Saturday, September 27, 2008

Week 6: Sep 29 - Oct 3, 2008

Upcoming Events:
Oct. 1 -- Leadership Team Meeting: Room 103 @ 7:00 a.m.
Oct. 2 -- 2nd Progress Report Window Opens

The weeks are passing so quickly, it's hard to believe we are ready to post the second progress grades. As we begin this third grading period, I want to suggest you spend time in your collaboration and departmental meetings looking at your grades. Make certain you are measuring your essential outcomes. Make sure each common course has the same common assessment(s) recorded. As you look at your grades, you should review what frames the basis of your students' passing and failing? Is it soundly based on what the students have learned or does it find its foundation on accountability? Was the majority of what you graded completed in your presence or away from you? What are the positive or negative connotations to that? Do the grades on your students' practice assignments (homework) parallel their assessment scores? Have you done any reteaching? Have you needed to? How does that learning measure look? What implications will you deal with if you do or do not reach your learning goals with your students?

School Improvement
This next week starts our push toward the analysis of several measures of our School Improvement Plan. We will begin our at risk pilot data collection to see how easy or difficult it is to determine who our at-risk students are. The core department chairs will retreat next Monday to analyze their Explore, PLAN and ACT data. This information is used not only to help meet our school improvement goals, but to evaluate our current action steps. This information will be delivered at the next leadership team meeting and reach you in one week.

Cell Phone Usage & Discipline in General
We started to notice an interesting trend last week in student referrals. Our students claim, and eventually you support the fact, that you all apply the school rules in your classrooms very differently from each other. As it turns out, you often apply your own rules differently without clear lines of demarcation establishing the change. This is really difficult for our kids! They don't understand why one teacher allows a shirt with foul language but another doesn't. They don't understand why they can wear hats in one classroom, but they get detention for that in another.

And those are the small battles. The big battles typically involve cell phones or iPods. One minute it's okay that they use a cell phone in class (to listen to music while they are doing their homework), but then they accidentally text message on it too many times or a teacher begins to explain something and "Bam." Before the student can get that crazy phone put away, the teacher is losing it. Now obviously, we are aware of the misrepresentation of these events, but we are hearing even from you all that phones are being allowed in classrooms with your permission. We walk in or by your rooms, and we see it for ourselves. We really need to land on one place on this. If your department has not submitted someone for the technology rules committee, join now. We are going to have our first meeting after school next Thursday in Jeanette's office. Help us get this code of conduct written to meet all our needs.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Week 5: September 22 - 26, 2008

Upcoming Events:
Sept. 24 -- BAR Meeting at 7:00 in room 103
Sept. 24 -- Bus Evacuation Drill
Sept. 24 -- Department Collaboration (Odd Day)
Sept. 25 -- Tech Cohort Meeting 1 (Even Day Plan)

This week seemed, for lack of a better verbiage, strange to me. It seemed like the kids were on the edge of a precipice, deciding one or two at time whether to leap or not into poor choices. Sometimes they were lemming-like in how they jumped; other times it was just one errant lemming at a time. Like I said, strange. I am sure Jeff, Luke and Ken as well as the secretaries (Debby, Connie & Danielle for sure) we tell you the same.

This week was BIG for Benton in terms of student count. We had our September membership day on Sept 24th. That's the day that DESE officially "counts" our students. Every enrolled member, whether they attend or not, counts for us. If a student actually transfers somewhere, and we can document that transfer, then the student is not counted against us. As you can imagine, we have way too many on the list of those who are counted who are not attending. Jeff has a notebook with all the students' names. It's called the Book of Lost Souls. The reason why this is such a big deal for Benton is because our attendance rate and graduation rate are TWO major deciding factors in setting determining whether we make AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) with our actual test scores or by the "confidence interval." These are VERY important numbers, Wednesday was the day. I know we owe Debby, Sheila and Danielle a huge thanks for sticking to this to get our enrollment as accurate as possible.

The three of us (admin) attended our K-12 Administrators' Meeting on Thursday where we learned how our Data/Walkthrough Review on October 17th is supposed to look. It helped me realize that we are ready if everyone follows through with what we discussed during our professional development last week. Our SIP is strong, and our staff is fully committed to completing the action steps. We really appreciate everyone's dedication to our school improvement plan. When we all pull togther, we can really accomplish great things.

That brings me to this story I heard twice this week. It's about how MD Anderson (the cancer research hospital in Houston) has worked with everyone on staff to really focus on reaching the mission of the hospital, which is to cure cancer. When researchers went to the hospital to find out how they were so successful, they realized it upon entering the facility. When they asked the maintenance worker what he did for his job, he replied, "I cure cancer." When they asked a secretary, he responded, "I cure cancer. See, just because my name doesn't have M.D. (Medical Doctor) after it, doesn't mean what I do is any less important. In order for this place to reach it's mission, they need me to be the best I can be. That is how I cure cancer!"

You don't have to think very long to begin to apply this to our workplace. I've thought about it for a long time. I've looked at our vision and our mission statements. What I really see in all that can be boiled down to one really interesting statement that can apply to every staff member at Benton: "What do I do that impacts student achievement?" "What evidence of that can I show?"

We don't cure cancer, but I think our goals are of equal importance. We are really the final nesting place for our newest St. Joseph and Southside community members before they "fly off" to join the world as adults. Do we prepare them to be the best that they can be? Do we challenge them as often as possible so that when they are away from us, they are prepared to navigate the challenges without us? With this in mind, what could we all do to better impact their achievement?

The funny thing is, I believe the we all approach every assignment, disciplinary action, fee payment, and reaction to their requests, teaches them how to prioritize or problem solve through a situation. How often do we think we are doing a student a favor by not following up or holding them accountable? It's not that the accountability has to be detrimental -- that's definitely old school thinking -- but what if it was about the accomplishment? The library now has students serve community service for late books instead of paying a fine. The counseling center is keeping students in the class they are failing (instead of allowing a transfer to a different class) and getting them help/tutoring in order to enable the students to pass. This will impact student achievement! This will teach students how to stick with something -- even when the going gets tough -- and hopefully, with everyone working toward the same mission, we will have less and less bailing out on at least the one possession we want them all the earn -- a high school diploma!

Week 4: September 15 - 20, 2008

Upcoming Events:
Sept. 15 -- Verify Progress Report #1
Sept. 15 -- MTV Interviews Students @ 2:45 Auditorium
Sept. 16 -- Homecoming Assembly 5th Hour
Sept. 17 -- Leadership Team Meeting @ 7:00 in Room 103
Sept. 17 -- Building Professional Development: 40 Developmental Assets Training & More
Sept. 19 -- Homecoming Benton Olympics during 8th Hour @ Sparks Field
Sept. 19 -- Southside Festival Starts: Band and Saber Guard open ceremonies @ 6:00
Sept. 19 -- Homecoming Football Game vs. Cameron @ 7:00
Sept. 20 -- Southside Parade @ 9:00 (starts @ Kovac's): Join us!

What a great week it was for Benton High School. Major kudos go to several staff members for performing duties above and beyond the daily expectations. First, a round of applause to RickR for bringing us a fun and exciting homecoming week chock full of activities and culminating in an afternoon of laughs and comaraderie and an evening of royalty, competition and winners! Good job Rick! Along with Rick, a special thanks to DebS and DebbyF for putting everything together behind the scenes. The students were very blessed by your thoughtfulness.

Our PD day on Wednesday was a day of the cup runneth over. A great big hug to our Counselor of the Year NancyN for arranging the training and bringing us such an excellent event. Also thanks to SeanN for teaching us how to reach the VSS, CCblog, and to Twitter. Our steps toward Web 2.0 learning is very exciting for all of us. Good job to CrystalB for jumping in with both feet! I am also thrilled to see several staff members eager to learn Mac tactics by checking out student machines. We will dedicate one cart to staff checkout so long as everyone knows we still need to have them available daily for student usage. Applause goes to the library staff (LindaT, DonaMc, and Shaybaby), secretaries (DebF and DanielleS) and our ESOL teacher Adrienne for stepping up to the plate to learn. Make sure you ask SeanN for assignments to keep your progressing in your learning. Also remember that VSS (Virtual Southside) is open to all staff members at this time. Feel free to join and meet with us in Ningworld. You might even be thrilled to know that our own Assistant Superintendent of Schools (CheriP) is now a member of VSS and drops in to blog with us every now and again. Exciting times to be a Cardinal staff member!

In final reflection, I have to tell you this has been a proud week for the Cardinals. It makes my heart soar when I see our students support community activities like I did when the Cardinal JROTC Saber Guard provided a saber arch for the opening ceremonies at the Southside Fall Festival. It was especially touching when our pep band, under the direction of none other than maestro JeffS, accompanied a singer to our National Anthem for the Southside crowd. And then...when so many Benton students and staff joined us in the Southside Parade on Saturday morning - band, poms, cheerleaders, football players, futball players, softball players, and alumni pep band -- it was so exciting! How fun it was when Hyde, Hosea & Lake Elementary Schools joined Spring Garden Middle School and filled into the parade! The SJSD was well represented! We were definitely Southside Proud!

With the win of the football game (Yahoo! Coach Tabor et al) and a fun homecoming dance -- it was a great week for Benton High School!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Week 3: September 8-12, 2008

Upcoming Events:
Sept. 8 -- Library staff to MORENET training -- staff training upcoming!
Sept. 9 -- New(ish) teacher Breakfast (by invitation); room 305 @ 7:00 a.m.
Sept. 10 -- Department Meetings (EVEN)
Senior Orientation with counselors; 5th hour
Sept. 11 -- 1st Progress Report window opens
Sept. 11 -- Research team to Olathe NW to view their digital library
Sept. 13 -- ACT Test (encourage your testing students!)

What a great week to learn! I am excited by the energy of our library staff as they attended MORENET training and realized that there are numerous offerings for technology training available right here in our own state. The visit to the Olathe NW media center turned into gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only did they show us exciting technology similar to what we offer, but it showed us (the visiting team included Luke, SeanN, LindaT, Jeanette as well as JenniferH, the district library coordinator) how forward thinking we are in the instructional usage in our own technology plan. Additionally, the librarians at ONW shared so many programs and ideas that we don't yet offer in our library that we finally just had to take their phone number and promise to come back to learn more. Linda is on that and will be bringing us new and exciting programs and web offerings just as soon as the library reopens.

Without question, the world is spinning faster and faster as the first progress report period opened this week. We will soon need to analyze the data of our grades and begin our analysis of information pointing us to our students who need the most attention. LaVellR is going to lead our team to determine what students are most needing our attention and the team will determine the interventions to be used in this process. Every department should be represented on this team. Please check with your person.

And so ends week three.

Week 2: September 2-5, 2008

Upcoming Events:
Sept. 3 -- Leadership Team Meeting, Room 107 @ 7:00 a.m.
Sept. 3 -- Department Meetings (ODD again)
Sept. 5 -- Staff Lunch; room 103 provided by the FACS teachers
Sept. 5 -- 1st Pep Assembly; Highlight football, cheerleaders, poms, band & flags
2:10 dismissal for all students

It's nice to have a four day week. Personally, I am still tired from the first week. Jeff, Luke and I worked all week locating our students who were enrolled at Benton but not attending. It took a tremendous amount of time to find them and either get them here or attending at the alternative schools. We are responsible for them one way or another, and we have set a goal this year to really ensure they attend.

Our 7th day enrollment numbers were released Friday in the News-Press. It states we were up 21 students. The number is important to the press, but it's the September membership that is taken at the end of September (for some reason I think it's the 25th). I think we are feeling the increase in numbers. We still have a few classes that are over 30. The counselors are working hard to get them in control. I hope everyone can be hang on for a few more days.

We have a couple of issues that are forefront in operations. First and foremost is our library closure. It looks like they will have the floor finished in a week or so. We researched this summer on what a 21st Century library might look like. Jeff Carter found this incredible youTube video on a library transformation lab in Europe that tests cool library ideas. We took the decor ideas from that. It's a great watch if you have a 7 minutes. For now, here's the plan -- contractors are grinding the floor to remove the paint stains, they will then fill the cracks with a black flexible caulk and then seal the floor with a shiny epoxy. It will give it a clear, thick, hard coat that looks very art-deco. (check the floor in the youTube video) The contractors are also painting the entire library. It will be white. The trim will all be black and the accent colors will be red. I have a neat idea about lighting to add to the look, but I haven't found out how to make it happen yet. The picture is on my cellphone if you're interested. Finally, we will order furniture to outfit the place. We will have flatscreens for the kids to view breaking news and sports. We will also have an internet cafe, classroom, and "chill zone" reading area. It will be amazing with food (sold by our food service) that offers a wider, exciting selection.

For our staff, we will soon have a professional library/meeting spot. The location will house our professional journals, books and coffee for your enjoyment.

Things at Benton are changing. We are making a giant step toward constructing our own learning as we learn to teach our children through constructivism. As we make our transformation to the technology school, we have to prepare our space to accommodate the change. The library is a primary symbol in our transformation. I just want everyone to remember, we are still here for one service -- educating the children of the Southside!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Week 1: August 25-29, 2008

Upcoming Events:
August 25
-Freshmen Only 7:45 - 10:45 (get schedules from your department chairs)
-All school assembly: 10:45 (dismiss to Hillyards)
-Regular Odd day schedule starts at 11:11 -- all students report to 7th to receive ID cards
August 28
-First day for students to change classes by appointment with the counselors

The first week felt like a five Mondays in a row. We had a tremendous number of new students enter -- 25 on Monday alone. I think our student count is close to 950 at this point. With the exception of a few room changes, it seems the students found their classes.

The first week of department meetings went fairly well. It's going to be a repeat next week since I realized we are odd on Wednesday again. We will have to adjust to a Tuesday or Thursday depending on your schedules.

All in all, it was a great first week. I'm really excited about our potential this year!