APS: Next school year filled with opportunities

Published 10:42 am Friday, June 7, 2013

By David Krenz, Austin Public Schools Superintendent

As another school year winds down, we take some time to celebrate with the more than 250 students marking the milestone of high school graduation this Friday evening as well as our 26 staff members who either recently retired or will be starting their retirement this week. We wish to extend our congratulations and a special thank you to these individuals for devoting their careers to education where they have touched hundreds of lives. Our 2012-13 retirees include Nancy Byam, Ed Ehrhardt, Merldeen Feuerhak, Craig Knight, Anne Koch, Connie Krebsbach, Barb Miller, Stephen Sanford, Susan Stevenson, Marilyn Anderson, Linda Dolan, Diane Wangen, Carol Gilbertson, Nancy Rohne, Greg Dallmann, Ron Prybelski, Shirley Morgan, John Kalmes, Vicky Arndt, Becky Tennis Hanson, Katie Ulwelling, Marilyn Tebay, Patti Metcalf-Murray, Lisa Madson, Sandra Branden and Jodi Patterson.

Members of the public are welcome to join us for the 2013 Austin High School commencement ceremony taking place Friday at 7 p.m. in Riverside Arena. We would like to recognize this year’s high distinction students, who earned a cumulative GPA of 3.9 or higher throughout their high school years and will serve as student speakers at the ceremony. Congratulations to Janna Akkerman, Christine Barinka, Courtney Bogle, Megan Brown, John Fleiner, Paige Goetz, Helen Heimark, Mollie Mickelson, Melissa Carla Navoa, Sydney Ogilvie, Karyn Potach, Robert Sherman and Alex Thorson on this outstanding academic achievement.

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As we reflect on the past year, we also look forward to the future. There are exciting things happening at Austin Public Schools, including the opening of the I.J. Holton Intermediate School for all students in grades five and six! The teachers moving to I.J. Holton have been busy this entire year preparing for the delivery of the new curriculum with the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) focus. We invite the public to attend the dedication ceremony and open house on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 1 to 4 p.m. You made this new school possible, and we invite you to see first-hand the new learning opportunities available.

While the students in grades five and six will be in a new building, innovative learning strategies are district-wide. Through experience and research, our school district knows the best approach to improve student learning and achievement is to provide hands on and real life opportunities for each student. To make this happen, Austin Public Schools has begun implementing new instructional strategies and collaborative opportunities to provide these real life situations. We have asked community members to participate on various advisory committees to help provide insight into current skill needs as well as creating partnerships for student experiences. Examples of our advisory committees include STEAM education, biological sciences, agricultural sciences and Gifted and Talented education. The work of our STEAM Advisory Committee has focused on creating experiences where students use what they learn in the classroom to solve local problems. An example would be the use of filters to clean our waterways. Members of this committee provide experiences of how filtration systems work in many different fields, i.e. dialysis. The Biological Science Committee has provided hands-on experiences for our Advanced Placement Biology students to work with scientists from Hormel’s Research and Development Department as well as doctors from Mayo Health Systems four hours per week. Our Gifted and Talented Committee has been working on developing a recommendation to better serve our high potential students. These are just a few examples of how we are looking to improve our instructional practices to increase student skills, student engagement and student achievement into next year and beyond.

I look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead and want to thank staff members, parents, volunteers and our entire community for the support they continue to show Austin Public Schools.