SuperSpud

Moorhead Area Public Schools' District Blog

Archive for the ‘Superintendent Message’ Category

Creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration important skills in digital age

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Our students are living and competing in a digital age. An interesting list of cultural observations about this year’s college freshmen — last year’s high school seniors — comes from Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin. These students are connected to each other through cell phones, tablets and other digital devices. Most of the students will take a few courses taught online by a professor they will never meet through a university they have never visited.

A few items from the list I thought were interesting include:

  • As these students started to crawl, so did the new across the bottom of the television screen;
  • Their screens keep getting smaller;
  • With GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address;
  • They have never really needed to go to their friends’ houses so they could study together; and
  • They have always been able to plug into USB ports.

As this list grows, I think of our kindergarten students and the world they know. Few students will have home phones; they’ve grown up using their parents’ cell phones. A tablet is a tool for learning, exploring and playing, and they are able to connect with others through video chats. This is the world of our students.

How do we as an educational institution respond to these changes in our students’ world?

We talk about the importance of 21st century skills. However, in using education jargon we may lose understanding of what is really needed for our students. We are talking about the skills students need to be able to compete in this digital society both at home and in the world at large.

When we talk about 21st century skills we are talking about ways of thinking, ways of working, tools for working and skills for living. The skills are not that different from what we have wanted for our students all along. The technology has changed, and we have become digitally connected. Students need to understand that while technology is powerful, there still are important skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

Creativity is a skill we have nurtured throughout the history of education. There are studies about the loss of creativity as a child progresses through school. We need to nurture that creativity through reading, through the arts and through active learning.

Critical thinking is an important part of education also. Students need to be able to tell the difference between opinion and facts, understand the vast amount of information available, and determine what information is based on fact and is useful.

Communication and collaboration are strong skills that need to be nurtured through our schools. These skills are useful for working and for everyday learning. As we become more individualized we need to be able to work together and collaborate. This may not always take place in one room, but collaboration and communication may be available through devices and other means of technology.

As a district, Moorhead Area Public Schools is working hard to make sure each student has the knowledge and skills he or she needs to be successful after high school. Whether these skills are labeled as 21st century skills, college and career ready, World’s Best Workforce or something else, we know we have to nurture these skills for our students’ future.

Our district goal demonstrates this commitment to each student. Each student will have the opportunity to acquire 21st century skills, knowledge and expertise to succeed in life and work in the 21st century. Specifically we are looking for maximum growth in basic skills, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication through innovative technology.

Together as a community we can educate our students to make sure they are ready to take on a future that is rapidly changing.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lynne A. Kovash
Superintendent
Moorhead Area Public Schools

Warm holiday greetings from Moorhead Area Public Schools

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Warmest holiday greetings! This year we certainly are having a warm holiday season. The temperatures have been great and have allowed for our students to be outside playing and enjoying fresh air.

I would like to thank the students, staff, parents and community members who contribute so much in helping to create an atmosphere of excellence in Moorhead Area Public Schools. From the classroom, to the stage, to the football field, we have students who excel and are a source of pride for our community.

We have had a productive beginning to the academic year. Staff and students are engaged in teaching and learning in the classroom. Our students are demonstrating creativity while achieving academic standards. Winter sports are underway, after a successful fall sports season. The wonderful holiday musical celebrations are in full swing in our schools. Students are enjoying the sounds of the winter season.

Many of our students, both as individuals and as members of student organizations, generously give of their time and talent to help all enjoy the holidays. Again our students were involved in a very successful “Fill the Dome” event. Robert Asp Elementary School was recognized as a top school for collecting food for the project. Our student organizations and individual students work and participate in activities in the spirit of bringing in the New Year with hope and compassion.

Our students will be enjoying winter recess from Dec. 22-Jan. 2. School offices and the district offices will be closed Dec. 23-26 and Dec. 30-Jan. 2.

Again, to all our community members both in and out of the schools, I wish you a safe and healthy holiday season. May our new year together be filled with continued excellence and community spirit.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lynne A. Kovash
Superintendent
Moorhead Area Public Schools

High standards and community involvement keys to successful education

Friday, October 28th, 2011

As we arrive at fall parent-teacher conferences, I find the time to reflect on the goals we want to accomplish this year. What are the goals for every student in every school?

I believe that rigorous teaching to high standards and community and parental involvement are the keys to a successful education for our students. We want to provide each child with many educational opportunities and work together with our parents to assure every child’s success.

But many parents may be asking just what are high standards.

When you get on an airplane, you want a pilot who has been held to the highest standards of flight training. When you need an operation, you want a surgeon who has been held to the highest standards of medical education. And when you cheer for American athletes in the Olympics, you know they won’t win the gold unless they have trained to meet the highest standards of international competition.

Content standards define what all students should know and be able to do. They describe the knowledge, skills and understanding that students should have to attain high levels of competency in challenging subject matter.

The teachers in our school district have studied the state and national core standards and make them a part of the teaching they do every day. The teachers look for different ways to teach the standards and make that real for every student. All teachers are required to post their learning objective in the classroom. Every student should understand the activities taking place in class and the connection to their learning.

From our youngest students to our high school seniors they should be able to make the connection. Last year a kindergarten student told me they were learning letter sounds to help them learn reading.

We are all working for the same result: all students in Moorhead Area Public Schools being successful learners. We all have different roles in that learning — from the classroom teacher providing the day-to-day instruction to parents who support that learning every day at home. We are all a part of a team to arrive at the same goal — every student is learning.

I know that working together we will focus on results and achieve results!

Sincerely,

Dr. Lynne A. Kovash
Superintendent
Moorhead Area Public Schools

New shoes for a new year of learning

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

It’s that time of the year again. The air is cooler and the thoughts are on the new school year. This fall I walked through each of our schools on opening day. What a thrill to see all the students and teachers as they came back to school!

One of the teachers asked me if I had new shoes, and I gave her a quizzical look since my shoes looked pretty scuffed. She told me everyone seems to have new shoes for the start of school. I realized my grandchildren even had new shoes for school.

I thought more about new shoes and the adventures the students would have in those new shoes. New learning in social studies, science and mathematics as students explore the world around them. Books to discover and explore new places through reading. Shoes to tap out the beat in music and learn to dance or run the mile in physical education class. Walking through the art museum to discover the world of visual arts. Those shoes will take students many places and give them the opportunity to explore many new ideas.

Just like there are many colors and styles of shoes, we see the same diversity in our students. Our students come to school with many expectations, dreams and goals. It is our responsibility to keep those dreams alive and help students grow into strong, productive citizens. The mission of the Moorhead Area Public Schools is to develop the maximum potential of every learner to thrive in a changing world. We need to make sure every learner has many opportunities to learn and explore their world.

Pretty soon those new shoes will become a bit scuffed or worn out. Hopefully, school will not become boring or old for our students. Our school district provides many opportunities for students to explore and learn.

However, we have to remember some students come to school without those new shoes. These students still need the same opportunities to learn and explore as the other students. We need to have the same expectations and opportunities for all students — whether they have new shoes or not.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lynne A. Kovash
Superintendent
Moorhead Area Public Schools

Welcome to the new school year

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

It’s hard to believe the beginning of the 2011-12 school year is just a couple of weeks away.  The start of a new school year is always an exciting time, not only for students, but also for educators and parents, as well. We all have dreams and expectations for a great school year.

I am so proud to be superintendent of Moorhead Area Public Schools. We have great teachers, support staff and educational leaders. It is my honor to work with each of them. We have the will to improve student learning for every student. We will provide feedback for parents and educators to be partners in the educational process.

Our district is committed to every student learning. The expectations for schools have changed. Rick Stiggins, a national educational leader, comments about education today, “The rules changed. Where once we were asked to sort and select, now we are asked to guarantee all.” We are working to make sure every student has the same educational expectations in every class and in every school. We are working to make sure our curriculum is aligned both across the district and from grade level to grade level.

As district-level educational leaders, we will provide support to each of the schools in our district to improve student achievement and parent involvement. While achievement on the tests is important, it is also important to provide opportunities for our children to develop in many areas. Academics, arts and athletics are all important for our students. Working together, we can continue our mission of preparing all students to succeed by offering a strong educational program in a safe and respectful environment filled with high quality instruction for all of our students.

Welcome to the 2011-12 school year! We are excited to have our school buildings full of minds ready for learning.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lynne A. Kovash
Superintendent
Moorhead Area Public Schools

Opportunities for learning all summer long

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Summer break is a valued time in our Minnesota climate. Of course, this summer has brought challenges as well as opportunities. While we await the final decisions on state education funding, many families are enjoying the traditional summer break.

Traditionally, our school calendar was based on practical agricultural reasons. Those reasons have diminished over time, but the thought of summer break is still filled with expectations and anticipation. Summer is a time when children are able to run, play, bike, swim and spend time with family and friends. It a time when children are able to be creative, be unique and be relaxed.

Unfortunately, summer vacation is also the time of year when children who do not have educational summer activities may experience some learning loss. For students experiencing learning difficulties during the school year, this may be academically devastating. The learning gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children can grow by as much as two months of a grade level equivalence in just one summer.
“When school doors close for the summer, what do kids face: For some, it’s a

world of interesting vacations, music lessons, and library trips. For others

without enriching summertime opportunities, the break can lead to serious

academic consequences – and the disparity can be dramatic.”

– National Summer Learning Association, Research in Brief

In our school district, we are looking for ways to make sure the learning never ends. It is important for families to be partners in learning. Summer opportunities are available for families at the library, in the parks and in our schools.

In the district, our summer food program provides lunches for all children in our community. Our summer school programs continue with Jump Start beginning in late July. Community Education has been working hard to provide a variety of interest camps and sports camps for our students throughout the summer. We will continue to look for ways to enhance summer learning in our district. We know this is an important time for all students, especially students who may not have opportunities available at home.

On another note, as a school district we are waiting for information from the legislature regarding school budget and policy information. At this point, we have not had any final news about the state education funding.

The referendum that was approved last November is very important to our district. One of the referendum priorities was to maintain a stable source of funding for our school district. Seventy percent of the referendum funding is going to help maintain the programs we have. During these historic times that will be more important than ever. We also are strategically adding positions to meet referendum priorities of class size, educational programming and safety.

However, given the news of a funding shift, we will need to reorganize to make sure our district is spending the funding in the most effective way. The funding shifts over the past few years have put a strain on our budget and required borrowing, but we continue to look for ways to be efficient and provide a great education for the children of Moorhead.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lynne A. Kovash
Superintendent

School’s out, but summer months remain busy

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

School’s out for the summer! Students in Moorhead Area Public Schools have finished the 2010-11 school year and may now enjoy the summer days — or rainy days as the case may be this summer.

Throughout the district, many projects are underway, and students continue to learn. More than 160 students are taking part in the district’s summer academy to improve skills or earn credits toward graduation. Other students will participate in Jump Start programs later this summer to give them a head start on the new school year.

During the summer, some school offices are closed and others are open with limited staff, so it is best to call ahead if you need to see someone. Information about summer schedules is posted on each school’s page on the district website at www.moorhead.k12.mn.us. Our district offices are open longer hours Monday through Thursday and close at noon on Fridays from now until the beginning of August.

If you are new to our community, the parent of a kindergarten student or considering Moorhead Schools, contact the assistant superintendent’s office (grades K-8) or the Moorhead High counseling office (grades 9-12) to register. Early registration is very important. We monitor enrollment and registrations all summer to plan for any staffing needs for fall.

Administrators use the summer months to complete ongoing work and begin projects for the next year. We are busy planning for new courses, including Chinese at Moorhead High School and Project Lead the Way in grade 8 at Horizon Middle School. Teachers use the summer months for training activities.

Additionally, we are working to review and determine goals for the next school year. The threatening government shutdown may impact when the district receives state test scores, but we will be ready to study the state data when it becomes available.  We are developing our areas of concentration for next year and will use the state data results to further develop district priorities.

In the summer, our community offers opportunities for students to learn, play and interact with one another. I remember the warm, sunny days of going to neighborhood parks to swing, swim and talk with friends. We are lucky to have those opportunities in our community for all students. The summer also offers time to read and enjoy the magic of imagining scenes from a story.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lynne A. Kovash
Superintendent
Moorhead Area Public Schools

Saying goodbye

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

It’s hard to believe the close of the school year is almost here. It seems like we were just welcoming new and returning students, families and staff members to Moorhead Area Public Schools. As we wrap up a successful school year, it is time to think about saying goodbye.

Many students look forward to summer and the freedom to play, sleep late, enjoy the sun and hang out with friends. Some students will transition to new schools in the fall. Teachers and staff members will miss seeing the students every day. It is so hard to say goodbye.

For beginning teachers, the first year has been full of many new experiences, sometimes overwhelming, sometimes exhilarating. Teachers impact the lives of each one of their students in many ways. Each classroom is like a family, learning to play, work and learn together. Each school year is similar in routine and procedure, yet each year is unique. At the end of the school year, teachers say goodbye to seeing their students everyday. It’s hard to say goodbye.

We have 20 teachers and paraprofessionals and one elementary principal saying goodbye as they retire. The experience, knowledge and skills of these staff members will be missed. We wish them well as they move on to the next phase of their lives, but we know we will miss seeing them every day. We are so fortunate to have excellent staff members who care so much for students. We can’t thank them enough for the work they have done in our district. It’s hard to say goodbye.

We have an outstanding senior class. The seniors will be leaving our school district and carrying their learning lessons to the next phase of their lives. We will miss the excitement, brilliance and outstanding leadership. It’s hard to say goodbye.

After the goodbyes, whether at the classroom door or in the auditorium after graduation, we will have much to remember from this year and to carry on to next year. Next year will begin with some fresh new faces — new teachers, staff members and students — and many returning faces. It will be exciting to say hello.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lynne A. Kovash
Superintendent
Moorhead Area Public Schools

 

Out and about in Moorhead Schools

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to substitute teach in our schools. It has been a great experience — a chance to reconnect with students and a chance to work alongside our teachers. The commitment of our teachers is so strong in all of our schools. I know the time and effort teachers put into lessons to connect our students with learning about their world. The relationship between the teacher and the student provides a strong foundation for more learning.

At the elementary level, I used caps for milk containers as markers in a mathematics lesson. Our teachers have innovation skills, especially as they look to use and reuse everything. Our teachers have classes of students with the thirst and desire to use their minds. Our students are active; classrooms of elementary students kept me hopping.

Our middle school students are full of energy and want to know about the rules of their school. They can develop a topic, research the project and put together their ideas into a presentation for the class. They research environmental issues and the effect on our world. Our students are continuing to learn deeper about the world around them. It is a pleasure to work with staff members who are ready to teach students about their global world.

Our high school students are learning about the world from the historical perspective. Teachers are teaching many students from other countries, including students who are trying to learn language and the concepts at the same time. Teachers are constantly exploring ways to connect with their students every day.

Both administrators and teachers have been a part of learning walks in our schools this year. The learning walks allow us to observe classrooms to see the curriculum and teaching in action. These learning walks have been helpful in looking at what is happening in the classroom and tying those observations to the work being done district wide.

Our teachers are working hard to meet the diverse learning needs of students in the Moorhead Area Public Schools. We have students ranging from those who have traveled or lived in many parts of the world to those who have never left the community. We need to teach our students about their global world and provide strong experiences for every child.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lynne A. Kovash
Superintendent
Moorhead Area Public Schools

Preparation key to continuous improvement

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Our role this spring is one of preparation. We continually plan to improve the Moorhead Area Public Schools’ programs, and we’ve spent time during the last few months planning and preparing for next school year.

One quote I especially like is this one from General Colin Powell: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” It is preparation that is so important to the success of each school year. Our teachers have been working hard as we prepare for Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, continued learning and the end of the school year. We also work toward an environment where it is permissible to take risks, perhaps fail, but always learn from our failures and improve what we do every day.

We have worked all year long, not just for the state tests that will be taken in next few weeks, but also to make sure our students are growing and improving. The real test is whether we can take a child from wherever he is when he comes to us and move him beyond that point in nine months. That is how long students are in school each year. Some students may progress academically nine, ten, even 12 months in the same timeframe.

We are challenged to do that every day in all the schools across our district. As the year speeds to a close, we do not want to have parents, administrators, teachers or students thinking that because state testing is here we will stop teaching. We still have much to do and more instructional time ahead.

Another way we are preparing is for the threat of another flood event. We have prepared contingency guidelines, worked with county and city officials to offer support in the community effort and prepared our administrators to deal with issues that may arise. We hope our community responds during this time by volunteering and helping our community prepare for this event.

We are also preparing for next school year. We are evaluating programs and determining the programs we will continue, expand or start. We look at registration numbers and state requirements to help determine program changes. In all this work, we need to make sure our students are prepared for their future.

It is up to all of us to work together as a strong community to help prepare for any tests that come our way, whether they be tests of a spring flood, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or our students’ futures. We can work together to provide strong schools and strong communities.

Sincerely,
Dr. Lynne A. Kovash
Superintendent
Moorhead Area Public Schools