Mornings with McGeeney – Meeting notes

Thank you to all of our parents that were able to attend our first Mornings with McGeeney meeting of the year.  We had some great conversations, which are recapped below.  Please reach out to any of the people referenced in the notes, or contact us at board@chepta.org if you have further questions or would like clarification on anything addressed.

Have a great weekend!

Mornings with McGeeney – Oct 12, 2017
Updates for happenings this fall

Disney Magic is the theme this year. How do we infuse magical moments into learning?   Make kids feel special.

Staffing:

New Faces:
Kim Albers – Office Manager
Molly Keil – 2nd Grade
Shannen Reide – 3rd Grade
Shannon Liptak – Kindergarten
Kate Sharp – Kindergarten
Mike Day – Playground assistant

New places:
Kim Leingang – 3rd to 4th
Darla Craig – 5th to 4th
Jena Rucks – 4th to 2nd

Adjusted Smarter Balanced Scores:

We had a number of students that were moved to the “highly capable” program at Browns Point. With those children moving to a different school, it does affect our score numbers (When we pull some of the highest performing students, we need to adjust our scores to get an accurate comparison year over year).

ELA (English Language Arts):

2016    2017    adjusted
3rd:      64%     53%     50%
4th:       69%     54%     51%
5th:       63%     67%     63%

 

Math:

          2016    2017    Adjusted
3rd        70%     63%     60%
4th        61%     58%     54%
5th        54%     49%     45%

Think Kind! Our theme this year is on kindness! Promoting Kindness with the kids in our daily interactions, both at school and out. PTA sponsored a “Think Kindness” assembly and we did 3500 acts of kindness, and raised almost $600 for Hurricane Relief. We will do additional in-house Kindness challenges in November/Holiday and Spring Break.   We will continue to honor those who demonstrate Kindness at our Student of the Month assemblies.

Watch Dogs is back!   We are looking for dads to participate! Jobs would include helping on playground, monitoring the lunchroom, helping in classrooms. The kids love to see the dads in the building. We hope to start on Nov 1st.   Contact Jaimie Smith at jsmith5@tacoma.k12.wa.us if you are interested in participating!

 

Questions from the audience?

Topic: Class sizes, registration, class splits:
2nd Grade Headcounts: Is there any talk of another teacher? Classrooms are really full (two classes at 28 kids, one at 27. At this point, the answer is no from the district.

Is there any way to push back on that decision? Sean suggests to call the district. Generally there isn’t any change after the 3rd Friday (after the start of school) deadline. Parent is very concerned about the over-crowding.

Kindergarten: Parents didn’t hear that the class was split, if they weren’t moving. Sounds like only the kids that were moving were notified. Sean made the assumption that if you didn’t receive a call or notice from him, that nothing was changing. Every parent personally whose child was moving received a personal phone call from Sean, but he realizes that we could have contacted all parents and apologized for any confusion by those families that did not change classrooms.

Why doesn’t the school office have summer hours, so that parents can enroll their kids? It’s hard to enroll on the 1st day of school. There is no instruction on the CHE website (or district website), no note on the door that says when the building will reopen. There’s no direction on how to enroll. When the building does reopen in late August, our office staff is overwhelmed with enrollments that may affect how our headcounts are reported.

Suggestion: Change the www.crescentheightshuskies.org website to say “Here’s how you enroll during the summer months”. It’s been a distraction for everyone at the start of this year.

There has been a buzz in the community about the classroom overcrowding, teacher displacements, etc. (both at our school and others). How can we better prepare for influx of students at the start of the year? Is that not built into the plan? How can we prevent this?
A: For the last two years, in the spring we get a projection per grade level, and the district makes a projection of number of teachers. Two years ago they projected us over 500 kids. Typically we run at about 475. Last year projection was 450.   The total numbers are “there” but the grade levels can shift.

Once numbers are locked in the spring, that’s what we open the doors with in August. We report numbers on a daily basis to the district. By contact, they have the first three Fridays to make any shifts. There are meetings each day where student headcount is reviewed.   We were expecting a displaced teacher to fill the fourth Kindergarten slot, which would have been a faster turnaround.   There were too few displaced teachers, so we had to post for a job and wait for that process to play out.

Sean is on an Advisory panel with other principals and this topic came up. There has been brainstorming of different suggestions on how to handle heavy classrooms in the fall…is there a pool of teachers that are available? (I.e., there are qualified, vetted teachers sort of “waiting” for positions to open throughout the district so that when a spot does open, we can move quickly.) The state has a formula for teacher salaries that determines how much is budgeted to districts. Teacher salaries vary greatly based on seniority (a longer tenured teacher makes more than the projection, where a brand new teacher makes less). Tacoma typically sits about 10% higher on teacher seniority than the state projections, so we receive less funding and are under budgeted for the next few years. The district is working from reserves/savings this year, but we are projected to be under budget by more than $4M next year as well.

CHE budget is 18% lower than last year. We have lost one playground assistant, PARA hours were cut, less paper handouts, etc. What’s our enrollment? 470. We were at approximately 490 students at the end of last year. Again, the “building” headcount is fine but there is a “miss” when it comes to projecting which grade levels the teachers are needed in.

It’s about, people care about class sizes, headcounts, projections, etc., but are busy, how can we focus our efforts to push for change? Is this something that PTA can assist with? Yes! PTA is at its heart an advocacy organization. We have not had anyone interested in leading our Advocacy/Legislation efforts for many years. Lori Reed will contact council and state PTA for guidance about how we start this process.

Last year there was talk of closing Kobetich. Our community is known for pushing hard and we came together and used our voices to save the library from closing. We need to gather and advocate and put pressure on district. 1st grade was at 27 last year (cap), numbers showed that we will need another teacher. Why aren’t they accounting for the numbers?
A: Resources are different on this side of Tacoma. District has a perception of us (affluent, “Low maintenance”, “easy”.) We are trying to show them the reality of our community and economy. Example: Need for the NE Tacoma Healthy Kids Coalition, serving over 100 children per week that need help with having food to eat over the weekend. Our fastest growing population at Crescent Heights is second language family. (We have several new students that do not speak any English at all; finding resources for them, social assistance, etc).

Suggestion was made that we make a proactive effort to onsite to Norpoint Co-Op, Kindercare, etc. and help families enroll in the spring. This would help us to better understand family’s enrollment intentions earlier in the year. Let’s nurture relationships and welcome families.

Other:
A parent has seen discussion via the BPIC (Browns Point Improvement Club) that there’s a move to incorporate NE Tacoma but it sounds as if community doesn’t want to be incorporated. If this happens, does it affect TSD in any way if we are, or if we are not incorporated? Sean is not familiar with that movement/discussion. We’d need someone that’s super familiar with the political process. Likelihood of our NE Tacoma schools “leaving” the Tacoma School district is very slim.

A parent has heard that here is some talk about redrawing district lines (BP, NET, CHE) with the construction of the new BP Elementary school (and it being built essentially “same size”) – no room for growth. Sean has not heard solid conversation around that.

Busing Discipline:
A parent described an incident on the bus, there was some back & forth between some kids. If the bus driver can’t handle a conflict on the bus, what’s the next course of action?
A: Bus service is a contracted service via Durham Bus. The district pays them to run the bus service. They have their own disciplinarian (principal). It starts with the bus driver, then their own “principal”.   Sean can’t “consequence” that behavior, we can talk and encourage kids on behavior but we can’t directly discipline. We work with the bus drivers to help them manage behaviors on the bus (I.e. CHE staff stepping on the bus before departure after school and reminding about HUSKY Pride and behavior expectations).

What’s the best way to find information about what’s happening at the school?
A: Husky Connection! Husky Connection is a newsletter sent out each Sunday night – it is all content from Sean combined with info from PTA, and sent out from PTA. If you are not signed up, do so at chepta.org.

Parents asking for Sean to do a robo call as well.  Mirror Meeker and Stadium’s process (They receive a phone call with the same message as the email).  Can a parent do this for him? Possibly.

There’s no analytics on how many messages are listened to, only that they all went out.

Action: PTA will send another “sign up” flyer home.

Leverage the room parents to communicate with classroom parents to sign up

Sean to send an email from his email list to all parents, encouraging them to sign up for HC. (His email distribution list includes all parents, where as the Husky Connection distribution list only includes those parents that have “Opted in” to our communication.

Ask teachers to include a blurb in their next few newsletters to ask parents to sign up.

Are teachers allowed to use class Dojo (An app that teachers can use to communicate with parents)
A: District blocked it via policy. No 3rd party platforms. (There was an issue that the app was hacked and inappropriate content was sent out).

Parent: That conflicts with the philosophy to reduce costs, printing…. We need to figure out a longer-term solution of improving communication with teachers/families. We continue to contradict ourselves, and seem hesitant of technology when we claim to be “cutting edge”.

Can the CHE website be updated? Teacher pages, class pages? There are many outdated teacher pages and several new teachers that aren’t listed.
A: Mrs. Craig is the staff person in charge of the website. Can PTA put helpers together to help teachers that maybe aren’t as tech savvy? They need to be updated. Being able to reference homework, especially for the older grades, would be great.

Metro Parks basketball: The gym condition – floors are stripped. Almost impossible to run practice, the floor is really slippery. Floors are waxed three times per year. Summer: Christmas break, spring break. We can adjust the schedule if necessary. Maybe we can skip the Christmas break waxing that takes place right before Basketball season.

How do we get more parents involved in the school, classrooms, PTA initiatives?
A: We need people that are willing to do the work. We need to build the community. There tends to be lots of talk about plans/action but when it comes time to execution, the same small group is the only ones that show up. PTA cannot do it all on their own.

Is there discussion/plants to change the math curriculum? Sean is on the district standards team. The team would like to build a framework to guide teachers and instruction, prioritize standards, summarize. Next year, there will be a RFP (Request for proposal) for curriculum, then the year after that would be implementation. Sean is leading monthly Personal development for staff about best practices in mathematics.

Is there any type of “Walk to read” type of setup for Math – grouping students with similar skill levels. Keeping kids challenged? Studies show that kids do best in a heterogeneous group – keeping all kids high to low all together. Outside of the regular 110 minutes of reading, they have another 30 minutes of targeted instruction for emergent readers and those that need additional support.

Have we contemplated doing something similar with Math? (Additional instruction time)?
A: Working to find the balance and best practices. Guaranteed 60 minutes for math. Identifying strengths and differences in the kids and helping them, before January.

Is there a coordinator for after school activities? Coding, Sunshine, etc? Kids want to do more than one activity, but they have to pick due to scheduling.   What’s the best way to find out about after school activities? There is not much communication.
A: No one coordinates a master calendar. Can this be added to Crescentheightshuskies.org? What about PTA website? We want to have “one version” – no redundant or conflicting information. Lori will talk to Darla about implementing a calendar on the school website or PTA website.

Volunteer opportunities from PTA – I want to help, but don’t know where to go.
A: There are always lots of volunteer opportunities between school and PTA. We have a parent that volunteered to help with a before/after school webpage and volunteer opportunity web page.

Health issues: Norovorus, lice, etc. When do we send home letters to help parents plan preventative care?
A: District policy is that the issue has to exceed 10% of the classroom (essentially 3 or 4 kids) before a letter is sent home to families. What we do in advance of that, internally, when we have a stomach bug or lice, as an example, custodian staff receives instruction to do a deep clean with kid friendly chemicals that sit overnight and sanitize. (All classrooms are cleaned daily but a “deeper clean” is done weekly or as needed (as in the example above).

When there are reports of lice, why can’t we clean classrooms earlier? Remediation of lice, in particular, is expensive.
A: Lice is a “nuisance” not a health threat (per the Health Department).   We suggest to parents to come get their child, but we can’t “require” them to go home. We have social workers to help families that can’t afford the treatment. Sometimes parents don’t even notify the school that there was an issue until they are out “sick” for a day, and we hear after the fact that it was due to lice or a bad stomach bug.

Can we separate kids items (coats, backpacks, etc) in cubbies, is that facilitating the spread?
A: Teachers will have kids hang their coats on the back of chairs, etc. if there is a known outbreak in a classroom. Space is limited and most classrooms don’t have available cubbies for individual students.

 

 

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