Iowans for Great Public Schools

This upcoming Tuesday evening, January 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the school board room, parents of the Iowans for Public Education will headline the Clinton PTA meeting agenda.  Their mission is below:

Iowans for Public Education is a grassroots movement to protect Iowa’s tradition of quality public schools. We plan to achieve this by—

• Defending against legislation that poses a threat to public education in Iowa
• Educating Iowans and their political leaders about issues affecting public education
• Providing tools, resources, and support for community action on these issues

Defending and supporting public education is a nonpartisan mission, as a strong public school system benefits us all. We welcome people from across the political spectrum who value Iowa’s rich tradition of high quality public schools, and we will embrace political leaders from any party who support our mission.

Please consider attending this meeting.  These parents are passionate about supporting our kids!

To join the closed discussion group, visit


School Starting Times, Transitional Kindergarten

There has been much discussion in our school district, community, state, and nation about the recommendation by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to have middle school and high school students start school no earlier than 8:30 A.M. The research on the sleep requirements for teenagers included discussion on the readiness of elementary students to learn earlier in the day.

Although the perfect school schedule does not exist, I do feel that the overall consensus in these conversations is to move our elementary school starting times earlier and move the secondary school starting time close to the recommended time of 8:30 A.M.  The district will need to work with the transportation department to finalize these times later this spring.

Also, the Clinton Community School District is discussing adding “transitional kindergarten” as a service to students and parents.  The following are two factors that support “transitional kindergarten”:

  • The age difference between a “young” and an “old” five-year old’s life experiences is about 16%, greater than in any other time in K-12 education.
  • The kindergarten curriculum that we experienced has now been pushed down to the four-year old’s preschool experience.  Today’s kindergarten classroom is much more academic, increasing the importance of readiness to learn.

I want every student on the first day of first grade to be at grade level or above, ready to learn with success.  “Transitional kindergarten” students will be taught the same kindergarten curriculum without the pressure of being proficient in all the standards.  However, if a student in transitional kindergarten blooms during the year, and is meeting or exceeding benchmarks, they will be recommended for first grade based on academic indicators.  Those transitional kindergarten students that are not at benchmark at the end of the year would enter kindergarten the next year as leaders in their class.

We will inform you more about these two changes as we plan for the next school year.

2018 Iowa Legislative Session

The 2018 state legislative session is upon us.  We have several opportunities this year to advocate for legislation that will support public education as a backbone of our future workforce in the state of Iowa.  However, it is critical to make sure our legislators are listening to our concerns.

This will be a tight budget year for the state.  However, the legislature and governor have the opportunity to support education without taking additional resources from the FY2019 budget. In the next several weeks, I will provide points to support public education in Clinton and across the state.  Your voice is more powerful than mine.  Legislators view superintendents as part of the education lobby, but your voice is viewed as a parent, taxpayer, and voter.

I blogged on Iowans for Public Education earlier this year.  Iowans for Public Education is a group of parents and community members that are being proactive on legislation affecting public schools.  You can find information on their facebook page at

The following is the list of House members on the Education Committee:

The following are the members of the Senate Education Committee:

Please become active and part of the solution to enhance and support the Clinton Community School District.  Issues and points to support your opinions will be provided in future blog posts.

An Argument to Balance Recognitions

I had the pleasure of having a discussion with a community member about a month ago about the recognition of the accomplishments of our school by both students and staff.  This person talked about the recently developed Clinton High School Athletic Hall of Fame, and the amazing players, coaches, and administrators that have been appropriately recognized.

The discussion moved to other areas, such as academic achievement, lifetime achievement, community service, and providing today’s students with alumni role models that have gone above and beyond.  Clinton High School has had many graduates that have served our country, including some that have made the ultimate sacrifice.  We have had graduates that had prominent roles in the nation’s health and medical careers.  We have graduates that excelled in the professional fine arts.  We have alumni that have served in government, working to make a difference in people’s lives.  This list could go on and on.

Should the Clinton Community School District develop a recognition program, highlighting areas in addition to athletics?  The answer to this question comes down to our values as an academic institution.   I look forward to these discussions and the possible implementation of a recognition program that values academic and lifetime accomplishments.




Best Time Schedules for Kids

At the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) meeting this past month, part of our discussion was about best practice for school starting times.  This conversation started with some of my elementary PLC visits where teachers feel that our district is missing key instructional time with our elementary students by starting at 8:40 am.  These PLCs would like to start the classroom activities between 7:50-8:00.

There is research that supports that teenagers should start school later in the morning.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to give students the opportunity to get the amount of sleep they need.  The reasons are rooted in biology.  As children approach and go through puberty, their brains begin producing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin on a delayed schedule, making it difficult for them to feel tired before 11 p.m.   It is recommended that teenagers get between 8-10 hours of sleep.

During the SIAC meeting, parents of the committee mentioned other advantages of flipping the elementary and secondary starting times.  Elementary parents that begin work at 8:00 will have easier drop-off and supervision issues of their children in the morning.  Also, families where an older sibling is a high school student, the older child can drop off elementary age brothers and sisters since the high school schedule would start later than the elementary.

I have asked SIAC members to discuss this with their neighbors and co-workers and report back at our December 4 meeting.   The members of the SIAC committee are Arica Arensdorf, Jorge Parra, Brian Kenney, Candace Seitz, Dan Boyd, Dana Albaghdadi, Deb Duhr, Diane Honeywell, Janet Sager, Jason Wheat, Jeff Atkinson, Jocelyn Meyer, Josh Bolen, JR Kuch, Jurgen Duhr, Keegan Cassidy, Kristi Cooley, Laurie Reafsnider, Megan Comstock, Michele Terrock, Phillip Swanson, Rae Feddersen, Reginald Hall, Rhett Weis, Ryan Kent, Shawna Kent, Steven Lewis, Theresa Schultz, Wilson Amely, Wes Golden, and Gary DeLacy.  Please feel free to provide your input to any of these members.

Ultimately as we have these discussions, we have a fundamental question to ask.  What time schedule best supports kids?

The Need for Substitutes

The Clinton Community School District has been experiencing a major shortage of para-educator substitutes in the district.  Even though we are only seven weeks into the school year, the district is experiencing 40% of para-educator absences are not being filled.  Obviously this has an impact on students.

Effective immediately, the Clinton Community School District will have the following requirements for para-educator substitutes:  high school diploma or equivalent, pass a background check, and successfully pass the hiring process.  The district is looking for high quality people that a personal schedule that reflects the school schedule is desirable, they want flexibility of working from day to day, and are compassionate with students.

I would also like to remind people of the opportunity to earn a substitute authorization certificate for substitute teaching.  The requirements are that you have earned a bachelor’s degree of any kind or a para-educator certificate.  The second requirement is to take some educational training courses through the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency or Eastern Iowa Community College in areas of classroom management, learning strategies, ethics, and diversity.  The substitute authorization allows you to substitute as a teacher with some restrictions to the time spent in one classroom.

If you have any interest in working with kids and working on a team, please notify our human resource team at 243-0463.

Officiating Crisis

One of my responsibilities to the Clinton Community School District is to participate on the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA)’s council.  This organization supports the boys’ athletic programs across the state of Iowa.  The representative council gives input to the IHSAA on policy issues.  For example, two years ago, the representative council gave input on the state playoff schedule based on player safety.

At the September 27 meeting this year, a presentation was made on the growing concern about the shortage of officials across the state.  An even larger concern was data presented to the representative council on retention of new officials.  In 2013, the number of new officials that registered with the IHSAA was 970.  After three years, in 2016, only 328 of those 970 new officials were still registered to officiate, a 33.8% retention rate.

This leads to the question, “Why have so many left officiating?”  Obviously there are many reasons, but here are some common theories that the IHSAA has collected:

  • The shortage of officials overall has pushed young officials into varsity events sooner than ever.  The young official is not ready for the intensity of a varsity event.
  • The younger generation does not value the profession of officiating as did past generations.
  • The increasing number of “club”, AAU, and other organizations are utilizing young officials for their events.  Many times these experiences are less structured than school contests and the young official experiences negativity and decides it is not worth it.

What is the IHSAA doing to promote attracting and retaining officials?  The organization is sponsoring an AddOne Campaign, in which athletic directors are asked to identify at least one student from high school or college that has the potential to be an official.  The IHSAA is also sponsoring a Wrestling Mentoring Program, a first attempt to provide a mentoring program for newer officials.

I believe everyone involved in high school athletics has a responsibility to promote these positive opportunities for our students.  If you are aware of a student that has the potential to be a future official, please notify our activities director, Justin Remington.  Also, I believe all of us need to model sportsmanship and respect for the tough job that officials have.  Improving the environment while young officials develop their skills will help Iowa attract and retain them.