For more than 1,000 students, May 20, 2014 was a day to celebrate, but while students left the year in the past as they headed for the doors, school leaders spent time thinking about how the accomplishments of the past nine months can be built upon when the 2014-15 school year begins in August.
For more than 1,000 students, May 20, 2014 was a day to celebrate. At 3:15 p.m. that day the Redwood Area School District (RASD) students heard the final bell ending the 2013-14 school year and officially starting summer vacation. While students left the year in the past as they headed for the doors, school leaders spent time thinking about the successes of the year and how those accomplishments of the past nine months can be built upon when the 2014-15 school year begins in August. “This was a great year on several fronts,” said Rick Ellingworth, RASD superintendent, adding the focus of the school district was to help students see how putting forth their best effort can make a difference. “Our focus was different than it has been in the past, adding the emphasis on working hard and giving great efforts is leading to signs of growth.” While the numbers from standardized testing are not yet official, Ellingworth said the preliminary data looks to be very positive for this school year.
Ellingworth also said projects, such as the new scoreboard, demonstrate the support of the community for the school. He said the project is allowing students the chance to learn on some very advanced technology, which is good training for them as they move forward in their careers. Ellingworth added the World’s Best Workforce and Ramp It Up programs were approved this year as another strategy to help students focus on their future. “We are going to be very intentional with programs like this,” said Ellingworth. With the end of another school year comes that bittersweet feeling, as some great staff move on through retirement or by advancing careers in other opportunities, added Ellingworth. Financially the district is on solid ground, said Elling-worth, as he said the legislature in the past couple of years has helped to stabilize funding for schools. Ellingworth also pointed out the district continues to move forward with new technology to help students prepare for life outside of their time at RASD. Stephanie Flickinger, Reede Gray principal, said there has been a concerted effort to get parents more involved in the school, adding Big Boom events, which allow parents to come in and spend time with their children and their children’s teachers and classmates, are really helping to create that connection with the school. That idea of building relationships is an important element of a successful education environment, she said. Technology is also an important part of student life at Reede Gray, and Flick-inger said the school continues to implement it into the programs in ways that benefit students. She added social media has been explored, and the hope is to help students see the value of social media and to use it in responsible ways in everyday life. “The kids are ready for technology changes when they come,” she said, adding the idea is to incorporate technology into education rather than just having it as an add-on. Rick Jorgenson, RVHS principal, said changes in the attendance policy and the new homeroom program and character education were all positive additions this school year. He said the overall attendance rate in the high school this year was just over 91 percent, which includes everything from excused and unexcused absences to early dismissals for athletics and other activities. Jorgenson said there were 49 students who took 68 Advanced Placement tests this year, which is up significantly from the 32 tests taken last year. Jorgenson said the school saw great success in terms of athletics, including the first trip to the state girls basketball tournament in years, as well as continued participation in programs such as theater and music. For Wade Mathers, RVMS principal, a culture is being established where students are learning the importance of hard work and how that is going to help them as they move on to high school and the rest of their lives. “The environment at the middle school was different this year than it has ever been,” said Mathers, adding he believes that is going to manifest itself in the results from standardized tests. While he said he does not think the school is perfect, he believes it is moving in the right direction. As Mathers moves on to the next stage of his career, he is confident the school is in a good place, and he is leaving on a positive note. “Redwood Falls and RVMS will be part of our lives forever,” said Mathers, adding he has never lived in one location as long as he has been in Redwood Falls in his entire life. With one year ending, plans are already under way for the start of the 2014-15 school year, and those in leadership positions are looking forward to building on what all of them considered to be a very successful 2013-14 school year.