Monday, August 22, 2016

Art Professional Development

NOTE- When my acquaintances learn that I work for a school district, all too often they say, “I bet you enjoy having your summers off!” I always reply that the summer months can be some of the busiest times of the year for school district employees.  It is during the summer when educators are able to take classes to maintain credentials/licenses or to participate in professional development programming without being taken away from classroom instruction and time in front of students. What follows is a guest blog that speaks to the ‘summer off’ activity for several SDJ art teachers.
Patrick Gasper, Communications Specialist

Guest Blogger:
Mindy Remley, Art Teacher
Marshall Middle School

Art Professional Development

Summer School? That was always an oxymoron in my mind… But when Nasco offered Professional Development opportunities this summer I couldn’t pass up the chance to share with the Art staff. Art-specific options for professional development are few and far between.  To find two that pertained to our curriculum, free of charge AND that included FREE STUFF? Well, score one for the Art peeps!

Fleur Art School manager and artist, Tanita Ribola, presented the first workshop. Fleur Paints is an Italian-based company that specializes in chalk-type paints. Tanita reviewed color theory and the importance of colors in regards to mood. She also described how color can change your perception of space in terms of size, proportions, temperature and light. We then learned the top 10 upcycling trends and techniques in regards to repainting furniture. 

Upon completion of the review and some additional new information we were able to try out the new paints (Nasco provided a variety of items to paint; and Fleur provided the paints). 

The next professional development opportunity was an all day event, again provided by Nasco. This was held at Fort Atkinson High School and included workshops, hands-on experiences, speakers, demonstrations and new product displays. Workshops ranged from art techniques and topics like paper marbleizing, bookmaking, face painting, arts integration, mono-printing (etc.) to a STEM mobile shuttle bus with hands-on STEM activities.

During these Professional Development opportunities, we received free samples and a chance to win raffle items (each of us received at least one). Best of all we came away with many new ideas for our classrooms and are ready to start the new school year!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Recognitions, Awards, and Outstanding Work

One of the noteworthy qualities of highly successful individuals is they are action-oriented. In particular, they continuously look for opportunities to improve, possessing an “I can do better” attitude. However, attitude alone isn’t the reason that seemingly everything they touch turns to gold. The root of their success lies in what gives them this attitude - a confidence that comes with having the ability to develop, improve, and enhance their performance. They don't rely on one strength, the proverbial hammer looking for a nail, or their past accomplishments, but they continuously develop many skills and strengths simultaneously. They refine their strengths, overcome unproductive habits, and build a robust set of capabilities and abilities that benefit those around them.

Raising the bar of performance doesn't necessarily require significant analytical intelligence or a special genetic make-up. It depends more on desire and discipline with a relentless focus on results. At the practical level, it is where people turn what they want to do into how they do it; it takes the right mindset and ability to execute.  It’s not the ability of a single hammer, but the ability of a suite of tools, each accomplishing the task for which it was intended. The asterisk after "You can do anything you set your mind to*" represents the fine print that is often overlooked. It is the reality that effecting change on an individual or organizational basis requires more than knowing what to do, or wanting to do something. Change that achieves its fullest potential and is sustainable requires more than knowledge or desire. Both are important, but are insufficient on their own. We need to act on this knowledge and take bold steps to move past the status quo to benefit the students, staff, and parents we are entrusted to make a difference with. This is the foundation of the SDJ Journey to Excellence Blueprint. All of these qualities embody what high performer behavior looks like in the School District of Janesville.

Recently, there have been a few questions about how the district recognizes and rewards employees for high quality work. When SDJ recognizes and rewards behavior, it is not just being nice--it is important to thank people for the great work/effort that helps us achieve district goals. The SDJ believes that recognizing people encourages others to do the right thing, and ultimately it encourages the consistency needed in order to create a culture of excellence. After all, the vision of the District is “Educational Excellence: Building our Future.”

Everyone in our district has a role to play in helping achieve the mission of “Educating Every Child.” For some, the work of providing a quality educational experience to children, or a nutritious meal to a child that might not otherwise have one, is a reward in its own right.  We know that to do our work effectively, we must feel welcomed and supported in our jobs and appreciated by our colleagues and supervisors. 

There are many ways the district recognizes and rewards employees for their efforts. Some are colleague to colleague, some are from principals to teams, some from the directors to employees, and some are from me to an employee that deserves recognition. These rewards and recognitions take different forms, such as a "thank you" delivered in conversation, or through written personal notes. The School Board supports the efforts to recognize our teacher leaders and our non-certified leaders, and also thanks and recognizes employees for exemplary work through commendations and other presentations. Another example is the way the district annually recognizes employees for their years of service. This is done to acknowledge that we all benefit from the wealth of experience from those that have been with the district over the years. We learn, grow, and become better employees and colleagues through these efforts.

The district has also offered monetary awards or stipends for staff that go above and beyond and those in leadership roles at their school sites or in the district. Employees may receive a stipend for their additional work to train, coach, or work with staff throughout the district. Criteria for these would include performance based outcomes, SLOs, LEMs, and work that supports the District wide goals. Employees may also be rewarded for doing something extra--they took initiative to create a program, or a training opportunity, or some other effort that benefited their colleagues, school, or the district. These action-oriented staff members do much to add to collective excellence of our district.

From the unbudgeted funds the district had available in October 2015 for the 2015-2016 budget year, we spent $277,600 on certified staff which came from the ELDI and STEM allocations and $59,300 on non-certified staff which came from their leadership allocation in reward stipends.  We had 161 certified employees selected and 107 non-certified employees selected, or about 22% of our full time staff.  These employees were selected by their principals, managers, and supervisors.  Some were taken off the list if there was not agreement between Dr. Sperry or I, the principal, and/or the manager/supervisor.  The rewards ranged from $500 to $2,300.  The purpose of this was to reward and re-recruit our high performing employees.  We looked at a number of factors in their selection:
      1.  Adherence to Standards of Professional Behavior
      2.  Volunteering and extra duties performed
      3.  High performance 
      4.  Previous evaluations
      5.  Demonstrated leadership
The reward money was not payment for specific work that was done. That would fall into a different category. Here are a few of the comments I have received:

Hello Dr. Schulte,
I wanted to let you know that I have heard from four staff members already who received the stipend. They are so appreciative. I cannot describe what a morale boost this has been for our school. Thank you so much for doing this!

Dear Dr. Schulte,
I just wanted to say thank you for the stipend I was given on May 25th, it is always nice to be recognized and that people take notice of what you do. I hope that you also reward other custodial staff as I know there are a lot of others that deserve the same. Thanks again.   

Dr. Schulte,
I wanted to thank each of you for the recognition of work for our students and the stipend. I feel professionally recognized and valued in our district. I am very appreciative for the many opportunities I have to work in leadership roles and develop opportunities for staff and students in our district. Thank you all very much!

Everyone wants to work where they feel valued and appreciated. We all like to be recognized for the work we do. It is the practice of the SDJ to recognize and reward employees for their outstanding work. The School Board supports this, and the District uses a variety of programs, recognitions, and rewards to accomplish this recognition. I encourage you to find a way to recognize your colleagues as well-- a simple note can go a long way in making someone feel appreciated. By encouraging rewards for and recognizing our colleagues, we foster a better working environment for each other. With that in place, we can better perform to meet the needs of the students and families in our schools. Efforts to reward and recognize outstanding work are essential to building and growing that positive culture in SDJ, and that ultimately helps create the setting where all students can achieve at high levels.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Personalized Learning

Guest Blogger - Shawn Galvin, Principal

Lincoln Elementary School

So, you have probably heard the term Personalized Learning used at a district meeting, in professional publications, or even on Facebook through Mark Zuckerberg’s multi-million dollar donation towards advancing this work. So what is Personalized Learning anyways? 

Personalized learning is about so much more than bean bags and Chromebooks. While a comfortable learning environment and technology are components that aid in personalizing the learning experience, the lack of them are not obstacles to implementing this educational philosophy.

At Lincoln Elementary School, we define Personalized Learning as an approach to learning and instruction that is designed around the individual learner’s readiness, needs, strengths, and interests. Students are encouraged to customize their learning by actively participating in setting goals, planning paths, tracking progress, and determining how learning will be demonstrated. With Personalized Learning, children learn to take ownership of their education and ultimately become life-long learners on their own journey to greatness.

Personalized Learning has a broad definition in the literature. It can be everything from placing a student on an adaptive computer system, to complete autonomy for student’s interest to solely drive learning with no alignment to standards, or, to simply differentiate the text level for reading groups. It is important to have a clear understanding of the foundational elements of Personalized Learning in order to evaluate the claim of  “personalization.” 

Simply put, Personalized Learning gives students voice and choice in their learning.

  • Students understand how they learn best so they are prepared for today, as well as their future as global citizens.
  • Students are co-designers of their learning.
  • Students take ownership of their learning.

The structure of Personalized Learning can be summed up in these questions:

  • What standard does the data show you need to learn?
  • How are you going to learn it?
  • How are you going to show me your learning?

One of the key tenants of Personalized Learning is that it should develop efficacy in students. Personalized learning leader Dr. Jim Rickabaugh states in a blog-post, “Efficacy is the belief that one is capable of producing a result, meeting a challenge or accomplishing a task. For students, efficacy or self-efficacy is the belief that they can succeed and learn… we know that students who are efficacious persist in the face of challenge, learn from failure rather than becoming trapped in it, try different approaches and strategies, and do what it takes to succeed. Rich learning often occurs from significant struggle; the presence of a strong sense of self-efficacy is important for learners to continue to stretch and grow and to move beyond present levels of skill and knowledge.” 

Personalized Learning is not a ‘canned program’ that can be purchased such as a new math series or the newest device! It is a philosophical shift that takes us from a compliance based model of education to a contribution based model. It prepares learners to be productive members of the world they will face as adults.

Friday, July 8, 2016

School Board Approves Pay Increase for Non-certified Employees

Guest Blogger: Scott Garner

Director of Administrative and Human Resources

As we head into July, we start a new fiscal year for the School District of Janesville. I want to provide you with an update on a recent School Board action regarding a pay increase for non-certified district staff.

On Tuesday, June 28, 2016, the School Board voted 8-0 to approve the following recommendation from administration:

Administration recommends a 2.12% increase for all employees not included in the Professional Performance Structure for the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year.

This group includes food service, clerks, custodians, paraprofessionals, administrators, secretaries, maintenance, and all other staff who are not leveled by principals as part of the performance pay structure.  This increase will begin with the first checks in July (July 8).  Letters further explaining the increase have been sent to employees impacted by this approved increase.

The following is the background/reasoning behind the recommendation:

In 2015-2016 this group received a cost of living raise of 1.62% plus an additional .38% increase to equal a 2% increase in wages. Other employee groups received the same increase. A select group of licensed employees have in place for 2015-2016 a Professional Performance Structure for raises that will go into effect for the 2016-2017 school year. The select group under the PPS is projected to receive an average increase of 2.9%. Prior to the recommendation and approval by the board, the non-PPS group did not have a structure in place for additional pay.

The increase approved by the board is intended to provide a wage bump to non-certified employees that is similar to certified/PPS eligible employees. Furthermore, if additional funding is made available, Dr. Schulte and administration would recommend another .78% increase to bring the non-PPS group closer to the same average range increase as the PPS group.

Please call or email me with any questions.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer School Is Heating Up!

Janesville Summer School Offers Something for Just About Everyone!

Picture of Paul StengelGuest Blogger: - Paul Stengel, Director, Summer School

Six little words. By themselves, these words are nothing more than sight words that are posted on 1st and 2nd Grade classroom walls throughout our schools. However, when strung together in a magical order and uttered from the mouth of a child, they can bring the sunny thoughts of a fun and relaxing summer to a screeching halt. What are these powerful six little words?

“I’m bored…..there’s nothing to do.”

That’s right, since the dawn of the first day of the first ever summer break, these six little words have been enough to make parents’ skin crawl and go scrambling to the calendar to see how many days are left until their kids are back in school. The good news is that this little expression is becoming increasingly rare throughout Janesville these days. That’s because the School District of Janesville’s Summer School program has a bounty of opportunities for students to become engaged in during the summer months.

The 2016 Janesville School District’s Summer School session began on June 13 and is now in full swing. Students and their families are taking full advantage of a wide array of offerings available in all 20 of the district’s school buildings. There are over 3,500 students signed up for at least one course during the summer, and this number is expected to grow as more students take advantage of offerings during July and August. By the end of summer, close to 40% of the School District of Janesville’s 10,300 students will have participated in at least one of our Summer School offerings.

June is bustin’ out all over with opportunities for students. Elementary and middle school students are able to attend programs at their own neighborhood or any elementary or  middle school. During these programs, students become actively engaged in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math), physical education, reading, math, arts and cultural education, play productions, and even small engine repair! At the high schools, students are able to take advantage of credit recovery classes and physical fitness training.

When the temperature heats up in July, so do the Summer School offerings! In addition to the traditional “academic” type classes, students are able to explore their interests and participate in more “enrichment” type courses. Students may learn computer programming and robotics, hike different portions of the Ice Age Trail, learn about outdoor survival, and even go canoeing and kayaking! In History Camp, students will learn about architecture and explore the past by taking field trips to different parts of the city. On one of the days, the students will be touring Oak Hill Cemetery to learn about interesting people, their history, and their connections with Janesville. Did someone just turn on the A/C? --because summer school is getting really cool!

Much like a summer blockbuster movie that gets a lot of hype and attention, the School District of Janesville’s Summer School program also has its own blockbusters. The Global Ambassador Academy will provide a chance for students to learn what an ambassador is and to learn side by side with students from China and Mexico. And, who could  forget about the ever popular Summer School musical featuring the extremely talented students of Craig and Parker and area school districts?! This year’s show features the musical Carousel and will be held the weekends of July 15 - 24.  As always, it will be a must see!

During the dog days of summer in August, things slow down, and alas, so do the number of offerings provided in Summer School. However, students will still have opportunities to brush up on their academics as they prepare for school that will start in a couple of weeks. In addition, many music, orchestra, choir, and band camps take place throughout August,  allowing students to get their musical skills tuned up before school starts on September 1.

As you can see, there are a plethora of options available through the School District of Janesville’s Summer School program. Dare I say, here in Janesville, it’s quite possible that those six little words “I’m bored….there’s nothing to do” could go unspoken this summer!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

With the school year ending, everything starts anew

As the days lengthen and the temperatures rise, we recognize that the close of another school year is upon us. All of your efforts and hard work of the past 10 months is being realized now through students transitioning from grade to grade, from elementary to middle school, or with graduation ceremonies. Our students, parents, teachers and staff have been working together since last August, and the close of the school year is welcomed—for different reasons.

For some, the end of the school year is an opportunity to reflect on what was. So much can happen in the course of the school calendar, and sometimes, in the moment, it may be difficult to recognize the gains we have been able to achieve.

Some may look at the first few weeks of June as a time to think about their careers—perhaps planning to attend a workshop or other professional development session to help them in the coming school year.

Others may be looking to relax, rejuvenate, and recharge over the next several weeks, making sure that they are ready for the next group of students that will be coming to their schools for 2016-17.

And, others may be looking at a change in career or even moving on to retirement. Certainly new beginnings there!

We should all be proud of the work we have been able to accomplish this year. You can see it in the faces of the children that walk through our hallways. You can definitely see it in the proud faces of parents as they watch their children walk across the stage to pick up their high school diploma. Be assured that your efforts have played a role in making that possible.

Whatever will be new for you after June 9, I want to thank you all for the work you have done over the past school year to help us achieve our mission of providing an education to every child. Make the most of the last few days of school, enjoy the summer, and I look forward to seeing you again in the fall!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What’s New in Benefits? Online Open Enrollment!

Guest Blogger:
Tina Johnson, Assistant Director of
Administrative and Human Resources

Employee Benefits Open Enrollment runs from

Monday, May 23rd through Wednesday, June 1st

We know that as the school year winds down, thinking about something as exciting as your employee health benefits may not be high on your list. With that in mind, the Administrative and Human Resources staff have made a special effort to make enrolling in health benefits as simple as possible. Brand new this year is the Online Employee Health Benefits Open Enrollment!

You should follow these instructions to complete the Online Open Enrollment:

  1. Log on to
  2. Scroll to the middle of the page and click on the For Staff box. Numerous options will appear below it. You will want to choose Employee Access (this is the last option in the first column).
  3. Skyward will appear on the screen.  Please login with the same Login ID and password used to log in​to your computer account​​.
  4. Once you have accessed Skyward, a box should pop up, informing you that you have an Online Form that needs to be completed. You can access the form by clicking on the link.  
  5. Once you have entered in all the information, you will scroll back to the top.  You should select ‘Save’ OR ‘Print and Save.’
  6. You should then  click on ‘Step 2, Complete Online Form.’ There will be a box to check that indicates you have completed the online form.  Please check ‘Finish and Submit.’
  7. You should receive a verification email indicating that you have completed the Online Open Enrollment Process.

After you have completed the Online Open Enrollment process, you may go back and print your form by logging back into Skyward. Under the Employee Information Tab, select ‘Online Forms.’  Your Enrollment form will show under completed Online Form. You can view and print from this area.

Who should have access to the Online Open Enrollment?

Online Open Enrollment will be available to employees who work 6 or more hours per day, or certified staff who work more than 4 hours per day (at a pro-rated amount).  If you do not have access to Online Open Enrollment, and feel that you are eligible for benefits, please contact Jamie Brown at ext 5007 to discuss the eligibility parameters.

As a reminder, this open enrollment is for your health benefits only, and must be completed by June 1, 2016. Enrollment for other benefits offered through the district, such as your Flex Spending Account, etc., will be done separately at a different time. 

We know this is a new process for everyone, and the Administrative and Human Resources team appreciates your time and patience as we go through the first Online Open Enrollment together!  


Q: What if I don’t want to make changes to my current coverage?

A:  The Online Open Enrollment form must still be completed.

Q:  I am not sure if I have coverage.  Who should I contact?

A:  Please contact Jamie Brown at ext. 5007 or to discuss your eligibility.

Q:  I can’t login to Skyward.  Who should I contact?

A:  Please contact Tina Johnson at or ext. 5022 for help logging into Skyward Employee Access.