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Hudson Welcomes New Faculty

2 days ago, no responses

It is a big year of transition as almost a dozen new teachers become faculty members for the Hudson Community School District! We are excited with the energy and enthusiasm of our new teachers and encourage you to get to […]

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Computer Roll-out Info Grades 7-12

2 weeks ago, no responses

ATTENTION 2016-17 7th Grade Students (parent/guardian must attend): During the evening open house on Aug. 22th, seventh graders (and 7-12 students new to the district) must attend the Connected Learning Roll Out meeting at 6:00P.M. in the junior high auditorium. All paperwork and a $50 deposit will need to be completed […]

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New Hudson Schools Activity Calendar

2 weeks ago, no responses

Hudson Schools has moved to a more advanced calendar system.  The cloud-based Activity Scheduler is the top software for automating all of our scheduling and administrative functions. It also provides a very powerful Web calendar for the whole  district, and […]

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Dr. Voss Honored with UNI Leadership Legacy Award

3 months ago, no responses

Dr. Voss was awarded the UNI Educational Leadership Legacy Award at a short ceremony on May 19th.  Members of the UNI Ed Leadership faculty presented Dr. Voss with a plaque and gift congratulating him on his accomplishments and his commitment […]

Dawn Frye

Dawn Fry Earns Gold Star Award

3 months ago, no responses

Article by Hudson Herald staff Spanish teacher Dawn Frye received an award recently she never saw coming.  It walked right through her Hudson high school classroom door on April 20, brought  by co-sponsors, the R.J. McElroy, Trust and KWWL, who […]

2016 HEF scholarship recipients

HEF Awards $23,650 to Class of 2016 Scholars

3 months ago, no responses

On May 11th, at the Senior Awards Assembly, the Hudson Educational Fund awarded 41 scholarships to 35 deserving students for a total of $23,650. Thank you to our generous HEF donors who continue to impact the futures of so many […]

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Voss Blog Log

    Education in Iowa Public Schools

    Dr. Anthony D. Voss, Superintendent of Schools

    In the past three weeks we have identified priorities the board has established and targeted for advocacy efforts in the upcoming legislative session. I will continue to remind you of the importance of these issues for not only Hudson schools, but schools all across the state as we approach election day. On November 8th we will go to the ballot boxes and cast our votes, and I want you to understand the issues that are important to your local community and school district. Hopefully my commentary will enable you to ask candidates where they stand on specific issues, enabling you to make an informed decision. Unfortunately there is not a candidate or party out there that completely aligns with everything you or I value. Believe me, there are plenty of times legislators from both parties take a stance on issues that I disagree with! 

    To remind you, the issues that we have taken a position on include: adequate, predictable and timely school aid, the preservation and extension of the statewide penny for school infrastructure, and the opposition to unfunded mandates on schools. Today in the final article of this series, I will outline the last advocacy issue identified by the board: flexibility in special levy funds.

    Like the issues identified above, this is not a new subject of conversation. Indeed school budgets are incredibly complex and the rules governing how and what funding is spent on creates inefficiencies in how we do business. Our school budget consists of several different funds, and within some of those funds are sub-funds. The idea is to create silos of money to be utilized for specific purposes, and thus to specifically prohibit the use of funds for some purposes. Some of this makes a ton of sense and I am totally in agreement. Other prohibitions and rules; well there is room for improvement. Let's first discuss some of the good in these rules and prohibitions.

    The statewide penny or SAVE Fund (Secure an Advance Vision for Education) is a good place to start. Like the PPEL fund (Physical Plant and Equipment Levy), this funding source can only be used for capital improvement projects, the purchase or procurement of computers, or the purchase of vehicles. Now I am generalizing a bit here, there are certainly other appropriate expenditures but what is most important is what is not permitted: salaries and instructional material. This we agree with. Indeed it is important to ensure these funds are protected for the intended purpose. In this case, the rigidness of the guidelines for this fund is about right. 

    However, that isn't to say that flexibility shouldn't be permitted in others cases or funds. We have made some progress in this regard. It is now permissible for school districts to use the management fund to pay for costs associated with mediation and arbitration proceedings as a result of disagreements with local education associations in matters of contract negotiations and other labor relations issues. This can be viewed as a good thing as well. Prior to this change, those type of expenses had to be paid out of the general fund, and attorney fees for these issues can get to be quite expensive.

    Where real flexibility is needed though is in many of sub-funds that are included as categorical money. Now, I believe it is okay in principle to earmark and designate funding for a specific purpose. But what happens once the need is met and money remains? In Iowa schools, it remains there in perpetuity. In some cases, school districts may end up spending it on allowable purchases that they really don't need.

    Imagine this for example. You set aside $5,000 for furniture in your family room. Once you purchase all the furniture you need, you still have $1,000 left. Good for you! You have purchased wisely and come in under budget. Now, a month later the dishwasher and stove break down. Lucky for you, you still have $1,000 in savings from that furniture allocation that came in under budget. But wait....that money was designated for furniture. You can't possibly use it for the new dishwasher and stove. So instead you purchase another couch that you really don't need. The dishwasher and stove, well I am not sure where you will find the money for that. 

    Sounds pretty ridiculous, right? Well, that is how categorical funding sometimes ties our hands in schools. For that reason, the board supports increased flexibility in the use of special levy funds.
    Posted: August 17, 2016, 2:58 pm
    On Monday we had our first School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) of the year. Indeed another sign the beginning of the school year is upon us! A primary topic of discussion for our SIAC during the August meeting is student achievement data and how our students performed on academic achievement goals. This data can be sliced and diced multiple ways, and the metrics that can be analyzed at times seem infinite. Yet as we have often discussed, the data does not provide a very accurate depiction of student learning in Iowa schools. We'll be talking more about student achievement in a future article or possible web post, but in an effort to whet your appetite here are a few interesting metrics from the Iowa Assessment our students took this past school year. 



    Each of these charts depict average (expected and met) growth of students from one grade level to the next. For example, in order for students to meet 'targeted growth' from 3rd grade to 4th grade in math, a growth of 19 points is expected. In our case, students grew 21 points so targeted growth was met. In the column at far right, you should notice a label titled PR, which stands for percentile rank. In most cases we should measure the growth factor based on the 50th percentile, which represents the average student. However, in many cases, Hudson students are anything but average! You should notice that some of these 'cells' are highlighted in yellow with a 75. This simply means that students in that particular grade level, on average, are above average! 

    Now then, as the percentile rank increases, it becomes statistically more difficult for those students with a higher percentile rank to meet targeted growth. When analyzing this data set then, there are two important variables to consider. What is the expected targeted growth, and second, from which percentile rank are we measuring? The good news in this data set is that across the spectrum, in all cases save one, students have shown growth. (See 10th grade  to 11th grade reading.) Those cells shaded in green are areas where grade levels exceeded targeted growth, whereas those shaded in red depict an area where students did not meet targeted growth. Yet there is still a silver lining here! In every case where targeted growth was missed, the average percentile rank is 75% or above. That may not seem like a lot, but statistically it is one standard deviation greater than the median!

    That is a very brief snapshot of what the Iowa Assessment tells us about our student learning profile, and it barely scratches the surface in terms of data that is readily available! The trouble is, this data isn't really all that helpful. Even though I can create colored tables and charts galore that are quite impressive to look at, if the data isn't valid, who really cares?

    Barring any changes from the legislature, this will be the last year we use the Iowa Assessment as our statewide test. This should be viewed as a good thing, because we have long known that what the Iowa Assessment measures isn't what is taught in Iowa schools. This mis-alignment has been known and studied extensively with research studies commissioned by several statewide organizations. The data, albeit statistically sound, does very little to tell us how our students are performing on the actual 'enacted' curriculum in our schools.

    But change to the new Smarter Balance test has become a political football that has created some unusual bi-partisan alliances. Efforts to stop implementation of the Smarter Balance exam were fast and furious during the last legislative session. In the end a session delay was achieved, but efforts to scrap the exam and start all over ended up falling short with a veto by the governor. For that veto, we are thankful. Planning for the implementation of the new statewide assessment is moving forward, and undoubtedly will be a topic of intense negotiations and scrutiny once the legislators assemble in January.

    My hypothesis is that the battle lines will be drawn around funding for this test. The cost of administration for Smarter Balance is significantly more than administration of the Iowa Assessment. I suppose one could argue that the least expensive test should be utilized because, after all, it makes sense to save money and use cost control measures wherever we can. But, why use a tool that doesn't answer the question that you are trying to answer? Wouldn't that be kind of like using a weed trimmer to mow the lawn? It works......sorta?

    A possible resolution to this dilemma may come in the form of funding. What I fear could happen is the legislature allows the Smarter Balance test to go into effect, but fail to adequately fund it. Or worse yet, not fund it at all and mandate that it become (or replace) our current assessment protocol. This would make it an 'unfunded mandate'. 

    Schools are often asked to provide new programs, implement new laws, hire people for special jobs, or use a specific protocol to complete a task on a regular basis by decree of the legislature. The trouble with all these requests (or mandates), is it a rarity that funding is provided to achieve these goals. For these reasons the board opposes as one of it's legislative priorities "any new mandate that does not provide sufficient and sustainable funding for successful implementation."

    It is my hope that Smarter Balance not only become the new statewide assessment, but that the legislator provides the necessary funds to ensure it's success. 
    Posted: August 10, 2016, 8:47 pm
    High school auditorium carpet and painting funded
    through SAVE. Completed summer of 2016.
    Well, its August. This time of summer we really begin to see the pace of operations pick up, and the signs that school will be starting soon begin to emerge. This is evident in the traffic in and out of the central office, where we have families stop to register. It is during many of those visits when people will ask about the status of our projects, and say something like, 'It sure looks nice around here'. Or, 'We are really glad you did X! It's such an improvement!'. Now in terms of our progress, it's kind of a mixed bag report. Some of our projects are finished, and others; well we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! Nevertheless, it is great to see this work being done and the vast majority of people have had nice things to say about what we are currently doing-and what we have done in the past. I have long believed that we should have projects on the docket every summer that improve the look and feel of our facilities. Not only does it improve the climate of the buildings, but these regular upgrades and updates improve the life of our facilities and make people feel good about their school district. From what I have heard, most folks agree. Now if you didn't know this, our school board has been (and continues to be) very strategic about the development and financing of these projects. We have a master plan titled, 'Hudson 2020' that guides our project development and it has served us well the last several years. You should also know that these projects are funded through the SAVE fund or by using PPEL dollars. We are in the initial planning of the next phase of Hudson 2020, which will include a pretty substantial investment in the elementary school and will commit significant SAVE capital over the course of the next 3 years. However, I am a little bit concerned that the revenue might not be able to meet our expectations. The result of this could cause us to delay or scrap some of these plans. Here is why.

    When the General Assembly convened last January, the governor proposed in his Condition of the State address to use a portion of the growth of the SAVE fund to improve water quality in our state. This proposal was partially in response to a lawsuit the Des Moines waterworks filed against 3 north Iowa counties they allege have contributed to high nitrate levels in drinking water. In addition to this, improved water quality is expected to reduce the 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico. Water quality became part of our collective conversation during the last legislative session and had many different groups weighing in on the subject. In fact, our own FFA outlined the issue in competition this last spring with a great deal of success. Everyone wants clean water! But in spite of that, the governor's proposal was not well received by Republicans or Democrats in either chamber of the legislature. 

    This opposition comes because the proposal re-purposes revenue that has been dedicated to school infrastructure, and schools all around the state, including Hudson, rely on that revenue to pay for many of the projects that have been completed in our school to date, and will be completed in the future. Our legislators (from both parties) are not keen on the idea of changing the purpose of revenue that was voted on and approved by a referendum of voters. Keep that in mind, the SAVE fund was established by a vote of the people in a county by county referendum. You, the voters have a say in how this penny was (and is) being spent. It is all laid out for you in our Revenue Purposes Statement. Any proposal that would shift funds from the SAVE, any portion thereof, no matter how small or large would go against the wishes and the will of the voters.

    This is not the first time that voters have had an opportunity to weigh in on matters of taxation in Iowa. You may recall in 2010 Iowans voted to set up a constitutionally protected trust fund for the purposes of protecting and enhancing water quality. That's right, water quality was an issue brought before the voters. The trust is to be funded by 3/8 of one penny the next time sales tax is increased. One could implicitly argue that voters agreed at that time to raise the sales tax. The trouble is, the trust has never been funded.

    So, it would appear that we have two issues of taxation where voters weighed in: water quality and how SAVE is to be allocated. And in both instances, action is being taken or proposed that seems to be contrary to the wishes of the voters.

    That is the reason why our board has identified the preservation and protection of the statewide penny for school infrastructure and further supports the repeal of the 2029 sunset of this penny. Because without this funding stream, many of the projects, upgrades, and renovations that we have completed now and in the future would not be possible.

    Don't forget to vote November 8!


    Posted: August 3, 2016, 1:50 am