'Any student can learn' in SL schools
While Dr. Paul Tedesco may have been a little nervous about taking the helm as head administrator of Storm Lake Community School District, that all changed once he saw how well things were running.
After all, he took over the reins from one of the best, former Superintendent Dr. Bill Kruse.
That was the assessment Dr. Tedesco offered to Storm Lake Kiwanians Monday. Tedesco introduced himself and offered a glowing first impression of Storm Lake and its school system and particularly how the school and community have embraced diversity.
Tedesco was born in Council Bluffs and received his degree in business education from Wayne State. After his first teaching position in Trenton, Neb., Tedesco obtained his master's in educational administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha then served as principal at Elkhorn-Kimballton. He later served as principal at Ida Grove then attended classes for superintendent certification at Iowa State University and completed his doctorate at Colorado State University.
"The attitude of the staff and the community is tremendous," said Tedesco.
He noted that students were given first priority in the community.
Tedesco remarked about the degree to which Storm Lake has embraced diversity.
"I think the opportunities you have for the students are more than double what they are at other schools for the size," Tedesco said. "Any student can learn. It's a wonderful place to be." He said the school district will likely always need an English as a Second Language program to some degree due to the number of people of other cultures constantly moving into Storm Lake.
Tedesco predicted a steady to slightly growing student population over the next several years. "I don't think there's going to be a huge drop in enrollment," Tedesco said.
Tedesco noted the 60-65 percent non-Caucasian population in the student body and praised the dedication of Hispanic parents as well as parents of other cultures to their children's education.
"They're wonderful people to work with," Tedesco said. "They have such a respect for the school system.'
While student numbers do not appear to be a problem, teacher shortages could be a future challenge, Tedesco said. He said he wants to "try to recruit and retain the qualified teachers" as well as find teachers whose cultures represent the student body. Another challenge the district faces is building a new elementary school, Tedesco said.
Tedesco said there are probably five or six teachers, most at the elementary level, who are bilingual in Spanish and English. "If we can get 35 or 40 percent that can do bilingual, that would be great," Tedesco said.
One concern Tedesco had about non-Caucasian students was their involvement in activities. However, he pointed to his own family and said it was only after his grandparents had migrated from Italy and settled down that his father as a first-generation Italian-American became interested in school activities.
Tedesco said all students should be encouraged to participate in activities. He said the main reason some students may still be in school is the opportunity to participate in athletics or another activity.
Storm Lake Community Schools should get credit for the progress it has made in raising test scores, particularly given the high number of ESL students in the district, Tedesco said. He noted that efforts such as the Reading First program, now in its second year, have raised fourth-grade scores 8 to 12 percent.
Editor's Note: Also at Monday's meeting, Hy-Noon Kiwanis members were given packets of tickets to sell for the Kiwanis Kash raffle. Tickets are $5 with a maximum prize of up to $5,000. Tickets are available from any Hy-Noon Kiwanian, Josh Newhouse at 732-0036, or at the Pilot-Tribune at 111 W. Seventh St. just one block west of Lake Avenue in Storm Lake.
The winner's name will be drawn during the Boys Basketball Jamboree Nov. 19. Proceeds will go toward Kiwanis scholarships, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Children's Miracle Network, the Officer Friendly Program, Field of Dreams, or Santa's Castle.