Friday, December 2, 2022

Happy Special Education Day

On this special education day where we recognize the efforts and dedication of our teachers who work with these students, I think it is important to underscore and remind everyone that public schools are in fact for everyone. One of the bedrock principles of public schools is the idea that all children are entitled to what is referred to as FAPE: a Free and Appropriate Public Education for all students. Governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), this law embodies the hope and promise of educating all students regardless of disability or learning difficulty.

Very soon the legislative session will begin. Like last year, I anticipate proposals will be discussed to introduce voucher type programs into the state. The litany of reasons these schemes are bad for our educational system are numerous. But with today's spotlight on special education, I think it worth pointing out that private schools who would stand to benefit from vouchers are under no obligation to follow the law as it pertains to students with special needs. In fact, they can (and do) quite simply deny enrollment to students with special needs. 

Denying educational access is the antithesis of our charge as a public school system. We embrace our responsibility to provide access to all our students. In fact, it is a motto we live by in Hudson with our Core Purpose: We create effective learning environments that result in success for all students. Emphasis on all. 

Please join me in thanking all special education teachers for the hard work they put in each day to serve their students. We appreciate everything you do to ensure our students benefit from the high quality educational experience they need and deserve. You are appreciated!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

It seems very hard to believe, but we are just days away from Thanksgiving. For those of you math minded, November 23 (the day before Thanksgiving) will be day 66 of instruction. We will have encumbered just shy of 40% of the school year. By all practical metrics, we have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for as the holidays approach.

The American public school system is unique to its counterparts around the world. Where co/extra curricular activities are an embedded part of our educational culture, in most other countries those activities are not part of the regular school experience. Indeed, I believe our system provides for a much richer, robust, and well rounded end product: the graduate. Truth be told, I believe our educational system is among the best of the world and certainly second to none. Our accomplishments this fall then are laudable. 

Indeed our successes leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday span the educational spectrum, touching almost every aspect our our educational program. I am incredibly proud of the students, teachers and staff; and am grateful for the strong support this community and our families provide to the school district. 

I argue our most important achievement to date has to be our continued academic excellence. As reported a few weeks ago, our schools performed at incredibly high levels on the Iowa Report Card. Indeed our schools stand among the elites of performance statewide, particularly at the elementary school level. No doubt attributable to a high caliber cadre of teaching staff that we work hard to both recruit and retain. Then of course realizing the real key is teacher leadership that relies on practitioners with specialized areas of expertise that can develop and implement strategies that are proven to move the needle on student learning.

We also understand this is a team effort. The support we have from our families at home is also a testament to our success. We know you take your child's education seriously. Think about this: at parent teacher conferences we had a 99% attendance rate at the elementary school. 99%! In real numbers, that equates to 3 students! Of those, only 1 didn't return phone calls and reciprocate attempts at scheduling. Indeed we know how important your partnership is and are grateful for our community support. As you are aware, the district passed a bond issue on the first try in more than twenty years. While on the surface it seemed close with final passage by a mere 4 votes, don't forget this was a supermajority as required by law. Which means the overwhelming majority of the community supported this effort: 444-247!

But to bring us back to the original point: the uniqueness of the American public school system. Our student athletes and fine arts students enjoyed tremendous success this season, with all fall sports teams qualifying for post season play (and received distinguished academic achievement recognition at the same time). Students found success in music, receiving All-State recognition. The drama department executed a very successful performance of '12 Angry Jurors'. And our student leaders in the National Honor Society? They surpassed their goal for the Northeast Iowa Food Bank this year, funding more than 22,000 meals for the hungry and winning first place in the medium sized school division.

We have a lot to be proud of here at Hudson Schools. And we have a lot to be thankful for. On behalf of the entire school community, Happy Thanksgiving!