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NKHS NEWS From the 
Backpack
Fall/Winter ’09-‘10

Hoping this edition of the Backpack finds you staying toasty warm!  We’ve definitely gotten our share of temps in the minus and single digits early on in this winter season.   However, a little more snow for the sled ride out to the fish house would be nice.

With winter vacation only a few days away (underway by the time you’re reading this) it’s hard to know where the time has gone.  I have to say that the short time I’ve had here at NKHS has been busy but loaded with great evidence of the strong partnerships at work in our school.  Dedicated staff + engaged students + supportive parents/community = great potential for successful futures!  Communication is an important component to this great potential; however, tight budgets don’t allow for as many mailings as were once available.  My goal is to get the “Backpack” mailed out to you at least twice during the school year along with being posted on the website.  Understandably, not everyone has a computer or even Internet access, but with the availability and advancements of technology more and more people are finding it easier to connect, whether it is from home, work or the local coffee shop.

This edition will give you some updates on school initiatives, important dates to put on your calendars and, hopefully, give you some insightful information to chew on with your neighbor or around the dinner table!  Please don’t hesitate to contact us at the school with input on things you would like to see at NKHS, concerns you may have, and support for programming.

WHAT’S IN THE BACKPACK?
•    Parent & Student Resources
•    Testing & How It’s Used
•    District 319 Website Updates
•    NK Students in Activities
•    Attendance Policy Changes


PARENT & STUDENT RESOURCES:

Financial Aid Night at NKHS
NKHS will host a Financial Aid Night for all seniors and their parents on:
Monday, February 8, at 6:00 p.m.
Seniors and their parents are invited to learn about filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the ONLY avenue of accessing grants or loans for college. Information will also be presented on what types of aid are available, how much you may be eligible for, common questions about financial aid, and more.  All local scholarship applications will be available at the event as well.

Words of Wisdom From Dr. Kahn
Below are some words of wisdom from Dr. Steve Kahn, a psychologist out of the Twin Cities, who specializes in supporting parents during the rollercoaster ride we call adolescence.  Whether you’ve had one child go through adolescence already or are new to the game, it seems to keep changing.  I thought I would share one of Dr. Kahn’s recent columns with you as we step into the holiday/vacation season:
Holidays, vacations and expectations
Some families get carried away with the commercial aspects of the holiday season, but many manage to keep the emphasis on faith, generosity and compassion. But even as we resist the worst elements of the holiday season, we have to work to contain our children’s expectations. In addition, we have our own work to do to contain the pressure we put on ourselves. If we are unrealistic about our expectations, we might think it is urgent for us to create the perfect holiday season and add to our own stress levels unnecessarily.
The purposeful setting of expectations is an important life skill. However, it is a skill that we do not automatically learn the day we become a parent. I meet many adults who either never learned how to set expectations in a healthy way, or never learned they are even allowed to set expectations in the first place.
    For example, if we set our expectations unrealistically high when we go on a family vacation (every campsite will be next to a babbling brook, ski conditions will be perfect every day, every meal in every restaurant will be perfect), we are setting ourselves up to be disappointed. We could end up with good meals, good skiing and decent campsites, but instead of feeling pleased, we might end up feeling stressed and disappointed. The variable is not always what happens to us on vacation or during the holiday season, but what we decide we need in order to feel satisfied.
    I met with a parent a few years ago who told me that it helped her to think about expectations as if we had (inside of us) an “Expectations Dial” marked “Open” at one end and “Closed” on the other. When she was able to keep the dial set to “Open,” she was able to experience the day as it unfolded. And on those days she felt less stressed. The days she was most stressed were the days when her dial was set to “Closed.” This makes sense because those were the times when she needed the days to unfold exactly the way she wanted them to in order to feel satisfied. The holidays offer us a wonderful opportunity to practice keeping the “Expectations Dial” set to “Open.”
    Can you tell when you are setting your “Expectations Dial” or does it feel as if it is something that just happens? Even though it may feel a bit unnatural at first, it helps to build a moment into each day (preferably early in the day) to do a quick check. You might remind yourself to be open to the day, get as much done as you can, and to be content with whatever you leave for another day. Your children will benefit more from watching you enjoy the holiday season than they will by watching you become stressed trying to create the perfect holiday season.
    “Open” allows us to be intimately connected with our children and experience whatever the day has in store for us. “Closed” requires the experiences to be under our control. And when we cannot control the holiday season, we find ourselves becoming tense and grumpy. While it seems as if the stress or disappointment comes from the experiences themselves, it is usually our attempts to control them that lead to the feelings of stress or disappointment. Even the disappointing times are important, even necessary, and they provide great teaching opportunities. After all, it is by watching us deal with our disappointments and our stress that our children learn to deal with the disappointments and stress that will inevitably come their way. 
Suspending expectations by remembering to set the “Expectations Dial” to “Open” is not only a great strategy for the holiday season and for vacations, it is helpful year-round. This holiday season, may you be open to all the experiences that await you and your children.

Dr. Steve Kahn is a psychologist in St. Paul, Minnesota and the author of Insightful Parenting: Making Moments Count. Please check www.drstevekahn.com for more (free) articles about parenting or to learn more about the book, available both in paperback and as an audio book.

TESTING & HOW IT’S USED:

NK 8th and 10th Graders Take EXPLORE/PLAN Tests
In November, all 8th and 10th graders took EXPLORE and PLAN tests, which are pre-tests to determine if students are on track to be college ready when they graduate from high school.  Taking EXPLORE and PLAN is a great way to get a head start on the ACT and make sure students are on track for high school success, as well as college preparedness.  Both EXPLORE and PLAN include tests in English, Math, Reading, and Science, just like the ACT.  EXPLORE and PLAN help students build high school course plans that will prepare them for college and work and introduce them to career options that are relevant to them.  It shows your son or daughter areas where they need extra help or additional courses, suggestions for improving their skills, and career areas that match their interests.  Students will meet with Mrs. Furlong in January to review their results and do career exploration exercises.  Please be sure to ask your child for their results and have with them a conversation about college and career readiness.

NWEA Testing
In November, all 7th and 8th graders took the NWEA assessment in math and reading.  NWEA assessments are used to measure your student’s progress or growth in school.  The tests are given on the computer and are tailored to an individual’s current achievement level. This gives each student a fair opportunity to show what he or she knows and can do.  You may have a chart in your home on which you mark your child’s height at certain times, or a growth chart.  NWEA assessments do the same sort of thing, except they measure your student’s growth in math and reading.  Teachers will use the NWEA tests to keep track of progress and growth, and the tests let teachers know where a student’s strengths are and if help is needed in any specific areas.  All 7th and 8th grade students will test again in the spring, after which parents will be mailed a score report showing growth.

DIST. 319 WEBSITE UPDATES:
Some of you web-surfers may have already utilized the newest edition to the District website: rSchools.  rSchools is a new scheduling program made possible through our partnerships in Community Education.  What this program gives us is the same activities scheduling capabilities that the rest of the Northern Lakes Conference schools have and provides an easy way for you to keep up with your son or daughter’s extracurricular participation.  Where to find it?  On the left hand column of the district website is a heading titled “Calendars”.  Click on this and you will find a link called “NKHS Activities Calendar”.  By clicking on this you will be able to bring up all of the sports our NKHS students have access to and check their schedules (including times, locations and even maps to away sites).  This is still under construction, but you can see anything that has been done thus far.
Another heading is titled “Facilities”.  This will give you a calendar showing any or all activities taking place in any of Dist. 319’s buildings.  You can look at any site individually or the entire district.  This is where you will be able to see if a building is being used when you may be attempting to schedule an activity.  This too will continue to be updated, so do check it often!
Parent Portal is another very important tool for the communication process to be successful.  If you don’t have a password, or have not had the opportunity to go on and view your student’s grades, try it out.  It is a one-click opportunity for you to communicate with teachers and to track the progress your child is making in any of his/her classes.  I would recommend sitting down with your child in reviewing the portal so it is something you are open with them about and there are no surprises.  Studies show that frequent and consistent dialogue with your son or daughter about their academics leads to higher test scores and better accountability in life.

NK STUDENTS IN ACTIVITIES

The start of the activity season saw some exciting firsts with new opportunities created for NK athletes.  NK 9-12 football entered into collaboration with Greenway creating the GNK Football team.  The concerns over what colors to use and what will we be called were drowned out by the athlete’s simple statement, “We just want to play ball!”  The boys gave all of us a lesson in “TEAM” camaraderie.  Highlights were a huge homecoming win at Angelo Taddie Stadium as well as a first-round playoff win here in Nashwauk.  Many accolades were thrown the way of NK athletes and after the dust has settled, coaches are working for an even more successful encore in 2010. 
Definitely not to be overshadowed was only the most successful girls athletic team in NK history!  The Spartan Volleyball team, under new leadership from coach Jessica Noonan, enjoyed an exciting season that saw them battle for the section championship against Deer River and a chance to go to state.  The girls were amazing to watch as they displayed relentless teamwork throughout the season and especially in the playoffs.  Congratulations and thanks for an amazing season girls!!
The Arts once again graced the stage in Nashwauk also this fall.  Through the concept of “pairing and sharing” Greenway opened up their drama program to NKHS.  The production, “Just Another High School Play” not only garnered multiple laughs as it debuted on the NKHS stage, but also featured two NK students in the lead roles!
Budget cuts weren’t friendly to the arts in NK this past year making this Holiday Band Concert one to remember.  Under the direction of our new band director, Anissa Grotjohn, the NKHS gym was alive with musical talents that according to more than one attendee brought a tear to the eye.  Thanks to all who attended and for the hard work by students and Mrs. Grotjohn with very limited time and preparation!  We can’t wait for the spring encore!
Other activities under way at NKHS have included the Math Team, Knowledge Bowl, winter sports including Boys and Girls Basketball, NK/Greenway Wrestling & NK/Greenway Boys Hockey.
Huge thanks must go out to all of the parent and fan support at activities this year.  Your volunteering and help make it all possible.  Check the schedules, and we look forward to seeing you at the next event!

ATTENDANCE POLICY CHANGES
Studies and, well, good old fashion common sense tell us all that to learn and be successful in school there is one major important thing that needs to happen…you have to be IN school and on time!  All joking aside, NKHS has implemented some new procedures that address attendance.  You should have received a couple different Instant Alert messages, one just recently regarding these changes.  Knowing these changes can be complicated, here are the changes listed below:

Absences fall into two categories:
Excused & Unexcused, both of which are added up and affect the NKHS “loss of credit policy”.  This policy states: If total absences, excused or unexcused, exceed 20 for a yearlong class or 10 for a semester class, credit will be lost.  This loss may be appealed, but will be at the decision of the principal to overturn. 
Absences may be Exempted (not count) for reasons such as medical appt.’s, court-related mtg.’s, or school-related activities.  If a student is gone for medical appt. or court, a Dr.’s note or a note from the court must be brought in to exempt the absence.  These absences will then be exempt from the 20/10 count towards credit.  Absences are tracked by class, not just days.
Tardies are another concern and cause a huge disruption to the learning environment.  Tardies are also tracked and new this year is that tardies will be added up.  5 in any one class will equal an unexcused absence in that class and be added to the totals for that student.
Consequences for unexcused absences and tardies may range from detention to ISS to being referred to the court through our Human Resource Officer.
These changes will allow us to better track attendance and number of absences a child has.  If you don't have medical insurance or can't afford to take your child to the doctor, send your child to school even when they complain they were sick and the school nurse will decide whether they are able to remain in school or not. If she deems it necessary for your child to go home the school will accept this as a sort of doctor's note excusing the absence.  For clarification, even if an absence is excused it does count toward the total days (20/10) resulting in loss of credit.
Therefore, if you receive a letter from the Human Resource Officer, Dawn Matchen, this is simply an awareness letter so you know how many total days your child has missed school in relation to the time left in the quarter and the limit before loss of credit.  If a mtg. is necessary to address excessive absences and/or tardies you will receive a second letter and be contacted.
Please, don’t hesitate to call the school if any part of this is confusing and ask questions for clarification.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Thanks must go out to all those in the NK school district boundaries that made the referendum a success this fall.  Important to point out is that the level of support garnered has made it possible for us to basically continue what we offer at this time without any additional loss in programming.  What we as a school district are going to need to do is continue to think “outside the box” on how we can be creative in re-allocating dollars to create world class academic offerings and as many extra-curricular opportunities as we can for our students.  Education is changing at the speed of light.  With advances in technology education will continue to change here at NKHS as those advancements are made available to both our students and teachers.   I look to partner with you all as we embark on this journey to maintain opportunities for all of our student’s pre K-12 in District 319.  Positive, collaborative and creative thinking is what is needed in these bleak financial times.  I am optimistic each and every day as I watch an unbelievable teaching staff work with your kids with limited resources.  I want to wish you all a Happy Holiday  Season and extend Wonderful New Year wishes to all for an exciting 2010!


Principal Jeff Britten



Vision Statement: The vision of ISD 319 is to create successful, productive students by providing a well-rounded education in a safe, positive,
and welcoming environment. Mission Statement: We will create a balance between academics, fine arts, technological education, and athletics by providing a
well-educated staff, the latest in technology and curriculum, and a supportive environment with an equal opportunity for all students to be successful.

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