Friday, January 26, 2018

EU Update 01/24

The tail end of January means we've settled back into the school routine after the break and are moving along. This year has certainly been moving quickly and I attribute that to the good things that are happening here at school! 
During the month of January, we see a wide variety of activities going on aside from athletics. Our Academic Bowl team begins their different competitions for the year. Mr. Triggs is their sponsor and in talking with him the team is performing well thus far. Students involved with Ms. Hensel and the Speech Team performed well at Large Group speech with the Short Film team of Daniel Thatcher, Mattie Riemenschneider, and Patrick Groves moving on to state. Group Improv advanced as well (Garrett Skarda, Patrick Groves, and Colton Mitchell) Congrats to all the Speech students! Division I performances advance to State Large Group contest February 3. According to Ms. Hensel, High School Speech Coach:

"In order to advance on to state, they had to receive one rating.  2 of those groups did that one improv group consisting of Garett Skarda, Colton Mitchell, and Patrick Groves.  One of the short film groups also received a one that group was Daniel Thatcher, Matty Reiminshcnider, and Patrick Groves. All of the other groups did well, they received a 2 rating. I am proud of all of them.  Group state speech is in Waukee on February 3.  We are also getting ready to gear up for Individual speech which will be right around the corner."

Another group that's been busy is our Archery team. Since starting practices in October they've been "shooting" most weekends (they have 10 shoots total). We've got over 50 archers involved elementary through high school and East Union Archers are consistently at the top of their classes.

The School Improvement Advisory Committee met Monday, January 15. Minutes of that meeting are available through the SIAC site. One of the things the group will be doing very soon is a community needs survey. This is a regular information collection to get impressions from the community. After discussing the survey and administering it at the January 15th meeting we set a meeting February 5th at 6:00 p.m. to allow us to focus on the development of the survey and how we would distribute it. If you have an interest in contributing to the conversation join us! Meeting start time is 6:00 p.m. and we plan to be done by 7:30.

Facility

During the school months, most of the work done on the facility is more behind the scenes. Our primary focus is maintaining a comfortable environment for students to learn in and a big factor of this is the HVAC (Heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. I know, probably sounds like a broken record. This has been a constant point of communication over the past three years and I'm glad to say our system is functioning well. We still have some day to day issues but by the district agreeing to be part of a program for "break-fix" insurance we're doing regular preventative maintenance and finding things to be repaired before they become much larger items. As this process has evolved we've moved from fixing to discussions to make the system run more efficiently. A more efficient HVAC system saves General Fund dollars and allows us to use those dollars to impact instruction. This is our long-term goal. 
Numbers shared here show that our enrollment has remained comparable to a year ago at this time. The top table represents last year, bottom one this year.
Day 101

KG
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
Total
01/25/17
Totals
43
24
31
45
39
38
35
40
42
34
32
32
39
474

Day 101

KG
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
Total
01/26/2018
Totals
41
34
23
32
47
38
40
33
40
42
38
31
33
472
Just a reminder that the KG or Kindergarten number includes students attending our Junior Kindergarten program which would explain the 9 student difference from KG 2017 and 1st grade 2018 as these students are enrolled in our regular Kindergarten program in the fall. Comparing other grades in a similar way you can see enrollment changes from last year to this one. We have some subtle shifts in the grade levels, but nothing major. 

Opportunity

As you've probably read or heard somewhere by now I've given the Board my resignation effective June 30, 2018, as Superintendent and Activities Director of the East Union Schools. I've been offered the position of Superintendent for the West Central Valley Schools in Stuart, Iowa. There were few jobs that would take me away and one came open. So for the next few months, I'll be working to tidy up loose ends here. The Board will be working to find a replacement and I'm confident due to the early date that a deep pool of candidates will be available. I'm thankful for the honor of serving the district and will continue to work and do what's best for East Union Students and the community through the end of June. We do have a few projects to complete and I'll be communicating more about those in the next few weeks.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

EU Update 01/04 - Happy New Year!

I hope your New Year has gotten off to a great start

Whether you rang it in with a group large or small, or on your own, I hope it was a memorable experience! The end of 2017 turned out positive for both our in-state bowl qualifiers. With the Hawks and Clones both Bowl Winners there will be LOTS of talk heading into that matchup in the fall. We enjoyed a moviegoing break, seeing several of the new releases. My personal favorite was "The Greatest Showman" the story of P.T. Barnum's early days and how those all came to pass. I know that Hollywood takes a few liberties on things like that, but the message was pretty solid - have a dream, do the work, be persistent (have some "grit") and you can make it come true. Don't run away from the first "no" you've got to keep working and things will work out in the end.

Cancellations and Delays

Our return to school also marked our first questionable weather of the year. Since we are entering the time of the year where we typically see weather causing travel issues I thought it would be a good time to review our communication steps regarding school cancellations and closings. Each time a weather event approaches we do our best to get the information out as soon as possible so that parents can prepare accordingly for the coming day. We carefully consider weather factors, educational impact, student driver safety, kids unsupervised time at home if school starts late, etc. You can find information regarding cancellations and delays through these sources: WHO radio and TV, WOI TV, KCCI TV, KSIB Radio and the school website. We will also communicate with you regarding cancellations or delays through the following; JMC Messaging (Text, email, and phone), and Twitter (follow @EUCSDSupt). In the case of an early dismissal or cancellation, all activities (including practices) for that evening would be canceled/postponed to a later date.

Current Events

We jump right back into ballgames and events over the next two weeks. We're hosting Murray in a Basketball doubleheader tonight, travel to Mount Ayr tomorrow night for Basketball and Wrestling will head to Winterset this Saturday for a tournament. Next week has been identified as "Winter Fest" week and there will be a variety of activities going on throughout the week culminating in "Pack the Gym Night" Friday vs. I-35. The Eagle Pride Boosters are serving a meal on Friday night - Beef and Noodle Sundays with a dessert for $6! More information will be shared about this and the other activities going on next week so keep your eyes and ears open!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

EU Update 12/21 - Merry Christmas!


Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Christmas Break begins tomorrow and will continue through 1/2/18, with students returning to school in the new year on January 3rd. The 3rd will be a full day of classes for students, no early out that Wednesday. I hope all our students and staff have a safe and relaxing break and come back ready to learn and grow through the rest of the 2017-2018 school year.



Fifth Grade Visits BizTown

December 11th the Fifth Grade classrooms of Ms. Luther and Ms. Hoadley traveled to Des Moines to experience BizTown. This is an annual trip for the fifth grade and one I see as very valuable. I was curious about the experience so I decided to take the time to go and visit and see for myself what happened when the fifth graders were turned loose. For those of you that don't have any experience, here's how it works in a condensed version. Students apply for different "jobs" to work when they enter their BizTown shop. There were about 14 different businesses that students staffed, worked and learned about during the prep time and during their experience at BizTown. Here's what the BizTown website has to say about the experience:
Elementary school students are not old enough to drive, work, vote, or be the boss. But that doesn’t stop them from operating banks, managing restaurants, writing checks, and voting for mayor at JA BizTown! The program combines in-class learning with a day-long visit to this fully-interactive simulated town facility. The program helps students connect the dots between what they learn in school and the real world.
Through daily lessons, hands-on activities, and active participation in this simulated community designed to support differentiated learning styles, students develop a strong understanding of the relationship between what they learn in school and their successful participation in a worldwide economy.
I spent a good portion of the morning visiting and talking with our volunteers and the students as they went about their work. It's a great learning opportunity, and a big "THANK YOU" goes out to our PTO group for their support dollars help pay for the experience. 

It's great to have opportunities for our students to engage in authentic learning activities and make real world connections to the skills and experiences our adults have on a daily basis. I heard from more than one of the students that they were "so busy" and observed the CEO of the Bank get approached by 4 different businesses regarding financial decisions in a 5 minute time segment. It doesn't get much more real world than that!

School Report Card 2017 Released - Quick Guide to the measures

The Iowa School Report Card was recently released and East Union Elementary saw it's status change from "Commendable" to "Acceptable" on the state's rating scale for schools. The scale looks like this:
Priority - Needs Improvement - Acceptable - Commendable - High-Performing - Exceptional
To compare, our neighbor's (to east and west) elementary schools rated as "Acceptable" and "Commendable" respectively. There are many factors that go into the rating, and as I've reviewed our data the area that impacted us the most is "Closing the Gap". This is a "measure that reflects a statewide goal of narrowing the gap in achievement for students with disabilities, students who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, and English Language Learners." This will be something that the admin team is discussing after we return from Break.

East Union Secondary maintained it's status as "Acceptable" actually showing progress towards "Commendable" on the state report card scale. As with the elementary, the one area of decline in the Secondary scores is "Closing the Gap". The change was less than 1% so it had little impact on the overall score. To compare our neighbor's (to east and west) secondary schools rated as "Acceptable" as well. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

EU Update 12/8

Happy Holidays!

Welcome to December! While it may not look it, it sure is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! Weather this week has reminded us of the highs and lows of life in Iowa when it comes to the outdoor temps we see. Monday was quite a switch from morning to night! Funny thing is, that's not really a whole lot different that what we see from students sometimes. They run on highs some days then we see them hit some really low times as well.


Current Events

If you are looking for morning and afternoon hours, love kids and like to drive have we got a deal for you! We're looking for folks just like you to drive our school buses! Each year we look for candidates fo fill our driving ranks. This year it's a little more urgent as we don't have as many substitute drivers as we've had in the past. If you've got an interest you can contact the district office, or our transportation director Herman Chenoweth. 

Fine Arts

It was our pleasure to present the ECC Winter Concert and  7-12 Winter Concert via the HS Cube. In the future if you aren't able to attend these types of events we're going to do all we can to get them broadcast. Stay tuned for more information in this area as there's some exciting opportunities for us on the horizon. 

I'd like to commend our audiences for both nights of concerts. The crowds were attentive and respectful of our performers. Thanks to Mr. Clark and Ms. Killian for putting together two great nights of music. Mark your calendars for these upcoming dates and times:


  • February 12 - Concert Grades TK - 1
  • April 23 - Concert Grades 4 & 5
  • May 14 - Concert Grades 6-12

Activities

All East Union winter activities are in full swing. Currently we have Junior High and High School Basketball (girls and boys), High School Wrestling and Archery competing. After the Holiday Break we will add Junior High Wrestling to the mix. I'm proud of how our athletes have worked hard to prepare for their competitions. As I've talked to our coaching staffs about their respective teams they all agree our kids are bringing the right attitude and effort when it comes to getting better each day in the practice room. There's lots of opportunities to get out and see our students in action - check out the calendar and join in the fun!


Monday, November 27, 2017

EU Update 11/27

I hope everyone enjoyed time with family and friends over this Thanksgiving weekend. Family gatherings are a lot of fun, good food and fellowship. I also hope you were able to find great deals Black Friday! Radio reports this morning indicated that transactions were up over previous years, so somebody sure did. Around our house we use the day to decompress and shop online - we've braved the madhouse in the past and avoid the crowds now!

Current Events

This evening marks the first of our concerts for the year. Our 2nd and 3rd graders will start off the concert season with a fall themed offering, and next Monday our 7-12 musicians will take the stage for their opportunity. Both concerts will be in the Auditorium.

Fine Arts

This is a repeat from earlier this year - but the information is more timely at this point. 

During the summer months our two music teachers and I sat down to discuss the program and how we could keep improving. One of the things that came up was our concerts and how they are structured, perhaps not being the best so we met this fall to discuss this further. As a result we have decided to approach this a little differently for the 17-18 school year. We've established concert dates and also decided to group our students differently. Here's the concert schedule for the year - all concerts start at 6:30 p.m.


  • November 27 - Concert Grades 2 & 3
  • December 4 - Concert Grades 7 - 12
  • February 12 - Concert Grades TK - 1
  • April 23 - Concert Grades 4 & 5
  • May 14 - Concert Grades 6-12
You'll notice our Elementary groups are broken down into 2 grades rather than having the whole school perform as in the past. We did this for a couple of reasons, to give the students a longer time to perform at the concert and also keep the concerts to 30 - 40 minutes in length. It will also enable us to use the auditorium rather than the concourse for seating. While the Secondary concerts may look similar we are using a whole group approach (grades 7-12 on stage together) to hopefully bolster the numbers of the groups, as well as provide an opportunity to challenge and stretch our young musicians. 

Facility

Recently we had a firm come in to "balance" the HVAC for the building. I've got a lengthy report from them, and the short story is that when they started the building had a negative pressure (pulling in air from the outside). This isn't a terrible thing, as we need fresh air in the building, but we want to chose where that air is coming from. With a negative pressure it doesn't always come from the most desirable places. When they finished with their work the building had a positive pressure (pushing air out). To do this we do have to draw in outside air through the HVAC system, which is the correct place to do this. This Building Balance Report will be brought to the School Board tonight.

Enrollment

With our certified enrollment complete I'll now give regular updates regarding the students served in the building currently as compared to the previous year. As of this day last year (day 66):

Day 66
11/23/16
KG
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
Total
Totals
44
23
29
45
36
38
33
39
43
34
31
33
40
468
Current year day 66:

Day 66
11/27/17
KG
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
Total
Totals
43
34
23
32
47
38
40
33
41
42
38
31
36
475

So we're serving a few more students than last year at this time. Good news for us as a district. 

Activities

Winter activities will be in full swing this week! JH Basketball started last week, Varsity Basketball begins games on Tuesday night, and Wrestling starts on Thursday. Once things start they really don't slow down much until the spring, so check the schedule regularly and see what's going on on a given night. Lots of opportunities to see your Eagles in action! Follow this link - East Union Activity Scheduler - and see the most up to date version of the schedule. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

EU Update 11/10

On Service - Thank you Veterans!

Friday we recognized our veterans with a ceremony that included about 20 different service men and women at the school. Telling them "thank you" seems to be a very understated way to let them know we appreciate their service and sacrifice for our country. My grandfather, "Pa", served in WWII as an MP. He arrived in Europe shortly after D-Day and stayed through most of the rest of the conflict. He talked about his experiences and I remember seeing slides of the different places he was stationed as he followed the Allied troops across the continent. I am proud to know Pa served!

Many of you probably have a similar story to tell, perhaps it was a father, mother, brother or sister. We value all their experiences and look to the things we do regularly (our Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem) as small ways of showing respect for their work and the country where we reside. 

End of First Quarter

The end of the first quarter brought our first formal opportunity for parents and teachers to meet and converse about students and celebrate the growth and learning our students have gained over that time. Last week I sat in on the secondary professional development as they discussed parent teacher conferences and the current model we use, the student led conference. We rely on data to drive our decisions and as of that time we had 85% of our parents at the secondary level that had taken part in PT conferences. Thats OUTSTANDING! Thanks to all who attended and heard your son or daughter present their learning thus far. 

Staff discussed other approaches to conferences and came to the conclusion that since we're trying to emphasize our communication it's hard to argue with 85%. We'd like to get to 100% however, and will be discussing ways to make this happen. If you have any thoughts around this subject please share them with me via email, or with Mr. Weis. We'd be happy to hear any suggestions you might have. 

The end of First Quarter also brings about a change in our sports seasons. Monday, all our winter sports will begin. Remember to check our activities calendar http://www.prideofiowa.org/public/genie/590/school/4/ to see when your favorite EU squad will be in action. 

Eagle Pride Boosters

If you are looking for ways to serve the district and what you are willing to do is give of your time, have you considered helping the Eagle Pride Boosters? This organization does a great deal of work behind the scenes to provide opportunities, uniforms and other equipment for our different activities programs. This group is small in numbers, but they have some great ideas and goals to help out the programs here at the school. 

The one thing they need more than anything else is volunteers to assist in the work they are doing. 100% of the money this group brings in goes back to benefit East Union Students and programs they are involved in - get involved! You won't regret it!

Final Enrollment Numbers

As I mentioned a few weeks back, we certified our enrollment mid October. I recently received notification from the Department of Education that all adjustments were final, here's the final summary comparison that shows our enrollment changes from last year:



You can see our "Actual Enrollment" dropped by 1.7 students. For a school district our size this is good news!