I find myself reflecting on two events this week that inspired me as we move forward with important work in our schools.
The first was our professional learning on Monday. Watching “Most Likely to Succeed" with all of our certified staff and Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education, was a powerful experience. The documentary shows that personalizing education to meet the needs of each of our students is critical to their success. At the same time, it reminds us that the process needed to make that happen creates some uncertainty and anxiety among educators, parents and even students. That’s OK, and it’s natural when it comes to change.
I hope that no matter where you are personally on our collective journey to redesign schools, the film sparked thoughts, ideas and conversations that will move us toward in making our schools the best they can be. Our students are worth it, and we have the most talented staff in the state of Kansas working each day for kids!.
The second experience came Wednesday, when a group of nearly 30 community members gathered for a conversation to help our District update our mission and vision for the 21st century. We had representatives from small businesses such as Music Scene and Timbuktu, large companies such as Koch Industries and Emprise Bank, higher-education entities such as Butler Community College and WSU Tech, and public-sector employers such as the City of Andover and McConnell Air Force Base. We asked them: What do you want and need from our graduates when it comes to hiring productive employees who contribute to our communities?
The conversations were thought-provoking and inspiring. We clearly have community stakeholders who are engaged and invested with our schools.
To me, these two events are connected: As we re-imagine education in the ways “Mostly Likely to Succeed” challenges us to do, we have the support of our community stakeholders. Many of the themes addressed in the film on Monday came up in our conversations Wednesday. That is reaffirming as we move forward.
Here are a few other updates:
Climate Survey: Our staff Climate Survey closes tonight (Friday). We’ve had good participation, but the more voices we hear, the more meaningful this survey is. It’s anonymous, and we use it to help set District priorities. Thank you to everyone who has already completed the survey. If you have not, please consider doing so today. Here are the links:
Grant deadline next week: The Foundation for Andover Schools is generously offering $35,000 in educator grants this school year. The deadline to apply is next Friday, Feb. 1. I would encourage you to think, both individually and collaboratively, about what a grant could do to provide new opportunities for your students. Here are the details:
“Screenagers” opportunity: I’m sure many of you have had discussions with colleagues and others about the impact of “screen time” on our children. Independent School is offering a free screening of “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age” next week. The film features authors, psychologists, children, parents and brain scientists who examine how screen time affects development, neurology, relationships, social-emotional growth, addition and socioeconomic factors in our children. It offers solutions for how adults can empower kids to best navigate the digital world and find balance in their lives.
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion. If you’re interested, the Independent School has graciously invited us to attend. They do ask that you RSVP to assist with their planning for the event. Here are the details:
“Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age”
8317 E. Douglas
6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31
It will feel like spring this weekend, so hopefully you can get out and enjoy the weather before winter returns next week. Have a great weekend!
I hope you had a restful holiday and are off to a great start for the 2019 year! Thank you to those who expressed your appreciation to our bond partners for the staff meals they helped to sponsor before break. I know your gratitude and kind words mean a lot to them. The meals were a great way to head into break.
As we begin the second semester of the school year, it is again time for our annual Andover Public Schools Climate Survey. This survey is one way our District measures progress on a variety of initiatives and helps us set goals for the future. At the same time, we recognize the Climate Survey is unscientific. Personnel decisions are not made based on its results. It is a snapshot of stakeholder perceptions at a given time.
In addition to the staff surveys you will find in the links below, we also will gather feedback from parents and students.
We ask you to please take a few minutes to complete the survey that pertains to your role at Andover Public Schools. You are welcome to complete the survey either at work or at home.
Certified staff: https://www.surveymonkey.com/
Classified staff: https://www.surveymonkey.com/
If you work in more than one building, you may complete the survey once for each building in which you serve. However, out of respect for your time, you also may choose to complete the survey only once, for the building in which you primarily work.
Please note that this survey is completely anonymous. In SurveyMonkey, it is virtually impossible to identify and connect individual survey responses to a person.
We value your feedback in this once-a-year survey, but we know we must work constantly to improve our schools. The climate survey in no way replaces the importance of sharing concerns, opinions or ideas at any time with your supervisors and colleagues. That type of open, ongoing collaboration is what allows successful schools to thrive, and to get even better.
Thank you for your time in completing this survey, and for everything you do for Andover Public Schools.
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
As we approach the end of our first semester, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for everything you have done for our students this semester. A typical school year is a very busy time, but with schools under construction and others in the midst of redesign efforts, this is no typical school year! The energy and passion you bring to our schools every day inspire me.
As a way to show our gratitude and appreciation, the Board of Education and District will join with our bond partners next week to provide lunch to all of our staff members. We know that while construction is exciting, it can also be inconvenient at times. All of us want to say “thank you” for your patience during this process.
Speaking of our bond partners, we are so fortunate to have outstanding companies working on the projects. We appreciate Baughman Company, Hutton, Icon Structures, and Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture for partnering with the district in sponsoring this lunch for all of you. Each of these companies brings tremendous expertise to the bond work being done in the district. We appreciate their generosity in sponsoring the lunch
Special thanks to OPAA! and Boones Pickin’s for catering the lunches. Our lunch schedule for next week is:
Monday: Andover Central Middle School, Sunflower Elementary School and Wheatland Elementary School
Tuesday: Andover Middle School, Cottonwood Elementary School and Robert Martin Elementary School
Wednesday: Andover Central High School, Prairie Creek Elementary School and Transportation
Thursday: Andover High School, Meadowlark Elementary School, Andover eCademy, District Office and Support Services
I hope the holidays find you surrounded by friends and family, relaxing and recharging. As I said before Thanksgiving, I really encourage you to unplug from work during the holiday break and enjoy some time away. Here is a sample email message you can use if you wish (different employee groups return from break on various dates, so I have left the date blank):
Please know that your message is important to me. Andover Public Schools is closed for holiday break. I will respond to your email when I return to work on _____________. Best wishes for an enjoyable holiday season.
Again, thank you for everything you do. Our students’ lives are better every day because of you.
As American Education Week closes and the Thanksgiving break approaches, I’m reflecting on how much I appreciate working with such an amazing team at Andover Public Schools. Each of you works every day to educate, support and inspire our students. I am thankful for you and what you mean to the children and families of our district. This year we will be delivering some food to each building during the week of December 17-20 to honor you and show our appreciation.
During the Thanksgiving break, I encourage you to “unplug.” Enjoy family and friends, and recharge the batteries. I will be setting up an “out of office” message for incoming emails on Wednesday through Sunday of the break. I really hope that you do the same. The emails will still be there on Monday! Here is what my message will say:
“Andover Public Schools is closed for the Thanksgiving holiday break from Wednesday, November 21 through Friday, November 23. Please know that your message is important to me. I will return messages on Monday, November 26. Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving!”
Feel free to use that or adapt as you like. You’ll be thankful that you took some time off. I will be taking my own advice this year!
Here are a few additional updates I’d like to provide for you:
Bond projects: This continues to be a busy time with planning and construction throughout our district. We have crews working at Andover Central High School and on the new Andover High School. We’re making plans for the new Meadowlark Elementary and Center for Advanced Professional Services facility, as well as additions and renovations at our middle schools. Click here for a detailed update on our progress.
Trojan Turkey Trot: If you plan to be in the Andover area Wednesday morning, I encourage you to check out the inaugural Trojan Turkey Trot. This fun and healthy way to kick off the holiday has been organized by AHS students and already has more than 150 runners registered! You can click here to register, and it’s only $15 if you use the code USD385.
“Annie” this weekend: I also encourage you to attend the ACHS production of “Annie” this weekend. Shows are at 7:30 tonight (Friday) and Saturday, or 2:30 on Sunday. Tickets are $8 for adults or $5 for students, available at the door. I’m sure it will be an excellent show, just as “Once Upon a Mattress” was at AHS last weekend! We are fortunate to have such talented students and outstanding educators.
I appreciate your flexibility on Monday of this week, when the weather conditions were difficult during the morning commute. Last year I kind of warmed up to the nickname “Snow Day Superintendent” (I know I was probably called much worse on Monday morning), but for those who love a good snow day, it appears we have a long and adventurous winter ahead!
On Monday morning I had the honor of attending the Veteran’s Day assembly at ACMS. It was an amazing tribute to the heroes who defend our country and ensure our freedom. One of the most emotional parts of the assembly was when the students set the POW/MIA table: the ceremonial remembrance of our soldiers who are missing in action or prisoners of war. I watched as a veteran seated in front of me took out a handkerchief and wiped tears from his eyes during that performance. His wife held his other hand tightly. The enormity of his sacrifice and the depth of the bonds with his comrades were very evident. I am glad we had school on Monday, so veterans could be thanked and celebrated at ACMS and at other schools in the district. For those staff members who served our country in the armed forces, thank you for your service.
Again, I wish you and your families a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
It’s hard to believe that the first quarter of the school year is almost over! We’ve had a great start to the year, and it’s because of the hard work you put in every day to support our students. Thank you for making a difference!
As we wrap up the first quarter, I want to update you on some news from across the district.
AHS construction to begin
We are set to begin construction on the new Andover High School the week of Oct. 22. We invite you to attend a ceremonial groundbreaking at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, as we mark the start of this exciting project.
The new school, which also will include a district swimming facility, will be constructed just east of the existing AHS. It is scheduled to open for the 2020-21 school year.
Bids for the new AHS came in slightly over projections. Thus, we have been working with SJCF Architecture, Hutton Construction and Icon Structures to identify value engineering opportunities to trim a few percentage points off the total cost. Much of the value engineering involves substituting various building materials that are more cost-effective, while not impacting the overall quality of the building. Most of the value engineering that will be done will involve alterations that won’t even be noticed. The end product will be a state-of-the-art school that will provide many exciting opportunities for our students.
This construction means we’ll need to make some changes in the way we handle parking, busing and traffic flow both at AHS and AMS. Click here to view videos that explain the logistical changes you can expect starting Oct. 22.
Other bond project updates
Work continues on ACHS, and is progressing nicely. The ACHS project will be completed for the 2019-20 school year. The design of MES is advancing slightly ahead of schedule, and construction will start in the late spring. Likewise, the Andover CAPS (Center for Advanced Professional Studies) visioning and design work is in full swing, with construction scheduled for the early summer. Pre-design meetings with the middle schools are also underway. Conversations about the MES remodel for additional space for eCademy and district office will begin in the next few months.
Construction crews have begun removing trees to make way for a new Central stadium and district tennis complex. However, that work has been delayed so that additional environmental studies can be completed on that land. There will likely need to be some mitigation for wetlands and a stream that runs through a portion of the land. In addition, the Kansas Department of Wildlife needs to ensure that there are no endangered species that could be impacted by the work being done on that site. We are hopeful this delay will not affect the projected completion date, which is scheduled for August of 2019. We will know more about the potential impact on timelines in the coming weeks.
Redesign is underway
It’s been inspiring to hear updates from our four redesign schools (ACMS, CES, MES, & RMES). They have been reflecting on the “why” of our work, and have embarked on a process to revisit the mission and vision for their schools. The work over the coming few months will include exploring the areas that may need to be redesigned in their schools. The second semester will involve piloting those ideas. The teamwork and collaboration that is evident in this work is really cool.
Likewise, some of our schools who are not part of Gemini II are engaging in “pre-design” work, where educators select areas of the Kansans Can vision that interest them to begin exploring. That will provide an excellent foundation for the redesign that will follow in those schools in the coming years. It’s an exciting time in education!
You may have seen news that the Foundation for Andover Schools (formerly the Andover Advantage Foundation) has made two significant commitments to Andover Public Schools. First, the foundation announced recently it intends to distribute $35,000 in grants to Andover teachers this year. Information about the application process will be available later this fall.
Secondly, the foundation donated $30,000 toward enhancing the media center at Andover Central Middle School. This is the first step in a process of transforming all of our media centers into cutting-edge learning spaces. Our media specialists will imagine what media centers of the future look like, both in terms of instruction and the physical space. We’re excited to start this process, and we’re grateful to the Foundation for Andover Schools for supporting our efforts both in our classrooms and our media centers.
Speaking of the foundation, its annual Community Tailgate Party is 5-6:30 tonight in the parking lot of District Stadium, preceding the ACHS/AHS football game. Whether you root for the Jaguars or the Trojans, this is always a great opportunity to see friends from across our district while enjoying free hamburgers, chips, cookies and drinks. Thanks to the foundation, Equity Bank and Hall’s Culligan for making this possible for our community.
Register to vote
As I close, I want to remind you that in less than a month, we will vote in a very important election for our state and country. I was at an event recently where GA Buie, Executive Director of United School Administrators of Kansas, commented that he believes educators’ ballots will make a difference in this year’s election. Our votes are extremely powerful. If you aren’t yet registered, the deadline to vote in the Nov. 6 election is this Tuesday, Oct. 16. I encourage you to exercise democracy at the ballot box.
Thank you again for everything you do for our students and their families. I wish you the best as we enter the second quarter of the year!