School District 197 Superintendent Blog
Welcome to my blog! The purpose of the blog is to provide an avenue for communication with parents and community members. I will be sharing our progress in implementing the District Strategic Framework. Periodically I will also post photos and share news of special events that I attend in our schools.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Dear Friends, Families, and Staff of District 197,

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  This gives us an opportunity to bring this issue to the attention of our students and community in a proactive way.  In our schools, we have strict anti-bullying policies and procedures around addressing it when it occurs.  We also take time to educate our students on what bullying is, what to do if they're being bullied, and what to do when they see others being bullied.

In today's world, a great deal of bullying occurs online when students are out of school.  Social media is the preferred outlet.  It can be a challenge for parents and guardians to fully supervise their child or teen's time online, yet it is fundamentally important for a parent or guardian to be aware of how they are interacting with others, including their friends.

According to a 2015 report on teens and their use of social media conducted by the Pew Research Center, 92% of teens report going online daily, with 56% saying they go online several times a day.  Social media is wildly popular, with Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat being the preferred platforms.  While there are many good things that are experienced through social media, it has unfortunately also created an outlet for a form of bullying that includes isolation, threats, and comments that teens say they would never say to a person in a face-to-face conversation.

According to a CNN special report, 13-year-olds use bullying to get attention.  They may say outlandish things to be liked.  They also reported that their biggest source of pain and conflict online is with their friends and the people closest to them.  I don't think this pattern is limited to 13-year-olds.   I must admit, this type of attack on one's friends defies my logic, but it also tells me we need to help young people know how to use these amazing tools in a way that is helpful and age-appropriate.

What's a person to do?  In this post I'd like to provide you with some resources that you can use to navigate the world of technology as a parent, guardian, grandparent, teacher, or caregiver.  The resources listed below provide wonderful tips on questions many ask, such as how much screen time is recommended, all the way to exploring when a child is ready to get a cell phone.  And yes, there are some anti-bullying tips as well.

As always, best wishes.

Nancy Allen-Mastro

Common Sense Media

Stop Bullying

Google Safety Center

Digital Citizenship Week (resources in English and Spanish)

National Bullying Prevention Month

Follow me on Twitter@Supt197

Friday, October 2, 2015

How are we doing?

Dear Friends, Families, and Staff of District 197:

In District 197, we believe it is important to know what it is we are trying to achieve, as well as how well we are meeting the mark.  We assess our performance as a school district in many ways. We measure satisfaction and participation rates, levels of engagement, frequency, and of course, educational attainment.

In Minnesota, school districts annually report various types of this information to stakeholders in their World's Best Workforce Annual Report, which complies with state reporting requirements.  We also use this report to share our progress towards our six district strategic goals.

So how are we doing?  Join us on October 5 in the council chambers of the Mendota Heights City Hall to find out.  At 6:00 p.m. we are hosting a special meeting to share the 2014-15 World's Best Workforce Report.  This meeting will be in lieu of the monthly board listening session.  After sharing a comprehensive set of data with you, we will open it up for questions and input from the audience. If you are unable to attend this meeting, you can access the report after Monday's meeting on our district website.

What we know from the data is that a majority of our students do exceeding well in our school district.  For example, our high school students post some of the highest science scores in the metro area.  And we made excellent progress last year in improving scores, particularly in math, which has been a district-wide improvement goal.  However, we still maintain a persistent achievement gap in reading, math, and science.  This is unacceptable, and like districts across the country and throughout Minnesota, we are focused on changing this narrative.

At the root of the achievement gap is an opportunity gap.  What is the opportunity gap?  A good definition can be found on the Education Reform Glossary's website.  It states, "... the term opportunity gap refers to the ways in which race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English proficiency, community wealth, familial situations, or other factors contribute to or perpetuate lower educational aspirations, achievement, and attainment for certain groups of students."

The opportunities and experiences children have before school and outside of school have a significant impact on whether they are able to fully access the curriculum taught in school and whether they are able to engage in the wide range of opportunities available to students.  As a school district, part of our responsibility is to provide avenues to help overcome experience gaps that may be present.  As I've said many times, this is the work we are called to do.  Click here to find out more about the opportunity gap.

While we are on the topic of results, I'd like to also draw your attention to our District Scorecard.  We use the scorecard to track our progress on our six strategic goals.  This link will take you to the scorecard data from fall 2014, which shows data from the 2013-14 school year.  Later this October, we will be updating the scorecard to contain data from the 2014-15 school year.

There is still yet another source of information for our public.  The Minnesota Report Card allows anyone to look at a wealth of data about any school district or individual school in the state.  This interactive website allows you to access specific data about demographics, test scores, graduation rates, and many other data points that may be of interest to you.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to join us on Monday, October 5 at 6:00 p.m.


Nancy Allen-Mastro

Follow me on Twitter @Supt197