Reflections from My Student Advisory

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I don’t know if you are aware or not, but several times during the course of the year I meet with 12 high school students as part of my student advisory. They are an awesome group of students.
Today, the meeting was really powerful and I want to share with you several things that were said because I believe they pertain to all of us.
Students talked openly about the divide they perceive in our country and how as adults we need to remind everybody that there is no place for hate in our schools.
Students talked about some of their friends having very real fears around the ‘sense of belonging’ and how adults need to remind and model for everybody that all students are welcome in our schools.
Students shared that a sense of belonging is powerful to all people and it is multiplied when they can be involved in an activity or sport.
Students shared that this election has been long and intense and it did not matter what side you lined up on criticism of your beliefs/support would happen.
Students talked about how social media has been a battleground of opinion and that they are watching ‘faceless’ battles. In other words, it is easier to say mean things because you don’t have to face the person.  They believe that people need to remember that opinions should be respected and that the emotional outbursts should be tempered.
I was reminded in the meeting how important our Millard Public School Beliefs are to our students, staff and community. A few that rang loud today…
  • Each individual has worth.
  • Our greatest resource is people.
  • All people are entitled to a safe, caring and respectful environment.
  • Educated and engaged citizens are necessary to sustain our democratic society.
  • Sharing and developing character is the share responsibility of the individual, family, school and community.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this as well as do what you do best – creating a culture of learning for all.  Feel free to share this where appropriate.

Kindness Matters

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I admit it. I am a social media junkie.  I love to see what is going on in the world and particularly around the school district  and community.  Twitter is by far my favorite tool and one that I use daily.

I hear people say that social media makes bullying worse.  Honestly, I don’t know if it does or does not. We are certainly more connected.  What I know is that bullying stinks and it has been around well before cell phones and social media.   We spend a lot of time and energy on identifying, preventing, and reporting bullying.  I think maybe we got it wrong.  

We try to label bullying.  We try to stop bullying. We teach people to report bullying.  Maybe we could spend our energy on kindness.  It just seems so much simpler.  If we each applied the one question test and held everybody around us to that same standard, we would no doubt create a culture of kindness.  It just feels better to build something instead of prevent something.

The One Question Test

Was my last action kind?   

Kindness really matters. It is time to change the conversation and focus on an action that we can all take – treating each other with kindness.  This will only be done when leaders decide that kindness matters most.  I hope if you read this, you will be that leader.  

5 Tips for a Successful School Year

Spend 3 minutes reading this article to have a better school year. On Wednesday of this week you will be a year smarter, a year older, and a year advanced in school.  The challenge will also be greater – and it should be. You are preparing for your future and each year you gain knowledge, experience, and  skills.  Do you want to have your best year ever?  Try these five things

Over Prepare for the First Exams:  Your job is to learn how to learn and to know that you know.  You likely haven’t had this teacher and you want to nail the first exam. Over prepare!  Treat it like the only grade in the class and go into it prepared and confident.  If you know that you don’t know, you are leaving things to luck. That is not a good way to start.  Classes get simpler once you have established your learning pattern, but you have to establish it right away.

Seek Help:  If you have a question, seek out help.  There is a key to this. Ask the teacher when is the best time to get help.  DO NOT go to class and ask two minutes before the bell rings.  That looks disingenuous and feels rushed.  Asking a teacher for help in a manner that respects their time and knowledge builds a positive relationship!

Communicate with your Parents:  When you do well, tell your parents.  Report daily or at least weekly on how you are doing. Find that one thing each day that makes the school day memorable and share it.  This means you get to lead the conversation! Honestly, it takes the pressure off. It also lets your parents know that you are interested in your future.  Even when you don’t do as well as you like, share. Because you have shared the good, your parents will know that you are trying. None of us ever got through school without some sort of failure. It is part of the process. What isn’t part of the process and only causes stress, lack of trust, and negativity is hiding the results until it is too late.

Be In Charge of Your Own Learning:  Be in charge! This is your opportunity. This is your chance to develop your skills for your future.  Knowing that you know and learning how to learn is challenging.  You can only be successful when you apply the rule that Effort=Results.  Be the one this year that takes charge!

Think about the Semester Final: Yes, that is right. Think about where you want to be at the end of the semester. You can’t get from A to Z without going through B, C, D. It is part of the process of learning.  I can tell you this, Winter Break is a lot sweeter when you go into it feeling good about your effort and results.

Have a great school year. I look forward to learning about your many successes! Be sure to say hello when I see you around the school district.

 

 

Superintendent Blog – Millard Finance

Greetings –

What is going on with school budgets?  This is a question that I have been asked multiple times in recent days.   This week we have been in the news regarding budget issues in Millard. If you read the paper this week, you would also have seen Westside and Bellevue discussing budgets.  Westside is looking at a four million dollar reduction, and Bellevue is looking at a bond issue.  Funding of public education in the state of Nebraska is dicey right now, and Millard is not alone in this battle.

As a member of the Millard community, I think it is extremely important that you understand where we are with the budget. I have included these frequently asked questions for your information and use.

How did we get to this place in our budget?  

  1. The growth in students from year to year has slowed considerably. With each new student, you receive state aid. We are still growing, but it is at less than 1% per year.
  2. Neighborhood construction has slowed down, and Millard has approximately 3% of its land left to develop.  This means fewer new homes are being built so additional property tax isn’t being collected.  This is multiplied by the impact of fairly flat property valuations of existing properties.
  3. In the last two years, we lost an anticipated 5.6 million dollars because state aid was changed to exclude the teacher education and instructional time allowances. These were big factors for us because of the length of our school year and the number of teachers with master’s degrees.   

What is our five year history of revenue and expenditures?  (Fiscal Year Ending 2011 through Fiscal Year Ending 2016)

  1. Average increase in expenditures has been 1.2% per year.
  2. We have added 1091 new students.
  3. We have reduced 30 positions (.4%).
  4. Anticipated increase in revenue for 2016-17 is less than 1%.

What additional items regarding the budget should I know about and be able to share?

  1. Millard is the 3rd lowest spender per student in the state.  (3 out of 240 plus school districts)
  2. We levy the maximum amount permitted under state law and even with that our cost per pupil is $9581.99 compared to the state average $11,619.34.
  3. We anticipate our expenses to go up around 3 percent while our revenue is projected to increase less than 1 percent.  
  4. Our total budget is 223 million dollars. We are looking at reducing two percent.  

How can we renovate our facilities during this budget time?

  1. Millard taxpayers approved an 80 million dollar bond issues to address renovations.
  2. Bond money can’t be spent on instruction or services.

How can we go to a one-to-one technology environment in our secondary schools with a budget shortfall?

  1. The cost of the one-to-one technology will be equal to or less than what we currently spend on technology. We are simply substituting the type of technology we will have in our classrooms.  
  2. Digital learning is about quality instruction and having access to tools on a consistent basis.  

How will the District cut 4.1 million dollars, and will anybody lose their job?  

  1. We are currently working through our plan and will make careful recommendations to minimize negative impact.   
  2. We do not plan to lay off any employees.  We are a large school district, and any reduction in positions will be handled through attrition.  

How can the District add new programs when we are faced with budget cuts?  

  1. There are two ways to address the budget.  One way is to reduce spending, and the other is to increase revenue.  Expanding a choice program such as Core Knowledge at Disney will enable us to bring new students to Millard.  The additional state aid will offset the cost of the program. In the case of AFJROTC at Millard South, the Federal Government covers 75% of the instructor cost and nearly all of the materials.  
  2. We have to be careful with how we spend money on items making sure that they are the right purchases.  Just like we are doing with one to one, we are advancing new tools through substitution so that expenses don’t increase.  We are focused on advancing our mission and providing the tools staff members need to positively impact student learning.  
  3. The District office has worked hard at identifying resources outside of state aid and property tax. These grants help us move forward.  

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?  

  1. We are in the second year of a two year phase out of the instructional time and teacher education allowances.    
  2. We continue to work with lawmakers to address our needs.  

Thank you for taking the time to keep yourself up to date.  We are #Proud2bMPS!

 

 

 

Update on Millard Public Schools

Dear Millard School Community,

This is your superintendent, Jim Sutfin, and I want to wish you Happy Holidays. We are fortunate to have a community that supports the school district and schools that work hard to help students every day.  Below are some key highlights.

Grading Our Schools: In a recent Gallup Survey, 94 percent of our parents graded our schools with an A or B.  Thank you for the positive support you provide our school district.  Engaged parents, students and staff make all of the difference.  If you would like to view our Annual Report, please click here.

ROTC: We learned that the Air Force will place an ROTC program at Millard South High School next year. We are excited to offer this program as we meet our strategic plan of developing career and college ready students. If your family is interested, there will be a meeting at Millard South High School on Tuesday, January 12th at 6 p.m. Students who participate in the program will study aerospace science, develop leadership skills and serve as community ambassadors. The program is for any 9th through 12th grade student, and having a desire to be in the military is not a prerequisite.  This is an incredible opportunity for our students and one that we are very proud to offer.

Disney Core Knowledge: We are in the next steps of expanding our Core Knowledge program to include Disney Elementary. Core Knowledge is currently at Cather Elementary, and requests to enter the program consistently outnumber available seats. If you are interested in Core Knowledge for your family, join us for an informational meeting at Disney Elementary, 5717 South 112th Street, on Tuesday, January 19th at 6:30 p.m.

District Activities and Athletics: Millard had a great fall and has started off the winter season with great determination and success. Our highest achieving students participate in activities and athletics. We offer many club, music and athletic opportunities. I hope that all of our students are seeking to find the ones that match their talents. If you have questions about our co-curricular program, please contact your school administrator. We want our students to be involved in school outside of the classroom.

Advanced Placement: Millard was one of two school districts in the state (425 nationally) that was placed on the Advanced Placement Honor Roll. In order to qualify for this award, a school district must grow enrollment and improve results. There are more than 21,000 public high schools in the United States. This is a result of a tremendous effort of our students and teachers.

Project Wee Care: A special thank you to the Millard Business Community Foundation, and the hundreds of students, families and staff members who helped make Project Wee Care a success. In total, 770 Millard students were provided with fresh food and gifts for the holiday. Thank you for making a difference!

Laptop Step-Ahead Expansion: In the fall we began piloting one-to-one laptops in our Early College Program, Health Science Academy and Avenue Scholars program. We are expanding the step-ahead next semester in each of our high schools. We are looking to deploy one-to-one laptops for specific classes. The plan is to look at a full one-to-one environment in our high schools in January of 2017. We are looking to provide a great learning tool for our students that will enhance personalized learning and collaboration.

MPS Foundation: Other than parents, the Millard Public Schools Foundation is our Number 1 partner. They are committed to helping us with technology purchases, pay for AP Exams, assist with dual enrollment tuition and provide significant resources for extended learning opportunities for our students. If you want to learn more about the Foundation, link to them from www.mpsomaha.org.

In closing, thank you for sharing your children with us. In return, we continuously work to improve teaching and learning for all of our students. We are #Proud2bMPS!

Time To Celebrate: A Great Autumn for the Millard Public Schools

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Millard continues to strive to be a world-class school district and that means you expect to see many top performers.  I want to take a minute and celebrate with you a number of outstanding results we are seeing this fall.

State of Nebraska Advanced Placement Scholars:  Two students from Millard Public Schools recently were named AP Scholars for their outstanding performance on the 2015 College Board’s Advanced Placement Exams. The awards are presented annually to one male student and one female student from each state and the District of Columbia.  Zachary Warneke of Millard South High School and Thwisha Sabloak of Millard West High School were the state’s best performers and among students nationwide to receive this recognition.

State of Nebraska Teacher of the Year and Milken National Award Winner:  Two Millard staff members were recently recognized for outstanding performances in the classroom. Millard West teacher Tim Royers was named Nebraska Teacher of the Year, and Beadle Middle School Teacher Courtney Matulka was named as a Milken teacher.  The Milken award has been compared to the ‘Oscar’ for educators. Both Mr. Royers and Ms. Matulka are deserving winners, and both have stated publicly that they are proud to represent Millard teachers. They know that their successes are a result of great professional collaboration and development.  We are very proud of both of them.

Activities and Athletics:  We are not only seeing outstanding performances in the classroom, we are also seeing top performances in our activity and athletic programs.  You don’t have to look far to find students performing at the highest level.  

  • Millard West Junior Seth Hirsch won the gold medal at the State Cross Country Meet while leading his team to a State Championship.
  • Millard South Junior Taylor Somers continued her pursuit of excellence by winning the gold medal at the State Cross Country Meet.
  • Millard West Girls’ Cross Country Team finished as the state’s runners-up.   
  • Millard North Juniors Ben Faulk and Grant Hubbard overcame their number two seed and won the Number 2 Doubles Title at the State Tennis Tournament.   

Each day I watch, listen and learn about the great efforts our staff and students are putting forth. There is no way that I could recognize all of  the individualized excellence that our students and staff pursue, but the above are specific and concrete examples of how Millard is developing and producing top results. This is a direct result of great students and staff as well as strong partnerships between the school and community.  The school year is young, and I look forward to seeing what the rest of the school year has to bring.

I hope that you will take the time to share our successes and as you see great things happen with our students and staff that you let me know. We continue to strive towards our loftiest goal – becoming a world-class school district.

We are #proud2bMPS!

Jim Sutfin, Superintendent

Twitter: @jsutfin

 

Millard Public Schools Superintendent @jsutfin – Cheer for Millard Students!

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This week we will be heavy into our fall activities.  Our students are ready to shine!   

No matter the event,  when the final out is made or time expires, we are Millard – a great community that supports our kids. It does not matter if you are a Mustang, Patriot or Wildcat!  It does not matter if a student’s spark and talent is music, athletics, dance, cheer, etc… Millard students have fabulous opportunities, and they excel both in the curricular and co-curricular arena.  

Students who participate in activities and athletics have the highest grade point averages of all our students.  These students learn how to work hard and be part of something bigger than themselves.  Students who participate in our co-curricular program shine brightly across the district, metro, and state.

I hope you will take time to check out all that Millard has to offer.  We have made it very easy for you to find your way around all of the activities.  If you go to the app store for your Smart device, you can download the Millard Public Schools mobile app.

We believe that we have the best fans.  We so strongly believe in your support that we developed the  Millard Public Schools Spectator Code of Conduct so that anybody who attends an event can immediately see the high character and class of our school community.  

As a spectator attending a Millard Public Schools athletic event:

  • I recognize that the goal of this event is to provide young people with the opportunity for healthy competition in the spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie.
  • I recognize that I have a role to project a positive and supportive attitude and to show respect toward all of the participants, including the officials, coaches, and student-athletes as well as other spectators and game management staff.
  • I recognize that my words and behavior have a powerful impact on those around me and that I have a role to behave in a mature and dignified manner. I will not say, make, or promote profane comments, obscene gestures, offensive remarks, trash-talking, or taunting of any participant or spectator during the event. I should support and cheer for my team and not cheer against the other team or game officials.
  • I recognize that I should exhibit good character and provide a positive role model for all spectators and participants.
  • I recognize that attendance at an athletic event is a privilege, not a right, and that I am expected to represent my child, my team, my community, and myself with honor.
  • I recognize that for the orderly management of this event, I have a role to follow the directions of school officials and the game management staff.
  • I recognize that if my conduct during an event is not conducive to a positive environment as determined by site administrators and staff for any of the participants, spectators, school officials, or game management staff, I may be asked to leave the event, and I may be barred from attending future events.

I hope that you will join me and thousands of others as we cheer and applaud our students.  We are #Proud2bMPS.

Millard Public School Superintendent @jsutfin – When Opportunity Knocks Open the Door

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The start of the 2015-16 school year is full of opportunity for our young people.  We are blessed to live in a community that values education and I want to share with you some key items.  Please share this blog with others as we are working to reach out to our Millard families.

Early College:  We opened the doors to Early College at Millard South. The program is full, and the students are excited.  UNO donated money so that every student in the Early College Program has a laptop computer. This is one of our pilot groups as we look at what school would be like if we provided every secondary student with a device.  As students in the Early College graduate from MSHS they will also graduate with their Associate of Arts Degree.  The cost savings for college is real as the Millard Public Schools Foundation and Metro Community College and Peter Kiewit Foundation have partnered with us to make college affordable.  Opportunity is knocking and 250 of our students are answering the door! 

Raising the Bar:  Last year we opened AP Human Geography to freshman. We were confident (and a little nervous) about how the students would perform.  After receiving the results of the AP Exam, we now know that our freshmen are more than capable of meeting our high expectations. Nearly 200 freshmen took the AP Human Geography exam and scored an average of better than 3.1. If you are not aware of AP scoring, a 3 is awesome!  The freshman did as well as the sophomores, juniors and seniors! The work the MPS staff is doing PK-12 is making this high level learning and achievement possible.

MPS Mobile App:  Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Hy-Vee, Vintage Financial Group, and Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, the MPS Mobile App is free to our community. If you haven’t downloaded the App, you are missing out. Simply type in Millard in the Google or Itunes store to download.  The App is quickly becoming a primary communication tool, and I want you to know about our schools. Whether you have children in the District or not the MPS app will keep you up to date.   

I hope each student in Millard takes the opportunity that is given to them to prepare themselves to be career and college ready.  Thank you for supporting MPS!  #proud2bMPS