Helping our students become “Future-Ready”

Last week, Mr. Bundt and I had the opportunity to facilitate a panel discussion at the Future-Ready Iowa Summit.  Our session was entitled, “Iowa’s Tech Workforce:  What Employers Need from K-12 Schools.”  The panelists who shared their insights were: 

  • Wendy Batchelder, Chief Data Officer, VMware, Des Moines
  • Michelle Bates, Founder and CEO, SkyPrairie Inc., Coralville
  • David Collison, Senior Vice President Applications Development, ITS/SHAZAM, Johnston
  • Dan Greteman, Chief Information Officer, Ruan Transportation, Des Moines
  • Tyler Wyngarden, Vice President of Development, Technology Association of Iowa, Des Moines
  • Jessa Erickson, Owner, ThinkSpace IT, Harlan 

We also had the opportunity to attend the other sessions of the summit.  There were several recurring themes throughout the summit, that are important for us to remember as we serve and prepare our students.  While the emphasis was on STEM careers, these themes are transferrable to almost any career.  Below are a few of the most important points:

  1. Almost every company is a “tech” company when you consider the global connectedness of our world and our reliance on the internet and all the various technology devices.
  2. The speed of change makes it very difficult to prepare students for specific jobs, but there are very clear skills that will serve our students no matter what careers they choose to pursue.
  3. The skills most often addressed during the conference were:
    • Collaboration – The ability to work effectively with others – both in person, and virtually.
    • Communication – The ability to express oneself clearly and succinctly, and the ability to listen well, and work with others to develop shared understanding
    • Problem-solving – The ability to process information, consider different perspectives and make decisions that move projects forward.
    • Adaptability – The ability and willingness to adjust quickly and without complete information – to change in a dynamic environment.
    • Empathy – The ability to relate to others and earnestly consider their perspectives, thoughts and feelings and considering these as you pursue the mission of your business.

At MOC-Floyd Valley, we are working hard to provide our students with the skills above.  That is why we emphasize productive struggle – where our students move beyond their comfort zones on a regular basis.  It is also why we are working harder than ever to create and foster authentic relationships with our community business partners that help our students develop these skills in the “real world” and become future-ready!

Striving and Thriving – Together!

Last year, at MOC-Floyd Valley, we did an admirable job of teaching and learning in the midst of a global pandemic. We created as much normalcy and continuity as we could for our students, while at times operating in survival mode. While it doesn’t feel as disorienting this year, there is no doubt that we are again entering the year with some uncertainty and trepidation, and we will undoubtedly need to pivot and adapt. Nevertheless, out theme for the year is not surviving, it is striving and thriving – together!

We always have a choice in what we focus on and how we function. By choosing to strive, we are focusing on personal responsibility and commitment to the collective good. We are putting our best effort into whatever we are doing, and we are influencing those around us in a positive, contagious manner. This is what leads to thriving! Maybe not immediately, but by developing resiliency and a growth mindset, we are, indeed fostering learning, excellence, and civic responsibility!

We at MOC-Floyd Valley are honored to serve the students and families that make up our school district and invite you to strive and thrive with us. Let’s make it a great year – “the choice is ours!”

With Gratitude and Respect,



Russ Adams
Superintendent of Schools

Loving, Productive Struggle – We Are on the Right Track!

Anyone fortunate enough to be a parent, knows that one of the most difficult things to do is watch your children struggle.  Our instincts tell us that we need to protect them from pain because we love them.  In some cases, that is true, but in many others, we could be short-circuiting their learning and not allowing them to develop the coping/life skills they need.

Last week, my wife and I were waiting to board a plane in San Diego.  While sitting in the terminal, we noticed a fit, young man sitting across from us in the terminal.  He had an Ironman Triathlon bag and fresh racing numbers on his hand and arm.  He also had a service dog with him.  He was clearly an athlete – and he was clearly vision-impaired.  As fate would have it, when we loaded the plane, I had the good fortune to sit next to this young man – Kyle Coon – and he was able to share his story with me while we flew to Denver.

When Kyle was 10 months old, he was diagnosed with bilateral sporadic retinoblastoma, a form of cancer in both eyes.  He underwent multiple treatments, but by the time he was 6 years old, both eyes had to be removed.  Since then, he has excelled in many things.  He was a college wrestler, and an avid skier and an accomplished rock climber.  Currently, he is a resident-athlete at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.  He is a world-class athlete who is training hard, and has a very good chance of representing the United States in the triathlon at the 2020 Para-Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Kyle credits his tenacity, drive, and grit to the way his parents raised him.  He said that their constant encouragement and support were amazing.  The greatest gift they gave him was the will to test his limits and persist!  In a nutshell, they were masters of creating productive struggle for Kyle.  He knows they were tempted to make accommodations for him to make his life easier, and he is thankful that they resisted that temptation.  They supported and encouraged him, and just as importantly, they allowed him to fall and fail along the way so that he could overcome short-term setbacks to become the resilient young man that he is.

This is a lesson that we can all learn as we strive to do what is best for our children and our students.  May we all love them enough to encourage and support them while we let them fall and fail – and eventually get up and succeed!

MOC-Floyd Valley Community School District Elementary Project Update – December 16, 2019

Background

MOC-Floyd Valley is extremely fortunate to be a growing district!  Our certified enrollment increased by 28 students for the 2019-2020 school year.  Over the last nine years, we have grown an average of 18 students per year.  This equates to a little over 100 students every six years.   The increase in enrollment corresponds with the growth in the communities that make up the MOC-Floyd Valley District, and certainly reflect the efforts of our communities to be vibrant and healthy.

We have undergone several improvements in our district facilities over the years, with the most recent improvements coming at the middle school, where we repurposed the lower level and created six new classrooms.  We are fortunate that we expanded in this manner.  When the construction began on the middle school project, Grades 6-8 enrollment totaled 304 students.  During the 2018-19 school year, we had 364 students at the middle school!

We have also been reimagining and repurposing spaces in our other buildings to increase our classroom capacity.  In the past four years, we have transformed five computer labs into actual classrooms that help in accommodating our students and staff.  We are very near capacity in every building and need to be prepared for the future!

In February of 2018, the Board of Education hired Jerry McCall, of Education Consulting Services, to conduct a review of our programs and facilities and assist us in our long-range plans.  Jerry met with staff and community leaders.  He also conducted thorough reviews of all of our facilities.  The results of our programming and facilities study underscore the need for more capacity – especially at our elementary levels.  With this in mind, we have been developing plans for a new single-site elementary school.  We are currently working with the City of Orange City to acquire this (City-owned land) between Orange City and Alton.  A part of this transaction will include the City acquiring our current Orange City Elementary property.

On the new site, we will construct a TK-5 elementary school with adequate playground space, parking, and activity space. We are also planning for a middle school practice track and ball fields that will also be available to the communities.  Finally, the new building will be constructed so that grade-levels are housed in “pods” that increase collaboration and opportunities for students and staff.

Updated Timeline:

  • We have met with representatives from the City of Orange City, the City of Alton, Orange City Area Health System, Northwestern College, Unity Christian and Orange City Christian School.  Each of these entities is planning facilities improvements and we are seeking to create collaborative partnerships wherever possible.
  • The City of Orange City has committed to working with us as we work to purchase approximately 40 acres of City-owned land between Alton and Orange City. Part of our planning includes selling the Orange City Elementary property to the City as equity in the land purchase.
  • This project will likely serve as a catalyst for residential growth for the cities of Alton and Orange City.
  • We have contracted with Piper-Jaffray as our fiscal agent for this project. Their services come in two phases.  The first is to assist us in pre-planning where they will provide us with scenarios and information leading up to a bond referendum.  The second will occur if/when the bond referendum is successful.  At that time, Piper Jaffray will facilitate the bond sales and advise along the way.
  • We have met with representatives from Hospers to consider second-life possibilities for the Hospers Elementary property.  We will continue to explore possibilities.
  • We have collected a second round of input from faculty and staff regarding the new facilities (over fifteen pages of suggestions) that are being used in site/program planning. This level of input and the work generated from it will be extremely beneficial as this project moves forward.
  • Part of the planning process will be to design the TK-5 building and site to allow for future expansion if needed.
  • If the project allows, a small part of will be utilized to create needed expansion of the high school facilities to create additional instructional space and improve the security and student services areas.
  • CMBA Architects out of Sioux City is leading us through the pre-bond planning and preparation. If/When the bond referendum is successful, they will take us through the actual planning and construction project.
  • Our facilities planning team (including Jerry McCall & the CMBA team) has continued joint planning with the Cities of Alton and Orange City to figure out the most beneficial site mix for the purposes of the TK-5 School building and grounds, residential property, and recreational amenities.
  • We have worked with Bryan Wells of DGR to determine the best use of the site and have developed a tentative conceptual site plan.
  • School Board members and a staff team visited several new elementary buildings in Minneapolis in October, to gather ideas.
  • We have assembled a small group of community members to help plan and assist in getting the message out prior to our March 3, 2020, bond referendum.
  • We have contracted with W.A. Klinger to serve as our Construction Management team.
  • We will be acquiring signatures for the bond petition prior to January 13, 2020.
  • We will work with our community team to communicate inform the public regarding the project throughout January and February 2020.
  • The bond referendum will be held on March 3, 2020.
  • Immediately following a successful vote, detailed site and building plans will be developed. Ideally, site work will begin in the Fall of 2020.
  • Our plan is to occupy the new school building by August of 2023 at the very latest. We will work for a faster timeline if possible.

Seizing the Opportunity . . .

There is no doubt that this football season has been a trying one for our players, coaches and fans.  When the outcome of the game doesn’t match our hopes, there is always a bit of disappointment.  When faced with the disappointment, however, we need to remember the old adage – “it isn’t the destination, it’s the journey!”

The gentlemen guiding our football program are hard-working, respectful, positive people who pour their hearts into preparing our young men.  I know they care about each player, and they consistently teach, encourage, support and build.  They demonstrate humility, hard work and commitment.  I am proud of and thankful for them!

We as parents and grandparents always want what is best for our children.  How we help them handle adversity and grow is one of our greatest challenges – and opportunities!  Whether it is football, volleyball, cross country, or any other activity, the reality is the same.  With that in mind, I offer the following editorial from Karissa Niehoff, the executive director of the National Federation of High Schools; and Tom Keating, the executive director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association, taken from the 2019 IHSAA Fall Bulletin:

Inappropriate adult behaviors at high school athletic events across the country have reached epidemic proportion. 

When more than 2,000 high school athletic directors were asked in a recent national survey what they like least about their job, 62.3 percent said it was, “dealing with aggressive parents and adult fans.” 

And the men and women who referee or umpire those contests agree.  In fact, almost 60% of new officials registered in Iowa in 2016-17 did not return to officiate in 2017-18, and unruly parents are often cited as a major reason why.  As a result, there is a growing shortage of high school officials here in Iowa, and in baseball, football, track and field, and wrestling, the IHSAA is seeing record lows.  No officials means no games. 

If you are a parent attending a high school athletic event this fall, you can help by following these six guidelines:

  • Act your age. You are, after all, an adult.  Act in a way that makes your family and school proud.
  • Don’t live vicariously through your children. High school sports are for them, not you.  Your family’s reputation is not determined by how well your children perform on the field of play. 
  • Let your children talk to the coach instead of doing it for them. High school athletes learn how to become more confident, independent and capable – but only when their parents don’t jump in and solve their problems for them. 
  • Stay in your own lane. No coaching or officiating from the sidelines.  Your role is to be a responsible, supportive parent, not a coach or official.
  • Remember: Participating in a high school sport is not about a college scholarship.  According to the NCAA, only about 2% of all high school athletes are awarded a sports scholarship, and the average total value of that scholarship is only around $18,000. 
  • Make sure your children know you love watching them play. Do not critique your child’s performance on the car ride home.  Participating in high school sports is about character development, learning and having fun – not winning and losing. 

Purchasing a ticket to a high school sporting event does not give you the right to be rude, disrespectful, or verbally abusive.  Cheer loud and be proud, but please also be responsible and considerate as a spectator.

The future of high school sports in Iowa is dependent on you.

While I may not have been as pointed in my words, I definitely believe we, as adults, have a great opportunity to help our young people learn and grow through their activities and their experiences.  How we encourage and support, how we express our thoughts, and how we help our young people process their thoughts and feelings makes a huge difference for these young people moving forward.

Thank you in advance for partnering in a positive, proactive manner moving forward.

Supporting Our Students – Together . . .

Below are two of this year’s MOC-Floyd Valley District Foci:

  • Social & Emotional Well-Being to Support Learning
    • We will strive to address the social and emotional needs of students and staff so that everyone feels a sense of belonging at MOC-FV, and is able to learn and grow in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Communication to Support Learning
    • We will communicate with parents and others in a mission-focused, positive, productive manner.

In an effort to address these foci and better serve our students and their families, we recently invited two speakers to share with parents and community members.  On Tuesday, September 17, Jeff Herzberg, Chief Administrator at Prairie Lakes AEA, Superintendent at Gilmore City-Bradgate, and strong advocate around mental health, shared an important message with MOC-Floyd Valley parents.  Mr. Herzberg’s message centered around helping parents navigate the challenging waters of trauma and mental health.   He shared research around the impact of trauma, truths about mental health, strategies for self-care and resources for parents.

The following evening, Wednesday, September 18, Mike Donahue, co-founder of Value Up, shared another important message with parents.  According to Mr. Donahue, parents try to understand the pressures our kids face, but struggle to relate because they did not grow up in the digital age. Students have a hard time “shutting down” and the drama that occurs at 11:00 in the morning may follow them until they go to bed at night. Mr. Donahue notes that one of best ways we can help our children is by listening to them, not lecturing, and patiently working to get to their deeper feelings.  Mr. Donahue’s closing message was, “Love your kids when they are home. Make sure it is a place where they feel safe, feel loved, and can decompress from the stresses of life.”

Prior to meeting with parents, Mr. Donahue spent the day working with MOC-Floyd Valley Middle and High School students.  First, he shared a message with all of our 6-8 students, followed by all of our 9-12 students.  During the assemblies he emphasized “walking a mile” in someone else’s shoes and understanding that every person has value. He states, “When students understand their innate value and the innate value of others, they are more likely to thrive.”  The message touched on topics of value, respect, and building a school culture that promotes positive and respectful interactions.  In addition to the assembly programs, Mike led a leadership seminar with 75 students from the high school and middle school. The focus of this leadership seminar was to equip students with ways that they can serve as positive leaders in the school and promote the positive and respectful school culture that they want.

Both speakers agreed to let us record their presentations and make them available to parents and community members who were unable to attend.  We will be making these available on the MOC-Floyd Valley School District website in the very near future.

Welcome back!

I am writing this message on the morning of the first day of school. What a joy to live a life where I have had 52 great first days of school – and I’m looking forward to even more. The first day is special because we are at our peak of hope! We can all look ahead with a sense of optimism that we can be our best selves, and live into our best lives.

That is our pledge at MOC-Floyd Valley. We will do our very best to see and treat all of our students as their best selves. We will challenge them, support them, stretch them, and encourage them. We will do our best to live up to the three quotes I referenced in my first visit with staff this year.

1) We will “be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Mahatma Ghandi)

  • We wish for a positive, growth-focused, challenging, nurturing MOC-Floyd Valley.

2) We will “never, never, never give up!” (Winston Churchill)

  • We will do whatever it takes to fulfill our mission and foster excellence, learning, and civic responsibility.

3) We are “all for one and one for all.” (The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas)

  • We are all in this together and having a mindset where we rely on, challenge and support each other increases the chances of everyone reaching their            potential – and enjoying meaningful relationships along the way.

As we map out the year, our foci are very similar to years past – and very much on target.   They are:

Learning
We stretch and learn through relevant, important activities, productive struggle, and appropriate levels of support.

Climate & Culture to Support Learning
We will cultivate and nurture a positive culture and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Social & Emotional Well-Being to Support Learning
We will strive to address the social and emotional needs of students and staff so that everyone feels a sense of belonging at MOC-FV, and is able to learn and grow in a safe, supportive environment.

Safety to Support Learning
We will insure that our facilities and processes optimize the safety of students, staff, and visitors at all times.

Technology to Support Learning
We will utilize technology to deepen learning, increase connection with the world, and prepare our students for a future saturated with technology.

Communication to Support Learning
We will communicate with parents and others in a mission-focused, positive, productive manner.

Facilities & Resources to Support Learning
We will develop and maintain our facilities and resources with an emphasis on positively impacting student learning.

I am extremely confident that as we work together, stretch and learn, and strive to meet the needs of every individual, our students will have a remarkable school year and receive an outstanding education. I look forward to the journey ahead, and I am thankful to be making it with the students, families and educators of MOC-Floyd Valley!

With Gratitude and Respect,

Russ Adams, Superintendent

 

 

Looking Ahead . . .

MOC-Floyd Valley is extremely fortunate to be a growing district.  Our certified enrollment increased by 22 students since last year.  Over the last nine years, we have grown an average of 17 students.  This equates to a little over 100 students every six years.   The increase in enrollment corresponds with the growth in the communities that make up the MOC-Floyd Valley District, and certainly reflect the efforts of our communities to be vibrant and healthy.

We have undergone several improvements in our district facilities over the years, with the most recent improvements coming at the middle school, where we repurposed the lower level and created six new classrooms.  We have been reimagining and repurposing spaces in our other buildings to increase our classroom capacity as well.  In the past four years, we have transformed five computer labs into actual classrooms that help in accommodating our students and staff. 

Last February, the Board of Education hired Jerry McCall, of Education Consulting Services, to conduct a review of our programs and facilities and assist us in our long-range plans.  Jerry has met with staff and community leaders as well as done thorough reviews of all of our facilities.

The result of our programming and facilities study underscore the need for more capacity at our elementary levels.  With this in mind, we are exploring the possibility of new construction somewhere between Orange City and Alton.  In addition, we will need to consider improvements/expansion to our middle and high school buildings and our transportation facilities. 

We have received appraisals for the elementary buildings and are exploring second-life possibilities for both.  In addition, we have met with City officials to determine where possible partnerships might exist to share in facilities and costs.  We believe this coordination of efforts and resources will better serve everyone and should contribute to the continued growth and quality of life in the area.

Our next steps include hiring a fiscal agent to assist in developing a financing plan and then engaging an architectural/engineering firm to create specific project plans.  The Board of Education will be interviewing professional teams for both of these endeavors and will work closely with community leaders moving forward. 

Technology – The Good and the Bad . . .

This weekend, I was reviewing our progress on our District foci, goals and indicators.  One of our identified areas of focus is technology.  At MOC-Floyd Valley, we utilize technology to deepen learning, increase connection with the world, and prepare our students for a future saturated with technology.

Thanks to the commitment of resources by our School Board, the technical expertise and leadership of our technology team (Sandy Groom-Meeks, Ryan Noteboom, Aaron Norman, Jack Bonnecroy, and Joel Bundt), and the wisdom and professional judgement of our teachers and para-educators, technology is an extremely valuable tool in the teaching and learning process.   Technology allows for personalization.  We are better able to monitor learning and adjust instruction than ever before.  Information is literally at our fingertips.  We are empowering our students to interact with the world, create, learn and grow.  We are helping them develop the skill of efficiently sifting through vast amounts of information to access and utilize that which is relevant and important.

While we clearly see the value of technology as a tool for learning, we also see how technology can be detrimental.  Our students – all of us – are becoming less authentically engaged.   The filters and follow-through that are a natural part of face-to-face communication are lost when our main mode of interaction is via devices.  We are becoming anxious, confused, isolated, and anti-social.  This is wreaking havoc on our mental health and has real consequences for our children.

I encourage you to watch this 60 Minutes segment entitled Brain Hacking, which aired in April of 2017.  Finally, thanks to Amber Leusink’s leadership and the generosity of some local sponsors, you are invited to a “Parent’s Awareness Night” at Christ Chapel on March 28, at 6:30 p.m.  Collin Kartchner of #SAVETHEKIDS will be sharing a message and giving insight into how we can help our children.  In addition to the Thursday night event, Mr. Kartchner will be sharing his message to area youth group students on Wednesday night, March 27, My Choice students on Thursday morning, March 28, and middle school and high school students on Thursday afternoon, March 28.  Here is a short preview clip about the event.