What Lies Ahead …

Greetings everyone!

I’m sitting at a conference (District Administrators Leadership Institute, e.g., DALI) – it is AWESOME to be sitting and visiting with other superintendents from across the country.  There are some incredible things happening within districts across both Iowa and the entire nation … this led to some reflection on where we’re at within the I-35 district and where we want/intend to go in meeting the needs of our 21st Century learners.

At I-35 we are entering into a very exciting time – at their July meeting, the Board officially approved a 1:1 technology initiative for grades 6-12 to launch fall of 2017.  We certainly have been deliberate in approaching 1:1 within our district; however I believe this to be a positive even though other districts may have gotten into this earlier.  We have been working on answering a basic question:  How can/should a 1:1 technology initiative enhance kids’ learning and overall experience in school?  We will spend a good chunk of our 2016-2017 professional development preparing for the actual roll-out of computers to grade 6-12 students for the start of the 2017-2018 school year.  My belief, supported by much research, is that technology is not the goal, it is a tool/mechanism for the overall goal of increasing student engagement and learning.  That will be our focus in preparation for fall 2017.  Many, many details will be shared in the coming days.

Another initiative we’re learning more and more about is the school partnering with our communities and Interstate Communications in what is known as relationship economic development.  The concept is pretty straightforward – improve the relationship between our communities in becoming even a more inviting place for people to consider as their next home.  Interstate Communications is a major piece of this potential partnership as the availability of high speed internet allows people to consider living within our district and working from home, e.g., bring their job with them.  Again, we’re investigating this but on the surface, this approach to potential growth seems to match very well to our rural district.  Interstate Communication is on-board – we’ll move the discussions to New Virginia, Truro, and St. Charles in the coming days and see where this goes.  It’s perhaps a bit unusual for a school to be leading the charge on economic development – but it’s a new paradigm that makes sense for rural districts.  Specifically, state funding is based on student enrollment and having a stable or slightly increasing enrollment places the school in a long-term viable position.  If we move forward with this process, we’re talking at least a 3-5 year period for substantive change/growth to occur – and it will require a partnership between all of us.  More information coming …

That’s enough for today!  #ROADRUNNERPROUD

On the right track …

First of all, I apologize for not doing a better job of keeping this blog updated.  My only defense is presented in the article I’m going to copy/paste below … we’ve been busy! I will make a concerted effort to update this blog more regularly as it is a great way to share information on things happening or being planned at Interstate 35 schools.

Below is a copy/paste of an article I recently submitted to the summer edition of the Roadrunner Report.  Because of space limitations in the Roadrunner Report, the entire article may or may not appear.  Consequently I’m including the entire article below.

From the Desk of I-35 Superintendent Kevin Fiene

I hope and trust your summer is going well!  It has been a maelstrom of activity at the school this summer – I’d like to give a BIG shout-out to our custodial and maintenance staff as their summer has been challenging in working around the multiple projects going on (see later in this article) – but they’re doing an incredible job and we will be ready and excited for the staff and students to return in August!

Thought it may be useful to highlight things that either occurred or were started during the 2015-2016 school year and share plans for the 2016-2017 school year.   Because of space limitations, there won’t be a lot of detail presented; for additional information you may check the district website and/or contact me at kfiene@i-35.k12.ia.us.  Presented in no particular order …

Curriculum and Professional Development

  • Talented and Gifted Education. Throughout the 2015-2016 school year, we sent a team to the Gifted Academy at Heartland AEA.  This was year one of re-thinking and revamping our talented and gifted program at I-35; we will continue participating in the Gifted Academy during the 2016-2017 school year and begin implementation of changes over the next several years.
  • K-12 Science. As you may be aware, the Next Generation Science Standards were approved as the standards within the Iowa Core this past year.  We had a team of teachers working with a Heartland AEA science consultant throughout the 2015-2016 school year and summer.  This is incredibly exciting work and our district is way ahead of the curve.  Implementation of the new science standards will be occurring over the next three years.
  • K-12 Math. We implemented a new math program in grades 6-12 during the 2015-2016 school year.  Initial results have been positive; adjustments will continue over the next several years.  Elementary teachers also received additional professional development in math throughout the 2015-2016 school year.  This reformation of our math program is an ongoing process.
  • Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR). Through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), all teachers and paras-associates began a study of GRR during the 2015-2016 school year.  Part two of the study will focus on Productive Group Work during the 2016-2017 school year.
  • Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC). In December 2015, I-35 was approved for the TLC program with implementation in 2016-2017.  Through this state program, we will have additional support for teaching and learning through four fulltime state funded positions:  two Instructional Coaches, one Instructional-Data Coach, and one Curriculum Design Coach.  In addition, mentoring programs for beginning teachers and also experienced teachers new to I-35 were strengthened through the TLC program.
  • Curriculum Alignment and Revision. We continued to work on curriculum alignment through use of Rubicon Atlas throughout the 2015-2016 school year; this work is ongoing and will be a focus every year.  In addition, we’ve begun development of curriculum review cycle that will systematize review of every K-12 curricular area over a five-six year period.
  • Technology integration. We have invested substantive amounts of money to update both our student and staff computers.  We’ve also increased the number of iPads in the elementary, and every elementary classroom will have an interactive white board for the 2016-2017 school year.  We’ve also bolstered both our internal network and internet bandwidth.
  • Preparation for 1:1. We will be asking for Board approval for a 1:1 technology initiative for grades 6-12 for the 2017-2018 school year.  There will be substantial professional development for staff during the 2016-2017 school year in preparation for the 1:1 initiative.
  • Standards-Based Reporting/Grading. The elementary started work on moving toward standards-based report cards during the 2015-2016 school year.  The secondary will begin the process of studying standards-based reporting/grading during the 2016-2017 school year.
  • Instructional Literacy Strategies. The elementary will have additional professional development on instructional literacy strategies during the 2016-2017 school year.  Secondary teachers will also be studying literacy strategies within the content areas.

We have been aggressively working on systems for the past two years with a focus on continuous, ongoing improvement.

Facilities, Maintenance, and Transportation

We began a reasonably aggressive process to update dated and failing systems within our current building structure during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.   This process is ongoing with the philosophy of “Do it once and do it right” driving our planning.  We also believe an existing facility must be updated and maintained in order to maximize its life and provide the best physical environment for student learning that we possibly can.  We are doing the following projects this summer:

  • Bathroom remodel. Both bathrooms in the high school commons area are being completely gutted and renovated; additional bathrooms in the high school will be done next summer.
  • Intercom replacement. Last summer the failing intercom system at the high school was replaced; this summer phase two of the project will be completed with new speakers in the middle school and elementary.  The entire building will now be on one intercom system; beyond normal announcements, this is a critical piece in security measures to keep our students and staff safe.
  • Keyless entry system. The entire building will have keyless entry; this is also part of the plan to enhance security at school for our students and staff.
  • Clock replacement. In conjunction with the intercom system replacement, all analog clocks are being replaced with digital clocks.  The entire facility will now have one clock system.
  • LED lighting. In March 2016, the entire building was converted to LED lighting.  This project provides much better lighting for all areas, especially within the classrooms.  Additionally this project will pay for itself over a five-seven year period with reduced electricity costs.
  • New windows. All windows in the elementary and middle school are being replaced.  The wood-clad windows originally installed were literally rotting away at multiple places.
  • Carpet replacement. The district has developed a carpet/floor replacement schedule; approximately six-eight rooms/areas will be done each year over a 10 year period.
  • Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan. The district has developed a five-year capital improvement plan for the existing facility, e.g., planning for continuous improvement/updating of our facility.
  • Phase I Site Planning. We have completed Phase I Site Planning in looking at potential building projects to our existing facility:  auditorium, bus/maintenance building, and a Career and Technical Education (CTE) building (presented in alphabetical order).  These three projects were drawn from the work of the Building and Grounds Committee over the years.  Phase I was limited to site planning, with a focus on flexibility for any future growth and needed expansion.  In the coming months the Board will consider moving into Phase II – Design and Building.  So it is clear, there have been no decisions made on Phase II.
  • Propane buses. The district has purchased four new propane-powered buses for the 2016-2017 school year.  The decision to move toward propane buses was three-fold:  1) they are better for the environment, 2) cost of propane is substantially less than diesel (including a federal subsidy for use of propane), and 3) ongoing maintenance costs of propane engines are substantially less than diesel.

Time does not allow for a full explanation of school funding (additional information on school funding is available on the district’s website), but it’s important to know all of these facility and transportation improvements are being funded through the state penny (S.A.V.E.) fund or the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) funds.  These funds may only be used for infrastructure, transportation, or technology.  We are maximizing use of these funds, especially the S.A.V.E. fund as there is no local property tax dollars involved, e.g., state sales tax penny for schools.

Okay, I’m out of space for sure!  Please let me know if you have any questions or want further detail.  Suffice to say we have some GREAT things going at Interstate 35 schools and are looking to the future with one driving force behind all we do – Is this good for kids?  Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your superintendent – it is both an honor and privilege to do so

The reality is I-35 schools is working with a belief in continuous improvement … are we “there” yet?  That answer is no … but we’re most definitely on the right track … stay tuned everyone!