November 11, 2019
Letter from Superintendent Holmes
One of the United States’ greatest gifts to the world is the idea of free public education. Ours was the first country to grasp a vision of free public education for all, rather than just for those who could afford such a luxury as a function of their birth. Horace Mann was one of many early educational reformers to recognize the importance of public education for developing a strong citizenry and country.
Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of social machinery. – Horace Mann
From those early days through the present, however, we have grappled with the question of who is included in the ALL. Over the course of our nation’s history, we have continued to refine the definition — from Horace Mann’s time, when ALL was defined as white males; to Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), a landmark Supreme Court decision that ended racial segregation in public schools; to Lau vs. Nichols (1974), a Supreme Court decision requiring schools receiving federal funds to provide non-English-speaking students with supplemental instruction in English; to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1990), which ensures that all students with a disability are provided with an education tailored to their individual needs and equal to that of children without a disability. Even today, public schools continue to pull more children into the fold. Here in BCSD, we continuously reach out to gather ALL children into our arms.
I am so proud of the work happening in our schools. Each day we welcome children from a wide variety of backgrounds who speak an ever-growing number of languages, children who have experienced trauma and crisis, children who are overcoming disabilities, and children who live in poverty. We gather these children into our local public education system and work relentlessly to ensure we are educating ALL students to the highest level.
As educator and author Dr. Luis Cruz says, we are “in the business of working to redesign a public school system never designed for the benefit of many of the students currently in our schools.” Every day in BCSD, we celebrate a victory as another student masters the grade-level standards for the first time. Every day we are proving that we can redesign the system so that ALL truly means ALL.
Blaine County School District is blessed to have an incredibly dedicated staff working to ensure that ALL students are educated to a high level and mastering Idaho Content Standards. As we count our blessings during this season of thanksgiving, I am giving thanks for our BCSD employees, who are redesigning our schools to the benefit of ALL students.
Pictured above right: Students at Alturas Elementary in the Engineering Technology Class.
September 18, 2019
IT TAKES TEAMWORK
Dear Parents and Community Members,
We’ve had a great start to the school year! Thank you for being part of your child’s education in the Blaine County School District. Mastering the rigorous Idaho Content Standards in literacy and mathematics is the right of every child in Idaho. It takes the teamwork of students, educators and parents to make it happen.
When my children were school age, I sent them to school each day wanting them to receive the best education possible so that they could choose whatever life work was inspiring and fulfilling to them. I wanted them to have a better education than I had.
Every child needs an adult that advocates for and encourages them to get the best education possible. As a child, the adult that advocated for me was my grandmother. She only had three years of school and all of it had been in Low German (Plattdeutsch). However, she understood the power of a good education and insisted that both of her sons were educated and her grandchildren were highly educated.
Thank you for supporting your child in their education. Each morning you ensure they are in school, well-rested, and ready to learn. Each day after school, you ask them about their day: What are they learning? Why are they learning a particular subject? What homework or projects do they have? Your daily commitment to and interest in their education is powerful. Thank you for being our partner.
GwenCarol Holmes, Ed.D. , Superintendent
PS - Congratulations to all the parents and students who competed in the Galena Gallop! It was an impressive feat of organization and great to see the teamwork that made it all happen. Thanks to the parent who took this photo during the race. Pictured left to right: parent of WRHS alumnus, Danni Dean and Superintendent Holmes
¡Hemos tenido un gran comienzo del año escolar! Gracias por formar parte de la educación de su hijo en el Distrito Escolar del Condado de Blaine. Dominar los rigurosos estándares de contenido de Idaho en alfabetización y matemáticas es un derecho de todos los niños en Idaho. Se requiere del trabajo en equipo de estudiantes, educadores y padres para que esto suceda.
Cuando mis hijos estaban en edad escolar, los enviaba a la escuela todos los días deseando que recibieran la mejor educación posible para que pudieran elegir cualquier trabajo en la vida que les inspirara y les diera satisfacción. Quería que tuvieran una mejor educación que yo.
Todos los niños necesitan un adulto que abogue por ellos y los aliente a conseguir la mejor educación posible. Cuando era niña, el adulto que abogó por mí fue mi abuela. Ella solo tuvo tres años de escuela y todos los cursó en el idioma bajo alemán (Plattdeutsch). Sin embargo, ella comprendía el poder de una buena educación e insistió en que sus dos hijos tuvieran educación y en que sus nietos tuvieran el más alto nivel de educación.
Gracias por apoyar a su hijo en su educación. Cada mañana ustedes se aseguran de que ellos estén en la escuela, bien descansados y listos para aprender. A diario, después de la escuela, les preguntan sobre su día: ¿Qué están aprendiendo? ¿Por qué están aprendiendo un tema en particular? ¿Qué tarea o proyectos tienen? Su compromiso diario e interés en su educación tiene poder. Gracias por ser nuestros compañeros de equipo.
Dra. en Educ. GwenCarol Holmes
TEACHERS AND STAFF HELP ALL STUDENTS SUCCEED
A recent editorial from the Idaho Mt. Express recognized the proficiency gap among our students in Blaine County. The District has been tracking this issue carefully for several years and has succeeded in narrowing part of the gap; we agree with the Mt. Express editorial that it is imperative and urgent that we close the proficiency gap even further. The time is now. We have two areas of focus: closing the gap while improving outcomes for all students and providing equitable resources while balancing the budget.
An analysis of research conducted over a 35-year period demonstrates that schools that are highly effective produce results that almost entirely overcome the effects of student backgrounds (Marzano, What Works in Schools: Translating Research Into Action, 2003). The good news is that we know we can do this. Current successes include:
- We have increased the Hispanic graduation rate from 79.6% to 90.6% in two years.
- We have increased the number of students taking Advanced Placement classes and Dual Credit. 89% of the 2017 graduating class took at least one Advanced Placement class before graduating.
- Our early reading scores show improved literacy in grades K-2 and we are optimistic about grades 3-5.
- We have incredibly talented and highly qualified staff who are committed to the success of every student.
We also recognize that we have significant work to do in closing the achievement gap in literacy and mathematics. These are the concrete steps we are taking to address the general proficiency gap:
- We have hired additional literacy and math coaches to focus on supporting teachers in areas of greatest need.
- We have moved to a model of co-teaching that allows students learning English to stay in core content classes and access the entire curriculum while also improving their language skills.
- The budget has been entirely revamped in order to ensure equitable resources across the district. It has led to some difficult choices, but it has also helped us see what equity looks like financially, academically, and socially.
Our community has high expectations for our schools and we share those expectations. Our schools cannot do this work alone. We need every member of our community to not only hold us accountable but to also tell our staff that we believe they are capable of helping every student succeed. The growing recognition across our community of the need to ensure that all students, at a minimum, are proficient in literacy and mathematics provides energy for our work. By working together, we can ensure that every student fulfills their greatest potential. We encourage the public to help us with this goal. Thank you.
GwenCarol Holmes, Ed.D.