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      Fairfield School District looking forward to meeting educational challenges

      The August heat may be cutting the school days short, but it's not slowing down progress in the Fairfield School District. One week into the school year, staff and administration at every level are working hard to achieve goals for the 2013-2014 year.

      At the elementary level, staff is placing an emphasis on early literacy and making sure every student is reading to grade level. Meanwhile, the middle school is implementing a process of data teams that aims to boost student achievement. At the high school level, students are engaged with Authentic Intellectual Work, or AIW, that aims to increase students' interest in their academic work, maximize expectations when it comes to challenging students in the classroom and promote a positive learning community.

      "We're happy that even though we've had these heat-shortened days, that we're really hitting the academics hard, we're taking a close look at our programs," said Art Sathoff, Superintendent of the Fairfield School District. "We're in the second year of our regional career academy that we run in cooperation with Indian Hills and Cardinal High School and Harmony High School, so that's exciting for our kids. There are just a lot of good things happening in terms of curriculum and staff development and facilities in the district."

      As with most districts across Iowa, Fairfield is figuring out how the newly passed education reform bill will affect the curriculum - especially implementing the teacher leadership and compensation program.

      "I think it's more of an opportunity than it is a challenge, really," Sathoff said. "We'll go ahead and submit an application for planning grants September 13 when that becomes available and get a committee together and start talking about what that teacher leadership structure will look like in our school. And that's something that we've really kind of batted around the last few years and we have sort of different leadership structures and different levels in place now and I'm really kind of looking forward to the opportunity to get intentional about that, so it'll be a lot of work and a lot of conversation, but I think it's a great opportunity."

      Of course, a new school year never begins without challenges, but with an eager and dedicated staff, it's all about continuous improvement.

      "Really, it's just the daily challenges that staff wants and embraces of getting better all the time, continuous improvement and not just relaxing because we have a good school," said Sathoff. "We have the right staff for that, we have a great teaching staff and administrators who are pushing them and it's a challenge we look forward to, but our vision is creating tomorrow's dreamers, thinkers and leaders and that doesn't come easily, so we want to keep working very hard at that."

      Sathoff said the district is also looking into launching a one-to-one initiative and phasing in new technology over the next couple of years.