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.

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