Thursday, July 31, 2008


You wouldn't know it by looking at the grass in the pictures, but our "weeding party" got rained out today! We have had two weeding parties this summer and today was to be our third and final party. We had some thunderstorms that came through and rained out the party. The rain was badly needed and we still need a lot more. We're going to reschedule our weeding event for Thursday, August 7 from 9 to 10 a.m.

The two pictures are as close to before and after shots as I can get. The photograph on the top is one of the landscape beds directly in front of the school that needs some serious help. The photograph on the bottom is one of the landscape beds along the main sidewalk. This landscape bed has some small weeds in it, but has made dramatic improvements from the beginning of summer when it was very overgrown.

The PTO has scheduled a Sioux Trail clean up event for Saturday, September 20 from 2 to 5pm. All are invited and I'm optimistic that we'll have a terrific turnout and go from landscaping that needs a lot of help to landscaping that needs a little clean up here and there.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Principal Workshops

Tuesday morning starts the first of several scheduled gatherings before the official start of school. Elementary principals are meeting to go over several details, including letters that go home to students, assessment data and school action plans. We originally met as group in June and had two very successful meetings.

Assistant Superintendent Novak hosted the workshops at her house and facilitated the two days of work. We had terrific conversations and at the end of the last day we selected a day in August to meet again. Tuesday is that day. As a new principal these meetings are very important to me as I have a chance to network with my colleagues, gain insight on what other schools are doing and then keep making forward progress to enable Sioux Trail students to be the best they can be.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dr. Clegg

Yesterday afternoon I met with our new Superintendent, Dr. Randy Clegg. Dr. Clegg is meeting with each principal in ISD 191 and I'll confess that I was a little apprehensive. Dr Clegg is my boss and I had only met him one other time when he visiting the schools, there was no set agenda for our meeting yesterday and I wasn't sure what we were going to talk about. We met for over an hour and it was a wonderful meeting. I love my job and I'm looking forward to the upcoming school year. Meeting with Dr. Clegg created another level of excitement as I learned of several opportunities that are ahead of us. Specifically there are two opportunities that I am really looking forward to.

Principals will be involved in work that is focused on getting us into classrooms and then connecting with teachers on a meaningful level around what is happening in the classroom. This is particularly exciting as one of my goals for 2008-09 is to be in each classroom at least once per week. The work that Dr. Clegg and other members of the administrative support team will be leading us through will enable me to visit classrooms and then engage in a conversation with staff about what type of instruction is happening at Sioux Trail.

I was also very excited to learn that we share the same definition of "curriculum". He shared some ideas that had been implemented in his former district (Clinton, Iowa) around identifying the outcomes that students need to achieve, making the list manageable, sharing it with all staff (their list was web based) and then fine-tuning the list on a consistent basis. I'm very excited to see where ISD 191 will go with this idea.

After meeting with Dr. Clegg I know that we have a Superintendent who is all about teaching and learning. I consider us very fortunate to have the opportunity for our staff, students and families to work under his leadership.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Staff

The activity at Sioux Trail is starting to pick up and I still have a lot to do!

In addition to the faces of new students we will have some new staff faces here as well. We have interviews on Tuesday, July 29 for two Title I Educational Assistants (EAs). These folks are instrumental in helping our struggling readers make forward progress. Under the leadership of the classroom kindergarten teachers and the Title I EAs all of our kindergarten students left kindergarten as readers! This is a goal we consistently strive for and it is thrilling to reach what you have worked for. Working hand-in-hand with the students, the team of Title I Educational Assistants and classroom teachers made this happen.

We hired a new ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher in June. Her name is Megan Gonzalez. Megan started work at Sioux Trail as an ESL Educational Assistant, went back to school for her ESL teaching license, applied for the ESL teaching position at Sioux Trail and got the job. We are very fortunate to have Megan joining us as she was actively sought out by other schools, but she was holding out for Sioux Trail.

Christine Peterson will be joining us in one of our Kindergarten classrooms. We have 30 students enrolled in our 1/2 day program, which means that we will have two 1/2 day sections of kindergarten. Christine has experience teaching kindergarten at Rahn Elementary and will be a strong addition to Sioux Trail.

Tammy Dylla was laid off in the spring due to low seniority. That left us with an opening for an Educational Assistant in the DCD program. Tammy re-applied for this position and I'm excited that she accepted the job offer and that she will be returning to Sioux Trail for the 2008-09 school year.

We're probably not done here, I think we'll be recruiting for staff into August. I am getting more and more excited for the start of the school year.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Busy at Sioux Trail

Although it looks very quiet from the outside there are several things happening on the inside of Sioux Trail. A large amount of time is focused on getting ready from the 2008-09 school year, but there is also a lot of learning taking place.

The custodial crew has grown from two and a half team members to four members. With the remodeling taking place at other schools Sioux Trail is fortunate to have custodians temporarily assigned to work with Mr. Glende. Looking down the halls can be a little deceiving as there have been piles of furniture along the walls, but the main floor is a good example of what happens after the furniture is returned to the classroom and all of the cleaning is complete. The floors are gleaming, the windows are free of smudges and we're ready for staff and students to be back in school giving the custodians a daily cleaning challenge as they try to keep the school looking great!

In addition to Project Kids and Ready to Learn, Sioux Trail is also hosting two summer school programs. The Special Education Extended School Year program is using at least ten classrooms and has a great mix of students in school every morning. Just down the hall from my office several classrooms have teachers from the ISD 917 Deaf and Hard of Hearing program working with a variety of students. This program is also a morning program and there are no classes on Fridays for both groups.

My time has been focused on going through the files and binders in the office, reviewing MCA results, hiring new staff and reading to prepare for professional development work that we'll be doing during the school year. Our secretary, Mrs. Cenci, is not contracted to work through approximately half of the summer and this has forced me to be more self-sufficient, learning how things get done, where things are kept and lots of things that Mrs. Cenci can do in her sleep.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

My Dad and his wife are traveling from their home state of Maine to Alaska and back over the course of this summer and blogging the entire trip. They are using Wifi spots in camp grounds, boosktores, McDonald's or anywhere else they can find free wireless access. They had a "layover" in Minnesota on the way west and we helped them get set up on blogger. Getting them set up as well as reading blogs made me wonder if this could be applied at the school level.

On Sunday I saw a long time friend and former co-worker who is now teaching pre-schoolers at an International School in Korea. They wanted her to stay in touch over the summer so she is blogging with them. The connection is pretty simple, but I thought, why not try this at Sioux Trail? I could use the blog in addition to weekly newsletters, but this would be a place to share notes, musings and items of a less formal nature than what we publish in Sioux Trail Touches Home.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

First Post

Welcome to Sioux Trail Panther Pages. This is my attempt to spread the word about all of the great things that are taking place at Sioux Trail. Please feel free to post comments and keep checking back for updates. My email is also posted and I encourage you to email me.