Friday, March 30, 2012

Words Are Powerful

Hope. A concept our school district is passionate about; an idea we all strive for; a feeling we desire to instill in others. We would like others to have hope in our abilities—that we will follow through, that we will live up to their expectations, that we will do what is right. As educators, many students, parents and community members put their trust and hope in us. They place hope in what we are doing. It is interesting, however, that such a powerful, positive word—a concept that brings excitement, assurance, peace—can in the next second bring great doubt or uncertainty.

“I hope this assignment helps the students grasp this concept.” Or (as could be said to a parent saying goodbye to their crying child on his or her first day of school) “Hopefully, once he sees the other children playing, he will calm down.” Using hope in this fashion actually decreases the trust a parent or student will place in the teacher. There is an air of uncertainty, leaving the results up to luck, instead of taking ownership. What of words such as “probably,” “soon,” “as soon as possible,” “pretty good”? Our vernacular is riddled with these words and phrases, but they bring little comfort, certainty or direction.

Words hold power. Words can increase tension, anxiety, and stress. Words can also decrease tension, anxiety, and stress. Our words hold power. Therefore, the language we use is of the utmost importance. We need to critically think about the way we communicate and the words that slip out without our realizing. We need to employ words that are direct and take action.

When a student raises their hand to ask for help on an assignment, instead of saying “I’ll be with you as soon as possible,” which leaves the student uncertain of how long he or she will have to wait, try phrases such as “When I am done helping Missy, I will come help you next.” The student has a cue to look for. They know that they will be helped next. When discussing a student’s progress with a parent, to answer “Billy is doing pretty good in math” is insubstantial, even as an introduction to the topic. Answering in more concrete ways “Billy has a strong grasp on multiplication; however, he is struggling to understand long division” not only provides a sounding board for starting a proactive conversation on Billy’s education, but it also indicates the concern, notice and individual attention you give to Billy. It is apparent to Billy’s parents that you’ve taken time to truly invest in him as an individual.

Going back to a previous scenario: What to say to the parent whose child is terrified of the kindergarten classroom and will not stop crying? “I will personally take Suzie around and introduce her to the other children. Once she starts playing, she will feel much more comfortable. I also want to ensure you that I will be giving her the attention she needs to feel secure here.” There is an action plan, and it is specific. It builds confidence by giving clarity of what the expectations are.Our words are powerful. Let us find ourselves using strong, positive words; words that give our students, parents and community members confidence in us and our ability to lead this generation.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville (SDJ) is a forum to recognize outstanding performances and achievements by SDJ employees and schools.

Mural at Madison Elementary School

E-Mail from Kathleen Morgan, 4th Grade Teacher, Madison Elementary to Karen Schulte

Dr. Schulte,

“I am attaching pictures of a mural that my daughter Anne designed and painted with the help of her sister, Mary, at Madison El. School to enhance our theme of celebrating diversity. She is a former Craig student that is now an Art major at UW Stevens Point with a double major in International Studies. She was excited to give back to the community and School District of Janesville with her time and talents. I hope you can put this in your weekly updates. I also wanted you to know that the paint she was using was generously donated by a local business owner. Thanks to Al Burden at Hallman/Lindsay Paints here in Janesville for helping to make this project possible.”

Thank you,
Kathy Morgan

Information Technology Department

E-Mail from Amanda Mory, Art Teacher, Van Buren Elementary to Bob Smiley, CIO

Dr. Smiley,

“I’m Amanda Mory and I teach art at Van Buren Elementary School. My Mac computer hasn't been working properly since I had to reset my password last week and I called the help desk yesterday and wanted to let you know that one of our new Mac guys, Russ Pietz, was awesome. He tried to help me over the phone and wasn't sure what to do, so he actually drove over to Van Buren to help me get my internet-working. I was very appreciative that he would take the time to come over and help me out and wanted you to know that. Even when we found out that it was a very simple fix, he didn't make me feel incompetent, and just understood the complications!”

Have a great day!
Amanda Mory

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Success Breeds Success

Once again students in the School District of Janesville distinguished themselves by their performance on the 2011 Wisconsin Concepts and Knowledge Test (WKCE). In particular, students exceeded expectations by beating the state average in math in all tested grades. By level, students in the fifth and sixth grades scored the best by exceeding the state average by six points. What’s significant about this result is that while the state again raised the proficiency bar by 10.5 points (making it more difficult to reach the proficiency goal) Janesville met the challenge, and in fact exceeded last year’s scores!

In reading, grades three through seven, and ten performed at or above the state average with grade eight missing the state average by one percentage point.

Language Arts, Science and Social Studies are only tested at grades four, eight, and 10. Composite scores in these disciplines exceeded the state average in Social Studies by 2.6%; Science by 2% and Language Arts by 3%.

Other notable improvements in the district when comparing current scores (2011) to previous scores (2010) occurred at the following schools: at Madison Elementary, a 14 percent gain in fourth grade reading, an 11 percent gain in third grade reading, as well as a 10 percent gain in fourth grade math. Roosevelt School showed a 23 percent gain in fourth grade math, a 12 percent gain in third grade math, a 14 percent gain in fourth grade reading, and a 6 percent gain in third grade reading. Likewise, a 16 percent gain in third grade math and an 11 percent gain in third grade reading took place at Adams. In math, Van Buren Elementary improved 17 percent in third grade and 9 percent in fourth grade; Washington improved 13 percent in fifth grade; Jefferson improved 11 percent in third grade; and Franklin Middle School improved 6 percent in seventh grade. In reading, Jackson showed a 10 percent gain in third grade, and Lincoln showed a 13 percent gain in third grade. These are all impressive gains that represent high quality teaching and learning in our schools!

Dr. Ehrhardt, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for the School District of Janesville, contends that increased attention to previous student achievement data, a stronger fidelity to teaching the academic standards, and an increased expectation for improved WKCE performance were important ingredients responsible for the improved test scores. Dr. Ehrhardt also credited the collective leadership efforts of building principals, academic learning coaches, together with the entire instructional staff as the key to this year’s WKCE gains.

Parents and the Janesville Community can be proud of our students efforts associated with the WKCE. At a time when the teaching staff is leaner and the budget is tighter, student learning has not been sacrificed and their achievement has remained front and center with our staff. Congratulations on a job well done.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The School District of Janesville Adopts A New Logo!

The School District of Janesville began a five year cycle review of the strategic plan in 1999 and developed a plan titled Beyond 2000. That plan was revised twice as Beyond 2005 and Beyond 2010.

The School District of Janesville’s Strategic Planning Committee examined current programs and created a plan that would more closely align to the district’s initiatives. The new plan also provides more flexibility and is able to be reviewed, updated and changed to reflect current accomplishments and needs rather than wait for specific time periods to review the entire document. The Janesville School District Strategic Plan is now more of a living and reflective document. The Strategic Plan was adopted by the Board of Education on June 28, 2011.

In addition to updating the Strategic Plan, the committee revised the district’s mission, vision and logo to reflect the School District of Janesville’s quest for excellence. The School District of Janesville held a “logo” contest last fall and over 100 submissions were received. The winning entry was created by Parker High School Art Teacher Bob Hackbarth!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Janesville Autism Support Team (JAST)

Janesville Autism Support Team (JAST) is a group made up of certified staff within the School District of Janesville (SDJ) that have expertise in and receive additional training in the area of autism. JAST is made up of professionals from various school buildings (including program support teachers, psychologists, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, early childhood teachers, a vision teacher, student service specialists, teachers of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities, and teachers of students with cognitive disabilities) that have an interest in the area of autism. Members of JAST meet one to two times per year with our district autism consultant to network and receive training about topics of interest.

Any certified SDJ staff member can express an interest in being a member of JAST as long as they are able to perform the following job duties when called upon to do so (this should be discussed with building principals in advance):

1. Attend problem solving meetings of students with Autism in assigned buildings or in situations as requested.

2. Attend eligibility and subsequent Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team meetings as determined by team members on IEP paperwork.

3. Provide ongoing support, resources, and follow through as needed to the assigned buildings.

4. Access support from other JAST members and/or Program Support Teachers as needed.

5. Coordinate and participate in district and building level professional development trainings.

All members of JAST are encouraged to attend JAST meetings. If individual members of JAST are meeting with building teams to problem solve or provide training around specific students’ case managers will determine who should be in attendance at those meetings. If meetings are held during the school day every effort is made to keep consistency of staff with the individual with autism as to not disrupt his/her routine. Case managers are expected to gather any information from and share all necessary information with the paraprofessionals that work directly with the students with autism if they are not in attendance at these meetings.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Third Grade Challenge Program from the Perspective of a School District of Janesville Graduate

Today's guest blogger is Elisha Horner, a Parker High School Graduate (2007)

Part of the purpose of the challenge program is to teach students to challenge themselves, and to promote the development of skills that the students already have. In my mind, it makes sense that we would want to catch the kids at a young age, so that the challenge teachers do not have to "reteach" children to challenge themselves. One of the hardest adjustments for me in joining the challenge program was that (while I had a deep love and passion for learning) it had always come easily to me. I had naturally excelled in my classes, rarely having to push myself to do better because, in comparison to my classmates, I was ahead of the game.

I remember a “timed” math game we were given in 3rd grade, where each student had their own rocket ship and as they completed a set of math questions within the time bracket, their ship would move to the next planet. As a student progressed, the "levels" became increasingly more difficult. Once a student completed all of the levels, they went around again, but with less time and more difficult numbers. I remember lapping almost all of the students in my class. I don't write this to brag about my third grade math skills, but to prove a point. I knew that I excelled in math. I also found the problems that we were doing to be easy; therefore, I did not need to challenge or push myself. In many ways, I coasted--something I can see now, but didn't realize as an elementary school student.

Once I joined the challenge program, I had already learned skills of disorganization, procrastination and laziness. Obviously, I do need to take responsibility for this; however, I do see the benefit of joining a challenge program---of being challenged---before those types of behaviors can become habits. Looking back, I can see numerous of my classmates who likewise struggled in this way. They are peers who struggled to challenge themselves, to push harder and to have ambition.

As educators, isn't it our position to help kids to be the best they can be? By creating a program that reaches out to younger students, we help them to build these characteristics, to develop a desire to be challenged and to ambitiously seek out those challenges. In my opinion, adding a third grade challenge program can only benefit the students--and that is precisely what the School District of Janesville is about.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

School District of Janesville Cable Channel 96/993 Update

Currently, the School District of Janesville Board of Education (BOE) Meetings are being rebroadcast on cable channel 96/993 (Charter Communications only), Monday through Friday at 9:00 a.m. Due to an equipment issue, we do not have the capability to rebroadcast in the evening or on the weekends.

The School District of Janesville has also been experiencing complications streaming live board meetings on the district website because of this equipment problem. It is our intention to remedy this situation as quickly as possible with an upgrade to a few vital pieces of equipment and software, which will allow us to have more control over when specific programs our shown on Channel 96/993. Live streaming video will not be available on the internet until this upgrade occurs.

There is, however, an exciting update to the current situation regarding rebroadcasting of Board of Education meetings on the internet. The School District of Janesville Board of Education meetings will now be available on the district's YouTube channel. Each video will be available within 24 hours of a meeting under normal circumstances. The March 13, 2012 meeting is ready for viewing!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville (SDJ) is a forum to recognize outstanding performances and achievements by SDJ employees and schools.

Parker High School, from Principal Christopher Laue

During the months of December and January, Parker guidance counselors averaged over 200 scheduled student meetings each month. This includes sit down meetings only; if students who stopped with quick questions or drop-ins were counted this would be significantly higher.

Sixteen DECA (International Association of Marketing Students) members competed in the Junior Achievement Business Challenge of Rock County. At the event, at total of $1800 in scholarships and prizes were awarded to the top students; Parker DECA won $1200 of that in scholarships and savings bonds based on our students finishing first and third place.

Parker 9th grade students increased the number of students who were advanced or proficient on the 2nd quarter curriculum based assessment by 10%, moving from 54% to 64%. Way to go 9th grade English teachers and students!

Craig High School, from Principal Alison Spiegel

Kathleen Butterfield's First Semester Humanities A class donated about 75 bags of food and had close to 500 hours of volunteer service.

On Saturday, February 4th, Craig Forensics participated in the Sun Prairie Invitational. The team won 3rd place in the Small Team Division. Notable performances included Alex Janssen - Finalist in Radio Speaking and Devan Beyel, Sierra Spaulding, and Ashley Stone - Second place in Group Interp. Congratulations to Coaches Nicole Hilbelink and Tom Ulrich and all their students!
Edison Middle School, from Principal Jim LeMire

Edison has 23 mentors that are working with Edison students Monday through Thursday each week.

Edison Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) (office referrals and in-school and out-of-school suspensions) is a program designed to reduce the number of student behavior disruptions experienced during the school day. The number of office discipline referrals are down 51 (end of January 2012) from the same time last year (January 2011). The number of in-school suspensions are down 45 (end of January 2012) from the same time last year (January 2011). The number of out-of-school suspensions are down 59 (end of January 2012) from the same time last year (January 2011).

Jackson Elementary, from Principal Kristin Moisson

After completing several weeks of intensive reading instruction during the RtI time, 91% of Jackson 2nd grade students showed growth on their reading assessment.

Third grade teachers are finding that they have gained 87 minutes of extra teaching time per week, since our students have been taught lining up and hallway expectations. This is due to Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)!

71% of our first grade students have met or exceeded the benchmark for our November Developmental Reading Assessment scores.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

School Social Work Matters (National School Social Work Month)

There is no greater joy nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone's life - Mary Rose McGeady

In celebration of National Social Work Month, we would like to recognize and thank the social workers in our district, who do make a fundamental difference in the lives of our students. Social workers are a vital component of our school district and help to meet the needs of our students. The role that social workers play in our school may not always be noticed by the general public; however, it does directly impact the lives of students in a very powerful way. Our social workers work one on one with students, families and teachers to meet the needs of the students and address areas of issues. They are a support for the entire student body in times of crisis, trauma and loss. Their role and influence in the lives of Janesville students is vital to our school communities.

It is a profession that can be trying and emotionally exhausting; however, social workers can pride themselves on being a source of hope—striving to meet the basic needs of our students and enhancing their experience at school.

Thank you to all of the social workers in our district. Your hard work, dedication and care for our students is noticed and valued.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Summer School is off and Running!

Rebecca Austin Burke posted on School District of Janesville’s Facebook Wall
"Thank you for making this the easiest ever summer school registration. It was sooo fast and easy!!!"

Summer School 2012 was officially launched at 9:30 A.M. on Saturday March 17th with the opening of the registration window for elementary students. This is the third year the School District of Janesville utilized an online registration system. Parents had the opportunity to register students from any computer terminal using their family access information, the same user name and password used during the regular school year. Our district also opened several buildings including the Educational Services Center to allow parents to access the expertise available from our district staff.

The great news is fewer parents felt the need to use these services because the online system was retooled by the Instructional Technology staff based on feedback from last year's users. In fact, the District has received e-mails of thanks and phone calls recognizing how much easier the system worked this year. We are pleased the changes have improved customer satisfaction and our summer school staff will continue to work with our stakeholders to continuously improve service to our families.

For the second year, the district accessed the expertise of our High School Spanish Honor Society students to assist parents at school registration sites. Parker and Craig students embraced the opportunity to utilize the skills learned in class to help our non-English speaking families. Once again, they did not disappoint. Feedback from parents and staff was extremely positive. Our student ambassadors not only used their language skills but also demonstrated their knowledge of technology while assisting all families with the registration process. Thank you to our student volunteers for giving up a beautiful Saturday morning to provide a helping hand to our families.

Please take time to visit the summer school pages of our website. Registration for Middle and High school students opens in mid April. Out of District students will be able to join our students in Summer School later this spring. As always, some classes close quickly (such as swim and golf) so don't wait to go on-line to register your students. If a change is needed, don't hesitate to contact the summer school office at 608-743-5042. Some changes can be made over the phone or please stop at the Educational Services Center.

One of our new parents from Pennsylvania said it best Saturday morning,
"Seriously ---I owe you how much for my two children --- seriously! This is the awesome. We are so glad we moved here and we just bought our first house. Thank you for offering this for our kids."

Friday, March 16, 2012

The National Blue Ribbon Award Winning Kennedy Elementary School Formula

Congratulations staff, parents and students at Kennedy Elementary School. Congratulations on the results that earned you this national recognition. The Blue Ribbon award is nice, but even more important is what it represents - high student achievement.

Kennedy Elementary School has accomplished something no other school has accomplished in the School District of Janesville – EVER! Out of 138,000+ schools in the nation, 315 were picked this year to be a Blue Ribbon School. To be named a Blue Ribbon School is to join an elite group. Over 6,000 of America's schools have received this honor over the past 30 years. No public school in the history of Janesville has EVER won this award.

What has made Kennedy School standout above the rest? What has made Kennedy School rise to the top to capture this prestigious national award? In one of the most difficult school years in the history of American Education (2010-2011), how did this little school keep moving forward at such an incredible pace?

I know in talking with staff that every school in the School District of Janesville is dedicated to both student learning and also learning successful approaches to student learning. The key to success is learning from others……so what can be learned from the Kennedy experience? As I spoke to staff and parents about what they felt were components for Kennedy’s successes, here is what I heard.

Quality Educators + Positive School Climate + the Kennedy Blueprint + Engagement = Success!

Quality Educators (the quality of the entire staff):

Kennedy School has high performing educators. They are intelligent, have a strong work ethic and do not let students fail in the classroom. Kennedy School is a place where educators hold each other accountable. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, pressure is put on them to work as hard as everyone else. This makes everyone pulling hard in the same direction. This does not only mean teachers who are the classroom leaders, but also the incredible support staff. This includes the counselor; Mrs. Bembinster, the Academic Learning Coach; Mrs. Bobbi O’Leary, the English Language Learners (ELL) teacher; Mrs. Brianne Morris, the music teacher; Mrs. Frank and many others. These employees are dedicated to partnering with the classroom teacher to ensure this school runs like a well-oiled machine.

Positive School Climate:

Kennedy school is known for their positive school climate. The staff believes in their students. Staff and parents have told me that KENNEDY STAFF DO NOT GIVE UP ON THEIR KIDS. When a student has a hard time learning, is being bullied, or just having a hard day the student is not left on their own. The staff all help students work through their problems. Kennedy staff love their students, take care them, challenge them and hold them accountable.

The Kennedy Blueprint

Kennedy School has a blueprint for improvement from Ms DeGraaf’s leadership evaluation measurement tool (LEM) to the school improvement plan: Kennedy has charted its path. All School District of Janesville schools have this blueprint. Kennedy stands out in that they do not veer off their path. They know where they are going and they stick to it. This has brought them a high level of academic achievement.


Students, staff and parents love Kennedy School! Educators at Kennedy believe they are doing the most important work in the world. That work is to nurture, support and educate every child. They are driven, focused, and caring. They want to do their best. They are engaged in educating their students. Kennedy parents are engaged in and support the work being done at Kennedy School. Kennedy survey results from the last three years support this. Kennedy school consistently has some of the highest survey results in the district. Students, staff and parents love Kennedy school.

When students, staff and parents are so excited about a school and want to support all that occurs there, SUCCESS happens and it happened here. I know staff in the School District of Janesville is dedicated to student learning and the parents of the students want the very best for their children. It is so nice to have Kennedy Elementary School right in the School District of Janesville to learn from. I know you will all join me in thanking the staff of Kennedy for their willingness to share their successes and in congratulating the staff, students and parents.
Congratulations Kennedy Blue Ribbon School

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What is Response to Intervention?

Response to Intervention (RtI) refers to a tiered framework of services in which research-based instruction is matched to the specific academic or behavioral needs of students. Student instructional needs are “data-driven” or, in other words, determined by a variety of methods including, but not limited to, MAP test scores, progress toward grade level benchmarks for the common core standards, Curriculum-based assessments (CBA’s), and behavioral responses to the Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) programs. When grade level teams identify students that are not making progress in a particular skill area, small groups are formed to provide these identified students with specific interventions to assist them in gaining these skills.

Students’ progress is monitored over the course of the intervention to determine whether the skill or skills are mastered. If the skill(s) are mastered, the students move out of that RtI group; if not, students are provided with additional interventions that may include increased time, intensity, and duration. RtI groups are flexible, as students move in/out throughout the year depending on their progress toward the desired goal, and response to interventions.

RtI in the School District of Janesville (SDJ) was initiated to help increase the probability of success for all students by taking a collaborative look at our system of supports for students and teachers. The purpose is not to create something that is new or different but to see what SDJ has to offer and to fill in where supports are lacking. The RtI process allows for establishing shared goals, contributions and accountability between the school and home setting.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

PROJECT REDESIGN: Becoming an Extraordinary High School

In 2009 the School District of Janesville completed a $72 million upgrade to the physical plants of both Craig and Parker High Schools. This upgrade created state-of-the-art facilities for high school student learning. A similar upgrade must now occur with curriculum and instruction to best prepare Janesville students for the 21st Century. A more rigorous, relevant and engaging experience is what is needed.

This curriculum renewal at the high schools is entitled “PROJECT REDESIGN.” This effort will examine current teaching, curriculum and instructional practices under the lens of “best practice” and “evidenced-based leadership.” Specifically, this change will be measured by student performances on the WKCE (state test), ACT, local curriculum-based assessments (CBA’s) and success in the Advanced Placement program. A staff study committee has been working on a proposal that will be shared with both Craig and Parker personnel as a special professional development meeting on Tuesday, March 27, 2012.

Potential structural changes include: increased graduation requirements, consideration of an eight period day and greater collaboration between both high schools. These are all important decision points that will be explored through PROJECT REDESIGN.

Listen to WCLO tomorrow (March 15, 2012) at 10:30 a.m. to hear Principals Laue and Spiegel and Dr. Ehrhardt discuss PROJECT REDESIGN.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What's Right in the School District of Janesville

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville (SDJ) is a forum to recognize outstanding performances and achievements by SDJ employees.

Franklin Middle School Trees for Tomorrow

E-mail from Jackie Rufer to Superintendent Karen Schulte

Dr. Schulte,

I just wanted to share that David Adler, Matt Peerenboom, Michol Startup, and Jenni Seisser went above and beyond their required responsibilities. The following staff members left Sunday morning with my son and numerous other Franklin students to attend Trees For Tomorrow for four days. My son had a wonderful time and has not stopped talking about the experience. These are memories and experiences that will last a lifetime. This wouldn't have happened if these individuals weren't willing to work above and beyond their contracted hours. They are dedicated to our children, and I thought that it was important that I bring them to your attention.

Best Wishes,
Jackie Rufer

Lincoln Elementary School

E-mail from Superintendent Karen Schulte to Lincoln Principal Shawn Galvin.

Dear Shawn,

This is the second time I have been pulled aside by my "car guy" to hear about the wonderful Lincoln staff and Principal. This time as he shared with me the things wrong with my son's car, he ended with "Can I share one more thing with you?" He went on to tell me how elated and thankful he and his wife are regarding the attentiveness of the team that works with his child. He mentioned Lisa Campion, Michelle Costello and Lisa Jones. I hope I caught all the names because I grabbed a pencil somewhere in the midst of his comments to catch everyone’s name. They are so grateful for the great work of this team and the care of the school. Please share this with your staff; most importantly thank your staff for their warm and caring hearts.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Bytes and Bits – Transforming Traditional Classrooms into Digital Spaces

The School District of Janesville is exploring blended learning. Blended Learning is focused on the marriage between our traditional classrooms (face-to-face) and online learning (over the web). Our first Moodle class for educators, which includes 18 colleagues, is prompting us to think about today’s learners and how they learn best in a digital learning world.

Questions we are exploring:

How do we engage students who are typically less involved in classroom discussions – the shy, introverted, or daydreamers?

How do we hook our students to use the technology to collaborate, publish, and interact ethically online?

How do we motivate all of the learners through interactive web resources, through assessment design and differentiation, discussion forums, collaborative wikis and rigorous assignments?

How can we reach out to our families so they understand this new learning landscape?

One teacher in the blended learning class had this to say: “Our digital-age teachers and classmates are thinking harder, communicating more with each other than in a regular face-to-face class. They are applying technology and teaching skills to design a blended learning class.” It takes a lot of courage to take risks with technology, but teachers are seeing the results of their efforts.

Another teacher said, “We are challenging students to use their technology (phone, iPad, iPod, computer, etc.) to discover knowledge and be critical thinkers; to have the perseverance to creatively and collaboratively solve real-world problems; and to honor each other’s diversity and points of view by respectfully communicating in an online environment.”

Whether today’s village is made of bricks and mortar or bits and bytes; it takes the entire village to raise our children – parent, grandparents, community members, teachers and students. Help us redefine our future by adding your comments to this blog. We want to know how you see yesterday’s classrooms being transformed for today’s learners.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Awards Keep Pouring into the School District of Janesville

The School District of Janesville was honored this year with FIVE awards for high academic achievement at both the state and national level. I am proud to now announce two Parker High School teachers as recipients of the 2012 Herb Kohl Fellowship award.

I received notice that both Jan Knutson and Alana Rankin, both extraordinary teachers at PHS, have been selected as 2012 Herb Kohl Fellowship recipients! Fellowship recipients are chosen for their superior ability to inspire a love of learning in their students, their ability to motivate others, and for their leadership and service within and outside the classroom. Each Fellow’s school will also receive a $1,000 grant. Fellowship recipients are selected by a statewide committee composed of civic leaders, and representatives of education-related associations and the program’s co-sponsors: The Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools (WCRIS), and regional Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESA).Initiative It truly is an honor to work with these high performing teachers.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rounding for Outcomes

One common concern of employees is that their leader does not spend time with them and truly understand what they do. Employees expect their leaders to know what their needs are and care enough about them to try to meet these needs. Encouraging employees to feel that they have purpose, that their work is worthwhile and that what they are doing is making a difference can be difficult for many employers and supervisors. One strategy that has been proven to successfully raise employee satisfaction and loyalty, as well as attract high performing employees, is Rounding for Outcomes. Rounding on employees assists in the development of genuine relationships and brings an understanding of what is going on in the employees’ lives. The use of Rounding provides a leader with the opportunity to regularly check on the status of his/her employees and check on what employees want and need. Rounding increases staff performance, staff retention and day to day efficiencies, and it gets quick action on performance issues.

What is Rounding for Outcomes, and how does it play out in a practical sense?

Rounding for Outcomes is the consistent practice of asking specific questions of key stakeholders—leaders, employees, administrators, teachers and other employee groups—to obtain actionable information.

Rounding Is:
• Focused, outcome driven and intentional
• Part of a leader’s routine, hardwired into his/her approach to relationships and business
• Continually building a positive culture that
1. Is purposeful
2. Makes employees work worthwhile
3. Shows employees their work is making a difference

The types of questions asked serve a multitude of purposes: to build deeper relationships, to learn what is working well, to identify process improvement areas, to repair and monitor chronic issues within an organization, and to ensure that standard behaviors and practices within the organization are being consistently executed. Rounding includes asking questions that help an employer get to know his/her employees on a personal level, recognize what is working well and commend those who are doing a great job, as well as acknowledge and confront problem areas within the organization and discover what equipment, tools and training are necessary to help the employee better succeed at their job. Rounding focuses on positives, encouraging the employee by making them feel valued and important, helping to put the person at ease and feel comfortable, without overlooking problem areas that need to be addressed.

Rounding Is Not:
• Management by wandering around
• Reactive
• Focused on what is wrong
• Being out there

By moving forward with a habit and culture of Rounding for Outcomes, employees feel connected to their supervisors, feel respected and valued and that their work matters.

1. Emma Willard
2. Gracia Molina de Pick
3. Charlotte Forten Grimke
4. Okolo Rashid
5. Annie Sullivan
6. Brenda Flyswithhawks
7. Title IX
8. 1972

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tough Questions/Issues for the the Superintendent to Know.

The questions/issues for the Superintendent’s Blog on Thursdays “Tough Questions/Issues for the Superintendent to Know” come from a report Principals fill out called the Scouting Report.
Scouting reports are compiled from the rounding logs* principals keep. These reports provide important information about what is going on in a given department, grade level or school. They also help to answer questions that keep coming up and give kudos based on how well the department has done in a certain area. I receive these reports one per month from each building principal.

Two similar questions/issues came up for the month of February. They are both listed below.
Question: What will it be like once the contract expires and the handbook is in place?
Issue: There are concerns about the staff handbook. It could best be described as “awfulizing” or making everything worse than what the unknown reality will be.

I already have had several blogs about the state of the handbook and the process being used to put the Handbook together. What will the District look like once the Handbook in place? My hope is that the District will be an extraordinary place for students to learn. The students are our primary focus. The Handbook Design Committee has put guiding principles together that serve as the foundation for this to occur.
The School District of Janesville will recruit, retain and recognize high performing employees who embody the standards of integrity and accountability.
The School District of Janesville will commit to the continuous development, coaching and support of our employees.
The School District of Janesville will continue to adhere to strict standards of achievement and excellence.

As I have stated before there will be Employee Forums and Focus Groups where I will disseminate more information in the future.

* What is Rounding and how does it play out in a practical sense?
“Rounding is the consistent practice of asking specific questions of key stakeholders—leaders, employees, administrators, teachers, custodians, (all employee groups)—to obtain actionable information.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville

What’s Right in the School District of Janesville (SDJ) is a forum to recognize outstanding performances and achievements by SDJ employees. This week we are featuring Dave Leeder, Manager of Buildings and Grounds.

The following is a copy of an email from Rock River Charter School Principal Lisa Peterson. “I just wanted to share a HUGE thank you for outstanding service to Dave Leeder. I learned this week that due to limited refrigerator space at RRCS, we have only been able to accept 20 of the 60 breakfasts for which we are eligible through the Universal Breakfast program. I sent Dave an email yesterday asking the procedure to have RRCS amperage checked to make sure that we could support another refrigerator without blowing fuses. Not only did he check, he delivered a refrigerator which was in storage! Talk about service beyond my wildest dreams! I am excited that we will be able to meet more nutritional needs for our students!”

Thank you Dave! You are an extremely valuable asset to the School District of Janesville!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How Are Polling Locations Chosen?

Recently Wilson Elementary School and Marshall Middle School were eliminated as polling sites for 2012. This change was brought about by the 2010 census data which showed a disparity in population size between various city ward boundaries and legislative districts.

When census data is collected every ten years, one of the uses of this data is to assure that the population size for city wards and legislative districts is equal. Because there have been shifts in Janesville’s population, shifts needed to be made to city ward boundaries and legislative districts.

Now that the city has established ward boundaries, the new polling locations have been identified. Those who once voted at Wilson and Marshall will be moved to a new location. The city determines where that will be.

In compliance with state laws, polling locations need to be located within the ward boundaries. They must also be handicap accessible, supply adequate parking, provide custodial support, and have a location to safely store voting machines before and after a voting date. Ideally these polling locations would be in a public building; however, one of the concerns of opening schools as polling places is that schools have become much more secure environments in an effort to protect employees and students.

Monday, March 5, 2012

March is National Women’s History Month

March is National Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the years of hard work for females to achieve equity goals in the classroom and in the Boardroom and to ensure the history of American women will be recognized and celebrated in schools, workplaces, and communities throughout the country. Women trailblazers and pioneers have added to human knowledge and skill in every field, from the arts and humanities to aviation, sports, science, education, and government. There are many women leaders in our community who replicate these qualities today.

Here are some of the many extraordinary women in our community who come to mind. The BMO Harris Bank (M &I) president; Mary Willmer-Sheedy, United Alloy CEO; Terri Roessler, businesswoman; Jackie Wood, University of Wisconsin-Rock County CEO/Dean, Carmen Wilson, Blackhawk Technical School’s Vice President of Learning, Sharon Kennedy and Entrepreneur and businesswoman, Diane Hendricks. Within the field of education and specifically in the School District of Janesville we have many female leaders who serve as principals, instructional managers, unit leaders and building coordinators. The 2012 theme for National Women’s History Month is Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment, in order to honor the valiant struggle by many tenacious women in America to gain the right to equal education for females and the equal opportunity to learn.

Be sure to acknowledge the hard work and tenacity of the women you know who broke past barriers to achieve amazing accomplishments.

Try the quiz below and see how many of these questions you can answer regarding women’s issues. The answers will be in tomorrow’s blog.

Quiz in Honor of Women’s History Month

1. Who founded Troy Female Seminary in 1821?

2. Who created family reading programs to help educate Hispanic children?

3. Who was the first northern African- American woman to go South to teach in the Freedman Schools?

4. Who is the Executive Director of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures?

5. Who taught Helen Keller how to be able to participate in the world?

6. What member of the Tsalagi (Cherokee) Nation was one of first women of her Nation to receive a Ph.D.?

7. What is the title of the Education Amendments that mandated equal opportunity for females and males in all fields of federally funded public education?

8. In what years was this legislation written?

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Changing Face of Janesville

The demographics in Janesville are rapidly changing. Recent findings in The Demographic & Student Membership Report describe historical changes in the school district and community. This report is posted on the School District of Janesville website on the Board of Education tab under the agenda for 2/28/12.

Based on the Third Friday count in September, student membership has declined by 61 students from 2007-2008 to 2011-2012. The loss in membership would be considerably greater without the inception of our four year old kindergarten program. The minority population continues to rise with a 7% overall increase over the last 5 years. The Hispanic population shows the largest increase.

Students receiving free and reduced lunch has increased 3% from 2010-2011 to 2011-2012. All of the schools in the district have 30% or more of students receiving free and reduced lunch. The percent of children living in low income homes has increased from 46% in 2010-2011 to 48% in 2011-2012.

The district has also seen an increase in the number of identified homeless youth. There was an increase of 35 identified homeless youth in 2009-2010 (381) to 2010-2011 (416). As of January 31, 2012; there have been 318 identified homeless youth in the district.

The Janesville community is changing daily as the people that live within the community also change. The Demographic & Student Membership Report summarizes important developments and trends in the community using the latest available statistics. District staff; continue to analyze the data presented in this report to make well informed decisions regarding programming for all students in the district and continued professional development. It is important for School Leaders to be in tune with the external as well as the internal environment of the community.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Franklin Middle School/Rock River Charter School - What's next?

I just finished my last focus group tonight with elementary parents from Adams, Madison and Washington Elementary Schools. I have been able to listen to many voices over the last several weeks along with collecting data on the cost of renovation at FMS, enrollment numbers at both schools and the pros and cons of this decision.

My recommendation won’t come to the Board for several weeks and I still have some data to review, however, I heard loud and clearly from parents that they want something different for Franklin’s future. They discussed creative, innovative ideas to draw more students of the same age into FMS. They spoke of a STEM (science, technical education and math) magnet or charter school. They were excited by the possibilities. We decided we are going to continue to meet together and dream big for the west side of Janesville.