• The Bluejacket Way

  • Nate Rudolph

    Superintendent Nate Rudolph

  • C-I Schools: Moving Forward Together

    Posted by Nate Rudolph on 5/21/2020

    As educators, we’ve dedicated our life’s work to children and education, so I’ve always felt schools were important to not only educate our students, but to serve our community. The past months have challenged us to do just that.

    Over the last eight weeks, our food services team has provided 110,000 meals for children in our community. Our teachers have held more than 250,000 virtual connections, in addition to countless phone calls and outreach with families who don’t have reliable internet access. Our Distance Learning plan has been guided by a genuine love of children and learning: relationships before rigor, grace before grades, patience before programs, and love before lessons.

    As adults, thinking back on our own experiences, did we learn much from people we didn’t trust or respect? The answer is likely not. As educators, we want our students to know that C-I teachers and staff are advocates for their future and that we truly care about our students and families. It’s about connections. It’s about community.

    On June 5, we are looking forward to graduating an incredible senior class! We will record a drive-up ceremony and replay graduation on YouTube in the coming weeks; please tune in. We’ve known that our C-I seniors are a special group of students who have made it their purpose to care and lead. They have experienced tremendous accomplishments during their K-12 years in Cambridge-Isanti Schools. More recently, we’ve learned some additional lessons about them:

    1. We are graduating self-directed, resilient problem-solvers who are helpful and committed to our community. They have faced uncertainty with persistence and resolve.

    2. They are self-reliant but know how to ask for help when needed. They see an interconnectedness—a sense of community—that many adults discover much later in life.

    3. They know their futures hold complex challenges, which only life long learners can solve. We are #InThisTogether will be a guiding principle that calls them to serve their friends and neighbors.

    Schools have a responsibility for graduating the next generation of leaders: in business, in government, in non-profit and in civic life. And in the Class of 2020, I am confident we have exceptional leaders for the future.

    As a new superintendent, the past months have provided some reflections for me as well:

    1. Our Cambridge-Isanti staff would do anything for our community; they are your neighbors and friends. They have demonstrated compassion and grace, while pulling out the best in each of their students. In tough times, we come together.

    2. Our community deeply supports our students. ​It has been overwhelming to receive a groundswell of support for our seniors, for our schools, and our district. Our most recent Dollars for Scholars success is one of many great examples of this support. Our students are the beneficiaries of the Dollars for Scholars Committee’s dedication and the generosity of our community.

    3. Together, we can do amazing things! Last week, we assembled a community advisory group to think about how our school district can help local businesses jump-start our local economy. We are happy to support local businesses through our communication channels or through community service and are beginning to look into creative ways to help. Please reach out if you have an idea, or if we can be of assistance.

    Looking forward, we have permission from the Department of Education to resume limited summer programming, under strict health and safety guidelines. We are looking into various options and will continue to plan accordingly.

    This pandemic has forced school districts to innovate and problem-solve under ever-changing and unpredictable timelines. In reflection, I am so proud of the work that our teams have done. We will need to continue to think creatively about our future. We recognize that reopening our schools is significant for our students’ education and necessary for the vitality of our community and economy. We are committed to working collaboratively with community leaders, parents, and citizens to do so.

    Twenty years from now, we’ll look back on Spring 2020 and realize its historical significance. It has offered us an opportunity to serve each other and support all in our community, the Bluejacket Way.

    This article also appeared in the Isanti-Chisago County Star.

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  • In this Together, The Bluejacket Way

    Posted by Nate Rudolph on 4/8/2020

    We could have never imagined 30 days ago, the incredible disruption that our families, our schools, our community, and our world would face. I am so thankful for the strong, resilient community we have in Cambridge-Isanti. We are indeed in this together.

    In the past weeks, we have seen incredible energy and drive from our school staff as they pivoted to a distance learning model. We ramped up to deliver meals to children across our community and mobilized our organization for emergency childcare following the Governor’s Executive Order. As our local city, county, school, and hospital personnel have met, I have seen leaders ready to work together— whatever we may face.

    We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know it is essential to focus on child development during uncertain times.

    I shared with our staff last week that our economy may slow, and our school buildings may close, but there is one thing that will not stop: the growth and development of our children. From age three to age 18, our children are at their peak social, emotional, physical, and intellectual brain development.

    The stories children hear will shape the narrative of their lives. The developmental relationships we build will give them the security and confidence to imagine a better future. The experiments they conduct, the discovery skills they develop, the curiosity we nurture in them will lay the foundation for future problem-solving. Most importantly, the connections that build in their brains today map a future of who they will become.

    As educators, we have to focus on the positive and healthy development of our children. So, as our team embarked on distance learning last week, we have asked each of our teachers and staff to prioritize relationships and connections. We want every child to know that we love them and will always support them. Learning doesn’t happen if children are not confident that they are safe and cared for.

    Learning doesn’t happen without a relationship.

    As a school district team, we look at challenges as opportunities. How can we emerge from this pandemic as a stronger community? How can we help our children learn to cope with and overcome adversity? How can we continue to nurture their curiosity and creative problem-solving? How can we help them discover their passion, dive deeply into their areas of interest, and ignite a lifelong love of learning?

    As distance learning began last week, we focused on reestablishing relationships and routines. We are making sure that children have the food they need, access to learning materials, and a human connection with their teachers (via phone or internet).

    Last week, we saw a primary student introduce her class to baby chicks that just hatched at her home. We have seen our middle school students initiate #CIHearts on display—posting blue and white hearts on their home windows as a sign of the Bluejacket Pride. And we saw a Riverside Academy student celebrate graduation during the shutdown.

    When the dust settles on this generational moment, we will be an even better school district. Better at relationships because we have prioritized intentional connections with kids and families. Better at using technology to enhance learning and connections. Better at expressing gratitude and appreciation for a safe, caring, and supportive community for children to thrive.

    Thank you, Cambridge-Isanti, for being strong and supportive. #InThisTogether #BluejacketWay.

    This article also appeared in the County News Review.

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  • Celebrating Achievements

    Posted by Nate Rudolph on 3/13/2020

    Over the past few weeks, Cambridge-Isanti Schools have celebrated School Board Appreciation Week and #PublicSchoolsProud Week. As I think about the foundation of our community and society, I believe nothing is more important than the education of our citizens for the future of our democracy and our country’s economic prosperity. Children in our Cambridge-Isanti Schools are fortunate that our community agrees and shows tremendous support for students and learning.

    I am genuinely honored that professionals from other fields within our community, including finance, business, community development, management, and education give so generously of their time and talent to help lead our schools. I’m talking about our seven school board members, of course. We are fortunate to have the support of an excellent and thoughtful School Board who genuinely embraces our Bluejacket values of honesty, respect, responsibility, self-discipline, and compassion. I’d like to thank Tim Hitchings, Gary Hawkins, Lynn Wedlund, Heidi Sprandel, Aaron Berg, Nicole Johnson, and Carri Levitski for their service to our schools and community. They lead with integrity and make decisions based on the best interest of our students and our community.

    If you follow our schools on Facebook or Instagram, I hope you enjoyed some of our recent #PublicSchoolsProud posts. Our students and teachers are innovative learners who value a well-rounded education, achieve at high levels, and are responsible contributors to our community. They are the leaders of tomorrow.

    We have close to 700 students, grades 7-12, who participate, learn, and perform outstanding music in our bands and choirs. In competitions with other schools and local concerts, they entertain packed performing arts centers, filled with proud relatives and members of our communities.

    Their performances are matched in excellence by our competition One Act Play, which features a cast and crew of 26 Bluejackets students who earned a Starred Performance (the highest rating possible) in the Mississippi 8 Conference and qualified for the Section 7AA Finals. Over the years, our One Act Play has earned many trips to the state high school league (MSHSL) festivals.

    We have 25 students participating and excelling in Math League. Winning the Rum River Division Championship as a team, two of our students finished in the top ten of our division. Congratulations to Jack Larson and Nathan Coc. And in courthouses around the region, we have 18 students who argue and excel in Mock Trial, gaining an appreciation of the Rule of Law from both the defense and prosecution of a legal case.

    For our students who prefer storytelling, prose, interpretation, research, and extemporaneous speaking, our Speech Team is outstanding. With 45 students participating in 13 public speaking categories, our team has won five team championships to start their season. The best is still to come.

    While music, performing arts, Math League, and Mock Trial have been around for decades, our students are also preparing for technology careers — some of which are yet to be invented.

    We have 46 students in middle and high school competing on our robotics teams through the First Tech Challenge (middle school) FTC and First Robotics Competition at the high school. Special congrats to our Robotics’ Team as they won the competition in Duluth, and will be heading to World Competitions in Detroit later this school year. They will also compete at the University of Minnesota in March. Our robotics team routed a path for college scholarships for recent Bluejacket alumni due to the problem-solving skills learned in robotics and excellent preparation for this high-demand career.

    Through all of these co-curricular opportunities, our students have the opportunity to pursue their passions, gain a sense of belonging and purpose, learn teamwork and collaboration skills and gain confidence in their communication skills — the “soft skills” that future employers seek.

    I hope you can see why in Cambridge-Isanti Schools, we are #PublicSchoolsProud, and invite you to follow our Cambridge-Isanti School page on Facebook to follow other accomplishments throughout the year. Thank you for your continued support of our students and our schools.

    This article also appeared in the County News Review.

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  • Looking to the Future

    Posted by Nate Rudolph on 2/3/2020

    It may be the excitement of a new year — or ushering in a new decade — or perhaps it’s the excitement of kindergarten registration season, but I find myself looking forward and thinking about the future.

    What experiences do children need from our schools that will prepare them for the future? What opportunities will the future hold for our children? What are the key skills and characteristics that will prepare them for a future that will look different than what we know?

    It’s hard to predict the future. Who would have thought 10 years ago that the world’s largest hotel company would own no property (Airbnb) or that advanced technology systems such as GPS and precision planting tools would help to enhance efficiency in farming operations? It is safe to say that our children will continue to face rapid change, so they will always need to be learning and adapting.

    I believe the greatest gift we can give our children is to inspire a joy for learning and spark an insatiable sense of curiosity and wonder about the world.

    Each child has unique gifts. If we can help them find and pursue their interests, talents, and purpose, they will be more motivated to pursue excellence and be the leaders our nation needs. Developing in children the confidence to lead, achieve and innovate is core to our mission in Cambridge-Isanti Schools.

    Schools can’t do it alone.

    In my short time as superintendent, I’ve been very impressed with, and excited about, the partnerships and community involvement in our schools. Together, we expand opportunities for kids and learning extends beyond the walls of our classrooms.

    From our partnership with the community college to mentors in the trades, military, agriculture, environmental science, healthcare and business (to name a few), we are so fortunate to enlist the expertise of people whose interests and passions match those of our students. We are thankful for our community partners who love what they do and want to share it with young people.

    The future of education requires us to recognize that each child’s journey is unique. It is our job to help them discover their interests, match learning opportunities with the appropriate pathway, and develop their self-discipline and ownership for learning.

    We must provide a variety of pathways and opportunities for students to pursue their hopes and dreams. As a district, this will take purposeful planning as we move into our future. In doing so, it will be important to continue to partner with our community stakeholders and engage our community to help cast a vision for the future of our schools.

    So, as we begin enrolling the class of 2033 into Kindergarten, we are thinking ahead. By 2050, these Kindergarteners will be the leaders in our communities, businesses, churches, and government. And, if life expectancy continues to increase — these children will live to see the turn of a new century.

    Let’s make sure we instill a love of learning as an essential life-long skill. Let’s help them discover their interests and talents. Let’s expand their opportunities in school and in the community to demonstrate they are responsible, honest, respectful, compassionate and self-disciplined. It’s the Bluejacket Way!

    This article also appeared in the County News Review.

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  • A Season for Compassion

    Posted by Nate Rudolph on 12/20/2019

    As the holiday season approaches, families gather, share meals, reflect on the year, and give thanks for those around them. It is also a time for children to see the importance of community and compassion.

    I’ve been incredibly proud of our students this month (and every month) for what they contribute to our community. Our Bluejacket Way emphasizes five key character traits: compassion, self-discipline, honesty, respect and responsibility. In my mind, this is the season for compassion above all else.

    At each of our schools, students have learned that there are community members among us for whom the holidays are less bright. And our children have learned that they can make a difference in the life of another. For example, our primary schools participated in our annual MINNCO’s Angel Tree donation program which will make several families’ Christmas a bit merrier this season. Our intermediate and middle schools each ran highly successful food drives to benefit our local food pantry and collected nearly 1,500 non-perishable items. Sharing and Caring Toy Drives were held that collected over 200 items for donation. Students and staff were excited when several of our students had the opportunity to Shop-with-A-Cop at Walmart. Our area Rotary and Lions Clubs also partnered with our schools to give each of our third graders a dictionary of their own as well as facilitated a gift drive in the spirit of the holiday season. Our high school student council members worked with our local Family Pathways program to lead a food and fund drive focused on supporting families in our community.

    These acts of kindness and compassion will have a lasting impact on the youth in our community. Educational research tells us that when students are engaged in service to others, they often receive an intrinsic benefit that far exceeds the community benefit of their actions. It’s learning a duty to community that gives youth a sense of pride and helps a community thrive.

    As superintendent, I have the opportunity to count my blessings each and every day as I visit classrooms and witness great things happening with our children. I am in awe of our teachers and staff members who bring out the best in our students each day.

    The next two weeks, however, also bring some worry.

    Winter break —when schools close— can be especially hard for some children and families, even with the holidays. As educators, these weeks weigh heavy on our hearts. We know that dozens of families in our community are homeless, and hundreds of children rely on free school lunch. Facing economic challenges, many families lack sufficient funds to buy winter clothing or fully heat their homes. If a family member is struggling with a chronic illness, mental health issue, or addiction, the holidays may bring added anxiety and worry for kids. And for children who are missing a parent or loved one, the holidays can feel especially lonely.

    There are support services available in our community, and our schools are a primary resource for families in need. So, if you or a neighbor are facing challenges or know families with children in need, please contact our schools. We are a confidential connector to other supports in our community. You are not alone.

    As we give thanks for the love that surrounds us, let’s remember to reach out to others with compassion this holiday season. Check on a neighbor. Ask your child about his/her friends who may need a little support. Invite a family over for a meal if you are able. Pay special attention to the needs of those around you.

    Compassion is a gift that can be given in abundance. I see it everywhere in our community. After all, it’s the Bluejacket Way. Here’s to sharing it with all!

    This article also appeared in the County News Review.

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  • 90 Days In

    Posted by Nate Rudolph on 11/14/2019

    It’s been almost 90 days since I accepted the invitation to join the Cambridge-Isanti Schools leadership team, and I am energized by the passion for learning among our students and staff. There is strong community support for our schools. Everyone I have met shares the same value of providing the best possible education for every student, every day.

    In my visits to our schools and out in the communities, I have seen first-hand that our success is grounded in our core values of honesty, compassion, self-discipline, respect and responsibility – the Bluejacket Way.

    We’ve had a strong start to the school year. Our enrollment continues to grow, with approximately 4,960 students enrolled this year, and our vibrant schools continue to attract families into our communities. Our staff are committed to building strong relationships and meeting the unique needs of students. 

    We had an extremely high turn-out for Homecoming, and our high school continues to be a cornerstone of our communities. I was incredibly proud of our students last Friday when attending the Veterans Day tribute to honor all who have served to protect our freedoms. Our students understand the importance of service and that freedom is not free. We honor and thank those who have served.

    Like many businesses and government entities, our school district is in an era of significant change. Last year, the district cut $4.5 million – more than 5.5% – of our total budget. We are one of the only districts in Minnesota without an operating referendum to supplement the state and federal funding we receive. We are asking our staff to find new efficiencies and do more with less. At the same time, we have unprecedented expectations for student learning.

    In the coming months, our leadership team and school board will be taking time to assess our current state and plan for the future. Based on earlier feedback from parents and staff members, we will be taking a look at our transportation system. 

    We currently run one round of bus routes for all students in the district, while other districts may use the same bus for two- or three-tiered routes each way. We will be looking into efficiency, fairness, time on buses and transfers to see if there might be a better way. 

    We will be surveying parents and staff later this month, with a report due to the board by the end of December.

    Our district has been granted pro bono research by St. Cloud State Professor Emeritus’ Dr. Roger Worner and Dr. Kay Worner for a comprehensive assessment of our enrollment, finances, facilities, staffing and operations. They have worked with dozens of districts in Minnesota and will provide an expert third-party perspective to lay the groundwork for future planning. 

    I had the opportunity to work with both leaders in my doctoral program and find them extremely experienced and reputable. We are so grateful that they are willing to complete the work at no cost to the district as a part of their generous commitment to community service.

    Learning about the district, our communities and your expectations for our students and our schools is my top priority for the year. I promise to work diligently, communicate openly and make myself available to our staff and communities. I trust we can engage in open and respectful communication when challenges arise, and I welcome your feedback. 

    In Cambridge-Isanti Schools, our mission is to develop well-rounded individuals who excel in leadership, achieve at the highest levels and are responsible citizens. We will only achieve our mission in partnership with parents and our communities. I look forward to our work together.

    This article also appeared in the County Star

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