Welcome to the latest Superintendent Snapshot. To submit a question, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the latest Superintendent Snapshot. To submit a question to Dr. Bates, send an email to email@example.com.
Question – Although having all SEPs in the same week may seem like a good idea in theory, for those of us who work for the Granite AND have children in high school and junior high, it was not so great. Because I had to attend my high schooler’s SEP Conferences on Monday and my junior high-schooler’s SEP Conferences on Tuesday, I was not only tired when it came time to visit with my speech students and their parents, I was also not as prepared as I would like. Last year was much better when the SEP Conferences were divided between two weeks. I know that I wasn’t the only teacher with this problem, even in my own school. Please reconsider keeping them separate when making the schedule for next year.
Response – GEA, in response to overwhelming requests from teachers asked that the compensatory day be the same week as P/T conferences. If we split that day up by having different weeks for Elementary conferences we would create 4 non-aligned days (days when elementary is in session and secondary is not in session and visa versa ) our community surveys indicate, parents do not like the non-aligned days. Also, on days when elementary is not in session, but the secondary schools are in session, attendance at the secondary level drops substantially so that secondary students can be home to provide care for elementary students when parents are both working. We recognize this can be a challenge for some of our patrons. The calendering committee (made up of parents and employees) will continue to review this issue as calendars are determined for future years.
Thanks to the School Leadership and Improvement Services Department for their assistance in responding to this question.
I’ve had conversations with lots of you, and have heard from many more. I want to start by thanking our transportation folks, our custodians and maintenance folks, and everyone else who has pitched in to help with snow (teachers, secretaries, parents, volunteers, and on and on). I am struck again and again by what a powerful and amazing group of folks you are!
Many have asked what in the world I am thinking by not closing schools – I want to answer that question.
I came in from shoveling last night at about 11:00. I went out again this morning around 5:00. There on my driveway was my newspaper. My “newspaper boy” isn’t a kid on a bike or with the bag slung over his shoulders, it’s a guy who drives through the neighborhood delivering the papers. I wondered for a moment why he didn’t take the day off, but I know the answer – he knows we count on him.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we are newspaper carriers (although many of us have been!), but we are counted on at least as much as they are. There are some 68,000 students and more than twice that many parents, guardians and other interested folks, who count on us to be there – the same as we all count on mail carriers, police departments, municipal and county offices to do their parts. Not many years ago, we did cancel schools for snow. Perhaps you remember the backlash from those from all corners of the district whose children were left home without supervision (and for many in our district, breakfast and lunch). The backlash started up all over again a few months later when we reminded everyone in the spring that a make-up day would be held. I have reflected on that, and countless emails and telephone conversations the last couple of weeks – with many perspectives both critical and supportive. In that light, I’d like to share our protocol:
We receive reports both late and early about road conditions, transportation capability, and the status of our buildings. If the reports indicate that we can transport children safely, and our buildings can be opened and operated safely, then the public ought to be able to count on us. If reports are to the contrary, then we evaluate whether a late start would resolve the situation. If the answer is still no, then we will close the affected schools.
We clearly don’t control snow removal and road conditions in the neighborhoods our schools serve. Therefore we need to have (and we express) full confidence in parents to make the call whether conditions are such that their children can safely get to school through their neighborhoods, on sidewalks and across safe walking routes. I see this as quite similar to a parent deciding whether a child is too sick to attend school. We defer to their judgment. Consequently, if a parent believes conditions are not safe, then parents should not send their children at that time – and it is my expectation that schools will be understanding regarding tardiness and absences.
Some might say that a day with lots of snow, when many parents keep students home, will not be a very productive school day. I respectfully suggest from our experience that a make-up day in April will be neither particularly well attended nor educationally productive.
Again, I thank all of you for being who you are, and more specifically, for your amazing work and commitment to kids.
We have received many questions regarding the new Gradebook system. Some common questions have been posted here along with responses.
I have been trying to pull up a simple missing work report for my class…
There is currently no single report for elementary schools that will print a single page of missing assignments for an entire class of students. There is a report that can be run for each student individually, but as was pointed out, this is a lot of work. This type of report is the single most requested item we have received for the new Gradebook. Our plan is to modify the report for single students and make it so that teachers can run it for an entire class list.
We know that in the old Gradebook, teachers would frequently print off a report and send it home with their students each week. While we think this should still be an option for teachers, we would encourage them to move towards using some of the other tools built into the Gradebook system. For example, a parent can opt in to receive email notification whenever their student misses an assignment. In the new system, teachers also have the ability to send attendance and assignment information to parents directly by email.
There is NOTHING simple about it…
The program does require some initial setup up front. Teachers need to create their own grade scales (or choose a district grade scale). They need to setup their own categories (or choose a district category). They need to select their preferences (or use the defaults). These items are one-time things that you can continue to use year-after-year. Once the one-time setup is done, a teacher needs to assign a category/grade scale to a course (this is no different from the old Gradebook) and elementary teachers need to setup their concepts (this is no different from the old Gradebook). The vendor has been very receptive to ideas on how to make the system easier to use, but in order to make improvements we need specific examples of how things could be done better from the people who use it.
I have yet to find even one thing that is positive about it…
· The old Gradebook did not provide teachers with a way to communicate directly with parents; everything had to be printed off and sent home with the student. Parent email accounts will become available as parents sign up for parent accounts in the new system.
· The old Gradebook had a one day time delay between when a student entered a class and when a student would show up in the teacher’s Gradebook.
· All reports in the old Gradebook were PDF’s. The new Gradebook allows a teacher to export any report to Excel, Word, PDF, etc.
· The old Gradebook did not integrate well with other systems in the district and was difficult to improve.
· The old Gradebook was unable to maintain information from one school year to the next. The new Gradebook does.
· The old Gradebook was limited to less-than-adequate hardware resulting in frequent system outages. The new Gradebook is compatible with newer server technology and can more easily be expanded to accommodate more users on the system.
Can we have the old program back? I don’t feel the move to a new Gradebook program was optional.
Here are some of the reasons why the old Gradebook was not an option for this school year:
· Elementary schools have moved to four quarters from three trimesters. The old Gradebook was designed specifically for three trimesters on the elementary level. Making this change would have required many changes to the old Gradebook, many of which would not fully be tested by the start of school.
· We would not be able to make the transition to a new Discovery system this year.
· Over the past couple of years, there has been a significant increase in the number of teachers, parents and students accessing information from the Gradebook. The old system was already having issues accommodating the increased load from last year.
While we understand that there is a lot of frustration involved with moving to a new Gradebook system, please remember that we are several weeks into a very significant change affecting thousands of teachers and tens of thousands of students and parents. We are still working on making the system really great for all users and we appreciate your patience.
Thanks to Information Systems for their assistance in responding to these questions.
Welcome back! Here is the latest superintendent snapshot regarding A/C projects and holes in walls. Don’t hesitate to send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question – As any good teacher, I realize and understand that movies cannot, and should not, be used to replace other teaching materials (textbooks, direct instruction, etc.). However, as an artistic person, I also realize that there can be great learning taking place while watching a movie with students. My understanding of district policy is that G-rated material is generally approved, so far as there is a curriculum connection. Any material that is PG or PG-13 needs a request to show form signed from the principal and parental permission for each student to view the content. Any R, X, or NC-17 material is strictly prohibited. As far as my understanding goes, this is a blanket statement for every classroom in the district, with no distinction between grade or school levels; elementary rules are the same as junior and senior high schools. I recently created what I think is a brilliant literacy activity that includes reading strategies, character development, compare/contrast, cause/effect, and persuasive writing all done by watching a movie made from a book that my students read. Wanting to follow proper channels, I looked up the policy, sent it to my principal, who then checked with her supervisor, and we were told we could not watch the movie in class. The reason we were given is because the supervisor felt that it was inappropriate to show PG material in an elementary school (5th grade, by the by).
My question, then, is three-fold: Is this really the district policy? Is the policy really the same for all grade levels? And, if this is the policy, then why, when I followed the correct procedure, was I not allowed to implement my brilliant lesson plan? I don’t want to ruffle feathers, make waves, nor get anyone mad at me, and I’m not just trying to get my own way (I’ve already made plans to show a different, if inferior, movie of the same book that is rated G, and adjusted the lesson plan accordingly), I only want to understand.
Response – First of all, thanks for planning engaging, relevant lessons! I’m confident you’re brilliant lesson plan isn’t to show movies as a reward or just for fun (Finding Nemo was on in a math classroom I visited recently, not quite sure how it fit into the curriculum) but that you’re teaching explicit learning objectives in a multisensory educational way. Different media and technologies present so many opportunities – please share what you’re doing with colleagues.
As far as movie use is concerned, you are correct, but let us flesh this out a bit. The district policy does not differentiate among elementary and secondary and the rules are the same for all. ANY movie shown (and it cannot be rented, you need proper licensure to show it – movies rented or bought at the store are typically licensed for home use only) must have an explicit instructional purpose and tie directly to concepts or objectives in the State Core Curriculum. Only G-rated movies can be selected unilaterally by the teacher. PG or PG-13 rated movies must be approved in writing (there’s a form attached to the policy) by the principal, and a parent permission slip (also a form attached to the policy) must be sent home with every student in the class. Obviously movies with ratings beyond PG-13 cannot be shown. Sounds like you have been working hard to create an engaging class activity. I hope this helps clarify the policy.
Thanks to the Teaching and Learning Department for their help in responding to this question.
Here is the latest snapshot thanking all the wonderful volunteers and support professionals for their support and expertise. Have a great week!
Check out the latest snapshot video on $$$$ from year-round savings below. To get a copy of the presentation on preliminary budget numbers, please email email@example.com and request it. Thanks and have a great day.
Here is the latest snapshot video discussing the importance of community schools. Enjoy and have a nice spring break!