On Sept. 6, doors opened to our schools welcoming students for the 2016-17 school year. Our approximately 160 employees worked extremely hard to ensure the start of the school year was a positive one for our students and their families.
Prior to the first day of school for students, staff gathered on Aug. 30 for a District-wide kickoff where we welcomed new staff and celebrated the opportunity we have to live our mission each day of empowering students with knowledge and skills to succeed. I had the opportunity to share a few comments with the staff as we reflected on our vision as a school district to be the school district of choice, inspiring excellence in academics, arts, and activities. I was reminded of the many gifts and talents shared by our staff every day with students and with one another. Every staff member carries a level of responsibility to make sure we touch every child so that they have hope for a future filled with achievement and success. Our entire community shares that same responsibility.
Over the course of three days, teachers participated in staff development focusing on our District Strategic Plan specific to the areas of Student Achievement, Student Support and Workforce Development. Within Student Support, teachers were presented with information on mental health issues that are impacting more students and families each year. The District partners with Fernbrook Family Center which provides mental health services to our students and families. The presentation focused on “How do Teachers and Students Benefit from Mental Health in Schools?” presented by Christi Hill Berry from Fernbrook.
Teachers were updated on progress being made in identifying specific actions or steps we will be taking in order to achieve our goals and objectives in making sure our students are learning at high levels. Under Student Achievement, an action plan has been developed to address the five performance areas of the World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) Plan. We have indentified areas in need of improvement and will be intentional in putting our defined actions into place throughout the school year.
The public is invited to our Annual WBWF Public Meeting to be held at 5:45 pm on Monday, October 17, 2016, prior to the start of the regular School Board Meeting at 6:30 pm. The meeting will be held in the Secondary School Media Center in New Richland. At the meeting, staff will present a summary of the District’s progress in meeting the objectives of the WBWF plan for the 2015-16 school year. Those in attendance will have the opportunity to provide feedback that will be used in developing our WBWF plan for 2016-17 which will be presented to the School Board at the November School Board meeting.
Teachers also spent time within the Workforce Development focus area, growing in their understanding of a new evaluation system founded in the Marzano’s Art and Science of Teaching Framework which identifies 41 elements or instructional categories that are research-based strategies for teacher effectiveness. To assist our principals and teachers in making the evaluation process most effective, the District is utilizing I-Observation which is an electronic management system that collects, manages, and reports data from classroom observations and other performance evidence and artifacts. Our teachers are committed to continuous improvement of their instructional practices and the evaluation process is an important part of their professional growth.
Also within Workforce Development, teachers continued growing in their understanding of how to function most effectively as a Professional Learning Community (PLC). PLCs operate under the assumption that our core purpose as educators and as a school community is to ensure that our students are learning at high levels. For some, this is a shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning. Within a PLC, educators work collaboratively to achieve better results for their students by examining student performance data and best instructional practices to inform them on making adjustments to curriculum, programs, and instructional practices. This requires a continuous cycle throughout the school year of examination, reflection, and learning for our teachers.
It was a productive week for our staff, and it has been a great start to the school year. Together with parents, we strive to do what we need to do in order for our students to experience opportunities that will prepare them for a world that continues to change. We know that by working together, we have a greater chance of being successful in our work so that every student learns at high levels in order to be successful in a global society.
A reminder the School Board conducts regular monthly meetings the third Monday of each month. The location of the meeting is rotated monthly between New Richland and Ellendale. The September 19, 2016, School Board meeting will be at the Elementary School beginning at 6:30 p.m., and the October 17, 2016 School Board meeting will be at the Secondary School beginning at 6:30 p.m.
We celebrate together in the accomplishments of our students because we are in this journey together as a school community. Thank you for all you do to support NRHEG Public Schools and our students!