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Back to school

Posted August 06, 2014 in Clear Lake

It’s rolling in like a band of thunderclouds in June. Growing ever nearer, it seems to move even more rapidly as it approaches.

It’s “back to school” time, and every year it seems to arrive more quickly. Some celebrate as it arrives, looking forward to the smell of a fresh box of crayons or the sound of a pencil sharpening; others offer up regrets as it steals away the lazy days of summer and the ever-shrinking years of carefree childhood.

Either way, it’s coming, and it’s time to get ready. For parents, here’s a quick list from educators on how to get prepared early:

Top 10 back to school list
• Roll bedtime back to a scheduled time.
• Dust off the alarm clocks, and start getting up on time again.
• Purchase and organize new school supplies.
• Shop for new school clothes
• Sign kids up for sports, and schedule any necessary sports physicals.
• Make sure all vaccinations are up to date.
• Get some healthy snacks in the house for after-school.
• Check backpacks to see if they’re in good condition or purchase new.
• Donate school supplies to local charities for those in need.
• Sign up for cell and email alerts as provided by your school.

In just a matter of weeks, Clear Lake students will be heading back to school, with registration beginning as early as Aug. 4. The first day of classes will be Monday, Aug. 18

“We like to welcome everyone back — students and teachers — and we want them all to have a successful year,” says school board member Chad Kuhlers.

Anthony Kuhlers loves his middle school classes in Clear Lake. Photo by Lori Berglund.

Anthony Kuhlers loves his middle school classes in Clear Lake. Photo by Lori Berglund.

Now in his third year on the Clear Lake Community School Board, Kuhlers is part of a family heavily involved in local schools. His wife, Amy, is an adjunct professor at North Iowa Area Community College who teaches college level classes at Clear Lake High School. Their son, Anthony, is looking forward to entering the seventh grade and is thoroughly enjoying middle school.

“It’s way better than elementary,” Anthony says with anticipation of the new school year. (No offense, Clear Creek Elementary, this is just one boy who is really enjoying those “upper level” grades.)

“I like it a lot more,” Anthony adds. “The classes are just really fun. Math is my favorite subject; it’s usually just easy for me.”

And yet, Anthony also says he’s really been enjoying the summer and having a break from school.

“Mostly, I just want summer to keep going,” he says.

But he also has to admit that it will be nice to see his friends again when school starts. Fortunately, Anthony has also had a busy summer filled with activities. He took part in band camp and has been playing soccer — and the best part of summer has been caring for a new canine addition to the family.

“I’ve been taking care of our new dog. We just got him a few weeks ago, and that’s really fun,” Anthony says.

His parents say that the quality of Clear Lake schools is part of what drew them back to the community. Kuhlers is a native of Meservey, while Amy is a 1989 graduate of Clear Lake High School. The family spent 10 years in the south before returning to the area when Chad took a position at the ethanol plant in Mason City. He had worked in the industry in northern Oklahoma and Corpus Christi, Texas, and they were all glad to be returning to the state.

“When we moved back to Iowa, we had a decision to make on where to live,” recalls Amy. “The education system in Clear Lake was a big part of our decision to live here. We wanted to be in this school district.”

Kuhlers echoes that sentiment with kudos for schools throughout the state.

“Iowa schools are very high quality,” he says.

Quality schools are one reason the Kuhlers family, including dad Chad and son Anthony, returned to Clear Lake. Photo by Lori Berglund.

Quality schools are one reason the Kuhlers family, including dad Chad and son Anthony, returned to Clear Lake. Photo by Lori Berglund.

Kuhlers attended NIACC and earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Iowa State University. He also completed work toward an MBA from Phillips University before it closed.

As a school board member, Kuhlers has learned even more about schools, how they are financed, state regulations, negotiations with professional groups and the needs of students.

“I enjoy the camaraderie with other board members,” Kuhlers says.” It’s also nice working with the administration. They are always working their best to help everyone understand the various issues that are impacting the schools.”

Unfortunately, as it is with many public boards, it’s rare to have much of the public in attendance at school board meetings.

“We never have very many — five at the most — and that’s often members of the press,” he notes.

Kuhlers encourages members of the public to attend board meetings and learn more about why decisions are made as they are being made. It’s also helps educate people about school issues and, who knows, it might prompt someone to become a volunteer or even run for office.

“Attending meetings is a good way to evaluate if they would like to serve on this board,” Kuhlers says.

The new year will feature some scheduling changes, and Kuhlers encourages people to be patient and take an active role in serving the needs of students first.

“The administration has worked hard to rework schedules and provide as much training as possible for teachers without disrupting school and teacher contact hours,” he explains. “We’ll see how it all works out, and hopefully we’ll have a productive year.”

Being open to change is an important component of any learning environment, he notes. In Clear Lake, innovation has been a hallmark of the district as it continues the unique sharing arrangement with Mason City Schools.

“We’re the only 3-A/4-A schools sharing a superintendent, and it’s really given us an opportunity to take advantage of the rules as they are written to save the district money,” Kuhlers says.

In a day when too often cuts are made in the trenches to preserve positions at the top, Clear Lake is doing just the opposite. It is saving money at the top to preserve teaching position in the classroom.

“It allows us to maintain our current staffing levels because we are not having to spend as much on administration,” Kuhlers says.

He is proud of the way the arrangement has succeeded and sees continued great things ahead for local students.

“Our academic excellence in most grade levels has been improving year upon year, and that’s something to be proud of,” Kuhlers says with satisfaction.

As a working educator herself, Amy’s interests in the schools are even more hands-on. She’s also a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in elementary education. She earned a master’s degree from Northwestern Oklahoma State University.

Amy taught middle school science in Clear Lake for six years before taking the position teaching at NIACC. Since she now teaches college classes at the high school here, it’s been a unique opportunity for her to reach the same students at different points in their educational careers.

“I’ve been able to have some of the same students over again,” she says. “I taught them at the younger grades and then see them again as they get older and take some of college classes. Seeing how they grow is really a nice part of the job.”

As an educator and parent, she understands how busy this time of year can be. Starting early to establish that school routine, even before the first day of school, can help ease the transition of back to school time.

“Moving bedtimes back up, having kids read throughout the summer, be involved in some organized activities,” those are all good things for parents to keep in mind, she notes.

Indeed, adjusting sleep patterns is one of the most popular recommendations from teachers. The Clear Lake Community School website at has information on school supplies, health information and more. A visit to the website before heading off for shopping can be a great idea, teachers note.

“We want everyone to have a great school year,” Kuhlers reminds.

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