Sunday, September 26, 2010

Is Mr. Akin really a firefighter?

Last week several students were asking me whether I was really I firefighter.  When I said yes, the follow-up question, are you are "real" firefighter?  The answer to that is also "yes".  I thought I'd take a minute to share a little more about me and what is happening when I'm not at school.  Read on if you are interested.

I have served as a Lakeville firefighter since 2002.  Lakeville has a structure similar to that of a volunteer department, but it is technically a paid on call department because each firefighter gets paid when we respond to a call.  We currently get paid $10/call, irregardless of how long the call is so you can see that none of us are making a living as a firefighter.  The per call rate is meant to offset gas, mileage and other minor expenses.  Lakeville firefighters complete the same training that our full-time counterparts complete and we strive to provide professional emergency response to the residents of Lakeville.

In addition to serving as a firefighter I also serve as an engineer for my station and the Public Information Officer (PIO) for the department.  Station engineers are responsible for maintaining equipment, taking care of the apparatus (aka fire trucks) and driving.  The video clip at the top of the post is evidence of what the PIO does, which includes hosting a bimonthly cable TV show (On Call), coordinating public events and assisting with some department functions.  You can watch all of the On Call shows that you want to on the city of Lakeville website or by searching 'City of Lakeville" in i-Tunes and downloading our podcast.

I'm proud to be a Lakeville firefighter, enjoy providing a public service and thoroughly enjoy talking about our work, so if you have questions.please let me know.  I wouldn't be a good firefighter if I didn't remind you  to check your smoke detector batteries monthly and then change the batteries when you set your clocks during daylight savings time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


We're successfully implementing TRAIL Cards at Sioux Trail. This is a project focused on intermittent positive reinforcement. As adults we are very good catching children at making mistakes, but we're not as good at recognizing and reinforcing positive choices. All staff have TRAIL cards with them and can give them to students at any time they are "caught" making a good choice or going above and beyond. I have had students stop me in the hall and share what they got "caught" doing and are really proud of simple things. At the end of the day today a student stopped me and told me that he received a TRAIL card for clearing the lunch table in the cafeteria, another student got a card for going back and cleaning up a mess that she didn't make, a second grader was "caught" holding the door open for her class. The intent isn't to recognize students every time they follow directions or make a good choice, because we expect that, but instead we're trying to reinforce those good choices, with intermittent reinforcement. There are lots of choices for students when they have a TRAIL Card including entering it into a drawing for a monthly lunch with me (I call these TRAIL Blazer Club Meetings), reading the Pledge of Allegiance on Monday mornings or simply keeping the card to remember their good choices. Today I just added some plastic "charms" in school colors. I'm hoping that students will wear these with pride and spread the word about making good choices at the Trail!

You might be asking - why does he keep capitalizing TRAIL? Because I turned "trail" into an acronym or acrostic poem. On the first day of school I invited students to share what TRAIL means to them with me. I told them that to me TRAIL means:
T eamwork
R esponsibility
A cademic Excellence
I ntegrity
L earning

What does TRAIL mean to your student? Have them write it or draw for me and I'll add it to the bulletin board in the office.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

MAP Assessments

Beginning on Monday, September 20 Sioux Trail students in grades 1-6 will begin taking the MAP Assessment. MAP is the Measure of Academic Progress and is a product of NWEA. The Northwest Evaluation Association is non-profit organization dedicated to helping students succeed by providing data through research proven assessments.

I am very excited that we started using this tool three years ago and continue to use it. MAP is a leveled assessment that students take on a computer. Students will go to the computer lab with their entire class during their scheduled time over the next two weeks. There are two sections of the test that we are using, reading and math, and each section of the test has approximately 40 questions. The MAP program delivers leveled questions, so that each student is answering questions that are at his / her instructional level. For students who are taking the test for the first time to program will start giving them questions based on their grade level, but for students who have previously taken the test at Sioux Trail the program will use their last score to determine the difficulty of the next question.

The benefits of this approach are simple, but highly effective. Because the test is computer based students and teachers will see results immediately at the end of the testing session. You may even hear your child talk about their test results on the same day they complete the reading or math MAP. The score from MAP is called a RIT (Rausch Interval Unit). RIT is an equal-interval measure, like an inch or ounce, and RIT measures understanding regardless of grade level, so the information helps to track a student’s progress from year to year. Using a computer-based assessment also allows students to interact with the program and the primary version of the test (used with first graders in ISD 191) allows student to move items using "drag and drop" tools.

The leveled approach aligns well with the Sioux Trail approach which is facilitating success. Because each question is delivered at the student's instructional level they are likely to feel confident answering the questions and they'll keep trying. As questions are answered successfully more difficult questions are delivered and if answers are incorrect the program adjusts by delivering an easier question.

Because the tests measures the student's instructional level teachers can make immediate application of the results. MAP is closely aligned to the Minnesota State Standards so we're not working towards a different target. NWEA supports MAP with a number of reports that we will share with you at conferences and a broad set of options classroom teachers can use. Student is ISD 191 take MAP two separate times, once in the fall and once in the spring.

Here are two internet resources that may be helpful:
Math games based on the RIT (MAP Score):
NWEA Site:

As always you may contact any member of the Sioux Trail staff for additional information.

Friday, September 10, 2010


This photo full of smiling faces was taken on Tuesday morning, but we retained our smiles throughout the week and we're off on a great start to a successful school year.

As I wind things up for the week and reflect back on our wonderful first week I am grateful to a hard working group of staff willing to whatever it takes to facilitate student achievement and student success. Success on the TRAIL is not only a measure of how hard our staff work, but it is also a measure of how hard our parents work and your dedication and commitment to helping students go the next step. Finally, our students are incredible - we have a group of inquisitive students who truly believe they can be their best and work to their full potential every day.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Simple Goal

A short time ago I set a goal for 20 blog followers. That target has been hit and I'm excited to know that you are out there and interested in the happenings at Sioux Trail. 20 followers was great place to start, but it isn't the limit, please keep spreading the word about this accessible communication tool. Please post or email me your comments and share your thoughts with me. Thank you!

Exciting Day!

The first day of school is always an exciting day and I look forward to it each year. As a teacher and now as a principal, I always get very excited about our first day together. On September 7 all the Sioux Trail students in first through sixth grade will join us and then our Kindergarten students join the group on September 9 and we will be ready to formally resume our mission.

We've gone through the transitions from me and the custodial staff alone in the building, to Mrs. Cenci joining us and then all of the teachers joined us last week. The building is ready to go and all of the people who make a Sioux Trail the wonderful educational community that it is are excited and ready to work hard towards continued personal and educational success. I hope that the summer break has been restful for all and we'll resume our work on Tuesday.

I had an enjoyable summer, which included a great trip to Montana. Despite having an enjoyable summer I question the need for a three month vacation from school. Changing that is out of my control right now, but leading a group of staff dedicated to ensuring student success and increased academic achievement for all students in well within my control and something that I am passionate about. This work is not done in isolation but by working within what I call the "triangle of success". The "triangle of success" is formed by school staff, the student and the parents or family working together to support and achieve increased academic achievement.

As we kickoff the first day of school, we're making one side of triangle very visible by wearing our new Sioux Trail shirts. The purchase was made possible by our PTO and money raised through Spring school photos. The shirts make our pride in Sioux Trail very clear as well as the new name for Sioux Trail staff - Trail Guides.