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

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Bold Moves in 2016-17 – IT will support you!

Guest Blogger: Dr. Robert Smiley, CIO, School District of Janesville


First, welcome back!  It is an exciting time to have everyone returning from the summer holiday. 

We heard Dr. Schulte and Dr. Ehrhardt challenge all of us to make Bold Moves this year – to stretch ourselves in our professional practice to advance student achievement.  Schools have set the stage for Bold Moves this year with several schools going 1:1, while others are taking Personalized Learning to new levels.  Many schools are adding STEM devices, including coding and robotics; and all schools are working to advance digital literacy.  

None of this would be possible without Dr. Schulte’s and Dr. Ehrhardt’s enthusiastic support of IT. This past year has been one of phenomenal growth as Dr. Schulte has addressed important technology upgrades and expansions, including additional Chromebooks and iPads. Dr. Ehrhardt’s leadership is unparalleled as he works to open understanding through data and the use of EduClimber, not to mention his work to align curriculum and instructional practices that include technology as a primary focus.  

It takes all of us - everyone - to make education possible, including the Technical Staff, the Innovation Specialists, and the Campus Coaches.   A short back-to-school blog can't capture all of the IT work done this summer, but there are several highlights and staff to recognize:

Brad Dionysius and John Shannon led the work to replace the oldest workstations at Craig and Parker, while Jake Slaback and Cassie Anderson have focused on replacing the oldest iPads, and implementing a new way to manage them.  Sean Tanner focused on developing the functionality of the BMC HelpDesk software.  Deb Mundth led the effort to install the new Smart Panels, along with technology upgrades in the Board Room and in Craig’s Auditorium.  Chris Schulte, Michelle Giuca, Gayle Holcomb, and Tina Roehl worked on all things Infinite Campus and EduClimber related, including the new HS Gradebook setup.  Larry Danks and Ryan Curless addressed network operations and management, including a data center redesign and rebuild, while Kathy White and Shelley Gard have each been focused on their own areas of Assistive Technology and Innovative practices.   

Over the summer, we improved Online Registration to make it easier for parents.  A huge thank you to Wendy Nelson, Teresa Terrell, Teresa Behm, Rita Davidson, Becky Lee, Connie Stratton, and Gretchen Furhman, who processed the thousands of applications received this summer.  Never has online registration gone so smoothly.   

A special shoutout to Deb's cleaning crew who cleaned and scrubbed computer labs and Chromebooks for the start of school.  If you see any of these staff, please take a moment to thank them - they have all done an outstanding job!  Kris Winchell, Billie Jo Calkins, Teresa Amundson, Michelle Johnson, Tanya Morgan, Tina Pollard, Kim Vandenberg, Katie Lilla, Elizabeth Gorman, Theresa Gagg, Julie Kravick, Bobbie O’Leary, Sue Showers, and Julie Lindgren. 

We are also grateful that we've had the help of two HS interns this summer - Travis Duffy (Craig) and Jeff Waite (Parker).  They've done an outstanding job.  Please take a moment to thank them when you see them, and encourage them to reach for the stars.  They both have a great future ahead of them.  

Certainly not last or least, Paula Stratton is helping us out in IT while we work to fill an empty position.  She has brought her background and experience to the department, helping to organize and smooth out operations.  We are grateful to have her working with the team.  

None of this work would have any meaning if it weren’t for you and the students.  We are all focused on providing the best technical service and technology experience possible.  We want to be timely and accurate with our answers, and responsive to everyone's questions.  To help us serve you, you are encouraged to complete a HelpDesk ticket for any problems or questions you may have. Remember, you also have additional supports in your Innovation Specialists and Campus Coaches in every school.  

A new year offers many new beginnings for each of us.  Make technology a foundation for your professional Bold Moves in 2016-17.  Go ahead – make your move.  Make it Bold.  Reach to be your professional best and IT will have your back.   

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.