Monday, December 16, 2013

I just had to share

From a David Welter email:

"On Saturday December 14th, approximately 60 Holmes students who are enrolled in orchestra, band, and choir volunteered to participate in a flash mob that occurred at Von Maur in the College Square Mall. They learned the song "Carol of the Bells" and
surprised shoppers as well as employees by performing the piece in the aisles of the store. Students utilized the intervention and enrichment time at Holmes called "Tiger Time" to practice together and to work out the logistics of how to enter, where to enter, and when to enter. Ms. Unertl initially came up with the idea while playing piano at Von Maur, thinking that it would be a wonderful way for students to build on collaboration and comradery. She would like to thank Mrs. Engelhardt, Mr. Hall, and Mrs. Koltookian for getting the music together, teaching the kids, and for being onboard and excited about the idea. You can see pictures from the event at this link under Newsflash:
We will be posting a video of the event later in the week."

I love this for so many reasons!  Not only is it fun for the students; it is educational on several levels, and motivating, and merry for the community.  Also, it strengthens the bond between our schools and our larger community which is so important for both to thrive!

...and who doesn't love a good flash mob, making everyone's life more surreal in a positive way.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Special Meeting! Monday, 12/16 at 5 PM!

Hey, gang!

Oh the weather outside is frightful!/ 
But the fire is so delightful! 
What shall we do? I know!
Meeting ho! Meeting ho!  Meeting ho!

We are meeting Monday at 5 PM, to do some more work on the ten year plan, and take care of some other biz. The first part of the meeting deals with an individual student, and in compliance with Iowa Law, that will be a closed-session.  So if you aren't actually on the board, there isn't much of a point to showing up at 5.  We will then discuss and most likely approve a contract, which shouldn't take long.  And then we are going to further discuss the ten year plan.

We normally wouldn't have a meeting at this date, but since a 12/22 meeting isn't on the docket, we wanted to get this discussion in before we adjourn.  At our last meeting, we had a real discussion at the board table, the likes of which I've rarely seen, and it really makes me feel optimistic for this process of meeting our students' needs in the future.

(Notice I didn't say "21st century."  That phrase, referring to a century that is 1/7 over, that is the only century our graduating seniors remember, grates on me like fingernails on a chalkboard.)

Several people have shared their frustrations with me about decisions and processes that took place in the past. I understand those frustrations, and share some of them, not all of them.  But we all have to move beyond that. You can't change the past, but you can learn from it - and I think it is clear that the culture of the board has changed, and I get the sense that this change is being welcomed.  Thanks to general demographics and a heroic city council, Cedar Falls is experiencing phenomenal population growth. All those new homes going up are going to have people moving in, and their children are going to be going to school here.  Our emphasis has to be on what do we need to do now for our children, and on how to do it right, so we don't have to do this again for a very long time.

I'm asking you to do two things.

First - whenever you have an opportunity to give us feedback (and there will be plenty) - give it!  Until the bond referendum, if you see me; I'm fair game.  I've stressed this since the beginning of my campaign - good dialogue is crucial.  Apathy is not a luxury our schools can afford right now.  If you think "things are just fine" - that's cool.  But make sure to tell us you think that!  Speak up.

Second - I don't have to talk to you much about how vital a top-notch K-12 system is for Cedar Falls' long term future; the types of people who would read a geek's school board blog are the types of people who understand how a renowned public school system will help us to thrive in the next 50 years more than almost anything else we can do today.  And since I am an academic, most of the people I interact with are coming things with the same idea.  But I've learned that not everyone sees things that way; that some people think of superior K-12 education as a luxury. We all need to engage these people, Tell them how people considering the move always ask us "How are the schools?"  If you are an employer who appreciates how important it is to have well-educated people to hire, you have to let them know.  

Exciting times!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cedar Falls Schools: Amazingly Amazing

This would be a picture of Zaphod Beeblebrox - former president of the galaxy.

Okay, gang, let's talk about the National AP District Honor roll.  This year, only 477 districts made it.  Five of them were in Iowa.  And so the question is... well, you know the question.  And the answer is, "HECK YES!"  More kudos go to Cedar Falls High School.  If you know a staff member, or a teacher, or an administrator of said place, you give 'em a big ol' high five!  This is great news!  

Our beloved Superintendent, Dr. Andy Pattee, provides the following link for more information:

Keep your high-fivin' hand up in the air, because Lincoln Elementary just got written up in the WCF Courier for their innovative "Farm to School" program.  Students get to try mega-fresh locally grown foods that they may never have had the peer-pressure to try before. And you know, there are vegetables I've always hated until I moved to Iowa and had them fresh from farmer's markets; it can make a difference.  This initiative was created and is run and paid for by parent volunteers (extra high-fives to Jodie Huegerich), and is a great example of the power of a good relationship between parents and school staff, teachers, and administrators.  

Here's the link: www.MackElmerRox


P.S. School board meeting starts at 6 PM with a one hour work session next week - I'll tell you more later.