Supt. reflects on time at H-W
Sun, 06/11/2017 - 10:38am admin
—Reception, Monday, June 12 at NICC-Cresco Center from 5-6:45 p.m.
Howard County - The Board of Education at Howard-Winneshiek Community School District would like to invite all District patrons to attend a public farewell reception for Mr. John Carver, who has served as Superintendent of Schools since 2012. The reception will be held on Monday, June 12 from 5-6:45 p.m. at the Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) Cresco Center, located at 1020 2nd Ave. S.E.
In January, Mr. Carver announced he is leaving the District to take on the position of Chief Digital Learning and Innovation Officer (CDLIO) for Maury County Public Schools in Maury County, Tenn. His last day as Superintendent at Howard-Winn is June 30.
Leaving the Howard-Winn community is a bittersweet decision for Mr. Carver and his wife, Pam. “This decision is something we discussed all throughout the first semester. Then, over the holidays we reflected and prayed about it, and decided to take the offer,” Mr. Carver said, later adding, “I love Howard-Winn. I love the people, I love the teachers, and I love the kids especially – at the end of the day, the kids are what it’s all about.”
Five years ago, when Mr. Carver arrived at Howard-Winn, the District was facing some significant challenges that needed to be addressed, including an ailing physical plant, a declining general fund budget and issues with academic achievement. Difficult decisions had to be made. Buildings had to be closed.
“There were people on both sides of the coin saying, ‘Keep Elma and Lime Springs open,’ and ‘No, close the buildings,’” Mr. Carver recalled, “so for my first year here, we did a lot of fact-finding. We held Board meetings at the other campuses to see what was going on, and we worked to build relationships before charting the course forward.”
In the same timeframe, however, the District adopted the mission to prepare and empower students to think creatively, serve, contribute and succeed locally and globally. To support this mission, the District went 1:1 with digital devices for all students, K-12. Students and educators were encouraged to connect, not only to each other, but to people around the world. For example, students in a seventh grade English classroom would find themselves using Skype to learn from another classroom in Brazil, Russia, or the United Kingdom and vice versa. Meanwhile, because of a healthy technology infrastructure, students in grade school were granted opportunities to discuss books they had read with the actual authors, or even, take a real-time virtual stroll with the Superintendent outside the White House grounds in Washington, D.C. – all from the comfort of the Discovery Center at the K-8 facility in Cresco.
One of the more recent developments at Howard-Winn is the construction of a new activities stadium complex. The former complex was structurally insufficient and in need of upgrades to meet current building code standards set forth in the State of Iowa. The project, nearing completion, is being funded with Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL)/Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) dollars and will not affect the general fund. Upon completion, officials at Howard-Winn expect it to be the nicest public school district stadium complex in the region.
At Commencement this year, several graduates from the Class of 2017 took a moment to acknowledge Mr. Carver and the impact he has had on their lives, including Kevin Pira, who personally thanked the Superintendent for ensuring that he, as a student, had opportunities to prove himself and showcase his abilities at Crestwood. He further acknowledged Mr. Carver’s vision of developing a more connected and sophisticated educational atmosphere for students.
Isaiah Passmore also acknowledged Mr. Carver. “I know I speak for myself and many others when I say thanks to his hard work and the effort that he put into Crestwood High School, all of us students will miss his old Russian fur hat, black coat, and #2020HowardWinn tweets,” Passmore said. “Crestwood High School will be beyond blessed if we get somebody who works as hard as he did for five short years.”
Mr. Carver says the world needs leaders who can think, but who also have a strong moral compass. “I truly believe, especially after seeing the Class of 2017 graduate, that the young people who walked across the stage are that,” he reflects.
While Mr. Carver says the hardest part about leaving Howard-Winn is leaving the kids, he notes how proud he is of the faculty and staff who had the courage to reinvent themselves and think outside-of-the-box in order to help implement improvements in the District.
Academic achievement was one of many highlights included in the Weekly Administrative Update on May 12. The charts that were included, regarding the state assessments, reflect the kids that are proficient at grade level, which in turn, reflect the GREAT teaching and learning happening at Howard-Winn.
“In many cases, students at Howard-Winn are performing as good as or better than other schools around the state,” Mr. Carver said. “When you stop to think about this, five years ago, we were a NCLB District in Need of Assistance. Now, it’s exciting where we’re at academically.”
The Superintendent further notes his respect for the Howard-Winn community. “We invest in our kids. We support our kids. For example, the local Dollars for Scholars chapter awarded around a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships this year,” he said. “A quarter of a million dollars!”
Mr. Carver additionally acknowledges the partnership Howard-Winn has with the local community college. Students in high school have options to become better prepared for college or entering the workforce by taking concurrent enrollment courses at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), including technical courses like CNC and Welding, or general education.
There are still challenges ahead: “Rural Iowa continues to shrink, so we have to continue to look at the enrollment at Howard-Winn. We have to also look at the business model regarding how we generate revenues to maintain the schools,” Mr. Carver said, adding that online distance learning, and tapping into the home school market, could become an option. “For Howard-Winn to survive, we must continue our use of social media to get the word out. We’ve got people from the east coast and west coast moving to Rochester, Minn., for the Destination Medical Center, but they don’t necessarily want to live in Rochester. What people need to realize is that for somebody from L.A., Chicago, or New York City, a 50-minute drive is nothing. Your kids can get a better education at Howard-Winn than they can in New York, and that needs to be a sell.”
Mr. Carver wishes to thank the students, their parents, and all staff at Howard-Winn, as well as the Board that hired him initially, including Doug Berg, Duane Bodermann, Scott Fortune, Jim Kitchen and Karlos McClure. He thanks the current Board, including Duane and Karlos, but also Todd Hill, Toni Johnson and Casey Vobr for continuing to move the District forward. He additionally wishes to thank the leadership team that he has worked with over the past five years, including Tim Felderman, Shirley Sovereign, Greg Adams, and now, Sara Grimm, Terese Jurgensen and Chris Rogne.
“Mr. Carver has impacted my life and the lives of all of the Howard-Winn School Community in so many outstanding ways,” writes Mrs. Jurgensen, Director of Student Services/Special Education, in her Weekly Administrative Update on May 26. “He put Howard-Winn on the global map, and supported all of us to look at the world of education in a new and futuristic way. His impact on my life cannot be put into a few short words. As a member of this community, an administrator and as a parent, I would like to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Carver for your vision, your passion and your leadership. I wish you the very best, and know great things will continue to happen at Howard-Winn because you were here.’”
Maury County Public Schools is a growing public school district that serves more than 12,000 students, K-12, and is located just south of Nashville, Tenn. The Board of Education there has set the course that by the year 2026 they will be the premier 1:1 District in the region, where efforts are currently underway to embed technology into instruction. In Maury County, Mr. Carver will be looking at teaching and learning, embedding technology and looking at the infrastructure to support that, while also developing public and private partnerships.
“We want to recreate in Maury County what we’ve done here at Howard-Winn, and we have about a 10-year window to do it, except it’s a little bit of a bigger scale,” Mr. Carver said, noting that he and his wife are additionally excited to be moving much closer to their daughter, Emily, who lives in Nashville. “I’ve always said ‘family first,’ and at this point in our lives we want to be close to our daughter as she’s pursuing her dreams.”