Reflections and Looking Forward to Summer

I wanted to share with you some recent articles I have written involving reflections of 2017-18 and also making summer plans.  First, is the reflection.  Here is a link to the article, which really is my attempt to honor our staffs’ and students’ accomplishments:   http://peninsulaclarion.com/opinion/2018-05-25/voices-peninsula-congratulations-peninsula-s-class-2018

Every year we accomplish a lot with our students and I am truly proud of how we meet the needs of our students.

The other article is now on the superintendent’s homepage for the summer.  The idea is to really focus on kids experiencing important opportunities to have some fun, be engaged with family and learn life lessons.  Here is the link:  http://www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us/superintendent.aspx?id=488

I am actually a little sad that the 2017-18 school year has come to a close as so many positive accomplishments occurred.  With that being said, 2018-19 is just around the corner and I am rolling up my sleeves to get ready for the excitement and expectations that come with a new school year!

Enjoy your break and see you all soon!

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Spring is here! And so is the final budget…

It is almost time to “spring ahead” with our clocks and that means we are also in the final stages of school and the budget development season.  So, where are we with the budget?  We find ourselves in a similar position as the last few years.  We are working closely with the Borough to fully fund our budget and we are working with our legislators to develop a long-term, sustainable fiscal plan that incorporates new, stable revenues into the mix.  This moment of déjà vu is a little different this year as the State finds itself at the end of its reserves and the Borough may have to use significant reserves to make ends meet.

To say that this is frustrating is an understatement.  The School District has been fiscally responsible in its budgeting while making reductions as far from the classroom as possible.  We have heard that we need to be a part of the solution to the fiscal problem in Alaska.  The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District also believes we need to be a part of the solution and we have done our part by reducing our budget by nearly $8 million over the last 4 years, with another $2 million planned for FY 19.  This doesn’t include the nearly $5 million of our savings we have used to soften the blow to classrooms and not make drastic cuts in staff.   Now is the time for our government leaders to do their part.  The next 2 months are critical to our system of public education in KPBSD.  We have and always will work closely with the entities that fund us to support them in making the tough decisions by continuing to provide facts, results, and answers to questions.  We also believe that any further cuts to our system will have a significant, negative impact on student learning and possibly compromise the economic future of our Borough.

Spring is a time of hope and renewal.  This spring is also a time for hard work and making tough decisions.  Being engaged in the process this spring is more important than ever when it comes to the future of our State and Borough.

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Mid Year Progress

As we reach the end of the 1st semester, we are able to take a closer look at our performance.  Fortunately, this is much easier now that we are focused on some key performance indicators.  With our new strategic plan, we have been researching what measures will best support our efforts in continuous improvement that serve our students.  Our District has found National College and Career Readiness Indicators from Redefining Ready as a valuable resource in our effort.

We will have a District Dashboard available to the public early in 2018 as a way to provide transparency on our measures, growth and areas of improvement.  It is also important to note that teachers and schools are also monitoring our KPI’s closely to support individual student growth.  We are committed to meeting the individual needs of our students every day.  With this in mind, our KPI’s support the concept of “measure what you treasure.”

For more information on our KPI’s please see our Strategic Plan page at:  http://www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us/strategicplan.aspx?id=27170

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Results and Improvement

Over the first quarter of this school year I have had the opportunity to visit many of our schools and speak with many different organizations.  What I have found is that there is wide-spread support of our schools and many student successes to celebrate.  Even though there is solid support and positive results, there is also much work to do.  I am proud that the staff has embraced the attitude of continuous improvement as there is an eagerness to get better at the art and science of teaching.  It is clear that good is not good enough for our kids.  With rapid changes occurring in our state, country and world we must do our best to prepare our students for their future.  Innovation, problem solving, effort, creativity and persistence are critical attributes of contributing members of our society.  I have been able to share specific examples of our students demonstrating these attributes in our KPBSD classrooms and after our students graduate.  Our staff is deepening their instructional tool box through a focus on meeting individual student needs that are rigorous and relevant.  Students are included in the ownership of learning and able to apply their academic foundation to real problems they are already encountering outside the classroom.  While we have some performance indicators that need attention, we are also moving forward as demonstrated by our students’ accomplishments and staff efforts to improve.  I am proud of this school district and believe the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is providing a quality education for our students.  I look forward to sharing more accomplishments and improvement efforts through a wide variety of mediums including Facebook Live, Coffee with the Superintendent, Community Presentations, Twitter and this Blog.  If you would like to see some of what I have reported so far this year please take a look at:  http://www.kpbsd.k12.ak.us/superintendent.aspx?id=36369 Have a great second quarter!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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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.

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