Move over, summer. Students in the Perry Community School District will soon pick up their backpacks and head off to school. The 2013 – 2014 school year begins on Aug. 21 for first through 12th grade students. Kindergarten students will start on Aug. 22.
Students and parents should mark their calendars for Back to School night:
• Elementary School: New and returning elementary students are invited to an open house on Aug. 20. Students with last names beginning the letters A – L should plan to attend between 5:15 – 6 p.m. Students with last names beginning with the letters M – Z should attend between 6:15 – 7 p.m.
• Middle School: BlueJay Camp for sixth graders and new students will be held Aug. 19 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Returning seventh and eighth graders are encouraged to pick up their schedules between 6 – 7 p.m.
• High School: Orientation for ninth grade and all new students will be held Aug. 20 from 1 – 3 p.m. Parents are welcome to attend.
The start of each school year always brings new faces and exciting changes for parents and students.
Here are a few highlights:
Perry Elementary School
Elementary school students will begin the year with two new principals: Principal Trevor Miller and Associate Principal Joel Martin.
Principal Miller comes to Perry from Carlisle where he served as the elementary school principal in the Melcher-Dallas Community School District. Prior to that, he taught business and computer classes for nine years to junior and senior high students in Pleasantville. He also served as the girl’s head basketball coach.
Miller says his first challenge is to improve the school’s Positive Behavioral and Intervention and Supports. PBIS is a structured approach that helps school personnel improve academic and social behavior for all students.
“I want to work on our behavior of students and get that switched around so we have fewer office referrals and more teachers working on their classroom management,” says Miller.
Miller says he is looking forward to being in a larger school district and working with a new associate principal. He also says the diversity of the school system is one of the reasons that attracted him to Perry.
“I grew up in Denison, so I kind of know the demographics of the town,” says Miller. “I went to college in Buena Vista, which is the same diversity. I like being involved with schools with a lot of diverse backgrounds.”
Miller also shared that his career as an educator might have taken a very different turn if it had not been for an unfortunate accident his senior year in college.
“I played college baseball,” Miller says. “I was looked at by three or four major league teams then blew my elbow out my senior year.”
Miller earned his B.A. in education from Upper Iowa University and his master’s from Iowa State. He also holds a B.S. in marketing from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. He is in the process of relocating to Perry from Carlisle with his wife, 2-year-old twin boys and his 4-year old daughter.
Associate Principal Joel Martin also claims deep Iowa roots, born and raised in the Mason City area. After graduating from Northwestern College in Orange City in 2004, Martin and his wife moved to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, for his first teaching assignment.
“That was my first real major submersion into a Spanish culture,” says Martin.
Martin says his responsibilities while in Honduras weren’t that different from many other teachers except for when it came to preparing his classroom at the start of the day. He sometimes had to kill scorpions and get rid of tarantulas before class could start.
Martin returned to the United States after a year in Honduras. He taught fourth grade in Fort Worth, Texas, and later moved to Derby, Kan., to accept a position as a elementary school reading specialist. He returned to Iowa late in the summer of 2012 where he taught in the West Central Valley School District. He also served as an assistant football coach and the head basketball coach in Redfield before coming to Perry.
“I chose Perry because of the diversity and because of my previous experience with the Spanish culture,” Martin says. “It just seemed the culture where community was important.”
Martin earned his master’s in education from Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., in 2012.
Both Miller and Martin describe their administrative style as collaborative, relying on a team approach and working closely with teachers and other staff.
“When you come into the building, that relationship piece is a top priority so that when we need to make those changes and decisions later there’s trust and respect built into it,” Miller says.
Perry Middle School and High School
Big changes are coming for Perry Middle School and high school students with the roll out of the new 1:1 Computer Initiative for sixth through 12th grade students. While a specific launch date has not yet been determined, middle school principal Shaun Kruger says students will be given their own laptop computers for home use sometime in the early fall.
“Our plan here in the middle school is to train the students in each grade level on acceptable use of the computers and what we expect,” Kruger says. “Then allow them to take them home once we feel comfortable.”
The computer program is a big part of the upcoming school year and will allow students to work on tutorials any time and at any place. The computers will also help students stay current on their coursework during absences.
Kruger says he plans to spend roughly one- fourth of teacher professional development time providing support on various uses of the technology, including Google Docs, Google Mail (also called Gmail) and OneNote note taking.
Perry Community School Superintendent Lynn Ubben says the computer initiative has been a huge endeavor for the school district. She gave much of the credit for its implementation to Technology Director Rich Nichols and his assistant Nancy Iben and thanked them “…for all their efforts to enhance learning for the students of the Perry Community School.”
High school principal Dan Marburger also expressed his excitement for the program.
“One of the biggest things we’re going to accomplish is equal access to the technology for all our kids,” Marburger says. “I think we have the opportunity to expand our teaching. Not just the 50 minutes we see them in the classroom, but also outside the classroom.”
Another change for middle school students will come at mid-year with the introduction of standard-based grading and moving away from letter grades. The goal is to provide teachers and parents a more meaningful assessment of student progress, while providing students with instant feedback.
“The progressive changes in the way we monitor student development and provide ongoing feedback will definitely increase student learning and promote positive student growth,” Kruger says.
The new grading system will only affect middle school students. Grade point averages for ninth through 12th grade students will continue to be calculated using the traditional model.
The school district is also currently working with a contractor to schedule renovations to the middle school gymnasium that would include the floor, bleachers, scoreboards, baskets and backboards, mats and new paint. Perhaps the most exciting news for students, according to Kruger, is a long overdue renovation to the eighth grade hallway bathrooms so they are once again operational.
“I am looking forward to a great school year,” Kruger says. “We have an outstanding student body with great staff.”
Middle school and high school students will also see several new teachers starting this fall.
•Ryan Lohman – level 3 special education; Lohman worked as a substitute and as a student teacher in the Perry Elementary School during the 2012 – 2013 school year. He graduated from William Penn in 2012 with a degree in elementary education with a reading and special education endorsement.
• Holly Motsch – art; Motsch comes from Des Moines Christian School where she served as a long-term substitute. She graduated from Grand View College in 2012 with a B.A. in art education.
• Nathan Krohn – fifth grade; Krohn is a veteran teacher certified in science and has a middle school endorsement.
• Jill Belgarde – art; Belgarde is leaving her post as the Perry Middle School art teacher to join the high school.
• Adam Bloom – social studies; Bloom is a graduate student from the University of Northern Iowa.
The Perry High School is also interviewing for a new Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates instructor for ninth and 10th grade students. Currently, only 11th and 12th grade students have an iJAG instructor. Instructors provide assistance to students at risk of dropping out of school. A grant from the Iowa Department of Education has made the new position possible. The iJAG position had not yet been filled as of press time.
“We have a higher than average graduation rate and a lower than state average drop out rate,” Marburger says. “Our test scores are heading in the right direction — a lot of things we can be very proud of and it’s because of the people working here. They just do a really good job.”