The Blog - Page 3 of 3 - Rebuilding For Learning

Home Involvement in Schooling Content Arena

Mr. Jay Pica

Mr. Jay Pica


Dr. Rob Dixon

Co-facilitators:  Mr. Jay Pica, Principal of Logan Middle School and Dr. Rob Dixon, Professor of Psychology at UW-La Crosse




The Home Involvement in Schooling Content Arena consists of community and school district staff. Our goal has been working to support and enhance the learning needs of families and community development.

We know through research and best-practice that having involved families enhances the learning of students. The questions that our group has been answering:

1)    How do we involve all families?

2)    How can we be open and inviting to everyone?

3)    Are there things that we have done to create barriers?

4)    Are there “blind spots” that we need to be more aware of to enhance our partnership with all families in the school district?

Following the most recent Rebuilding for Learning Summit, our group played a role in the creation of the School District of La Crosse Parent Survey. The survey was conducted this past November. A total of 971 responses were gathered.

We learned that 91% of respondents were either Satisfied or Highly Satisfied overall with the school district. Using a response scale of 5=Strongly Agree, 4=Agree, 2=Disagree, and 1=Strongly Disagree, the top district scores were:

  • School facilities are clean and well-kept: 4.49
  • I have at least one school staff member I feel comfortable contacting when I have an idea or concern: 4.39
  • I know how to get school information when I need it: 4.39
  • I feel welcomed at my child’s school: 4.35
  • My school provides appropriate opportunities for parental involvement: 4.34

After our study of the parent survey, we turned our attention to hosting Family Focus Groups. These groups were designed to gather information to help us understand the unique experiences of diverse families and determine any important themes that the district needs to act upon. Three different focus groups were held during the month of May. Thank you to Dempsey Miller andTony Yang (School District of La Crosse Cultural Liaisons) and Henry Greengrass (Ho-Chunk Nation) for supporting these valuable events.

The questions that guided our discussions:

  • What are some things that have been welcoming/inviting to you as a parent/guardian in our district?
  • What are some things that have not been welcoming/inviting to you as a parent/guardian in our district?
  • What suggestions would you have for us to make school better, more inviting to you?
  • What does it mean for you as a parent/guardian to be involved in your student’s schooling?

The Focus Groups provided some very open, rich, and meaningful discussions. Each group provided us with feedback that we will now look at to see if there are common themes amongst groups or very specific areas for certain families that we can put into a course of action plan for our district to better serve all families. More specific findings and the development of an action plan will guide our work over the summer so that it is available to all district staff when they return in the fall.


Community Outreach for Involvement & Collaborative Support

Mrs. Sue Peterson

Mrs. Sue Peterson

We are blessed to live in a community that cares about kids.  A community that is resource rich in service offerings and activities for children and families, a community where donors will open their pocketbooks time and time again to provide outstanding opportunities to less fortunate children.  I am continually amazed at the generosity we see in the Coulee Region.  From food pantries to clothes closets, camp send-a-kid to scholarship banquets, new playgrounds or theaters, this community is generous beyond belief.

With the acceptance of donors’ generosity comes great responsibility.  A responsibility to be a good steward of program and organization funds, a responsibility to provide meaningful and beneficial programs and services, and a responsibility to hire staff that are committed to making a difference and hold true to your organization’s mission.  One of the greatest opportunities to effectively and efficiently use donors’ funds is through collaboration.  In La Crosse, we “do collaboration” well.

Over the past year the Community Outreach for Involvement and Collaborative Support Subcommittee has focused a great deal on collaboration.  What can we learn from one another?  How can we work together more efficiently?  While these questions answer what we do, they also address the more important underlying questions.  Where are the gaps in services for our kids? How will students benefit? What is in the best interest of families?

While many of the organizations participating in this subcommittee offer similar services (i.e. after school programming, tutoring, recreation, youth sports), we agree that there are more than enough youth to go around.  We also agree that there are barriers to participation that must be addressed including transportation, shortage of volunteers, parental/guardian awareness of programs.  We know that to best meet the needs of La Crosse’s youth we must work together to address these issues.

Research tells us that students’ life experiences and opportunities impact student achievement.  Vacations, exposure to various cultures, and interaction with different professionals provides important background information, builds vocabulary, and provides important context for students.  Students living in poverty, nearly half of the students in La Crosse schools, lack these opportunities and therefore are often at a deficit when compared to their classmates.  Organizations like the YMCA, Ho-Chunk Nation, Boys and Girls Club, the School District of La Crosse’s After School Programs, and Hmong Cultural Center work hard to “even the playing field” by providing opportunities and experiences for students.  We know that a student can read that the oceans are filled with salt water, but one mouthful of salty water and the fact will never be forgotten or they can read about the Hoover Dam, but seeing its impressive magnitude makes it and the understanding of water irrigation unforgettable.

One of the goals of the School District of La Crosse is to graduate students who are career and college ready.  The experiences and opportunities youth and family serving organizations provide to students are critical to the school district reaching that goal.  Perhaps Albert Einstein said it best, “The only source of knowledge is experience.”  We are thankful for the partner organizations that build students’ knowledge through enriching experiences, experiences we know will impact their future.

Reminding Ourselves of the Importance of Our Rebuilding Work

As we begin our fifth year in developing our Rebuilding for Learning efforts  – we need to look around to see what outcomes have been made, where we see positive attitudes towards change, and perhaps remind ourselves of the importance of the Rebuilding for Learning work.

Rebuilding for Learning has been described as an effort – but what it truly involves is an active partnership between La Crosse School District, the City of La Crosse, and La Crosse County.  This Partnership involves commitment and vision towards tearing down the educational and developmental roadblocks students or young families may face from within their schools, families, neighborhoods, and even themselves.

Mr. Karl Green

Mr. Karl Green

Through this partnership, six committees are actively working to develop institutional change within each of the participating organizations to better accommodate student educational progress. These six committees – called content arenas, focus on specific components of the public educational spectrum as it relates to students educational and personal lives.  Through a refined and deliberate effort to better align the civic, human and educational services our organizations provide; we begin to better understand both our students and our community’s needs.  Each of our organization’s ability to coordinate our responses between organizations improves the outcomes for young families.


The Rebuilding for Learning effort helps galvanize our partnership by recognizing the important role each organization plays in developing a vibrant, high quality of life  in our neighborhoods, and communities through the development of vibrant, educated young people and young families.


Welcome to Our Rebuilding for Learning Initiative

Superintendent Randy Nelson

Superintendent Randy Nelson

Welcome to the School District of La Crosse’s Rebuilding for Learning website. Our Rebuilding for Learning initiative began more than five years ago and it continues today. Built on the solid research and continuing work of UCLA researchers Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor, Rebuilding for Learning focuses on learner supports for all students, but specifically those who — for whatever reason — are underachieving.

As superintendent of schools, I believe strongly that the plight of our public schools is reflected in our community and that our community is reflected in our public schools. We have a symbiotic relationship which together impacts the health, well-being, and academic progress of our students.

Consistent with the recommendations of Adelman and Taylor, our work has been organized into six working groups:

  • Classroom-based Approaches to Enable Learning
  • Student and Family Assistance
  • Community Outreach
  • Home Involvement in Schooling
  • Support for Transitions
  • Crisis/Emergency Assistance and Prevention

These committees, which include community members and School District of La Crosse staff, collaborate to create supports and efficiencies which allow students, staff, and families to focus more on academic achievement and less on the life circumstances that can inhibit learning.

Our District is indebted to our community and its many organizations that consistently step up in support of our schools, our staff, and most importantly, our students and their families. We are on a journey of rebuilding for learning, and it’s gratifying to know that we are supported by a supportive, servant led community. Through partnerships, collaboration, and cooperation, we are making a difference!


Coordinating Our Services on Behalf of the Community

Mr. Steve O'Malley

Mr. Steve O’Malley

The joint effort of the City of La Crosse, School District of La Crosse and the County of La Crosse to coordinate our services on behalf of the people of the area has been successful in helping us all improve the quality of life of the people we serve. We have found ways over the last six years to be more efficient and effective in purchasing, planning and responding to the needs of our mutual constituencies through improved transportation, health care, human services, economic support, education and the list goes on.
The three year Rebuilding for Learning Initiative is a case in point. The Summits held for the last three years have provided the opportunity for staff at our three organizations to meet over our common interest of finding ways to expand on past successes. Successes that support families and children so that our community’s children have the greatest potential to learn and become adults with high quality of life. No small task.
This website is one part of the larger effort to help us all be aware of sources of information, tools and services that can help each of us be more effective in our effort to prepare youth to be happy and productive members of society no matter what path they choose.
One of these tools linked to the Rebuilding Learning site “Compass Now”. This community needs assessment coordinated by the Great Rivers United Way in cooperation with over 30 public and private organizations and based upon community surveys and key informant groups identifies needs in health, education, economy and community services. It is used as a guide for philanthropic, governmental and private organizations in their long term planning process to improve their efforts to help our community.
Services that the County of La Crosse provides impacts the education of children in our community. We can be sure we are being most effective when we are working in collaboration with our colleagues.

Rebuilding for Learning is an On-Going Commitment

Mayor Tim Kabat

Mayor Tim Kabat

The City of La Crosse is proud to partner with La Crosse County and the School District of La Crosse in the Rebuilding for Learning initiative. For over six years the three organizations have been working collaboratively in five areas: Human Resources; Joint Purchasing; Information Services; Building and Grounds; and Youth and Families. It was out of this larger effort to collaborate that the Youth and Families Sub-Group launched the Rebuilding for Learning initiative. In August, the third annual Rebuilding for Learning Summit was held at the La Crosse Center bringing together our three organizations as well as agencies and service providers for the purpose of improving the lives and opportunities of La Crosse’s youth and families. This work is extremely important and in order for it to flourish, the effort needs to be sustained by a commitment from all three organizations as well as the community.
The Community Outreach for Involvement and Support content arena is closely tied with the City’s (and others) proactive approach to improve neighborhoods. I view neighborhood revitalization as a key component of Rebuilding for Learning. Safer, cleaner and welcoming neighborhoods are the backbone of this City and better neighborhoods will translate into more children coming to school ready to learn. Our approach to community policing, having resource officers in our schools and the DARE program are all examples where the City can help in the Crisis Assistance and Prevention content arena.
I applaud the work of the Rebuilding for Learning initiative and to those who are leading organizational and community change. Rebuilding for Learning is an ongoing commitment to make our schools and our community a place where every child can reach their greatest potential. Please know that the City is just as committed as you are to improving the learning environment of our schools and in improving our neighborhoods. We will continue to allocate resources so we can be actively involved in your efforts.
Each month another Rebuilding for Learning update will be sent to you so that we can keep the momentum going. Next month, look for an update from La Crosse County Administrator, Steve O’Malley. Don’t forget to check the website for resources, news, calendar of events and more.






Origins of Collaboration Efforts

Mr. Larry Kirch

Mr. Larry Kirch

The effort began back in July of 2005 at the recommendation of then Superintendent Jerry Kember.  He had heard about a collaboration effort at the State School Board Convention with the City of Whitefish Bay and the Janesville School District and how that they have worked collaboratively with local government.  At the recommendation of Superintendent Kember and County Administrator Steve O’Malley and Mayor Mark Johnsrud, the collaboration was formed.   The purpose of the collaboration is to improve services to residents and save money for tax payers.

The first meeting was a working session to create a listing of existing/on-going collaborations and a list of “possibilities for new collaborations.”  The existing collaborative efforts and possible collaborations were grouped into six areas and a subgroup was formed around these groupings.

The six sub-groups in the collaboration include: publicity/administration, joint purchasing, human resources, buildings and grounds, client services, and information services.  Over these past five years, the various subgroups have collaborated on items such as joint purchasing of paper, fuel, bringing in national speakers on diversity and government efficiency, discussions on Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), high speed data collaborations, joint Earth Day activities, etc.    The members of the collaboration include the Mayor Mathias Harter, Superintendent of Schools Randy Nelson and County Administrator Steve O’Malley.  The sub-groups consist of the department heads and the administrators of the three La Crosse governmental entities.

The Client Services sub-group name morphed into Children and Family Services as it became clear that the real focus of the sub-group was on improving services and outcomes for children and families in the community and at school.