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Weather Decisions and Driving Continuous Improvement

posted Dec 17, 2014, 1:52 PM by Brenda Williams
It’s time again to revisit how school closing decisions are made and communicated related to MN winter weather. When weather is questionable, I will be in contact with our transportation director, public safety and transportation officials, and area superintendents. Our transportation director or I may choose to drive some of the most difficult roads to confirm conditions on the ground. Our goal is to make a decision by 5:30am or no later than 6am, as we have employees rolling into work by that time. We will communicate the message to families and staff first through our automated phone calling system, and then through our district website and the following radio/TV stations: 107.5, 106.7, 93.3, 103.5, 102.7, KKIN Aitkin, WCCO, KARE-11, KMSP (Fox 9), KSTP, WDIO/WIRT TV, and www.cancellations.com.

The decision to delay or close school is based on the safety of our students while also recognizing that any change of routine puts a significant strain on many of our hard working families. Our excellent team of bus drivers will always put a safe bus ride ahead of an on-time bus ride. Parents have the right to keep children at home if they feel it is not safe to send them out. As a general rule, we will run school if we can start buses and transport students safely.

Continuous Improvement

At the heart of highly successful schools is a palpable culture that embraces continuous improvement with clear purpose and intensity. Teachers work in teams to establish clear learning goals aligned to state and national standards, and they use the results from aligned common assessments to make sure every student masters the skills, concepts and content taught while also engaging in a never-ending quest to master highly effective teaching strategies. Creating this kind of culture requires strong instructional leadership at all levels and a significant amount of time dedicated to adults working in teams learning together and challenging each other. Unlike 25 years ago, today we have a vast amount of research that tells us how to improve instruction and how to improve student learning. Today the debate is less about how to improve student learning and more about whether we have the political will, the resources, and the discipline to make it happen.

The Pequot Lakes School District has doubled down over the past year on closing the gap between what research says is effective and what we do each day. Our school board has reinvested in developing our teachers by supporting leadership positions, setting aside several days each year for adult learning work, and by engaging in key learning work themselves. Leadership teams in each school are facilitating a multi-year dive into the Marzano Instructional Framework and are working collaboratively to implement it effectively. Finally, teams at the district, building, and classroom level are beginning to engage in the critical work of articulating improvement goals and implementing action plans to continuously improve.

The 2020 vision of our district is to be a world-class learning organization that inspires learning, creativity, excellence, and innovation through a rigorous, relevant, and personalized learning experience. We are aligning resources to make this vision become a reality by investing first and foremost in developing the teachers working with our children. This investment of time and dollars is overwhelmingly supported by research on effective schools. So my answer to the question of today is - YES, Pequot Lakes Schools does have the political will and the discipline to close the gap and make our 2020 vision happen!!

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools
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