This is a time to look back on the year and reflect on what took place, and also look ahead to a new year.

The year 2009 was a busy one for our school district and has put us in a good place as we move into a new decade.

One of the most exciting things to happen this year was our progress toward offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. All our staff have been trained and application made for all grades. The Diploma Program is very close to becoming authorized after a successful visit by a team of reviewers.

Linked to the IB curriculum is improving teacher practice, and to do so we joined the Successful Practices Network. This is a group of schools committed to developing lessons that have rigor, relevance and relationships in them. Our teachers did so well that several of them had lessons published as examples to a nation-wide audience. And speaking of nation-wide audiences, we had two staff members present at the National Charter Schools Conference.

Our charter school (The Global and Environmental Academy) continues to provide project-based education and more engagement in our community. The school received its third state grant — quite an accomplishment since the grants are now very competitive. One of the Charter Board members was recognized at the state level, and the school presented at a state conference.

Continuing on the theme of connection to our environment, the Earth Partnership Outdoor Education program got started this year. A team of teachers, administration and community members were selected to attend training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum to learn about integrating the natural surroundings into the curriculum, and do hands-on student restoration projects. Part of the commitment was to provide community education, and this was successful, with more interesting programs ahead in 2010.

The opportunity to engage our students in their local environment was enhanced by the donation of property to the school district by the Green Lake Conference Center. The property has historical value as well as natural beauty, and will be a great spot for our students to restore.

Looking forward, the commitment by the School Board to maintain and improve our facility is taking a giant stride by an energy efficiency project beginning with replacing 50-year-old boilers. The boiler replacement and other efficiency retrofits will pay long-term dividends through reduced energy costs.

Through fiscal planning and reduced spending, the operating referendum of 2001 was extended beyond the predicted five years. The operations referendum scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16, asks for authority to repeat this financial strategy.

No review of the year could be complete without recognizing the efforts of our students in athletics, activities and academics. The best in the region ACT composite score and outstanding state test scores are a snapshot of the commitments made by our students, parents and staff.

We have a lot to be proud of, and will use that success to meet demands of the future.

Ken Bates is the district administrator for the Green Lake School District.

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