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Letter from the Superintendent - November 2019

It’s a pleasant task to let you know that in the latest round of school ratings we have moved from being a “Needs Improvement” District to a “Great” District on this year’s AQuESTT classification system. You may examine the full results by clicking on the SOS button on the front page of our website. There are score breakdowns, graduation and attendance rates, breakdowns by subgroups of students, etc., that may be of interest to you. What does it all mean? As a whole, we showed that our students are gaining in proficiency on the performance they achieve on their standardized test scores over the course of time. We have worked very diligently to get our students to take these tests very seriously and do their very best. Some of the things that school districts our size contend with are the numbers that may be in each class, the demographics of the class, whether there is a minimum of ten students to even be statistically significant to come up with a truly measureable score, and so on.

Can we continue to see improvement over time? We shall see, and that’s why we must keep examining curriculum, instructional models, break down the standards from the Department of Education, and tailor what we do in the classroom to fit those standards. Schools move up and down the scale, sometimes because of test performance, but also because of things like percentage of students that graduate on time (or drop out), the percentage of students that are absent more than their peers in schools across the state of Nebraska, and of course these indicators are divided into subgroups, as well. All students count, so when a student or student’s parent refuses to make their child attend school or take the mandated standardized tests, the district suffers. This may include being put on an improvement plan that can take hundreds of hours of training, record-keeping, tracking, hounding of students and parents, and all of the costs associated with that. You may ask yourself “could we possibly have that situation in our district?”, and the answer is - of course we do. Virtually all districts do. It’s all in the percentages, and we must continue to strive to rise above the difficulties that we may see. I still believe that most children want to learn and want to be successful, but that does take effort from everyone involved.

As we approach the winter season I will reiterate that if a parent feels that it is not safe for their child to attend school due to bad weather, please keep them home. We want to have school if we can, but your child’s safety is our number one concern. Sometimes roads get better as the day goes on, but they also can get worse. So late starts, early outs, and calls for no school at all are not easy decisions to make. We try very hard to consider that many parents have to find child care quickly, knowing that even though we may call school off due to bad weather, it doesn’t mean that work gets called off for the parent. There are always two sides to the weather call, so we work together with neighboring districts. We keep in contact to monitor weather and road situations. Mr. Springer is sometimes up all night monitoring roads and contacting the Department of Roads and law enforcement to check weather situations. In the end, a call has to be made, and you’ll see the announcements on television, hear them on the radio, and get a text, phone call and e-mail if you are signed up with our Blackboard notification system. Again, if you decide it is best for your child to remain home, that is a parent’s decision. With e-mail usually available during bad weather situations an awful lot of assignments can be passed on from the teacher. Be safe, and please make sure your child is dressed appropriately for winter weather.