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Sunday, December 28, 2014

A New Year's Resolution That Makes A Difference!

It is that time of the year again: Time to make a New Year’s Resolution!  Each year many of us make resolutions to eat healthier, workout more, volunteer, take time to be kind and care about others.  Some of us will keep our resolutions for several months and some will grab a quick doughnut and skip the workout within the first week. 

As I began to think about making a New Year’s Resolution I thought about all of the things that get in our way of making a change to better ourselves.  We have children to look after, houses to clean, work to do, phones to answer and other activities that seem far more fun than eating healthier, volunteering and working out.  Several years ago one of my friends, Sam, was lamenting that he was so busy he didn't have time to work out.  Another friend, Rob, who was listening commented, “What are you doing at eleven o’clock in the evening?”  Stunned silence followed until Rob said, “We always find time to accomplish the things that are important to us so don’t complain, just make the time.” 

Similarly, we often make time to watch two or three of our favorite television programs each day, but we miss the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.  At Columbia School District we work to make a difference in the lives of our students!  There are ways that our community members may partner with us as we change lives for the better.  You may want to volunteer in a program that focuses on early literacy: Columbia Buddies.  Columbia Buddies develops volunteer community members to mentor individual students in reading techniques under the direction of the program director.  This program shows positive gains in students’ reading levels.

In addition to Columbia Buddies, many community members and parents volunteer in other groups: Athletic Boosters, Music Boosters, Grandparents for Greatness or the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO).  Each of these groups makes a difference for our students.  As you contemplate and refine your New Year’s resolutions, please consider making a resolution to volunteer in Brooklyn Buddies or one of our other opportunities, one of our Boosters’ Clubs, PTO or Grandparents for Greatness. If you are interested in learning more about Columbia Buddies send an email to, our Music Boosters’ contact, Athletic Boosters’ email , PTO email or,  or if you are interested in participating in Grandparents for Greatness, email .  Let’s begin this year by making a difference in the lives of the children in our community!  Are you interested in hearing more about Columbia Schools? Call me at 592-6641 or email me at .

Monday, December 22, 2014

Blended Learning Opportunitites at Columbia!

These days we hear a lot of ideas about educating our children.  One phrase we have heard a lot about is “Blended Learning.”  What exactly is blended learning and does it have positive results for our students? 

Blended learning uses both digital learning strategies through online media and traditional classroom instruction.  Students are able to complete the online portion of the learning, decide on the place they access the online content and set an appropriate pace.  Columbia Central High School students use blended learning strategies in quite a few of their classrooms.  In Advanced Placement Biology, Mr. Dickens uses blended learning techniques to enhance the time the students have in their classroom.  He uses a strategy called “Flipped Classroom.”  In this strategy students choose the time and place that they review the material in the lesson before coming to class.  This material may include research, specific online sites or a Podcast.  Once the students arrive in class they begin with activities based upon the material they covered online and may follow up with an assessment covering their assignment and activities.

Blended learning activities also are taking place at Columbia Middle School.  Many teachers are using strategies that integrate technology both at home and during school.  Recently I spoke to several students who were working on a blended learning technique that included doing online research, creating a graphic organizer and translating that into a multipage website.  This strategy gave the students an opportunity to work in their own time, at their own pace, using a learning path they chose and a place that worked for them. 

In some of our Columbia Elementary School classrooms teachers are having students write in their blogs online and then classmates, parents, and other relatives, in addition to the teacher, read and write reviews.  This partnership between parents, students and the teacher is made possible through the online techniques of blended learning.

At Columbia Options High School students use online applications during their traditional classes as well as during their virtual classes.  We support students as they complete their virtual classes with a drop-in center and a resource teacher.  Many students find the virtual portion to be better suited to their learning needs, but they also find the resource teacher very important to assist them with questions.

By integrating technology and blended learning into the curriculum teachers must reinvent their teaching techniques.  To adapt the learning activities into this innovative way of teaching and learning, teachers collaborate together and experience a sustainable, transformation that results in meaningful student growth.

At Columbia as we have worked to integrate technology into the curriculum and use blended learning strategies to enhance students’ ability to acquire new knowledge, we have seen a progressive improvement of student retention by using these techniques.  Students enjoy completing online research activities such as in the example in Mr. Dickens’ Advanced Placement course and seem to experience a greater level of retention.  As we continue to use blended learning activities, strategies and techniques with our students we anticipate that they will increase their performance on post activity assessments.  If you would like to learn more about Columbia School District or our programs, call me at 5175926641 or email me at .

Monday, December 15, 2014

Columbia School District Bond Project Update

Columbia School District is a connected community school! Connected to learning, connected to the community, and connected to your student’s success!  Our goal is to keep our parents and community informed about the great things that are happening at Columbia.  This past summer we completed Phase 1 of our Bond projects.  The Bond competitions included the safer redesigned parking, parent drop-off and pick-up area, and bus drop off area at the middle and elementary school campus.  In addition we added a new playground for the middle school which will become the third through sixth grade building.  Through Phase 1 updates we were also able to purchase updated technology for students and staff members through the purchase of Chromebook laptops, iPads and Dell laptops, along with the installation of additional wireless hubs to facilitate the updated network.

This fall we finalized the facility and site designs for Columbia Central High School.  The Phase 2 renovations at Columbia Central began on December 1st.  Initially, the crew focused on demolition to open up the southwest area of the high school to create the new seventh and eighth grade wing.  On Wednesday, December 17th the crew will break ground for the new locker room addition adjacent to the Fitness Center gymnasium.

The balance of the Phase 2 renovations at Columbia Central High School will increase student safety by providing a secure entry vestibule and remodeled office area, a new heating and air conditioning system, updated technology infrastructure, safer redesigned parent and bus traffic lanes, and remodeled classrooms and hallways.  To see an artist’s pictorial representation, go to the homepage and the link is on the left with the construction update links.

Phase 3 renovations will focus on increased student safety at the elementary and middle school campus, along with Options, by providing a secure entry vestibule and updated office area.  The technology infrastructure, new heating and air conditioning systems, restrooms and classrooms will offer increased efficiency for students and staff members.  

To stay up to date on a day-to-day basis with pictures and information on the remodeling process, go to the Columbia School District Facebook page or the Restore The Soar Facebook page and “Like” the page.  You will receive updates as they are posted.  If you have questions regarding Columbia School District or our programs, please email me at or call 5175926641.