Monday, February 29, 2016

50th Anniversary Year of Benton Community Schools

2015-16 marks the 50th anniversary of the Benton Community School District. Benton Community School District became effective on July 1, 1964.  During that first school year, each of the former districts operated as separate K-12 attendance centers. During the 64-65 school year, the Board approved the centralization of grades 10-12 and the first joint graduating class was in 1966.  During our 50 years in existence, there have been some great people connected to our system.

In my next few blog posts, I'm going to highlight a few of my Benton Heros.  
Tim Sanderson 
(photo compliments of the Iowa High School Track website)

I've know Tim Sanderson a long time.  Over 40 years.  He was the elementary principal at Keystone Elementary when I was a student at Blairstown Elementary.  Being in such a geographically large district, we were able to have friends all across the lower half of Benton County, so even though Tim was never my building principal as a student, I knew him and saw him in our school quite often.

I also had great friends at Keystone Elementary and went to some "slumber parties" in Keystone.  I distinctly remember a few times where Mr. Sanderson encouraged us to leave the school grounds with our skateboards in the wee hours of the morning during some of these sleep overs:)

Fast forward to the early 90's and Tim pulling into our driveway.  I happened to be playing outside with our three kids on a lovely day.  
He stopped by to say to me, "Come and be my school counselor."  Long story short, I did.  

Tim supported me through the hoops and over the hurdles of becoming a school counselor in the state of Iowa and believe me there were many!  I worked with him for three years until a full-time position in school counseling became available in our MS/HS building.  Tim always challenged and supported me to develop programs that met the needs of the students and staff within his building and our district.  As I moved into an administrative position within the district, Tim continued to challenge our team with his passion and sense of doing what was right.

Tim's impact in education has gone way beyond the building and district level.  Tim was recently inducted into the Iowa Association of Track Coaches Hall of Fame.  One of my favorite track memories with Tim came when our oldest daughter, Katie, was a freshman in high school and he was the starter for the meet.    As one of her relay races was in progress she was being "social" talking to some friends.  Tim calmly walked over to her when the 3rd leg hit the 200 mark and asked her, "Katie, aren't you anchoring this race?"  She looked at him and stripped off her sweats, found her place on the track and finished the race, all with a smile on her face.  

That's one of the things Tim does best, he makes sure people are in the right place at the right time.  I often wonder what might of happened in my professional life had Tim not pulled into our driveway on that day.  I know that I am better because he chose to reach out to me and trusted me enough to guide me in my path of education -- both as a student and a co-worker.

When I contacted Tim to let him know that I was writing about him, he responded, "I have nothing but great memories of good old Benton.  I always look forward to going to work there.  The students, parents and staff were always very supportive of me.  Take care and I will see you at the track meets."

Thanks Tim.  Your influence on my life has been tremendous and I appreciate your investment in me and more importantly, our school district.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

What's on my mind this third week in February?  Wrestling.  

I think of how hard the young people and coaches competing in Des Moines this weekend have worked to get to this point, but I also think of those who worked hard and didn't get there, yet

When I think of wrestling I think of my brother Brad


and brother-in-law Bob and how Dan Gable has impacted them as wrestlers and people, as well as what others think of Iowans, not only the sport of wrestling.   Gable's quote below summarizes some of what I love about living in Iowa.


Help.  That's what we do so well in Iowa.  Help and support one another to get better today than we were yesterday.  Thanks so much for all you do to help the students in your classrooms, buildings, clubs and activities:)

Todd and I attended this event on Tuesday hosted by Emily Upah of the BCDG.  We heard one of the presenters say, "California is warm with cold people and Iowa is cold with warm people."  So true!  Thanks for opening up your warm hearts to help those whom you come in contact with on a daily basis.

TLC Plan Change
  • Based on conversations and feedback with staff and administration, we have asked the state to change our TLC plan from having Model Teachers (MT) to having Data Team Leaders as part of our #BCTLT.  Our district's focus on using data to inform instruction and instructional practices is the main driver for this change.  
  • Currently, we have 17 MT's and want increase this number to 24 to be able to serve and support grade/content level teams in a more systematic way.  Our plan is to train the staff members who will occupy these positions in the "Data Team Process" starting this summer.  This training will be organized by our GWAEA support staff and District personnel.
  • As we worked through this change process, we involved the following in determining this proposed change:
    • Conversations and surveys with current staff and administration to review if the current job description and direction of the MT position was meeting our district needs -- consensus was that is was not.
    • We contacted surrounding districts on their current practices and job description.
    • We coordinated our efforts with GWAEA to facilitate proposed changes and develop a potential training plan.
    • We shared our concerns and solutions with our Benton Teacher Leadership Team and staff.  
    • We shared our concerns and solutions with our Benton Communications Team (our district advisory committee which is made up of staff, parents, students, board and community members). 
    • We shared our concerns and solutions with our Benton Board of Directors.  
  • Here is the link to the job description that was approved by the state.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

K.I.C.K. Summer Camps

It's February 15 and I live in Iowa.  Recently, I think Iowa is cold, snowy and ugly.  But, I am hearing about temperatures being in the 50's by the end of this week and immediately I start thinking summer!  We've had a pretty decent winter, but most of us who live here year round start to yearn for the days of being able to go outside and stay outside without our noses running, fingers numbing and wind whipping so high we have a hard time standing still.  

Ballgames, kayaking, bike riding, swimming, mowing, gardening, and lemonade are all things that flash into my mind when I hear more than one meteorologist tell us the temps are going to be warming and the snow may be leaving us soon!  

I know, Joe Winters, of KCRG loves winter and Benton Community was very lucky this past weekend when he came to visit us at TOC, our annual show choir competition, that the weather was cold enough people could park on our campus anywhere and not get stuck due to mud.  But, my preference is warmer weather than the single digits -- preferably temperatures above my age.  A significant amount above my age:)  

If you were to ask me about 15-20 years ago what I was thinking about in February when the temperatures started to rise, my list might of been different  than what I just typed.  My thoughts might of wandered to asking my husband, "What are we going to do with our kids to fill up their time this summer since we both work?"

Thank goodness Kirkwood Community College might have some answers to this question for children age 9-15.

According to their website Kirkwood Community College has a great option for parents and children.  Kirkwood Interactive Camps for Kids are exciting and educational summer camps for youth ages 9-15. Each KICK camps is designed around career exploration, and providing fun, hands-on activities that promise to develop and build key skills for future success. No matter what career field a child would want to explore, KICK camps are sure to be an unforgettable adventure full of inspiring accomplishments and new friends!  

Some of the programming options are:  photography, science, math, music, crafts, computer technology, robotics, horticulture -- just to name a few.

If you are thinking you might not be able to afford this type of experience for your child -- check this out:  

Every young life deserves to be enriched by the Kirkwood Interactive Camps for Kids experience. Using eligibility for the federal free school lunch program as qualification, Kirkwood Community College is committing tuition assistance scholarships on a first-come, first-served basis for participation in the KICK summer program.  To apply for tuition assistance, fill out this form or call 319-398-5529 for a KICK scholarship application.

Check out this link for more information and get your sunscreen ready -- summer will be here before we know it!

Valentine's for Keystone Care Facility

My mother's favorite holiday is Valentine's Day.  She refers to it as "Love Day".  She doesn't have to cook for all of us or buy presents.  What's not to love about this day!  She still has a plastic set of flowers my dad gave her over 50 years ago.  She took them with her down south this winter and loves to have people ask about them so she can share her story of dad giving her those flowers over 50 years ago.  

We were raised with the mindset of sharing -- no matter what.  I've written before about my large family with the age spread from the oldest child to the youngest child being twenty-three years.  During one meal at our dinner table, number eight child Brad told my oldest brother Jeff, "We share around here, but you've got to be fast!"  Maybe things like this have shaped my thinking?

Sharing our time and talents with others is also a focus of Bobcat Time at Benton Community MS/HS.  Emily O'Connell, one of our MS/HS teachers, helped organize Valentine's Day card making event for residents of the Keystone Care Facility.  

In planning for this event Emily stated, "I organized making Valentine's Day cards for Bobcat Time because giving back to the community is important to me, and I wanted show kids there are simple ways to be kind using talents they already obtain."

A big thank you to Emily and her students for helping make the residents at Keystone Care Facility “Love Day” a little brighter.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Benton County Laborshed Analysis shared by the Iowa Workforce Development

Recently, the Benton County Development Group hosted a meeting where information about the workforce characteristics with Benton County, Iowa were shared.  

According to Iowa Workforce Development, "The purpose of a laborshed analysis is to measure the availability and characteristics of workers within the area based on community patterns into the county.  The laborshed data gathered will aid local development officials in their facilitation of industry expansion and recruitment and their services to existing industry in the area.  All such entities require detailed data describing the characteristics of the available labor force including current/desired wage rates and benefits; job qualifications and skills,; age cohorts; residence/work location; employment requirements/obstacles; and the distances individuals are willing to travel for employment." 

What I found very striking was the slide which represented information on those people, within my own backdoor of Benton County, who are unemployed and have not completed a degree or certification program.   These types of situations account for almost 70% of those who were surveyed.  

So, what does this information teach me and what do I want to share with those of you reading this blog post?  FINISH.  FINISH.  FINISH. 

No matter where you start...FINISH.  No matter how difficult it can be...FINISH.  No matter what...FINISH.   

If you need help navigating the decisions, reach out to those agencies/institutions that can help you frame your thinking and then FINISH!

If you have children, siblings, spouses, neighbors, nieces, nephews, friends, co-workers, uncles, aunts, grandparents or current students,  encourage them to explore options and then enroll in the option which fits them best and, then as people who care about them, keep encouraging them to FINISH!  

Many of us end up in careers that have nothing to do with what we were trained in initially.  Help make yourself marketable and attractive to employers by FINISHING!  If you need to adjustments -- adjust and then FINISH!

What matters is the investment you are making in yourself by FINISHING what you start!  

Now, I'm FINISHED writing in this post.