Sun Prairie Community 
Connection Newsletter
February 2017

With a mission of inspiring and preparing every child, every day, our school district has established a set of cutting-edge strategies to address equity, increase collaboration, and serve every child. We are extremely proud of these strategies and the people who bring these strategies to life on behalf of our kids.

1800 Days - The SPASD has partnered with the 1800 Days non-profit organization, whose vision is to eliminate the achievement gap in Dane County in the 1800 Days before kindergarten enrollment. Their vision of a "new village" consisting of multiple stakeholders and partnerships is what drives the goal of eliminating the achievement gap. Thank you to Clark Luessman for serving on their Board.

SPASD Summer School - Our summer school program is the largest in the state of Wisconsin. It encompasses a wide scope of opportunities for our kids over the summer months. Summer learning opportunities helps students catch up, staves off summer achievement loss, and allows access to enrichment activities and relationships with peers and our amazing staff. Thank you to the staff and leaders who have had such an impact on kids through this program.

Equal Opportunity Schools - We are a part of an exclusive group of school districts in the nation partnering with Equal Opportunity Schools to locate who are "missing from our most rigorous classes and change their life trajectories." By partnering with EOS, we are able to identify, enroll, and support our students as they transition into the rigorous courses that match their potentials. Thank you to all the staff and leaders who have done unbelievable work with kids and families in this program.

National Equity Project - During the 16-17 school year, we have convened a broad range of our teachers, administrators, and support staff to engage in action research on equity within our schools. They interviewed our kids, researched and obtained feedback from our staff, and planned pilot programming to address our local needs in closing the achievement gap. Thank you to all our committee members for your contributions and hard work on behalf of kids.

Governance Monitoring Reports - The School Board of SPASD has recently established a renewed focus on student achievement and a focus on disaggregated results. Through this Board leadership, student achievement monitoring reports will be frequently reported and analyzed during regular, open session Board meetings. Achievement results will be disaggregated, bringing more transparency and focus to our student achievement data. Thank you to the School Board for your unparalleled care for our kids and their achievement.

You can learn more about upcoming programming on Facebook. Special thanks to Executive Team members Mary Ellen Havel-Lang and Rick Mueller for their time, planning efforts, and support of Community Schools. Thank you Sarah Smith, Director; and Stacy Darga, Buena Vista Site Coordinator for your commitment, compassion, and creativity with providing opportunities at our community schools.  Please welcome Drea Oliver, as the new Site Coordinator at the Main St. Site. Read more about recent Sun Prairie Community Schools News.

Superintendent's Equity Circle - The SPASD is focused on engaging our community. Indeed, it's a primary area in our strategic plan. In order to ensure that we are engaging all our stakeholders, and to foster relationships across our community, we've developed the Superintendent's Equity Circle. The purpose of this team is to be community stakeholders for both feedback regarding current school district events and for opportunities for clear communication. I'd like to personally thank this group for their dialogue and commitment to our kids and our school district.
AVID - Advancement via Individual Determination

In 2012, the Sun Prairie Area School District implemented the AVID program at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle school for a group of approximately 22 students. AVID  stands for Advancement via Individual Determination, AVID is a global program to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. Students are chosen for the program after an application and interview process. Traditionally, AVID students are first generation college students,  academically in the middle, have desire and determination, and with support will develop the skills to be successful at a post-secondary institution.

Since implementing the program in 2012, we have 150 students enrolled in the AVID elective in grades 8-12.  Cardinal Heights has also moved to a school-wide approach where all students are receiving the AVID strategies such as writing to learn, inquiry, collaboration, organization skills and critical reading strategies (WICOR) in every classroom, every day.  

Sun Prairie High School is focusing on expanding AVID throughout the building by providing AVID professional development for all staff. This year, for the first time, the district has also offered several AVID professional development opportunit ies for all staff in grades 6-12 to continue to help close the achievement gap throughout the district.

Our 2017 AVID graduating class includes 17 scholars. This group has risen to the challenge by their dedication to academic success and the hard work they have put into being an AVID Scholar. With support from staff members, the seniors have achieved at high levels while also including rigor in their schedules.

AVID Senior Quotes:
Annette Mattila - AVID Scholar for 5 years
"Who ever thought that an acronym could change your life?  This one (AVID) has led me to higher expectations for myself, my future, and has left me with lifelong friends.  We are never certain what the future holds, but I am certain that my high school experience would not even compare without AVID.  Life is about taking chances and being open to new opportunity, and that's exactly what this has been."

Ivan Calzada - AVID Scholar for 5 years 
"AVID has shown me that anybody can go to college and it's not just for people that have been privil eged their whole life.  Without this program who knows where my educational state and myself as a person would be.  AVID constantly pushes me to take the next  step to do better.  AVID has been a family more than just a program."

Staceyah Miller - AVID Scholar for 5 years
"When I got accepted into the AVID program, my whole life changed around.  When visiting colleges at the age of only 13 in the AVID program, it showed me that I belong there, I have a destiny to succeed, and that I am in charge of my own future.  AVID has led me on an everlasting path of success that is not over yet, and the way my mindset has developed, it will never be over."

Learn more about the Sun Prairie AVID program by visiting the AVID website or email Kathy Enstad the AVID District Coordinator.
Staff Spotlight

Jay Garvey Shah , a fifth grade science teacher at Creekside 
Elementary School, is a finalist for the 2016 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award is one of the nation's highest honors for mathematics and science teachers.

"Wisconsin's finalists for Presidential Teaching Award inspire their students to learn complex math  and science concepts," said State Superintendent Tony Evers. "They nurture mathematical thinking and problem-solving and let their students be scientists through hands-on learning."

Nominations for the award can come from principals, teachers, parents, students, or members of the general public. Nominees must complete an extensive written and video application that demonstrates their mastery of mathematics or science content; use of appropriate instructional methods and strategies; effective use of student assessments to evaluate, monitor, and improve student learning; reflective practice and life-long learning to improve teaching and student learning; and leadership in education outside the classroom.

Wisconsin's four finalists will be judged at the national level by a committee organized by the National Science Foundation. The panel selects one mathematics teacher and one science teacher from each state to receive presidential awards.  In addition to recognition and attending professional development events in Washington, D.C., winners receive $10,000 and a citation signed by the president.

Creekside Principal Jillian Block adds, "Jay is one those people that immediately intrigues you when you meet him.  He views life through a true social justice lens and builds capacity within his colleagues and students to see the world from the underrepresented angle.  His students are afforded the amazing opportunity to learn from someone who doesn't focus on teaching just math and science, but rather focuses on building critical-thinkers who can identify a problem, consider a multitude of options and persevere until solutions are reached.  We take great pride in having Mr. Garvey Shah as one of our building leaders at Creekside. The impact he has had, and will continue to have on our students and staff is immeasurable!"

Lori Bedner  has been with the Sun Prairie Area School District 
for 19 years. She started as a part-time cleaner and after 1 1/2 years, became a full time custodian.
Lori is currently working at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School as a day Custodian.  She loves working for the School District and says that the school staff are very friendly, and she enjoys working with the students.
Lori is married with three grown children and enjoys being a grandmother.  Her husband works for the City of Sun Prairie and also works on a farm they own in Sun Prairie. Lori loves spending time with her family and working on crafts and baking. When Lori bakes, most of the time, she brings her baked goods to share with the school staff and her co-workers.  With all the years Lori has dedicated to our school district, she has met a lot of people, seen many people come and go, and has experienced the significant growth of the District.  
Environmental Services Manager Johel Saborio Gonzalez adds, "Lori is long known for delivering exceptional customer service and is always willing to go above and beyond for things such as covering special events during weekends and even offering to work on days when she is not scheduled to work. We certainly appreciate staff like Lori who are so dedicated to doing a great job and making a positive difference for our students and staff"!  

Eastside Elementary 
Let's hear it for the Eastside front desk team! Pictured here left to right,  Patty Karls Pam Giese and Pam Brinza deserve special recognition for their work going above and beyond during "Fall Camp" also known as Eastside Elementary School's relocation during the mold cleanup.

Eastside kids and staff were spread out to 5 different elementary schools while Eastside was being cleaned. These 3 ladies were very instrumental in the successful transition. Pam Giese came in on the weekend to help organize the process.  Pam Brinza thought of the idea to print hard copies of the attendance forms so staff could take attendance outside before the busses left.  Patty Karls served as a Special Education Aide and rode the bus every day to and from Royal Oaks.  They all stayed in the parking lot until 9 a.m. to be available if students came late to school and to make "safe arrival" calls. Pam Giese created the various signs needed at the end of the day for bus and day care vans. They all helped put up and take down the signs every day and helped collect the library books that needed to be cleaned.  

Principal Craig Coulthart and Assistant Principal Erin Martini commented, "Pam, Pam and Patty helped in more ways than we can even list.  The transition to the other schools and back to Eastside would not have been possible without their help, and for that we thank them."
  Chris Gleason is named finalist for National Teacher of the Year

Chris Gleason, an Instrumental Music Teacher and Band Director at Patrick Marsh Middle School will compete for the 2017 National Teacher of the Year Award with 3 other finalists from California, Maryland and Massachusetts.  

"I'm astonished, grateful, humbled," Gleason said from his classroom.  He said he's been told he will be flown to Washington, D.C., in March for two days of intense interviewing by the selection committee. The national winner is to be announced in late spring.

If he were to win, Gleason would be only the second Wisconsin teacher in history to do so, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.  The first national winner from Wisconsin was Helen "Missy" Adams, a kindergarten teacher in the Cumberland School District in 1961.   It has been 50 years since the last Wisconsin finalist.  That honor goes to Paul D. Plantico of Green Bay West High School in 1967.

Gleason said if he's awarded the national title, he would merely be a representative of widespread excellence in the profession.  "This is not about saying who is the best, because, you know, I'm not the best teacher in the country or the state or my district or even in my hallway most days," he said.  "There are amazing teachers doing great work every day."

Chris Gleason is joined by School Board Members and District Administrators at the Wisconsin State Education Conference
He said he hopes he was selected as a finalist because he has some of the qualities of a great teacher.  "I have a passion for my work, I have a belief in my students and their potential, and I have an open heart for all kids and the gifts they bring," he said.  "I also have a hunger to get better."

Gleason has been a teacher 19 years, the last 13 at Patrick Marsh Middle School.   In a press release, the council called Gleason "a talented performer, director and educational leader" whose honors include being recognized as a national semifinalist for the 2017 Grammy Music Educator Award.  He is also the founder and organizer of a band festival at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells.

Under his leadership, the middle school's band has partnered with eight nationally renowned composers to develop six pieces for band through the "ComMission Possible" project. "I can tell you this is definitely my passion," Gleason told students in September when he accepted the state award at a school assembly. "Seeing and working with you every single day is what I want to do."

The winner this spring will spend the next year traveling the country to represent educators and to advocate on behalf of teachers and students.
Westside Elementary Featured in the News for Mindfulness Work with Staff and Students

This year you can tell things are different at Westside Elementary. There is a shift in how kids are thinking and behaving; thank you to mindfulness. Principal Nikki Burke was recently certified in yoga and mindfulness and started teaching it to the kids and staff at her school. The culture has changed in the building and they are seeing results. Discipline in the classroom has decreased by 80%. Kids are responding well to this practice and this is a skill that these kids will be able to use in all aspects of their life. Watch the Channel 3000 video here.

Positive Culture Nights 
Throughout January and February our schools are hosting Positive Culture nights. This is an
opportunity for parents and families to join school staff for a presentation about the strategies used at our schools to promote positive school climate. Families learn the difference between teasing, conflict, mean moment, and bullying. Staff share tools for students to use to resolve conflict and strategies parents can use to be supportive. 

Some other initiatives throughout grades K-12 include PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention Services), Kindness Retreats for 4th Graders, Courage Retreats for 8th graders, and Respect Retreats for 11th graders.
Kindness Retreats
Kindness Retreats will be held at all seven Sun Prairie elementary schools over the next few days. Fourth graders will be led by Youth Frontiers during this day long event. Retreats are designed to teach kids about the importance of being kind through a high-energy day filled with music, singing, team building exercises, and small group discussion led by community volunteers, school staff, Prairie Phoenix Academy, Cardinal Heights, and High School students.

This year's retreats are sponsored by the Sun Prairie Education Foundation, Bank 
of Sun Prairie, Sun Prairie Rotary, Hallman 
Lindsay Paints, Summit Credit Union, UW Health and the School District. Thank you to our sponsors and volunteers! We could not do this very important work without you. Find out more information about how to sponsor or volunteer for this event by contacting Sue Halambeck.  
Respect Retreats
Each year, our High School partners with Youth Frontiers to facilitate a Respect Retreat for our 11th Graders.  Their vision is to change the way young people treat each other in the hallway, lunch line and classroom so that today's young people make tomorrow's world better.
Building Two Elementary Schools
With a successful referendum in November to build two new elementary schools, the work of a Visionary Team has begun. The Visionary Team consists of 14 District staff representing Building and Grounds, Support Staff, Secretaries, Technology, Innovation and Assessment, Teachers, Principals, Student Services and Administration. The District is partnering with Eppstein Uhen Architects and Findorff Construction to design the new schools.

What concepts are driving the discussions and design:
  • Students are the Vision; student learning is focal
  • Flexibility of space to allow for freedom in teaching and learning for the future
  • Additional capacity to give the District space and tools to inspire students to learn
  • Deliver the project on time and on budget - schools opening September 2018
Work has included:
  • Developing a shared understanding of modern learning environments
  • Developing goals and drivers for the design of our new elementary schools
  • Designing an overall building layout which includes core learning spaces, exploratory spaces, support spaces, administrative spaces, outdoor learning spaces
  • Creating and reviewing classroom configurations
  • Designing the Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC)
  • Determining the site orientation and traffic flow on the properties for both schools
What are the goals of the Staff Visionary Team?
  • Ongoing staff engagement throughout the design process. In November over 70 staff members from across the District participated in feedback sessions about the design.
  • Staff will be updated with new information along the way.
  • Updates to School Board as well as work sessions at critical milestones
  • Regular updates will be given to parents and the broader community as the project advances
  • Planning is underway for student engagement in the process.

We are beginning the process to determine which students will attend the new schools. We will need parent and community input. A Boundary Task Force is being created. Community members applied to be a part of this process. The first Boundary Task Force meeting is February 15 from 6-8:30 p.m. We encourage you to attend the meetings. There will be public comment every meeting from 8-8:30 p.m. More information can be found on the Boundary Task Force   webpage.

These draft designs were created using the valuable input from our talented staff.  Please note that these designs are currently drafts and subject to modifications.

Draft Classroom Concept

Draft Pod Concept
Draft School Concept

Share Your Cardinal Pride
Westside Elementary has Cardinal Pride

This year, we are sharing Cardinal Pride district-wide with a Cardinal Mask. Classrooms, staff, clubs, sports teams and community members are sharing photos of themselves with the mask as a way to share pride in our district. If you want to share your pride, stop by the District Office, pick up a mask(s) for your group, and email us your photos to be used on Social Media. See how others are showing their Cardinal Pride!

Sports and Activities Highlights
Our sports and activitity programs had an amazing fall season! We are so proud! #Cardinalpride 

Girl's Cross Country were Conference Champs and won the WIAA Division 1, Sectional and State Championship!

Boy's Cross Country took 3rd place in their Conference, were WIAA Division 1 Sectional Champs and took 9th place in State!

The Football Team finished first in their Conference (tied with Verona) but lost in Level One Playoffs vs. La Follette!

Boy's Varsity Soccer won the Big 8 Conference Championship for the first time in school history! They were the 2nd seed in the Regional Semi-Final and were the WIAA Regional Champs, They then went on to win the Sectional Semi vs. Beloit and then lost in the Section Final to Middleton (5 -2)!

Girl's Golf qualified for Sectionals and took 8th in Sectionals!

Girl's Volleyball took 1st place in their Conference, were Regional Champions, won Sectionals and moved on to State where they won over River Falls but lost in Semi to Neenah!

Girl's Swim Team took 4th place in the Big 8 Conference and 6th place at State!

Girl's Tennis won their Conference Tournament, took 1st place in Sub-Sectionals and had individuals move on to compete in Sectionals and State!

Check out the season schedule for the winter sports that underway.  


In November, over 1,600 people attended Urinetown, the Musical at the High School Performing Arts Center. The production was nominated for 13 Tommy Awards including: Outstanding Musical, Ensemble, Lead Performance, Supporting Performance, Dance Performance, Direction, Musical Direction, Choreography, Stage Management, Scenic Design, Costume Design and Sound Design.

Watch for more information about the next production, The Crucible, March 30-April 2. 
February is Black History Month

Our Schools will be celebrating  Black History Month  throughout the month of February. To   
kick-off the month at Northside Elementary, 
UW-Madison Badger Athletes, Kylie Schwartz (Women's Soccer), Jordan Hill (Men's Basketball) and Natalie Treister (Women's Rowing) stopped by to help share some of their experiences with "Embracing Community" something that is a big part of the school culture and community.   

Students were excited to see the student athletes and to have them participate in their monthly assembly, talk about their values, and play games. This was a perfect  way to start a conversation about "Embracing Community"

Each of our schools will celebrate in a different way: including school-wide assemblies, learning about historical figures, discussion at sch ool-wide morning meetings, student projects on display, and much more.
S tay Connected to the Sun Prairie Area School District

We invite you to engage with the School District and follow the success of our students and staff even if you do not have children attending our schools. Here are just a few ways to stay connected: