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Superintendent fires up Newton teachers to start school year

School board meets, approves hires, transfers

Published: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 11:01 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 11:35 a.m. CDT
(Ty Rushing/Daily News)
Bob Callaghan, superintendent of the Newton Community School District, gave a rousing speech to his staff Thursday morning. He highlighted changes, new policies and spoke on embracing the amount of courage it takes to work in education.

Superintendent Bob Callaghan used a scene from the classic film “The Wizard of Oz” to help inspire his staff at Thursday’s convocation ceremony at Newton Senior High School.

The scene involved the Cowardly Lion finally gaining courage, and displaying courage is the message Callaghan wanted to get across to every teacher in the Newton Community School District that attended.

“I want to make sure that we understand that it takes courage to be in education,” Callaghan said. “It takes courage to do whatever it takes. It takes courage to do the right thing. It takes courage to speak out.”

Callaghan told the crowd that he can’t personally give them courage, but he can give them a medal that represents the trait. Last year during this ceremony, Callaghan and all of the district staff swore an oath and received a pin to ensure they had the students’ best interests at heart.

He is hoping the courage medal will serve as an equally inspiring piece for this year.

During his address, he also highlighted a few of the district’s accomplishments  and new policies that were implemented in his first year at the helm.

Callaghan pointed out more than 100 paraprofessionals in the district are now highly qualified, and how unique this is compared to other school districts in Iowa. The district helped the paras become highly qualified, and he said the paras took more than 100 hours of coursework since April to be ready for the school year.

Another accomplishment he noted is Berg and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools will have six sections of kindergarten and first-grade classes. He said this was in response to teacher and parent surveys asking for smaller class sizes and this gives those buildings an 18:1 or lower student-to-teacher ratio for those grades.

A recent demographic survey of the district indicated that more students in that age range could be attending Newton schools in the near future.

Callaghan reiterated the district’s goals for the new school year, which were passed at Monday’s board of education meeting, and spoke on every building principal taking on the role of instructional leader for their respective campuses.

“It’s going to be a hard thing for everyone. You know how time (consuming) it is, but they are making a commitment to make sure they are in your classrooms, visiting you and giving their support to let you reach kids each and every day,” Callaghan said.

Immediately following the ceremony, the school board met for a quick meeting. The board approved hiring two new crossing guards, placing three sub paras into buildings and hiring Stefanie Hendrickson as a first-grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson.

Contact Senior Staff Writer Ty Rushing at (641) 792-3121 ext. 6532 or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.