August 23, 2016

Here We Go!  Welcome to 2016-17
Welcome to the 2016-17 school year.  We are so glad that you’ve entrusted us to be partners with you in providing your children with a Catholic school education at JFK.  What a great opportunity we have together to “connect kids with Christ” and to help them grow and develop academically, socially, and morally.  With Fr. Jake Greiner as our new pastor, Evan Brankin in youth ministry, and others stepping forward to fill key leadership positions at Our Lady of Victory, we are ready for the ride.  You better hang on because Here We Go!

Summer Improvements
The Year of the Flooring.  We’ve been doing so much with floors this summer that we should deem it the Year of the Flooring.  New floors are in seven classrooms:  Mrs. Furlong’s, Mrs. Bauer’s, Mrs. Whelchel’s, Mrs. Kubalsky’s, Ms. Burken’s, and the two preschool rooms.  Work along the cafeteria/gym floor transition was also done as we prepare for the new divider between the cafeteria and gym.  The gym floor is still scheduled to be completely sanded down to bare wood.  Dead spots will then be repaired, and it will be re-striped and re-finished.  We’ll have alternate locations for PE for a bit as the contractor just couldn’t fit us in during the summer.  The walls and ceiling have already been painted in the gym, new insulation was put on several pipes, and new plexiglass panels were put over the skylights.  We did as much as we could while the painters had two lifts at JFK!

Technology updates:  JFK’s been wireless for over ten years now, and an upgrade was due.  This summer, we replaced our entire network throughout the building and increased our bandwidth as well.  Small group sets of iPad minis will be distributed to each K-2 classroom as soon as we have them configured, and work on a completely redesigned website for OLV/JFK has begun.  An aggressive launch date for the new website is October.  With annual software subscription fees or once every three year costs coming due this summer, we’ll spend nearly $28,000 just in renewals and Internet costs, well more than what the $55 per student technology fee actually generates.  (Did you know that Catholic schools’ Internet used to be taxpayer funded?  When the funding for Internet services stopped, our Catholic schools all began to charge technology fees.)

Where to Store It?  Three summers ago, we built small closets in two alcoves near the offices and converted half of a storage room into a workspace for a reading interventionist teacher.  This summer we reorganized the white garage and cage area downstairs, which allowed us to convert the other half of the storage room also into a workspace.  We’re running out of room to store anything at JFK!

Textbooks:  New religion textbooks for K-8 at JFK and Faith Formation were purchased this summer.

Staff:  Nothing would happen at OLV and JFK without an incredible staff!  There are about 75 people on the OLV/JFK payroll, about 65 of whom spend the bulk of their time in the school building.  This figure includes
35 staff members certified by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (teachers, counselor, administration), 22 supports staff (aides/paraprofessionals, library, technology, office, kitchen, custodial, etc.), and about 8 substitute teachers.
New to JFK this year are the following:
Amy Rich:  5th grade
Donna Daniel:  1st grade aide and will be helping in other classrooms after 1st grade reading and math is completed
Vicki Saxton:  1st grade aide for reading and math
Julie Brownell:  preschool
Kathy Neuberger:  interventionist
Debi Goslin:  English Language teacher and consultant (for those whose first language is not English)
More information about these individuals and other staff adjustments were posted on Facebook over the summer.  “Like” us there!
Other staff assignment changes are the following:
Julie Baker:  library media associate and 6th grade religion teacher for 6T
Kayelyn Geurink:  interventionist

Examination of Instructional Time and How to Use It
There are few things more important in schools than the instructional time and how it’s used.  For this school year, the following adjustments have been made:

  • All school Masses are moving from Fridays to Wednesdays at 8:00 a.m.  By dropping the religion “period” from the schedule because students are actually at Mass, we can also reduce the number of periods in the day from nine to eight without really reducing the length of the other eight periods.  By utilizing the morning homeroom time period for the transition to Mass, instructional time will not be impacted before Mass.  Eighth grade students who miss JFK’s all school Mass because they are taking Algebra I at AHS in the morning are encouraged to attend Assumptions 7:10 a.m. chapel Mass.  Students will still participate in Adoration on “First Fridays.”  It may even be more meaningful as students will go over to the church during religion class time for the sole purpose participating in Adoration.
  • With Mass on Wednesdays, we will have only have two schedules throughout the week, a MTThF schedule and a Wed schedule.  This change will lead to greater consistency throughout the week.  With only two schedules, 7th and 8th graders will have hour long blocks of classes around their lunch periods on Fridays just as they do for MTTh.  Sixth graders will switch to the same type of schedule and experience an increase of instructional time of approximately 80 minutes per week.  Unfortunately, the increase of instructional time comes at the expense of lunch recess time for middle school students.  The particular benefit to 6th graders is longer English/Language Arts and Math classes than we used to have.
  • With keyboarding (touch typing) having moved down to 3rd-5th grades for a couple of years now, we are now eliminating it in 6th grade just as we phased it out of 7th and 8th grades.  Sixth graders will use the extra time for academic extensions in math and/or reading.
  • K-2 “What I Need” (WIN) Time:  For 30 minutes per day, students in 1st grade, for example, will be placed in flexible groups according to their reading needs.  Utilizing 5-7 adults and 5-7 groups, K-2 students will get more small group attention at their own ability levels.  WIN time will not replace the extra reading time that students who are “at risk” or “persistently at risk” based upon reading screening scores will receive.

Busy Summer
Summer Programming:  It was a busy summer for students at JFK.  We had record enrollment in Leaps & Bounds, our academically oriented reading and math program.  We also offered three math boot camps for 6th-8th graders, a Jump Start kindergarten program, band lessons, and summer childcare.

Facebook and Handy Features of Our Website
I hope you followed JFK along this summer on our Facebook page.  I didn’t write any Principal’s Posts over the summer, but we did post things to our Facebook page, and you can request to be part of the “closed” group, JFK Moms and Dads.  This closed group is a great way for families to communicate with one another.  A link can be found at the bottom of our website,
Our website has plenty of information for families.  The front page of our website is updated nearly every weekend and contains highlights for the week and perhaps the following week.  Multiple calendars are accessible through the school side of the website:  the regular monthly calendar, the lunch menu calendar, the lunch duty calendar, the parish calendar, gym and athletic field usage calendar, youth ministry calendar, facilities calendar (for scheduling the parish center, Gathering Space Meeting Room, etc.), and even one that has several calendars all combined into one view.  The church side of the website has an additional calendar for faith formation.  To access the church side of the website, click the link at the top right.  You will know you are on the church side, when the banner colors change from green to blue.
Teachers and a few other staff members have pages on our website.  Staff can be reached through the following “clicks:”  “For Parents,” and “JFK Staff.”  The “For Parents” heading also takes you to the parent portal of our student information system, JMC.  Families, with account names and passwords provided by the school, can access students’ grades and lunch accounts.  The log ins are the same as last year, and we will send them home to everyone again shortly.
Other features under the “For Parents” tab include the following links:
Dress Code
Policies and Forms
Handy Links
Links to math textbooks and other online textbooks we may have
Google Apps for Education
Google Apps for Education is similar to regular Google Apps, except it has greater privacy, safety, and security features for students and does not include email or the ability to directly share documents beyond JFK staff and students.  Google Apps for Education will be available for use by 5th-8th grade students with separate permission from parents.

Emergency Contact Information and Communication
Please make sure you have turned in the student information sheets that were due at registration.  We use that information to generate all of our emergency contact information.
When there are unexpected late starts, school cancelations, or early dismissals, we use the following means of communication:
–Automated text messages and phone calls
–Our website’s home page
–KWQC, WQAD, and Fox.  (Notice how far these media outlets are down the list today.  They just are not as reliable as other means of communication.)

You may want to designate our aftercare program as the default option for your children on weather or other “emergency” related early dismissals.  This option is especially important for “walkers” and “bus riders.”  Even though we use multiple means of communication, it is still possible for someone to miss the announcement.  Having children arrive home without their parents’ knowing about an early dismissal is heart-wrenching.  At least if students are with us, everyone will know where they are at.  If you would like to exercise this default option for aftercare on “emergency” related early dismissals, please let your child’s homeroom teacher and/or the office know as soon as possible.

Principal’s Posts and Information from the Principal
I hope you are finding the first edition of the Principal’s Post for the 2016-17 school year to be enjoyable and informative.  Principal’s Posts are written each weekend and available on our website under the “News” heading.  If you look at our website over the weekend, you can often see the Post evolve until it reaches its final form.  A link to the Principal’s Post is emailed over the weekend, and a hard-copy is also sent home on Monday via “backpack mail” with the “youngest or only” student of a family at JFK.  Pre-school families are also included in this distribution.  Past copies of the Principal’s Post are available on our website.  The Principal’s Posts contain information from me.  The information might pertain to all families, or it might just pertain to certain grade levels but be something about JFK that I want to highlight for everyone.  Hard copy Principal’s Posts and other notes from me are on a special “principal-colored” paper reserved just for my communications.

Continuing Conversation
I do the Principal’s Post so regularly, it’s like a continuing conversation for me.  I apologize for not making the proper introductions to new readers.
I am starting my 16th year as principal at JFK.  Prior to coming to JFK, I taught religion at Assumption High School for nine years and worked in the Student Services Office there for one year.  I grew up in South Milwaukee, WI.  I followed one of my sister’s footsteps to Marquette University for my B.A. and then went to the University of Chicago, where I earned my master’s degree in religion. My educational administrative degree is from Western Illinois University, and I earned my superintendent’s certificate from UNI.  I have completed additional coursework through St. Ambrose, the University of Iowa, Drake, and the University of St. Thomas.  When I need official transcripts for something, it is a huge, dreadful undertaking!  There isn’t a whole lot of spare time in administration, but I enjoy “rough carpentry” and outside work when not involved in school activities.  I also enjoy reading both fiction and non-fiction, and my backyard is my oasis.
My wife, Lynn, grew up in Davenport and graduated from St. Paul’s, Assumption, and St. Ambrose.  She has master’s degrees from Drake and SAU and works in the Student Services Office at Assumption, where we met.  I think it’s fair to say that Lynn and I both place a high value on education!
Lynn and I have four children.  Our oldest, Colleen, graduated from Ashford University in Clinton and is finishing up her MBA at the University of Dubuque where she is now the head cheerleading coach.  (Who knew that college cheerleading coaches make more than starting teachers in Catholic schools?!)  Our son, Tom, has his associate’s degree and manages mattress stores in Cedar Falls and Waterloo.  With his days off on Mondays and Tuesdays and a work ethic like his dad’s, we don’t get to see him nearly as much as we’d like.  Kirsten is starting her second year at St. Ambrose.  I’d say it’s her sophomore year, but she earned enough college credits at Assumption that she is taking mostly junior level courses this year.  She’s majoring in elementary education, and, like Colleen, loves competitive cheerleading.  She works part-time at Assumption’s daycare, Villa Maria.  Our youngest, Caitlin, is now a senior at AHS and starting to explore colleges.  Competing at the national level of speech and debate this summer in Salt Lake City, the highlight of her trip was a visit to the high school where High School Musical was filmed!  She works at Emeis in the summer and fall and has become a golf enthusiast.
Summers always go by too fast, and being in administration is like owning a small business; one can never really be away for more than a couple of days at a time.  My mantra is always that we don’t work on Fridays during the summer, and I think we did a pretty good job of meeting that goal.  (Just don’t ask my wife how much “laptopping” I do from home!)

Mass Attendance
The beginning of a school year is always a good time to renew one’s efforts to attend Mass every weekend.  Attending Mass regularly, engaging in parish/school activities, helping on parish/school projects, and helping with the financial needs of the parish are defining elements of parish membership.

Brady Street Stadium Bag/Backpack Rules
With football games beginning this week (Go Knights!), the DCSD wants families to be aware of the new bag/backpack rules.  They are similar to other public venue’s:
Prohibited:  backpacks, duffel bags, string bags, bags larger than a regular-sized handbag or purse
Approved:  clear plastic bag, regular-sized handbag or purse, camera case, medical accessories, diaper bags

Iowa vs. Iowa State Party
OLV is hosting a party to watch the Iowa vs. Iowa State football on a 15′ screen in the cafeteria/gym on Saturday, September 10th.  Doors open at 5:45 p.m.  Kick off is at 6:30 p.m.  The event is free with free pulled pork sandwiches and hotdogs.  Please bring your own beverages and snacks.  Bring a better chair, if you don’t want a metal folding chair.  Drawings and prizes throughout the game.
Let’s hope the gym floor is ready for use by the 10th!

Parent/Student Handbook and Additional Forms
Can you believe there are more forms?  Applications for the National School Lunch Program’s Free and Reduced Lunch rates and the Internet Acceptable Use Policy will go home with students this week.  Families new to JFK will also need to complete a “Home Language Survey.”  This survey is the first step in identifying students who may need extra help if the first language spoken in the home is not English.  The Google Apps for Education permission slip for 5th-8th graders will also be sent home this week.

Rather than print out and distribute parent/student handbooks, all families are required to go to our website,, and follow the links to “For Parents,” “Policies and Forms,” and “JFK Parent & Student Handbook.”  Please go over the handbook with your child(ren).  Then, print out the last page, “Acknowledgement of Receipt and Agreement,” sign it (one per family), and return it to the school office.
If you do not have the ability to review the handbook and print out the acknowledgement page, please contact the school office for a hard copy.

Speaking of sending things to the office, please label anything you send to school with your student’s name and the purpose.  For example, if you are sending lunch money, please put it in an envelope with your child’s name and label it “lunch.”  You would not believe how many times we end up with things in the office and are left guessing about their purpose.

Parking Lot Safety – Patience Leads to Safe Children
Please be careful and patient as you move about the parking lot.  We are blessed with a very large parking lot with entrances off of Division, 42nd, and Sturdevant streets.  We have drop-off/pick-up lanes at both the north and south ends of the parking lot.  At the end of the day, it takes us about six minutes to virtually empty the lot.  That is truly amazing for a school or any other store or business moving 500 people around at the end of a shift!   Patience for six minutes is well worth someone not getting injured.

To aid us at drop off and pick up times, we have signs and special green colored cones to designate where students can enter and exit vehicles in the “pick up” lanes.  We are also closing off a row of parking spaces for 45 minutes around drop off time and 45 minutes around pick up time so that students are not walking across heavily traversed lanes.  Please also be aware that at the north end, we have cars moving side by side.  Cars on the left are exiting, and cars on the right are in the pick up lane.  Our biggest problem tends to occur when someone is waiting in the pick up lane, and the car behind already has children in it.  The driver in the latter car gets frustrated and tries to pull around the waiting car, and ends up pulling in front of cars exiting on the left.  If you have to wait for your children, keep going through the drop off/pick up lane, and go around again or park in the lot until your children are out and ready.  Children will only be allowed to enter/exit vehicles by the green colored cones.  If you are behind a car that seems to be waiting, please be patient.  Remember, the lot is cleared out in about six minutes after the 3:00 dismissal time.

Below is a photo of our parking lot.  When viewed on our website, you can see the colored cones and signs, especially at the north end of the lot.

So Much to Say – Welcome All
There is so much to say at the beginning of the school year, but I better stop now or you’ll have a novel to read.  Again, welcome everyone to the new school year!