March 3, 2014

By Allan  

Hello Howard Roadrunners,

This week is Classified Employee Appreciation Week and I want to express my gratitude to our wonderful classified staff member. Without your contributions, our school would not be what it is today. Your hard work, support, and everything you do above and beyond the call of duty has certainly not gone unnoticed and is greatly appreciated!

Thirteen items of note this week:

• Design Team Update – The Design Team met last week to give input around some site layout decisions (no interior space discussions this time). The first area we looked at was the parking/pick-up area layout. The city allows for around 75 parking spaces for a building of our capacity, but we are allowed to increase that number up to 20%. We’d previously requested the maximum number of parking spaces allowed, which is 94, and this is what’s on this plan. This plan also kept the large pedestrian area by the front entrance and kept the bus loop near the Life Skills classrooms, which were both important to us, but the revised plan better directs people towards the entrance and has a better set-up for pause parking.

Looking at the above map, you can also see that the new gym/cafeteria wing will butt up against the current building where Rooms 4 and 5 are located, so these rooms will unfortunately be demolished over the summer. In terms of relocating people in this wing, Jennifer and I have talked about her moving the counselor space into the back part of the Library IMC. Kelly and I have talked about using the Library and the Title 1 classroom for BEST after school. We’re still working on a good place to store their materials for the year. Carolyn and I have talked about her sharing the TSS space in Room 12 for ELD groups. If the staffing ratio stays the same for next year, we should be able to add a third 1st grade class next year (and keep three kindergarten classes as well). This means Rooms 1, 2 and 3 would all become 1st grade classes. However, since the first round of staffing will likely come out before negotiations are finished, the first round of staffing will probably assume status quo on the contract and we will end up with a higher student:teacher staffing ratio at first. But I digress into unpleasant subjects.

The Design Team also began looking at some landscaping elements (landscape map) in more detail. One element we looked at was a path leading all the way around the building, but we asked for there not to be a path leading from park to the track & playground area, which district staff agreed with as well. This would still keep the community path from Howard Ave. to the park. Also around the entire building will be a fire lane, which is required, but it will be a “soft lane” which is hard packed gravel with a layer of soil and grass on top, so visually it will look like a grassy space but could potentially function as a road if needed. Another nice change is the space between the building and the houses to the south was increased to 60 feet, giving the first floor rooms more light and also giving the neighbors more separation from our two story building. Another nice improvement being looked at is putting a very wide “shared use path” along Howard Avenue, which would run the entire length of Howard and Kelly. This would be a 10 foot wide sidewalk space for bikes and pedestrians, which would be a vast improvement over the line simply painted on Howard Ave. right now. A portion of this would be paid for out of an SRT grant, so it wouldn’t come out of our Howard bond funds.

The most exciting part of the landscape design discussion were the opportunities for the courtyard areas. Taking some ideas from the Boston School Yard Project, focused on outdoor learning spaces, we’re looking at incorporating into the design ways to help facilitate teaching and learning, such number lines along the steps to the outdoor eating area, elements that match the science curriculum, and even incorporating a dry creek bed that would have water flow from rainwater collection. Be sure to let your reps know your thoughts about what types of things you’d like to see in the courtyard!

• “Taking it Up” Opportunity – There will be an opportunity next month for any staff member interested in attending “Taking it Up” who have not already attended. The two-day seminar will be offered April 17th and 18th. Downtown is paying all of the registration fees and I will pay for substitutes if any of you would like to attend this excellent two-day experience. Two graduate credits will also be available. For those not familiar with “Taking it Up”, it is a provocative seminar focused on helping educators, school board leaders, and community members deepen their understanding of the institutionalized racist barriers that hinder elimination of Oregon’s racial achievement gap. This focus on working from the inside out will challenge participants to step out of their comfort zone and create new entry points for becoming aware of, understanding, and interrupting inequitable policies and practices in our schools. Please let me know by the end of the month if you would like to attend this high quality and challenging workshop.

• Informal Teacher Observations – My schedule this week is surprisingly light, so my hope is to get into classrooms to complete a fair amount of informal observations, so don’t be surprised if you see me in your room this week with my iPad out.


Just kidding! :)

• Mixed Bag Fundraiser – If you didn’t catch it in the Site Council minutes or at a PTO meeting, the PTO is conducting a low-key fundraiser (no assembly or complicated prize schemes) selling handbags. There will be envelopes in teacher mailboxes on Monday to pass out, which will contain directions, in English and Spanish, for families on how the fundraiser will work. All teachers need to do is pass these out on Monday and collect the envelopes as they are turned in.

• PBIS Focus: Safe Bodies – The March PBIS monthly focus is Safe Bodies and don’t forget about the PBIS/CFK Cheat Sheet, which matches our monthly themes with Caring for Kids class meeting lessons. This is an easy way to tie the two activities together.

• Sara Cramer Working from Howard Monday, March 3rd – Sara Cramer has been trying to get out into schools more this year and this Monday she will be doing her district work out of Howard.

• OBOB Regional Tournament Saturday, March 8th at 9:45 – If you’d like to cheer on team Pie, our OBOB finalists, at the regional OBOB competition, it will be this Saturday at Thurston High School, with the kickoff assembly starting at 9:45. Go Pie! And don’t forget about our entrants in the UO Science and Invention Fair 2014, also this Saturday from 11:00-4:00 at Willamette Hall at the UO!

• Title 1 Newsletter
– If you’d like to know what’s happening in Title 1 from the district perspective, here is the latest Title 1 Newsletter that went out to all Title 1 Coordinators and principals. This month’s issue includes info on this year’s summer school and a good math article that I shared back in October.

• The Eugene Concert Choir Outreach Program – ECCO music education program is in its sixth year of bringing choral singing to local schools. They are available to make classroom presentations between March 4 – April 18th. At their presentation, they will teach students to sing “This Land Is Your Land” while introducing musical concepts as part of performance singing. See this letter and application for details, but if you have questions, contact ECCO at or at (541) 687-6865.

• Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness Program – If staff are unfamiliar with this, there is a federal program to forgive student loans for teachers/staff who have taught five consecutive years at a low-income school (30% or more students on FARM). To begin a loan forgiveness process, each individual teacher/staff member must contact their lenders directly and ask to begin the process. Staff can begin the process at the end of their fifth year of full-time employment. Here is a link to the ODE website with information about the program and here is another link to a federal website that’s a lot clearer about how the program works. And if you’re curious, we’ve now surpassed Chavez with 85.5% of our students on FARM.

• Sticking With Students: Responding Effectively to Incorrect Answers – In this Education Week article, New York City reading specialist Brooke McCaffrey describes a common classroom sequence: the teacher poses a question (“Who can tell me the part of the spider’s anatomy that it uses to spin a web?”), calls on a girl, gets an incorrect answer (“The spider’s abdomen?”), moves on to another student who answers correctly (“The spinnerette”), and notices that the first student slumps in her seat, visibly discouraged. Better to stick with the first student, says McCaffrey, but it has to be done strategically. Here’s one approach:

“Wow, Sarah, that’s excellent thinking. The body part that the spider uses to spin webs is located in the spider’s abdomen, so you were very close. However, the answer was not quite right. It’s a long word and it starts with /sp/. Would you like to try again?”

The teacher could also restate the question and/or give the student some additional think time. All of these strategies convey to the student, I believe in you. I will not give up on you. I have high expectations for you.

• How diverse is your classroom library? – Libraries that highlight only certain kinds of beauty, protagonists or families send harmful messages to the children whose experiences they exclude. See this article and ensure that your classroom library reflects the diverse voices and perspectives that make up the world we live in.

• Schedule of Events for the Week – See the Google Calendar for future events, but here are the events of note for this week:

March 3 (M)
Classified Employees Appreciation Week!
PBIS Focus: Safe Bodies
ELPA Testing for ELD Students
Sara Cramer working from Howard
2:30-3:30, Allan to IEP Meeting
3:30-5:00, Allan to All Administrator Meeting (Ed Center)

March 4 (T)
2:30-3:30, PBIS Meeting (Room 22)
2:30, Architects Visiting South Wing (Rooms 3,4,5)

March 5 (W)
Regular Day

March 6 (H)
2:30-3:30, Team Collaboration Time

March 7 (F)
6:00-7:30, Partners for Sustainable Schools Movie Night (Gym) CANCELLED

March 8 (S)
9:45, Oregon Battle of the Books Regional Competition (Thurston HS)
11:00-4:00, UO Science and Invention Fair 2014 (Willamette Hall, UO)

March 9 (SU)
Daylight Saving Time (spring forward)

It seems crazy that it’s already March! Just April and May and then it’s practically summer!