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.


Iowans for Public Education

In response to the direction of the state legislative agenda in the past few years, a group of parents in central Iowa created Iowans for Public Education.  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.

To join the closed discussion group, visit

In subsequent weeks, I will be discussing the upcoming legislative session that may have major impacts for public education.  I suggest checking out their facebook page and starting a Clinton County chapter.  I have spoken to this organization and they realize we need strong advocates for public education in all 99 counties and 333 public school districts across the state.

Attendance and Work Ethic

When I taught at Clinton High School  in the past, I always told my students they needed to do two things to be successful in my classroom:  attend regularly and always try their best.  I would then ask them who controlled their attendance record and who controlled their best effort —and the answer was that they did!  I wanted students to know they were in total control of their success.

I also believe attendance and work ethic are critical skills in the workplace.  In conversations with employers, I have been told a primary reason for an employee to lose a job is poor attendance.  Attendance in the workplace is important.  For students, school is their workplace.   I believe attendance is a habit or skill that is learned.  Therefore, it is really important that parents, teachers, and administrators work together so student attendance becomes a high priority.  The reality is that a student with poor attendance habits becomes an unemployable adult if he or she keeps those same habits.

Instilling a work ethic in our children is another important workplace skill, especially when learning becomes difficult.  I believe it is important to teach and expect grit in our students.  Grit is perseverance.  Grit is not quitting.  Grit is character.

Today’s workforce demands more than the traditional  3 R’s, reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Parents and school personnel need to work together to develop the employment skills of attendance and work ethic in our current students to assure their future success in the workplace.

Core Values

As we begin the school year, I’d like to share some of my core educational beliefs with you.  I introduced these values during the opening day session with all the staff.

I have one expectation for students–RESPECT.  This is an acronym for the following:

Responsibility:  for personal actions and proper language

Effort:  give 100% and show grit when challenged

Sportsmanship:  represent you team and school in a positive light

Pride:  proud of the traditions of the school district

Excellence:  strive and push yourself in all facets of school

Courtesy:  address adults with Mr., Mrs., Miss, Coach, etc

Teamwork:  collaborate with others to be successful

My one expectation of school personnel is PROFESSIONALISM.  My definition of professionalism is to model RESPECT for our students.  I believe if the staff is professional in developing healthy respectful relationships with students, we will have a very successful school year.

Teaching core values is a partnership between school and parents.  Reinforcing the lessons of RESPECT at home will be very beneficial as we shape our future generation.  Working TOGETHER we can make a difference everyday!



“What is Best for Kids?”

As the calendar flips to the month of August, most of our mindsets are strongly shifting to the start of school.  And given this timeline, I’d like to share some of my educational core values that I use to make decisions.

One of my major criteria to make a decision is based on “what is best for kids”.  One example is the decisions based on parent requests for a particular elementary school.  Given four elementary buildings, there are some differences in class sizes.  My goal is to keep class sizes as low and even across the district as possible.  Therefore as the district considers a parent request, class sizes will be primary factor considered.  I believe that  if class size is 5,6, or even 7 students higher in one building as compared to another in the district, it affects the success of each student and the teacher.  Keeping class sizes as low as possible is “what is best for all kids”.  Therefore if a parent request helps lower class size across the buildings, it will be honored.  If a parent request happens to increase class size compared to other classrooms in the district, we will notify you that we will not be able to grant the request.  The lowest class size that the district can offer given the financial constraints set by the state is what is best for kids.

This is only one example.  As we make decisions about  resources, textbooks, staffing, procedures, policy, and other educational options, the criteria of what is best for kids should always outweigh the wants of adults.  As a school district working directly with you, we need to keep these priorities straight.

By working together and keeping in mind what is best for kids, we will be off to a great start to the school year!