Dear Mars Area Parents, Guardians, Community and Friends,
Another year is before us, and our staff has been hard at work preparing our classrooms for the students’ arrival this fall. Supplies are ordered, buildings have been cleaned, grounds have been repaired, class lists, bus lists, new technology….the list goes on and on. Most importantly, we are ready to welcome back over 3,300 students, including our graduating Class of 2018 all the way to our incoming class of 2030!
This year will be one of great change in the District. We are implementing a new Student Information Software system which governs all of our District’s data. This software, called Skyward, must “talk” to our transportation system, our state data reporting system, our food service, our gradebooks, student attendance, and much more. This is a difficult task that has not been without its challenges. Our technology team and administrators have been working to overcome these obstacles and we feel strongly that the end result will be a more streamlined, user friendly experience for everyone.
Along with the change to Skyward, we’ve unveiled a new District website (through edlio) and are introducing a new classroom management system called Schoology. Our website will continue to provide update-to-date information on the District and Schoology will allow parents to view teacher assignments and student progress. Students will be able to use Schoology to review course documents and to turn in assignments electronically.
Our changes go beyond our software and wires. We’ve expanded our AP course offerings at the high school, implemented STEAM (Science Technology Engineering, Art and Mathematics) as a weekly course in our K-6 Special Area rotation. We initiated a Kindergarten Intervention Room called Launchpad that will provide additional support to qualified students. Our special education program is piloting a program designed to improve student resources K-12. And, we have installed a five-day rotation rather than following a Monday through Friday schedule at our elementary schools. This allows all classes to meet the same number of times throughout the school year. Last year classes that met on a Monday did not meet over 10 times due to scheduled days off.
Teaching and learning in the 21st Century has really changed. As you’ve read, we’ve made changes to our course offerings, expanded programs, improved technology, and even changed the way we schedule our classes. Also, the world around us is changing fast. Many of the top jobs of 2012, such as Social Media Strategist or Sustainability Manager didn’t even exist in 2002 and we’re being asked to prepare students for jobs that don’t even exist yet! Today’s classrooms have to develop learners that problem solve, communicate, collaborate, and persevere through adversity. Learners have to apply what they’ve learned in different settings and learners need to take facts and apply them to possibilities.
Each day this year, my Learning180 initiative will share messages about the great teaching and learning that is happening in the Mars Area School District. Over 180 days I hope to provide a 180-degree view of what teaching and learning is like in a 21st Century classroom.
May this year be full of great experiences for everyone!
Dr. Wesley W. Shipley