On behalf of the Centennial School District Board of School Directors, Students, Administration, Faculty and Support Staff, welcome back! We are excited to begin the 2018/2019 school year and look forward to teaching the children entrusted in our care.
As a school district, we are committed to improving our district on three core concepts: First, Academics, which means that each child will have a standards-based education that prepares him or her to participate in the real world with opportunities to maximize potential in multiple areas for all children. Second, Innovation and Personalization are vital. Innovation is incredibly powerful and exciting, and we are committed to helping our students, teachers and administrators be innovative. Technology is changing at a fast pace and we strive to keep up with the changing curriculum to personalize each child’s learning. Centennial is fast becoming an innovation hub and our students are benefitting. Lastly, a commitment to Equity means the district will not settle for allowing gaps in gender or race to define our students and that we are committed to helping each child become excellent. We are committed to working together to enhance the achievement and well-being of all of our students.
We realize that open communication is essential to growth and to building trust with our school community. Recently, we placed an electronic suggestion box on the district website homepage; we encourage students and parents to utilize the suggestion box to ask questions, express concerns, make suggestions, and let us know what you are thinking.
We encourage the “ask and learn” process, which creates an environment of transparency and productive conversation. Our administration has made a commitment to our school community to be receptive and responsive to phone calls and emails received from students, parents and the community. Despite social media being so readily available, we ask that you contact us directly via the electronic suggestion box, phone or email to discuss any concerns you may have. Oftentimes social media is about rumors – we will give you facts. Contact information is available on our website.
Please join us as we share exciting district events and important information: Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/csdinfo, Twitter at @Centennial_SD and Instagram @centennialsd. Thank you for entrusting your children to us. We look forward to collaborating with you and we wish you a great year!
David E. Baugh, Ed.D. Superintendent of Schools
SUPERINTENDENT'S SUMMER MESSAGE
Dear Centennial Families and Colleagues;
We hope you have a fantastic and intriguing summer full of good times and good memories. Please be safe as we are looking forward to your return in the fall.
On June 14th we celebrated the Class of 2018's Graduation. Here is the commencement speech we shared with the graduates. It was a fantastic day for a fantastic class.
Again, have a great summer and be well.
It is a great pleasure and honor to stand here today and to welcome you, the class of 2018, at William Tennent High School and alumni of Centennial School District.
On behalf of the Board of School Directors, the administration and the staff of this great district, I welcome all of your friends and family to this memorable day. It is the result of thirteen years of people working together to ensure that you, the Class of 2018, will have what you need to be successful in the years ahead, to participate in the banquet of life in one of the greatest nations the world has ever known. Take this opportunity to continue to learn, to grow, to remain curious and to make the most of your education. You will remember today years from now.
Along the way, it was our intention, that you would learn to work together, to be kind and to clean up your own mess. If you haven’t quite gotten your room cleaned up, don’t worry, it will still be there after graduation. Regardless, these are core skills of cooperation, thoughtfulness and responsibility that will serve you well. Frankly, all too often, we do not see these skills in the world around us.
But I digress, it is the tradition of graduations all over the world that we share some advice. Consider three main points this evening.
First, be sure to say Thank You, and say it a lot. None of us would be here today if it weren’t for the kindness and love of family, friends and neighbors as well as the unexpected graciousness of strangers. Show your appreciation to those around you. When you leave this field, say thank you to your family and friends because they were the ones who were there when you first needed help. Be certain to thank those who loved you along the way, because it was their hopes and dreams for you that have helped you become the young adults that you are.
Second, some of you are familiar with the notion of Growth Mindset, or the idea that with hard work and some good feedback or coaching we can be better tomorrow than we are today. Growth mindset is an idea whose time has come—it is the idea that if we are willing to work hard today, we can change tomorrow. There are only two days that are important, tomorrow and today. If we make tomorrow just a little better than today, we are well on our way to where we need to be. Another way to think about this is the idea of “yet.” I may not be good at something, and if I add the word YET to that idea, I can then figure out how to make tomorrow, better than today. For instance, I am not very good at saying thank you, yet. With practice I can make tomorrow better than today. As for yesterday, forget about yesterday, its history. Tomorrow is the day we can impact and we can do it by working to make sure it is a little better than today.
Lastly, I want to encourage you to be kind. The world is full of anger and intolerance right now. Let’s work to change that. Let’s be kind. Let’s be kind to the people who don’t look like us, or sound like us or, even those who might hold different ideas or notions of truth than us—it is turning out that truth is perhaps open to interpretation. At the end of the day, we are simply members of the one and only human race on the one and only planet that we know we can live on. I saw a T-shirt the other day that sums this up. The shirt said; Take Care of this Planet, it is the only one with Coffee on it. Well, I love my coffee, and I love my planet. Let’s be kind to the planet, let’s be kind to one another, it is the right thing to do.
At the end of the day, most things change, people come and go, jobs change, when one door closes another one opens, hopes and dreams evolve, it is up to us to make the most of the time we have, especially with one another. At the end of the day we have complete choice over our attitude. How we treat each other is a choice; it is something over which we have complete control.
So please, say thank you and mean it; don’t limit yourself; embrace the growth mindset—we aren’t as good as we want to be, yet--and lastly, be kind to one another. My hope for the class of 2018 is to embrace these three concepts and you will help make this world a better place. It is a graduation tradition to share a quote, so please keep in mind the words of the great trailblazer and athlete, Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
Good luck in all that you do—and don’t forget your roots—it is the wise person who knows their origins. We won’t forget you—stay in touch. Be well.
SUPERINTENDENT'S CORNER March Spring Reflections
Spring may, or may not, be here for good. We hope so, but it is Pennsylvania, and it has been a strange winter with both unseasonably cold and warm temperatures and precipitation to match.
One consistent item that rolls from year to year and only gets stronger is the concern for school safety. Both in terms of transportation issues when a weather event is occurring, but also and in particular, because of the continuing national crisis around school safety.
The Parkland massacre is the latest in an on-going saga of school violence. This is compounded by the fact the assailants are often former students or even current ones. Regardless of what your politics are around the second amendment, if you are a student, parent, or educator, you have been aware of school safety issues for almost 20 years.
The Florida situation is maybe different because those students continue to lead a call for change. A change dependent on elected officials in Washington and Harrisburg and 49 other state capitals. We will see.
In the meantime in Centennial, we are continuing to work to make our schools safe places to learn and to work. As in many districts, resources have been diverted to what is called “hard scaping” the transformation of community resources into harder to enter and disrupt facilities. Cameras are on a continuous add and refresh cycle. Employees are tasked with monitoring and securing entry points. In addition, they continue to receive professional development around de-escalation techniques and crisis management. We continue to work collaboratively and creatively with local law enforcement agencies. Our safety plan is in a re-evaluate cycle as we continue to devote time, energy and resources to securing our schools and places of learning.
One thing we will always be working on is making our schools kinder, warmer, more inclusive places of teaching and learning. Time and time again, students who have been ostracized by their classmates resort to desperate, hostile measures. As a faculty, as caring adults, and as caring students, we are working to increase the connectivity of all our students. And in the end, this may be the most effective way of working to prevent further tragedy.
In other spaces we have talked about it taking a community to raise a child and if you see something say something. Well that is a great start. If we take things a step further and say maybe we should try to connect with compassion and kindness, maybe we can excel. It truly does take a community to be great. A connected community.
There are over 800 staff and faculty working in the district, over 5,600 students, and well over 6,000 parents, guardians, grandparents all concerned about at least the welfare of a few of the students in this district. Together, if we make sure each and every student is cared for and are thinking about others, then maybe, just maybe, we can keep tragedy from knocking on our door.
Let’s hope spring is here to stay. Spring is typically a time of celebration. Let’s take a moment to celebrate the wonderful community that is Centennial and be sure that every one has someone asking, “How are you?” And most importantly, that someone is listening to the answer.
Thinking about Safe Schools
As we are moving through our national collective grief over the latest school shooting in Parkland, FL, school safety remains a big concern for all parents and school employees.
It is imperative to realize that our schools remain a safe place for all of our children. While the national headlines and the student survivors of Florida are calling for necessary changes, it is vital to know that our schools remain statistically the safest place on the planet for our students.
Since the Columbine massacre, schools have been adapting and changing practices. Our own schools are very different from what they were twenty years ago. Far from perfect, we are continuing to work to prevent crisis situations like Florida or any of the almost countless other school shootings. We are continuing to evaluate and work on behalf of all our students. Our driving goal is to ensure that all of our students are encountering success and growth in the safest surroundings possible.
That said, we have a great relationship with law enforcement who are actively working with us to evaluate current systems, helping us design trainings and guiding us in our journey to remain a safe and welcoming school system. We have a number of systems in place that provide active and helpful response in minutes. While we think we are good, we are working to be become better.
Many responses to these situations, including more cameras, physical plant changes and technological interventions, have already occurred. Investments in school security will continue moving forward.
It is intriguing that in the few weeks since the Parkland, FL tragedy, the students' voices have been able to affect more discourse and change than decades of governmental inaction. As one who stays up at night thinking about keeping 5,500 students safe, as well as the employees who are committed to their education and well-being, I would ask the community to help us in this vital work. Many voices and many people working on the same goals can only help.
As a district, we continue to strive to improve our security, as well as the success of our students. As a community, our schools are a community resource. Together, we can work to make certain that they are safe and inviting learning communities.
Welcoming a New Year
Dear Friends, Families and Colleagues,
On behalf of the Centennial Board of School Directors, the Administration and indeed the entire District, I want to wish you a happy and healthy New Year! These are exciting times in the District and so much great work is occurring that I am truly looking forward to 2018.
Our Full-day Kindergarten is going really well. The kids are learning and progressing, all have settled in, and seem to be loving school. The literacy program is taking hold, and we are seeing rising math scores almost all across the District. This makes for an exciting time to be in Centennial.
Increasingly, our students and teachers are working on project-based learning (PBL) and/or Genius Hour to tap into kids' natural curiosity, growth mindset, and passion for learning. Across the District, we are creating opportunities for kids' voices to be heard in their own learning, which in turn, increases their ownership of their learning.
Davis Elementary School is pioneering this exciting work with students being able to share with their parents how they are learning through their own goals for the year. This student ownership is also occurring at Log College Middle School and William Tennent High School, to mention but a few places. Of course, we are extremely proud of the customized learning that is occurring with Khan Academy with incredible growth in student achievement at Willow Dale Elementary School, Davis Elementary School, McDonald Elementary School, and Klinger Middle School. As you know, we had two schools score in the top 30 nationwide with Willow Dale as the top performer nationwide on the recent LearnStorm Competition. It is extremely gratifying to know we have four schools trying to make top 30, if not the top four places, for next year’s competition. We are well on our way to being one of the top math districts in the Commonwealth if not the nation.
We cannot do it without the strong home and school partnerships we currently enjoy or the fantastic work our team is putting in on a daily basis. Great things are happening in Centennial daily because of the support and efforts of our parents, teachers and indeed the entire community.
Therefore, I want to thank you for your support, and I want to promise you that even more great news is in the pipeline. I am very optimistic that we will have a great year together and that you be proud indeed to be homeowners, employees, and students in the Centennial School District.
Have a great and Happy New Year and see everyone shortly!
Reflections at the Onset of Winter
As I think about this article, it is close to 60 degrees on a late November day. While it is not the weather of my youth, I am appreciative of the savings on heating bills. I am also appreciative of a number of things for which I routinely am thankful for.
I am thankful to be working in a District that is committed to improving in three major buckets:
Equity and Excellence
Academic Rigor and Relevance
We know where we want to be. We know that if we take innovation, equity and excellence, and academic rigor and relevance and wrap these together with a growth mindset, we'll get there.
The good news, and this is indeed the time of year for good news, is that we are well on our journey and there are some really great people on that journey. In an earlier article, we talked about how there are two poles to mindset, based on the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. One is a growth mindset with an overwhelming amount of evidence to its effectiveness. The second is a fixed mindset, with an overwhelming amount of evidence to its ineffectiveness. The interesting finding is that everyone is on the continuum somewhere for either fixed or growth mindset.
As we learned in law class, the main thought is, “It depends.” It depends on the topic, the person, the situation and the time frame. What has been learned is that growth mindset can be cultivated, but it won’t grow without nourishment and as a parent and a teacher, and as a School District, we are working to grow our growth mindsets.
We are working hard to embrace many of the innovative opportunities that present themselves. We have launched a number of innovative learning opportunities that are grounded in the real world and take the kids outside the world of four walls, six periods and two covers of a textbook. The Chromebook initiative is going well as is Full-day Kindergarten.
Our Equity and Excellence team is working diligently to address issues of pervasive inequity. Sometimes the first step to a solution is to recognize a problem. They have developed learning experiences and professional development around closing achievement gaps. One way to do this is to celebrate the diversity in our student body and to ensure that our students have access to successful role models. Our goal is for our students to be the first to break the glass ceilings. For example, we want to promote more girls to pursue careers in the sciences and more African American and Hispanic students accessing Advanced Placement courses. The team is full of joy and excitement at this profoundly important work.
The third rail we are running on is ramping up academic rigor and relevance. We are working diligently to increase the number of learning opportunities available in our schools while maintaining a structure that supports rigor, which we define as demanding yet meaningful. No one needs to keep learning what he or she already know. We are also looking hard at relevance. People want and need to know the why of the lesson. In short, these are the three main rails we are running on to make this district the best choice for Centennial’s families for the next generation.
While the holidays are often a time of great joy and happiness they are also, with alarming frequency, a time of great anxiety and tension. I would encourage all of us to slow down just a little, take some time for an extra coffee and really check in with one another. We began the year with thinking about these four questions:
How are you?
What are you learning?
Where are you stuck?
How can I help?
Sometimes, what is really needed is simply some real high quality listening. These are four great prompts if you can get the folks to put their cell phones down for a few minutes. Have a great December.
A New Day Dawning in the Centennial School District?
There is a new initiative afoot in the Centennial School District. It has been growing for a few years now, and it is terribly exciting. You probably haven’t heard it mentioned before because there isn’t a formal name to this initiative, but I will be very surprised if you aren’t hearing from your children that things are changing. School is increasingly exciting, interesting, and even at times, really fun!
What is happening is that joy in learning is working its way back into the day.
Time and again, we are seeing pockets of excitement and patches of enthusiasm surging to the forefront. Our launching of Full-day Kindergarten has been fantastic. The teachers are having a ball, and the kids are thriving. A robust Kindergarten program is the launching pad for future success. Most of us educators can quickly crush an interesting conversation by diving into data and educational theory, so I will try to avoid those pitfalls today. But it is noteworthy to repeat, the evidence of the benefits of early childhood education are indisputable!
Moving up the grade levels, a fascinating partnership with Khan Academy, the revolutionary free world class educational on-line content provider, is allowing us to customize our education for each and every student in ways we could only dream about 10 years ago. While focused on third through fifth graders for this year, it is surging out of these grades and into other courses and grades across the district. Our third through fifth graders worked on a Khan Academy competition called LearnStorm. Impressively, our district is ranked in the top 5 of over 10,000 school districts in the nation that participated. And we did that well because our students were having fun and taking great joy in their own learning.
The following video was created to share Centennial's success with the LearnStorm competition, our Khan work is all outside the normal instructional day. So, our students are getting their normal education plus Khan. The video also serves as a great introduction to the work our teachers are doing with your children and Khan Academy.
I love how excited these students are to be hitting their personal goals and celebrate their own learning. These students engaged, voluntarily in over 52,000 extra (let me repeat that, extra) math assignments, which totaled well over 4,200 extra hours of math learning. That is above and beyond the normal course of the day. As something of an education nerd, I love that. It certainly helps us on our goal of becoming a top math district in the region, if not the state.
The thing about our current collaboration with Khan is that we are meeting approximately 1,200 students where they are educationally, and it is occurring in Willow Dale, McDonald, and Davis. The students can access their Khan accounts from anywhere; and they are.
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
On behalf of Centennial School District Board of School Directors and Administration, welcome back! We are thrilled to be going into the 2017-18 school year on a number of incredibly positive notes. We are supporting our students, teachers and administrators on such important work. Never has the role of public schools been so important and fortunately, we are ready for that work.
We want to thank the Centennial Community with entrusting your children to our care. We are striving to provide them with world class learning opportunities. We are thrilled that test scores are rising, certainly, but far more importantly, we are pleased that more and more students are taking advantage of Genius Hour opportunities, Maker Spaces and our Open Education Resources like Khan Academy, to name a few of the exciting programmatic opportunities.
You will see, in the months ahead, creative and collaborative seating arrangements in our classrooms. Follow your children and classroom teachers on Twitter and classroom Facebook pages. Students will be talking about brain breaks, moodles, and other cutting edge practices developed through our partnerships with The Franklin Institute and Character Lab, a University of Pennsylvania collaboration that is allowing us to figure out how our students learn best and most effectively.
As a school district, we are committed to several core concepts. We are moving the district forward by building our structures on three core ideas: First, academic rigor and relevance means that each youngster will have a standards based education that prepares him or her to participate in the real world. Second, a commitment to equity and excellence means the district will not settle for allowing gaps in gender or race to define our students and that we are committed to helping each youngster be excellent depending on that youngster. Lastly, innovation is vital. Innovation is incredibly powerful and exciting, and we are committed to helping our students, teachers and administrators be innovative. The challenges facing the world today will not be solved by the solutions of yesterday. Centennial is fast becoming an innovation hub. All three concepts are wrapped in the one big idea of growth mindset.
Growth mindset is the opposite of fixed mindset. All of us demonstrate both mindsets at different times. A growth mindset is incredibly powerful, and it is the idea that with work, practice and feedback we can all get better, regardless of age or skill level. Another way to think about this might be, “I’m not good at something, yet. But I will be better tomorrow than I am today.”
With these ideas, I invite you to join us on our journey to get much better. Centennial is a district on the move! Please join us as we strive to get better. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/csdinfo, Twitter at @Centennial_SD and we are always open to feedback through our electronic suggestion box at District Electronic Suggestion Box. Again, thank you for entrusting your children to us, we look forward to partnering with you and we wish you a great year!