WATERLOO – The 17th Annual Mayors’ Top Teen Awards and Mother Moon Service Scholarships were presented by the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley on Tuesday evening at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center. The awards program, which recognizes outstanding youth […]
Today the 4th Grade TAG students prepared a program for the official Arbor Day celebration. Hudson has been a tree city for over 30 years. The Arbor Day association donates two dollars for every citizen in Hudson For the city of […]
After a year of working hard to provide beautiful art to 30 Hudson businesses, Mrs. McNeal’s Art It Forward club took one afternoon to make art gifts for their families. Check out some of the beautiful tiles that were made! […]
Submitted by Mr. Haskovec It was another fantastic year in the 7th and 8th for National History Day projects. Students not only competed with upmost professionalism, but they put together some outstanding historical thesis together! When thinking about what NHD […]
submitted by Coach Harms The 2015 Girls track team began their quest of another successful season, on Monday, March-16th. The Pirates return a good share of their squad from last year’s team that battled to a 2nd place team finish […]
The class 1A and 2A NEIBA District Jazz Band Contest was held at Hudson High School March 7 with twenty middle school and high school jazz bands competing. The Hudson Middle School Jazz Band earned a Superior rating (the highest) […]
We are quickly closing in on the end of the school year. It seems like only yesterday that faculty and staff were returning to the district and we were preparing to be one of the first school districts in Iowa to launch a teacher leadership system. Additionally we were preparing for the second year of our math curriculum implementation. This curriculum adoption was one of our primary drivers for being so aggressive in our pursuit of a teacher leadership system: we knew that a major curriculum adoption would require the expertise of a math instructional coach in order to ensure that curriculum was aligned to the Iowa Core Academic Standards and implemented with fidelity.
Since we were deep into our math adoption by the end of the 2013-2014 school year and teacher leadership was 'Coming to a School Near You', it seemed like an appropriate time to revamp our antiquated literacy and language arts suite of resources for the 2014-2015 school year. Because of that and the new statewide emphasis on early literacy, we determined a literacy coach made a lot of sense for our leadership system. While we are now almost a full year into the literacy adoption, we have also taken time to implement the FAST system in order to give us good diagnostic data for our early readers. By the way, the growth of many of our readers is quite impressive!
Not to be outdone, the high school was a mere six months into a Connected Learning Initiative. Please take special notice of the language that is being used to describe a learning environment that most other schools refer to as a 1:1 Initiative. The distinction is very important because here at Hudson, it is not at all about the device or the fact that every high school student has one. It should be about what we can do with that device. So our efforts have focused on implementing technology at the highest level of instruction, where teachers are not merely substituting a computer for the same type of activity they had always done (filling in a worksheet on a computer screen for example). Rather , they are redefining instruction with the types of activities students are engaged--in and out of the classroom--with things we could not even dream about five years ago (like designing and printing projects on a 3D printer).
The question that now begs to be answered, almost a full year in, is what have we learned? First, and perhaps most important is the expertise that teacher leaders bring to the table. We have created a sense of urgency in our district and have unlocked some very powerful linkages that tie these initiatives together with our PLC process in a way that we didn't fully appreciate. This would not have happened without teacher leaders who are experts in their field. Our instructional coaches have been able to identify and rectify problems of practice through a collaborative network of teaching faculty right here in our own buildings. In some cases they have been able to leverage the expertise of their colleagues in the district in new and innovative ways.
Another key takeaway this first year is the critical role the building principal plays in the process. In schools where teacher leadership systems are doomed to fail, it can sometimes be traced back to resistance from the building principal. If building principals feel that roles of teacher leaders are ill defined, or they have a sense that their authority is somehow diminished, it can cause systems to stumble. We have taken deliberate steps at Hudson to ensure this is not the case. The roles of instructional coaches are clearly defined and these teachers meet and collaborate frequently with building principals. The fact is they meet a minimum of weekly and often times more than that. An often heard misnomer as it relates to the building principal is the idea that teacher leadership will somehow lighten the load, or take some 'bricks of the pile'. We have found that to be absolutely false. What is true in fact, is that it actually adds to the scope of responsibilities for the building principal. But this is not a bad outcome nor should it be cause for alarm! I can say with great confidence that our building principals are better instructional leaders now than they were one year ago! Indeed, this system has sharpened the skill set of everyone in the school district.
While our system is functioning as designed and we are pleased with the overall progress, we do not claim our system represents a panacea. For starters, we must recruit more teachers into the ranks of leadership in our system! Many of our practitioners have leadership skills and expertise that we are anxious to tap! I do hope our recruitment efforts are more successful in the future than they have been in the past. As our system was being launched, much effort and energy was devoted to ensuring the anchor roles in our system were clearly articulated and set up for early success. Because of this, I feel that not enough attention was devoted to the functioning of those who serve as model teachers. As we move into year two, we will have to explore how the intersection of theory and practice come together, particularly as it relates to the relationship between the instructional coach and model teacher.
So as we close out our first year of teacher leadership, I am excited for what we have learned and anxiously look forward to strengthening our system in year two!
Friday marks the end of the legislative session--at least from the standpoint of when daily per diem for legislators will expire. In reality we are a long way from the final gavel of the 2015 General Assembly. The most important work of this session remains unresolved, and it appears the end is nowhere in sight. Unfortunately this is not all that new since we were in the same predicament just a few years ago. Indeed that year the same questions remained unanswered well into the summer, and I predict this year to be no different. I watched the 6 o'clock news the other night and saw the same traditions being played out that typically end the General Assembly: the Pages stacking the paper cases as high as they could in the Capitol building, until they ultimately topple over.
I wonder if these unanswered questions will become a new tradition of the General Assembly of Iowa; extending the session late into the summer while Iowa schools eliminate programs, delay hiring decisions, and continue to operate with curriculum and equipment that has far outlived its usefulness. Perhaps those toppling paper cases represent a metaphor of something much more insidious?
Following that news story was another, again about Iowa schools and the consequences of leaving these questions unanswered. The Iowa State Education Association is providing a powerful visual that represents the impact of inaction by our legislators. Each day that passes, the organization visualizes the number of positions that have been cut or will be left unfilled in Iowa. At last count, this number was approaching 860. Hudson's numbers are included in this data set.
Obviously we are not cutting any positions--you would have heard about it by now if we were. But we are most certainly delaying hiring, and in some cases not filling positions that are being vacated. I suppose you could say that we are among the lucky. At least this year no one is losing their job.
We have worked hard the last five years to turn around the financial metrics of our district. I am sure many of you remember the massive cuts we had to endure in order to get our fiscal house in order. I remember it distinctly, and remember how painful it was. Luckily we have turned the corner with our financial position and will continue working hard to ensure those type of drastic measures don't need to be taken again. However, the current status of the school funding dilemma will mean deficit spending for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2015. Projections also suggest deficit spending for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1, 2016.
Because of our hard work and discipline we will be able to weather these 'austerity' measures--at least in the short term. But make no mistake--without adequate funding it will force us to dig deeply into our reserve funds. I hope the irony is lost on no one: the legislature doesn't want to use 'one time' money for ongoing expenses, while at the same time forcing school districts to do exactly that.
Again, I suppose you could count us among the lucky. After all no one is losing their job this year. So you might ask, what is the real cost of this cut for Hudson Schools? Well, it means that we begin to lose some momentum. That's a shame because we have been making real progress in our district! For example the implementation of a Connected Learning Initiative; being selected as one of the first school districts in Iowa to successfully implement a teacher leadership system; the adoption and alignment of two major curriculum initiatives in the elementary school; and a Pirate Term competency based unit of instruction that is designed to rigorously engage students in learning that is truly revolutionary.
We were on track to begin replacing outdated curriculum material in the high school. That won't be happening now. Our FCS teacher will be retiring at the end of the year. Instead of replacing that position, we will instead contract those classes out to another school district. The problem here is it lessens the likelihood students will even elect to take these courses. One of our elementary teachers is also retiring this year. We have decided to delay hiring a replacement for this position until we have a better feel for the size of our kindergarten class. Waiting until school starts to hire an elementary teacher adds a whole new layer of complexity to the equation, and there is a very real possibility the position won't even be replaced. The consequence of this would be larger class sizes. Certainly not something that we want to do, particularly in light of our efforts to improve early literacy.
Indeed, there is a cost to the cut! It might not be readily visible on the surface, but it sure is there.
I was a bit surprised to learn from a recent investigative report that there are a number of Congress members who have never sent an email. The reporter of this story did a little digging and discovered that nine such members of Congress proudly make this claim. I thought, really? How does that even work? The use of email has become so ubiquitous in society I can't imagine a productive work day without it. Further, for a member of Congress to make this proclamation hardly seems praiseworthy. These members of Congress certainly have email addresses that are answered by staffers. Many of them also have Twitter accounts--although they too are probably run by staffers.
To illustrate the importance of 21st Century communication, the reporter on this story decided to see if she could go a mere 24 hours without sending or receiving email. She found it incredibly difficult and the antithesis of efficient. Instead of emailing sources for information, she first had to locate a phone number, only to call and not have anyone pick up on the other end of the line! The reporter was then greeted with a message that said something like, "Thanks for calling. Please send me an email and I will respond as quickly as I can."
I have shared in this blog numerous times the importance of 21st Century communication tools. We have discussed how the business of school relies so heavily on the Internet that it makes it practically impossible (if not incredibly inefficient) to do business without this connection. To not use them does a disservice to constituents and fails to accept the fact that the steady beat of time marches on.
Along with our members of Congress, there is another group of folks who need to stay up to date with emerging technologies or they too will find themselves slowly fading into obsolescence. I speak about those who live in our schools, leading them and working daily in classrooms with young people. Luckily, I am not aware of anyone that doesn't at least understand the basics of sending and receiving email.
But the use of email is a mere fraction of the tools available that enable schools to create a more transparent and robust system of communication. In our efforts to share our message, we must be willing to engage our constituents with the tools they are currently turning to when looking for information. We must not be afraid to use social media--we should instead leverage these tools to broadcast our message and share our story!
All too often I hear examples where this is not happening in schools. Perhaps there is a fear of the unknown. A feeling that we are too busy. Or that this is a tremendous waste of time that could better be spent on something else. Maybe we feel this is just something that is for the amusement of our kids. But shouldn't we be engaging our kids where they are?
Our failure to use these tools robs us of an opportunity to engage our communities. It forces us to be so naive as to believe the only place where people get information is through the tool of our choosing.