Friday, November 10, 2017

American Education Week


Superintendent News & Views
American Education Week
By David Hill, North Tama Superintendent


"When I was a boy on the Mississippi River there was a proposition in a township there to discontinue public schools because they were too expensive. An old farmer spoke up and said if they stopped building the schools they would not save anything, because every time a school was closed a jail had to be built." —Mark Twain

Each year during the week prior to Thanksgiving week, American Education Week is observed. This year’s national observation of American Education Week will take place next week, November 13-17.
American Education Week is a great opportunity to recognize the many ways that Americans work together to provide the very best for our young people – and to recognize the importance of public education in securing the future of our communities, our state, and our nation. Teachers, parents, administrators, school support staff, school board members, business, and the community at large all play a part in helping young people in our schools develop to their fullest potential. 
Did you know that American Education Week actually in Iowa? 
In 1921, the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly met in Des Moines.  The NEA passed a resolution calling for the designation of one week each year to spotlight education. In its resolution, the NEA called for: "An educational week ... observed in all communities annually for the purpose of informing the public of the accomplishments and needs of the public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs."
This resolution was the continuation of a discussion between the NEA and the American Legion which started in 1919. The 1921 conventions of both organizations adopted resolutions of support for a national effort to raise public awareness of the importance of education. The first observance of American Education Week occurred December 4-10, 1921, with the NEA and American Legion as the cosponsors. A year later, the then U.S. Department of Education joined the effort as a co-sponsor, and the National PTA followed in 1938.
Other national organizations jumped on board as co-sponsors, including the American Legion Auxiliary, the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
The North Tama school board recently adopted a resolution recognizing public schools as the backbone of our republic and designating November 13-17 as American Education Week.  That resolution is included with this column.  Your school board believes, as Benjamin Franklin did, that, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” and they understand the role that North Tama’s schools play in the community. I thank them – and you – for your support of North Tama Schools. 
I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. These SUPERINTENDENT NEWS & VIEWS columns, in addition to my blog and Twitter postings, are part of my plan for open communication with the community as a part-time superintendent with duties in another area school district. If you’ve missed any of my columns or would like to re-read or share them with your friends and family, you are welcome to visit my blog at http://redhawksupt.blogspot.com/ where they are all posted. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter (@DavidRobertHill) where I will occasionally post updates or other information not found on the blog.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

New Faces, New Places at North Tama



Superintendent News & Views
New Faces, New Places at North Tama
By David Hill,
North Tama Superintendent



The 2017-2018 school year started on August 23, and the first couple of months of the school year have been GREAT!  We are pleased to welcome several staff members that have joined the North Tama Redhawk family for the 2017—2018 school year.  We also have a couple of staff members who have moved to other positions within the school.  Please join me in welcoming them!
Colin Lobdell started as a new High School Special Education Teacher at North Tama in August.  He is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with a teaching endorsement in Social Sciences, and is taking classes from Morningside College in special education.
Mr. Lobdell previously taught 8th Grade special education at Clear Lake Middle School, where he also coached 8th grade girls volleyball and 8th grade girls track for one year. He stated that he is excited to be working at North Tama because, “…the culture of the school is one that is welcoming and always puts students first.”
Andrea Woehlk recently joined the North Tama staff as the new 7th & 8th grade Special Education teacher. Ms.Woelk has adegree in art education from the University of Northern Iowa and an endorsement in special education from Buena Vista. In addition, she holds masters degree in school counseling from UNI. 
Ms. Woelk’s previous experience includes three years as an art teacher at Belle Plaine, three years of elementary school counseling at South Tama, and three years of secondary school counseling at Belle Plaine. Most recently, she has served as a special education teacher for the last 15 years at East Marshall High School in LeGrand. She has been a Peer Helper Facilitator, and an Individual Speech Coach. She also teaches adult art classes through the Central Iowa Art Association.
When asked for her first impressions of the students and staff at North Tama, Ms. Woelk said, “They have been helpful as I get used to the new system in this school district. Everyone has a smile, and has been very friendly. The teachers are professional and knowledgeable, and dedicated to the education of students. I enjoy working at a smaller school because it's so easy to get to know everyone, and develop positive relationships.”
DuLaine Miller has been a member of the North Tama staff for a while, but she recently moved to a new position as the associate in the newly-established preschool program.   Mrs. Miller attended both Marshalltown Community College and Tarrant County Community College in Ft. Worth, Texas. 
Previously, Mrs. Miller was an associate at North Tama Jr. High for 4 years. Of her new position, she said, “It's exciting to be a part of the new preschool at North Tama! I have enjoyed working with Jill Miller and meeting the kids along with their families!” 
Also in the new preschool program, we welcome Jill Miller as the new preschool teacher.  Mrs. Miller previously taught kindergarten and preschool at South Tama County Elementary for the past 13 years. She is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, and she holds a Reading Endorsement.
Because the preschool program at North Tama is a new one, Mrs. Miller has spent a great deal of time preparing of the summer months.  She stated, “I am excited to be part of this family of teachers that really seem to enjoy each other, coming to work, and are here for the students.”  As part of the tuition-free Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program, Mrs. Miller was recently able to visit the homes of all of her new preschool students. 
Mrs. Miller recently stated, “I’m  confident that my decision to be a part of the North Tama community was the right one.  I look forward to getting to know more families and staff members and continuing to do what I love at North Tama which is to create lifelong learners in my students. I believe that Preschool is such an important part of a child's education, and I am really enjoying helping start this program. “
Jennifer Ambrose is a new associate in the first-grade classroom.  One of the things that attracted Mrs. Ambrose to the position is the opportunity to work with special needs students. “I have real-life experience raising a special needs child, my daughter Natalie,” said Ambrose. 
Mrs. Ambrose loves the North Tama community, stating, “There is a close camaraderie between the staff of North Tama, and I feel very privileged to be a part of it. I love my students!!” 
Derek Hopson is the new High School Health Teacher. He is a recent graduate of Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and Health. His teaching endorsements include K-8 Physical Education, 5-12 Physical Education, 5-12 Health, and K-12 Athletic Coach
Mr. Hopson completed his student teaching in the North Scott and Central DeWitt Community School Districts. He also coached a 7th grade boys basketball team at North Scott.
When asked about his first impression of North Tama, Mr. Hopson explained, “My initial impression of North Tama is how the staff, students, and community seem to be one big family. I am excited to be part of the North Tama District because of the unlimited opportunities the school has to offer.
Suzanne Earley, who has served as the secondary secretary for the past 6 years, is the new superintendent secretary at North Tama. Ms. Earley holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Iowa State University. 
When asked about the transition from the secondary office to the superintendent’s office, Suzane said, “Much of what I'm doing now is familiar to me,  but there are plenty of new things that I have to figure out how to do! I am enjoying the new challenge and am glad that I can continue to put my skills to work to help North Tama continue to be the great small school that it is.” 
Trish Kennedy is North Tama’s new Secondary Secretary. Mrs. Kennedy holds a Master of Arts degree in in Liberal Studies: Communications and History from the University of Southern Indiana. Her previous work experience includes many years in higher education as a college administrator, as well as her work as the co-owner of KT Kennedy Consulting.
Mrs. Kennedy is no stranger to North Tama Schools.  She is a former member (and president) of the North Tama Board of Education, and has served as a substitute teacher at all levels for the past two years.  She is pleased with her first several weeks on the North Tama staff, stating, “North Tama is a wonderful school within a great community! We're all a family.” 
In addition to the above-mentioned staff members, we also welcome Karla Kula and Kathy Lohf to the staff. Karla is a new cook in the kitchen, and Kathy is working two days each week as a school nurse. 
I’ve always believed that it is the PEOPLE that truly make a school great, and this new group of North Tama staff has been carefully selected for the skills, abilities, and aptitudes that they will bring to our educational community. We’re excited to have these new team members on board, and I encourage everyone in our educational community to help them to feel welcome and supported in the important work that they do. Welcome, new Redhawks! 
I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. These SUPERINTENDENT NEWS & VIEWS columns are part of my plan for open communication with the community. You are welcome to visit my blog at http://redhawksupt.blogspot.com/ where all of my columns are posted. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter (@DavidRobertHill) where I will occasionally post updates or other information not found on the blog.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why? A Guest Column by Amanda Goodman



Superintendent News & Views
By David Hill, North Tama Superintendent

A few weeks ago, a high school student who lives not too far from our community took his own life. While none of us can be sure of the reasons for this, I think all of us can agree that it was disturbing to learn that this young man was ENCOURAGED to commit suicide by a number of his peers. The evidence of this is very public because it was published on social media.
Shortly after this horrific event, former KWWL anchor Amanda Goodman published a blog post that really “hit home” with me.  Amanda is now the Executive Director of the Family & Children's Council of Black Hawk County, and she continues her crusade against bullying.  Amanda is also a realist. She understands that bullying is going to happen – it always has – and that there are things we ALL can do to reduce incidences of bullying. 
Because I felt that Amanda’s blog post was something we all needed to hear, I contacted her and asked if she would consider being a “guest columnist” by allowing us the permission to reprint her article in our local paper and on my blog. She was happy to grant permission. While Amanda isn’t necessarily talking about the specific incident mentioned above, she makes some good points that I think all of us – especially parents of young people – need to hear. 
Please read Amanda’s blog post with an open mind and a focus on what is best for kids:

Why? 
A Guest Column by Amanda Goodman

86…That’s how many messages from parents I have gotten in the past 12 hours. They’re asking for help…they’re asking me to use my voice to keep talking about the bullying epidemic…they’re offering to help me in order to finally put an end to all of this nonsense.  But the biggest thing everyone is asking me is this: Why? Why does this continue to happen?
Not everyone is going to like what I have to say. And that’s okay. But if you know me, or of me, then you know that I am unapologetically real.  I have zero minutes in my day to sugarcoat anything…because let’s face it, it just wastes everyone’s time.
OK, here it goes: STOP BLAMING TEACHERS FOR ALL OF THE BULLYING.
This is not like the movies in the 80’s and 90’s where kids are getting thrown into lockers or meeting out on the playground to settle the score.  It is NOTHING like it was when we were growing up. Back in the day, Friday was the day everything came to a head. By the time the weekend was done, everything had blown over.
Now, thanks to social media, Monday is the new Friday. Things build and build over the weekend…and it all collides just in time for classes on Monday.  Our kids are bullying and harassing one another from the confines of their bedrooms.  Their fingers are assault weapons…typing and posting away.
Teachers can NOT be held responsible for something that is happening in our own homes. Here is the thing: PARENTS, TAKE BACK YOUR HOUSE.  The privacy your child thinks they deserve? Umm…nope.  Your house, your bills, your rules. Privacy comes when our children are “off our payroll.”
Stalk them. Know everything they’re texting. Know everything they are posting.  Know everything they are receiving. Know everything that’s being posted about them.  Follow them on social media.  Follow their friends.  BE IN THE KNOW.  Set a time every night where every damn device is turned off and turned over to you. Sure, your kids will roll their eyes at you…they’ll probably call you clingy or annoying.  I call it parenting.
Am I a parenting expert? Hell no. Most days I have no clue what I am doing. But I have been involved in the anti-bullying movement for QUITE some time now.  I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of messages from bullies and mean girls.  I’ve read the diaries of the victims where they outline the pain.  I’ve sat down with the parents of the victims who told me they had no clue their child was struggling.  I’ve sat down with the parents of the bullies who were shocked that “little Johnny could do this!” I have been to the FUNERALS of young children who have killed themselves because they couldn’t take it.
Let that sink in.  FUNERALS of young children…because they couldn’t take it anymore.
Our kids need to learn empathy.  As much as our children know that they are the center of our world…they need to understand that everything doesn’t revolve around them. Feelings matter…words hurt…words scar…words kill.
We, as parents, need to take off our rose-colored glasses and realize that OUR KID could be the mean girl…the bully. We need to stop feeling thankful that “at least they’re not the one getting picked on.”
Our kids don’t need to be friends with everyone.  They don’t need to like everyone.  Not everyone is going to like them.  And that’s okay.  Because that’s how it works in the real world.  There are several people who I know who I have no plans to have a pizza party with, hold hands and sing Kumbaya.  It’s about being respectful and civil.
So, to answer the question “Why is this happening?”  I believe that answer can be found in our own homes. 

I encourage your feedback on all of my columns, along with any questions you may have. These SUPERINTENDENT NEWS & VIEWS columns, in addition to my blog and Twitter postings, are part of my plan for open communication with the community as a part-time superintendent with duties in another area school district. If you’ve missed any of my columns or would like to re-read or share them with your friends and family, you are welcome to visit my blog at http://redhawksupt.blogspot.com/ where they are all posted. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter (@DavidRobertHill) where I will occasionally post updates or other information not found on the blog. 

Reprinted with permission from Amanda Goodman, Copyright 2017. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

School Board Elections are September 12



Superintendent News & Views
School Board Elections are September 12
By David Hill, North Tama Superintendent



What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must the community want for its children.”—John Dewey, educator and philosopher

Public schools bring communities together. They are centers of community pride and unite citizens in a common goal—to ensure all students have access to a high-quality education. All citizens, whether they have children in school or not, have a vested interest in public education. All citizens have ownership and oversight of their public schools and can influence policies and practices through their locally elected school boards.
The 2017 Iowa school board elections are Tuesday, September 12. The school board election is your opportunity to have a voice in the future of our school system. 
In the North Tama school district, local voters will head to the polls to elect four community members to the board of education on September 12. Rod Zobel is running for re-election to the Director District 1 board seat.  In Director District 2, David Calderwood is running for re-election.  Incumbent Robert Cue and Mona Larsen are the candidates for Director District 3. In Director District 4, Kennan Seda and incumbent Cheryl Popelka are the candidates. 
I want to personally thank all of these candidates for their interest in helping the North Tama County Community School District be the best it can be. We truly appreciate their willingness to serve! 
School board members are unpaid volunteers. They face complex and demanding challenges, yet few people fully understand the scope and far-reaching implications of board members’ responsibilities. I hope that all North Tama citizens appreciate the vital contributions of our board members for the crucial role they play in the education of our children.
Their job entails an endless string of meetings and school functions to attend; reams of reports, agendas, proposals and other information to read and study; and a host of difficult decisions to make. We’ve been blessed to have wonderful school boards over the years, and we truly appreciate all of those who have served on the board or placed their name on the ballot as a candidate for the school board. 
Voter turnout for school board elections in Iowa has been historically low in recent years. The Iowa Secretary of State’s office reports that the statewide voter turnout average was 6.5 percent in Iowa’s last five school board elections. Let’s show the rest of Iowa that North Tama is different – that the citizens of the North Tama County Community School District support their schools and want a voice in the future of education in this community.  Mark your calendar and be sure to vote!   
Polls will open at 12:00 noon and will close at 8:00 p.m. on September 12. Polling places for North Tama’s school elections are the Fire Station in Clutier and the North Tama Activity Center in Traer.  If you’ve never voted in a school election before, you should be aware that in a few cases, your polling place is not at the same location where you vote for city, state, and federal general elections.  To be sure, visit the Iowa Secretary of State’s website at https://sos.iowa.gov/ or contact the Tama County Auditor at (641) 484-2740.  The auditor’s office can also help with any questions you may have about absentee voting. 
I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. These SUPERINTENDENT NEWS & VIEWS columns, in addition to my blog and Twitter postings, are part of my plan for open communication with the community as a part-time superintendent with duties in another area school district. If you’ve missed any of my columns or would like to re-read or share them with your friends and family, you are welcome to visit my blog at http://redhawksupt.blogspot.com/ where they are all posted. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter (@DavidRobertHill) where I will occasionally post updates or other information not found on the blog.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Quality Preschool, Tuition-Free!!!



Superintendent News & Views

Quality Preschool, Tuition-Free!!!
By David Hill, North Tama Superintendent
We’re pleased to announce that tuition-free preschool for 4-year old students is coming to North Tama in the fall. Starting in the fall of 2017, qualified four-year-old students will be able to attend preschool tuition-free through the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program
This program will allow all 4-year old students regardless of family income to attend preschool at North Tama Schools tuition-free.  Eligible students must be four years old on or before September 15, 2017.
The new preschool program is the result of a collaboration between the North Tama school district and Traer’s Pied Piper Preschool & Child Care Center. Pied Piper will be discontinuing their 4-year-old preschool program, and preschool classes for 4-year-old students will be held at North Tama Elementary instead. Students enrolled at Pied Piper for daycare will be provided with safe, reliable transportation in between the elementary building and Pied Piper.  3-year-old preschool classes will continue to be offered by Pied Piper. 
The new 4-year-old preschool program will provide a state-certified teacher trained in early childhood education and highly-qualified support staff, and offer the state-required minimum of 10 hours of quality preschool instruction per week.  The program will use the Creative Curriculum, a research and evidence-based comprehensive curriculum. The Creative Curriculum addresses all areas of early learning: language and literacy, math, science, physical skills and social skills. It provides children an opportunity to learn in a variety of ways – through play, problem-solving, movement, art, music, drawing and writing, listening and storytelling.
We are so pleased to welcome our new preschool teacher, Jill Miller. Jill comes to us from the South Tama district, where she has several years of experience teaching in a similar preschool program. We feel that we have found the perfect teacher to get this new program off the ground, and we look forward to seeing the program grow and our students being well served for many years into the future.
This program has been a long time in the making. While many people have been involved in the process, I want to personally thank our elementary principal Josh Youel for his leadership. It is because of Mr. Youel’s tireless efforts that tuition-free preschool will become a reality at North Tama. Every component of the program planning has been led by Mr. Youel. This has included the process of applying for state permission to establish the program, holding numerous meetings (preschool advisory committee, Pied Piper staff, Pied Piper preschool board, parent meetings, etc.), writing grants to secure funds for the program, hiring the staff, acquiring the necessary materials and supplies, updating the facilities to meet preschool standards, and much more. THANK YOU, Mr. Youel, for making this happen!  I also want to thank the North Tama School Board for their support of our vision to bring high-quality, tuition-free preschool to North Tama. 
This program is also open to 4-year-olds that live in other school districts. If you know of a young person in the area who will be four years old on or before September 15, 2017, please let their family know about this opportunity. Please direct any questions to principal Josh Youel at (319) 478-2265.
This newspaper column, along with my online blog and my Twitter feed, are part of my strategy for accessibility and communication as a shared superintendent. I invite your thoughts and your feedback in the comments section on my blog, which can be found at https://redhawksupt.blogspot.com/. In addition to an opportunity to comment, the blog provides an opportunity to look back at the other columns I have submitted to the Star Clipper, plus occasional items that are not submitted to the papers. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (my handle is @DavidRobertHill) for blog updates, pictures, and comments on school-related events and activities. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I'll Call it Independence Day




Superintendent News & Views
I’ll Call it INDEPENDENCE DAY
By David Hill, North Tama Superintendent

America will soon be celebrating the Independence Day holiday. On July 4, people across our nation will enjoy a day off from work, a day at the lake, a family barbecue, perhaps a parade or local festival, and other traditions. Millions will enjoy beautiful fireworks displays. But often, we don’t take time to consider the origins of the holiday and to appreciate the true meaning of this special day.

Have you read the Declaration of Independence? Have you considered what the declaration meant to those who signed it? I know some of the words may seem a little "old fashioned," but if you are an American and you haven't read it, I encourage you to do so and to think about what it really meant to those at the time.

These brave people believed that their rights came from God -- not from a King, a constitution or any other document, or from any form of government. They understood that because governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed, whenever any form of government becomes destructive the people have the right to alter or abolish their government. Because of the British crown's many abuses of the colonists, they chose to separate from the British government and declare each of the 13 colonies to be free and independent states, and they mutually pledged their lives to defend these United States.

These were the first Americans.

Through the Declaration of Independence, these first Americans were essentially saying, "Hey King, our rights come from God, not from you. We've allowed you to be our leader for a long time, but now you’re not living up to your end of the deal. We're cutting ties with you starting today, and we have every right do to so. If necessary, we're ready to give our lives to defend this right."

Some call the holiday "July 4th." Some call it "America's birthday." Yes, it is the 4th day in July and it is the birthday of our country. But the 4th is just a number, and the word "birthday" brings thoughts of balloons, cake, and presents. I prefer to think of the holiday by its real name, INDEPENDENCE DAY.

When you hear the words Independence Day, I hope you'll remember these first Americans and take a moment to appreciate what this day is really all about. 



Monday, May 1, 2017

Why Teachers are My Heroes



Superintendent News & Views
Why Teachers are My Heroes
By David Hill, North Tama Superintendent

I am honored to be superintendent of North Tama Schools, and I feel privileged to work with and support the work of such dedicated and talented educational professionals.  This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you why North Tama’s teachers – and teachers in general – are deserving of our respect and our appreciation.  
Think back to when you were a child. Try to remember Kindergarten or another lower elementary grade.  Do you recall what you wanted to be when you grew up?  When you ask this question of our district’s youngest students, some of the more common responses you will hear include jobs such as firefighter, police officer, scientist, doctor or nurse, teacher, and various military roles. Kids will also often tell you that they want to grow up to do the same job that their mom or dad does.  Why do we so commonly hear these responses?  It’s because these are examples of the people that our students look up to. These people are our kids’ HEROES, and I think it’s awesome that so many students aspire to one day be a hero to others. 
As for me, I first remember wanting to be a teacher in the 4th grade. Over the years, I probably changed my mind two dozen times as to the grade level or subject matter that I wanted to teach, but I never wavered in my desire to become a teacher.  One of the best days of my life was when I fulfilled my dream by joining the teaching staff at Benton Community Middle/High School. 
Perhaps the reason I wanted to teach is because I was influenced by so many wonderful teachers during my formative years. In addition to the teachers in my school, my grandmother was one of my greatest teachers. Grandma, a retired teacher, had so many stories about her years in the classroom.  Nearly every one of her stories reflected the LOVE that she had of her job and for her students. One of Grandma’s greatest rewards in life came from visiting with her former students and learning about how they have positively influenced their workplaces, their families, and the world around them.    
The relationships teachers build each day with our young people are helping to shape their future. The efforts of North Tama’s teachers today are inspiring and preparing the next generation of innovators, community influencers, and world leaders.
Teachers are role models for our young people. They truly are HEROES. They help students to understand that school is about so much more than learning information. Teachers help our young people learn how to apply the knowledge they’re gaining to reach their goals, fulfill their dreams, and change the world.
 Our teachers are part of a larger team that works together to make a difference for our students.  The bus drivers, coaches, cooks, secretaries, custodians, teacher associates, nurses, speech language pathologists, counselors, principals and others who work in our schools are part of this team, and all of them deserve acknowledgement for the great services they provide to our students each day!
I am very proud to play a role in supporting the work that North Tama’s teachers and staff do each day. Thank you, teachers and staff, for your hard work and dedication – you help our students achieve success in school, in their activities, and in their communities; and, the work you do will pay dividends for MANY YEARS TO COME!!! 
I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. You are welcome to visit my blog at http://redhawksupt.blogspot.com/ where you can read all of my Star Clipper columns and leave comments if you wish. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Teens Behind the Wheel

Last week, our youngest son turned fourteen. Just like his older brothers, one of the first things that Jacob wanted to do upon reaching this milestone age was to visit the DOT Driver License station and take the written test to receive his permit to drive. 
He passed his test, and now he’s getting some of his first experiences behind the wheel. Right now, we’re primarily sticking to the rural roads of Tama County, but we’ll eventually venture into some of the small towns in the area. At some point, I’m sure we’ll endeavor to try out the roads in some of the medium-sized towns and larger cities in the area as we seek to help our son develop his skills as a driver.
I’ll admit that my wife and I aren’t nearly as nervous this time around. Jacob has had two older brothers to “break us in” on the idea of having our kids behind the wheel.  
I recall the first few practice driving sessions with our oldest son and how I was overly anxious about his every move.  I nearly panicked and grabbed the steering wheel as he took his first left turn. This wasn’t because he was doing anything wrong; in retrospect, he was doing just fine. I just wasn’t mentally prepared for the idea of my child becoming a driver!
Our older sons are now both young adults who have gone through the entire process of earning their instruction permits, hours of practice driving with their parents, driver education classes, school permits, and intermediate licenses before finally achieving their full licenses.  Both of them are good drivers, and I’m confident that they – as well as the other drivers and pedestrians that they encounter on a daily basis – are just as safe as anyone is on the road.
Our son Jacob showing off his new
instruction permit. 

As our youngest son is now just getting out there on the road for some of his first practice driving, I’m reminded that EXPERIENCE is one of the best ways to learn.  The guided practice that young drivers receive from their parents as they venture out onto the road as new drivers is critical to their success and to their safety.   
Roughly 40 North Tama students have reached the age of 14 during the past year, and many more students will reach that milestone in the coming months. Driver Education classes will also be starting in the near future. I’m sure these young people’s parents experienced similar degrees of anxiousness as their sons and daughters reached various milestones related to driving.
Parents, you’ve spent your child’s entire lifetime helping him or her to grow and learn. One of your most important goals during this time has been to keep your child safe.  A “rite of passage” as they get older is the freedom and independence of driving. However, with this freedom and independence comes a tremendous amount of risk. Have you prepared your child for this challenging time? Have you done everything you could? Have you sought out sound advice about the dangers of driving as a teen driver before they hit the road alone?
Their life could depend upon it.
Because young drivers lack experience and have had minimal hands-on supervised practice behind the wheel, they may not perceive risks in the same way that you and I do.  Drivers that don’t understand the risks are more likely to be overconfident, leading them to believe that they can handle distractions such as cell phones, multiple passengers, loud music, eating or drinking while driving, emotionally-charged driving, etc. Overconfidence can also lead to a feeling of invincibility, causing drivers to feel that the rules of the road such as speed limits and stop signs don’t apply to them.
One of the most important things a parent can do is to set a positive example.  Remember, they will be watching YOU when you are behind the wheel, and you provide their greatest model. Your respect (or lack of respect) for the rules of the road and your aggressiveness (or lack of aggressiveness) behind the wheel is likely to be reflected in your child’s behaviors behind the wheel.  If you haven’t been setting the best example, there’s no time like right now to get started.
Parents shouldn’t take their child’s driving abilities for granted, and it isn’t safe to assume that they will get all of the behind-the-wheel time that they need during Driver Education class. Young drivers need PRACTICE, and while Driver Education does offer the state-required minimum of 6 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction, their greatest opportunity for practice is driving with parents. Parents should ride with their young drivers often, and should be engaged while their child is driving so that appropriate feedback can be given.
I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. You are welcome to visit my blog at http://redhawksupt.blogspot.com/ where you can read all of my Star Clipper columns and leave comments if you wish. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Why We LOVE Author Visits at North Tama

North Tama’s students and staff have had the opportunity to meet and learn from several well-known authors that have visited the school in recent years. Perhaps you caught some of the media coverage this past September when we were visited by internationally-acclaimed author Peter Reynolds.  If you happened to get a quick glimpse of the assembly during the coverage on KWWL news or when it was broadcast in its entirety on discoveryeducation.com, you surely saw our students’ excitement and understood that September 13 was not a typical day of school at North Tama. 
Peter Reynolds arrives at North Tama
in Carol Detje's dot-decorated bus.
Maybe you saw Carol Detje’s school bus, decorated with hundreds of multicolored dots, as Carol gave Peter Reynolds a tour of Traer before bringing him to the school, where he was greeted by hundreds of cheering students.  While I hope everyone in the community had a chance to share in our excitement, it has occurred to me that some folks might not understand WHY we decided to take time from our school day for such excitement.
We all understand that teaching kids to read, write, compute, solve problems independently, and think critically is serious business…so why do we at North Tama take time from our regular learning experiences for the craziness of an author visit? Could our time and resources be used in a more productive way? 
At North Tama Schools, we believe the time that we spend with authors such as Peter Reynolds, Kirby Larson, Drew Daywalt and others is an INVESTMENT in our students’ futures for many reasons. 
When the teachers and school community show their enthusiasm for an upcoming author visit, students of all ages take the cue that books are important. A buzz of excitement is created. Kids are motivated to read that author's books in preparation for the visit.
There is nothing like an author visit to get kids reading, writing, and understanding the creative process. While our visiting authors often read aloud from the books they have written, it’s not the books that make these visits so successful. Meeting authors makes the reading, the writing process, the literature, and the authors themselves REAL and ACCESIBLE to the students.
When students understand the “inside story” of how and why a particular book was written, they learn to recognize the choices made by authors. This helps to improve their reading comprehension as they develop and practice the ability to make predictions, inferences, and associations. 
When published writers share the real-life process of developing a book from the idea stage to the final product, kids are often inspired to do more of their own writing. Spending time with someone like Peter Reynolds gives students a chance to see that authors are a real person – not just a name on a book cover. While they learn that authors are ordinary people just like you and me, they also discover that even the most successful authors have had to take risks, fail, persevere, and try again. Peter Reynolds helped North Tama students to understand that when they combine creativity with perseverance, nearly anything is possible.
Six months have passed since our most recent author visit; but, you can still see, hear, and feel the effects throughout the school. That’s why we have invested our time and resources in having authors come to North Tama, and that’s why we will continue to provide opportunities like this for our students in the future. We may live in a small, rural community…but we’re committed to providing our students with WORLD CLASS experiences.


I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. You are welcome to visit my blog at http://redhawksupt.blogspot.com/ where you can read all of my Star Clipper columns and leave comments if you wish. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill

Thursday, February 2, 2017

North Tama Joins “The Promise of Iowa” Campaign to Support Public Schools



The Board of Directors of the North Tama County Community School District has passed a resolution in support of “The Promise of Iowa” campaign. The goal of the statewide campaign is to focus attention on the future of Iowa public school students and to rally support for public education in Iowa. The “Promise of Iowa” campaign is being coordinated statewide by the Iowa Association of School Boards.
The campaign’s focus is on building public understanding about the work of public schools today, which are innovating to ensure students are positioned for success in their futures. Iowa’s future leaders, innovators and citizens are its children. They are “The Promise of Iowa.” Their future is created every day by Iowa public schools. Iowa public schools develop their potential, strengthen communities, and contribute to a strong economy.
Another goal of the campaign is to encourage Iowans to show their support for the investments needed to keep our public schools strong. In this era of competing priorities and limited resources, state funding has fallen short in meeting the real needs of our students. As locally elected citizens entrusted with public education, your school board members have decided to support this campaign to rally public support and understanding for continued investments that move our state and community forward.
The North Tama board’s support of “The Promise of Iowa” campaign is an important step in raising awareness statewide about the value of public education in shaping the next generation of Iowa leaders, workers and citizens. The campaign will share information on public schools statewide, and encourage local residents to take part as well.
North Tama’s current school board members are Trisha Kennedy, Tiffany Feisel, Gretchen Pargeon, David Calderwood, Cheryl Popelka, Rod Zobel, and Doug Dvorak. When you see these leaders, please thank them for their dedication and their service to our school.
YOU can get involved in the campaign to support public education in Iowa, too! The “Promise of Iowa” website, www.promiseiowa.org, provides more information about how to get involved in the campaign and how to become an advocate for quality public education in Iowa. 
My SUPERINTENDENT NEWS & VIEWS columns, in addition to my blog and Twitter postings, are part of my plan for open communication with the community. As a part-time superintendent that also has duties in another school district, I believe that open and clear communication is more important than ever before. If you’ve missed any of my columns or would like to re-read or share them with your friends and family, you are welcome to visit my blog at http://redhawksupt.blogspot.com/ where they are all posted. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter (@DavidRobertHill) where I will occasionally post updates or other information not found on the blog.
Your support of North Tama Schools and of public education in Iowa is appreciated!  

Friday, January 13, 2017

FREE Literacy Resources for Parents

Imagine if there was a “one stop shop” where families could access free literacy resources for PreK-6th Grade children.  Now, imagine if parents and caregivers could use a search and filter tool to select specific types of resources, targeted literacy skills to work on, and an appropriate age range.  You don’t need to use your imagination any longer, as these resources exist and are just a click away. 
The Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC) has developed a wonderful website to provide these types of targeted resources. The website continues to be expanded regularly to meet the needs of children of all ages. This high-quality collection of over 200 learning activities, videos, articles and parent guides is a great resource families can use to practice and build critical reading skills.
IRRC is collaborating with educators and parents across Iowa to make a multitude of resources available for families on their website at http://www.iowareadingresearch.org/IRRC has worked extensively with trained educators and parents who have reviewed hundreds of resources for content, quality and accessibility. Only those resources receiving the highest ratings are hosted on the IRRC website. The resources are free and no log-in is required. Visitors can search the collection by literacy skill, age/grade, and resource type, or search by keyword to find learning tools that are just right for each and every child.
Whether your child is a struggling reader or is one of the most skilled readers in his or her class, he or she will benefit from the resources provided on this website and the time spent with parents or other adults while using these tools.  I encourage parents to visit the IRRC website regularly for current information and additional resources.
Parents and others who support children in their reading may also want to subscribe to the IRRC’s weekly blog at http://www.iowareadingresearch.org/blog/ Blog readers will learn more about the individual resources in the IRRC Family Resources Collection, get specific information how to best utilize the IRC family resources, and have the opportunity read about parents’ real-life experiences with using the tools from the collection.
You can also follow the Iowa Reading Research Center’s Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/IAReading or their Facebook posts at https://www.facebook.com/iowareadingresearchcenter
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, older sibling, daycare provider, or anyone else who supports young readers, I hope you will take advantage of these free, high-quality tools.
I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. These SUPERINTENDENT NEWS & VIEWS columns, in addition to my blog and Twitter postings, are part of my plan for open communication with the community. As a part-time superintendent that also has duties in another school district, I believe that open and clear communication is more important than ever before. If you’ve missed any of my columns or would like to re-read or share them with your friends and family, you are welcome to visit my blog at http://redhawksupt.blogspot.com/ where they are all posted. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter (@DavidRobertHill) where I will occasionally post updates or other information not found on the blog.