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August 2015: Welcome to the New School Year!

August 21, 2015

Dear Students, Parents, Staff Members, and Residents,
The beginning of a new school year has always been my favorite time of the year. I have always loved the feeling of potential and possibilities a new school year brings. It is an incredible experience to observe our young people excited and eager to reconnect with their friends, teachers and staff members.
Our faculty and staff members have been working tirelessly through the summer to prepare for the arrival of our students on Monday, August 24. The buses are ready to roll, the buildings are spotless, and our faculty members are ready to enter another year of teaching and learning.
We believe our accomplishments of the past 12 months give us much cause for optimism for the 2015-16 school year. Those accomplishments include:
* raising our graduation rate from 89 percent to 93 percent.
* becoming one of only eight districts in the country certified to offer the International Baccalaureate Programme to all students at all grade levels.
* completing the first year of our Five-Year Strategic Plan, and learning lessons and overcoming obstacles along the first-year journey.
* seeing eight of our students win National Merit and National Achievement Scholarships.
* graduating our first class of 14 students from our Innovative Center for Personalized Learning and Family Engagement.
* engaging in a series of courageous conversations about the future of Shaker.
* negotiating three-year contracts with our collective bargaining units through collaboration, professionalism, and the lens of our district's mission.
* beginning the first phase of our educational visioning process for the district.
* advocating on behalf of students on key issues such as assessment, which contributed to the state's decision to discontinue PARCC.
* recruiting and filling more than 60 teaching positions and seven leadership positions with top talent from all over the country.
I am particularly excited about the progress we are making on our Five-Year Strategic Plan. As you are aware, the plan is a road map that will guide us in our efforts to make the Shaker Experience the best it can be for every student.
Our continued success is a testament to our young people, our impeccable faculty/staff members and our supportive parents/guardians. Still, none of us is resting on our laurels, because we have much work ahead of us. We must continue to foster a culture that believes every student will be engaged in the Shaker Experience. We need to continue to identify barriers that exist to achievement and engagement--whether they are practical, cultural or systemic--and find ways to remove them. Finally, we must continue to evaluate assessments and ensure that they inform and improve instruction.
The most important way parents can advocate for their children is to be involved in their education. Please continue to encourage your children to give 100% every day. Attend curriculum nights, open houses and parent-teacher conferences. Also, please get to know anyone who can help you help your children in our schools, from the teacher to the principal, to the bus driver or custodian. Building relationships will help keep the lines of communication open.
In the coming school year we will continue the presentations and community dialogues we began last year, and we'll be adding a series of brown bag lunch talk sessions with PTO presidents as well as other opportunities to exchange ideas. Watch for information on these and other events on our website, www.shaker.org, and if you missed Convocation 2015, you can watch it here.
I thank you for your continued support of our students and our schools. Let's have an enjoyable and productive year!
Sincerely,
Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr., Ed.D.
Twitter: @DrHutchings
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