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Superintendent Keith Jacobus viewpoint: 'It takes a village' just as relevant today

Last week the National Merit Scholarship Corp. informed us that 11 of our high school students are 2017 National Merit Finalists. These talented students are part of the approximately 15,000 high school seniors from around the country who have been named finalists. They will continue to be considered for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship to be announced later in the spring. More than 1.6 million students enter the competition by taking the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) test. Being named one of the finalists is an impressive honor and we wish our students the best of luck in being selected as Merit Scholars.

Recently, Woodbury Middle students took part in History Day by researching and presenting in-depth information on historical people or events of their choice. Their research was commendable and represented a strong personal connection to their topics and a keen eye for accurate and supportive documentation regarding the conclusions and findings they reported. The projects were so much more than what you may think typically represents a report or presentation. They reflected more of a yearlong capstone project and simply "knocked the socks off" some of our adult guests due to the high-quality work of middle school students.

Juliana Vlecek from Red Rock Elementary recently received a perfect score in the first of three meets in this year's WordMasters Challenge. The challenge is a national vocabulary competition involving nearly 150,000 students from around the U.S. Juliana joined only eight other third-grade students in the country who earned a perfect score of 20 on the challenge. I wish I had Juliana's command of the language to find an appropriate accolade to express the magnitude of her achievement.

Along with the stellar academic achievement our students demonstrate, we also have a strong spirit of community service and a willingness to help others through leadership on school, district and community projects. I would encourage you to watch our video series, "Together we are SoWashCo." Our latest video highlights Essence Dohbila, a fifth-grader at Newport Elementary who has distinguished herself as a competent, dedicated learner and a kind and caring leader. Essence's focus on doing her best in the classroom and setting high goals for herself has made her a role model for others. She enhances the culture and climate of the school through her willingness to lead and model a positive, goal-oriented attitude.

I share these examples of outstanding academic and personal achievements as a fraction of the impressive work our students, with the support of our staff accomplish in the classroom, and through nationally normed and judged competitions. Our weekly news is brimming with examples of the high-quality work our students consistently demonstrate. We also have many students who never reach the level of recognition afforded to some, yet every day they contribute to our system and community through their dedication and positive attitude. For some, school is enormously difficult but these students continue to work hard and teach us how important it is to never give up in all of our efforts. Sometimes their struggles go unnoticed, yet their contributions to our system are invaluable. We could not have the great schools we do without them.

"It takes a village to raise a child" is just as relevant today as it was decades ago. As educators, we can't help these fine scholars, leaders and learners achieve at the levels they are without the support and guidance of their families and the community. We are so fortunate to have a community committed to education and learning. New challenges and difficulties not encountered before through a higher level of expectation for success have ratcheted up the complexity and pressures of society and schools. This creates issues for us unrelated to the education of our students and uncommon to school leaders in the past.

As we face these many challenges together, we will continue to focus our priorities on the classroom to ensure our students continue to receive a high-quality education. We appreciate the love and commitment our families have for their children. We appreciate the support of the community who helps us through our efforts. Together we can succeed in areas where alone we may not. Together, we are SoWashCo!

Keith Jacobus is superintendent of South Washington County Schools.