Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Culture of College and Career Readiness


Guest Blogger, Patricia Hernandez
College and Career Readiness Coordinator

The School District of Janesville is dedicated to providing a college and career readiness culture by leveraging relationships with local businesses, community leaders and college and university representatives to ensure that all students graduate college and career ready.  To ensure success upon graduation, we help prepare students for their post high school careers as early as elementary school. At the elementary level, we offer a career guidance tool called ccSpark!, an engaging computer game where students interact within a virtual community.  At the middle and high school levels, students are provided with tools and resources to explore options, including access to resources like ‘Career Cruising’ (through Inspire Rock County) allowing them to explore professions that match their skills and interests.

The following is a snapshot of recent opportunities provided by the School District of Janesville to educators and students supporting our efforts in bolstering the culture of college and career readiness:


PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT for EDUCATORS:

On October 26, 2016, eight area businesses welcomed over 85 educators from SDJ providing tours and a discussion on career opportunities for local students. The businesses included: The Morse Group, City Hall, the Police Department, the Fire Department, Blackhawk Technical College, Mercy Hospital, the Student Build Construction Site, the Art League and Raven’s Wish Gallery.  Educators were able to: 
  • Gain an understanding of the working environment related to a specific industry;
  • Learn about careers available within a specific industry, and how they are interrelated;
  • Connect the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for success in careers within a specific industry;
  • And, connect their curriculum to careers in a specific industry so they will be better equipped to share their new knowledge with their students.


Educators were surveyed after the experience and 86.8% indicated that the business tours gave them an increased awareness of the educational requirements for that particular job/career.




Business and school partnerships are a win-win for all. Educators need informed support from the community and business leaders that provide the awareness of the workforce. Employers need a workforce that can help them anticipate and meet the demands of a constantly changing marketplace. And, students need an earlier, more informed sense of how best to achieve their career and life goals. 

On Tuesday, November 29, Prent Thermoforming opened their doors to our educators for an informational tour hosted by Senior Vice President Mitch Benson.  This tour provided an opportunity for our educators to see Prent and speak candidly with management personnel. The tour began with a brief meet and greet highlighting Prent’s business, followed by a tour, and finished with an open discussion with Benson.  Headquartered here in Janesville, Prent Thermoforming is the global leader and the largest medical and hi-tech thermoforming company in the world.  They employ nearly 2,000 people in nine manufacturing plants worldwide. 


CLASSROOM VISITS by AREA BUSINESSES:

Friday, November 4 Edison Middle School hosted a Career Day inviting businesses to the classroom.  Students heard from people employed in four of their top career choices from a list of over 35 different employers/career representatives present. Students learned about careers in construction, tattoo artistry, radio, computer programming, entrepreneurship, firefighting, military, law, culinary, radiography, banking, acting, reporting, political science and more. The purpose of the Career Day was to develop a foundation for what students need to know and be able to do in order to pursue their career goal.  When students see the relevance of their education, they will strive to work to achieve success. 


Click here for the Edison Career Day Facebook Video Post 

That same day, Parker High School hosted a robotics seminar. Robotic students from Craig and Parker were separated into different groups attending four breakout sessions to learn more from businesses in automation and electrical industries.  Students interacted with and programmed a life-size collaborative robot, spoke to automation college representatives, and interacted with local employers who offered apprenticeships and skill development.  There is a shortage of engineering students in colleges today, and many engineering fields are unknown to students.  Braas Company, Blackhawk Technical College, Automation Solutions of America, and the Local 890 Electrical Workers were eager to work with our students.  


BUSINESS TOURS for STUDENTS:

November 10 and 17, Seneca Foods Corporation opened their doors to 100 Janesville middle and high school students giving them a glimpse of the assembly line magic.  The tour started with a highlight story about Seneca, followed by a plant tour that allowed them within inches of some of the equipment and assembly lines. Students saw various areas where raw materials are received, prepared, and machined for production. Seneca’s tour guide explained that programming and operating complex machinery requires a solid knowledge of mathematics, geometry and even physics. 



If you know of someone interested in being a future guest career speaker, mentor, career fair representative or would like to open their doors for a company tour please have them sign up on www.inspirerockcounty.org.  A partnership can make a HUGE difference.  Help us help our students. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

School Bus Safety

We mourn for the students, families, and colleagues in Chattanooga, TN.

Children going to school is such an ingrained element of our culture, and we expect that they will be able to get to and from school without incident. Yesterday, we saw the tragic images of the aftermath of a school bus accident in Tennessee which needlessly took the lives of five young school children.

At this time, not much is known about the incident except that the bus was traveling at a speed much higher than what is posted for a residential area. We do not know if the bus in Tennessee had restraint systems in place for its passengers, nor if the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We join everyone in praying for the families that have been affected by this horrible situation.

Here in the School District of Janesville (SDJ), we take the health and safety of all students, staff, and visitors to our schools seriously. On any given day in Janesville, our partner, Van Galder Bus Company, will transport roughly 700 students out of the total 10,000+ in our schools (less than 10%), not including transportation for student field trips and athletic events. Our school board has long supported many safety measures, including the phasing in of passenger restraint systems in the bus fleet for our students. 

For our students who are transported daily by bus to and from school, there are several safety measure in place. As our contracted transportation provider, Van Galder does screen its drivers, including drug testing and random screenings. They also have monitoring systems in place that can identify if a bus has travelled at an excessive rate of speed, or if a bus had a sudden acceleration or deceleration.

Additionally, when Van Galder purchases new buses to replace and upgrade their fleet, they do so with restraint systems (seat belts) for the passengers. This adds around $15,000 (on average) to the cost of the bus, which the SDJ has covered. Among the buses used to transport our students daily, there are 10 traditional buses, and 19 buses used for students with special needs.  Of the 10 traditional buses, 5 have been upgraded to have passenger restraint systems. All 19 buses used for students with special needs have passenger restraint systems in place.

We don’t know if seat belts on the bus in Tennessee would have made a difference or not. While we are saddened by this event, we can be comforted somewhat by the precautions we have taken to keep our students safe.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2016-17 Inclement Weather Information


We are fast approaching the start of the winter season, and because this is Wisconsin, it is a good time to remind everyone of the procedures the School District of Janesville (SDJ) has in place for dealing with inclement weather such as heavy snow and/or extreme cold. Should it become necessary to delay the start of school or to cancel school, SDJ will use the Infinite Campus system as our primary means of notification to parents and guardians. 

Since Infinite Campus Messenger will be our primary method of updating parents on school delays and closures, we urge parents/guardians to make sure their contact information is correct in the system. Because all weather related messages will be sent out as “Priority” messages, please make sure you have one of the boxes checked in the “Priority” section (Click here for Instructions on How to Change Contact Information).


WCLO AM 1230 radio, the Janesville Gazette, and other local radio and TV stations will post school closing or delay information. The SDJ Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SDJK12/) and the district website (https://www.janesville.k12.wi.uswill also be updated to reflect the closing or delays.  Closing and delay information will be communicated to the public the night before (if possible) or no later than 6:00 a.m. on the day of the closing or delay.




In order to keep district telephone lines open for general operations, we ask parents/guardians not to call the district for closing information/confirmation. 


The School District of Janesville does not close early to avoid incoming snow or ice storms.  This policy is to protect children who may get home before their parents and have no access or supervision.  If a parent/guardian is concerned about incoming weather, they may come to the school to have their child released early.  

There will be no athletic contests and practices on days school is canceled due to weather related reasons.  On days when school is in session, but weather has progressively gotten worse, cancellations for after school or evening athletics and/or extracurricular activities will be announced by 2:00 p.m. on WCLO.

Decisions to cancel school are made in coordination with both the Janesville Transit System, and Van Galder Bus Company.  They are also based on the passage of city streets, safety of rural students, and information from the county highway and city street departments. The SDJ also consults with a meteorologist and a team of District staff and area Superintendents before the decision is made.

The final decision to delay or close school for SDJ rests with me. If school is closed, be aware that all Preschool 4 Janesville (P4J) programs located at Adams, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison and Wilson elementary schools will also be closed. Should a decision be made to delay the start of school by one or two hours as opposed to closing, the Adams, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, and Wilson P4J morning programs will be cancelled, but they will hold their afternoon sessions as regularly scheduled. If your child attends P4J at a private location or community child care center, be sure to contact your P4J site coordinator to confirm any closings or delays.

It is important to note that parents/guardians always have the option of keeping their child home due to inclement weather. You should always call your child’s school to report the decision to keep them home. Your child will receive a principal excused absence. 

The SDJ school calendar has several days built in to accommodate weather delays/closures. However, should the district exceed those buffer days, state law requires the SDJ to make-up days to meet the minimum number of hours of direct pupil instruction (http://dpi.wi.gov/cal/days-hours). We did not have to do that last year, but with the unpredictability of Wisconsin winter weather, it is always something to remember.

The decision to delay or close school due to weather is not taken lightly. Rest assured that the SDJ has a great team that will be clearing sidewalks and parking lots/playgrounds, and keeping the heat on in the buildings. Our mission is to provide an excellent education to all students, but we must also keep the health and safety of our students and staff in mind. It is important for everyone to be prepared for whatever the weather may send our way.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Internationally Renowned Education Expert Presenting to School District of Janesville Staff


Dr. Marcia Tate

Dr. Marcia Tate, renowned education consultant and best-selling author, will return to the School District of Janesville on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, and will lead two professional development sessions based on her popular bestseller, Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites.” In both of these sessions, participants will learn about the 20 Best Practice Instructional Strategies that Engage the Brain.

The premise of Dr. Tate’s work is if your students are not learning the way you are teaching them, then you must teach them the way they learn. Increasing learning for all students through strategies like drawing metaphors, movement, music, and storytelling will be used to teach curriculum learning targets. Her work is based on brain research and learning theory that maximizes memory and minimizes forgetting.   

Staff will also explore the educational research that shows why these strategies are preferable to others. Dr. Tate works hard to ensure the student brains retain key concepts, not only for tests, but for life.

Reviews from people who have attended Marcia Tate sessions report them as both professionally and personally life-changing and lots of fun as a bonus. School District of Janesville staff members are in for a real treat!

The first session will be from 8:00-11:00 a.m. for middle and high school staff and the second session will be from 12:00-3:00 p.m. for elementary staff. Both sessions will take place in the Parker High School Auditorium. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

National "Farm to School" Month


Guest Blogger: Jim Degan, Food Service Manager

Farm to School, Farm to Institution, Farm to Table – these all have one important thing in common, the Farm. Over time we have lost touch with our roots and understanding the importance of where our food comes from.

The Wisconsin Farm to School Program encourages healthy lifestyles in children and supports local economies. In Wisconsin, comprehensive farm to school programs combine local procurement efforts, nutrition and agricultural education, and student engagement activities such as school gardening, in order to provide students with the broadest benefits. Farm to school activities in Wisconsin have been gaining momentum since 2002, with local food served in more than 235 school districts across the state. Through the commitment of a strong network of partners — including state agencies, schools, farmers, distributors, nonprofits, parents and students — farm to school has become a vibrant movement connecting kids to healthy, local food and connecting farmers to happy, local customers.

The state of Wisconsin has been a strong supporter of farm to school.  In 2009, the Legislature enacted Act 293 to promote the growth of a farm to school program, including provisions for a state advisory council and a state coordinator through the Department of Agriculture.

Goals of Wisconsin Farm to School 

  1. Strengthen local economies by expanding markets for Wisconsin agricultural producers and food entrepreneurs. 
  2. Promote children's health by providing fresh and minimally processed foods in schools and supporting the development of healthy eating habits.
  3. Increase children's and communities' knowledge about agriculture, food, nutrition and the environment. 

The School District of Janesville has been actively involved in growing the Farm to School program in Rock County and the State of Wisconsin over the last 5 years.  Our support has grown from school gardens at Jackson Elementary (Providing a community meal from the garden), Roosevelt Elementary (Serving students spinach and radishes grown in garden at lunch), and a community garden on Rockport Road by Wilson Elementary (Giving families bags of donated vegetables for use at home) to purchasing from Amazing Grace Farms a GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified farm meeting federal regulations and serving locally grown vegetables in school.


Image result for great apple crunch imagesThe Great Lakes Apple Crunch or Great Apple Crunch is another way we are celebrating Farm to School Month in Janesville. On October 13th the 3rd Annual Crunch will be taking place across the district where all students and staff are encouraged to take a “Crunch at Lunch” from a Wisconsin grown apple. This year the goal is 1 million crunchers from the great lakes states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Ann O’Leary, Alice in Dairyland will be on hand at Marshall Middle School to help celebrate.

In the 2016-17 school year the district will continue to provide locally grown fruits and vegetables when possible from our Farm to School Partners, Amazing Grace Farms (Janesville); Apple Hut Orchard (Town of Beloit); Richland Hills / Sunset Orchard (Richland Hills, WI); Seneca Foods (Janesville); and the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative, all providing locally grown fruit and vegetables for the district. Farm to School—helping students see a connection between Wisconsin agriculture, the economy, education, and building a stronger future for all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month



GUEST BLOGGER:
Christine Wesling, Coordinator of Student Services

In the United States, one person completes suicide every 12.3 minutes. Few of us have escaped the devastation of  losing a friend or family member to this preventable death.  Along with others in our state, the School District of Janesville is working to educate our staff and students in suicide prevention throughout September (Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month).

Prevent Suicide Wisconsin is a suicide prevention coalition that tells us that: 

In Wisconsin, suicide prevention awareness starts with this number: 755.

This is the number of Wisconsinites who died by suicide in 2014, the most recent year for which we have data. That is 4.5 times the number of people who died as a result of homicide in Wisconsin that year.


Here is another number: 6%.

That is the number of youth who reported making a suicide attempt on the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. About one youth under the age of 20 dies by suicide each week in Wisconsin.

The most recent measure of suicide rate in Rock County is 15.6 deaths per 100,000 people per year (WISH/Mortality Module 2003 - 2015). We have felt the devastation of youth and adult suicide as a district family. That 15.6 number means something very real to us as a district.  It means people we knew and loved. It is important that we know how to recognize and  support a student, friend, family member, or co-worker when they are in crisis. We can make a difference. 

Let's help our students and staff to have a healthy year, both physically and mentally. Don't miss an opportunity to show that you care when you know someone is troubled. Know the signs and how to respond. If you suspect that an individual is contemplating suicide - remember to ACT:

A –ACKNOWLEDGE:

Acknowledge the person’s feelings.
Take it seriously.
Be willing to listen.


C –CARE:

Voice your concern.


T –TELL:

Tell someone - a parent, relative, teacher,  counselor.

Call Rock County Crisis Hotline 608-757-5025

or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK


There are a number of events taking place across Wisconsin over the next two months that provide an opportunity to learn more about suicide prevention. You can learn about prevention and public events offering awareness and support at:


We want to take a minute to thank Y.E.S. (Youth Emotional Stability) of Rock County for their financial support of the S.O.S. (Signs of Suicide) program that the School District of Janesville has initiated at our middle and high schools. This program reaches students in Grades 6 and 9 and trains staff in suicide prevention. Our Grade 8 Health teachers provide a unit on suicide prevention as part of their curriculum. Student Services staff have expertise in supporting students in crisis and can help with your questions and concerns. 

Our staff viewed the following video as part of the School District of Janesville staff training. Please share our experience by viewing this message from young people on paying attention and saving lives. 


Thank you for all that you do for each other and for our students and families!


Monday, September 12, 2016

Back to School –Return to business and try something new




Guest Blogger: Mr. Patrick Gasper, Communications Specialist, School District of Janesville


September 1990. I was a very green first year teacher. Throughout that first semester, I had to take courses at California State University at Dominguez Hills in order to obtain my California Clear Professional Educator License. Dr. Susan Prescott was leading what was essentially a classroom management course. She always tried to have us leave the class with at least one tangible activity we could use the following day in our schools. In her words, “You are all first year teachers. You don’t even know what is in the trunk of your car, but you will leave here tonight knowing one thing you can do to connect with your students.” She was a savior, always with a positive word, and had tons of resources to share with us, either books, lesson plans, or grant opportunities.

Yes, while my first ever first day of school as a teacher is now more than two decades ago, I vividly recall how the first couple of weeks of the new school year are filled with setting routines and expectations. I also know it is an essential time during which teachers build and strengthen the connections with students in order to help them succeed. I know that right now, you probably don’t have the spare moments it will take to review a list of resources, but I decided I would provide them anyway. If you don’t use them now, or they are not applicable right away, that is fine. Maybe they will be useful someday, and maybe it will help provide that extra something that will push just one more student forward.

First, I remind everyone that applications for the Herb Kohl Education Foundation Fellowship program are due to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) postmarked by Friday, September 23, 2016. Details and nomination forms are available at: http://dpi.wi.gov/tepdl/programs/kohl-foundation. I know it is a tight turn around, but the rewards of being selected as a Herb Kohl Education Foundation Fellow go beyond their award.

Speaking of Herb Kohl, the same foundation recently made news because they funded every single project submitted by a Wisconsin teacher to the DonorsChoose.org website. When they funded the Wisconsin educator’s projects, they made more than 600 Wisconsin teachers in over 140 school districts around the state very happy. The $500,000 from the foundation to support the WI projects will affect more than 40,000 students. While great news for Wisconsin educators, I could not find one project listed as submitted by an SDJ teacher/administrator. Who knows, maybe the Kohl foundation will fund more projects in the future, and SDJ will be represented!

Part of my career experience includes spending several years (more than 5, but fewer than 10) working for the DPI. While there, I learned about a few of their resources, and I am providing a few examples here:
  • Badgerlink: http://badgerlink.dpi.wi.gov/ -- Wisconsin’s online library which provides access to licensed content such as magazines, newspapers, scholarly articles, videos, images, and music. These resources are provided exclusively for use by all Wisconsin residents and are materials that are not available through regular search engines such as Google.
  • Ask a Librarian: http://dpi.wi.gov/rl3/resources/ask-librarian -- Resources for Libraries and Lifelong Learning (RL&LL) staff answer questions from Wisconsin residents, Public Libraries and Library Systems, Libraries in State Agencies & Institutions, and Employees of State Agencies.
  • Found in Wisconsin: http://dpi.wi.gov/rl3/resources/found-in-wi -- a searchable index of bibliographic records to digital collections hosted by over 500 libraries, museums, historical societies, genealogical societies, schools, and various cultural organizations around Wisconsin. Search or browse the 1,200+ index for links into websites containing historic photographs, video & sound clips, written documents, maps, newspapers, cemetery indices, and much more.
  • Songbook Database: http://dpi.wi.gov/rl3/resources/songbook-database -- A Database of songs containing over 50,000 titles.
  • The Ways: http://theways.org/ -- The Ways is an ongoing series of stories from Native communities around the central Great Lakes. The Ways supports educators in meeting the requirements of Wisconsin Act 31, seeking to expand and challenge current understanding of Native identity and communities. Learn more about Act 31 here.
  • Love Wisconsin Project: http://www.lovewi.com/ -- OK, this is not a DPI resource, but it is way cool. Stories, videos, interviews about Wisconsin as told by writers, musicians, and just people. They have several focus areas like “Wish for WI” "Wisconsin Generations" and “Wisconsin Portraits.” The “Wish for WI” is a series of short videos where young children are asked to describe their wish for the state. Very good stuff. They have a Facebook page as well.  

I have provided a hodgepodge list of resources and, let’s be honest, I’ve scribbled a hodgepodge of a blog entry. I said earlier that the information and links mentioned above may not be useful to all educators right now, but keep them handy as they may be useful someday. If any of this helps you in any way, well, that is something positive. With that, I’ll leave you pondering this:

 So I said to the gym instructor: 'Can you teach me to do the splits?'
 The instructor said: 'How flexible are you?'
 I said: ‘I can't make Tuesdays.'
 --Tim Vine