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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

November '18 NFV Newsletter

This is New!

Trying to get a little more colorful and make the newsletter better with graphics and photos. Every 5 years we are required to do a Community Needs Assessment, and now is the time for NFV. Click this link or copy it to you browser to take this short survey. It is estimated to take less than 10 minutes for most people. We need the feedback so that we can do better, please help us out and complete this survey prior to November 8. Thank You!

Menus and Activities Calendar here

Electronic Financial Report Here

Link to Electronic Newsletter

NFV 5 Year Needs Assessment

Friday, September 28, 2018

SBG update

September 2018

Now that we have completed one full year of all grade levels utilizing Standards Based Grading, we've been hearing more questions about the practice, not so much why we do it, but "Why are we doing something so different than everyone else?"

I can give you the answer I gave staff a few years ago, "Its the Right Thing to do!"  That probably comes off a little arrogantly, but through research and development of the SBG practices we are actually doing something many of the best schools in Iowa are utilizing.  We are following research based structures and processes that will result in a better education for your students.

So to answer question about our standards based movement you can visit by Matt Townsly ( of UNI, formerly Solon Curriculum Director.  He did this survey in late 2017, so its a year old now, but the only differences are the additional schools investigating SBG.  In this study we see that we are not alone, the numbers:

  • 14 schools in Iowa, including NFV are in Full implementation, that is all grades practicing Standards based Grading and reporting.  These include
    • Des Moines
    • Ankeny
    • Sioux Center (2A)
    • Montezuma (1A)
    • Solon (3A)
    • Van Meter (1A)
    • Clear Creek Amana (one of the fastest growing districts in the state)
  • 19 schools in Iowa are Almost fully implementing, meaning they have not yet adopted it in all grade levels.  These include:
    • Cedar Falls
    • Charles City
    • Crestwood
    • Emmetsburg
    • Norwalk
    • Pella
    • Waukee (again fast growing district)
  • 29 are Beginning implementation, meaning that at least 1 teacher is piloting SBG with plans to expand to higher implementation within 2 years.  These include:
    • Aplington Parkersburg
    • Dunkerton
    • North Scott
    • Urbandale
    • Johnston
    • Xavier (Private School)
    • Newman Catholic (Private School)
    • Waverly Shell Rock
  • 44 Schools are investigating SBG, locally that includes:
    • Jesup
    • East Buchanan
    • Sumner Fredriksberg
    • Don Bosco Catholic
And recently we hosted a group from Oelwein who are asking to see how and why NFV implements Standards Based Grading.  Thats 62 districts using Standards Based Grading, thats nearly 20% of all districts in Iowa, and growing, with another 44, that adds up to 33% involved, 1 out of 3.

Change is difficult for everyone.  We are on the right track.  College admissions are adjusting and SBG will not hinder college application efforts.  Some Universities are utilizing SBG in their own classrooms, specifically in Education Departments.  We are proud of our staff's efforts to to make this system work.  we will continue to fine tune it, but there is no impetus to change as we truly believe "It's the right thing to do."

7 Big Rocks | Productivity | BigRocks | Time Management | You can design...

This demonstration is a depiction of how we have a tendency to busy ourselves with seemingly urgent
but unimportant time wasters.  Distractions like a Facebook notification, getting lost on YouTube with
funny cat videos, or watching yet one more football game, home improvement show, or rerun of Friends.
Fill your time with too many of these and you don’t get to the important stuff, paying the bills, meeting
work deadlines, talking to your kids about their day, or taking care of your health.

This is one of the topics our 2 day training in September was about.  Stephen Covey, the author of
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a hugely successful self help book.  It’s been an iconic addition
to many businessman’s book shelf for close to 30 years.  NFV is embarking on a cultural program based
on Covey’s 7 Habits called The Leader In Me,

This program is widely used in Waterloo and Cedar Falls school, many district around Des Moines have
picked it up, it is a national movement in schools to teach students these 7 Habits as a way to improve
their approach to learning, relationships and life.  

The Habits:

  1. Be Proactive - the habit of personal responsibility
  2. Begin With the End in Mind - the habit of a personal vision
  3. Put First Things First - the habit of personal time management (The Rocks)
  4. Think Win-Win - The habit of mutual benefit
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood - the habit of empathic communication
  6. Synergize - The habit of Creative Cooperation
  7. Sharpen the Saw - the habit of daily self renewal

The first step in the program is to get the adults in the school to use the 7 Habits.  More effective adults,
who manage their time, collaborate effectively and pay attention to self care will be better teachers and
role models for your children. We will slowly role out 7 Habits education in the Middle School, expand it
to grades 4-5 this year.  9th Graders are reading The 7 Habits of Effective Teens, with the goal of
gradually absorbing the lessons of the 7 Habits throughout the district.  

Another focus of the Leader In Me is the concept of student leadership.  As NFV students gain
awareness of the habits, they will be asked to get involved in school decision making.  Its called
Student Agency and Voice. Student agency and voice refers to the values, opinions, beliefs,
perspectives, and cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students in a school and
allowing those students to have a voice, to make decisions, be heard in meaningful ways and to have
choices in their learning.

That’s going to be tough for us old timers used to controlling every day in every way.  We’ll need to work
at it. We are committing to it. All in! Don’t expect immediate changes or a visible re-invention of our
schools.  This journey is a crock pot, simmering all day to get better and better, not a microwave just
warming around the sides of issues. We hope the Habits will permeate through the communities and
improve more than just school environments.  

For more information see CASEL evaluation of Leader In Me;, or go to this introductory page and watch the introductory videos of
Leader In Me on the right hand side of the page. Want to see some effectiveness data? .  

Thursday, August 23, 2018

First Day of School 2018!

Early Morning Fog shrouding Wadena, I love this part of the state!

What a beautiful drive in to NFV schools this morning.  First day of school is always a great day, kids
are excited to be back (most of them!), and so are adults.  We had an awesome Flag ceremony at NFV Valley elementary and I'm sure special welcomes were offered in every building.

We had an awesome Flag ceremony at NFV Valley Elementary and I'm sure special welcomes were offered in every building. 

 #NFVCalkins showed his excitement to be back in the MS with a "Beefy"fistbumping effort. 
 #NFVGearhart worked the crowd into a frenzy

NFV Elementary all waited patiently for the flag ceremony.

Welcome Back!  Dair-Y say more?

Always great to have someone to cheer you on!

Mr. Nuss, the always smiling greeter at the HS!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Happy Gilmore to Brain Science

August, it’s like the Sunday of summer!   And it is here.  whether its fishing, golf, biking or just laying on the beach, I hope you enjoyed your summer immensely!  For me it is biking and golfing, two wonderful diversions to that work thing we have to do. 

Do you remember Happy Gilmore here?  My golf swing is about as ugly as his, but certainly doesn’t have the same outcomes.  I really enjoy golf, but I’m no good, so I sometimes watch golf videos on YouTube, you can learn anything on YouTube.

Sometime not long ago, one of those golf videos got me to thinking.  This dude who gets paid to talk about golf in videos is explaining the wonders of a relaxed grip on the club and letting the science take over.  RELAXED?  SCIENCE? really, I thought it was all grip it and rip it!? So I tried it, I unfurled my fingers a little from the white knuckle grasp I typically use and gave it a few swings.  SUCCESS, well a little anyway, I’ll never be good. The thing is on relaxing the grip, it also relaxed the wrist, and slowed down the backswing.  The centripetal force of the club on my hands brought it through the ball naturally and the ball sailed higher, straighter and longer than I’ve hit it for years.

The science tells the story, in a relaxed mode, the outcome happens naturally and the stress, which was typical in my swing , disappeared, along with its bad results.  The analogy here could be seen in our relationship with students.  In Love and Logic, we learned to stay calm, you can’t argue with an angry child.  Does yelling at a child produce positive results?  Not for long, stress builds, the relationship frays, and the TIGHT GRIP of adult control has the negative effect of unpredictable responses; impulsive, angry, defiant, fearful, or tearful.  

The science tells us that’s going to happen.  Relationships can’t be built in a high stress environment.  When stressed (or yelled at by a trusted adult) the "fight or flight" reflex is triggered by the sympathetic nervous system, making the amygdala (emotional part of the brain) take charge, shutting down the prefrontal cortex (thinking part) and the result is impulsive anger, or tearful rejection.

The culture of a building or district is defined by the beliefs and behaviors of the social group which are acceptable and common to the population.  When we stress the population, the the culture deteriorates. Schools need a positive, caring and engaging culture.  That is why we are bringing Leader In Me to the district.  It is a tool to teach adults and students the 7Habits of Successful People, and while doing so we will be improving culture.  I'm not saying it will be all laid back and out of control.  We still need rules and regulations to be followed, but how we all react when rules are forgotten is the goal.  Its about a calm and thoughtful reaction that doesn't create stress.

Looking forward to a stress free and great 2018-19 school year!

Monday, July 2, 2018

North Fayette Valley Community School District

Well the day has finally come.  North Fayette CSD and Valley CSD are now officially one entity.  Even though this is a significant date for those of us in the Central office (new policies, new accounts, new contracts and so on) the general public will not notice many differences.  The big ones are creating a 6-8 middle school at the Valley site, and converting Fayette to a 4th and 5th grade building.  Andrew Wind of the WCF Courier did a nice piece summarizing our reorganization. 

NFV has been around for five years, celebrated five graduating classes, a state championship, multiple all-state performers, a Blue Ribbon School and many other highlights.   Our focus now can be more directly on making NFV the best it can be.  We will pursue that through Mission and Vision statements and Core Values:

The NFV Mission is to;
Ignite Learning; Build Leaders; Achieve Excellence!
The NFV graduates will be;
Well rounded, engaged citizens impacting the future.

We, at NFV value…
  • A safe environment
  • Diverse interests and abilities of students
  • Citizenship through integrity, ethics, respect, responsibility and empathy
  • Pursuit of a student’s full potential
  • Partnerships with parents and community
  • A guaranteed and viable curriculum
  • Persistence and passion for learning
 Most of all though, we will continue to be here.  A 21st Century Education that prepares students as described above will require innovation and change.  Sustaining an educational system that can provide for students needs for years.  Our enrollment should allow us to remain relatively stable for generations to come and hopefully more!   NFV has adopted Standards Referenced Grading, embraced the PLC frameworks, established alternative education opportunities, and added technical expertise through PLTW and the One to One initiative.  There is more change to come as our economic future is not yet well defined.  We need to be progressively seeking ways to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been invented.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Warning on Netflix Series

Have you heard of 13 Reasons Why?  This series on Netflix debuted last year and now is back with a second season.  Season one was highly popular with teens, so of course Netflix is doing it again.  The title stands for 13 reasons why someone committed suicide.  Its graphic and dramatic and some say it sends a dangerous message to impressionable teens.

If your a parent of a teen, please be aware of this program and if your teen is watching it sit down and watch it along side them.  Have a dialog about the dangers of self harm and the sensationalizing of such behaviors.  If you can't take the time to sit and watch it with your teen, take a look at the website Smart Social  and their video  The author is an internet based social media specialist.  His name is Josh Ochs and he is selling his services.  I think he has a good message and could be very helpful, but I am not recommending you buy anything unless you feel you need that support.  

The number one statement on Smart Social that triggered me to write this:

  • recent study found that the release of 13 Reasons Why corresponded with between 900,000 – 1,500,000 more suicide related internet searches in the U.S., including a 26% increase in searches for “how to commit suicide” 
That is frightening.  The more aware you are of what the social media and entertainment media your child consumes and what it is saying, the better you can understand and deal with whatever issues pop up.

If you or your child do need help, there are numbers to call:
  • Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433
  • Crisis Call Center: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Lifeline Crisis Chat:

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

NFV's new mission and vision statement

It is quite the busy year as our two districts are working to become on in about 4 months.  Lots of policy and now budget/negotiations issues to deal with.  One of our hurdles was accomplished last night when the NFV in terim board voted unanimously to accept the recommend Mission and vision statements for the new board.  These guiding statements of our purpose for being and our ultimate stretch goal for our graduates will guide us and hopefully bring NFV together in a stronger commitment to create some great opportunities for our students. 

NFV’s Mission and Vision reflects the work of 4 district groups; School board members, District Lead Team, SIAC, and High School student council members.  Prioritized feedback on three questions to those groups (What do we do well?  How do we do that? What do we want NFV to be in the future?) led the committee’s thinking.  That data was reduced to high frequency descriptors, which include Student Centered, Opportunities, and High Expectations.  Other descriptors displayed a broad focus of priorities, such as student growth, strong programming, Early education, interventions, and a positive environment.

The Ad Hoc Committee was tasked to develop 1 or 2 statements for a Mission (What we DO), and a Vision, (What our graduates will be like) for our new district.  The Ad Hoc Recommends:

The NFV Mission is to;
Ignite Learning; Build Leaders; Achieve Excellence!
  • To ignite learning, is to build a passion and deep desire to learn that lasts a lifetime.
  • Leadership is built through opportunities for student actions, including creativity, confidence and all 21st Century skills.
  • Achieving excellence results from setting high goals and expectations of success for all.

The NFV graduates will be;
Well rounded, engaged citizens impacting the future.
  • Well rounded students have a diverse skill set and broad interests in community, state and national issues.
  • Engaged citizens are people of action (leaders) who can influence positive change and good relationships in community activities.
  • To be impactful they will be empowered with 21st century skills of collaboration, creativity and communication.

The committee members are Sharon Rich, Kirk Jacobsen, Betsy Nefzger, Karen Michelson, Kassie Stansberry, and Duane Willhite.  Sue Thoms, Susan Winter and Carole Nading served as secretaries.