look for opportunities to find common ground. We look forward to working with legislators to ensure adequate and timely supplemental state aid, an extension or repeal of the sunset on the SAVE fund, an extension or repeal of the expiration of incentives provided through operational sharing, and eliminating the burden that comes from unfunded mandates (let's make certain we fund the new statewide assessment). Okay, I'll admit that sounds a bit more like a wish list than anything else, but let's at least agree we have opportunities to make our voices heard. After all, it's an election year and everyone up for re-election wants to be able to say they supported our public schools!
Our school board has taken some key votes over the last few months, using the opportunities in front of them to leverage our resources in a way that improves the educational experience of the students we serve. Recently, they approved the second phase of the elementary renovation project that is scheduled for this summer. This work will be be a continuation of the goal to modernize and renovate our K-6 building that was begun last summer. They took further steps to embark on a feasibility study of district facilities. This because the school board has recognized the opportunities that exist with significant residential development in three locations throughout our community. I have no doubt this will create some exciting opportunities for future projects in our school! We'll most certainly be talking more about this later!
So there you have it! My word for the year is opportunity! As we settle in for the 'Long Stretch' my plan is to look forward each day for opportunities to make a difference in our school district. I sincerely hope each of you has a great 2018. Stay warm and enjoy this long stretch. Spring is just around the corner.