Monday, March 31, 2014

Time To Vote

Today’s blog is short and sweet - get out there tomorrow and vote!

Yes, in some cases every single vote counts. I have a friend who lived in a small community in northern Wisconsin who helped elect a city council member by one vote. My friend voted for the winner, so there was a constant reminder that his vote mattered.

It is unlikely, but possible, that one vote will decide a contest on tomorrow’s ballot. But, it has happened. In the 1980s, an Assembly representative from Milton was elected by a single vote. After several recounts, he was seated and went on to win re-election more than once.

But, even if your single vote does not mean the difference between winning and losing, your vote does matter. It represents a collective influence. You and thousands of others join together to exercise a right we often take for granted here in the United States, but millions around the world fight for and are willing to die for.

Without our right to vote, we lose control of our government, whether it is local, state or federal. By voting, we reaffirm our desire to retain control. We have the opportunity tomorrow to send a signal to those who run for office. The obvious signal is an indication of who we want to hold office, but we also send a signal that we take our responsibility as citizens seriously, and we intend to exercise the right to vote and control our government.

I encourage you all to get out to the polls tomorrow and exercise that right.

Friday, March 28, 2014

International Education

You have heard me say that we no longer can consider our educational goals on a local or even regional scope. We are living in a global environment, and the students in the School District of Janesville must graduate with knowledge and skills to compete in that global environment, whether that be in the world of work or moving on to higher education.

A few years back The Hechninger Report explored our country’s standing in the world regarding the college graduation rates. While the United States has 17 of the top 20 universities in the world, we rank 16th globally in the number of people and percentage of our population age 25-34 with a post-secondary degree. South Korea is the leader with Canada tied for second with Japan. Russia is fourth.

Are incoming freshman at these elite United States universities unable to compete? If so, why?

I am convinced that a strong international education system at the K-12 level is necessary to prepare our graduates. The School District of Janesville Board of Education agrees. That’s why we have invested in the Janesville International Education Program.

We continue to emphasize and strengthen our students’ understanding of the basics –reading and math for example – but we must ensure that our graduates are up to and beyond new levels of technology. We must also provide a basic understanding of our place in the world and how best to be productive in that global setting. The Janesville International Education Program addresses that component of our overall curriculum.

We have seen a good start in our international education goal. About three years ago, two of our schools, Roosevelt Elementary and Harrison Elementary received the Asian Society’s Confucius Classroom award making them among the top 100 Chinese classrooms in the country.

These successes at the elementary level must be duplicated at the middle and senior high level, and we are working hard to see that happen. A group of Craig High School students are returning this week from a Global Summit Conference in China under the leadership of Craig honors global studies teacher Fritz Elsen.

I see exciting advances in not only our world language curriculum at the elementary and middle school levels, but also at the senior high level and our overall international studies program. It will not be an easy path, but it is necessary to our goals and one I look forward to.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu provided us with this proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” We have taken that first step, and continue to continue the journey.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March Is Music In Our Schools Month

The National Association for Music Education has designated March as “Music In Our Schools Month” (MIOSM).  This is the time of year when music education becomes the focus of schools across the nation. MIOSM began as a single statewide celebration in 1973, and has grown over the decades to encompass a day, then a week, and then in 1985 to become a month long celebration of school music.
The purpose of MIOSM is to raise awareness of the importance of music education and to remind citizens that school is where all children should have access to music. MIOSM is an opportunity for music teachers to bring their music programs to the attention of the school and the community, and to display the benefits school music brings to students of all ages.
There were a lot of great things happening at Craig in the area of music area this month.

1) Spotlighters were named Grand Champion at a show choir competition in Epworth, IA.  They also won awards for Best Vocals and Best Choreography.  Freshman Lexi Ganong won Best Female Soloist.

2) Spotlighters also competed at Totino Grace High School in Fridley, MN. They made the finals and placed 4th at this very tough competition.

3) The Spotlighters will be competing at a national competition in Branson, MO. This is the first time the Spotlighters have competed in a national competition.

4) Two Craig students, Teegan Lentz (Junior) and Lexi Ganong (Freshman), were selected from thousands of auditions into the Wisconsin State Honor Choir, which is a 100-voice choir.

Congratulations and job well done!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Not Just Money

For Jerry Maguire it was all about “show me the money.” That’s not the way
we operate. Certainly, we struggle with funding, and we are guided by
balanced budgets, but we are not driven by profit.

Our mission is to serve our community by educating every child; it is not to
generate excess revenue, especially at the expense of our mission. Today, I
would like to share with you the educational component of our International

There have been discussions on how much the program will cost, where the
revenue comes from and how much the program will bring into the district in
terms of tuition. I have attempted to provide an open and transparent look at
the financial side of the program.

What may be getting lost in this discussion are the educational benefits a strong International program brings to the School District of Janesville. All of our partners – administration, staff, students, parents and our community stand to benefit from this exceptional undertaking. As I write this today, Fritz Elsen, Craig High School Social Studies teacher, and a group of students are in China soaking up that nation’s culture and sharing their experience at the Global Economic Summit. We are building multiple bridges academically as well as an aggressive technology partnership that will enhance our International program here in Janesville; both for International students studying in our district and Janesville-area students immersed in International studies.

If we are not involved in this undertaking strictly for the money, then why?

There are several reasons. If we focus on Chinese alone, we know that Mandarin Chinese is spoken by more people in the world than any other language. It is the official language of China and Taiwan. It is one of the official languages of the United Nations. China is a world power. As we provide educational opportunities for our students that prepare them for a world beyond our district’s boundary, the study of China, its culture
and language, is a necessary component of that preparation.

What better opportunity can we provide out students than to be able to study, side-by-side, with Chinese students? The academic benefits to our students in this program far outweigh the resources we are prepared to invest. Students from all over the world enrich our lives.

I provide this discussion knowing that funding cannot be overlooked. The administration does not move forward with any programs without a focused discussion on costs, revenues and benefits. In the case of our International Education Program, and the Chinese component specifically, we see a tremendous opportunity to broaden our academic offerings to better prepare our students for a global environment. The fact that we may be able to self fund the program while increasing enrollment is a big plus, but it’s not the only reason to move forward. It’s simply the right thing to do.

Yes, Jerry Maguire wants to see the money. So do we. But we are most interested in educational opportunities for our students as we continue to serve our community by educating every child, and prepare our students for exciting and challenging global opportunities.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Congratulations Technology Department

It is rare that a vendor sends a note, thanking a District leader and his team.  It is very uncommon that they would reach out unprompted to say, "we appreciate your partnership."  

The School District of Janesville sent several Technicians to BrainStorm this year.  They went to learn, to grow, to see what's new that might work here for our students and staff.  After the conference was over, Dr. Robert Smiley, our Chief Information Officer received a note from Paragon Development Systems, acknowledging what an excellent team we have.

         Here is the actual letter

Thanks so much for spending time with us at
Brainstorm yesterday.  We are privileged to work with you and appreciate the great partnership you’ve built with PDS.  We don’t take it for granted and will continue to work to earn it every day.

I also want to thank you for the kind comments you expressed about working with PDS.  I have to say, that was the highlight of the night for me.  Its feedback like that, that inspires and motivates us.  Thank you!

If there is every anything you need from me, please never hesitate to call.

In the interim, all my continued best,

There's no time to rest on our laurels, but we should all be proud of what we are building together - and to recognize that we are achieving excellence.