And then it’s time for school to start …

With orientations scheduled for the week of Aug. 19 and teacher inservice scheduled the following week, that only means one thing: School starting! We are ready for the first day of school on Thursday, Aug. 29. The day most parents have had marked on their calendar for the past month (or more!). 

As we prepare for another school year you can feel the excitement in the air! Everyone at Spearfish High School is looking forward to another very successful year and we all feel fortunate to work with the youth of this area. Spearfish graduates remain among the best prepared in the nation and the continued improvements to our curriculum allows us to continue to take the important next steps in preparing students to meet the goals of an ever changing and challenging society. Our number one goal is to fully prepare each student for life beyond high school. College and/or career readiness will continue to be the focus!

A key to success in any organization is communication. We want to keep you as informed as possible. Please assist us by keeping up on all school events, dates, etc. by opening letters and emails from the school in a timely manner. 

Our recently revamped school website is a very informative, easy to navigate, cell phone friendly, and up to date way to stay informed. Make it one of your “favorites” and bookmark it if you have not already done so. Most every piece of vital information, rather from staff or the office is posted on either the district or the high school website. 

If you have not registered for a parent portal Infinite Campus account, please contact Vickie in our our Technology office to do so. It is important to stay on top of your student’s grades, absences and educational achievement. The High School will also continue to use School Messenger phone messages to inform you of all important events that affect the students and their parents. Please make sure your contact information is up to date. 

Communication is vital to the success of any school system. The faculty and I are more than willing to communicate to make the school year progress as smoothly as possible. In many cases, open lines of communication will prevent and clear up potential problems before those problems reach a severe level. We want the school system to be the “foundation” of the community. To do that, we must all work as one cohesive unit. 

This school year you will hear a great deal about AdvancED school accreditation as we will host an external visitation team early in 2020. We are in the final phase of the current cycle in the accreditation process. The outside panel of experts will look over every aspect of our learning environment. This is an exciting event for us. We are certain that we are doing a great job, but a set of “outside eyes” will give us new items to focus on assuring we continue to grow. Sometimes understanding the big picture involves looking beyond the obvious. Sometimes getting to the root of strengths and weaknesses in the classroom requires asking strategic, in-depth questions and hearing honest answers. Are students immersed in positive learning experiences? Are they connecting content to real-life situations? How do they react to classroom rules and expectations? Are they willing to take risks with learning? 

All of these questions will be answered during the external accreditation visit. Educators understand that there are ways that we can improve the teaching and learning process. We are anxious to hear from experts how we can advance the educational process for both students and teachers. 

More than the building, desks, computers, textbooks and smart boards, an effective learning environment encompasses many of those previously intangible elements students need. Of course, all students may and will learn differently, but we assert that students learn better when surrounded by an environment that:

•Is equitable, supportive and well-managed

•Maintains high expectations

•Facilitates active learning and engagement

•Monitors student progress and provides feedback

•Promotes students’ use of digital tools

Essentially, the purpose of the time each outside evaluator spends in our classrooms is to identify observable evidence of classroom environments that are conducive to learning. The reason for the shift from a focus on teachers to a focus on learners is to ensure that learners are engaging, acting, reacting and benefiting from various contexts or environments that should be evident in all effective learning settings. Very exciting!! Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have regarding the accreditation process.

Educators will all tell you – we do this job for the kids. Students are who we want to see; without them, we don’t have a job!! 

As usual we have a few new faculty members joining us this year. Teachers are still, and will always be, the main reason for student success. Other than a parent, no one is more important to a student and a student’s success on a daily basis than the classroom teacher. Make sure you introduce yourself to the newest members of our very successful teaching staff and thank each new and veteran teacher for what they do on a daily basis. Our teaching staff takes their responsibilities very seriously. We are fortunate to have them, as we have all read and heard, good teachers are becoming hard to find these days. It takes a very dedicated person willing to put in a great deal of time to become a great teacher. We are fortunate to have a large number of those dedicated individuals. 

I am truly looking forward to a great school year. I hope you are as well. Looking forward is much more important than looking backward. I couldn’t find a better quote to begin the year than the one I have used in previous years. So here it is again. As the late Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” The door is open, let’s go through it!! If you find that it is not open, kick it down!! 

We will have another great school year! 

Until next time, Steve Morford, principal – Spearfish High School

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