As we wrap up the 2014 calendar year, we are also halfway through the 14-15 school year. With a sense of anticipation, our thoughts turn to the year ahead and we refine and revise our individual and collective goals for 2015. Before we allow the sense of excitement for the impending year take over, however, we should pause and reflect on the many good things that transpired in 2014.
50 years strong! The 2014 year was a special one for the Norris District as we celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the district. The Norris story is one of successful consolidation. The vision and the foresight of the district's founders in creating a unified campus that, while centrally located geographically, is not in any one district municipality, has fostered a sense of unity and cohesiveness that is tremendously beneficial for the school culture. Many school consolidation stories chronicle a contentious and bitterly divisive process; the Norris District has become a model for successful consolidation and efficient operations to support student learning.
As I reflect on a quick highlights reel from 2014, here are some of the prominent memories that come to mind. These are events and achievements that helped continue to make Norris a great place for our students and staff and a school district our community can be justifiably proud of as we are on the verge of our second half-century!
- In January, Norris teacher Betsy Barent was celebrated as one of the authors of an iTunes U course from the California Academy of Sciences on "How Science Works" which had already surpassed 10,000 downloads at the start of the year. Barent's outstanding work was featured by the Beatrice Daily Sun and picked up by AP. Just another way Norris teachers are leading the way in tech infusion for student learning!
- In February, Norris was notified that the new Intermediate School, which opened in the fall of 2013, had been selected by the Nebraska Chapter of the American Concrete Institute for an Award of Excellence. The award was bestowed on the new Norris school for extensive use of precast concrete as a key structural and design element to accomplish an efficient, safe, and architecturally beautiful school. Congrats to our design partner DLR and Construction Manager Hausmann on the recognition and thanks to our community for the resources to make the building possible!
- Special educator Dr. Mary Schlieder was one of the authors of a research study in the Journal of Social Change on Peer-Mediated Interventions (Circle of Friends) for students with autism spectrum disorder. You can download the study here.
- 2014 was another great year for Norris performing arts - a couple examples: Coach Millington's speech squad took the district championship and went on to bring home two medals in state speech. The Norris jazz band earned first place honors at the Northeast jazz contest in March.
- Agricultural education continued to flourish at Norris as a means of enhancing college- and career-ready learning opportunities for students as well as providing an avenue for students to develop their leadership skills. The FFA chapter was profiled in Nebraska Farm Flavor magazine and Norris senior Ben Rice was elected a state officer (vice president) for 2014-15, following Norris alum Bryce Doeschot before him to continue an unprecedented string of Norris chapter leaders serving at the state cabinet level. The Norris FFA and Learning Lab projects (and sponsors Mr. Malone and Dr. Harms) were also honored by the Hickman Kiwanis Chapter at the annual Farm City breakfast in November.
- Norris students won the Nebraska Stock Market game, turning a 31K profit from a 100K investment during the market simulation competition.
- Norris repeated and won the fourth annual Cleanest High School Campus award - a county-wide competition among city and county schools for campus cleanliness. Congratulations to Dave Allder, the Norris HS Student Council and our entire school community on the recognition!
- Eleven tremendously talented new teachers joined our district. Through the leadership of Curriculum Director Dr. Brenda Tracy and coordination of Reading Coach and lead teacher Alisha Bollinger, Norris kicked off a new teacher mentoring program to provide key orientation and acculturation experiences for Norris teachers to successfully integrate these educators to our system. Each teacher new to Norris was paired with a master teacher mentor for the inaugural program.
- Norris was invited by the Center for Rural Affairs to participate in the Governor's proclamation of October as Farm To School month, and hosted an apple tasting event featuring a variety of apples for our Intermediate school students to taste and rate. The special event volunteer was Nebraska First Lady Sally Ganem, and featured support from HS students enrolled in the Culinary Arts program.
- The Norris volleyball team embraced their role as underdogs and overcame the odds to win an unprecedented repeat Class B State Championship. Photos from webmaster Andrew Carlson and student photographers chronicling the team's amazing return journey to the summit of Class B are available here.
- The Norris HS Math Team finished in the top 10% of over 100 schools competing in the UNL Math Day, earning second place Class II honors in the Math Bowl and a bronze medal in the Probe I Team Competition.
- District patrons, parents and partners joined up to mount the single largest successful capital campaign in Norris history, donating 250K from July to December so the district could enact its second phase of an ambitious multi-step activities facilities development plan. Because of the successful commitment of donors, the Board will enact its pledge to commence construction and cover the remaining costs of an artificial turf field and track resurfacing project in the spring and summer of 2015.
While the preceding is hardly an exhaustive list, these discrete events are some of those that combine to create the mosaic that is your Norris School District: a place where students can and do thrive because of the opportunities provided to them for both academic and activities-oriented success; a place where our dedicated staff members work diligently to provide the best learning environment possible for our students; a place where our community comes together to help create an even more promising future for Norris students. Thanks for a great 2014, Norris, and let's make 2015 an even better year!