Off to a great start!

As we move forward into the 2017-18 school year I wanted to commend our schools and staff for the great start!  We have really focused on helping teachers get even better with meeting the individual needs of students everyday.  Some call this personalized learning.  I believe it is an instructional practice that we have been working on for years.  It is intentionally tailoring learning for each student that is expanded beyond the classroom’s walls and school day.  As we strengthen positive relationships with our students, we allow students to have a voice in what they are learning to move from a test-taking culture to a problem solving culture.  I appreciate our staffs’ efforts in moving forward in providing choice and flexibility in a student’s learning path.  As we continue to value our students’ interests and meet their individual needs, I am confident our results will be even better than they have always been and that a 21st Century learning environment will be firmly established in KPBSD!

Post to Twitter

Posted in Schools and Assessment | Leave a comment

Looking Back…Moving Forward…

We are coming to the end of another school year and it is a good time to reflect.  While many great things are occurring in our classrooms everyday there is a shadow over the year from the uncertainty at the State level.  We are working hard to provide details to all stakeholders on the ramifications of a variety of actions by the borough and legislature.  I truly believe that our mayor, assembly and local legislators support public education and want what is best for all of our students.  They have difficult decisions to make that will impact the near and long-term future of our communities.  If a balance is not found we could face a deeper recession with no end in sight.  That is what is creating a very pessimistic atmosphere right now.  While there is no easy answers and everyone is looking for a perfect solution, it is time for decisions to be made.  Perfection is the enemy of progress.  As a district we have been through times of scarcity before.  Our response has been to focus on our students and staff even more through high quality support and partnership development.  While this time seems even more traumatic with much higher consequences, we do have some tools that have not been available to us in the past.  Technology has matured to the point that we can now provide opportunities to students they did not have even five years ago.  The University system is working hard to establish tighter partnerships with our schools to allow our staff to deliver college credit courses to our students.  We also have more business partnership opportunities available to us as we move from a testing culture to a personalization culture.

I have learned that it is not possible to communicate enough to stakeholders.  Everyone is busy and with all of the information bombarding us it is very difficult to focus on any one thing.  Our District is focused on one thing – student success.  To support that success we have committed to teacher learning and practice along with expanding opportunities for students inside and outside of the school day.  While funding is important, commitment, passion and creativity are also a large part of the equation to improve our system.  So, as our community continues to hear about the theme of personalization, think of it as a verb not the end goal.  Personalization is how we do business in the classroom and across the district.  It is not a program, simply a buzzword or just one more thing to do.  It is how we will reach every student every day to maximize their potential.  Students being prepared for their future and, as Michael Horn says, “positively contributing to a vibrant democracy” is the end goal.

It is my goal as we move forward, to communicate our progress on our ultimate end goal – student success for life.

Post to Twitter

Posted in District News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Path to Personalized Learning

Our District is working hard to tie all of our current best practices together to form a coherent and consistent instructional learning environment for all of our students.  We refer to this as personalized learning.  I wrote on this topic last month and believe it is important to revisit and expand on it this month.  Some believe we are simply buying another program and I think this belief is the furthest from the truth as you can get.  What we are buying is high quality professional learning for our staff.  What we are doing is bringing together the tools of collaboration, canvas, blended learning, personalized learning portfolios, differentiation and the fundamental concept of strong, positive relationships with students to provide students what they need when they need it.  All of this adds up to an excellent educational experience every day for every student in our district.

We are developing a page to answer questions about this philosophy and provide information on the people who will support us in this journey.  We have a great opportunity to bring together the good things we do every day to systematically provide a great learning environment for our students.  Please look at these sites for a detailed look at our vision and get your questions answered:

http://www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us/departments.aspx?id=37724

http://pl.blogs.kpbsd.k12.ak.us/

We are moving forward with our efforts in meeting student needs effectively and efficiently and I am very excited about it.  I look forward to working closely with staff to make this personalized learning environment a reality for all of our students in the very near future.

Post to Twitter

Posted in Announcements & Events, District News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Learning Anytime, Anywhere in KPBSD

Over the past several months, KPBSD has been updating its five-year strategic plan.  Within this plan, the point about utilizing technology to the fullest has generated a lot of discussion.  Some are even saying that having curriculum accessible to students anywhere could lead to fewer teachers and more screen time.  KPBSD is not trying to replace teachers with technology or simply have students in front of a computer all-day, every day. Ultimately, we are aiming for learning anytime, anywhere, with technology as a tool to provide more rigor and relevancy in a student’s education.  This is a necessary component of personalized learning.

So, what is personalized learning?  It is the structuring of schools, classrooms and instruction so we can better respond to the individual needs of students, instead of expecting students to fit the current mold or adapt to structures that may not be successful for them. Many of our teachers implement elements of personalized learning in their classrooms right now.  Key elements include:

  • Integrated Digital Content: Digital content that allows for a differentiated path and pace
  • Targeted Instruction: Instruction aligned to specific student needs and learning goals
  • Data Driven Decisions: Frequent data collection that informs instructional decisions and groupings
  • Student Reflection and Ownership: Ongoing student reflection that promotes ownership of learning

Unfortunately, a common misconception is that Personalized Learning efforts are simply a step toward replacing teachers with computers, which is unequivocally not true.  With personalized learning, the teacher is more important than ever. The role shifts, however, from primarily delivering information to creatively facilitating and problem solving so all students can learn at high levels. Using real-time data, teachers frequently assess where each student is at, give immediate feedback, determine individual learning needs, and help them figure out the best path to success.

Personalized learning is about shifting our one-size-fits-all model of education to better prepare students for the jobs and needs of their future. We want to directly connect students to rigorous learning that is relevant and prepares them for life, college, and careers. Ultimately, we are creating a system that supports this approach.

With our primary focus on positive relationships with students in KPBSD we are poised to take the next steps for true personalized learning.  We have the base in place (positive, strong relationships), now we are on to deeper rigor and relevance coupled with anytime, anywhere learning to move our students forward in preparing for life.

Post to Twitter

Posted in District News | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Varying Communication

In an effort to communicate in a wider variety of formats I am beginning to video messages to the staff and community.  This is the first message I would like to share.

http://media.kpbsd.k12.ak.us/userportal/index.html#/player/vod/U3ad46296d66f4f7d8b9b8b77b4382202

 

Post to Twitter

Posted in Announcements & Events, District News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Looking for the Green Box

Recently, a group of KPBSD teacher leaders met at a statewide conference to learn more about being educational leaders in their district and schools.  We followed up on that conference with the group to discuss how to take what they learned and implement it at their schools.  I was so impressed with the level of engagement of this group and their commitment to improving their craft!  The activities we participated in showed me that we have excellence in our ranks and it is important to support this groups overall leadership capacity.  This would also strengthen our collaboration efforts by having teachers direct it.

So, what is this “look for the green box” all about?  Well, at the meeting a teacher suggested we fully utilize our technology to promote collaboration.  We have Skype for Business in place and available for all of our staff across this district which can allow for an “anytime, anywhere” meetings to improve our instructional practices.  Our Skype program allows others to see the availability of an individual.  A green box by an individual’s name means they are available, thus just look for a “green box” to collaborate! We have a handful of teachers regularly communicating in this manner by asking quick questions, but the potential is so much greater.

Our district has so many pockets of excellence we must commit to sharing what works so that all students get a great education every day.  Yes, using video conferencing to collaborate takes time and some planning, but that investment will pay dividends for our students through improved instruction.  There is so much changing in education and in our world that it has become virtually impossible for an individual teacher to meet every expectation in isolation.  The paradigm must shift from the concept of one teacher, teaching one subject, to one class, at one time, for one hour to the paradigm of one student accessing innovative practices and personalized learning.  This cannot be done in isolation and requires all of us to look for the “green box” to work together across our district with a growth mindset.

Post to Twitter

Posted in District News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

KPBSD Preparation and Commitment in times of uncertainty

 

KPBSD logo 4c teaching with innovation and collaboration

 

As we begin the budget process for KPBSD, many concerns are being raised about potential cuts and program losses.  Educators in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will make our budget work to benefit our students. It will likely require thinking outside the box as far as instructional delivery goes, but we will provide a high quality education for our students no matter what the legislature and governor decide with the state budget and funding plan for the 2017-2018 school year, and into the future. Instruction and our schools may be different than they are now. We will be fully engaged in the process and we will plan for a variety of contingencies. Students are our priority—no matter what. Our communities must understand they need to be engaged and, more importantly, must understand all of the great things happening in our schools every day.

As we get past the election and closer to the legislative session it is easy to see how fluid the information coming from state leaders is about the upcoming budget. We have heard that funding for education will be reduced anywhere from 3% to 20% for fiscal year 2018, and have begun to look at the impacts of this type of potential revenue reduction to our schools and district. In addition, there is a lot of rhetoric from many different quarters about the value provided by public education. Regardless of what we may hear from leaders and others across the state, we want our communities engaged in the budget conversation.  Please remember that there can be a great deal of opportunity for improvement within this conversation.

The Governor will set the financial stage in December with his preliminary budget. I believe it will be based on a sustainable revenue plan so that ultimately the reductions to K-12 education will initially be small. However, I believe different scenarios will be included in the budget so the public will understand more severe options if various revenues are not considered. This is where you will hear about the larger cuts to education and other state departments and programs. Of course, the legislature will weigh in soon after the Governor, which could raise more questions, concerns, or anxiety.

As I have said, great things are happening in our schools every day.  Our students are engaged in a wide variety of community service projects around our district. We are experiencing significant improvement in our graduation rate even though funds are getting tighter. We are committed to collaboration between teachers and schools. We focus on data analysis and intervention for our students. We have implemented a blended, distance delivery model of instruction that is being closely examined by the state as a way to provide learning opportunities for all students.

It is important to keep in mind that regardless of the outcome of the State fiscal conversation, KPBSD staff is committed to provide the highest quality education for our students. We will find a way.  Some of that will require more community partnerships as a mechanism to provide learning opportunities for all children.  It will include a more effective use of technology.  Ultimately, our dedicated teachers, administrators and staff will provide the way to a high quality education and who are committed to each child’s learning.  This commitment will continue to develop students who are well prepared for their future and who will seek to become the future leaders in our State, Borough and District.

Links

KPBSD story: Input Needed to Solve the State and KPBSD Fiscal Crisis
KPSBD online “Budget” video channel with resources

Post to Twitter

Posted in District News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First Lap

As we move through the school year, the 1st quarter has come to an end.  Some say the school year is a marathon, but it feels more like a mile race.  It feels long, but each lap actually goes by very quickly, especially when you are in shape and fully prepared.  Our staff is in shape and fully prepared.  We continue to see more of our staff recognized for their excellence, including two finalists for the Alaska Teacher of the year!  Congratulations go out to Stephanie Cronin of Seward HS and James Harris of Soldotna HS.  They are both excellent representatives of our district and truly deserve the recognition.

In visiting many of our schools during the first quarter, students are truly engaged in their learning.  It is wonderful to see students develop projects that benefit the community at large.  There are several fundraisers led by students and more students are providing their voice on many local boards.  I am so impressed with how our staff has worked to provide meaningful opportunities for our students.  We all work very hard to develop rigorous and relevant experiences that extend student learning to guide our students to meet much higher expectations.

As we move into the next “lap” of our school year, I know that our staff will continue its focus on what is best for students in the classroom.  We all will have many opportunities to demonstrate leadership, grit and persistence while dealing with many uncertainties at the state level.  I look forward to working with all of our stakeholders while our students continue to learn at high levels at our schools. As we know, the race is not given to the swift, but to those who endure to the end.

Post to Twitter

Posted in Schools and Assessment | Leave a comment

Up and Running!

We are now 3 weeks into the school year and it looks like another successful start.  Our enrollment is slowly climbing to what we anticipated and our schools are focused on the 3 R’s – Rigor, Relevance and Relationships.  This is the time of year where there is a great deal of optimism.  My goal is to infuse optimism in our schools the entire year even though there will be significant challenges to be addressed.

Our budget process has already started and we are continuing to find efficient ways to serve students, parents and staff across the district.  Technology has been very helpful, especially with professional development.  We conducted our district-wide in-service electronically this year and the format was well received by staff.  As we refine this format, we anticipate that teachers will be able to collaborate and learn from each other using technology.  Travel and distance are no longer roadblocks to improving instruction.  We are also excited about how blended learning opportunities are becoming more prevalent in our classrooms.  Quality teaching is delivered everywhere to students which further enhances rigor and relevance for all.

As we move through the budgeting process, we look forward to hearing from all of our stakeholders to help our schools meet the funding challenges we are certain to encounter.  I look upon these challenges as opportunities to re-think how we do business and improve upon the already good system that we have in place.  I appreciate the opportunity to serve this school district and look forward to working with all of our stakeholders productively!

KPBSD logo 4c teaching with innovation and collaboration

Post to Twitter

Posted in District News, Schools and Assessment | Leave a comment

Welcome Back!

The start of a new school year is upon us!  The fireweed is almost open to the top and students will be back in class before we know it.  This year, KPBSD is going to update the long-term strategic plan.  This document is very important in framing the direction we will go to better educate our students.  Considering the immense changes coming in Alaska economically and the U.S. through the Every Student Succeeds Act, the update is very timely.  We will have the opportunity to develop a plan that will help our students grow while addressing some of the greatest challenges this state has ever experienced.  We will have the opportunity to build a great educational system for all of our students through a new federal law that offers much more local control.

Our focus right now is on making sure our students and staff gets off on the right foot on August 23rd.  Our long- term vision is to lead our schools and communities with confidence and optimism through uncertainty.  The key to this leadership is to listen, make decisions in the best interests of students and provide support to all during significant change.  While this may be the most challenging fiscal crisis in the history of Alaska, we can teach our children how to meet the challenge and succeed despite the obstacles and fear.  Our children are counting on us and this is a great opportunity to model for them how to turn problems into opportunities.  I am confident we will be able to continue to educate and prepare our students well for their future.

Post to Twitter

Posted in Announcements & Events, District News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment