This past week I had the privilege of attending Governor Branstad’s Education Summit in Des Moines. Everyone who spoke at the Summit acknowledged that Iowa is no longer No. 1 in education and needs to make significant changes in order for our children to compete both at the national and international levels. There were many broad ideas that were verbalized at the Summit and I am sure, in time, there will be significant direction from the state for school improvement. For the children in Clinton, I do not believe we can wait for the state to act. We need to move forward immediately.

Some people may wonder why the Clinton School System needs to change. Simply put, the world has changed significantly since the time any of us were in school. No longer is there a plentiful job market for those individuals with a limited education or a willingness to do manual labor. According to a national report on education and the economy, by the year 2018, almost all our children will need additional education past high school in order to obtain a job — any job. The world in which we work today has become infinitely more reliant upon our abilities to interpret information, work together in solving complex problems, and to effectively communicate in a variety of ways.

There are three major emphasis that the district will be undertaking as we renew our efforts in the belief that every child can be successful. As a district and as a community, we must value and demand that all of our children improve each year that they are in school.

Our teachers in the Clinton district are changing the way they teach and determining the most important skills and content students need to master before moving forward. Classrooms are becoming more student-centered, where students utilize their interests and talents, focusing on the ways information is communicated and used in the real world.

Secondly, the mechanism our school community will utilize to deliver instruction and in understanding content will be working within collaborative teams. There are virtually no jobs in our world today where a person works in isolation. Teachers will work collaboratively with each other. Students, whose progress will be monitored independently, will work together collaboratively in groups, as they learn the skills and content necessary to be successful in our world.

Most importantly, the district will continue to monitor data (evidence) throughout the year in being able to modify for the needs of our students and schools. Monitoring our data will drive instruction in meeting the needs of all our students. Our goal is for every child, teacher, staff member, and community member to be aware of our progress as we work towards the success of each child.

The strength in the Clinton community is our people. I firmly believe that as the old African proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it is the responsibility of the citizens in our community to believe in our children and help them become successful, productive adults. There is much one person can do, from volunteering at a school, becoming a mentor, advocating for a child, supporting our school-sponsored activities to running for the school board; all are important in the lives of our children.

I am very proud to be the superintendent of the Clinton Community School District. In the last five years, through the work of our staff, there have been significant gains in student achievement and in activity/sports participation by all of our students. With the one-penny sales tax money the district is renovating facilities and creating new learning environments for our students. As we enter into a new year, I ask for your support, guidance and ideas in developing our school district to be the best in the state of Iowa.

Deb Olson is the superintendent of the Clinton Community School District.