Thursday, December 29, 2011

Oshkosh Area School District accomplishments since May 2010

[We have received the following from Oshkosh Area School District Board of Education member Steve Dedow and are happy to publish it for him and the district as a whole.]

During the day to day responsibilities that are inherent within the public education arena, sometimes the “big picture” can be lost, and with it all of the positive contributions that have been made.

It is with an eye on reflection and an effort to increase communication within our community that a sampling of some of the many positive things that have been accomplished by the Oshkosh Area School District’s Board of Education, Administration and Staff since May 2010 are presented here:

• Implementation of online hybrid High School English course for summer school.
• 3 credits of high school math required for graduation versus the previous 2 credits.
• Established The Riverside Program to address the closing of East High School - now a role model for other technical college/district partnerships - provides an OASD high school diploma to all students enrolled.
• Creation of the teaching principal position for small elementary schools
• Analysis and implementation of the Common Core State Standards K-12.
• High WKCE test results in both Literacy and Math compared to the state and local districts.
• The Schools of Recognition Grant - Roosevelt, Jefferson, Washington, and Merrill El schools were awarded over $300,000 to implement technology to improve engagement and student learning. These principals have been working with the technology and teaching & learning departments to implement LCDs, Smart Boards, ELMO document readers and approximately 200 iPads in the four schools. School eligible for the grant are those who are recognized for their academic achievement even with their high poverty rate.
• The Oshkosh Area School District’s new universal access pre-kindergarten program, Ready-4-Learning, has become a statewide model for its collaborative public-private approach to provide pre-school opportunities for more children in the area.
• Have begun the process of establishing either a Fine Arts or STEM Charter school within the District.
• Spotlight Schools Grant for Washington Elementary - Erin Kohl and the staff at Washington wrote this grant by themselves. They received the grant for being a "culture of literacy." The grant money goes, in part, to pay for schools from around the state to come to Washington to learn about how to create a culture of literacy for their own school.
• Have maintained programming at consistent levels to achieve academic excellence and offer educational opportunity to the children of our community.
• Established "Back on Track" mentoring program in both high schools as partnership with UWO Success Center.

• Budget dollars injected into long overdue technology needs including: Complete evaluation of IT infrastructure and detailed, multi-year strategic plan, upgrade of IT Power systems including conditioned power, battery backup, and new generator installation, complete replacement of entire switch infrastructure in all sites, complete server replacements and upgrades (reducing operational costs), 1,600 new computer workstations, with all systems upgraded to Windows 7(no systems are older than 4 years in OASD at present time vs. previous 8+ years old systems),
classroom technology upgrades including the addition of over 50 Smart boards and 350 iPads for student use K-12, transition of district to Google Apps for Education and Gmail saving over $47,000 per year including full access for over 10,000 students and 1,200 staff, replacement of email archiving system for significant improvement in service, upgrade of internet information for community including upgraded website (in progress), Facebook, and Twitter pages,
upgrade and replacement of central office phone systems (reducing operational costs) with IP based phone systems, installation of WiFi access in all buildings with complete coverage at ONHS, OWHS, Merrill MS and ES, Roosevelt, Washington, and Jefferson, installation of a video streaming system for all staff, and improved professional development for administrative team including instructional leadership and technology training.
• Awarded a $150,000 grant from the Wisconsin Technology Initiative to fund the upgrade of ALL classroom technology at Carl Traeger Elementary School (this would not have been possible without the previously mentioned upgrades and the strategic plan for OASD technology and support). The resources provided by this grant will be used to provide students and staff at Carl Traeger Elementary School with state of the art classroom technology throughout the school. Each classroom will be equipped with a Smart board, Document Camera, Speakers, and Student Response Systems. Most importantly the staff at Traeger Elementary will receive comprehensive staff development to grow their skills allowing them to leverage these tools to improve student learning. Dr. David Gundlach, Deputy Superintendent for the Oshkosh Area School District praised the Oshkosh Board of Education for their vision and foresight in allocating resources to begin replacing an aging technology infrastructure a year ago.

• Major push on facility needs with over 4 million in maintenance and capital improvement projects including new boilers at South Park and Emmeline Cook, District wide asphalt/concrete repair/replacement, District wide flooring replacement, District wide asbestos abatement, replaced roof and EIFS at Traeger, replaced roof at Webster, roof maintenance at Jefferson, replaced driveway and receiving area asphalt at West, replaced circulating pump at West, replaced entrance #2 & #4 at Franklin, repaired sound boards in North Field House, installed new hot water boiler at Merrill, install condensate tank at Merrill, repaved Roosevelt parking lot, replaced roof area #7 at North, replace Door #15 at North, bathroom/locker room plumbing upgrades at North, modified storage area in West locker room, tuck pointing at Merrill, tuck pointing at South Park, replaced intercom at South Park, replaced blinds in windows at Webster, replaced playground asphalt at Washington, and District wide lighting improvements.
• Five year Capital Improvement Plan Developed and implemented.
• Additional 1.3 million dollar taxing authority for deferred maintenance utilized in 2011. This originated in 2009 with the successful passage of a referendum addressing the maintenance issue.
• Energy Committee formed and “Energy Usage Guidelines” policy adopted and in place.

• General Fund reserve balance (rainy day fund) up to 10.3% of operating budget from the previous 6.5% in 2009 (we are now in compliance with District policy).
• Facilitated $3.7 million in healthcare premium savings over a two-year period through insurance sealed proposal process implemented through an employee insurance advisory committee.
• Secured $50,000 for wellness program through insurance negotiations.
• Budget reductions of $1,700,018 for the 2010-2011 school year.
• Achieved almost $1 million savings through implementation of a high-deductible HRA plan as a result of negotiations with all employee associations.
• Achieved substantial employee concessions in insurance, sick day allotment, retirement, calendar, co-curricular & summer school pay, and management rights through one-year extensions of collective bargaining agreements in March, 2011.
• Energy (electricity) savings of $89,877.21 recorded for the last 14 months.
• $486,000.00 in utility savings and $201,000.00 in deferred maintenance savings (due to lower than expected costs during bidding process).

• The creation of numerous rich partnerships with the community of Oshkosh of which three currently stand out: The Community Foundation, The Grand, and The Northwestern. The Community Foundation will be supporting a consultant to guide the work of strategic planning. They are putting forth $80,000 because they believe that the schools are important and they make a difference to the Oshkosh community. The Grand and The Northwestern are both working with us on curricular partnerships to broaden the scope of the offerings to our students in OASD by exposing them to the expertise within our midst. This is a true educational innovation.
• Promoted internal/external public relations through HR Connection Newsletter, coordination of local newspaper submissions (School Updates, Classroom Clicks, Gold Star Staff Member), and established “good news” items for superintendent’s report .
• Partnering with the Northwestern to conduct on-line surveys to gauge the direction the community wishes to go on local educational issues.

Professional Development provided over the past year to staff to enhance student achievement:
• Standards-based Learning K-12
• Literacy Training
• Comprehensive Literacy Model (K-5)
• Workshop Model (6-12)
• Phonics (K-2)
• Developmental Spelling (2-8)
• Mathematics Training
• Everyday Mathematics (Elementary)
• Connected Mathematics (Middle School)
• College Preparatory Mathematics (High School)
• Add-Vantage MR (AVMR) Course-1 (K-5) and Course-2 (2-5)
• Science Training
• Inquiry-based (K-6)
• Integrated Service Delivery
• Co-Teaching (ELL and Special Education) Phase I
• Conscious Discipline (4K-K)
• Provided New Teacher Center training to all instructional administrators to develop supervision skills and address the growth of instructional capacity.

Professional Development provided over the past year to administrators to increase leadership effectiveness:
• Established Project Manager positions in Administrator Professional Growth, Online Learning,
Community Partnerships and Website development to provide additional leadership support to the district.
• Developed first and second annual Administrator Summer Academies for professional growth.
• Increased effectiveness of administrative team through Gallup Strengths-Based Leadership training.
• Identified staff talent and fostered opportunities to develop leadership in staff through an “aspiring administrator” program.

The Administration, Board of Education, Educators, Volunteers, and Community members have increased their commitment to resolve many longstanding issues. To quote from the Oshkosh Northwestern; “the district needs to do a better job of communicating the things it does well to parents and the community. There is a persistent perception that Oshkosh schools are inferior to those in other nearby communities, a perception belied by test scores”. (12/02/11)

While the future challenges that we face are certainly daunting, the men and women who are directly involved within our local public education system have not been sitting idly by. We hope this message finds you well, and that you will take a few moments with us to reflect on these recent positive accomplishments.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy holidays

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanza. May the holiday season and its blessings fill you with love, peace and joy to last into the new year and beyond.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bogus Costco gift card scam on Facebook

Alas, as of this writing, a bogus Costco gift card scam was live on Facebook. You can read more about it by going here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

State lost 11,700 private-sector jobs in November, job loss in state posts 5th consecutive month

The number of private sector jobs in Wisconsin dropped in November for the fifth straight month, even as the state's unemployment rate improved. You can read the full article by going here or or by going here.

So much for Gov. Scott Walker's big campaign promise. He's got an even higher mountain to climb now. Time to start doing his job and keeping his word instead of trying to keep his by destroying existing and creating new legislation that involves moral and ethical issues (which he seems to know little about, in my opinion) and other things that don't create jobs but instead wreck lives and the fine fabric of Wisconsin life as we've known it for years. At this rate, this continuing bad economic news surely won't bode well for him in the recall election.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas gift suggestions we could all use

Your morning thought for the day:
Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.

Shunning Facebook for more personal relationships

According to this article some people are choosing to shun Facebook - and for some very good reasons, in my opinion. Far too many people won't pick up the phone or send a card or letter anymore. Hell, some won't even send an email, so how bad is that? Everything seems to be texts or Facebook communication these days. Is Facebook and/or other social media a wonderful tool for business and other similar types of communications? Absolutely. Is Facebook convenient? Yes. Is it efficient because it reaches "the masses" in our lives all at once? Certainly. But in reality, how many of us have that many people in our lives that we can't share the more significant events in our private lives with people we care about in a more personal way? The very reasons behind Facebook's tremendous success are the same reasons that Facebook can be a little scary; not to mention can make one feel sad and frustrated at the same time. Maybe folks should make a New Year's resolution to actually try communicating with people in their lives in a more human, thoughtful, meaningful way in the coming year. Wouldn't that be something?! Don't our friends deserve something more personal? Something they'll hopefully remember for some time? Mine do. What about yours?

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Walker signs bill tying test scores to teachers, makes national news AGAIN

According to this article in today's Oshkosh Northwestern and several other papers, including those in other states, Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that makes it possible for school districts to use students' test scores as a reason to fire teachers. It cannot be the sole reason a teacher gets fired but it could be one of various reasons. Walker says the bill provides flexibility to school districts to reward the best teachers, help mentor those who are struggling and hold those who don't improve accountable to help improve education for all students. On the one hand, it does seem fair that teachers' positions are based on the job they do. On the other hand, there are often outside factors that may make it difficult for some students to learn. I guess I would need to know more about specifically how this is going to work before I could say I support or oppose it. But it would be interesting to hear what teachers think about this.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

"Reposting" of an earlier story on vehicle breakins

A few months ago we ran a short piece from the Oshkosh Police Department on vehicle break-ins and what people could do about them. Earlier today, someone posted a comment to that story, but because the issue is still a problem, I wanted to refer you to the original story and one from just this week on the Oshkosh Northwestern's web site, which can be found here. If you are are the victim of a crime, see a crime being committed, or want information on how to better protect yourself from becoming a crime victim, please contact the police department at (920) 236-5700.