September 2016 Principal Chat… REVEALED

The first chat of the year was held in the evening, directly before BSCO’s Community Meeting.  Evening Principal Chats will be held in January and May, in an outreach effort to our working parents.  

As a reminder, Principal Chats are not a b*tchfest about certain teachers or students.  They are an opportunity to share questions and concerns with Janet & Ali about policy, testing, standards, and curriculum.  So if you’ve got a personal ax to grind, contact Janet directly.

Collaboration Station

Oh boy, Beaverton.  Check your seatbelt.  Next year is ushering in a terrifying change by the name of Early Release.  If you were too wrapped up in your Sunriver summer vacation, you might have missed BSD’s big announcement. Starting in 2017-18, all schools are releasing students 90 minutes early every single Wednesday.

Every. Single. Wednesday.

Cue the gnashing of teeth and riot in the street as parental panic ensues.

But...but… WHY?!  Well… before you light your torch, let’s talk collaboration-- teacher collaboration, specifically-- what it is and what it does.

Teacher collaboration is the shared planned time among grade level or subject (in middle school and high school) teams.  They use this time to monitor student growth and brain-storm strategies and methods to boost specific learning and student needs. Early release allows teaching teams to have a consistent, scheduled time to collaborate together each week.

For instance, imagine the fourth grade team sitting down to look over a recent math assessment, discovering that ⅓ of the grade isn’t accurately using the lattice method (don’t ask), and then brainstorming ideas with how to target that small group and/or rework the lesson.  Experienced teachers mentoring new hires.  New grads breathing life into old habits.  

Most of the school districts in our area already have some sort of scheduled, permanent shared collaboration time, including Portland, Hillsboro, Forest Grove and Lake Oswego.  Beaverton was a lone exception, only including contracted teacher planning time, not collaboration time.  When the teachers’ union contract came up again for renewal, this was one of the union’s biggest requests-- to have contracted collaboration during the week.

But… but… Bonny Slope teachers already have collaboration time!  Well, yes and no.  Our crazy specials schedule does allow for some collaboration time, but that was also a tight squeeze on our teachers’ contracted planning time.  

Also-- Bonny Slope may have been able to finagle a bit of collaboration time, but many middle schools & high schools across the district have not.  Sixth grade science teachers often don’t have a dedicated time to talk, discuss and share ideas on a regular basis.  Think all the math teachers consistently get together to hash out new methods and discuss class trends?  Nope. Not currently possible.

There’s so much information and tedious details attached to this endeavor, including the BSD calendar, staff development days, adding student contact days, childcare and bussing. To make it easier, here are the Cliff notes:

  • Do kids lose instructional time?  No, then yes, then no (over a three year cycle as BSD increases student contact days).
  • What’s a student contact day?  A day kids are in school.
  • What’s the difference between plan time vs. collaboration time?  Look at this fancy FAQ’s chart.  
  • What else is changing in the calendar?  No more random staff development Fridays off, meaning more full weeks of school.
  • Why Wednesdays?  Sets teachers up for success & easiest for buses.
  • Do teachers support this?  Yes-- 80% voted to approve this contract.
  • Is starting school before Labor Day a possibility next year?  Yes.
  • What about schools without on-site childcare?  BSD is working on it.

Head to this Early Release FAQ if you need more answers.  There’s also this handy dandy video to help us non-educators learn about Teacher Collaboration.  In the meantime, mentally prepare yourself for a 1:35pm pickup every Wednesday at BSE next year.

Conference Conundrum

It feels like school just started, but our heroic teachers are already preparing for BSE’s parent conferences, scheduled for Wed, 10/26 and Thursday, 10/27.  

What should you expect?  Well… no surprises, frankly.  If your child has been identified as needing a teacher-assisted team (a committee that assesses if a student needs intervention), parents will be notified prior to a conference.

A common cause of angst is BSD’s proficiency model for grades.  We parents are a simple folk and easily confused, especially when grading and assessments no longer resemble the hailed version from our youth.  BSE’s students are assessed based on END OF YEAR goals.  So….. in order to earn a three on their report card, they would need to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of skills that are expected in June.  That can be difficult for a child in October.

Needless to say, uninformed parents are often up in arms when little Lula gets several twos and possibly ones (gasp!) on her first trimester report card.  But stay calm and breathe into that paper bag-- Little Lula isn’t doomed. It’s a progressive report and as long as students are moving forward in their progress, a parent shouldn’t be concerned.  

Lazy Library or Parent Misconception?

Another common parent confusion and frustration lies in our beautiful Bonny Slope library.  Five or six years ago-- you know, that horrific year when all of BSD blew up over budget cuts-- librarians as we know them were removed from schools and put back into the classroom.  Before that time, librarians were certified teachers with an additional library science degree or certification.  

Since then, our LMAs (Library Media Assistants) are classified staff, meaning they are not certified to teach, do not require an Education degree, their duties are greatly limited in scope and their compensation reflects that.  LMAs are required to read a story, check out books, and keep the library clean… that’s it.  There are no expectations to teach the children the library system or literacy.  One TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) services ALL the north-end elementary schools as their “Librarian,” overseeing our LMA. 

It’s a bummer, yes, but the reality is that budget cut shrapnel is still echoing in our halls.  However, BSD’s Future Ready Initiative is putting certified teachers back in our libraries, though now they will be called LITTs (Library and Instructional Technology Teachers-- just to confuse us with more acronyms), who will promote literacy, classroom innovation and technology integration (BSD’s words, not mine).  More info can be found at BSD’s Future Ready Library Transformation webpage or at this quite informational Future Ready pdf

However, none of this helps Bonny Slope this year.  With one person expected to manage behaviors, help children find books, and check out books, all in less than 30 minutes, parent volunteers are IMPERATIVE in our library.  Contact your child’s teacher if you’d like to help during their Library special or contact library@bonnyslopebsco.org if you’d like a regular gig.

Other Juicy Tidbits

  • 2017-18 will see BSD moving away from trimester reports and into semester reports.
  • Art and Spanish are now on carts, making the transitions quicker.
  • Art is focusing primarily on drawing this year.  Students are using school purchased sketchbooks.
  • The old art room is currently being used as a shared intervention space for special ed, IAs and often ELL.
  • With 27 students in each kindergarten, Janet is hopeful just a handful of students will show to help push us into four sections.  However, time is running out...


And that’s a wrap!  See you all on Friday, October 21st at 2pm at our next Principal Chat.  Burning questions to ask Janet?  Email Hannah (president@bonnyslopebsco.org).