Monday, May 21, 2018

Superintendent's Message to the Class of 2018: Band-Aids and Gold Stars

Good afternoon Class of 2018! Along with the Board of Directors; I would like to congratulate you. Parents, grandparents and other distinguished guests, welcome to the Hudson Community School District. This is a very exciting day for our seniors. This annual rite of passage known as commencement is one that we are honored to celebrate with these students as they look back with finality on these formative years; and look forward to a future that is yet to be written.

Students: In a little less than an hour from now you will exit this gymnasium as graduates of Hudson High School, thus earning the title of alumni. Take a moment to look around at those assembled here this afternoon. A lot of people; friends and family alike have taken time out of their lives to be here with you today and to celebrate this awesome achievement. 

The Class of 2018 lines up for their 'This is It' Moment
There certainly has been a lot to celebrate. You have had a remarkable year. The fact is, you have had a distinguished tenure as students at Hudson High School. Without a doubt you have left an indelible mark on this school system that has secured a legacy others will inspire to live up to generations from now. Along the way we have cheered you on. For those who love you most, it has been the thrill of a lifetime to watch you grow, become stronger, self-assured, and confident. Then finally, seeing you reach this day—and hopefully not recognizing this moment in time as the apex of your journey; but the beginning—a benchmark if you will. Nevertheless, I expect there will be tears from many in this room when you cross this stage in a few minutes because albeit the beginning of a new and exciting chapter of your lives it also marks an ending.

At the beginning of this school year I asked our faculty and staff to consider their legacy. I posed this question not as a self-check of personalized vanity but as a reflection on the lasting impressions they have on each of you. My hope is that these impressions and lessons will stick with you for years to come and that you remember fondly these experiences at Hudson High School. 

While the time you have spent here with us will be warmly remembered, what of your legacy beyond Hudson High School? It may be thought provoking to consider the answer to that question from the vantage point of your future. It is both fair and expected that you consider the ‘where you go from here’ question as a short term problem to solve. For example, many of you are thinking about the graduation party you will attend this afternoon. Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe that most of you are relatively certain where and how you will spend the next several years. Furthermore, I’ll admittedly concede that you even have thought about your plans following this next brief interlude in your lives. Of this I am convinced, since I enjoyed reading your reflections in the Hudson Herald. What intrigues me most about these ‘words of wisdom’ if you will, is this question posed in these personal narratives: Where do you see yourself in 20 years? Your answers have been both normal and customary: career, family, and a house with a white picket fence enjoying life. However, as my last request to you, I would encourage a more deliberate and reflective response to this question. Don’t worry; this won’t be on the test, because your time for taking tests is over! 

Certainly your answer to this question is both conciliatory and with merit. You have checked all the boxes that will set you on a path of reaching that what we have come to describe as the American Dream. I can promise you: all of us gathered here today have those same hopes and aspirations for you. But what else? Now that you have metaphorically checked all the boxes is there anything further to yearn for? Allow me to pose this to you: Where do you see yourself in 50 years? 

From that perspective those hopes and dreams that you previously worked so hard to achieve would now be 30 years in the rear view mirror. Hopefully with that realization you would come to understand there is much more to life than checking those boxes. Allow me to paint a picture. Consider, for example a scenario where you are sitting in this very gymnasium 50 years from now and your grandson or granddaughter is preparing to cross this stage. Approaching 68 years old, you will be at, or very close to retirement. So perhaps to properly frame the question, it may relevant to think about that future child, that grandson or daughter that is now sitting right here, where you once sat so very long ago. 

To wrap your minds around such a long time span, think about those who are gathered here today for you. Parents. Grandparents. Teachers. Consider anyone really who has nurtured you, put a band aid on your knee when you fell off your bicycle, or stuck the gold star on the refrigerator when you finished cleaning your room. 

Granted, we now have the benefit of hindsight and certainly didn’t have the fortitude or vision to realize so long ago that our future, our 30, 40, or even 50 years ago: Was you. You see, Class of 2018 you are the best version of us. You are our legacy. Our wish was and is that you succeed where we didn’t. That you live in a world that is a little bit kinder, cleaner, and peaceful. 

So when you are sitting out here, in the audience 50 years from now I promise you too will be looking at your own legacy. Those tears that will flow in a few moments are a testament to that.


President Finn's Message to the Class of 2018

Welcome to our Faculty, Administrators, staff, Parents, Families and of course to the Graduating Students.  Thank you for supporting our students at this year's commencement ceremony.   I am proud and honored today to represent the Hudson School Board of Education in celebrating our Graduates and offering some encouraging words as you look to your future.  

Over the years with great community support these graduates have provided countless hours of volunteer service, provided leadership to our younger students, earned district, state and national recognition awards not only in a variety of sports but also in vocal performances, instrumental music, journalism, FFA, model UN, National History Day and LEGO League to name a few.  As a result these young people have become emerging Leaders, Collaborators, Problem Solvers, Creators & Innovators.

The significance of graduation rates cannot be underestimated. One of the fist questions on any application is do you have a High School Diploma or GED?  A High School Diploma is a key milestone for future success, regardless of your next pathway.  It is easy to become complacent when Hudson has had so many years of 98% or greater graduation rates.  But it is more than just graduation rates. It takes effort in many areas of college and career readiness especially in areas of math and reading. A result of consistent efforts by our educators, the recently released US News and World Report on Education ranked Hudson 21st in the State of Iowa! In addition,  Hudson was recognized Nationally at the Bronze level placing Hudson in the top 30% of schools in the Nation.  Not bad for a small town in IOWA!! 

I am reminded of quote from one of our great American Leaders, Teddy Roosevelt,...“there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” 

Graduates, where will you go?  What will you do? How will you make a difference?

I challenge you to DARE GREATLY as the precious Treasure and Pride of Hudson.

DARE GREATLY Class of 2018!! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Music Department Shows Tremendous Growth

As this year is beginning to draw down, my biggest regret is that I missed too many music performances. Most of you are aware that in my former life I was a music teacher, so to see our students perform gives me a lot of enjoyment. Unfortunately a series of family emergencies and out of town commitments kept me away more than I would have liked. Luckily I had the opportunity to attend both the instrumental music concert last week and the vocal music concert this week. To say I was impressed would be an understatement.

While there are numerous components the define what makes a school successful, a lot of stock is placed in student growth and achievement in core academic areas. Largely, student growth and achievement of this nature happens outside public view. This is because when we talk about student achievement, we consider what is occurring within the confines of the regular classroom setting. Please forgive me for boiling this down to such a rudimentary cycle, but teachers teach, give a test, and record the results. At the end of the year they can look back to see how much that student has grown and make a scientific judgment as to how successful their instruction was. Outside the parents, the student, the building principal, and a handful of other people no one really knows all that much about the growth of those students in the classroom. Now, this is certainly not meant to diminish the tremendous amount of growth our students have made in the classroom, because we have plenty of metrics that point to successful classroom instruction. None is probably more public that the Iowa Report Card.

On the other hand, when considering music, we can see very clearly how much improvement our student musicians have or have not made. That is because the amount of growth our student musicians make is demonstrated in a public event know as a concert. Even to the untrained ear, it is self-evident if something sounds good--or sounds bad. Now, although I did unfortunately miss some of what happened in the middle of the year, I do have two pretty good bookends. The beginning of the year concert, and the end of the year concert. What I heard and witnessed over the last week is, well--astounding. Don't just take my word for it, both our large group ensembles received across the board Division I ratings. That means in contest, all three judges agreed the ensemble (both band and choir) were superior in quality. Earning a Division I rating doesn't occur by mere happenstance. It takes very hard work, attention to detail, and incredible concentration. After listening to these groups perform, that being the concert band last week and the concert choir last night, it was really no wonder. It is one thing to be able to successfully execute on the notes, rhythms, and harmonies. It is an entirely different game when the ensemble is able to flawlessly execute on the mechanics and turn the selection into music, rich with dynamics, tone, and emotion. It was very impressive for me to hear these groups not play notes on a page, but to perform music as an art. 

The band concert last week was a real treat. For starters, the growth is pretty obvious. Being able to see how the students progress from fifth grade through high school is as big a contrast as day is to night. These young musicians are able to witness and hear firsthand that practicing your instrument does pay off, and if you stick with it long enough the opportunity to play in a high caliber band is an experience like none other. Yet, not to diminish the growth of any band, I was very impressed by the amount of growth made by our sixth grade band! I was very surprised to hear them playing multiple parts! Then last night, out of nowhere the junior high choir opened up with an a cappella piece. You don't normally do that with junior high students! 

How about considering the noteworthy (pun intended) accomplishments of our music department this year? Aside from the Division I ratings, our jazz band finished 4th at the state jazz championships. Three students were selected to the prestigious Iowa State Jazz Band. One of our vocal soloists not only earned a Division I rating, but also earned outstanding vocalist of the center. 

These are but a few of the accomplishments of our students in music this year. As I summed it up last night, our music department is very good.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

What is Your Story?

Spring is such a wonderful time of the year! We begin to see the grass turn green, leaves budding on trees, and flowers in bloom. The smells in the air this time of year makes it refreshing to be outdoors. For me, there is nothing quite like the aroma that comes from the first time I smell fresh cut grass in the spring! Of the four seasons, spring is my favorite. After what we have experienced over the course of the last month, I think we are all looking forward to the promise of new life and fresh beginnings that come with this season. Indeed it seemed like we were experiencing the winter that would never end. And lets face it: after a long winter of being cooped up indoors we are all eager to head for the exit at the first possible moment! 

At the same time we are witnessing the new life that is blooming in the great outdoors, there is irony in the fact that for us, spring is also a signal that our time together is drawing to a close. In just a few short weeks, we will be ending the story that was the 2017-2018 school year. I remember how exciting this time was for me as a teacher, especially as I began to reflect on how far my students had come and the growth they had made. Perhaps as you enter this final stretch of the year you too will have the opportunity to reflect with pride in the progress the students under your tutelage have made. Indeed for many, there will be sadness as you say goodbye to the students you have shepherded through the trials and tribulations of this school year. And also, for many, there will be joy, as you say goodbye to the trials and tribulations of the school year!

This school year has given us cause for great celebrations. We have seen our student soar: in the classroom, on the stage, and at athletic competition. These accolades; these accomplishments haven't occurred by mere happenstance. When that goal was met, you were standing there quietly in the background beaming with pride. In the humbleness and grace with which you conduct the business of 'educating our youth' the credit was placed where it most certainly was due: with the student. The nobility with which you will fade into the memories of that achievement are most certainly laudable. But make no mistake: that feat would not have come to fruition without the guidance of our educators. Granted, not all our students' accomplishments have played out on the front page of the Hudson Herald. The fact is most of them occurred in the quiet [or at times chaotic] refuge of your classroom. They materialized in an environment devoid of public view. So who knew? You did. Your students did. And there parents did. Thank you for your commitment and dedication to the students you serve.

With just three weeks remaining, I invite you to consider your story for the 2017-2018 school year. Think back on this journey we began together in August. When we began, I shared with you many positive and visible examples of those things we can hang our hats on. But what about those moments that are not so easily seen? What about those brief flashes of wonder that will hang with your students decades from now? What then, of your legacy? Indeed many of these moments are subtle and happen so quickly within the space of recess and lunch; that if we are not careful, we will miss them. So I'll ask you once again: what of your legacy? A month from now when you are packing up your classroom for the summer, what memories will you take with you from this school year? I promise, those memories will be the reminder and the motivation that first inspired you to choose a career in education.

So then on behalf of the students you serve, the parents who ask what at times may seem like endless questions, the community who has entrusted you with this most precious of resources, and the board and administrators that you don't always see eye to eye with: thank you. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Not Quite That Easy

The Hudson school board holds its regular meeting on the third Monday of each month. Our meetings follow a rather structured and predictable formula. For starters, a consent agenda is used that is designed to streamline routine matters of business which include the hiring and resignation of personnel, and the adoption of noncontroversial resolutions. Paying the bills and reviewing monthly financial statements is another matter for the board to deliberate at the meeting. They also receives reports from administrators on the status of their area of supervision, and special topics that are of interest and importance to the board. This includes hearing about the progress of various updates and upgrades to our facilities. Then our predicable meeting format ends with discussion and action on items that generally do require a greater amount of discussion, debate, and deliberation. 

When you read the minutes in the newspaper after each meeting, the results and actions of those meetings is usually boiled down even further. One may even begin to wonder why the vote on issues before the board are so predictable. In fact, you may be thinking: he just boiled down the work of the school board to two short paragraphs. 

Perhaps to a casual observer this is all there is to it. However, this oversimplification of the work and commitment necessary to be an effective board member does not do justice to the responsibilities inherent in board service. For certain, it is not as easy as it looks. As a start, the material each board member is required to study and understand in preparation for a board meeting is staggering. A typical 'board packet' will run several hundred pages and include detail which requires a high level of concentration to comprehend. In addition to this, board members must have a working knowledge of complex financial metrics that are unique to Iowa public schools. Preparation for a meeting will take hours, if not days of study. Not only will it include the material in the board packet, but follow up questions and discussion are almost always necessary to fully understand and appreciate the multiple perspectives of varying issues. In fact, before a final vote is ever taken, an agenda item is likely to have been debated, discussed, and sent back for revision over the course of multiple meetings. It may also surprise you to know that some of the final votes taken by the board have been discussed and debated for over a year. And in at least one case spanning multiple boards. The school board works hard toward consensus, and while the majority of the time it is reached, accepts and appreciates that fact that sometimes dissent occurs.

The lion's share of the time issues before the board are noncontroversial. With study and an understanding of the perspectives at play, the decision to be made is oftentimes clear. But at the same time, clarity does not always make for the noncontroversial adjudication of an issue. During those rare occasions, boards have the opportunity to hear from their constituents. Sometimes that commentary is driven by a misunderstanding of the issue before the board, while at other times it may be a situation where only one perspective is being argued. Or in even some cases, there is just simple disagreement in positions. Thankfully, those are rare occurrences in our school district.

But when they do happen, it can be stressful and taxing on school board members. Now, while its true board members 'signed up for this', at the same time it is important to understand and respect the work they do on behalf of our community. School board service is perhaps one of the purest examples of how our democratic republic is supposed to work. Steeped in the tradition of local control and the idea of no taxation without representation, your local elected officials on the school board are truly volunteering their time. They do this work without any pay for the betterment of our school district. They are representing your voice in the governance of this important and most noble  of institutions. May is school board appreciation month. When you see your school board members out in public, please thank them for their service.