March 31, 2014

By Allan  

Hello Howard Staff,

I hope you all had a rejuvenating spring break and are ready for the last long haul leading up to summer! My wife and I spent a couple days in Seattle and I also let myself set aside professional reading to instead read some pulp, including The Strain (a vampire story that’s being made into a limited TV series this summer) and The End is Nigh (a “pre-apocalyptic” short story collection), though I actually didn’t finish either. I hope you all enjoyed your time off as well.

Thirteen items of note this week:

• Staff Meeting/Design Team Meeting, Thursday, April 3rd at 2:30 – A quick reminder that we’ll be meeting with Yong Zhao during the first part of this Thursday’s Design Team meeting at 2:30 in the library. Most teachers already have a copy of his latest book, but if you’d like to read the introduction, it provides a nice overview of the book and his ideas.

A couple people asked for a link to the one school in Hawaii I mentioned at Friday’s PD, which focuses on project based learned in a similar manner to High Tech Elementary. It’s Noelani Elementary School, which interestingly enough was where Barak Obama attended kindergarten. Their school website is really not all that useful, but their Wikipedia entry has a bit more information.

• Eugene Em’s Reading Incentive Assembly, Friday at 9:00 – This Friday will be the kickoff for the Eugene Emeralds’ Reading Incentive program. The program will run the same as last year, but Shelly will distribute information to classroom teachers on how the program works, which is essentially classroom teachers set a reading goal for students and if students meet that goal, they get two free tickets to attend an Em’s baseball game this summer. For the assembly, we will meet in the gym at 9:00 so Sluggo can motivate kids to meet their reading goals! See the attached assembly map for logistical details.

• Howard T-Shirt School Pride Project – We’re ready to start taking orders for our EEF grant funded Howard t-shirts (white on royal blue). Attached is the order form we’ll run off for teachers send home this week, once I get a logo back from the graphic design folks to add to the form. Also attached is a copy of a shirt size record sheet for classroom teachers to keep track of student shirt sizes as order forms are returned. If forms are not returned, just guesstimate those student’s shirt sizes.

I was able to get a great deal on the shirts from a 1st grade parent who has a graphic design business. He’s only charging us $4.50 a shirt, so that will ensure we get a free shirt for every student and staff member along with a number of extras. Families can order adult shirts, which we’ll charge $10 for so we can hopefully build up a good stash of extra shirts for student as they move in.

And a big thank you to Erin for letting me plagiarize her River Road t-shirt order materials from when she led the same project next door!

• Social Dues Reminder – Since it’s the beginning of the month, I wanted to remind folks who haven’t already done so for this school year to turn in their Social Committee dues (classified pay $15 and licensed pay $25). We’re down to $100 and I expect we’ll be spending at least this much by the end of the year. Check in with Lori or me if you’re not sure if you’ve paid this year or not.

• Staffing Timeline and Survey – Principals will get next year’s staffing allocations this Friday. We have’t gotten an official staffing timeline, but I expect a final plan will be due within a three week period. Depending upon the timeline I’ll plan to hold a short optional stand-up staff meeting Wednesday at 2:30 in the library, to share my initial staffing scenarios and for staff to discuss and give input. We’ll then hold a final discussion during our regularly scheduled Staff Meeting on April 15th.

I’d like staff to complete a staffing survey, which is linked here on Survey Monkey or as a Word file. I’d like to know staff members individual plans and preferences for the future as well as your thoughts on next year’s building-wide staffing plan and master schedule. Please complete this by next Monday, April 7th so I can hear from folks before I draw up potential staffing scenarios to share next week.

Lastly, I’ve shared this earlier about the staffing we’ll receive, but to reiterate, these allocations will assume contract status quo, which will mean a teacher to student ratio increase in the neighborhood of 1 to 30, compared to this year’s 1 to 27 (although if you compare elementary to high school, they had an unbelievable ratio of 1 to 24 this year). We’re projected for about 30 students more than we were staffed for this year, so I expect our overall allocation this Friday will be close to this year’s allocation. Please let me know if you have any questions or ideas you’d like to discuss regarding any of this.

• “Taking it Up” Opportunity – Final call for any staff members wanting to attend “Taking it Up” on April 17th and 18th, 8:00-4:00 at the Ed Center (breakfast and lunch provided). Most certified staff members from Howard have gone through this training, so if you’re not familiar with this seminar, you can ask quite a few staff members about their experience with it. It is a two-day training focused on issues of race and equity for students in our schools. One credit is available from the UO for this seminar (the cost is TBA). The objectives of the seminar are to:

1. Develop a deeper personal awareness about how who you are impacts your work in schools and with students.
2. Deepen your understanding of Oregon’s history and context around race, racism and racial achievement disparities.
3. Become more aware of your own attitudes, values and beliefs about race.
4. Develop a stronger awareness of racism and its impact on yourself and others.
5. Learn skills for talking to other staff, parents and students about race and addressing issues you encounter.

Please let me know by the end of the week if you’d like to attend this high quality seminar.

• PBIS Focus: Encouragement – The April PBIS monthly focus is Encouragement 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.

• 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 has information regarding Summer School (timeline, student selection criteria and teaching opportunities), a couple of nice math articles and lots of compliance work for coordinators.

• Title 1 Summer School Classified/Certified Positions – Mentioned above, there will be opportunities to work at the Title 1 Summer School for staff. If you are interested, you should apply through NeoGov (once it’s posted) and also email the new Summer School principal, Karen Ramirez-Gutierrez, who currently teaches at River Road/El Camino del Rio Elementary, so she can get sense of who and how many folks are interested. Also, because of the program focus on reading support, teachers must hold a reading endorsement, but in the event they are unable to locate enough interested teachers who hold an endorsement, they may shift the primary focus of summer school to mathematics interventions.

• Disparities remain in US schools, report finds – Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that black children have the right to the same education as their white peers. But civil rights data released Friday by the Education Department reflect an education system rife with inequities for blacks and other minority students and those with disabilities. Minority students are less likely to have access to advanced math and science classes and veteran teachers, officials found. Black students of any age, even the youngest preschoolers, are more likely to be suspended. And students with disabilities are more likely than other students to be tied down or placed alone in a room as a form of discipline. ‘‘It is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed,’’ said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. See this Boston Globe article of more details.

• Coding plays larger role in schools around the globe – An increasing number of international initiatives are focused on raising awareness about computer programming in schools. Some advocates say introducing students to coding earlier gives them basic skills employers seek in applicants. Others note that early exposure can help break down stereotypes. “We’re not trying to make everyone a computer scientist, but what we’re saying is, ‘this is how these things work, it’s good for everyone to understand the basics of how these things work …'” said Clive Beale, director of educational development at the Raspberry Pi Foundation in this NYTimes article.

• Serve Up Food Justice – Teaching kids about everything from nutrition to sustainable gardening and workers’ rights is easier than you think. Find out how some schools are planting the seeds of social justice in this Teaching Tolerance article.

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

March 31 (M)
Classes Resume
4:00-5:00, Allan to All Administrator Meeting (Ed Center)

April 1 (T)
PBIS Focus: Encouragement
8:30-12:30, LCC Dental Clinic
4:00-5:00, Allan to IEP Meeting

April 2 (W)
8:40-9:40, OAKS EA Test Security Training (Room 8)
2:30-3:00, OAKS Teacher Test Security Training (Room 8)

April 3 (H)
9:00-10:00, March Book Drawing (Office)
2:30-4:30, Staff Meeting/Design Team Meeting with Yong Zhao (Library)

April 4 (F)
8:30-2:00, 4th grade to Jordan Schnitzer Museum
9:00-9:30, Ems Reading Incentive Assembly (Gym)
10:00-11:00, Allan to 14-15 Staffing Allocations Meeting (Ed Center)

Keep you fingers cross we don’t have too many indoor recesses this week!