Community  Connection Newsletter
May 2017
Personalized Learning in Sun Prairie Schools
Over the last several years, teachers in Sun Prairie have
learned about and implemented teaching and classroom practices that are responsive to the needs of our learners. This work is aligned to the district's 5 year strategic plan.

The work represents a shift - in Sun Prairie and nationally - away from practices where memorization of content for high-stakes assessments to experiences where students engage in rich, authentic and rigorous learning.

Many of you may have heard the term "personalized learning" thrown about to describe this shift - in media stories, documentary movies such as "Beyond Measure" and "Most Likely to Succeed" or from your child's school.

Personalized learning is a term used to describe the shift mentioned above, but what is it? Personalized learning is an approach to learning that places learners at the center of the school experience - where each individual student has greater access to their own data, understands and is knowledgeable about academic standards and the skills needed to demonstrate mastery of those standards, and sets goals with their teacher to reach mastery.  Students are able to grow and develop at rates that are respectful of individual development as opposed to every student being on the same page on the same day.  Students' voices inform their choices and shape their learning.

As a result, students have a greater sense of ownership and increase their capacity to learn and grow. Growth is both academic and personal as students learn to manage their time and resources and reflect frequently on their failures and successes - skills necessary for success in life .

The environments of personalized learning are often flexible - for good reason! Desks and chairs are easily movable, furniture allows for greater student movement and classrooms often are co-taught (two teachers sharing two classrooms).  Little bodies need to move - and furniture like wobble stools and standing desks allow students to move while they are learning - without disruption to the rest of the class.

This flexibility is also fundamental to creating a culture of high expectations and trust. Students are expected to know what they will be working on and are able to choose those with whom they will work.

In our schools today, you can expect to see aspects of personalized learning in action - whether it is through our literacy workshop model, co-taught and multi-age classrooms at the elementary schools, interdisciplinary teams and bundled classes at the high school, or innovative houses at each of our middle schools. Our focus remains simple - build the capacity of our learners to:  know how to grow as learners and people; set goals; learn from failure, and communicate their learning to others. We strive to work with students, families and the community to provide learners with the greatest experiences to become the very best life-long learners. After all - "you are the only teacher you will always have".

If you would like to learn more or have any questions about these efforts, you are welcome to contact Curt Mould, Director of Digital Media, Innovation and Strategy.

View a video from Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School as students explain what personalized learning looks like in the E House.

Sun Prairie Community Schools Update

In 2015, the Sun Prairie Area School District, City of Sun Prairie, and various Sun Prairie leaders came together to reinvigorate a Community Schools initiative. Sun Prairie Community Schools was born out of this process, and in 2016, we started embedding a Community Schools strategy into the fabric of Sun Prairie. 

What is a community school? The Coalition for Community Schools, a national advocacy organization, defines community schools as "a public school-the hub of its neighborhood, uniting educators, community partners, and families to provide all students and families with top-quality academics, enrichment, health and social services, and opportunities to learn and thrive."  

In Sun Prairie, we currently focus on two sites, our Buena Vista Site at Westside Elementary and our Main Street Site at Prairie Phoenix Academy. A Site Leadership Team of school staff (including the principal and teachers), community partners, parents, and other community members oversees the planning and implementation of programs and services at each site.

Our Buena Vista Site at Westside Elementary serves kids and families that live in the Westside community and surrounding areas.  Stacy Darga serves as the site coordinator at the Buena Vista Site and works with the Site Leadership Team to plan and implement programs and services. Current programs include:

  • Kids Achieving Together-a tutoring program for 3rd-5th grade students at Westside

  • Recreational Sports Leagues-Soccer, Basketball, Volleyball and Track are provided by YMCA instructors and open to elementary youth in the Sun Prairie Community

  • Adult English Classes-classes provided by Literacy Network and Latino Academy to support adult English Language Learners

  • Healthy Cooking Classes-classes provided by UW Extension to support families looking for quick, healthy, and affordable meals they can make at home

  • Friday Family Fun Nights-Monthly family nights open to the Sun Prairie community where kids, families and the community can share a meal, do a craft or other activity, and spend a fun night away from home as a family

Our Main St Site at Prairie Phoenix Academy serves kids and families that attend and live in the Prairie Phoenix community and surrounding areas. Drea Oliver serves as the site coordinator at the Buena Vista site and works with the Site Leadership Team and Youth Advisory Team to plan and implement programs and services. Current programs include:

  • Youth in Government-a program for high school youth provided by the YMCA focused on students learning about the legislative process and participating in a statewide Model Government Weekend

  • Recreational Fitness-JJ's Boxing works with high school youth to work on fitness, healthy lifestyle, and self-improvement techniques with our kids through no-contact fitness opportunities

  • Cardio Drumming-Christi Winchel of Sunny Nutrition provides this adult fitness class to families and adults in the community for a low-impact, high energy workout

  • Yoga-the Sun Prairie Yoga Initiative provides weekly yoga classes to families and adults in the community to introduce yoga as a healthy way to build strength, flexibility and relaxation for all fitness levels.

This year our sites have worked to provide a wide variety of opportunities to kids and families in the Sun Prairie community while also focusing on building positive relationships with students, families, staff, partners and community members. Our Youth in Government program was a great example of students building positive relationships with students. We started this program in the fall of 2016 with staff members from the YMCA. They met weekly with students at Prairie Phoenix Academy to develop skills in research, legislative writing, debate, and oral presentations. One student, who was struggling with speaking up and connecting with her peers inside and outside of school, worked with other students and adults to write her own bill. Through this process, she learned how to start communicating with others to process and share her own thinking. She took steps in becoming a better communicator and collaborator. Her first year in the program was a success in how she took steps to build her skills, work with her peers, and develop self-confidence in her own abilities. Next year, she plans to again participate and take her work even farther by improving her public speaking skills and eventually introducing and debating her legislation in front of the entire model assembly.

If you have questions about Community Schools, please contact the Director, Sarah Smith.

PPA student Michael Duarte (pictured right) arguing in front of the model Supreme Court at the YMCA Youth in Government Model Government weekend in February 2017
Staff Spotlight
Congratulations to Athletic and Activities Director, Eric Nee who was named Big Eight Conference Athletic Director of the year. Eric received a unanimous vote from his peers. Criteria for selection
include running a solid athletic program and doing good work for
the profession. 


The High School offers over 56 clubs for grades 10-12!

  • 1,177 students are involved in one or more clubs. That is 70% of the High School enrollment.
  • The average GPA of students involved in a club is 3.2.
The High School has 68 sports teams for grades 9-12!
  • 1,360 students are involved in one or more sports. That is 57% of the 9-12 enrollment.
  • The average GPA of students involved in a sport is 3.2.
Watch our New Video

We are proud to introduce you to our new video: Welcome to the Sun Prairie Area School District. This video will be used to welcome new families to our schools, in staff recruitment efforts and shared with all current families. 

School Board  Update

Congratulations to School Board Members  Tom Weber and

Carol Sue Albright who both ran uncontested in April's School

Board Election. They both will serve another three-year term.


Tom Weber has been on the School Board since 2011 and currently serves as the School Board President. Carol Sue Albright has been on the School Board since 2014 and serves as the School Board Clerk. Visit the website for more information about the Sun Prairie School Board. 


Update on Boundaries and Elementary Buildings

Boundary Task Force (BTF)
Boundary Task Force work has begun. With the addition of two new elementary schools, opening in September 2018, all elementary boundaries will change. These changes will affect all of our elementary schools. The Boundary Task Force was created using a community application process. There are a total of twenty voting members, nine alternates, an advisory team and school board members. Through extensive review, assistance from consultant MDRoffers, and input from the community, the group hopes to present a recommendation to the School Board by July or August, 2017. 

The community is always invited to attend the
BTF meetings. The public can comment from 8-8:30pm.

The BTF website is the place to find meeting times, locations, agendas, meeting notes, presentation slides, maps, and answers to frequently asked questions.

New Elementary Schools
The two new elementary schools will open in September 2018. After the boundary process is completed and approved by the School Board, we will begin to engage the families and kids that will attend these two schools to assist with naming them. Until then, the schools are being referred to as the Grand Ave site and the Thompson Road site. Planning Principals have been selected and will hire all staff at the new schools. Staff hiring will begin after the boundary changes have been made. Meet the Principals:

Cynthia Bell Jimenez has been selected as the Grand Avenue site elementary school Principal. Cynthia comes to us from Delavan-Darien School District as a dual language teacher and has a master's degree in education, psychology and leadership. She has more than 13 years of experience in academic and diversity issues. Cynthia will begin with the district on July 1, 2017.


Clark Luessman, the Thompson Road site elementary school
Principal has been with the Sun Prairie Area School District since 1999.
Clark is currently serving in an interim role as Executive Director of Operations. Previous to that, he was the Principal at Patrick Marsh for 17 years. Clark assisted with the referendum to approve building the new schools. He participates on the Core Team to assist with design of the new schools and is the co-chair for the Boundary Task Force. Clark will begin as the Planning Principal on July 1, 2017.




You are invited to attend the upcoming Groundbreaking Ceremonies:


New School Design Open House
On May 1st, The School Space Planning Committee (SSPC) and the Sun Prairie community were invited to attend a showcase of the design of the new schools. The SSPC helped with researching and then creating a recommendation to the School Board. 

The night included interactive stations to see the new schools through virtual reality goggles, view carpet and color samples, try out furniture samples, hear about the Boundary Task Force and meet the principals. Additionally, information was presented about the capital maintenance projects at the other 7 elementary schools. This work is is being scheduled over the next few summers.

Virtual Reality Goggle Fun

Reviewing Design Concepts


Sports and Activities Highlights

Our sports and activity programs had an amazing winter season! We are really proud of these students! #Cardinalpride

Cheer Team - Took 3rd at UCA Orlando, Florida competition and took 1st at State.

Boys Basketball - Were Conference Champions and then lost in Regional finals.

Girls Basketball - Were Big 8 Conference Champions (tied with Middleton); they were WIAA D-1 Regional Champs and then lost in the Sectional Semi-Finals.

Gymnastics - Were  Big 8 Conference Champions: 4th place at Sectionals and had two state qualifiers.

Boys Hockey - Finished 3rd in their Conference, won the Regional Final, won the
Sectional Semi-Final, won the Sectional Final, and then lost in the State Quarterfinal.

Girls Hockey - Took 1st place in the Badger Conference, won the Regional Final, won the Sectional Semi-Final, won the Sectional Final in two overtimes, and then lost the State Quarterfinal.

Boys Swimming - Took 6th place in WIAA Sectionals and had 7 State Qualifiers.
Wrestling - Were the Big 8 Showcase Dual Champions, Big 8 Tournament Champions, and took 4th place in WIAA Sectionals with three State Qualifiers. Drew Scharenbrock was a WIAA State Champion.
Check out the season schedule for spring sports that are underway.


The High School Production of The Crucible 
was a huge hit.  This story was something 
different than what we have seen of late. The Crucible follows a dramatic story of Sale m Massachusetts in the 17th century, when the in famous witch trials exposed the fear, extremism and greed of the villagers. Marsha Heuer, the Sun Prairie High School Theater and Social Studies Teacher says that this personally was the most challenging and rewarding show she has directed. Thank you to the community for attending this production and supporting our students!


Congratulations to the Cast, Crew, Pit, Production Team and Staff for the 2016 Sun Prairie High School Production of Urinetown The Musical! They won a Tommy Award for Outstanding Musical as well as Outstanding Leading Performance for Reese Clostermery and Dani James and Outstanding Support Performance for Emma Johannson.

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: