Focus on Excellence – “Back to the Future”
Welcome to the 2015-16 school year! This marks the 22nd year I have had the privilege of serving the students, staff and families of Waukee Schools in some capacity or another. I’ve worn many different hats during that time period and I’ve had several different job titles as well. During my first year in the district we served just over 1,100 students and had a graduating class that spring of 68. We opened Eason Elementary that year, our second elementary in the district and third attendance center. There has been a lot of change since then. We will serve somewhere in the neighborhood of 9,200 students this year with a senior class of 545 and first grade at 858. We’re still enrolling kindergarten students but anticipate that number being in the 825 range. As we enter the new school year, much will be the same: a strong educational program for our students; teachers committed to our children, challenging every one to be the best they can be; a community that supports our schools. Like many of the previous years, much will be new and exciting in Waukee Schools.
We continue to look to the educational future in Waukee, and we continue to research and study how to best prepare our students for life in the 21st Century. Last year at this time I indicated that you would be hearing a great deal about our efforts at increasing the rigor and relevance of our high school experience through programming focused on advanced professional studies for our junior and senior students through partnerships with the business community. I’m happy to report that our innovative APEX programming launched last fall with four initial programs and a growing interest on the part of our business community to work with us in developing real-world, relevant and authentic learning experiences for our students while at the same time providing a direct value and benefit to our business partners. It has been so successful that the program is doubling for the 2015/16 school year, and many districts across the state are looking to implement similar models. You can learn more about APEX at: http://www.waukeeapex.org/
Each year we add new staff. We also regularly add new facilities. This fall we are opening the Timberline School, located at 2605 SE LA Grant Parkway, to serve half of our grade 8/9 population. Grant Ragan Elementary is scheduled to open for the fall of 2016 at the intersection of Dartmoor and Douglas Parkway in Waukee. We continue to be the fastest growing school district in the state of Iowa averaging 470 new students per year for the past eleven years.
But enough about the growth. We continue to look to the educational future in Waukee and we continue to research and study how to best prepare our students for life in the 21st Century. School Board elections around the state will be held on September 8. There are three positions open in our district, with five candidates vying for the four-year terms. The challenge for the successful board candidates in Waukee and the rest of Iowa will be to continue to look at the research, best practice and INNOVATION in education and to have the courage to continue to move forward. We can’t afford to retreat to the themes of “back to the basics” – we must literally go “back to the future.”
That change can be uncomfortable. There will be times when not everyone will agree, when parents will question the need for the change and there will be times when it will appear that some educators are charging forward without all their ducks in a row. It’s incumbent upon us all to work together, to ask questions in a civil manner, and to realize that education in the 21st century needs to look much different than in the past. That includes instructional practice, curriculum and yes even how we report and communicate student progress to parents.
So welcome to the new school year! Please be patient these first few weeks of school as bus routes stabilize and driving patterns develop. We are adding more than 1,000 new/different students to our bus routes, as well as some completely new routes to best serve our families. We are excited to once again fill out hallways and classrooms with students eager to learn and grow!
Waukee Schools – a place to learn, a place to thrive. Welcome to another great school year!