Olson looks back on 2020-21 school year, ahead to fall in latest column

Superintendent Jeremy Olson
CHS students in a landscaping class, part of the new Ag Education curriculum, undertook some landscaping projects on the high school grounds this spring, like this one.

Greetings from Crookston Public Schools!

Welcome to summer! As we all partake in the wonderful summer weather, I wanted to do a quick recap of this year. While it certainly has been a challenging year for students, educators, and parents, it has also been an incredibly good year as we continue to foster a commitment to excellence in our programs.

This was the first year of a full scale Ag Education Program. We are proud that so many of our students were able to participate in this program. During this first year, over 200 students took part in the program! The Crookston FFA Chapter was started and received the FFA Superior Chapter Rating! Students were exposed to a wide variety of activities from life skills such as cooking, animal science, landscaping, parliamentary procedures, and much more. We believe that these skills and experiences will serve our students well as they move into their next chapter in life. The students also did a couple of landscaping projects around the school as part of the landscaping class, we hope you will enjoy this as you drive by CHS!

Throughout the pandemic, students continued to experience successes in and out of the classroom. Crookston High School Seniors Emma Borowicz and Gabriel Montieth were recognized as Triple A award winners for Crookston High School. This award is awarded to students who demonstrate excellence in academics, athletics, and the arts. Junior Olivia Huck received the Excel Award for excellence in community, education, and leadership.

Crookston High School Wrestling went to state as a team and also sent several individuals to state competition. Girls Basketball had a tremendous year and despite the restrictions on fan capacity, the community supported the team every step of the way! Students also experienced success in the arts despite the limiting safety requirements in place. The music program was  able to perform in person concerts for Orchestra and Band!

Led by Haley Ellis, CHS orchestra members perform in a concert during the school year.

While this year was far from ideal, we worked extremely hard to make the very best of the year for our students. Our teachers and staff put in place a safe learning plan that allowed us to have in-person school for the majority of the year. Events such as the CHS National Honor Society Induction, Prom, Music Concerts, and Graduation happened in person. This was only able to happen because of the collaboration between parents, staff, students, and the community. I am proud of the way that we worked together to help each other during this pandemic. I saw time and time again how selfless action by the community, staff, and parents allowed our schools to continue to stay operational and serve our students.

The major question before us now is where do we go from here? As we prepare for a normal start to school next fall, how do we position our school to not just get to where we were but to actually take steps forward? I believe that the way forward is to continue the progress that we have been making by identifying those students most affected by the pandemic and provide additional support to these students academically. For next year we have added to our Title I Program to provide ongoing support in Reading and Math to identified students. We also believe that a key to helping students get on track is through after school targeted programming throughout next year, combined with some summer school both this year and next. While this is our strategy to help students get on course, I also believe that we need to focus on moving the bar up on academic rigor and excellence within our schools.

The last few months have also  been busy from a hiring perspective as we prepare for a successful 2021-2022 school year. We are excited to bring on board Ms. Nicki Martinez as our next CHS Principal. Ms. Martinez brings a background in curriculum and instruction along with a wealth of teaching experience. We are looking to her to provide the academic leadership needed to move to the next level. We are incredibly fortunate to have her at the helm of CHS! We were also fortunate to be able to bring on board Ms. Tara Klein as the CHS School Counselor. Ms. Klein is an experienced School Counselor who has strong expertise and background in both social, emotional and academic counseling. We also have worked with Northwest Mental Health in order to put in place a full time Mental Health Social Worker to support our Counseling Office at CHS.

In previous years we have focused on communication and relationships within our schools, this year's focus as part of our strategic plan is on developing a culture of high expectations. High expectations are not just what we expect of students, but also what we expect of staff, and of the leaders within our schools. This will involve some changes to the way things have been done in the past, this will require us to think differently, and to stretch ourselves. I am very excited to continue this journey with you as we work to make our schools even better places for kids and families! Thank you for your continued support. Go Pirates!