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Friday, December 30, 2016

Reorganization election 2-7-17

The Reorganization Election is coming on Tuesday February 7, 2017.  Early Voting is already available at the Fayette County Auditor’s office and absentee ballots can also be requested.  On the 7th Polls will be open at all the usual school election sites from noon to 8:00 p.m.  There are two questions on the ballot, one is to approve creation of the North Fayette Valley Community School District by reorganizing North Fayette and Valley, effective July 1, 2018.  The other is approval of the Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) for expenditure of the one cent sales tax or SILO revenues.  This RPS is the same that both districts have been functioning on, it is just a necessary move to provide a new RPS for a new district.  If you are interested in more information about this election, and what it will mean to NFV students check out this Reorganization Information  web page I’ve developed

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Scoop on Reorganization

Hopefully everyone at NFV has heard that the petition to call for an election to re-organize has been completed!  Woo-Hoo!  Lost of hard work by dedicated citizens of both districts resulted in over 602 signatures from North Fayette and 438 for Valley.

The petitions have been filed at KeystoneAEA who has to call a Public Hearing on the proposed new school district within 60 days.  Keystone will follow the guidelines of Iowa Code Chapter 275.5 and several others (275.12, 275.14, 275.15, 275.18, 275.20).    The Public Hearing will be held at NFV HS on October 17, 2016 at 5:30 p.m.

At this hearing residents of both districts in the proposed combination have the right to file objections.  Two forms are available for objections;  Form 1 is a request that the petition be dismissed and that no election be held; Form 2 is to be filed by individuals objecting to the boundaries of the new proposed district as presented in the petition.  The deadline for filing these forms with the AEA is October 10, 2016.

Within 10 days after the hearing the AEA board will either; Bring the petition as presented to an election; modify the petition or boundary lines and bring the modified plan to an election; or dismiss the petition.  If the AEA approves the petition and brings it to election, the proposed election date is February 7, 2016.  The reorganization date, when we might become one school district, will be July 1, 2018.

The election is actually 2 elections.  It must pass with simple majority in both districts, if either one votes it down the reorganization does not continue.  If it passes, then the two school boards have to appoint an Initial board of the 2 districts from their current members.  This initial board has been determined by the petition to include 7 members in 7 director districts, who will eventually be elected by at-large voting (i.e. everyone in the district can vote on every candidate).

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A look to the future

Some folks have asked if I could post the power point I used for the Look to the Future session on Back to School Night.  A PDF of that power point is at this link   (  The first half is just about changes going on now with our infrastructure and the proposed changes that may happen after the re-organization vote.  The second half is a little but about school finance and the impact of declining enrollment on school programs.  Don't know if that will mean much to folks, but if you want further explanation, just let me know.

We are still collecting signatures for the re-organization election.  We are very close to having the 400 necessary signatures in North Fayette and are short  less than 100 for the Valley side.  These signatures are not to approve the re-organization, just to call for an election in both districts for re-organization.  If either election fails to reach a simple majority then we continue as is, if it passes we become the North Fayette Valley School District but you would only notice minimal changes to our existing operations.  In order to re-organize into one district, in July of 2018, we need to have these elections in 2017.

Look for the opportunity to sign these petitions at the Music Boosters dinner and football game on Friday night!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Lt. Governor speaks out on absenteeism

In the DM Register this morning we find Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds making a plea to help public education with a chronic problem:  absenteeism.  Regular Student Attendance is Vital for Student Success

Some of you may have received a letter from NFV this summer noting that 15 days absent in a year is considered chronic.  Many parents with students absent that often have perfectly good reasons; injury, extended illness, family strife, etc. The empathy and compassion we have those situations is real, however, the impact on educational success is still there.  In unavoidable cases as above we come to understand and deal with the reality.  However, for students who do not fit in that category, how may "just not feel well every other week," it has become clear through research that school attendance is a barrier to success.

Our efforts at Intake Conference this year is to kick start a communications relationship with teachers.  Working together for your student's education is the best possible way to foster success.  The first priority to do that work should be regular attendance.

Or to think of it in another way, 15 days is almost 8.5% absenteeism.  In a 260 day work year, thats 22 days of sick leave.  Would that be appropriate at your work place?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Back to School Letter

July 20, 2016

Welcome Back to School!
I hope this envelope isn’t too intimidating, they seem to get bigger every year and this year is no exception. Some of you may receive this letter more than once, yes we know that’s wasteful, but it also is the easiest and most economical way to make sure everyone gets the information they need.  
We have made it a goal to increase parental involvement in NFV student’s education.  Your child will do better if you are committed to the right academic support and encouragement. A Harvard Meta-analysis by Dr. William H. Jeynes entitled Parental Involvement and Student Achievement: A Meta-Analysis strongly supports this involvement. Dr. Jeynes’ conclusions are most supportive of parents reading to or with their children, and of having expectations of academic success for your children.  If we can create a partnership between parents and teachers, supporting appropriate academic involvement and positive motivation, we can improve every child’s school outcomes.  We have scheduled a couple of events to help get us there.
One of our first events to build this partnership into a relationship is K-8 Intake Conferences.  On August 18 and 19 all K-8 parents are invited to attend a parent teacher conference for the purpose of telling your teacher about your student.  There is an Intake Conference Questionnaire in this packet for clarifying this discussion.  Please complete this questionnaire for each child in grades K-8 and bring it with you to intake conferences.  You can help that teacher be better prepared to deal with your student, know his/her motivations and fears, and to build that positive student/teacher/parent relationship that is most important for learning.  Intake Conferences are August 18, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm and August 19, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.  The Parent Teacher Conference Scheduler software is linked at our registration pages: or  We hope all K-8 parents can make it and start the year off on a positive note.  These links should be accessible starting on Friday, July 22.
In another event to build better relationships, we have contracted Dr. Paul Gasser, a Marriage and Family Therapist from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and the Love and Logic Institute.  He will be presenting to staff the morning of August 17, and for parents that evening from 6:00-8:00 pm.   His expertise is on dealing with children and students in difficult situations. You know those days when the young ones are not listening, uncooperative and are hard to reason with. He will provide practical strategies to keep the situation calm and help you regain control.  His evening presentation is entitled Making Parenting Fun Again, I think you’ll enjoy it.
We are also hoping these improved relationships with parents and students can help us achieve better attendance. Did you know that students who miss 15 days of school or more in a year are identified as chronically absent by the Department of Education? Their data shows that this chronic absenteeism puts students at a disadvantage in their learning.  These students typically earn lower grades, score lower on standardized tests and are less successful in school than their peers.  We know that some of these students often have illness or injuries that keep them away.  However, if we can eliminate some of the avoidable absences we can all do our jobs better.
Another change this year impacting those who live in Hawkeye and Fayette is that the 6:00 p.m. activity shuttles from West Union to those towns has been discontinued.  We will continue Activity Shuttles from the Middle School to West Union and the High School to Valley.
On the following pages are several announcements and notifications that you need to review.  Please note that KWWL has ended their text message services and School Messenger text message services have been dropped in favor of a system called Instructions for enrolling in GovDelivery are in those announcements.
And finally, many folks have been asking when can we make our NFV partnership permanent.  There is a citizen’s committee who are collecting signatures on a petition to call for that election.  They need 400 signatures in each district, to have an election in February of 2017 for a reorganized school district on July 1, 2018.  

As always . . . Proud to be NFV!  GO TIGERHAWKS! @NFVtigerhawks
Duane Willhite, Supt. North Fayette and Valley Community Schools

Monday, July 11, 2016

Please support NFVCC building Program

This is text of my speech at the NFVCC groundbreaking on June 28.  I hope we can count on everyone to support the Community Coalitions Efforts.  DW

"First of all I want to thank the people behind the growth of NFVCC for embracing our combining school districts and working for all of its students.  The coalition is a 16-year success story at Valley and I am very grateful that our partnership was embraced in a way that it brought parents and volunteers from North Fayette and Valley together.

"Mr. Knox has said that without the school district’s support this would not be possible, but I believe without the NFVCC support the vitality and power of our schools to reach out to kids would be considerably diminished.  One of the reasons the school district is fully behind this project is that we know students learn better when they are ready to focus on school.  Providing for socialization and a sense of belonging to the school, especially for middle schoolers, is a huge boost for our school culture.

"We've been talking about "Maslow before Blooms" in our administrative meetings lately.  For those of you who haven't had an Ed Psych class, Maslow's Heirarchy is the order of self-needs that we all encounter, physical needs like food and water, sleep, safety are the most basic of human needs.  Those human needs also include companionship, a sense of belonging and socialization.

"Bloom's Taxonomy is a heirarchy of thinking.  Knowledge and understanding being the basics.  Then higher thinking skills are problems solving, analysis, creativity.  We know that to successfully get into the higher thinking processes of adolescents and teens, they need to feel that sense of belonging, they need to have a safe place to be with peers and to grow in their social dynamics.  

"This building will provide that.  We know that we can do a better job in the Middle school building because fo the job that will be getting done in the NFVCC Youth Family Learning Center.  The volunteers who work for the youth center or YFL are doing great work.  They are providing the stepping stones to success for our young people and we as a school district are indebted to them for the time they give to mentor, advise and simply provide a safe place for students to develop a sense of belonging in NFV.

I thank all past and future donors to this project for the asset you are providing to our schools."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Reading is not a quick fix Governor!

February 23, 2016

In this Des Moines Register article on his funding plan for summer reading programs to serve 3rd graders in danger of being retained, the Governor is touting the fact that they have $1.9 Million to start pilot programs this year.  He then promises they will provide $9M in funding before next March so that all of us can serve our 3rd-grade non-proficient readers in the summer of 2017.

First of all with an estimated 25% of third graders in that category, I doubt that $9 million will come close to the need when the rules are asking for 70 hours of instruction in small groups over the summer.

More troubling though is the concept of waiting until a non-proficient reader is in 3rd grade before providing summer interventions to address this skill deficiency.  At NFV we have been offering abbreviated summer sessions for struggling readers for the past three years in grades 1-6.  If our goal is for no students to be retained because of poor reading skills, then let's address it early and often.

During the school year we have intervention times called W.I.N. (What I Need) where teacher/interventionists use test results to identify appropriate interventions and help that student.  Even though we address reading early with this extra time, some students still need more help.  So we offer it to them in the summer, in hopes of getting them closer and closer to the goal before third grade.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to successfully propel all students into proficiency.  Partially due to too little time for summer interventions (12 hrs each);  partially because some parents do not send their students to summer school, or can't because of transportation issues, and maybe because we are unsuccessful in hiring enough of our best teachers to work in this program over the summer.

I don't know how the Governor thinks we can wave some $9 Million wand in one summer to create proficiency for all readers.  I appreciate the efforts, but we need so much more.   Summer reading programs should be funded to include all grades below 3rd, and help us to cover transportation costs.  It is very disheartening to be faced with this retention law for 3rd graders, knowing retention is not in the best interest of the child. Our challenge to bring all readers to proficiency is always the focus, not just when faced with this negative consequences.