Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tech Cohort 2 Summer Training

We hope this BLOG finds you enjoying the summer sun and time to re-energize. We wanted to send an exciting note to everyone letting you know that our laptops have arrived! Our Tech Cohort 2 is on schedule, and we are really looking forward to getting everyone on board with the new instructional tools.

As we shared in our May meeting, we will be compensating everyone for the training time this summer. We have budgeted 8 hours for each staff member at $25 per hour. The plan is to have everyone come for the first meeting “Care and Feeding of your Mac” for four hours. Then, after that initial session, the other two training sessions will be 2 hours each. Following each session, we will be sending everyone off with assignments geared to familiarize you with use of your laptop. It promises to be fun.

Each session will be held in the library media center and start at 9:00. We will provide pizza on each training day, so bring your own drink. The dates for the sessions are:
Session 1: June 22nd (4 hours)
Session 2: July 20th (2 hours)
Session 3: August 10th (2 hours)
A make-up session will be offered on July 30th. If you are unable to attend the first four-hour session, we will be able to provide a small group at your first attended session.

In addition to our TPACK (technological, pedagogical, content knowledge) training, Benton staff will be focusing on student management and motivation next year in our School Improvement Plan (SIP). We are bringing in Jim Knight and company to help us get to the center of what it takes to keep our kids motivated and focused in our classes. One goal is to create a school-wide management system that we can all use to build the best instructional environment for our students all while ensuring that they stay enrolled in school and make it to their graduation day.

We are really looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks. Dress is completely casual for this training – flip flop appropriate, as I like to say.

Until June 22nd…
Jeanette, Jeff, Luke and Sean
(For the new folks: feel free to contact us at school at 816-671-4030 or log-in at either of the following sites:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Back in Business & Ready to Roll!


We have so many things to celebrate, I figured we might might as well make a week of it! I hope
you all love it. We missed National Teacher Week and Day last week with all the EOC testing and meetings, but we are not going to miss it entirely. Jeff, Luke, Z and I are going to help you celebrate you by hosting FOOD all week long! The menu will follow.

ALSO, we missed Secretaries Day the week before -- and you all know we can NOT do without
them! I officially declare WEDNESDAY of this week to be for the secretaries. You should bring them presents or give them hugs or something. They really do make the world turn at Benton. Please celebrate with me.

We have award winners in our midst that we need to celebrate! On WEDNESDAY, we will have
an assembly during 5th hour (unless Z overturns this decision and changes the day). During that assembly, we will honor CHOIR state winners, BAND state winners, INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY state winners, and JROTC will present their special routines (Stackhouse and Rivera, you decide which routine to display). If I've missed any students that should be honored -- email me ASAP and we'll put them on the agenda.

On Friday, we have our Scholarship Assembly to honor our award winning seniors. Please
thank our counselors (particularly Nancy), as they put a TON of work into this! After the assembly, our NHS seniors will be honored with their end-of-year picnic. Be prepared for those seniors to be out of class Friday afternoon.

It's time to share leadership. Starting on Tuesday (after school, the room next to my office), we are going to begin planning the CAMP for next year. This is a MAJOR initiative for Benton for 2009-2010. If you want a voice, leadership experience, or an opportunity to direct how BHS operates next year, you might want to be there.

Climate Control Committee:
With our new technological trend, I see this committee being analogous to upgrading to a digital thermostat. It's time to upgrade how we respond to "hot" items in our building -- from our high failure rate, to classroom discipline, from dropping attendance, to our our ever increasing alternative school referral and drop out rate. This committee provides another opportunity for leadership. If you have an opinion on any of these topics, this committee is for you. We are meeting after school on Thursday (in the office next to mine).

Professional Development in 2009-2010
Your department should be talking about this pretty often by now. Our School Improvement Plan is due by June 1st. Your Department Improvement Plan is due now. Our goals remain the same, but the SIP goal committees have made a few changes in strategies and action steps. I think you'll like them. The goals remain as follows:

1. Close the achievement gap. These really lands on department best practices, changing practice in order to improve our testing data (ie. include ACT in curriculum AND begin to work on improving benchmark scores) and identifying students who are really at risk and doing something REALLY different for them.
2. Improve our graduation rate (we have to keep our kids in school at Benton)
3. Improve our attendance rate
4. Implement a four year technology plan (we are in year two, and as of last week -- we will be able to continue our implementation bringing on all staff with constructivist learning using Web 2.0 tools)

The district is changing the way they do business in the way the offer PD for content areas. Next year, each department will be given time to focus even more on their best practices and will have the funding to do so. There will be additional district department PD times. Look for the dates and times from your coordinators and department chairs.

Power School PD -- Power school is our new student information system that will roll out on June 8th. Principals and secretaries will be trained over the summer, but expect training at the beginning of the year. This web-based system will take a little getting used to, but it will be a great asset to our improvement plan.


May 31, 2009; 7:00 p.m. @ Civic Arena
This year, all three high schools will offer formal ceremonies with staff participation in the processional. It makes for an incredible memory when our students see their teachers at graduation for one last hurrah! I hope you all can carve an hour or so out of your schedule to share this time with the Class of 2009. If you plan to attend, please contact Debby Fry as soon as possible to reserve your gown. We will have a short video and directions for all staff members participating in order to make sure everyone is comfortable with the entrance. I promise, you will not be disappointed if you can celebrate this one last time with your students!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 12 & 19: Too Sad To Speak

Sorry so silent, Cardinals. It's been a tough few weeks with our levy and bond initiative failing. I've finally informed all staff who will not return of their future. The cuts are still not set. Fees will rise. I will post our future plans soon.

I appreciate your continued efforts for our students. You are true professionals.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Week 29: One Day

April 7th: Vote Yes Twice

As I sat in church this morning, Darrell Jones, my pastor, shared how this week was the church's week -- with a celebration of Palm Sunday to start it and Easter Sunday to complete it.

It is not lost on me that the election for the school district levy and bond falls within this encapsulated week. It's a powerful thought. As my pastor shared passages from Luke, he made a statement that seemed to have a double message in my life:

"It's about you and me making a difference in the Jerusalem in which we live."

I have always felt called to make a difference in the lives of children. I work hard to make that difference matter. I have felt God's grace in my efforts. As Pastor Darrell finished up, he asked us to "recognize the significance of the day." He is, obviously, referring to Easter -- but in my life, there was a double message in that statement.

Tuesday is also a significant day in our lives . It will, in many ways, determine the future of the city in which many of us live. It absolutely will affect the place where we all work. It's time for the Benton staff to make a difference in our community. We must get out and vote on Tuesday. This really is about you and me making a difference in the community in which we live.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week 28: The Future Looks Like This!

Great Find!

Kerry Shepherd posted this link to a video about the Networked Student on Virtual Southside today. It's worthy for all to watch -- only five minutes! This is where we are going with our kids next year. Exciting times. Thanks Kerry!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Week 27: CAMPing @ BHS

Why Are We Going CAMPing?

Background Knowledge: Carn
egie Units, Advisement and School Hour Changes
The 2009-2010 school calendar will change significantly from previous years. First semester will begin August 19th and end December 22nd. This is a tremendous advantage for our high school students allowing a smart and logical break in educational units of time – for final exams as well as for transfers and transcripting purposes – with the end of the semester occurring before they leave for the winter holiday break.

Meeting Carnegie Unit Requirements
Our courses are offered on a time unit called a Carnegie Unit which requires 120 hours of instruction to earn one unit of high school credit (or 60 hours for ½ credit) for a course. By ending the semester prior to the winter break, the semester would have been 10 days shorter in the first semester of 2009-2010 school year, so it accommodated by starting earlier than the previous year. With that in place, there was still a time shortage for each class that totals to five minutes per class. Last fall, Dr. Dial asked all the high school principals to provide a potential schedule to accommodate the additional five minutes per class. I posted an option on Virtual Southside and sent an email to all staff to read it and comment. I made the appropriate changes and submitted the following schedule which added only five minutes to our school day:

1/2 7:40 – 9:08
3/4 9:12 – 10:40
5/6 10:44 – 1:08 (Announcements 10:45-10:50)
7/8 1:12 – 2:40

Note: Several suggestions were made to just simply add 20 minutes to the school day. All high school principals stood in favor of teacher time and plan time to maintain current hours of operation, and all three high schools added less than 10 minutes to the daily schedules therefore not effecting after school activities, bus schedules and teacher after hour work times.

New Schedule; New Challenges
So, with the new schedule comes a few challenges. As the schedule shows, we will offer only four blocks a day and with the addition of five minutes per class comes the sacrifice of the allotted time for our academic lab period. Currently, a few very good programs are in operation during that time – several innovative teachers and counselors have spent academic lab time increasing student learning in their own content area, on ACT skills, or in specialty student needs groups. FMPs spend time with the freshmen tutoring and building relationships. So what do we do with these programs? How do we continue with ideas that we know are working for our students in a day when the schedule no longer provides the minutes? I’m so glad you asked.

SGMS Advisement Success
Last week I was talking about how well advisement had worked with the Spring Garden 8th graders who will come to us this fall. Their plan began last year with all instructional personnel at SGMS being assigned 8-10 students each to advise and mentor. Jeff, Luke and I, along with all our counselors, went to Spring Garden and saw advisement in action. It was amazing. I talked to several parents about the advisement process, and although they were not totally clear on the program, they did think it was impressive that one teacher took the time to maintain a vested interest in their child. The program will come to Benton starting next year. In order to put it into place, we must begin planning now.

Cardinal Advisement & Mentoring Program (CAMP): Commencing 8.19.09
Yep, we’re going to CAMP! It’s going to be fun! We are going to get close to our kids. We will keep them with us until they graduate. We will present a more formalized program proposal to the Leadership Team on April 22nd during the team retreat, but I would like for you to talk with your department chairs and give them ideas or concerns to bring with them to the retreat. To do that, I need to share the basics.
1. We will “save” time from out 5th/6th hour to create a bubble of time to meet with our CAMP kids. We will meet two times monthly with our CAMPers
2. We will create a CAMP schedule which allows you to meet with our CAMP kids; the schedule will offer CAMP time during 3/4 block then in two weeks in 5/6 block in order to allow at least one meeting per month with Hillyard students.
3. We will allow each adult (secretaries, maintenance, and nutrition will not be assigned students) to select students – sort of in a draft style – with every adult having 2 students from each grade. Each adult will also have at least TWO ornaments on their team – you can even keep your one from this year!

Feedback Time
Feel free to pose questions. Feel free to add to the idea. Feel free to be critical. We need to look at this from every single, solitary perspective possible. Give the information to your department chair to bring the LT retreat. You can also email it to Jeff, Luke or me – but please don’t expect answers. This is up to the Leadership Team and they will decide based on what you tell them! I’m excited. I love CAMPing!

P.S. Luke is an Eagle Scout. You know he will be good at this!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Week 26: The Leading Edge: How Can Benton get There?

What does it mean to be
leading edge in education in 2009?

As we begin to update our plan for the 2009-2010 school year, I find myself wondering about something I perceive to be extraordinarily significant. I wonder if it’s important to my staff at Benton to be a school on the leading edge of progress?

I guess in order for each individual staff member to make that decision, one would have to know what being a “leading edge school” entails in education in 2009. I can only offer a limited idea of what that looks like from our corner of the state, but I would enjoy constructing a list that encompasses insights from across the nation – maybe even across the oceans. Funny thing is, the only way I have to offer what it leading edge is in some instances is to offer what it isn’t.

First of all, I think leading edge in 2009 is a school that is enriching instructional offerings. The offerings must be grounded in standards, and I heard that Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, is offering national standards.

Secondly, I think schools must rethink what constitutes a school day, semester credits, and a school year. President Obama has been throwing around the idea for a few weeks now.
Crazy thing is, Missouri’s current process is perpetuating the value of attendance over what the attendance gains us. Our students must sit in rooms or travel room to room to hear about it when all they desire is to practice their learning. That practice along with more realistic relativity to the information being taught is critical to student learning. We must stop the preaching and reach out to the different ways. In our school – we are calling that constructivism. In science classes in our district, it’s referred to as inquiry learning. In our social studies departments, it’s called problem-based learning (PBL). It’s coming to all four core areas with heavy implications to the electives.

Thirdly (sounds funny, but it’s legitimate), we must address what it takes for a student to “graduate” from grade to grade and finally from high school. Our current system is not rewarding the learning – it continues to reward the time served. The placid practice of earning a grade is, ironically, so lacking in motivation for students. Oh sure, it works in the short term, but for resistant or struggling learners, it’s deleterious. Without question, at Benton we are finding the issue of failing grades to lack of credits indelibly paralleling our alternative referral rates.

Students are leaving us their junior and senior years to sit in front of computers to learn what they need to learn in order to pass the GRE test (as well as the national and MO constitution tests), and earn an identical diploma to one earned from our own institution. Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? According to our latest data, Benton has 118 referrals so far this year compared to Lafayette’s 25 or so. Central also has less than us. I certainly think to be leading edge – practice must change. Albert Einstein said it best; “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”

Finally, and possibly most importantly, there is technology. We must embrace it. At this point in time, but the most appropriate way to consider integration is through TPACK.
I am excited to say we at Benton, we are preparing for a faculty launch. Not unlike the Space Shuttle, we might be delayed by poor weather, but we WILL launch. I think our focus will be blogging to start – since we have piloted our start with our Virtual Southside technology cohort – but all educators interested in being leading edge must hook up with Alltop (Education),
all the top blogs on education in the nation. To learn how to blog – either as a professional, in professional development or in your classroom, you will see the best of the best modeled here.

And so, Benton High School, with that said, I must ask you this. Are you ready to be leading edge? I realize it will take work, but more so, it will take your dedication. Dedication is to several things – our kids, each other, and change. We will never settle for good enough. We decided that years ago – remember our embracing good to great? This is where the rubber hits the road. Time to check your bus ticket. All aboard!