Friday, January 29, 2016

Grief, Hope, and Thanks

This week we grieve with our neighbors in Lawrence at the loss of a beloved member of their family.  As many of you know, Susan Jordan, principal at Amy Beverland Elementary in Lawrence Township, was tragically killed this past Tuesday.
Because of the proximity our districts, close relationships are inevitable.  No doubt, many of you reading this knew Susan or know students, families, and teachers who were touched by Susan during her exemplary career as a teacher and principal.  
Jan Combs was an especially good friend and spent many, many hours with Susan and her family.  Jan says of Susan, “She loved, and she loved fiercely.”
Those of us who didn’t know Susan personally still grieve at the loss.  We grieve because we understand the void her students, both past and present, will feel.  We grieve because we understand the impact a loss like this has on teachers, friends, and family.  And we grieve because educators, regardless of where we live and work, are part of the same family. 
Susan’s career and her passion for children provide for us an example to strive for, so while we grieve with our friends in Lawrence, we also celebrate a life well lived.  We celebrate her educational accomplishments.  We celebrate the lives she has touched.  We celebrate her courage and selflessness, and we hope that we also would have the courage and love to follow her example to the very end.
Amy Beverland students, families, and teachers: We in Hamilton Southeastern Schools want you to know that our thoughts are with you this week and in the coming months.
Picture provided by Lawrence Township Schools
HSE teachers, staff, and administrators: A tragedy such as this reminds us of what is really important in life.  We on the HSE Teaching and Learning Team want to take a moment to pause and thank you for all you do for our children and families. 
Jan tells us that Susan Jordan had a pattern of ending a phone call by saying, “Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”  It was an endearing habit of hers, but it was also a way of life.
In that same spirit, and as a tribute to Susan, we say to all of you, “Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”
We hope you find strength, courage, love, and joy each day this week.
Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team

  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Friday, January 22, 2016

This I Believe

From Phil: My Pitch

My entry is short and to the point—which, by the way, is a fairly good definition of an Elevator Pitch.  Below, I present the four points that I want to remember in the coming months when I am asked this question:

"Why should I support more funding for Hamilton Southeastern Schools?" 

  • Community Values: We have a tremendous opportunity in Fishers to give our children a world-class education.  Our students, our parents, our teachers, and our community value quality education, and with our support, HSE Schools can ensure that all of our students receive the best we have to offer.
  • Whether or Not You Have Students in HSE: Fishers, Indiana, is widely viewed as one of the best places in the nation to live and to raise children.  One significant reason for our growth, our high property values, and our quality of life is Hamilton Southeastern Schools.  Even if I didn’t firmly believe that support of public education and HSE Schools is my moral obligation (which I do) as a property owner in the district, having strong schools is in my financial interest as well.
  • High Quality Teachers: In the past, Hamilton Southeastern Schools has been able to attract and retain high quality teachers and administrators.  More recently, however, funding cuts have taken their toll, and we have begun to lose our competitive advantage.  While HSE is still a great place to teach, our salaries have become less and less competitive, while at the same time our class sizes continue to increase.  As a teacher for over 20 years and as an administrator for almost that many, I know first hand the impact of large class sizes.  HSE has already experienced the loss of good teachers who have been attracted by more lucrative salary packages in other districts, and we can no longer assume that our first-choice candidates will in turn choose to come to HSE. 
  • Nowhere Else to Cut: We have no more “fat” to cut.  With the current funding structures, HSE joins Carmel, Zionsville, and the other “northern rim” schools as the least funded schools in the state.  As a result, we have far fewer teachers and administrators than schools of similar size.  In fact, many much smaller districts in Indiana employee more teachers than HSE.    
We hope you will find these Elevator Pitches helpful in the coming months.  We encourage you to prepare yourself for questions that will inevitably come, often at unexpected times.

Have a great week, HSE.  Thanks for all you do for the children of our community. Keep fighting the good fight!

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team

  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Friday, January 15, 2016

Going Up?

This week, we ride the elevator up and down and get an Elevator Pitch each way.  The first is from Danielle Chastain, the principal of Riverside Intermediate School.  Danielle makes the argument for the importance of relationships and resources, and she want Hamilton Southeastern Schools to have a culture of learning for students and for adults.

On the trip back down, Stephanie reminisces about a family trip to the apple orchard and explains how the use of simple technology can amplify and extend the experience for her daughter.

Enjoy the ride!

From Danielle: Relationships, Resources, and Learning for ALL

Looking through the lens as both an educator and a parent of HSE students, I have come to the following conclusions:
Our/My children deserve:
  •  Access to HSE21 resources and materials;
  • A flexible 21st Century learning environment conducive to child-centered learning, one where ALL students and teachers thrive;
  • A class size favorable for building meaningful, trusting, positive relationships;
  • A class size that allows teachers to truly know their students as readers, writers, mathematicians, artists, musicians, scientists, athletes, and historians;
  • Engaging collaborative, student-centered instruction to take students to the cutting edge of their creativity and competence; and
  • A teacher who has had access to HSE21 professional development, resources, and materials.

This is what I want for my children.  And as a member of this community, I believe that ALL Hamilton Southeastern Schools students are “my children.”

Respond to Danielle at:

HSE21 at the apple orchard! 

From Stephanie: Amp it Up!

When families ask about HSE 21 and the impact at the elementary level, I pull up a photo on my phone... 

Our family has enjoyed visiting orchards since I was a child. Treasurers to see, smell, touch, hear and taste. Our most recent visits have been amplified by the use of a device as a tool. We used our device to amplify our experience.

Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke in their most recent book, Amplify, ask us to consider what we hold dear as true early childhood and elementary experiences and find ways they can be simply enhanced or amplified through the use of a device.

Snapping photos at the orchard, recording bee vibrations and pollination techniques with  iMovie, keeping track of our favorite samples and varieties of apples in our note keeping app, using Pinterest to find new apple recipes, and investigating further questions.

 The car ride home after that visit continued on in an amplified fashion because we had questions about how the summer drought and harsh winter impacted one of our favorite apple varieties and left many of the trees bare. The girls read to us about the impact and found videos that amplified our understanding. 

Our children will always need the developmentally appropriate experiences in school that engage all of their senses. We use a device to amplify those experiences, ask them to push their thinking, bring it home to talk further about their new understandings, and then cozy up to a warm bowl of fresh applesauce!

Respond to Stephanie at:

Enjoy your three-day weekend.  Next week look for more reasons to support Hamilton Southeastern Schools and HSE21.  

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Friday, January 8, 2016

Boldly Go—In 30 Seconds

This semester, as we head into the spring election, is an exciting and important time for Hamilton Southeastern Schools.  For the next few weeks, we want to spend some time thinking and writing about how to support HSE Schools.  Before May 4, odds are good you are going to be asked your thoughts about our schools, and our hope is that our blog entries might help you prepare for important conversations.
What will you say when you are asked about our schools?
From Phil: Starting with the Big Picture

When I first started to write my Elevator Pitch, I kept stumbling to find the words.  I was reminded of Wittgensen’s wisdom about the importance of words.  I finally gave up on paragraph form and decided to go with bullet points that I will try to remember when I find myself caught off guard by a question about our schools.

This week, I’m starting with the big picture: public schools as a whole.  In the future, I want to focus closer to home.  If, however, I am asked this question, I will have at least a partial answer:

"Why should I support public education?"
  • Education for All: Public schools have both a mandate and a moral obligation to provide an education to all students. For public schools, “all” means “all.”  We take (and love) every student who walks through the door.  We wouldn’t want it any other way.  We are glad we can’t pick and choose our students because every child deserves a quality education. Public schools have a tremendously successful history of providing this for our families, our towns, our states, our country, and our world.
  • Pay It Forward: I attended public schools, as do my children and my grandchild.  When I was school age in a different state and different era, there were those who came before me who built and supported the public schools I attended.  It is now my turn to provide for the next generation.  My support is both paying back and paying forward.
  • Economic Development: Part of our moral obligation is to provide the best possible opportunities for all children. This takes money, but it is money well spent.  Children who receive high quality educations soon become part of a high quality workforce that drives local and state economies.  There is no better economic development tool or better investment for a community than creating and supporting world-class public schools.

Respond to Phil:

Star Trek fans should be able to
relate to Jan's message!

From Jan: Boldly Go, HSE!

The Hamilton Southeastern School District is a rare and exciting place to be.  This School District is BOLD

HSE21 provides a BOLD vision of transformation, where classrooms are transformed into learning labs and students are engaged in authentic and relevant learning opportunities. The district-wide 1:1 initiative BOLDLY expands learning beyond the four walls of the classroom for the 21,000+ students in the district. 

There are success stories too numerous to mention, and students are doing amazing things each and every day with the support of great teachers, administrators and support staff. 

The instructional vision of HSE21 is a BOLD commitment to providing students with an educational experience that is world-class!  

Respond to Jan:

Here is a BOLD challenge for any of you reading this blog: Send us your Elevator Pitch.  What great things are going on in HSE?  Why should our community support our schools?  

If you have an answer, send it our way!

Have a great week, HSE!

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team

  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education