The Decorah School District Board of Education earned the 2011-12 Boards Making a Difference Award from the Iowa Association of School Boards. The winners were honored at the IASB 67th annual convention in Des Moines recently. Above from left, are Superintendent Mike Haluska with Board members: President Melanie Tietz, Vice-President Ron Fadness and Board Member John Hjelle. (Submitted photo)
The Decorah School District Board of Education received the 2011-12 Boards Making a Difference Award from the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) recently.
Each year the IASB recognizes up to three Iowa school districts for exemplary leadership that creates positive results and change in their school districts and communities. A plaque and certificate are given in honor of T.E. Davidson, long-time school board member and past IASB executive director.
In addition to Decorah, recipients of the 2011-12 Boards Making a Difference Award include the school boards of West Liberty and Colo-Nesco community schools.
The Decorah schools have long been known for having a strong, involved board of education, but the Board took a real leap forward in leadership when they began involvement in the IASB-sponsored Lighthouse project in 2008-09, according to the Board's award application. Through that project, the Board undertook its own professional development with the intent of "raising the bar" in an already high-achieving school district.
Board members decided to focus on curriculum mapping of the Iowa/Common Core, addressing instruction and supporting the development of district-wide formative and summative assessments. They provided in-service time, software he efforts.
Through Lighthouse and observing this in other districts, the Board created a District Leadership Team and Building Leadership Teams to help team members evolve as teacher-leaders who would take on a true leadership role in planning and development of the curriculum mapping project, planning professional development activities, school calendar development, evaluation of district data and goal-setting.
PPEL, bond passage
With collaboration from the Board and the District's Shareholder (community advisory) group, the District passed both a Physical Plant and Equipment (PPEL) levy renewal and a bond referendum for new and renovated facilities by nearly 70 percent approval.
The Lighthouse study also identified the need to make "learning" a priority at each Board meeting. Every month the Board hears from staff and students about new or innovative practices in District classrooms, discusses data, professional development, curriculum mapping, etc., and uses IASB's At the Board Table discussion tools as a way to further members' knowledge of the Board's roles and responsibilities.
By scheduling these learning sessions early in their meetings, the Board demonstrates to the public and the press that its members are committed to learning as much as leading.
Decorah High School has been recognized in the past year as a National Blue Ribbon Winner, on the National AP Honor Roll and named by US News & World Report and Newsweek magazines as being in the top 10 high schools in Iowa. The school has also won the 3A Traveling Challenge Cup from Banks of Iowa four of the past five years.
"Clearly the Decorah Board of Education is a highly-functioning group who genuinely take an interest in the success and well-being of our young people," said Superintendent Mike Haluska.
"IASB is proud to recognize the Decorah CSD Board of Education for truly making a difference for its students and its community," a news release from the organization said.
The Board and superintendent were recognized at IASB's 67th annual convention in Des Moines.