Thursday, December 4, 2008

December 2008 Update

At the time you are reading this, the month of December will be well under way, winter activities will be in full swing and preparation for the Holiday Season will be in progress. This is the time of year when we can all take a moment and reflect upon what has happened in the past 11 months and what we plan to accomplish in the next 12 months.

As I take a moment to reflect on the past year, I take great satisfaction in being part of the community of Earlham and part of the Earlham Community School District. I am extremely thankful that my family feels like this is “home”. My sons have made friends easily and my wife continues to meet more people through various organizations and being a substitute teacher in the elementary school.

I am very grateful for working with a forward thinking School Board, an enthusiastic administrative team and a dedicated group of teachers and support staff. The District Vision Statement is:

“The Earlham Community School District believes that the ultimate purpose of education is to challenge all students to reach their highest levels of achievement possible in order to become life long learners.”

I can honestly say that everyone associated with the school does their best to fulfill this shared vision as they work each day.

The District has made a commitment to providing high quality instruction through the years by training teachers in the CRISS instructional strategies. A conscious effort to improve curriculum through professional development is ongoing. Included in those initiatives are Every Learner Inquires Science, 6 + 1 Traits of Writing, Instructional Decision Making (IDM) and many others. Student access to technology continues to increase through the purchase of additional work stations including a mobile lab with 20 laptop computers for the high school and increased wireless access to the local area network and the internet.

The custodial staff works diligently to provide a clean and shiny learning environment for the students and maintenance on the district buildings and ground is ongoing. The remodeling of the high school Chemistry room and the new work tables for the Biology room have been marvelous improvements in the facility. The Teacher Associates are an invaluable asset for working one-on-one with students who need additional assistance in learning, and no school district in Iowa serves better meals than Karen and her staff.

As I look to the future of the school district, there are so many positive aspects to build upon. The first thing that comes to my mind as a challenge for the next year is the implementation of the Iowa Core Curriculum. The State Legislature has mandated the high schools in Iowa fully implement this curriculum beginning in 2010 and in 2012 for K-8. For more information about the Iowa Core, visit the Iowa Department of Education website at:

Another challenge is to continue to improve the current facilities while planning for the future growth. With the purchase of land, the School Board has prepared the District for a possible building project. At the same time, the District experienced a decline in overall enrollment this fall for the first time in 8 years. As I have stated before, my hope is that this decline is a “one year occurrence” and not a trend. Enrollment projections from the Department of Education indicate continued growth in student enrollment which could make a building project necessary. The Facilities Committee continues to meet on a regular basis to discuss how to best serve the students in the future.

Finally, every school district is challenged to provide increased appropriate use of technology to prepare students for a world where global competition is ever increasing. I believe that the district has made and will continue to make technology part of every student’s lives at school. The District Technology Committee meets periodically to discuss how we can balance giving students access while protecting them from the “garbage” that is certainly in cyberspace. I know that a few districts have implemented pilot projects where the school provides a laptop for every student. Most have had a grant to provide for the funding for this expenditure. I can see how that may be coming some time in the future, but my concentration would be on what we would do with the technology. We know that the students are technology “natives” and have never known a world without the internet. The challenge will continue to be how to creatively work with technology to provide a hands-on learning environment rich in student work.

Thank you for your continued support of the Earlham Community School District and may you and your families experience a blessed Christmas.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Nutrition News

As superintendent, I normally try to keep the public informed about the finances of the district, the changes in legislation affecting the district and building/facilities related projects. I want to take this opportunity to talk to you about nutrition, specifically, the nutritional program at the district.

Let me begin by stating that the Earlham Community School District has had and continues to have an outstanding food service program. The meals are wonderful and all of the food service staff takes great pride in providing a balanced nutritional meal for students each day. After having worked in several other school districts around the State, I can honestly say that no other food service program that I have been associated with offers as many nutritious choices for students on a daily basis.

Nearly all studies that I have read indicate a direct link between proper nutrition and academic achievement. We all know that it is more difficult to concentrate when you are hungry. It is especially important that all students start their morning with a nutritious breakfast. I was surprised to find out that, on average, only 30-35 of the over 650 students who attend school in this district eat breakfast at school.

I am sure that many students eat breakfast at home before they come to school and that is great! I am also certain that some students, especially middle school and high school students grab something from the Ala Carte shelf to eat before school starts. My hope is that all students have something to eat each morning prior to beginning their studies. The district wants to make sure that if a child doesn’t eat something at home, they know there are breakfast alternatives for them at school. Breakfast is served in the Multi-purpose room each morning beginning at 7:45 AM. The school lunch menu includes a breakfast menu and is available on the school website at

Another statistic that surprises me relative to the school nutrition program for the district is the percentage of students/families who are receiving Free and/or Reduced lunch prices. This is surprising because the percentage is low in comparison to schools in our athletic conference and in the area. I want to make certain that all district patrons know that the information relative to Free and/or Reduced priced meals is posted on the school website, including the income eligibility guidelines from the Federal Government. All information within the school relative to Free and/or Reduced price meals is kept strictly confidential by law. I would encourage anyone who is eligible based upon the income guidelines to participate in this program. It is beneficial to you and to the district in many ways. For example, when the district applies for federal grants, one factor that is taken into consideration is the percentage of students who receive Free and/or Reduced prices meals. The higher the percentage, the more likely the district is to receive the grant.

Finally, I want to make sure that all parents realize that the food service program will provide a sack lunch for your child when they are going to be on a school sponsored field trip. In fact, the food service staff wants to provide these meals. It is important that the district maintain a high level of participation in both the breakfast and lunch programs to return the food service to a self-supporting entity. Recently, the district has experienced some financial challenges related to the food service account. With the increase in food prices and extra fuel charges for delivery, the revenues for this program are not covering all current expenditures. Please feel welcome to come to school and have lunch with your child anytime that works for you. If you have any questions, feel free to stop in and chat.