Marked for Good -
In his book, Eight Habits of the Heart, noted entrepreneur and Pulitzer-nominated author, Clifton Taulbert, wrote about his childhood growing up on the Mississippi Delta. Taulbert recalled, “High expectations were commonplace in our community. They fueled our dreams. They were bigger than all of us--collective dreams worked out individually. The adults in our community told us daily that we were of value and that big things were expected of us. Even now I feel compelled to do my best! In spite of legal segregation, racism and poverty, they believed in their children. Those foundational people took a giant leap into a world we could not yet see but one they knew awaited us. They told us that we were ‘marked for good’ and we believed them.”
As educators, we serve in a role similar to the “foundational people” of Clifton Taulbert’s childhood. Think about those who helped build high expectations in your life. It may have been a teacher, family member, coach or advisor. In each case, it’s as though these key individuals were able to see something within us that we were not yet able to envision. As a result, their words inspired and lifted us through periods of personal doubt and discouragement. To this day, I still pay tribute to and honor those vital people who helped convince me that I was “marked for good.”
Recently, I received a note from a grateful mother whose son had been struggling in school. “Then,” this mother states, “Mr. Newbold entered my son’s life. He always speaks positive to my son and tells him that he can do math. Mr. Newbold welcomed my son to come early and stay late to work with him until all homework was made up and he began passing tests. More than giving my son a second chance, Mr. Newbold restored my son’s pride in his scholastic abilities.” My favorite part of the letter is this unique closing, “My son keeps checking to make sure that I’ve sent this e-mail because he thinks Mr. Newbold is an ‘awesome dude and we should tell his boss.’”
Each fall, the PDK/Gallup Poll conducts a national survey to assess the public’s attitudes toward schools. When asked in their latest poll to identify the most important measure of a school’s effectiveness, 81% of parents responded, “The percent of students who feel hopeful about their future.” In other words, they want their children to understand and internalize that they’ve been “marked for good.” I invite each of you to set young people’s sights on a world they may not have yet fully imagined. Help them see their bright future and the contribution they can make to our community, country and world. The generation of children in our schools today has definitely been “marked for good.”
In Support of Support!
Every morning between approximately 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. 31,325 students across Weber County walk out of doors and head out to school. At school they are welcomed by the most caring, well-trained administrators and teachers in the country.
Getting our students to school and supporting them in their learning is an enormous task and behind the scenes there is an army of dedicated support personnel that makes the experience of school in Weber District an inviting, safe and enriching experience. To get a feel of the value of the work provided by support staff it is good to consider exactly what they accomplish each day:
We are very grateful for the dedicated professionals that make up the Weber School District Classified Employees and Educational Support Staff. They make the educational experience of our students one of opportunity and support for achievement. Through a dedicated and persistent effort, these great Weber District personnel,make our children’s lives brighter!
Have you found yourself saying, “I can hardly believe it’s April” or, “I can’t believe it’s the last quarter of school.” Time seems to be flying by so quickly. My next thoughts turn to all of the things that need to happen before the end of school. Among all of the important things going on, teachers and parents need to remember they have great influence as they encourage their students to be persistent and finish the school year strong. Persistence is essential to success, and the more of it you display, the more you will accomplish. It is persistence that will allow you to make the most of your ability.
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
– Newt Gingrich
“Great beginnings are not as important as the way one finishes.”
– James Dobson
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to always try just one more time.”
– Thomas Edison
“Continuous effort - - not strength or intelligence - - is the key to unlocking our potential.”
– Winston Churchill
“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
– Benjamin Franklin
The concept of perseverance brings to mind the story of the 1980 Winter Olympic hockey team. Team USA embodied the growth mindset and continuous effort we strive daily to build in the students of Weber School District.
In the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, the USA hockey team was represented by a collection of young college kids, some with pro hockey aspirations. Under the guidance of their coach, Herb Brooks, the young American athletes became a fast, well-conditioned and cohesive team. Brooks knew how dangerous his team could be. He also knew that many of their competitors were underestimating his team’s potential and had mostly written them off as a medal contender. Brooks would use this miscalculation to his team’s advantage.
In order to make it to the medal round, the USA team had to fight hard in each match. They won their opening game against Sweden. This was a significant win, since USA had not beaten the Swedes since 1960. Next, the Americans dominated a strong Czech team by winning 7-3. Team USA continued their way through the bracket by winning their next three games, ultimately positioning them for the first medal round against the Russian team. In a very tense game against the Soviet team, the well-conditioned USA team held off the Russians and won 4-3. They finished strong in what became known as the Miracle on Ice.
Today, more than 30 years later, most people believe that this unlikely victory resulted in a gold medal for the USA. It did not. The win over Russia put Team USA through to the next round where they went on to defeat Finland and win the gold. In six of the seven games played, the USA team had to come back from a deficit to win. They truly embodied the spirit of belief, persistence, and passion. And, they definitely finished strong!
We often refer to the Weber Way in our district. We believe in educating the whole child. Teaching our students to be positive, persistent and to finish strong is whole child thinking. These life skills are necessary for a successful future. We want to thank educators and parents as we all work together to support students and ensure success by fostering a spirit of persistence, perseverance and continuous effort.
Work Worth Doing -
With less than one month remaining in the 2015-16 school year, it is surprising to realize just how quickly this year has gone. I congratulate each of our students, teachers, support professionals and administrators on a successful and productive year. Thank you for your significant work and effort. Certainly, it has made a positive difference!
Earlier in the school year, I invited everyone in our district to rise to a challenge I termed, “The Weber Way.” That challenge entails maintaining a whole child focus, which places an emphasis on providing a rich and comprehensive learning experience for all children, while demonstrating greater awareness of the outside expectations associated with the testing and accountability model that permeates schools throughout our nation. I asked teachers to develop a renewed focus to teach the Utah Core Standards, allow all students to participate in interim SAGE assessments to familiarize them with testing formats and ease test anxiety, and take advantage of more instructional time by spiraling the curriculum and teaching for deep understanding rather than extensive year-end reviews. Great efforts have been made to prepare students for SAGE testing WITHOUT sacrificing what we know is right for children. That is an extraordinary thing! I know this has required extra work and effort on the part of every employee.
I have been pleased by the tremendous strides made to do things “The Weber Way.” Recently, I was presented with a replica road sign that reads, “The Weber Way.” It hangs in my office. Someone even suggested that Adams Avenue (in front of the district office) be renamed “Weber Way.” The “Weber Way” suggests that there is a right way to do things and that’s the way we do it in our district.
I love to read about Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States. Teddy grew up a sickly child in a wealthy family. Under such circumstances, he could have easily chosen a life of comfort and ease, but he didn’t. Rather, Teddy became an avid outdoorsman and competitive athlete. Most recall his leadership with the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill, as well as his successful political career. While governor of New York, Roosevelt preached what he called the “doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife.” With great conviction, he once said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” I agree. The work with which each of us is engaged is definitely “work worth doing.” On behalf of the Board of Education, I wish to thank every one of you for a great school year.
Training always makes a difference!
A few weeks ago at Fremont High School, in one of our athletic training classes a student/athlete suddenly experienced a life threatening medical emergency. As the student lay motionless on the gymnasium floor, a group of our great coaches and teachers sprang into action. 911 was called, and CPR was initiated on the student in jeopardy. While doing CPR one of the coaches ran for the AED (automatic external defibrillator) machine installed outside the door of the gym while others ushered the other student/athletes to another room. Under the direction of the AED machine, the student was shocked 3 times amidst vigorous CPR administered by the coaching staff. Plain City Fire and others responded quickly and the student was transported to the hospital for treatment of this serious incident. Fortunately for this student and his family he is well on his way to a full recovery, thanks in large part to the initial care provided by an excellently prepared, caring coaching staff at Fremont High School. When asked about the incident Mr. Cole Price stated that "the training we received from our School Nurse, Mrs. Pam Ballif and Mr. Doug Kapp last year really paid off when it counted."
As Orion Junior closed out the school year, their student failure rate was an incredible 1%! Although we expect and want every student to succeed, for Orion's great staff to pull students through at that rate is a tremendous testament to their dedication and the massive amount of training and preparation they have participated in as a staff over the past several years. Joe Jensen, Principal of Orem Junior High and the 2013-14 Principal of the Year in Utah stated, "Research shows that the most likely people to not graduate are those who build a credit hole in 9th grade." This fact is something we have known as a district and are working hard to eliminate....the staff at Orion, has prepared to tackle this challenge.
The success of our Roy Cone Project has been well documented and recognized to the extent that in the past legislative session Representative Ann Millner ran and passed a bill earmarking funding for schools to duplicate the Roy Cone Model. Every school in the Roy Cone has seen remarkable increases in attendance, student achievement and ultimately graduation rates. This success has come through multiple teacher and staff trainings as well as new and innovative methods adopted by all staff members throughout the cone. They have prepared and trained and the results are that all students are more successful!
Throughout the past 3 years in our Bonneville Cone all of our schools have participated in a training program, Assessment to Achievement, designed to enhance Professional Learning Communities and increase direct intervention with struggling students. The number of students failing and falling through cracks has decreased significantly and they too are seeing increased graduation rates as a result of commitment and dedication to increased learning and training.
Our students get better when we as professionals get better! Attendance, student engagement in school, graduation rates all go up as our dedication, and application of professional training and knowledge goes up. YOU make a difference to the individual as well as to the masses.
As we enter summer break from school, we encourage you to read a book, attend a conference, even just contemplate lesson plans and method of instruction....it all makes us better and in turn saves students' lives....sometimes literally! It's the Weber Way!
Welcome Back to School!
The advertisements for back to school are running. A new energy builds in the air as it draws closer to that time -- time for our kids to load up their backpacks, don their new clothes and head back to school. It can be a hard transition going from the freedom of summer to the structure of being a full-time student. But you know it is worth it. There is nothing like getting a good education, it gives our children a foundation for the rest of their lives.
Welcome back to all Weber School District students, teachers, support staff and administrators. We hope you have had a rejuvenating, great summer. I know teachers look forward with great anticipation to meeting their new students. Our teachers and administrators have been busy preparing for the 2016-17 school year and are ready to provide an outstanding educational experience for all students.
Though the halls of our schools have been quiet over the summer, a lot has happened. We appreciate the maintenance staff, custodians and computer techs that have all been busy preparing the buildings and grounds for the return of students. It is that time of year when we are excited to once again hear the sounds of students in the halls and classrooms...the sounds of learning.
As students walk through the school doors in August, you will be able to count on what is known in our district as the Weber Way: a whole child culture with a passionate, talented and dedicated faculty who go above and beyond to bring out the best in children. Welcome to the 2016-17 school year. May this year be filled with hope, anticipation, new learning and great growth.
Overarching Educational Truths -
As we settle into this new school year, I am once again reminded that working in schools is one of the most exhilarating, rewarding and demanding jobs that exists. While we interact closely with young people and provide them with a high-quality, broad education there are some overarching truths that can guide our efforts. By no means is this an exhaustive list. I know each of you could add something significant based on your experience and insight. Following are a few principles that have given me direction:
I invite each of you to consider these overarching truths as we begin this new school year. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many!
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is an oft-asked question that a student hears throughout their school career. While many have “no idea” what they want to pursue for future employment, for those that do, Weber School District has phenomenal opportunities available. Over the past nine years, WSD’s Internship program has grown from 40 students to over 140 students per semester. Having an internship has brought a whole new meaning to a young adult’s education as employer/mentors offer experiences as diverse as the workplace itself. Law enforcement, physical therapy, accounting, multiple health professions, engineering, education, and veterinarians are just some of the occupations that our students are able to experience. The opportunities encompass the full spectrum of real-world, relevant experience.
The cooperation and willingness of our business partners is incredible and indicative of the kind of support we receive in Weber School District on behalf of our students. Business Partners are establishing expectations, competencies and benchmarks that they want the interns to reach while out in the workplace. It’s not enough to just show up anymore, students are expected to develop skills related to their work experiences. With these higher expectations, the students come away feeling like they have really done something, having been involved in meaningful projects related to advancing the business. They become, as Dave Harris, engineer from Fresenius, put it, “Value added.”
Mr. Jeff Meyer, our CTE Work-Based Learning Coordinator organizes, initiates and manages Weber District’s Internship program and is a fantastic ambassador for this outstanding opportunity. With each quarter’s experience students submit a reflection sheet about their experiences to Mr. Meyer. When asked about some of the things that are related by the students, Mr. Meyer said that the most common phrase he sees is “…this was the best experience of my Senior/Junior Year,” and that feeling is echoed by our employers/mentors. Even though the internship is not meant to be a paid experience last spring alone more than 20 of our student interns had been hired in one capacity or another at their internship site. That number is especially high when many of our business partners are limited due to the post-secondary degree and certification requirements of their employees.
It would be difficult for our schools to replicate the type of learning that students receive through their internships. Many students realize these are the jobs that they want to pursue for their career and use it as a springboard as they continue on to post-secondary education. Some find out that the occupation is not for them and are able to pursue other careers. Regardless of the situation, each one of our students has developed soft skills pertaining to work-place etiquette and protocols that they will be able to utilize in whatever their pursuits may be. Student Internships….another part of “The Weber Way”!
The Roy High School Counseling Department has set a lofty goal for its senior class this year. They aim to make sure that 100% of their seniors graduate from high school, and taking it one step further, they would like to see 100% of their graduates have the opportunity to go to college or technical training. November 17th-21st marked Roy High School's first annual College Application Week. A kick-off assembly was held, and staff decorated their doors with fanfare from their favorite schools. Ambassadors from local universities attended the kick-off to represent their schools and to answer any questions the students had.
The idea behind College Application Week was to improve accessibility to higher education for all students by guiding them through the application process. Counselor Pam Jacobsen explains that this process can be daunting, particularly for those who are first-generation college students. So often seniors do not know where to begin the application process, and many fear that they will not be accepted if they do apply. The computer lab was opened to the students where they were given the opportunity to submit applications to the schools of their choice with help from the counseling staff.
Oftentimes, a significant barrier to higher education is cost. Pam Jacobsen stated that several weeks ago, seniors were given help to register on the U.S. Department of Education's website where they were given a pin number to apply for federal financial aid (FAFSA). This gave students an important head start in the financial aid process, allowing them to apply for grants and student loans after the first of the year once funds become available for the coming academic year. Several local universities also waived their application fees for this week only in an effort to spur participation in College Application Week.
Ultimately, 280 out of 465 seniors applied to one or more schools. That is roughly 60% of the senior class. Mrs. Jacobsen reports that they are very pleased with the results and hopes that these numbers will increase in years to come.
To send an anonymous tip through the hotline, text the word "friends" then your message to 274637.
The Weber School District is pleased to introduce The Friends Hotline, an SMS Text-A-Tip application that allows students to anonymously submit information to participating law enforcement agencies and schools about situations that they feel are a threat to their safety or the safety of others. This is a secure application that allows the tipster and the investigator to have a two-way dialog while keeping the tipster’s identity completely anonymous. The program is being offered through a partnership with the Ogden Police Department Real Time Crime Center, the Weber County Sheriff’s Office, and all police departments in Weber County that serve our students.
Students may hesitant to report threatening behavior such as bullying, threats, fights, weapons, alcohol, drugs, sexual misconduct, dating violence, or suicidal behaviors for fear of retaliation. This valuable programs allows tipsters make anonymous reports both on and off campus. When a text message is received, it is sent to a computer system located in Canada. All identifiers (student phone number) on the text are stripped from the message, then forwarded to our representatives. The student will not be identified unless they wish to be.
To use the system, the student will begin their message with the word "friends", enter a space, list their school name and send the message to 274637. The word friends must be first and must be followed by a space or the message will fail. The word "friends" is not case sensitive. The student will receive a return text immediately asking them to call 911 if it is an emergency, and it provides the student an identifier code so that the computer can communicate with them. The counselor or SRO may then communicate with the student’s alias if the student allows. If the student does not wish to have further communication, they may text STOP and the texting will end.
Our goal is to allow students who are not comfortable speaking to our administration or school resource officers the opportunity to share information about their concerns. It is important for the students to know that all reports go to a real time crime center and are logged. Prank text messages will be treated seriously.