Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Memorable Moments & Momentous Occasions for Norris District

As a final hurrah to 2012, I invite you to reflect with me on some of the most substantial accomplishments of your Norris School District that occurred from January through December, 2012.  These are things that may have escaped your attention but are clearly worthy of notice and the acclamation of our team members and constituents. I believe that these are the sort of things that help to foster an environment where teachers can continue to teach masterfully and students' opportunities to learn are maximized.  Norris has an excellent achievement profile and a faculty recognized for its excellence. In the annotated list below, I am focusing on district-level operational and infrastructure or policy and organizational-level changes I believe help to sustain such a culture.

Some Top 2012 Norris District Accomplishments - Gratitude to others for a job well done! 

  • It all starts with an incredible Board of Education that steers and guides all policy matters and provides careful oversight on district-level decision making. Your Norris Board earned another consecutive annual Outstanding Board Award from the Nebraska Association of School Boards.  Board members from Wards 1, 3, & 5 (Kruger, Glenn & Grosshans) were each up for reelection in November and each prevailed with at or over 99% of votes.  The stability in leadership and careful stewardship of the district remains a key factor in Norris' excellence.  You can view the rigorous criteria for Outstanding Board Status here (scroll to the bottom).
  • In March, district voters overwhelmingly passed the largest bond issue in the history of the district, allocating $14 million for a new 3-4-5 Intermediate school and high school renovation.  The new school will open in the fall of 2013 and increases our growing district's capacity by another 600 students with the provision of another 13 acres of developed campus and 65,000 square feet of full service educational facility. Thank you, patrons!
  • The district's bonds rating was upgraded to AA3 by Moody's, based on the district's healthy financial operations and economic outlook.
  • Norris won over 50K in an Early Childhood Education grant to expand pre-school services by enlarging identification criteria for preschool eligibility; the grant has allowed us to serve a record-number of preschoolers, hire additional staff, and ensure we are providing excellent early interventions for pre-school aged students to ensure these future Norris k-12ers thrive!
  • In August, after over 6 months of work and 8 months of planning and development, the district unveiled a new web presence, switching from the old (no longer maintained) FrontPage platform to Drupal, an effort that was spearheaded by Norris webmaster Andrew Carlson.  The new website has been rightfully acclaimed for its visual pop and relative ease of navigation for users.
  • Healthier US Schools Challenge Competition winner: In November, the district received official confirmation of earning HUSCC award status, (to date less than 10% of Nebraska districts have earned this distinction), taking bronze for its commitment to Coordinated School Health and meeting rigorous new federal school lunch program regulations.
  • The district capitalized on the liquidation of assets from the defunct UNO football program (The Mavs' loss was the Titans' gain) and added permanent west stadium seating in summer, 2012, expanding Titans Stadium capacity by 1,200 with the timely assistance of district partners Hausmann Construction and Gana Trucking.
  • The Board of Education appointed an ad hoc committee of Board members Craig Gana, Jim Craig, and Jim Kruger on athletic facilities development and worked with district design partners to develop a strategic plan for future facilities needs to address comparability with cohort Class B schools and help sustain Norris' tradition of competitive excellence by ensuring infrastructure development in this area.
  • The Board of Education formed an interlocal agreement with Lancaster County and enlisted a traffic study by Iteris consultants to ensure further paving of west Princeton Road and a traffic flow that will serve the new Intermediate school and district busing safely and efficiently for years to come.
  • The Transportation department acquired two new buses and a used one on standard regulatory-approved fleet rotation, and said goodbye to the analog era with the move to digital frequency radios and the adoption of GPS tracking for all routes, allowing constant real-time oversight from Transportation HQ by Gaylen, Frank, and Bridget.  The added safety and communication benefits are outstanding.
  • The district hosted Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman"The Commish" Dr. Roger Breed, and Education Committee Chair Senator Greg Adams for a forum this fall to discuss the Norris district's promising programs and practices.  Several Norris Board members, admin, teachers, and parent volunteers formed the special stakeholder group to speak with our state's leading policymakers. 

I am certain there is much omitted from what I could have placed above; it is by no means intended to be an all-encompassing list.  But I am equally confident that I've identified some of the more substantial occurrences in what you'll recognize as tremendous achievements for the Norris District - and some you may have forgotten about until reminded. It is my fond hope that all of us stakeholders in the Norris District (students, staff, parents, and patrons) take a moment as the year winds down to reflect, recognize and celebrate with one another a great year for your Titans.  It is wonderful to be a part of something that transcends the individual and contributes to the success of our youths and the welfare of our broader Norris community. Thanks for everything you do!