Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Norris FFA Learning Lab Field Day 2012

To me, more than anything, this day symbolizes the power of partnership and the importance of providing a relevant and engaging learning experience for our students.  We could not achieve this without the support of the reps who are here tonight and without the vision of our Board of Education and the FFA Alumni group and Farm Committee to make all this happen. 

The Norris FFA Learning Lab is one of a kind.  It is unique.  It puts property that belongs to our growing district for future development into good use as an active farm operation from which our students learn practical lessons in agronomy and the real life economics of farm management.  So, our students are the immediate beneficiaries of this project.  But more than that, the partnership serves a higher purpose.  The FFA Alum, the parents who volunteer time and resources to make this project happen, exemplify servant leadership.  The revenue goes from the FFA Farm Committee overseeing this operation back to Norris graduates who qualify on a needs basis for the SCC Learn To Dream program.  We’ll have a participant this fall who is a child of immigrant parents, the first in his family to go on to postsecondary level.  And additional dollars from the project provide added value to our existing programs, such as a 3-D printer that can create an actual design prototype for kids in our graphic design and CAD classes. 

I want to share something with you tonight: We just hosted the three leading policymakers in the state out here a couple weeks ago on the 17th.  The Commissioner of Education, the outgoing chair of the legislature’s education committee Senator Adams, and our Governor came to us.  They came to us equipped with the data.  They knew Norris has one of the highest annual ACT averages in the state, one of the highest graduation rates, and that our district is near the very top year in and year out in student achievement based on state assessments.  Yet we are also one of the most efficient economically on a per pupil basis.  And they want to know how we’re doing that because they’d like to see it done elsewhere. To me, it’s not a mystery.  Look around, you’re looking at the reasons for the district’s success -- just take a look at one another – it’s an all-in commitment from kids, parents, and community partners that enhances what those of us on staff are able to do.  And because of courses in the agriculture curriculum, our students are able to better apply the concepts they are taught in reading, math, science and economics. That is reflected in their performances on state assessments.

I want to acknowledge something else:  As a school district, we rely on the support of our farmers and the ag community.  Your commitment back to the district has helped provide us with the ability to build that school to the northwest and expand our Ag and IT areas in the High School.  Thank you for that. 

I want to recognize Doug Malone and Dr. Kristyn Harms, two of the finest teachers I’ve had the pleasure to work with and they are advisers for one of the very best FFA chapters in the nation - and if you're skeptical of that, I'm ready to throw down the gauntlet and challenge you right now because we have the hardware to prove it!

I want to commend and introduce the following:

*To a Norris School Board member and district FFA Learning Lab partner: a guy who is relentlessly optimistic because he is driven by one thing as a Board member, that is that every kid experience the kind of success he had as an FFA leader while a student here at Norris.  Mr. Craig Gana – please give him a hand.

*Our Board President is here tonight with her husband, Gary.  She provides great leadership and vision for our district and understands the need for us to manage efficiently and produce great yields in student learning year in and year out – Mrs. Patty Bentzinger.

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