Rooted in Academics

A Blog by Dr. John Schwartz, Superintendent

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As I write this, a weather alert just popped on my phone. After weeks of dry mild days, the forecast is calling for wind, rain and possibly the first snowflakes of the season. It will be fine. Nebraska’s roots run deep. We can withstand the storm.

Millard especially has proven that we have the strength to stand in a storm, even to press forward and continue to grow in it. The past few years haven't been easy for any school district. It was just as hard on our teachers, staff, students and families. Yet when you look at the data, we came through it quite differently than most. Yes, we had learning loss, but not nearly to the magnitude of other schools throughout the country. Most importantly, we started the work to address the gaps even while we were still managing the response to the pandemic.

How? How was Millard able to do what everyone everywhere was trying to do? I think it was because Millard already had the systems and the strength in place to make it happen. In short, because we are and always have been rooted in academics.

Millard has an incredible track record of keeping the focus where it matters. The district’s commitment to strategic planning started more than thirty years ago. It has always pointed us towards strong academic standards. No matter which neighborhood school is yours, or if you are one of the many families who option into the district and drive to Millard each day, your children receive instruction that has been developed through one of the most rigorous processes you will find anywhere.

Along with the curriculum, Millard’s Board of Education has grown their own strong roots. They have always championed academic excellence while insisting it be balanced with a fiscally conservative approach to the budget. The result? Steadfastness for students and staff, even in uncertain times.

What happens when you are rooted? You have the stability to support growth. For decades we have recruited and retained outstanding staff. Our educators have an average of 15 years of teaching experience. Many of them have furthered their own education - 1,333 Millard employees have earned their master’s degrees and fifty-three hold doctorates. Our dedicated paraprofessionals provide vital support in our classrooms and schools. From food service to custodial and maintenance staff to all the professional technical people you see and those you don’t, we have people who care about kids in our schools every day.

When you are rooted, you are able to build your resources and expand your options. Millard had been a district of choice for decades, offering everything from Montessori to International Baccalaureate. You can try new ways to reach students. With the help of the Millard Public Schools Foundation, the district adopted technology early, going one-to-one and experimenting with a remote learning day before the pandemic.

Everything we do is about helping young people grow to succeed, first in academics, and also in their activities, athletics, and opportunities beyond school. Millard students consistently score well above average on state and national exams. Consider Early College. It made up roughly 25% of our graduating class at Millard South High School last year, and those students graduated twice - first to receive their Associates Degree and then to accept their Millard High School Diploma. Dual enrollment opportunities, meaning classes that offer both high school and college credit, are not limited to Early College. Last year alone Millard students across the district saved nearly $2 million dollars in college tuition and fees.

Can we do better? Absolutely we can. We strive to be transparent, and we embrace feedback. We are in the process of defining what our next stage of growth will look like. The strategic plan renews every five years. It begins like everything else, by putting down new roots. The work has been underway since August with parents, students, teachers, staff, and community members coming together to develop our next strategies and action plans.

There will always be storms. We have the foundation to weather them. We know who we are and what our purpose is. In Millard, we are rooted in academics and grown for success. We are #Proud2bMPS.

Interested in meeting some of the staff who are rooted in Millard? Check out their stories here: I Am Rooted

No one is more rooted in Millard than our families. Do you have multiple generations of Millard graduates and students in your home? We would love to share a picture of your multigenerational Millard family on the Millard Facebook page. Please share which schools they attended or are attending. Share your pictures with us at: