Second Semester Greeting from from Dr. Nehus

Second Semester Greeting from from Dr. Nehus
Posted on 01/06/2019
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I hope you are refreshed from a Christmas and New Year’s holiday break. All of us - educators and staff, and students and families - need time to rest our minds. I am thankful for the time we get to be with our families and catch up on rest. A healthy break and quality time with family and friends makes us all better at teaching, learning, and leading.

We’ve had an excellent beginning to the 2018-2019 school year. Our enrollment is just over 3,500 students and we remain the second largest district in Garland County. We are a strong district, built on the unique diversity and talents of our students, and a determined and focused group of staff members. Reflecting on our fall and early winter months, our district has done great things. We’ve made progress on our new facilities, with a brand new Langston Magnet School building on schedule for opening in August of 2019, and a brand new Junior Academy building with an arena and auditorium to open in August of 2020. We’ve also made headway on our new HSSD Welcome Center at the school-owned house across from the current Junior Academy. Our Pumpkin Light Night and involvement in Garland County Reads made yet another memorable impact on the Garland County area and highlighted the many offerings of our district clubs, programs, groups, and schools. Our focus on Career Academies at our Hot Springs World Class High School continues to stand alone in leading this area in moving our students to being not only college-ready or graduation-ready, but career-ready, and celebratory of whatever skills and talents each student has. Our Gardner STEM and HSWCHS received Beating the Odds Awards for Math Growth at the elementary and high school levels from the Office for Education Policy (OEP) at the University of Arkansas.  Both of these schools are being honored by OEP because students demonstrated high growth in scores on the ACT Aspire in mathematics. Our Langston Magnet School hosted two highly successful Langston Loves Reading events, which are special opportunities for the community to read to our elementary students and represent our leaders in volunteerism, police and firefighting, retired staff, our churches and charities, and others. Park Magnet Elementary School remains the top elementary school in Arkansas based on ESSA School Index scores released by the ADE. The Intermediate School celebrated a larger than ever “extra recess” for good behavior during the first nine weeks, with close to 90% of students eligible due to zero discipline referrals. Our Oaklawn Visual and Performing Arts Magnet delivered yet another unbelievable student production with their Mary Poppins, Jr. performance. Our Junior Academy EAST students set new standards for tying student-led technology and creativity to agriculture by organizing and maintaining a fully operational chicken coop at the entrance to our HSJA campus. We received recycling grants at OVPA and the HSWCHS in honor of our efforts to add to our recycling bins and encourage the same from the surrounding community. Our partners at Relyance Bank announced just before Christmas a donation of funds to purchase new playground equipment for the Langston Magnet School site. Park Manget hosted a first-ever, and highly popular, Pet Parade. Beta Club students from across schools in 4th - 12th grade won huge honors at the Beta Leadership Summit and will go on to compete at the State Competition in January and National Competition in June in Oklahoma City. Gardner STEM hosted the first-ever, and extremely well organized STEM Day, which dedicated an entire Friday to STEM activities and partnered with all HSSD schools and Henderson University, Dawson, and others. Our Special Olympics Teams were finalists in bowling, during our first-ever participation in the sport. Our athletic programs, dance and performing arts, band, choir (who performed for the first time with rock group Foreigner at the Hot Springs Convention Center!), NJROTC, FCCLA, EAST, and all other groups have worked hard to compete and perform in the fall or prepare for events ahead in the winter and early spring - and we couldn't be more proud. Thank you to our local, regional, and state partners for your support in so many day-to-day activities and events. Thank you to our amazing students and families for remaining motivated and being part of this community in learning and in fun.

We wrapped up the year by surveying our students and staff about a new motto to best capture the mission and culture of the HSSD. With input from our School Board members, the following was created: "Diverse. Dedicated. Unified. A place for everyone." I look forward to collaborating with you to determined how we use this new motto in our schools, on our website and in all communications, to show the Hot Springs community and all audiences how we truly represent the heart of Hot Springs.

I challenge our staff to continue to focus on doing education differently. We are committed at HSSD to offering a world class experience, and we do that by remaining committed to the principles that we have established as a team. Let’s ensure that we are not only teaching, but that our students are learning. Let’s ensure that we are not only working together in buildings, but that we are collaborating and determined to work together in a way that constantly improves our strategies and delivery. A group of staff, like those of you that I am so honored to lead here at HSSD, will always find a way to do what is absolutely best for our students, and you’ll find the time to do it collaboratively, and with integrity, grit, and a lasting relationship forged with each student.

I am so thankful for and proud of each of you ... and our students are, too. The second semester begins to be about measuring our results, whether we are testing students or preparing them for graduation or advancement, or planning various cumulative projects and milestones. Don’t lose focus as we come to those moments. Our focus is always on supporting, enabling, and empowering growth and learning in our students. Sometimes, there is no good way to measure the growth that we see in classrooms. We have a job to do, and I know you all are committed to the standards that we are held to by our state leadership - however, I also share your concern and compassion for working within our Professional Learning Communities and working to thread creativity and kindness into each of your lessons to make lasting learning moments for our kids. Don’t stop focusing on our kids. Don’t stop focusing on their individual needs.

Be intentional with everything you do. We must provide the very best education, and the very best opportunities for growth and understanding for our most precious commodity - our students. Review the Social Contract you have created in each classroom with your students, and make sure that you re-establish the importance of their participation in classroom rules. Review your notes from Capturing Kids Hearts and remind yourself about the importance of respect, kindness, collaboration, and communication with your kids and colleagues. The culture we are building honors the great legacy of this district, and brings us into a new culture of relationship-based teaching and dialogue with our students and between our staff. It’s a culture that I’m proud to lead and be part of.

While most of these thoughts are for our HSSD staff, I also want to address our marvelous students. We are all so very proud of you. You inspire us every day. Just as you see among the language here to staff, I hope that you feel challenged in the new year as well. Remember that we are bringing our very best efforts to you, and we expect the same back. Give us your focus. Give us your dedicated commitment to learning new things, tackling bigger ideas and skills, and working together with your classmates to always have an open mind about what is next. We know without a doubt that you will do great things in the future, and we can only help you do that if you’re willing to accept guidance and knowledge. Come to school on Monday willing, driven, dedicated, and excited … come to our HSSD and your HSSD unified and strong in your determination to make a difference in this world. We believe each of you can do that in your own way. We are so honored to be part of your journey.

My door is always open to you. Email me, call me, or schedule a time to come by. I have absolute full confidence in our leadership team, and couldn’t be more proud of each of our principals, program leaders, transportation and support staff, and all others who make this team work. You are all vital to making HSSD a thriving, hopeful, and distinctly different school district.

Bring it on 2019!

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