Tuesday, September 29, 2015

YPS Foundation and Alumni Association

The York Public Schools Foundation has been working hard to connect with YHS alumni as it continues to support York Public Schools.

The YPS website (www.yorkpublic.org) now has a “YHS Alumni News” tab that houses an annual newsletter (the first one was sent out this past August) and a google form where alumni can go in and update their contact information. We encourage all York Duke alumni to update their contact info so we can stay in touch with them and update them on various events we will be planning.

For those on Facebook, look for the group titled, “York High Alumni – York, Nebraska” to connect with old classmates and receive notifications about the York Dukes and their many adventures.

At the present time, Patti Vincent and Troy Rowe are working with the York Public Schools Foundation on putting together an annual alumni event. This 1st annual event is scheduled for August/September 2016. Highlights of “Welcome Home York Dukes” will be a tailgate party and halftime recognition at the first YHS home football game, a visit to Wessels Living History Farm (http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/),a tour of the recently renovated and expanded York High School as it had over $14 million of work done to it in 2012-13, a banquet at Chances “R,” and more!

Visit the “York Public Schools” Facebook page and/or www.yorkpublic.org to stay in tune with the details as they are put together. We will be sharing much more info and specific dates as they become available.

The YPS Foundation, a (501) (3) (c) non-profit corporation, was established to assist in preserving and/or enhancing the quality of education received by students of the school district. The Foundation seeks grants and contributions for the purpose of furthering the educational programs of the district.
The funds received will be used for improvements and additions to the physical facilities of the public school district, supporting special events for students, purchase of computers and software to support the curriculum, and a myriad of other purposes in support of education.
Projects which have been supported through funds donated to the Foundation by individuals, local organizations, graduated classes, and various other foundations include:
• PLAY (Pre-School) computer software and camera and musical instruments
• YES Smartboards & laptops
• YMS Smartboards
• YHS computers & software
• YHS theater headsets, wireless systems, and sound & lighting upgrades
• YMS & YHS outdoor signs
• YMS landscaping
• YHS pole vault pit and wrestling mats
• YHS band uniform bags
• YHS security cameras
• YHS field house
• YHS science & social studies curriculum projects
• YHS library improvements
• YHS greenhouse project

Donations of all sizes are accepted at the YPS District Office. There is a YPS Foundation tab on the www.yorkpublic.org website that shows a “wish list” of various programs we have. Please feel free to stop by or mail your donation to:

York Public Schools Foundation
Attn: Gayla Knight
1715 N. Delaware Ave.
York, NE 68467


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Being a "Dad" is Hard

I normally try to keep my blogs about "school stuff" as much as I can. I have deviated a few times over the years and will do so again today.

My oldest daughter, Taylor, begins her "real world" experience on September 23rd as that will be her first day as a professional accountant in Lincoln. She has been home with us all summer since her graduation from Doane in May as she studied for the CPA exam. Sunday night was the "last night" she stayed with us a "kid." It was awesome to get to spend so much time with her this summer.

As I went home yesterday for lunch, she was packed up and ready to leave for her apartment in Lincoln and it was much more emotional than I thought. As I gave her a hug to tell her how much I love her, how proud I am of her, and how much I will miss her, it felt different. I was hugging a woman...not a child.

As we stood in the kitchen hugging, I saw 22 years flash before my eyes. I saw birthday parties, Christmas mornings, silly moments, making smores on a candle in my office in Franklin, car rides, cross country races, basketball games, and much more. Taylor left and I cried. And cried. And cried.

I'm excited for her future. She works hard and she will do well. It's not "goodbye" either...it's "see you later." But it is different. She is an adult...as of September 23rd she is earning a "real" paycheck...paying her own bills, etc. Time flies.

Enjoy all the time you can with your kids. Before YOU know it, you'll be the one hugging in the kitchen and crying when they leave for the "real world."

Taylor, Micah, Jeb, and Bo are my best friends. In this profession where things are always so political and dealing with "drama" is often all I do....my kids are my best (and sometime only) friends. They're not perfect. Neither am I. Neither are you.

I will sign off by saying "see you later" to my oldest daughter, Taylor. It's never "goodbye."

Friday, September 18, 2015

School is Often More than "Just School"

This is my 22nd year in public education. I spent my first four years as a 3rd grade teacher and high school football and basketball coach. The last 18 years have been in educational leadership positions ranging from K-8 Principal/AD to K-6 Principal/Title I Coordinator to Superintendent/HS Principal in Franklin to Superintendent here in York.

I've seen many changes in educational programming. We have more technology integration and career awareness now than ever before. We have more summer programming and before/after school programs. I've witnessed improvements in curriculum, instruction, and accountability. However, the one major change I've seen is the need for school districts to do more and more for children living in adverse situations. A few times a year I will get hit up by someone saying that schools are doing too much and that we should force parents to do a better job of feeding their kids, reading with their kids, getting them medical attention, etc. Well, that sounds nice and all but as educators we're in the "kid business" and we don't get too dictate to parents how much they read to their child or how much they feed them.

Schools are doing more for our students one simple reason.....our kids need it.

I attended a "Greater Nebraska Superintendents" meeting yesterday in Lincoln with 18 other superintendents ranging from Omaha to Bellevue to Grand Island to Gering to Minden and McCook. We learned that since the year 2000, the number of Nebraska children age 6 and under living at 100% poverty increased from 19,380 to 34,939. That's an 80% increase of young children living at 100% poverty in just 15 years. The National Average of children age 6 and under living at 100% poverty is 42%. Here in Nebraska, we are almost DOUBLE the national average. Wyoming is at 16%. Iowa is at 38%. Missouri is at 46%. Kansas is at 69%.

We have lots of families and children living in stressful and difficult situations. You're darn right we're proud to add before/after school programming. You're darn right we're excited to have our free lunch program over the summer. You're darn right we love to be able to provide six weeks of academic programming each summer. You're darn right we're going to have school in January when it is "cold" even though some people bash us left and right....schools are often the warmest place for many of our students and the only place they're going to get two nutritional and hot meals in a day.

York has 45% of our K-12 students that are eligible for free/reduced meals. This number increases to over 55% when you look at just our elementary students. This number jumps to over 60% when you look at just our pre-schoolers.

Our young people are this country's most valuable resource and we need education systems that are willing and able to provide ALL of them with the support, resources, and hope they need. It's not what we want to do....it's what we NEED to do.

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11th

September 11, 2001 is obviously on a lot of people's minds right now. I was at West Point Elementary School in West Point, Nebraska serving as elementary principal. I will never forget my good buddy, Scott Shepard at WPHS, calling me to tell me something horrible was going on that morning.

My first thought went to my step-mama as she was a flight attendant for TWA/American at the time. I wasn't sure what her flight schedule was and it took me about an hour to confirm she was OK and home in Florida watching the disaster unravel like so many of us were. I was very thankful and relieved to learn that she was safe.

I will always remember Charlene Recker, an awesome 2nd grade teacher, who had a son that worked at the Pentagon. She came to me in tears not knowing if he was OK and she was unable to reach him. I covered her class for a little over an hour while she tried to connect with family, etc. I then took her class to PE and went back to my office. A few minutes later, I answered the phone and it was Mrs. Recker's son. I believe his name was Jason. I burst across the hallway to tell Charlene to come to my office for a phone call (I was too dumb to figure out how to transfer the call to her room). The pure joy and relief on her face as she spoke with her son will always stick with me. It was a huge relief for all of us.

The rest of that day was a blur. I remember lines of cars 25 deep at Casey's trying to fill up with gas because nobody knew what the days ahead would bring. I remember Graybeal's Grocery Store having long lines too. But mostly, I just remember sadness. I had three children at the time with Taylor and Micah being 8 and 6 and Jeb just 15 months old.

That night it really hit me. Like almost everyone else, we were learning about the massive and senseless loss of lives from across the country. Sadness turned to anger. Anger turned to sadness. It was horrible. I remember taking Taylor and Micah to McDonald's to get them an ice cream cone and to try and explain in basic terms what had happened. On the way home, I was listening to the radio and I heard a recap of what First Lady Laura Bush had encouraged parents and educators to tell our children and that is that they are safe, we live in a great country, and we're going to be ok.

I wasn't sure how to address the issue with our 350 K-5th graders the next morning and I wasn't sure if I even should. Mary Thomas, another awesome 2nd grade teacher, convinced me that the kids (and staff) needed to hear something from me in the gym that morning where everyone gathered before the bell rang.

With a lump in my throat, I simply told WPES what First Lady Bush said. We are safe. We are lucky to be Americans. We will be ok. I went on to tell our students that it is ok to be sad. It is ok to be mad. It is ok to not be sure how you feel. We then talked about doing our part to make sure we worked hard and supported each other so we could be the best students and staff we could be and how powerful that would be if all Americans did that. I was very appreciative of Mrs. Bush's leadership. Her words helped me and many others.

I then went to my office, shut the door, and cried for an hour. The reality of the tragedy was setting in.

I will never forget how "patriotic" everyone seemed for the next few months. National Anthems at ball games became "events." Military fly overs and salutes to emergency responders and law enforcement personnel gave you the chills. Remember how awesome the Huskers "Tunnel Walk" was the following week with firemen and police men carrying the stars and stripes?

While I never ever want any of us to have to re-live 9-11-01, I do wish we could re-live every day the togetherness and closeness and pride we felt for the next few months. I wish we all felt as grateful to be Americans now as we did that fall. I wish we all didn't take for granted all the things we do now that we didn't for a few months.

The United States of America is far from perfect. We do a lot of things that don't always work out too well. However, I am always proud to be an American. I love this country and what it stands for not just today or tomorrow but every day. We are very fortunate to live in this country and to have the opportunities we have. I hope more people appreciate it.

I will NEVER be embarrassed to fly an American flag at my house. I will never apologize for supporting our military. I will never stop loving this country.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Day 17 and Counting....

It's hard to believe but we have been in school for 17 days already. District wide, we are definitely in a positive routine. Outstanding learning environments have been re-established. Important rules and procedures are back in place. Our schedules are back in familiar territory and it is time to get after it and make 2015-16 the best school year it can be.

It's an honor to be able to visit PreK-12th grade classrooms throughout our district to see all of the amazing things going on. To see passionate staff and enthusiastic students is the highlight of every day. Let's keep rolling YPS and continue to "find a way" to get better and better.