Friday, May 11, 2018
IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR PARENTS OF ALL AGES
By Angela Ruley, Elementary Principal - June 2018
I am writing to you about issues that are coming to school from students being on Snap Chat and other social media apps outside of school hours. The school is not going to monitor the student's usage of social media at home, but I am seeing an increase in social media issues between students that are starting to cross into the area of bullying and harassment. These situations are coming to school and causing issues on the bus, at recess, and in the classroom. Students are creating group chats and talking about other students in their class, having disagreements, using profane language, and not being responsible digital citizens online. I am not only writing this letter as the principal, but as a parent of a 5th grade child. Social media can be SCARY and FRUSTRATING as a parent. When I was growing up, we had bag phones that would only get reception on a large hill outside Monmouth. Now we have small high tech computers available at our fingertips.
I encourage you to have a conversation with your child about the responsibilities of using social media apps to connect with friends. Many of the students that come to my office will not read their typed conversations out loud and say they would never say what they typed to another person because it is too hard to say the words out loud. The phone gives them power to communicate with several people at one time and not have to face the person they are talking about so it is easy to say what they want to say and not have to see who they are hurting. These conversations can sometimes be read and accessible between large groups of students so the problem between two people may start involving several students at once and the conversation is available all day and night.
Social media is a BIG responsibility that requires the user to be able to think before they type. Many times when I ask the students if their parents know what they are saying online they respond, No. Do you know what your child is doing online? Do you know who your child is talking to online and what they are saying? Some of our students have mentioned talking to older people online they don't even know. Some are playing role play games, making Musical.ly videos, and creating secret group chats with friends. It scares me kids have access to the world online and with each other 24/7 through social media. It scares me we live in a day and age where we wouldn't let elementary age kids wander around the mall alone for fear of strangers, but with these apps and internet access, strangers can access your kid's information while they are in their own home. Some of these apps can access your child's actual location while using the app and shows a map to your front door step.
Our kids are growing and changing every day and I challenge you as parents to ask questions about your child's online usage and what they are doing on social media and other apps they are using. We can all help guide them to be responsible digital citizens and to keep them safe. If we as parents don't know what our kids are doing online and if we as parents don't know how to use the apps they are using, should we be allowing them full access to the world unattended 24/7? I know as a parent myself we worry about invading the privacy of our children. The bottom line is that if my child was talking to adults through apps online, their privacy goes out the door and safety becomes my highest concern. If my child was involved in online conversations at 9 pm at night and is only 9 years old, I would be asking why my kid needs to be accessible to friends at 9 pm. What is so important is can't wait until morning? There are growing studies about young people actually being addicted to their phones because of the endorphins released in their brains while using them from instant gratification. It is crazy what research is saying about our digitally wired kids and the effects of technology on the brain.
There is no textbook to parenting and I am in the trenches with you all trying to figure out how to raise kids to be the best they can be. Parenting digital learners is tough. Finding the balance with social media access will continue to be an area we will all have to keep learning about and educating our children to be safe and smart online.
Mrs. Ruley, Elementary Principal
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THE END IS NEAR!!
By Doug Tuetken, Superintendent - May 2018
The school year is rapidly coming to a close as well as our building project. I wanted to walk us through some of the remaining building items to be completed this spring and throughout the summer.
As we are all aware, we have had access and basically full utilization of our new building in Wyoming since February. Although the facility is fully functioning there has been a number of interior and exterior updates that we will continue to work on to finish the building and grounds. We continue to do some additional interior painting and we have been installing new stage lights and a new sound system for the new stage area. Trophy cases continue to be worked on and we continue to tinker with our new ventilation system to ensure efficient operation. Our new gymnasium had the floor refinished due to a seal application that was applied incorrectly. Salvage work is currently occurring on the interior of our Bronson Building. This work will continue through all of April. Once the salvage is completed, demolition of the facility will begin the first part of May. After demolition and clean-up of the building, the excavator will begin preparation for our parking lot. We are hoping that the gravel base for the lot will be completed by May 20th so we can utilize this area for graduation parking. When school is completed, in June and part of July lot preparation and paving will take place. Also, this summer we have some clean-up of our exterior cement walls as well as attaching our electronic sign. Overall it is a work in progress but we are getting closer and closer. The end is near!
I also wanted to use this forum to bring to light a concern we all have. Throughout the nation we have seen a dramatic increase of the use of e-cigarettes, also known as vaping. We are also finding out that our district is not immune to this usage increase. E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth. In a study conducted 2 years ago, more than two million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, which is 11.3% of high school students and 4.3% of middle school students. And we realize this number is growing. Also, among current e-cigarette users aged 18-24, 40% had never been cigarette smokers.
Most of us are aware but vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The term is used because e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, but rather an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapor, that actually consists of fine particles. Many of these particles contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, as well as respiratory and heart disease. When you use e-cigarettes, you are inhaling gases and particles into your lungs. The e-liquid in vaporizer products usually contains a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin-based liquid with varying amounts of nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals and metals, but not tobacco. This is the tobacco company's new business model to hook our youth on nicotine. Users inhale this aerosol into their lungs. Bystanders can also breathe in this aerosol when the user exhales into the air. This vapor can contain potentially harmful substances like volatile organic compounds, cancer causing chemicals, heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead; and other chemicals linked to serious lung disease. Some people also use these devices to vape THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's mind-altering effects, or even synthetic drugs like flakka, instead of nicotine.
Just because something doesn't taste like tobacco or have actual tobacco in it, doesn't mean it is safe. This information is from the Centers of Disease Control and Dr. Linda Richter, Director of Policy Research and Analysis. As a school community, we are not going to slow the use of e-cigarettes unless our parents become actively involved and sit down and have conversations with their children about the dangers of this product. We will continue to send out to our parents information concerning this dangerous trend. I would encourage all of our parents to take a few minutes to Google these products so you become familiar with these products. Vendors are becoming increasingly creative in making these devices appear to look like items our children should have, such as flash drives that can be inserted into your child's computer USB port to be charged. The point is, make yourself aware so you can identify and have conversations with your children. If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to email, call or stop by the school to visit.
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By Daniel Greenfield, Technology Director - April 2018
Technology. My how things have changed! Do you remember when you were in school and we had film protectors with the two reels or slide projectors with the little slides sitting in the carousel? How about VCRs, and overheads? Times changed and we moved into the age of computers. Dial up internet, we will never forget those sounds, and those lovely floppy disks. At school we had computer labs of 20 computers. Those were the only computers for the students. Teachers had to sign up to use the labs. There were never enough computers to go around.
Fast forward to today. In the elementary, the teachers are using Promethean Boards for instruction. These boards allow the kids to manipulate things on the board and the power to be interactive. IPADS are also popular with our students. Teachers and students are using them for math, reading, and other subjects. They are using the audiobook portion for kids to read and listen to literary material. Some students are also creating their own videos.
All teachers in the elementary have their own computers for school use. Their classrooms are also equipped with several computers for student use.
Middle school/ high school technology has also changed drastically. Use of Promethean Boards is a little different in the upper grades. Teachers use the boards to help with note taking, to display materials, or to give students a front row seat for demonstrations. The library has Android Tablets which are used regularly by Project Lead the Way classes, a STEM program to enhance student learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.
One of the biggest changes in middle school/high school is the use of 1:1 computing. Every student grades 7-12 is issued a school computer to use for the year. Students use the computers for research, word processing, to communicate with teachers, and to enhance the classroom experience. Teachers and students use the Canvas program to collect and receive materials from each other. Students carry their computers daily and are even allowed to take them home to complete work at night. The 1:1 computer use has truly changed teaching and learning in our present classrooms.
The sixth grade classrooms have computers that are housed in a computer stand in their classrooms. The computers are used in the classroom by the students, but do not leave the classroom.
With the new construction in the middle/high school building also came some upgrades to our internet system. The wireless internet system provides the school with faster service and the ability to handle more computers being on the system at the same time.
Outside of the classroom, computers are also used to run the heating systems in both buildings. Security methods that have recently been implemented in both buildings are also run by computers. All doors in both buildings are locked for the safety of our students. Cameras are placed around the building for our safety. All of these things, you guessed it, are run by computers.
The changes we have seen in computers over the last ten years are astounding. We are very proud to say that the Midland Community Schools is working very hard to keep up with the changes that have occurred. We can't wait to see what is coming next.
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HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED, A NURSE'S PERSPECTIVE
By Christine Gent, School Nurse - March 2018
How times have changed. 2017-2018 marks my 16th year as Midland's school nurse. It has been an interesting and challenging road for sure. I am Midland's third school nurse, hired in 2002. Mary Hansen, the pioneer in this district, was hired in the mid 1990's. When interviewed I was informed my primary responsibility was to keep the district compliant with the many state health requirements. In 2002 I merely had to be sure that every kindergartener was up to date on four immunizations; DTP, polio, hepatitis B, and MMR. Fast forward to 2018 and now it is required that every kindergarten student now also show proof of a vision screen, dental screen, and lead testing. In 2002, at the Jr/Sr level, I simply had to insure that all our athletes had a current sports physical on file and was cleared to participate. Now, like kindergarten students, 7th, and 12th grade students must show proof that they are up to date with their Tetanus, Pertussis, and Meningococcal immunizations and 9th grade students must show proof of having dental care or face exclusion from school.
Like Mary, I was hired as a part-time nurse to serve 4 buildings in 4 different towns; Onslow, Wyoming, Oxford Junction, and Lost Nation. I was the first nurse given a computer and began the journey towards electronic records and charting. You may think I am complaining of all these changes, but I am not. I have always appreciated how Midland seems to always be ahead of the game when it comes to student health and education throughout these past 16 years.
In 2007-2008 the Iowa Healthy Kids Act was enacted. Along with establishing requirements on physical activity and nutrition standards for all food and beverages sold on or provided on school grounds, it also mandated all school districts employ a nurse with a minimum of a Bachelor's of Science degree. At the time of my hiring in 2002, I was fortunate that Midland administration was looking ahead to the future needs of the District. I have always felt fortunate to work in an environment with a lower nurse to student ratio than the 1:750 state goal.
Another provision of the Act established the requirement that all students must complete ONE Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) course before the end of 12th grade. Midland had already been teaching CPR to their students in 7th grade and every 2 years thereafter in PE, way before I became the school nurse here.
My last example of this district's dedication to wellness is in the district's dental health initiatives. Midland administration has consistently supported me as I began working with St Luke's Dental Health Center in 2005 to bring in a registered dental hygienist to do free dental screenings on our elementary students. These screenings allowed me to connect students and their families to area dentists in order to obtain dental care. Due to this dedication, in 2010, Midland was selected as a pilot school for IDPH as it embarked on a new venture; Free Dental Sealant and Varnish Clinics in schools. Since 2013, it is projected by the CDC that this program has prevented more than 4,700 caries (cavities) and saved parents hundreds of dollars in dental care.
A year before taking on the role of Midland District Nurse, I sat as a parent in a community outreach meeting in the Monmouth School gym listening as administration shared their ideas on what the District could look like in the future. We all now know that the wheels of progress move slower than we sometimes like, but in January, I moved into my new Jr/Sr. High office. Every time I am there, I feel like I am living in a dream and someone is going to wake me up and I am back to 2002. I want to thank administration and school board members, both past and present, and especially the district's patrons, who had the vision to make our new facilities a reality in order to continue to make the future bright for Midland students.
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A NEW YEAR
By Superintendent Doug Tuetken - Feburary 2018
As I sat down to write this for our February Newsletter, we have just begun a new year. The older I get, the more I seem to reflect on the past to determine what type of changes I should make for the future. As I began this process, my thoughts turned to a story that I had read again earlier in the year. I am sure that many of you had heard this story, but I feel that the underlying message it is very appropriate for a new year. It goes something like this:
A professor stood before his philosophy class with a few items in front of him. When the class began, silently, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill the jar with golf balls. The professor then asked the class if the jar was full. The class agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured these into the jar. He shook the jar slightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He asked the students if the jar was full. The students agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled everything else. The professor asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous, "yes. " The professor then pulled two cups of coffee from under his table and poured both cups into the jar, filling the empty spaces between the sand. The students all laughed. "Now, " said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things: family, God, children, health, friends, and favorite passions, things that if everything else was lost, and only these remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter such as your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else, the small stuff. " The professor continued, "if you put the sand in first, there is no room for the golf balls or the pebbles. This holds true for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are most important to you. "
So, the moral of this story is, as you reflect on the past and plan for the upcoming year, pay attention to things that are critical to your happiness. Play and spend time with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner and go ahead and play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house or fix the disposal. Take care of those golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities as you prepare for the New Year. The rest is just sand.
You may have asked yourself, "What about those cups of coffee. " A student did inquire what the coffee represented. The professor responded, "I am glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how busy and hectic your life is, there is always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend. "
Have a great year and remember to take some time for those "important things ", and that cup of coffee!!
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Guidance Counselor, School Counselor, Mental Health Counselor
What is the difference? And what we do?
By Sandy Hein, Midland Elementary School Counselor
Debra Brokaw, Middle/High School Counselor
Barb Hollinrake, High School Counselor - January 2018
School Counselors used to be called Guidance Counselors. Why the change? Guidance counselors focused on vocational guidance, worked within the school walls, worked with only a few students, and did not have set standards for practice. Currently in our building, our counselors are referred to as school counselors and our focus is on academic, career, and social/emotional development. Our work is in collaboration with teachers, administrators, parents, outside counseling agencies and other stakeholders. We are advocates for all student needs and work hard at eliminating barriers to achievement. We plan interventions, collaborate and consult with educational partners and connect students with school and community resources. Our standards are laid out by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) National Model Framework and apply to all students.
The responsibilities of a school counselor and mental health counselor are clearly defined but sometimes misunderstood. Therapy or services provided by trained mental health professionals are long-term and may address psychological disorders. According to ASCA, school counselors are trained to recognize, respond and provide a short-term intervention to the the mental health needs of our students. After which, we must connect the student and family with available mental health resources outside of the school. It would be similar to having the PE teacher be the instructor for music. The PE teacher could probably figure out a short-term lesson for those students, but we would not wanting him/her to provide core instruction for music. This principle applies to school counseling as well. We are not trained to provide those services and it is unethical to do so.
In both buildings we are working towards the Future Ready Iowa Initiative which calls for 70 percent of Iowans in the workforce to have education or training beyond high school by 2025. We work on career exploration and on developing soft skills such as cooperation, communication, listening and self-advocacy skills.
At the high school we are very thankful for the recent addition of a part-time school counselor, Ms. Hollinrake. Her vast experience in helping students navigate through career exploration, college preparedness and scholarship searches is an invaluable asset to the students here. This has decreased the amount of time Mrs. Brokaw has spent on college preparedness by half and opened up her schedule to meet more of the social and emotional needs of the students in the building.
Current initiatives that the middle/high school counselors, Ms. Hollinrake and Mrs. Brokaw, are working on include: attending a college fair, practice ACT testing, ASVAB career readiness assessments, a free FAFSA completion night, ICAN FAFSA information night, 8th grade parent information night, job shadows, peer mediation, connecting and collaborating with outside mental health agencies to support our students, and weekly academic, social/emotional, and attendance interventions for students based on data.
At the elementary building, Mrs. Hein goes into all of the classrooms weekly and teaches the Second Step curriculum. This instruction strengthens and builds the students' soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, friendship, and emotional management skills. In the spring, all students will learn about various careers and do age-appropriate activities related to this domain.
Another area of focus is providing small group and individual counseling to help students with personal or friendship issues. Social-Academic Instructional Groups are offered to give students more practice to help them be successful in the classroom, manage their emotions, and interact with peers and adults.
School Counselors collaborate with both parents and teachers to help students be successful in school. If you have concerns about your child, do not hesitate to contact your child's school counselor. We will be happy to provide you with needed resources and work with you and your child! From preschool through 12th grade, Midland's School Counselors are here to make a difference for your child!
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CYBER CIVICS - VERY IMPORTANT LESSONS TO TEACH STUDENTS FOR SAFE TECHNOLOGY USE
By Angela Ruley, Elementary Principal
Technology shapes our lives everyday. I remember back in the late 90's when the internet became part of my life. It was a huge deal! I remember waiting for that magical sound of the dial up to complete so I could ICQ my friends or check my email. That was a time when checking your e-mail was the Facebook Messenger of the day! We also had to be strategic in planning your internet time around incoming calls because your landline phone would be busy for incoming calls if you were dialed in to the internet. Who would have ever imagined that in 2017 the internet would be accessible at your fingertips on a smartphone. You can text, call, snap, Facebook, e-mail, or Instagram your friends anytime you want. But how much time do we spend prepping our kids to this much access to the real world at the tip of their fingers or the responsibilities that go along with it?
In 2017, roughly 80 percent of children ages 13-17 own a smartphone. The average age parents decide to purchase a cell phone for their child is 10. Unlimited data, unlimited apps, unlimited contacts and unlimited free choice. As a parent and an administrator, I think it is important to really dive into the topic of "Cyber Civics" with any parent of a child with a cell phone. When we give kids a license to drive a car, they earn that license by getting a permit to drive, taking driver's education, and spending time behind the wheel with a more experienced driver. Why? Because giving kids such a big responsibility without guidance would be dangerous.
Cell phones provide 24/7 access to "instant feedback" from peers. How many people opened my snap, how many likes did I receive on Instagram, did anyone like my status on Facebook? It provides an empty blank screen to voice how you are feeling at the touch of a button that can be sent without voice to any audience of your choosing. You can't second guess anything you put online because it will always exist in cyberspace; even if you change your mind. Or a text picture that you sent to someone else that can be screenshot and sent to all of their friends. This year alone in our district, we have worked with students about sexting, online harassment, bullying, hacking into other student's accounts, suicide threats and more. I'm not saying that cellphones should be banned, but I am urging parents to talk with and teach your children about cell phone safety and "Cyber Civics."
Cyber Civic Basics: Digital Citizenship and Digital Footprint
Digital citizenship can be defined as responsible behavior with regard to technology use, within this is also your child's digital footprint. A digital footprint is the information about a particular person that exists on the Internet as a result of their online activity. Some basic areas to start with are as follows:
1. Do you know about the apps that are on our child's phone and who they are "friends" with? Several of the apps out there allow you to follow or be friends with people whom you might not know and the app allows that other person access to whatever your child posts within that app. Think it doesn't happen? This topic has been addressed in the elementary building on several occasions with the app musical.ly.
2. Friendship conflicts happen, but social media should not be the platform you choose to openly air your issues. I have talked with students about how some conversations should be in person and not via text messages. Emojiis do not give you insight into the "tone" of a text and sometimes these conversations become worse in times of conflict. Talk to your children about when to put the phone down and teach them to have face to face interaction with peers.
3. Digital footprints can follow you all the way into adulthood. When prospective employers search candidates, many times a google search can reveal a lot about someone. Are you aware of your child's digital footprint? Before they send that picture, remind them that anything can be screenshot and shared by someone else. You don't own anything you post online or share via text.
4. If something doesn't seem right, teach them to tell an adult. If your child receives information in a text or on an app that is violating someone's personal rights or shows someone making a threat against himself or others, please teach them to tell someone who can look into the situation. We live in a world where making a threat to harm one's self or others is real and many times it is discussed on social media before it happens.
We are raising the next generation of digital adults. Lets work together to keep our students safe online by increasing cyber civic discussions about safe cell phone usage. Parents be aware and ask questions about apps on phones and contacts with others through those apps. Safety is key and most important.