Monday, November 27, 2017

Everyone Takes Their Own Path

Surprisingly, my clothes still fit. I am finding that hard to believe after all of the food I ate over the past three days. The diet plan this week will be vegetables, twigs, and leaves. The next few weeks are all about cookies, fudge, and holiday parties. I could resist all of that stuff, but I will selflessly overeat and take one for the team so you don't have to!

I was reviewing some blog posts from the past few months and I wanted to bring you up to speed on things that I have written about.

Fewer Students: First, we have been spending a LOT of time studying the impact of eventually (the next three years) having fewer students at the high school. Our population decline has leveled off somewhat, but the smaller grade level sizes that we have already planned for at the K-8 are now making their way for the first time to the high school. Having fewer students is like playing a game of musical chairs. When the music stops, there could not be enough students for all of the offerings and sections that we have, and that forces change.

Adjusting Opportunities: Just like we did at the elementary and middle school levels, we are beginning to plan for a high school schedule that includes fewer students while preserving the most number of opportunities as possible.

When today's eighth graders get to the high school, we want them to have the same opportunities that today's seniors have. Making this happen is a multi-year effort. At the same time, I want to continue to be true to my word that every graduate is prepared for WHATEVER they want to do after graduation including college, career, trade, military, or the general workforce (playing X-Box in their parents' basement is not part of that list).

There are thousands of unfilled jobs in the trades and technology because there are not enough qualified candidates for those positions, so we have to be extra careful to include those pathways as well. We are working on all of that as we speak.

Emotional and Mental Health: At the same time, we are really digging into the emotional and mental health of our students, and it is paying off. We have fielded hundreds of student mental health cases this school year alone, and that has really helped in many areas. Since we have added mental health support over the past two years, it has had the "if you build it they will come" impact like in the movie Field of Dreams. We are now first in line to advocate for more outside counseling and mental health treatment facilities for children.

The other day, someone told me that kids just need to toughen up and suck it up. I think for many of the lower level issues that exist in the life of a child (not getting something they want, not being able to go the places they want to go when they want to go, etc.), we can work together to toughen them up; maybe. If, however, I was able to share with you why students have REAL emotional and mental health issues, their REAL stories and REAL life situations, you would have to question whether you would be tough enough to "suck it up".

Decrease in Drug Use: Student drug use District-wide has been much less than we have seen in the past (this has been a four-year downward trend). I think a lot of this can be attributed to the high morale that exists in our buildings, and the effort and programming behind that increased student morale. Students just do NOT want to risk being suspended or worse from school because they don't want to miss anything.

Also, more students have been coming forward with information that has really helped us to be proactive. We continue to work in these two areas, but I am really pleased right now and hope it continues. If you know of something that you think I should know in this area, either contact me confidentially or use our "Bully" tipline button to leave us a tip!

The Community: Our community interaction and involvement continues to be full tilt. MANY students are working with clubs to help the less fortunate, we still have an active substance abuse coalition, and our employees are also working to help others. This continues to be a point of pride for us.

Results of Feedback: Last, but certainly not least in this update, Thought Exchange is almost ready to release the results of our feedback initiative. We had a huge response, and I really appreciate it. I haven't seen the results yet either, and I am looking forward to reading them and creating an action plan after the holidays.

Speaking of the holidays, please try to enjoy them. Anyone reading this blog right now is carrying their own burdens and stress. That transfers to our kids really quickly. If you can find a way to compartmentalize those feelings so kids can have a special next few weeks, that would be awesome. You get bonus points if you can enjoy the holiday season yourself!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the week!