Snippets – November 5, 2015 – General Update

This week’s Snippets is a “General Update” edition.   Please visit www.crsd.us, attend a local Advisory School Board or CRSD Board of Education meeting for more news and information.   Also, please visit our Facebook page for student activities related pictures and news.

THE CUBE

Thanks to the hard work of CRSD’s Tech Coordinator Chris Van Wyhe and a few volunteers, CRSD athletic events are now streamed via www.crsd.us/stream.html.   Events hosted in the CRSD are streamed live.   Activities hosted outside the CRSD will either be streamed live or recorded and uploaded later, depending on the venue’s internet access.   When you visit www.crsd.us/stream.html, you can view any live-streamed event or recorded events.   If you would like to volunteer to operate the camera for a student activity, please contact the school’s athletic director (Kenny Lake-Rick Oatman, Glennallen-Ben Dolgner).

COPPER VALLEY SHELTERS

CRSD staff have been working to have each of our facilities designated as an official American Red Cross Shelter.   This designation not only provides enhanced services during a disaster or accident, but may provide an opportunity to receive grant funds for generators and other contingency equipment.   Kathi Hindman, a local expert in emergency response, is coordinating our paperwork and may be reached at emsfirekat@cvinternet.net.

ENERGY CLASS

Here’s a fun way to involve students in local conversations regarding Alaska’s unique energy challenges and opportunities. There will be an AK EnergySmart training workshop on Thursday, November 12th at 3:15PM – 4:15PM in the Glennallen High School video-conferencing room.   The training will broadcast via video-conference to Kenny Lake and Slana Schools. Teachers, home educators, and community members are invited to this active workshop to learn about the energy landscape of Alaska, how to integrate energy education into what students are learning, and how the FREE AK EnergySmart curriculum can work for you!   This Alaska specific, standards based K–12 curriculum boosts students’ energy literacy. Students investigate what energy is, how we use energy, and how energy can be conserved. You can learn more at www.akenergysmart.org or by emailing Katie Croft at education@realalaska.org.

TREK #2

The new Copper River School District high school schedule continues to develop with Trek #2 this week.   Students will extend the learning they began in Trek #1 during the next two weeks of intensive classes.   We continue to solicit feedback from students, teachers, and parents as we create a schedule with as many vocational, outdoor and local-interest courses as possible.   Many thanks go to our staff, students and community for their willingness to try something new and demonstrate that we can have a high-quality education program in the Copper Valley that is uniquely Alaskan while preparing students for college and/or career.

AMP UPDATE

As reported in previous Snippets, reports from last Spring’s Alaska Measures of Progress assessments have been delayed.   Last week, the Department of Education and Early Development informed superintendents that statewide data from the tests will be released on November 9th.   Districts will receive electronic access to data prior to the public release.   Printed versions of individual student reports will be sent to districts later in November and then mailed to parents.   If you have questions regarding AMP reports, please call or email your child’s teacher or Principal.

BOARD OF EDUCATION NEWS

On Oct. 23rd the Alaska Division of Elections certified the REAA #17 School Board Elections.   James Fields and Mark Somerville were both re-elected to three year terms.   Jaime Matthews was newly elected for a three year term. She has served on the Glennallen School PTO and ASB for several years and is an active hockey Mom.   The next time you see Jaime, please congratulate her and express your appreciation for the time and energy she will invest for CRSD students.

The recent election also concludes Cheryl Sparks’ 21 years of dedicated service to the Board of Education.   That’s over 250 monthly Board meetings, not including committee meetings, interviews, and special meetings. Cheryl has been a steady and reliable supporter of CRSD students and staff. Please stop by the store or send Cheryl a note of gratitude.   Mrs. Sparks plans to remain involved in the CRSD by volunteering at Glennallen School.

THREE WELL-EARNED THANK YOU’s

Unusual for this time of year, we have colleagues who will be retiring mid-year. Ramona Henspeter is retiring from Upstream Learning.   She has been with the program since 2009, building it into the family-centered program it is today. See last week’s “Meet the CRSD” for more about Ramona.   Loreen Kramer will also be retiring this December.   Loreen has been with the CRSD since 1987 starting as a secretary for the Assistant Superintendent.   Loreen has kept the district fiscally sound through challenging financial times, dropping enrollment and the exponential expansion of restrictive regulations.   Both Ramona and Loreen will be here through the first week of December, so please stop by their offices and wish them well. Earlier this month, Kathi Hindman retired after 21 years of dedicated service to the students of the CRSD.   In addition to helping students learn to read, Kathi led our efforts to establish emergency response plans, taught CPR to staff members, and represented the district on the local Emergency Response Planning Committee.   While transitioning to a full-time emergency responder, Kathi is helping to establish each of our school sites as an official Red Cross shelter.

DATES TO REMEMBER

November 11th – Veteran’s Day (find a veteran and say “thank you”)

November 13th – Early Release

November 16th – Teacher Inservice

November 18th – Picture Retakes

November 21st – Copper Valley Trade Fair

November 26th-27th – Thanksgiving Holidays

December 1st – CRSD Board of Education Work-session and Regular Meeting

Thank you for reading the Snippets.   Together, the Copper River Valley is providing a quality education in our wonderfully rural and unique environment.

Meet the CRSD – Ramona Henspeter

This is a special edition of “Meet the CRSD.”   We are presenting our one and only home education support teacher, Ramona Henspeter, who will be retiring in December.   In addition to the usual interview, we are including tributes from students, co-workers and family members who have benefited from Ramona’s dedication and wisdom.   Please join us in honoring someone who epitomizes the word “teacher.”

Name: Ramona Henspeter

Email: rhenspeter@crsd.us

Birthday: March 25th

Role in the CRSD: Supervising Teacher for Home Educators

 Primary Campus: State-wide

Where else have you taught? Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Gore, New Zealand; St. Paul, Minnesota; Kenny Lake School; Kluti-Kaah Head StartRamona photo

Where are you originally from? Moose Lake, Minnesota

Favorite Book/Author/TV Show: Bright Valley of Love by: Edna Hatlestad Hong

Favorite Music Genre: Eclectic

Favorite Place in Alaska: Tangle Lakes because it’s such a beautiful, varied environment, rich with memories from over the past 30+ years.

Favorite Place Outside of Alaska: Australia – we lived there and traveled extensively during our time there. Hardly a day goes by when a memory doesn’t come to mind.

Hobbies: Piano, singing, hiking, time with family

Favorite Aspect of Teaching: I love working with the homeschool parents, sharing what I learned during the 20 years that I was a homeschool parent myself.

One Interesting Thing About You That Might Be Surprising: I lived overseas for the first four years of my married life (Australia and New Zealand).

Favorite Beverage: Root beer floats

Favorite Snack: Fresh Fruit

In One Sentence, What Advice Do You Have for Students? Because you’re a special individual with unique God-given skills, abilities, and personality, strive to do your best with what you have . . . and be kind to those around you.

Mrs. Henspeter first worked in the Copper River School District in 1981. After a break to homeschool her children, she returned in 2009.   Send Ramona an email, buy her a bottle of water root beer float, or drop off a bowl of fresh fruit to let her know how much we appreciate her serving students and families in the CRSD.

Tributes:

“Ramona has been amazingly helpful and supportive to us with our home school journey.” The Hellers

Where could a person begin to possibly say how wonderful Ramona has been to all the homeschool families? Her qualities are so numerous, positive and genuine. She exemplifies all of the character traits that we strive to develop in our own children. She is knowledgeable, supportive and encouraging, fair and balanced, open to ideas, patient, understanding, well-organized, thorough, a consummate professional and yet down-to-earth and a good friend to everyone. Ramona has set a high standard of excellence in our homeschool experience and we thank her from the bottom of our hearts! The Rogers

I’ve known Ramona for a short time, but as a first time homeschooling family, we have received so much genuine Ramonaencouragement and support for the path we have chosen. I can only imagine what families who have experienced her support for many, many years may be feeling as she moves on. Thank you, Ramona, for caring and supporting so many who have chosen to educate a bit differently. The Scribners

Ramona is that rare combination of gentleness, wisdom, graciousness, and humor. We have been so very blessed to have her here to help us! The Rancks

It is hard to convey how much our family has appreciated Ramona. She has truly been a gift and a blessing. Ramona is such an encourager and we are grateful for the time she took to invest in and enrich our homeschool experience. Thank you! The Breivogels

While working as the administrative assistant to Upstream Learning I was very grateful to Ramona for how she steered the program towards what it should be, friendly, expansive and innovative for our home school families. Thank you Ramona! Lanette Phillips

Ramona has been an absolute treat to have in our lives. I’m thankful for her knowledge and spirit in homeschooling my Daughter. The Buss Family

Many, many thanks to Ramona for her willingness to do her job in an outstanding way . . . to go above and beyond what was required. The Endres

Ramona has been such a blessing to our family. She goes beyond her job by her helpfulness and genuine care for us. The Korths

Ramona has been such a wonderful support to our family in our journey with home education. Her caring spirit, vast knowledge of learning styles and curriculum and her understanding from having personal experience have been invaluable to us. The Abbotts

It is very hard to say in one or two sentences of much Ramona has meant to as we trudged along the homeschooling road over the last many years. The LeMasters

You have been a joy to work with.   Everyday here at Upstream Learning is an adventure together. We have mostly highs, a bit of chaos, lots of busyness and always fun while working in our corner of the world.   You will be missed.   Mary H2

CRSD Snippets – AMP Results

Last Spring, Alaskan students participated in the first administration of the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) Assessment.   According to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED), these new tests assess “students’ understanding of the state’s standards for English and math.” DEED also explains how AMP is different from the Standards Based Assessments (SBA) that students have taken since 2005.   “On the AMP tests, students answer fewer multiple-choice questions than in the SBA. In some questions, students must analyze the question, perform multi-step tasks, solve problems, and apply what they know to new situations. In short, AMP does more to measure higher-order thinking.”

The new assessments have not come without controversy.   Concerns have been expressed by parents, educators and school boards.   DEED has responded by publishing several AMP related documents at http://education.alaska.gov.   Based on DEED’s timelines, some school districts planned to distribute individual student AMP results at the 2015 Fall Parent/Teacher Conferences. Unfortunately, the Screenshot 2015-10-23 11.51.10CRSD and other districts were notified last week that AMP results will not be publicly released until mid-November or later, according to DEED’s estimates.

In preparation for you to receive AMP results for your student(s), the following information is provided by DEED in a pamphlet titled “A Parent’s Guide to AMP’s First Results”:

  • “Last spring, students in grades 3 to 10 took the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) for the first time. AMP is the state’s challenging assessment of rigorous standards for English and math. Standards are expectations for what students should know and be able to do.
  • This October [now November], families will receive their first reports on how their students performed on AMP. Your school can help you understand the report. Regardless of your students’ scores, the only consequence is they will receive support to improve their learning.
  • Students’ scores on AMP placed them in one of four achievement categories: Level 1, 2, 3, or 4, from low to high, as defined by Alaska educators. Levels 3 and 4 represent meeting the standards. Levels 1 and 2 represent partially meeting the standards, not failure.
  • Many students who scored proficient on Alaska’s former tests did not meet the standards in AMP. That’s because the new standards are higher and the tests are more difficult. It’s like a baseball player hitting .300 in the minor leagues one year and .240 in the major leagues the following year. The player hasn’t declined in skill, but he’s in a more rigorous league. Under AMP, students aren’t suddenly less skilled and teachers aren’t less capable than before. But they are being asked to meet higher expectations. Over time, as students and teachers work with the new standards, AMP scores should rise. This has happened in other states that have adopted higher standards and assessments.
  • What makes the AMP tests difficult? On the AMP tests, students answer fewer multiple-choice questions. In some questions, students must analyze the question, perform multi-step tasks, solve problems, and apply what they know to new situations. In short, AMP does more to measure higher-order thinking. AMP’s reading questions require students to read and understand literary or informational texts, identify central ideas, decide what words mean, and use evidence from the text to support their conclusions. Questions about writing require students to edit and revise texts by putting sentences into logical order, correcting errors in the choice of words, and correcting grammar, punctuation, and spelling. AMP’s math tests require students to explain and apply math concepts and carry out math procedures with precision; solve a range of complex problems; and analyze complex real-world situations and use math models to solve problems.
  • Why did Alaska raise its standards? We realized that many students who were proficient in our former standards were not prepared academically for jobs, career training, the military, and education after high school. Alaska does not compare well with other states on national tests in reading and math. Our graduates will compete for jobs against people from around the United States and, in some cases, the world. For our students’ sake, we have to take a hard look at whether we are meeting this challenge.”

More information from the “A Parent’s Guide to AMP’s First Results” brochure and other AMP related information can be found at: https://education.alaska.gov/akparentscommunity/#c3gtabs-statetest.

Once DEED releases AMP results to districts, CRSD teachers and administrators will begin the process of reviewing the data and learning how to interpret the new reports.   When you receive your student’(s’) AMP reports, please call your child’s teacher or principal if you have questions or concerns.

Please keep in mind, students evidence learning in many different ways in a variety of subject areas and activities. Statewide assessments such as AMP are only one means for measuring student achievement.   Teachers in the CRSD employ a number of assessment tools designed to guide instruction, ensure academic progress, and celebrate each student’s strengths.

Meet the CRSD – Barb Doty

Each month the CRSD Snippets will highlight one of our dedicated employees.   We will randomly draw a name so that every employee in the district has the opportunity to be recognized for his or her unique and essential role in providing a quality education in our rural environment.   This month, we are pleased to present Barb Doty.

Barb DotyName: Barb Doty

Email: bdoty@crsd.us

Birthday: February 4th

Role in the CRSD: Librarian and Technology Assistant 

Primary Campus: Kenny Lake School

Where are you originally from? Colorado

Favorite Book/Author/TV Show: S.E. Grove

Favorite Music Genre: Contemporary Christian

Favorite Place in Alaska: Kenny Lake. It is home. It is beautiful, peaceful, magnificent and the people are wonderful as well.

Favorite Place Outside of Alaska: Germany. I lived there for about 2 1/2 years and it was an amazing experience.

Hobbies: Cooking, Gardening

Favorite Aspect of Teaching: Being able to greet the students when they get off the bus in the morning with a smile to get their day started. I am Blessed to have a great staff to work with.

One Interesting Thing About You That Might Be Surprising: I find pleasure in being able to do something nice for someone else.

Favorite Beverage: Coffee

Favorite Snack: Nuts

In One Sentence, What Advice Do You Have for Students? Do not get behind on your school work!

Barb Doty started working in the Copper River School District in 2006.   Ask anyone at Kenny Lake School and they’ll quickly tell you how hard Mrs. Doty works to keep things running smoothly. Send Mrs. Doty an email, buy her a coffee or take her a can of nuts to let her know how much we appreciate all she does to serve students and families in the CRSD.

Building Legos – September 17, 2015 Snippets

Who doesn’t like Legos?   Mom and Dad may not like Legos very much after stepping on one, but other than those occasions, even adults like to build things with Legos.

I loved Legos when I was a kid. I still like them.   Legos are a very versatile toy.   If you’re playing hot wheels, you can make garages. If you’re playing dolls, you can make a house. If you’re playing army and need to bomb the enemy, Legos can serve as both the ammunition and target.

This past Christmas, we, and I do mean kids and grown-ups, enjoyed several new boxes of Legos.   (FYI: Grandparents sometimes don’t know when to quit buying.)   My job during construction was to locate the small, hard to find pieces. While watching the building process, in this case an airplane, Legos reminded me of the progress and pitfalls of the 21st century’s version of curricular resources.

Screenshot 2015-09-14 11.47.26
image from: http://www.legos.com

When I was young I remember Legos coming in a big box.   We had to use our imaginations to build something. These days, I think too much imagining is done for kids.   Now, most Legos you buy still come in a box, but typically with a picture of something from the latest movie. In the box there is a little booklet with step-by-miniscule step instructions.   The imagining comes after the building.   When I was a kid, even the building part came from our imaginations.

Technology advancements, whether in Legos or education, offer many benefits, but we must be deliberate.  We know this from our experience with other technologies.   The automobile, for example, is a wonderful technological advancement and has no doubt improved our lives.   But even something that we now take for granted did not come without pitfalls.   Our great-great grandparents walked more.   They visited longer when they went somewhere.   Before cars, people were more thoughtful about where they went and why. We weren’t dependent on oil and there was less smog.   Over time we have recognized some of these drawbacks and worked to minimize the negative impacts.   Research and development were applied to exhaust systems to make emissions cleaner.   Cars are getting more and more fuel efficient.     We are constantly encouraged to exercise.   Technology will continue to advance, but so should our understanding of how it impacts our lives.

If not careful, educational technology can become like instructions in a new box of Legos.   Kits are great, but they should nurture imagination and creativity, not replace them. Likewise, in order to nurture students’ creativity and imaginations, we should be specific in what we teach them about English, Math, Science and History.   Technology in the CRSD benefits the learning process through accountability, access and media.   I’m extremely proud of our teachers who are using it skillfully while minimizing the drawbacks.   Teachers are spending even more time interacting with individual students regarding content and learning skills.   In some cases, teachers have used technology to foster cooperative learning with classmates and even Skype in famous authors from far away places.   Like the car, educational technology will offer exciting opportunities and take us places we could not go without it.   We just have to make sure we know where we want to go and drive carefully.

The next time you see Legos, buy a box and use them to teach your student a valuable lesson.   As they’re building their new toy, tell them that’s the way school should be.   Legos don’t build themselves. Their teacher will provide the blocks or show where to get them, but students must do the building.   Talk with your child about the benefits and drawbacks that technology has in school, at home, in science and in other parts of society.   And then, after they’ve played with the new Lego toy, take it apart, put the instructions away, and see what they can imagine.

Now, whether you admit it or not, you’re itching to go build something with Legos.

2015 School Board Candidate Statements – Snippets

School Board elections often fly under the radar.   The ballots often arrive during the busy hunting season and must be submitted by mail.   According to the Alaska Division of Elections website, turnout for the 2014 school board elections was 13.21% of the registered voters.

This year we have four candidates running for the CRSD Board of Education.   Each candidate was asked to respond to the following question: “What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Copper River School District Board of Education?”   This week’s edition of the CRSD Snippets is an opportunity for the candidates to speak directly to you, the voter.   Here are their statements as submitted (in alphabetical order, ladies first):

Jaime Matthews (Section I Seat B)

Thank you for the opportunity to serve our community, teachers, staff, and students by running for the CRSD Board of Education. I have been a very active parent in the CRSD the last nine years, playing various roles in our PTO, Advisory School Board, Technology Advisory Committee, and several of the activities my children have been involved in.

Screenshot 2015-09-09 09.33.18As a future board member, I look forward to providing input and working alongside the administration on the challenges and opportunities our district faces. Decreased funding and increased regulation are two big challenges. It is important to be efficient and get the maximum benefit out of each dollar for the district as a whole. As more regulation is implemented, this is a burden on smaller schools. Finding a way to partner with other school districts would allow the CRSD to meet the regulations at a shared cost.

Although we have some challenges, we also have many opportunities. A great community combined with wonderful teachers help shape our students to be responsible, well educated adults. Education is always changing and I look forward to helping shape that change for our school district.

 Cheryl Sparks (Section I Seat B)

As a member of the CRSD Board of Education, I would like to continue working for the community by creating a stable board presence. I feel continuity in any environment is very important so that you can continue to grow your programs. Right now, even in a very unstable economy, the school district is continuing forward, bringing more opportunities for students.

Forward thinking in a fast paced, ever changing world is the challenge that our staff at the school district faces every day and are doing an excellent job at meeting head on. They have increased the student numbers in the vocational education classes by moving away from the traditional class schedule to a new innovative schedule. Offering more online classes and academies through Chugach has opened many more opportunities than would ever have been possible in a district our size.

I would like to thank everyone that has supported me in the past, and would ask again that you give me the opportunity to be a part of the great team at the Copper River School District.

James Fields (Section I Seat C)

As a member of the CRSD Board of Education, I will continue to work towards improving the opportunities of our students and also work toward increasing student achievement. In a time of financial uncertainty it is critical that the CRSD continue to improve what we have now, and also be looking at what’s next in education. The Copper River School District is known throughout the state as a district of high integrity both in administration and education. It is my goal to continue pushing our district in a direction that will benefit every student that has the opportunity to be educated in our great district and community.

Increasing achievement in every student is a task that takes much more than board members; it takes every person in the school and community. It takes a culture surrounding students that says, “we expect more and we will help you get there.” That’s what I want every student to feel. I want the Copper Basin to have a culture of high expectations for our students so that they can achieve more than they think they can. Please help me in making this a reality in every student’s experience here in our community.

Mark Somerville (Section II Seat E)

I have lived full-time in the Copper Basin since 2006 and my three children attended Kenny Lake School from grade school through graduation. I have served on the CRSD Board of Education for three years. Over those 3 years the CRSD has gone through significant changes. Enrollment has dropped in all our schools; state standards have changed with increased expectations for our students and teachers; our curriculum materials have become outdated and required renewal; and our budgets have been greatly reduced. These changes have required the CRSD to seek new directions and most importantly new resources through which to provide content to our students so they may graduate prepared for their futures, whether they be college or workforce bound.

The future for the CRSD looks to have many of these same challenges to contend with. My role as a school board member will be to review and vote on the direction the district will go to overcome these challenges. The CRSD must provide the broadest and most challenging opportunities it can for our students. We must also ensure our schools remain the integral part of the community they have always striven to be.

On behalf of our students and community, I offer a special “thank you” to each of the candidates for running for the CRSD Board of Education. Please remember to send in your ballots by October 6th.

Snippets – Character Education August 27, 2015

As we get ready for a new school year, our minds naturally turn to academics, homework, and all the learning that should take place to move from one grade to the next. Before we jump into the normal back-to-school routine, let’s spend some time thinking together about another equally important aspect of a quality education. If you look closely at the CRSD logo, you will see our mission statement, “Providing a quality education in a rural environment.” Even now as you read this Snippets, that’s what our employees are gearing up to do for the 2015-2016 school year. They are dedicated to the current and future success of our students.   This includes, but is not limited to, academics.   However, in order for academics to have meaning in a student’s life, it must be accompanied by character.

Before we explore the meaning of character, we should emphasize that last sentence – without character, academic study will have little impact.   To visualize the impact of character, let’s imagine that all CRSD students are advanced in every subject area.   Every student earns straight A’s, scores high on all achievement tests, and will leave high school fully prepared for college level assignments.   Imagine with me that every kindergartner will learn to read without any difficulty.   Long-division in fourth grade is a breeze for every student (no tears whatsoever).   In junior high, all the students can write well enough to be published in a statewide newspaper.   In our dreams, every one of our high school students achieve so highly, they will earn enough scholarships to pay for college.   On the surface, this seems like a wonderful vision for our students.   However, even if we could make all of the above come true, we would be leaving out what most every parent wants for their child.   We would be neglecting something absolutely essential for success and contentment.   We would be neglecting character. Without it, all the learning in the world is useless, or even worse, destructive. When we express a desire to provide a quality education, it must include discipline, because character is shaped through self-discipline.

Teachers work hard to develop and implement a great instructional program, yet they know that a student’s character makes all the difference in the learning process. Lesson plans for reading, writing and math are essential, but not enough. Character counts.   It matters how we behave (for adults too).   Achievement without character is empty and unsatisfying.   Achievement through character is lasting, satisfying and full.   Failure without character leads to bitterness.   Failure with character leads to change.   Character makes a difference in our suffering and in our success.

So, what is character?   In a world that shuns absolutes, it can be challenging to establish clear principles of right and wrong.   For the most part, in our community we are fortunate to have general agreement on the qualities of good character.   On many occasions, I have heard our Elders speak forcefully about character and how it was a value in the Ahtna culture long before the mountains were called Drum and Sanford.   I have seen community members demonstrate character.   For example, when there is a financial need, you can bet someone is cooking spaghetti to raise money to help.   Throughout our community, it is evident that the Copper Valley values honesty, hard work, generosity, personal responsibility, kindness, and forgiveness.   Of course there are examples of bad character, but even then, an understanding of grace and mercy are demonstrated in our community when we resist casting the first stone.

Character matters, and because it matters, we must do our best to expect good character from our students.   I will be directing our Principals to renew their efforts to integrate character education into our academic program.   That will include holding students accountable, not just for their school work, but also for their behavior and attitudes.   When I walk into a school, I want to see students learning well, and interacting well. I want Copper River School District students to have an edge in the market-place because of their manners.   I want our students to be recognized for both their academic achievement and their politeness.   I want our students to observe the truth that one reaps what they sow, especially when it comes to respect. Like most parents, I want our students to enjoy an abundant life built upon the benefits of right choices.

This is asking a lot of our Principals and teachers.   Being a disciplinarian is hard work and under appreciated. Taking the time to turn a student’s bad choice into a positive lesson takes a lot of time, patience, and confidence. It can be disappointing when the lesson is resisted and motives are questioned. Principals who insist on teaching good character will take some abuse from adults whose own character is lacking.   They will be hurt when somehow their efforts to discipline are more severely criticized than the behavior of the students who desperately need loving discipline.     Our Principals will be challenged by people who want to excuse poor behavior because of another child’s choices. In seeking to raise the standard of behavior, they will be challenged at every turn, and yet, if character matters, then so does enduring the extra conflict.   I will ask our Principals not to be harsh, but to be gracious, firm, and resolute.

In the end, learning character and learning academics are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I don’t think one happens without the other.   If you learn, it is because you invested the effort. The effort is a reflection of one’s character.   If you bomb a test, your character will make all the difference in your response.   You’ll either go back and try harder, or move on, just to get through the course.   You will either ignore an F or work with your teacher to bring your grade up.   You will complete your homework, or cheat, based on your character.   Those with good character will say “good morning” when they arrive in the classroom instead of sullenly walking past the teacher.   Those who are mindful of their character will be respectful of different cultures.   One with quality character will work hard to earn good grades rather than feel entitled to good grades.Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 6.52.57 PM

For all of us, character matters when we use our math to give the correct change.   Character matters when we write an email that includes information about another person.   Character matters when we study history and apply its lessons to current political problems.   Character matters when we study science and use new discoveries to ask questions of modern medicine.   And especially for we Alaskans, character will matter in how we face our economic challenges, just as it mattered when we enjoyed rich harvests of revenue from higher oil prices.

In the coming school year, I hope you’ll support our students by expecting the best from them, not only in academics, but also in character.   A student’s basic sense of right and wrong comes from the nurture and example they get from their family at home.   Teachers can support families by demonstrating the values that produce good character.   If you agree that character counts, please email your school Principal and let them know they have your support.   Offer suggestions, volunteer to help teach character lessons, and most of all, be an example of good character for our students.

The truth is, the students in our schools already show qualities of good character.   The Copper River School District is blessed with wonderful students.   Come to a sporting event, visit a classroom and attend a concert and you’ll see for yourself how fortunate we are.   Our focus on character this year is not a reaction to problematic behavior, it is our responsibility to each and every amazing CRSD student and his or her enormous potential.

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Martin Luther King, Jr.