Houston Public Schools
Superintendent, Krin Abraham

 

 
306 West Elm Street Houston, MN 55943      ♦      Phone 507-896-5323, option 5      ♦     Fax 507-896-3222

 




JUNE 2017
In February, the Houston School Board and District Leadership Team, comprised of administrators and directors within the district, began to meet to begin the strategic plan for the district. The group felt the plan needed to be comprehensive to address all the core values that have been designated for the district. Those core values include Maximum Student Achievement; Efficient and Effective Operations; Safe, Welcoming and Innovative Environments; and Parental Involvement and Community Partnerships. After completing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, the group requested input from all the staff members at Houston Public Schools.


In March, the Houston School Board and District Leadership Team met again to create focused goals using the input generated from the district-wide staff. Four focus areas emerged for our strategic planning. Those areas are (1) Technology Utilization for students, teachers and systems; (2) Relevant Course Offerings and Curriculum, especially for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) infusion and Continuous Learning capabilities; (3) Marketing; and (4) Partnerships with colleges, businesses and other schools.

Since as a district we wanted to ensure we were truly creating a strategic plan that was all-inclusive, we utilized the Future Ready Framework, which was created by the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington, D.C.-based national policy and advocacy organization that worked in partnership with the US Department of Education to create this framework. According to the Future Ready Schools website, “The Future Ready Framework emphasizes empowered and innovative leadership and focuses on eight essential components (called gears), while keeping personalized student learning at the center of all decision-making.” The eight gears the Houston Public Schools will be addressing include (1) Curriculum and Instruction; (2) Professional Learning; (3) Infrastructure; (4) Budgeting and Resources; (5) Community Partnerships; (6) Use of Space and Time; (7) Data and Privacy; and (8) Collaborative Leadership. The Future Ready Framework dashboard is a free resource created for school districts to use to “assess their district's needs, identify gaps, obtain strategies, plan, and track their progress over time” for each of the eight gears.

In the beginning of April, the District Technology Advisory Committee met to begin working through the Framework with the focus areas generated by the Board and Leadership Team as a guide. The group realized early on in the process that completing plans for all eight gears in one year was not possible, nor practical. The Qirst four gears listed above were selected as the most vital for the Qirst-year plan, and the second group of four will be addressed next year. Sub-committees were convened to craft goals and strategies for each of the four areas.

In May, after goals and strategies had been written for each of the four areas, the District Technology Advisory Committee met again to discuss the goals and assess them for overlaps and gaps. The Qinal goals that emerged from this meeting were once again given to all the employees of the district so everyone could have input in the strategic plan.

This brings us to June. At the end of this month, the strategic planning process will go full circle with the Houston School Board and Leadership Team meeting again to plan for the implementation of the goals for the upcoming school year. This is an exciting time for the school district since the goals encompass our youngest students, with the creation of pre-school scholarships for the three- and four-year olds in our district, through our high school students and faculty. During the meeting we will be discussing signage for the buildings and strategies that should be employed to achieve the goals that have been written and approved by the district staff. If you have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts. You can reach me by phone (507-896-5323 Option 5) or email (krin.abraham@hps294.us). Thank you.

 

 




MARCH 2017
This is the time of year when I am reminded of the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial in which the donut maker meets himself leaving to make the donuts as he is coming home from making the donuts. In the commercial, donut making is never done. In the world of education, planning and implementing the education for our students is never done either. Even though we are only three fourths done with the current school year, we are deep into planning for the next school year. The School Board and Leadership team—comprised of the principals, director of finance, technology integrationist and superintendent —met twice so far with the sole purpose to set the direction for the district for the next year and beyond.
 
At the first planning session on February 9, the group of twelve people compiled a list of those elements that were seen as strengths and weaknesses in the district, along with a list of those elements outside the district that we might be able to use to our advantage and those that might be problematic for our district. The lists were ranked so the group could see which elements were deemed to be the most important to our district. However, the group also knew that this list was generated by a small group in the district; therefore, the list was sent to all employees in the district so they too could weigh in on the ranking of the items.
 
At the second planning session on March 9, the results of the employee input was weighed along with the ranking that had been completed at the first meeting. The group was encouraged by how much consensus existed between the group’s rankings and the rankings that emerged from the employees’ responses. Several areas emerged from this list as very important to the continued success at Houston Public Schools.
 
The four areas that were deemed areas for which the district should expend time and effort to improve are as follows:
  • Technology Utilization
  • Relevant Course Offerings and Curriculum Development
  • Marketing our District and Offerings
  • Partnerships with other Entities, such as Businesses and Colleges.
 The District Technology Advisory Committee will be meeting soon to address the technology utilization for the district. They will be looking at plans for students, staff and systems that have been or might need to be purchased. The District Advisory Committee, the committee that crafts the World’s Best Workforce plan for the district, will also be looking at what can be improved with the course offerings and curriculum development to ensure everything the students learn is relevant to their lives and future success. The other two areas have small groups that have been formed with the purpose of creating plans to address the improvements that can be made in those particular areas. As each of these committees or small groups draft plans, the plans will be shared with the board at public meetings at which the community is welcome and encouraged to attend. In the next edition of Education Matters, the parts of the plans that will be implemented the next school year will be shared with the community. If you would like to provide some input on the areas of focus, please feel free to contact Superintendent Krin Abraham at krin.abraham@hps294.us or 507-896-5323 Option 5.

 
 




DECEMBER 2016
As the calendar years draws to a close, people start to look at that year in retrospect. As I look back at 2016, I am amazed at everything that was accomplished. In every facet of the school district, significant changes and upgrades were completed. The most noticeable changes took place to the buildings themselves. Houston Public Schools now have LED lighting throughout all the facilities, new or re-commissioned heating and cooling systems, and exterior tuck pointing or brickwork to ensure the buildings are as energy efficient as possible. The elementary building has a new roof and hallway ceilings, and the high school building has a new brick façade, windows, refinished gymnasium floor and bleachers. The work is now completed, and the multiple crews have gone on to their next jobs. However, we are grateful for the work they did. I especially am thankful when I see the snow blowing by my new window but am no longer able to hear the wind or feel the cold draft.

Houston Elementary School
 
Houston High School
 
Houston High School Gymnasium

Recently, we took down the house that used to sit next to the preschool on Grant Street. Maintaining and repairing the house to make it useable was far more expensive than razing the structure. We are in the process to plan the best use for that now empty lot. The Facility and Finance committees for the district are weighing the options and will be bringing ideas to the board as a whole during the next calendar year.
 
We also had wonderful news during 2016 with the Houston Elementary School earning Reward status from the Minnesota Department of Education yet again. This was the fifth time the school has achieved this award in the six years it has been given. We can be proud of the education that our students in Houston receive and know that they are prepared for their next steps. As an example, graduates who are coming home for their winter break are coming to visit at the school and recounting their new experiences while thanking the teachers for the preparation to handle those experiences. To read more about the work that the staff and students have completed, please read the Houston Public Schools’ 2016 World’s Best Workforce Annual Report on our website at www.houston.k12.mn.us > Notices & Reports. This edition of Education Matters also contains a myriad of events and activities in which our students have participated.
 
In looking at all that has been accomplished and everything that is going on, taking a short break at the end of the year sounds like a wonderful respite; however, we have sports tournaments and one-act play practice and the second half of the year waiting for us. Even though life seems to produce a constant hustle and bustle, I hope everyone can take some time this holiday season to pause and give thanks for the wonderful things that 2016 held for us all. I am thankful for the students and staff of Houston Public Schools and for the parents and community members who serve as partners in the success of our schools. We are so fortunate we are able to work together to have schools of which we can all be proud.



   




SEPTEMBER 2016
As I write this, the first day of school is quickly approaching and finishing touches are being completed in all the buildings by staff and various construction firms who have been working diligently all summer so we can begin school on time.

This summer has certainly been a time of great activity in the school buildings. Some of the changes are very visible to the community, such as the new brick façade and windows on the high school building and the refinishing of the floor and the new bleachers in the high school gymnasium. The elementary school has some changes that have been visible to the community as well, such as the new chiller on the south side of the building and the mechanical equipment on the new roof. Most of the changes at the elementary building, though, have taken place inside the building. The new heating and cooling system is up and running, and the lights are being installed.

The building inspector, on September 1, approved the work that had been completed so the elementary school can begin school on time. In fact the inspector commented that Houston “did it right” when we remodeled the historic structure. Chris Kulseth, the project coordinator from Unesco, the general contractor for the project, said he has heard numerous comments from multiple contractors that it is rare to find school buildings built in 1939 still in use and even rarer to be able to work on one to help it last for years to come. Mr. Kulseth commented that the community is very fortunate to be able to benefit from a building that has been rehabbed to be educationally functional for the present and the future.

The staff and community have been very understanding and flexible during this time of construction. I had to keep reminding myself that we were doing what really could have been a six-month project in just three months. Staff members have been helping each other as they unpack boxes and set up their rooms again. Preparing for students is our main focus, as it should be. All the improvements were made for the students to improve the environment in which they are learning. We are proud of the improvements in our buildings, but that pride pales in comparison to the pride we feel when we consider our students. The school is not really the buildings, but instead it is the people who attend and work in the school that make it what it is.

We at Houston Public Schools have so much for which to be thankful and so many for whom we need to extend our thanks. The community of Houston is one of those groups who need to be thanked for the positive comments and the encouraging words that were shared with me throughout this summer. Please consider attending the Open House we will be having in conjunction with the All-School Reunion on October 1 at 10:00 AM in the elementary gymnasium. We want everyone to be able to see all the improvements that have been completed on the buildings. 



 




SEPTEMBER 2015
Some of you might have seen a commercial on television put on by Education Minnesota. In the commercial different teachers are talking about the fact that they missed the students during the summer and are looking forward to the year starting so they can see the students again. I echo this sentiment. Even though the summer was a time to get many things done that could not be finished as easily during the school year, that hustle and bustle is not as much fun as the activity that comes when the students return in the fall. Since fall sports started a bit early this year, that activity started earlier in August as well. As the volleyball and football teams start coming to school to practice, the anticipation of the upcoming year becomes heightened as well.  The students’ laughter and conversations bring the buildings back to life again, and I look forward to the first day of school when the buildings are once again full of students and staff.
I am looking forward to the upcoming year and watching as the students and staff strive to continue to improve. We have strong schools in Houston, schools of which we can be very proud. Schools become strong schools when the students, staff, parents, and community all have a single focus to help each student reach his or her potential. We are so fortunate that focus is shared among all in the community. The positive comments I have heard during my first year as superintendent have made me feel very grateful to say that I am a member of this school and community where education and our children are valued.

The students will see some changes as they come back this year. New faces will replace staff members who have retired. It was bittersweet to see long-time staff members retire, but we are excited about the new staff who have been hired to replace them. Last year, the elementary students all had Chromebooks; this year the high school students have the same opportunity. With the added computers, we also upgraded the Internet infrastructure in both the elementary and high school buildings. We are hopeful the improvements will be welcomed by students and staff alike. Every change we are making is an attempt to make our schools even better. I want to ensure that Houston Public Schools remains a school district of which everyone can be proud.
Our website has a list of just a few of the accomplishments of our students and staff. As this year starts, that list will continue to grow. Read this website to hear about some of the great things that are happening at Houston Public Schools. On the website in the Quicklinks section, the Feedback and Question Form is one of the links listed. Anyone may use this form to ask a question or to provide a comment to the district. All questions and comments will receive a response. Of course, everyone is welcome to come to the school in person as well. I look forward to continuing to hear from the community as well.