Superintendent News & Views
1,080 Hours to Make a Difference
By David Hill, North Tama Superintendent
The school year is about to begin. The excitement and enthusiasm has been evident among our students as they’ve been in our school buildings for registration, athletic camps, and practices. Our teachers are ready to get started, and along with the tried-and-true methods that they have implemented for many years, they will also be using some new strategies to engage our students and maximize learning in the coming school year. I’m expecting GREAT things to happen in the 2018-2019 school year, and I hope you are, too!
Back when most of us were in school, Iowa’s school districts offered 180 days of instruction each year. A few years ago, Iowa law was changed to allow schools to base their calendar year on either 180 days or a minimum of 1,080 hours of instruction per year. Given that option, North Tama (and over 90 percent of Iowa’s school districts) switched to hours-based calendars to allow for greater flexibility. North Tama’s planned calendar for the coming year exceeds the required minimum, offering just over 1,204 hours of instruction – of course, this will likely be reduced due to a few weather-related late starts and early dismissals.
Regardless of the type of unit used to count instructional time, the new school year provides each student with a “fresh start,” and a new opportunity to use this time to their advantage to further increase his or her skills, and to grow and develop as an individual and as a member of our community. It is my sincere hope that the 1,080+ hours that will be invested in each student this year will truly make a positive difference in each of their lives.
I want to challenge all North Tama students to make the most of every one of the 1,080+ hours this school year. By being an active participant in your own learning, you can get the most out of the time that you invest in school. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Often this phrase is used in advertisements for the lottery. While I don’t want to promote gambling, I do think this phrase makes a good point about participation. While your odds of winning a jackpot are very slim, I guarantee you that there is a 100% chance that those people who DON’T buy a lottery ticket WON’T win a jackpot. It’s true that you can’t win if you don’t play.
The same thing is true of our learning...You can’t win if you don’t play. What does that mean? To me, it means two things: 1) ATTENDANCE IS IMPORTANT. Students need to be at school - every day, on time, so they won’t miss out on important opportunities for learning; and, 2) PARTICIPATE! At North Tama, we have so many wonderful ways for students to extend their learning beyond the classroom. I challenge every 7-12 student to participate in in at least one sport, at least one club or organization, and at least one fine arts activity. Students that participate in activities are more likely to have higher academic achievement, less likely to drop out of school, and more likely to become involved members of their communities as adults.
Parents can make a big difference in a child’s education by doing their part to encourage good attendance and participation. They can encourage their children to participate in extracurricular activities, and provide the necessary transportation, resources, and support. While all students may need to be absent from school on occasion, parents can also play a critical role in ensuring good attendance. Here are some tips for good attendance provided by the National Association of Elementary School Principals:
1. Plan ahead when scheduling vacations. Take a look at the school calendar (you can find it on the school website). There are several three-day weekends and even longer breaks during the year that will allow family fun without having to miss school. Also, plan ahead when it comes to parents and siblings’ appointments – does every child in the family need to go if the appointment is just for one family member?
2. Prioritize your schedule. Many times, doctor appointments can be scheduled to take place in the hours immediately following school or on Saturdays. At minimum, appointments can usually be made so that a student misses a half-day of school rather than a full day.
3. Have a regular bedtime. Establish an evening routine that includes time for reading and other activities that help your child to become calm and relaxed before bed.
4. Teach organizational skills so your child can get out the door with the proper materials, homework, etc.
5. Encourage healthy habits. Make sure your child has breakfast and nutritious snacks. Emphasize hand washing and cleanliness each and every day.
I hope you will find these tips to be helpful. Do you have another tip to share, or a comment about this article? You are welcome to visit my blog at where you can read all of my columns from the Star Clipper and leave comments if you wish. I also occasionally post pictures and other content that is not submitted to the paper or additional information that expands upon what was submitted to the paper. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill. We at North Tama truly appreciate parents’ efforts in teaching their children the importance of good attendance and participation. The school year is upon us…Let’s make each and every hour of the 2018-2019 school year count!