Thursday, August 10, 2017

The electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles. Oren Harari

Another school year is here and the faculty is back preparing their rooms for the first day with students.  This will be an exciting year for USD 239 and for other Kansas Schools.  The Kansas Department of Education challenged school districts earlier this summer with the opportunity to redesign their school district based on the five outcomes of becoming a successful district.
North Ottawa County School District has accepted that challenge. We will move forward and study effective teaching strategies that have the most impact on students and their learning.  

If we want our students to grow and be prepared for a workforce yet undefined, we must have opportunities in our classrooms that give our students the opportunity to problem solve, be creative, work with others and become critical thinkers.  Most often students are told what to learn, when to learn it, and how it should be learned.

With all that we know about how students learn, the nature of the world they will face after graduation, and the educational inequities that have existed for centuries, maintaining a traditional, one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning is synonymous to instructional malpractice.  

The traditional model of schooling ultimately prepares students for the industrial model of the past. We do great things at Minneapolis Grade School and Minneapolis JR/SR High, the staff is up to the challenge and they understand that they must be flexible and open to change when the need arises if we want our students to become successful citizens in a global society.

Please check back later to see what changes are happening in our district. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

KASB announces Leadership for Tomorrow Class of 2017

Professional development is extremely important in education for our teachers; however, it is equally important for myself to stay on top of educational trends and policies that effect our school and students.  I have been given the opportunity to participate in KASB's "Leadership for Tomorrow" classes beginning this March.

KASB released the following press concerning this year's class.

The Kansas Association of School Boards is pleased to announce our Leadership for Tomorrow Class of 2017. The 25 participants were chosen through an application process based on individual leadership in public education and participation in activities that promote effective governance and raise student achievement.
The Class of 2017 is comprised of board members and superintendents from across Kansas, representing schools of different sizes, geographic location and demographic enrollment.
“Leadership for Tomorrow gives everyone a chance to learn more about who we are and what we have in common,” said Dr. John Heim, KASB executive director. “It’s also a way to gain perspective on our shared challenges and how schools across the state are meeting the needs of the kids in their schools.”
Heim said part of the program focuses on expanding skills to become more effective advocates for improvement and change, benefiting not only the participant’s local school district, but also Kansas public education.
“This year’s class will be in the front row as our state grapples with education funding and policies that will impact every district in our state,” Heim said. 
Four sessions will be held in various locations across the state. This year’s class sessions will be held in Hutchinson, Stafford, Coffeyville Parsons, Ness City, Garden City and Wichita. Through these onsite visits, presentations and class discussions, participants expand their knowledge of leadership skills and education key issues by learning about the unique challenges and opportunities in schools across the state.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Kansas schools facing the possibility of more cuts.

As the legislative session gets underway there are many issues that are at the forefront, but one issue that affects all agencies is the lack of revenue.  The past several years many agencies have seen cuts other than education.  These cuts have affected many lives and it is time for our Kansas Government to undo the damage they have caused with their tax policies. 

Kansas ranks 10th in the nation in achievement but 41st in the nation in teacher salaries.  All nine states ahead of Kansas in achievement spend more money on education. 

School superintendents learned earlier this week that education might receive more cuts by the end of this school year between 2%-4%.  The dollar amount for USD 239 would be between $78,000-$156,000.  At this point in the school year we do not have this amount in our general operating budget; however, we do have this amount in our contingency reserves.  It is for times like this that we have a contingency reserve; however, if the state’s budget does not get fixed soon we will not have any more reserves in our contingency budget to draw from.

I mentioned in an earlier article about the new vision the Kansas State Board of Education has for our schools.  It is a great vision; however, with the vision does come added expenses for the district.
 • More programs to close the achievement gap.
 • More guidance and career counselors to support individual learning plans based on             career interest.
• Expanded career and technical programs to allow more students to successfully                  complete post secondary education.
 • More support for the social and emotional needs of students.

It is time to say no more to the failed tax policy of the current Kansas Administration.  Our kids deserve better and they deserve to have a promising future.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January is School Board Appreciation Month

Ordinary citizens doing extraordinary work: that’s how to describe our local board of education! These seven individuals are our friends and neighbors who are creating a future for every child in our community. They spend countless hours preparing to make decisions, participating in meetings and attending school activities and events. They advocate on the local, state and national levels for our children. They are held accountable for the decisions they make, and do all of this as volunteers.

Our local board of education is responsible for setting a vision for our local education program, and partners with staff and other members of the community to provide the facilities and infrastructure to achieve that vision. They research, study and then discuss issues so that they can make informed decisions on countless complex challenges.

Too often we forget about the personal sacrifices school board members make. The job of a school board member is tough, the hours long and the thanks few and far between. The month of January marks the annual observance of School Board Recognition Month and gives us the chance to say thank you!

This is a time to shine a light on how local boards prepare today’s students for success. In January, join with others throughout our district and state to salute the men and women who provide leadership for our public schools.

We applaud them for their dedication to leading our schools so that today’s students can become tomorrow’s leaders. The men and women serving North Ottawa County and their years of service are:

David Pounds--12 years                     Justin Abell—2 years
Angie Ruble—7 years                        Brigitte Nelson—2 years
Dr. Bruce Labes—6 years                  Sandra Tibetts—2 years

Kendall Kirk—2 months

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"The first five years has so much to do with how the next 80 turnout." Bill Gates

Parents as Teachers is a national organization that works with prenatal up to five-year olds.  Parents as Teachers promotes the optimal early development, learning and health of children by supporting and engaging their parents and caregivers.  Parents as Teachers designs and develops quality research-based and evidence-informed curricula and training. 

North Ottawa County has provided this service for the past 19 years under the direction of Pam Meier.  Pam recently retired and we are very thankful to her for her dedication to providing a strong program for the families of North Ottawa County.

Ashley Johnson, who is a Minneapolis native, will be taking over as our Parents as Teacher coordinator.  Ashley has her college degree from Sterling College and prior to taking the Parents as Teacher coordinator she was an in-home Child Care Provider.

The Parents as Teacher program will advocate for children and families at the state and federal level through community engagement.  We understand that the early years of a child's life are critical for optimal development and provide the foundation for success in school and in life.  Parents are their children's first and most influential teachers.  All young children and their families deserve the same opportunities to succeed, regardless of any demographic, geographic or economic considerations.

If you would like to know more about our program, please contact Mrs. Ashley Johnson at 785-392-2304 or email her at

Monday, December 12, 2016

"What we learn with pleasure we never forget." Alfred Mercier

Preparing our students for 21st Century Skills requires digital learning.  There are several ways to use digital learning to prepare our students.  With digital learning students now have the opportunity to learn at different times or places during the day, they are no longer confined to the four walls of the classroom.  Students can learn at their own pace or their own path, digital learning is allowing students to make learning personal and engaging, getting real-time results as they move along at their speed.

Digital Learning is more than just providing our students with a Chromebook or an iPad, those are just the tools that the content is delivered. Teachers are still responsible for the learning that happens in the classroom.  Students still need to be taught the foundations of each new concept they learn.  Technology is allowing for students to practice what they have learned a much faster pace and more engaging.  I have had several opportunities to witness our students using these tools to expand their learning. 

Many of our classes use interactive software that allows for personalized learning, and from that I mean our students are working on math or reading skills at their pace and at their learning levels.  The software is designed to be flexible, so when the student is answering the question correctly, the problems become a little more challenging and when the student misses the question the problems become less challenging.  The teacher can then look at reports from the students work to determine what level each student has maxed out their learning so they can determine what skills the student needs more help in.

Coding is another exciting new tool that has been around for several decades, but is being introduced at the elementary grade level with all of our students.  Nationwide last year there was the “Hour of Code”, to where all students participated in learning how to code.  Coding is just another name for programming.  Students learn how software is designed by getting the opportunity to create their own.  Coding allows for our students to think critically, problem solve, learn to take criticism, perseverance, and work with others.  Each one these skills will help our students become successful students and adults.

Many of our tools that we use at our grade school can be accessed from your home and many are designed to have the ‘game-like’ feel, so when our students are having fun they are also learning.  These are just a couple of ways that technology is allowing our students at the grade school to use 21st Century Learning Skills. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterdays, we rob them of tomorrow." John Dewey

Recently I attended a conference that talked about 21st century teaching and learning.  This conference allowed me to evaluate my own knowledge of what a 21st century learner is as well as ponder if our school is preparing our students to be 21st century learners.  What is a 21st century learner?  The term "21st-century skills" is generally used to refer to certain core competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving that advocates that schools need to teach to help students thrive in today's world.

It is not that we stop teaching the basics or the foundation pieces that students need but it is how we teach these concepts.  Student’s need be engaged in their learning for better understanding of what is being taught.  Research clearly points out that if a student finds relevancy in what they are being taught and if they can teach others what they have learned then the chances of them retaining what they have learned is greater.

Digital literacy is a large part of the 21st century learner and using technology is a great tool to insure that students are engaged in their learning.  Technology opens doors that allows us to do things with our lessons that were not possible before. Learning must be fun and also allow for our students to become critical thinkers.  Teaching has to be different today if we want to prepare our students for their future.  Technology has changed the way we do things and it is does not appear that it will be slowing down anytime soon.

Next week I will share with you what great things we are doing in our classrooms to help prepare our students to for their future as 21st century learners.