Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville

Kathy White – School District of Janesville Assistive Technology Specialist

The following is a post on the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) (Special Education) Smart Brief Website. The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities and/or gifts and talents. CEC advocates for appropriate governmental policies, sets professional standards, provides professional development, advocates for individuals with exceptionalities, and helps professionals obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice.

“Today's CEC Smart Brief contained a link to great article about Kathy White, a wonderful AT provider, who has long been a leader the field and an advocate for students. Congratulations Kathy.”

Technology empowers students with disabilities in Wis. district

Janesville, Wis., schools employ an educator to find the best new technology to address the needs of its students who have disabilities. Examples include a Refreshabraille 18 Bluetooth translator, which features a Braille translator that allows second-grade student Kyle Beasley, who cannot see, to read and write using an iPad tablet computer. "They become so empowered," teacher Kathy White said. The Janesville Gazette (Wis.) (2/26)

Marshall Middle School

This is amazing! Truly...Marshall Middle School (MMS) has just over 900 students and there are only 2 students left that have not turned in their immunizations or have a waiver. This is OUTSTANDING! Joan Elliot is the woman behind the scenes that does an incredible job in the Marshall Attendance Office and Synthia Taylor says MMS is blessed to have her!
Keep up the good work Joan!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why Are Principals Out Of The Building So Much?

Principals serve the school district in many capacities. We attempt to not have these individuals out of their respective buildings as much as we can.

Principals however are active participants in meetings both in district and within the community. When principals attend these meetings they represent not only their school (students, staff, and parents) but also the School District of Janesville.

Some meetings include: LDI (Leadership Development Institute) which assists our leaders in carrying out our districts mission and vision. These are generally bi monthly meetings. Another meeting principals are called upon to attend is monthly principal meetings which assist with specific directions from each Educational Services department. Each Director has the opportunity to provide principals with information that pertains to their specific department. Lastly, principals are involved with committee work which allows our leaders to share and assist with the use of their specific expertise in educational practice.

Principals need to have the tools, knowledge and up to date resources available to them to better serve the students, staff, and parents of the Janesville School District. Meetings are held with strong purpose and with an agenda that is laser focused in an attempt to manage building leader’s time efficiently and provide leaders with the necessary information to lead and direct a successful school.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Excellence in Education Foundation Allocates First Round of Grant Money to School District Janesville Educators

The Janesville Excellence in Education Foundation (EIE) offers grants for programs that enhance educational opportunities for students in the School District of Janesville. The vision of the EIE Foundation is to provide a quality education to meet every child’s needs and maximize each child’s potential. Under the leadership of Superintendent Karen Schulte, the EIE Foundation has raised approximately $30,000. Schulte had the following to say when asked about the potential educational impact of the donations and grants, “The School District of Janesville endeavors to provide unique opportunities for its students to further advance areas of academic study or physical fitness. The foundation offered this grant process to all employees who wanted to enhance the educational experiences of our students. The Foundation wants to encourage and create an environment where students are engaged in their learning. These grants will allow teachers to go beyond the typical instruction in the classroom and bring fresh and creative ideas to their students. The Foundation is able make these grants available through many generous donations including a $25,000 grant from M & I bank. The EIE Foundation is thankful for our community support and encourages others to consider a donation to this worthy cause. Our children are the future of this community.”

The total amount awarded during the first round of grants was $6239.90. A special “thank you” to all EIE Foundation Board Members who visited each recipient at his/her respected school today to present the awards: Camilla Owen, Dori MacFarlane, Elle Siegert, Renee Dooman, Sandra Ardrey, Tim Cullen, and Susan Sellman. Superintendent Schulte and Janesville School Board Commissioner Karl Dommershausen also joined in fun!

Janesville Excellence in Education Individual Grant Recipients

Craig High School – Domanic Wiegel

“SWS Calculators”

Math and School within a School (SWS) Teacher Domanic Wiegel was awarded $255.90. Wiegel will be using the money to buy calculators to use in math and science classes for the School within a School program. The School within a School program is a smaller learning community that operates in Craig High School and currently services approximately 120 at-risk students in grades 9-12.

Jefferson Elementary School – Jeff Halverson

“Apples in the Classroom”

First Grade Teacher Jeff Halverson was awarded $500. Halverson will be purchasing four Apple TV convertors, which is used with the Apple iPad projector for the classroom. It will allow Halverson to demonstrate on an iPad while projecting his screen to the entire class.

Parker High School – Sara J. Heiss

“Walk a Mile in My Shoes”

English Teacher Sara J. Heiss was awarded $500. Heiss will be using the money to purchase a novel series for an American Literature class. The 14 novels are written by African-American authors. Ms. Heiss would like to inspire the love of reading and expose her students to more diverse novels compared to traditional American Literature.

Franklin Middle School – Kurt Larson

“Roller Coaster Tycoon”

Technology Education Teacher Kurt Larson was awarded $490. Larson will be purchasing materials for students to build a 3D model of a Roller Coaster. Roller Coaster Tycoon is realistic business model that can help students gain research experience, design techniques, problem solving/critical thinking skills and learn a variety of business concepts including investment decisions, park design and fiscal and human resource management.

Janesville Excellence in Education Department/Building Grant Recipients

Madison Elementary School

“Learning with iPads”

Madison Elementary School was awarded $2,994. Madison Elementary School will be using the money to purchase iPads for small group work in the Title program, more specifically, Response to Intervention (RtI) groups. RtI groups are formed based on data to help struggling students reach benchmarks in learning. They will also be available for a classroom to use for educational purposes.

Edison Middle School – Physical Education Department

“Edison Disc Golf Course”

The Edison Middle School Physical Education Department was awarded $1500. Edison Middle School will be using the money to build a disc golf course to be used by the physical education classes, the Community Learning Center (afterschool program) and the community. This is to promote an increase in physical activity and help students become healthier learners.

Community members may donate to the Janesville Excellence in Education Foundation to enhance the learning opportunities for students. Donations will be used to provide student opportunities in a wide variety of areas. Donations will benefit students through such activities as: arts in schools, foreign language expansion, field trips, innovative learning opportunities, sports equipment as well as other areas of need. There is a special account designed for students affected by substance abuse who need financial assistance with assessments or counseling. For more information about donating, please contact The Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, 608-758-0883. Applicants must be representatives of the School District of Janesville.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Employee Handbook Process

The process the Handbook Design Team will use to continue to develop the Employee Handbook will include an Employee Forum and Focus Groups that will occur this spring. The purpose of this process is to involve all staff.

  • Employees will be involved in the process because we can’t be successful without your involvement.
  • Employees from every group will be represented because we need everyone.
  • The purpose of the Employee Handbook is to create clarity and consistency in what is expected of employees.

The purpose of the Employee Forum is to review what is working well, what the obstacles are, and what we can improve. It also allows for what’s going on with the organization’s internal and external environment. Forums are usually scheduled at different times during the morning, afternoon, and evening. Forum timetables will be posted in advance on the communication board so employees will know when to attend. Questions will be submitted in advance that will be answered at the forum.

The purpose of the Focus Groups is to allow every employee who would like to give input, the opportunity to do so. Focus group sign up will occur once the employee forums are completed. We have not determined how many focus groups we will have, but we will attempt to hold as many focus groups that will accommodate the number of employees who want to attend.

A post to a previous blog stated, “Do you eventually anticipate a more diverse leadership team comprised of administrators, board members, teachers, and support staff to formulate the new Employee Handbook?” I plan to listen to the voices and concerns of all of our employees. The final recommendation will come from the superintendent. It is the Board that approves the final Employee Handbook.

Again please remember the purpose of the Handbook is to create consistency and clarity for all employees. It is the desire of the Handbook Design Team to recruit, retain and recognize high performing, solid employees who embody the standards of integrity and accountability, to also commit to the continuous development, coaching and support of our employees and to continue to adhere to strict standards of achievement and excellence.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Guiding Principles

Three Guiding Principles

Like anything new the Employee Handbook is drawing a lot of questions. There are several reasons for the Handbook as I wrote about in an earlier Blog, but two reasons given here are to create clarity and consistency in what is expected of employees. Its overarching purpose is to create a great place for students to learn and to create a better work environment for all employees.

Let’s talk about why we need a Handbook. We need all employees to be committed to our students. Our first guiding principle begins with what is key to student learning, the other two follow.

1. The School District of Janesville will recruit, retain and recognize high performing employees who embody the standards of integrity and accountability.
2. The School District of Janesville will commit to the continuous development, coaching and support of our employees.
3. The School District of Janesville will continue to adhere to strict standards of achievement and excellence.

Dave Parr stopped in the other day to let me know some of his concerns. I have also heard questions from others. Here are some of them:

1. Are these secret closed session meetings? No
These are Cabinet meetings of which I invited two Board members to attend. Closed sessions must be posted. These are not posted Board meetings. These meetings are for the purpose of finding ways to improve student learning through employee engagement and making the School District of Janesville a place where employees want to work.
2. Are we writing the entire Handbook all on our own without input from employees? No
In fact one of the tasks of the committee is to talk about and design the process we will use to receive input from employees. As stated in my last Blog we want employees involved and will be putting a mechanism in place to do just that. Right now we are still in the very early stages of meeting.
3. Is the Handbook already completed? No
The committee began with our beliefs because beliefs are already imbedded in the culture of our organization. We don’t often take time to speak of them, even though our district beliefs drive our decision making on a daily basis. The committee is taking time that is CRITICAL to establishing a document that encapsulates our beliefs and our expectations of all employees. The Handbook will add clarity not confusion regarding expectations of all employees.

I appreciate those of you who are asking questions. Feel free to contact me directly anytime you have one. ( 608-290-9352) As a District we want a great place for students to learn, a satisfying place for employees to work, an exceptional place for parents to send their children and an excellent educational system where taxpayers want to invest their money.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Parent Teacher Associations and Parent Teacher Organizations

Founders’ Day celebrated next week is a reminder of the substantial role that PTA has played locally, regionally and nationally in supporting parent involvement and working on behalf of all children and families.

PTA's founders Phoebe Apperson Hearst and Alice McLellan Birney, and the founder of Georgia's Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers, Selena Sloan Butler, were women of imagination and courage. They understood the power of individual action, worked beyond the accepted barriers of their day, and took action to literally change the world. They had a simple idea—to improve the lives and futures of all of our children. As much as other conditions in America may have changed, that idea has not. PTAs keep it alive.

Today, PTA is the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the nation. Their members represent the ethnic diversity of our nation, and they come from the ranks of traditional families, single-parent households, blended families, grandparents, and other caring adults. Together, we continue to serve as the conscience of the country for children and youth.

As the largest volunteer child advocacy association in the nation, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) reminds our country of its obligations to children and provides parents and families with a powerful voice to speak on behalf of every child while providing the best tools for parents to help their children be successful students.

PTA does not act alone. Working in cooperation with many national education, health, safety, and child advocacy groups and federal agencies, the national PTA organization collaborates on projects that benefit children and that bring valuable resources to its members.*

It is my extreme pleasure to work side by side with our PTAs and PTOs in the community of Janesville to bring a quality education to all of our students. The parents who serve in these organizations along with the Janesville Area PTA Council continue to be dedicated to improving the lives and future of all our children. Their support in our schools is important to the future of our schools and community.

THANK YOU PTA AND PTO MEMBERS for the countless volunteer hours and financial support you give to the School District of Janesville. Because of you schools have been able to purchase more technology, supplies and equipment for our children

*Information about the PTA taken from their website. (Next week more information about the Handbook)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Is an Employee Handbook Required?

Superintendent's Blog – February 3, 2012
Is an employee handbook required? (This is in response to a previous employee post)
No, but certain employee issues must be addressed according to Act 10 which was signed into law on March 11, 2011. Most if not all districts are framing the components that must be addressed under Act 10 into an Employee Handbook. Items that need to be addressed in the “Handbook” include a grievance procedure that covers, at a minimum, the topics of employee discipline and workplace safety, employee termination or discharge. This is a very simplistic view of Act 10. It is more complicated than this listing of items. Please refer to Act 10 for a full explanation of the law.

The School District of Janesville will develop an employee handbook that illustrates the core values and mission of the district. School district employees serve our community by educating every child. As employees of the School District of Janesville, we hold ourselves and our students to high standards of performance and conduct. We are sincere, moral, and considerate of others, and we encourage those traits in our students. The employee handbook will ensure that district employees are respected as professionals, valued as employees, and an essential part of the community. The journey we are about to begin will identify, solidify and in some cases quantify the essential role of the public education system in today’s society.

Imagine with me for a moment a School District that is committed to every student entering the world beyond the classroom as a life-long learner with strong academic skills, a sense of self, and prepared to be become a vital part of society. Imagine a school district where every student is on a career pathway to a 2 or 4 year college, where rigor and relevance of instruction is the norm and 21st century skills are preeminent. Imagine a school district where employees are respected as professionals, valued as employees, and are considered a vital part of the team.
The handbook process will identify, solidify and in some cases quantify those items that we just imagined together. It will be a testament of our core values as an organization and a community. It will be a statement of our organizational culture and our mission to educate every child.

Will employees be involved in the process? Yes! We can’t be successful without you.
Will members of every group be represented? Yes! We need everyone.
This is our opportunity to define ourselves, renew ourselves and revitalize our district and our community.