Superintendent’s Message – December 2018
Earlier this month, the state of Pennsylvania released the Future Ready Index https://futurereadypa.org/, which is the state’s new school accountability system. This index provides the public with a snapshot of each school district and profiles for their respective schools in the state.
Each school profile contains information about the school’s student performance on state assessments – in grades 3-8 the Pennsylvania State School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystones at the high school level. In each area, the profile indicates the school’s performance in relation to the state average and a targeted improvement score. Looking deeper into each score, the performance of subgroups of students and how they are performing over time is provided.
In addition to test scores, information on student attendance, graduation rates, and student completion of career education benchmarks is available. In the high school profile, the indicators also include information about course rigor and student activities following graduation – postsecondary, attendance, military or workforce.
We hope that you will review the information in the Future Ready Index. We expect that the information about our schools’ performance and the challenges each is facing will help improve our schools. With this awareness, we can work towards improvement.
Overall, Shippensburg Area School District sees evidence of strengths in our high school students’ performance in all areas. In the earlier grades, math scores exceed state averages and language arts/reading show that our students are not performing as well on the tests as their statewide peers. We see these results as offering the opportunity to calibrate our performance relative to other schools while we look for how we can continually improve.
In this holiday season, we are grateful for our community’s support of our students’ education. Our educational community benefits from our parents encouraging high levels of student attendance and helping motivate our students to challenge themselves in all their endeavors. As we enter the final days in 2018, let’s celebrate our successes and look to 2019 for new improvements.
Yours in education,
Jerry Wilson, PhD
Superintendent’s Message – October 30, 2018
Recent national events have placed images of hateful violence and bigotry at the forefront of the daily news. As a nation, we mourn the victims of hate crimes, ethnic intimidation and violence. In times when hate speech leads to horrific crimes, we must help our children understand that our democracy depends upon civil discourse and the rights of all our citizens are paramount.
Common acts of kindness occur daily in our schools. Our teachers, principals and staff continually find ways to recognize the positive behavior of our students. Last week I visited our elementary schools’ assemblies where they recognized different virtues: kindness, safety, respect, healthy living and energy efficiency; themes our children were being taught in meaningful ways.
Friday night at the LBJ game at Big Spring, we watched players from each team stand together as an expression of unity in the face of tragedy. Our coaches collaboratively determined that while we are rivals, we needed to emphasize togetherness in an atmosphere where rivalry does not overtake sportsmanship and to express support when mourning a classmate.
We are privileged to be granted the opportunity to educate our future – our students. I want to express gratitude to our teachers, staff, parents, and community who find it in their hearts to help our young people understand civility, kindness, and love are essential virtues. We are all better when we put aside our differences and focus on what unites us rather than being consumed by our divisions.
Jerry Wilson, PhD
Superintendent’s Message – October 2018
Summer weather is lingering this October, providing warmer than average temperatures. Following the first few weeks of school, our teachers and students are deep into the first quarter of the school year. In classes where learning diagnostic assessments are collected, these results are being used instructionally. In all classes, instruction is progressing as teachers identify how students will be meeting learning targets and students are demonstrating mastery of their learning objectives.
School security is a focus for all our administrators. We have asked one of our staff with a strong background in emergency management to provide coordination across the district. As our Chief of School Security, David Lindenmuth is reviewing and updating our existing school security practices and supporting our team through updated training protocols. Each of our schools will be conducting safety and security training this fall.
One of the additions to our web page is a collection of tweets. I write these to inform the public of what is occurring in the school system. When I observe something noteworthy, I use Twitter to let our school community know about it. When possible, I capture a photo and attach it to make it more understandable. We hope that these brief messages help our school community see some of the more notable activities taking place in your school district.
Yours in education,
Jerry Wilson, PhD
With school beginning two weeks before Labor Day, September has arrived and with fall starting, we are settling into the school year. At SASD, we are off to a great start! Our roofing projects are complete and we anticipate some energy savings along with weather tight roofs. Our middle school has implemented its new schedule so that students have an additional language arts class, more time for enrichment and support with their work, and teachers can collaborate to plan classes. A great deal of planning and effort by the staff has gone into working through these changes.
At the August 27 Board meeting, the Board approved “Flagship Proud”, an initiative to improve SASHS entrances, auditorium and to build a multipurpose stadium with a turf field on the campus. We are excited to begin planning with the school community around how to support these improvements to the district Flagship, our high school.
School safety continues to be on all our minds. Last year, the school district conducted an active shooter exercise in coordination with local Emergency Management Services. This year, continuing our focus on safe schools, we will be conducting Violent Intruder Training adapted for each school site. With attention to an overall strategy of Crisis Response, schools will provide staff with an integrated approach to school safety. Combined with threat assessment training, our schools will continue preparedness to manage emergencies. Controlling access into our schools, having defined safety plans, and being focused on supporting all our students’ needs, will help us be prepared.
Most important and fundamental to all our success is Expecting Excellence, Building Character and Developing Relationships. We encourage our staff to develop positive relations so students are recognized as contributing members of their school. Ultimately, it is all of our responsibility to keep our schools safe and a great place for our students to learn.
Best wishes for a great school year!
Jerry Wilson, PhD
With the 2018-19 school year beginning this week, I am thrilled to welcome our staff, students and parents to a new SASD school year. As we begin to put our summers into the past and look forward to the excitement of meeting new teachers and students, we have teachers joining us for the first time who are new to our community and others who are SASHS graduates returning. Each of our staff have been planning for a great start to the school year. As our students return to school, principals and teachers have been looking ahead so that this year is the best ever!
Our middle school and high school students will return with a new roof over their heads! Last year the Board approved the roofing project and since before the start of school, the contractor has been steadily working on the roofs – tearing off layers and installing a new roof that should last over 25 years. They have had some problems with rain delays so some of the staging materials will be on our grounds longer than we anticipated and should not impact schooling.
Prior to school beginning, the high school distributed Chromebook laptops to each student and their parents. This device will be used in classes to provide students with a work space that resembles the tools they will be expected to use in their careers and in post-secondary studies. We all know that technological devices have revolutionized the work world and the way we communicate. By each student having her or his own device, teachers can begin providing students with learning opportunities that enable them to better manage their own learning and to access digital materials and work space.
Due to a strong vision for continuous improvement by the Board of Education, the middle school and other schools also have devices to enable students to use computers as an integral part of their school day. Laptop carts at the middle school provide each student with a device to use when the teacher designs lessons in which student learning depends on accessing digital material or internet resources.
As we introduce the availability of digital resources and devices in our classrooms, it has the potential to engage students differently as they access materials and create work that seems more relevant in a world where digital has transformed work and learning. Our teachers and leaders are adapting to these work spaces too. Classrooms are a combination of different forms of learning and teaching. All of this makes teaching more complex and at the same time, creates new ways in which students can demonstrate what they know and are able to do.
One thing we know about the future is it is dependent on change and our ability to adapt. SASD is growing how we create new learning environments for our students and staff. As we approach the new year, we have a strong tradition of effectively serving the learning needs of our students and supporting their growth. This tradition will be enriched by the integration of digital devices in the classrooms so that our students’ education resembles their future and not our past.
Best wishes for a great school year!
Jerry Wilson, PhD
As the 2017-18 school year draws to a close, it is time to look back and reflect on the previous year. After all the graduation and end of year celebrations end, one way to look back is to look at a yearbook or similar publication.
This year you will find our annual report posted on the website. It is entitled, “Our Students, Our Future”. Each of our schools and departments contributed to provide our community with a way to look back and reflect on celebrations, and performance.
Each year in education, we have the chance to renew and prepare for the upcoming year. I hope you will take an opportunity to review the elements of excellence included in the report. I want to especially thank Tammy Pritchard for her talented crafting of the content.
Our Students ~ Our Future ~ Our Story
I enjoy running, especially when the weather turns warm as it has recently. Growing up, I always thought of myself more as a sprinter, but I quickly learned that many others had quicker feet. For me a good run is a 5K. I say this as I am not a marathon runner nor an extreme athlete of any kind. One of my daughters has competed in the Boston marathon though and I am deeply impressed by the dedication and training of athletes who compete in distance races.
With the start of May, especially following our prolonged cold winter and spring, our students are looking forward to summer and our seniors are envisioning their next steps beyond school. From a school perspective, May is one of the busiest times of our school year. If this were a marathon or a distance run, the end is in sight, and for many who have worked hard throughout the year, a final push at the end will make it a great effort!
With the end of the school year in sight, it is time take stock of where we have been and where we are going. I have been reading a book entitled Open: How We will work, Live and Learn In the Future. The author, David Price, makes the point that with the digital tools at our disposal we are entering a time in which each of us are able to use our education as a lever for personal growth and understanding. We are truly in an age when a person can access nearly unlimited information about nearly any topic. With all the information at each of our finger tips, personal knowledge is bound by our own determination, skills and interests.
For our students living in a world where routine tasks become readily automated, the use of knowledge for creative entrepreneurial pursuits is key. In order to adeptly use knowledge, we need to learn the core basics and combine that with determination and perseverance to discover what we need to understand to be successful. Like the long distance runner, it is the skills we practice and the training endured that puts a person in a place to be successful.
As the last days of school sprint by this year, I hope our students and families enjoy the celebrations that unfold as the month progresses. I also encourage us to use these times to reflect on what has been learned this year that can be a kick start to something you want to learn more about and that you found engaging. With our access to information, much can be pursued independently that can lead to new understanding and pathways. Our students need to learn that their success is highly dependent on their own initiative and on pursuing what they are most passionate about learning.
Best wishes for a great finish to the school year. Enjoy all the moments, as they create memories. Take a deep breath, reach down deep and end strong. And look forward to what comes next – it is your future and what you make of it.
The birds – robins, especially – arrived early in March in our neighborhood. When we had the last snow, I observed them looking for bare ground or even roads for sustenance. I am hoping we have finally put winter behind us! The day lengths are extending dramatically – nearly four minutes each day – and the Board approved graduation for May 31.
As we approach the last two months of the 2017-18 school year, there is much yet to be accomplished. Instructionally, our students should be reaching their peak strongest learning time. Teachers and students have worked throughout the year to build the students’ skills and knowledge. The state tests and other measures of learning take place towards the end of April and wrap up in mid-May.
And, seniors are beginning to wear thin around the confines of their K-12 education as they see a broad horizon and bright future ahead. During March, I enjoy watching March madness. In one of the semifinal games, I was impressed by the Kansas coach’s advice to his players: “Enjoy the game – you have worked hard to get here and now enjoy the moment.”
In the last weeks of school – we all can encourage their students to enjoy learning! If we educators are successful, our students will love learning – and find ways on their own to develop their understanding of subjects and content that they want to learn.
What is increasingly clear is that opportunities in America are for those who are well educated in an area that they have a passion or strong interest. All of our efforts need to be directed to providing students with educational experiences that permit them to find their niche, and like the blossoming of spring, put forth their best efforts as they grow and develop.
Nationally school safety
The safety of our community’s children and adults is always our highest priority. Tragically, we have recently mourned the loss of innocent student and teachers’ lives. In these times, social media amplifies personally moving messages and creates a space for anger, threats, and hate to flame.
In the last few years we have made schools more safe by securing entrances and monitoring access, using surveillance cameras to assure safe practices, heightened scrutiny of social media and all forms of communication around threatening and harassing messages, conducted safety drills, and most importantly ask students to let us know if they do not feel safe, let someone know.
In the next few weeks, school principals will be speaking with staff and subsequently students about safety in light of this most recent school shooting and threats.
Every day we provide a free, equitable public education for all our children. We are being strained, though, by these attacks on our schools. Our young people are a part of a culture moved by fear, terror, agonizing personal tragedy, and a 24/7 media and social network. It is a lot for young people to handle. For most of us, just facing the pains of growing up, learning about the world around us and our place in it, consumes us and is a challenge.
In the rush of tragic stories and heavy hearts and as we absorb the meaning of these losses in our community and our nation, we will keep our schools safe for our children to grow and become successful citizens in their communities, country and world. The African proverb, “it takes a community to raise a child” needs to be a point of reflection for all of us. Gandhi advocated for us to “be the change we want to see in the world”.
As a community, we must preserve the opportunity for our children to grow towards their own sense of identity and the meaning they create for themselves in this our American democratic experiment. School safety is a must for our children to be able to learn. School safety is the door we must never close as we accomplish our most fundamental mission: the cultivation of learning, and the value of an educated person appreciative of a diverse, well-rounded worldview.
Working with you to keep our schools safe.
One of my favorite “holidays” of the year is Groundhog’s Day. This mythical mystery that plays out each year is borne of pure fantasy and comically predicts that if the ground hog, Pennsylvania’s own Punxsutawney Phil, sees its shadow we will have six more weeks of winter. If he fails to see his shadow, it seems we will have an early spring. With predictions like this, how can one possibly be wrong?
We are in that zone of the school year when teachers and students are engaged with challenging concepts and are attempting to make great strides. In this zone of learning, students need challenging work that helps them learn and achieve new information.
In some ways the school year seems to some like the movie Groundhog Day. Routines seem to repeat themselves. In these routines a person has choices. At the beginning of the movie Ground Hog Day, Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connor finds that each day is repeating itself and he takes destructive tactics to change this routine. By the end of the movies, though, he uses the experience to demonstrate a more respectable and appealing character who transforms from a self-absorbed person into a stalwart example of citizenship and helping others.
For me, sometimes, certain challenges seem routine with predictable and undesirable outcomes. I like to try to find the positive and build on it if possible. When it comes to the change of seasons, each day of the last days of winter bring the hope of longer days and warmer weather. When faced with a challenge we have a choice. Do we see a pattern in a routine and look at the boring, seemingly repetitive nature of it and succumb to a self-pitying response, or do we see where something positive can be found and use it to build a brighter and more helpful future?
I am excited for the opportunities that lie ahead. I have the opportunity to work with very dedicated educators who are using each daily routine to help our young people become better citizens who have a bright future. The lesson for me of Groundhog’s Day is one of attitude. We all have a choice whether we see the glass as half full or half empty. I choose to take the half full cup and through education and the excitement of learning fill it to the brim.
Jerry Wilson, PhD