To the Editor;
Over the past year, there has been a lot of noise regarding the Joint Education Center in Lee County. You have likely read that Central Lee is back at the table for continued planning. This is true, and we are happy that many of our concerns have been addressed so far. While some concerns remain, we believe that with SCC taking on full leadership of this effort, we will find more solutions in the coming months.
There have been many things said to promote the concept of a Joint Education Center over the past year. One claim, made by Lee County Economic Development, was that 40 percent of Lee County students do not have a plan beyond high school. This is not based on any data from our public schools, the Iowa Department of Education, or the Iowa Workforce Development. In fact, in Central Lee, our postsecondary readiness report indicates 60.8 percent of our students typically are enrolled in post-secondary institutions a year after high school. In 2019, that number was at 75 percent.
While we understand the value of the Joint Education Center, we also will not wait to make improvements in our students’ college and career readiness. Our district has embraced Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The first habit is to “be proactive.” It easily translates into, “you are in charge of yourself” or, “your choices and your actions lead to your results.” Under this mindset, we are taking action now.
Starting this year, we are allocating a full-time staff member to lead our workplace learning efforts. We want local businesses and organizations to partner with us to find opportunities for students to gain real work experience while in high school. Brent Koller, a former ag teacher, will be leading this program.
Starting this fall, we have revamped our advisory period to encompass several areas of focus to begin molding our students’ skills for the future. Our advisory time or SOAR sessions is a daily, required, twenty-eight-minute period dedicated to addressing necessities above and beyond academics. Each student has been assigned to a SOAR session group and will rotate with that group daily between five different sessions.
The five sessions include:
- English Language Arts Extension — Focused on providing additional support in English language arts standards.
- Math Minutes — Focused on providing additional support in math standards.
- LEAD Academy — Focused on building understanding and the implementation of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
- SOAR Culture — Focused on building behaviors and skills that facilitate a healthy, positive culture between people and organizations.
- Career Coaching — Focused on career opportunities and coaching students in taking actions that lead to success in their desired pathways.
Teachers have been assigned a SOAR session area based on their strengths and interests. We are excited about using SOAR session time to meet the heart needs of our students and to fill their toolboxes with additional strategies that will better prepare them for adulthood.
We are also introducing a graduation capstone project for students who wish to graduate with additional honors, beyond those provided for academic achievement alone. The capstone project can be fulfilled in a variety of ways but will focus on student skills and learning in the workplace while they are in high school. We aim for this to be a larger focus when our students walk across the stage at commencement.
Lastly, we recognize that parent/teacher conferences have gradually lost their impact at the high school level. Therefore, in conjunction with our college/career readiness plan, we are introducing a new model next spring. Parents and students will meet with our staff on how we are preparing them for the next stage in their lives. It will be different and possibly uncomfortable at times, but we feel it will go a long way toward helping parents, staff, and students remain on the same page about their future plans.
Our high school leadership and staff have worked incredibly hard to make improvements that will benefit our students. If a Joint Education Center does come to fruition in the future, it will certainly enhance our offerings. Ultimately, we know that what we do in our building every day from this point forward will have a much greater impact on our students’ futures.
After all, our priority is to create a culture in which all students are expected to achieve a better tomorrow!
Dr. Andy Crozier