Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Welcome Back to School - Year 2016-2017!!

There is no doubt that one of the most amazing things about being in education is that every one of us has the opportunity each new school year to begin anew and to start fresh.  We communicate this sentiment to our students as well.  We tell them, “Every year is a new opportunity to be your best”. 

This is why education is the best profession ever.  We get to influence and change the lives of young people.  This year approximately 250 School District of Mauston staff (teachers, support staff, administration and substitute staff) will embark on a new year with the opportunity to build on the success and accomplishments of the last school year.  We get to embrace 1495 students when they walk through our school doors filled with anxious expectations and enthusiasm to see you.  Truly, in my opinion, I am not sure what is better than this. 

With all of our flaws and imperfections we each represent the core values of our school district.  We know that it is important to be what we teach our students: to be respectful, to demonstrate responsibility and to have courage and compassion with others.  I am proud to say that I get the opportunity to work alongside all of you.  I hope that my contributions to our school district reflect these characteristics.  And I wish the same for you.  WE are the faces of courage and respect to our students. 

Thank you to all staff for committing to teach in our District!!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Welcome to Brian Bauer, New Olson Middle School Principal

Good Afternoon Everyone:

It is with pleasure that I let you know that the Board of Education officially approved a two year contract for the new Olson Middle School Principal, Brian Bauer.  

Brian comes to Mauston from the Baraboo School District.  Brian was a Mathematics and Health teacher at Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo for the past two years and prior to that a grade five teacher for seven years.  Brian has held a number of leadership positions in his teacher role that have prepared him for this new role.  He has a Master's Degree from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota and a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point.  Along with his principal's license he also holds a Director of Instruction license and various teaching licenses.  

Brian has been in the District several times over the past two weeks and took part in the National Leadership Social Justice Institute that many of our staff attended on June 6, 7 and 8.  We very much look forward to Brian being in the District as he starts with us officially on July 1.  

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Improvement Projects Happening this Summer and Fall

In a previous blog, I highlighted the referendum and non-referendum improvement projects that the District is undertaking over the next year.  Here is a summary of what is happening in the District this summer and fall. 

West Side Elementary Roof

The entire roof at West Side Elementary School will be replaced this summer.  Construction on the roof will begin immediately once school is dismissed in June.  Although staff will be able to enter the school while the roof is being replaced, we have suspended any outside groups from using the facility.  It will be safe to enter the building but we ask that individuals pay close attention to safety instructions that are posted as workers work.  The West Side roof replacement is being paid for by referendum money.

Grayside Elementary Roof

The entire roof at Grayside Elementary School will be replaced this summer as well.  As part of the roofing improvements, there will be inside-the-school construction going on as reinforcing steel joists will be placed just above the ceilings at various areas around the building.  The reinforcing joist construction will take place the first week in June and will continue for 4-7 weeks this summer. 

The roof replacement construction will begin in early August (maybe earlier) and continue through the month of September.  It is common to do roof construction while school is in session and we are told that it has a minimal sound disruption but we are also hoping to move the roof replacement date sooner than August. The Grayside roof and joist construction is being paid for by referendum money.

As a result of this construction at Grayside, Summer School in June and July will be held at Mauston High School.  There will also be no other outside community activity happening at Grayside.  Staff may enter the building, but like West Side, we ask that you follow all safety precautions while in the building.  Because of the joist work that is happening inside the building in June and July we ask that staff do not spend any amount of time inside the building.

Olson Middle School HVAC System Replacement

Olympic Builders have been inside OMS for a couple of weeks now organizing the space to replace the old HVAC system that is there.  Asbestos removal will begin on Monday June 6 and all other HVAC work will begin in intensity on June 6.  There are small amounts of asbestos in the furnace area in the basement at OMS and in the upstairs boys and girls bathrooms.  The asbestos removal will be highly contained and will take about one week to be removed.  OMS is not open to the general public and we ask teachers to not spend any amount of time in the building due to the construction.  The main office will remain open over the summer however.  The pool is closed beginning Monday June 6 and will reopen in early September.

Track and Field Improvements in Late Fall

Once the football season is over in mid to later October, the construction on the field and track will begin.  My March 10 blog highlights the construction work that will be happening.  The old bleachers will be removed (not exactly sure whether they will be removed in late October or early Spring) and new grandstand bleachers will be put up. 

The District has a working committee entitled Campus Field Advisory Committee made up of staff, school board and community.  This committee is oversight to this project and other future field/outdoor space projects.  It meets generally about once every two weeks and will continue to meet and advise the full school board on campus field improvements. The Board of Education will spend time at its June Regular Board meeting discussing the pending approval of the new grandstand project.  The track, field and grandstand projects are being paid for by referendum dollars, one-time Fund 10 dollars and donations from the Golden Eagle Athletic Booster Club.  I will continue to keep the District informed as to the progress of this work. 

It will be a busy summer for improvement projects.  If you have any questions about any of these projects please feel free to contact me personally.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Personalize the Learning

It seems now more than ever the educational literature has a plethora of information on the importance of personalizing the learning for our students.  As I pass through classrooms in the District, I see teachers personalizing the learning and utilizing their individual talents to create a culture of personalization.  Next week, a dozen Mauston teachers and administrators will take part in the first session, in a series of sessions through the fall 2016, about ‘how to personalize learning in our schools and classrooms’. 

Learning how to design personalization in schools and classrooms is very much a part of our larger District Vision 2020 under the area of Quality Instruction and Achievement for All.  We know a great deal about how to do this and we still have so much more to learn.  Here are a few ideas from Eric Jensen’s new book, Poor Students, Rich Teaching: Mindsets for Change.  I have listed this book under suggested readings as well. 

Share Progress on Goals

In Chapter Four of Eric Jensen’s book he talks about the idea for teachers to share their personal goals with their students.  Students love the idea of you sharing your goals with them!  This is a very effective way to foster a relational mindset with your students.

Post your personal goal in the classroom (since you are asking students to do the same), and share your progress all year (or semester) long.  Sample goals include:
  • Starting new eating and exercise habits Participating in a community project
  • Helping your parents with a goal
  •  Completing a teaching improvement list
  • Running a half-marathon
  • Losing weight
  •  Mentoring someone
  • Growing a garden
  •  Learning a new skill or sport
  • An Educator Effectiveness goal you have set for yourself

Share your key milestones and celebrations and how you overcame issues along the way.  When you share all the micro-steps forward and the nearly predictable setbacks you experience, students will see that mistakes are OK and make way for improvement.  Your journey over the course of the year will be a drama akin to must-see TV show.  In short, as you make progress through obstacles, students can see themselves succeeding and that they are contributors to your growth.  This is an exciting way to influence students!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

District Referendum and Non Referendum Improvement Projects

In April 2015, the School District of Mauston’s community passed Referendum Question #1 that authorized us to issue $2.5 million to pay for the cost of a district-wide school facility improvement program consisting of the following:
  •  Roofs replacements on Grayside and West Side Elementary Schools
  •  Security and Intercom Safety Upgrades for all schools
  •  Restroom Improvements at Olson Middle School
  •   HVAC system improvements at Mauston High School
  • Track and field improvements along with outdoor bleachers replaced 

Security and Intercom Safety:  This fall and winter, the District installed door strikes in the schools to increase security and purchased new cameras for Lyndon Station and West Side Elementary Schools.  Replacement cameras will be purchased over the next four years to enhance the current camera surveillance program at all schools.    

High School HVAC:  This automation system was replaced this fall.

Olson Middle School Restrooms:  Boys and girls restrooms at OMS will be completely remodeled during this summer, 2016 along with the entire HVAC system replacement at OMS.  The HVAC system at OMS is not a referendum funded project, rather the District is paying for this project out of its Fund 10 fund balance. 

West Side and Grayside Roof Replacements:  The West Side and Grayside roofs are scheduled to be replaced this summer, 2016.  The District had open public bids and bid readings for both of the roofs. 

Track and Field Improvements:  The District is working with Rettler Corporation, a landscape architectural, civil engineering, site construction management group to oversee the field, track and grandstand improvements that were outlined in the referendum question.  Rettler Corporation has designed the construction work and written the specifications. The projects will go out for bid late March, early April.  The Board of Education will address these project bids at the April school board meeting.  Here are a few highlighted points regarding this project work:

§  Track pavement replacement
§  Pole vault & triple jump relocation
§  Athletic field improvements
§  Athletic field and track drainage work
§  Grandstand replacement
§  Athletic field lighting

The District is highly considering seeding the field but will bid for sod as a second option.  Rettler Corporation has found that seeding fields is a fundamentally sounder long term choice to sodding fields.  The District is also considering a fencing system to surround the grandstand for safety reasons and we are planning to utilize the existing press box and incorporate it within the new grandstand design.

Timeline:  The timeline for the track, field and grandstand projects to begin construction is mid October, 2016 immediately following the football season.  It is projected that the track and field construction will be completed by late fall.  The District will continue to monitor the grass on the field in order to determine the utilization of the field beginning the spring 2017.  The track will be ready to be used in spring 2017. 

The Olson Middle School building will be closed over the summer 2016 and the OMS swimming pool will not be in operation from June 2, 2016 through August 31, 2016 but will reopen the first day of school in 2016.  

We are very excited about the opportunity in our community regarding these improvement projects.  The District is committed to investing in our facilities and the grounds.  The Campus Fields Advisory Team and the Board of Education is interested in completing all of these projects with diligence in mind and has made and will make decisions about the planning, design and construction with quality in mind. 

I will keep you informed as to our progress on all of this work! 

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance

We all have our sparks of hope when we have the chance to either listen or take part in an inspiring message about life.  Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Shawn Achor, author of New York Times best-selling books The Happiness Advantage (2010)  and Before Happiness (2013).  His message is that, in fact, 75% of our job and educational successes are predicted not by intelligence, but by our optimism, social support networks, and the ability to manage energy and stress in a positve way.  He goes on to claim that our optimism (the belief that your behavior matters) is a great predictor of success.  His research identifies that "it's not reality that shapes us; it's the lens through which we view things."  He goes on to say that we tend to focus on the hastles, workloads and complaints in our work.  In other words, we tend to permit our external world to predict our happiness.  Achor's claim is that we can control our happiness by acting out our optimism.
Achor goes on to share that if we can find a way to have our brains work positively in the present then our brains work more successfully as we are able to work harder, faster and more intelligently.  He has found through his research that we can actually train our brains to become more positive.  He mentions:
  • Doing 3 Gratitudes a Day for 21 days in a row which teaches our brain to scan the positive in the world and not the negative
  • Journaling about one positive experience over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it.
  • Meditation teaches our brains to get over the cultural ADHD that we have been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once allowing our brains to focus on the tasks
  • Random Acts of Kindness praising or thanking someone on a regular basis
All of this creates ripples of positively to establish a culture of positive expressions.  I encourage everyone to watch and listen to Shawn Achor's Ted Talk entitled: The happy secret to better work.  Feel free to Google it.  I thought that his message spoke to not just education but all facets of life.  I know that this is not 'rocket science' yet I felt that because so much of our work involves shaping the lives of young people, we could all benefit from a refresher in practice, Right?  I hope you like it.  I did.