January 2017 Principal Chat... REVEALED

January’s evening Principal Chat enjoyed a record-breaking crowd of about 15 parents and staff. As a reminder, these chats are not personal attacks on specific people, but rather a conversation led by parents about topics important to parents.

Restoration Confirmation

The District recently announced the reinstatement of six school days, after the unprecedented and agonizing loss of nine student-contact days already this winter.  Why only six?  Of the nine days lost, two snow days were already built into the schedule, leaving seven to make up.  The state of Oregon waived one day, leaving us… at this point… with only six needed to make up.

And where are they coming from?  Kiss spring conferences goodbye!  Additionally, teachers voted to give up their grading days and professional development days, allowing BSD to only lengthen the school year by one day and not extending us into the last week of June (and bumping our school year into Fourth of July weekend.  CAN.YOU.IMAGINE).

All of this is subject to change if… we end up with additional snow days (cue parents across the district fainting in despair and exhaustion).

Dismissal Despair

Ah, yes.  Next year’s early dismissal every Wednesday.  Slipped your mind?  Yeah, mine too.  BSD is still working with all 34 elementaries, churches, after-school providers and enrichment vendors to provide quality options for students and parents every Wednesday afternoon next school year.  Several questions remain unanswered, such as if specials will be shortened that day.

Registration = Allocation

Speaking of specials and specialists, Janet won’t even know how many staff allocations she will receive for next year until later this spring.  The number of predicted students control staffing allocations.  So… when new kinder families wait to enroll… Bonny Slope suffers.  Bottom line…. students = staff.

BSD is predicting 602 students for Bonny Slope next year-- down from our almost 650 right now (and that includes the 15 new students we’ve gained since December).  BSD does not, I repeat, does NOT take current construction into account when it makes these predictions.  They only use registered students.  So while construction booms in our ‘hood, those incoming families are not factored into any BSD predictions for next year, which can greatly impact our staff allocation, which happens in late May.

Therefore-- new families need to register as soon as they can.  As in-- get the word out, folks.  Kindergarten packets will be available soon in the office, though our Kindergarten Round-up this year is quite late-- scheduled for April 5.  

Spelling Solutions

You might have noticed the lack of weekly spelling tests this year.  Love ‘em or hate ‘em-- spelling tests are on their way out.  Thankfully Jennifer Oordt, BSE’s current PYP Coordinator, who worked on researching and implementing BSD’s newest English Language Arts adoption last year, was attending this chat and filled us in.  

In a nutshell, research shows that traditional spelling tests don’t improve spelling long term.  Educators are not seeing improved spelling being transferred into student writing.  But… but… we did it that way and we turned out fine!  But… did we?  Did we really?  This methodology illustrates a larger educational shift in recent years away from equating learning to simple information regurgitation.

Instead, students will now have Word Work, which is supposedly a more meaningful study on how to apply, use and compare words.  Students study what they mean, what are common rules and common origins.  Each grade is different and the goal is that as students actively use words, they will better learn to spell them.

But how do we know if it’s working?  Because let’s get real… seeing our fourth grader consistently writing “becuse,” “alot” and “absollutly” gets real old.  Real fast.  Reading assessments do include word work and the individualized “screener test” can also pinpoint improvement, but the jury is still out on whether this new approach will create more consistent and better spelling over time.

Snow Route Riot

Oh, honey.  What a mess.  It gets ugly out there.  When bus routes are canceled (on any “snow routes only” day), pickup and drop-off become the stuff of nightmares.  And let’s be honest-- after seven days at home, you know that EVERY SINGLE STUDENT is gonna show up at school.  But what can be done?

Before we chat solutions, let’s identify obstacles.  

  1. Bonny Slope has the highest elevation of any school in the district. Snow, snow, snow, baby!
  2. Our bus loop has a very steep grade both at the entrance and the top loop and is not serviced by the city.
  3. When the bus loop is deemed unsafe, BSD deems it unsafe for ALL vehicles, including those belonging to parents.  So that lane is dead to us.
  4. We have 650 students and a medium sized parking lot that can’t hold the crush of parents/cars at once.
  5. The parking lot entrance/exit are configured in a way that when cars can’t take a left out of the parking lot (due to backed-up traffic on McDaniel), they eventually block all cars exiting.  And if cars can’t EXIT, cars can’t ENTER.  So this vicious circle of jammed, unmoving cars creates mayhem, gridlock, and adults behaving badly.

Okay, then.  Now let’s throw out some solutions.  Whatcha got?

  1. Plowing the parking lots and bus loops.  Great idea!  Except BSD actually did that and it didn’t help the safety of the bus loop.  (Side note:  BSD only paid for a handful of parking lots to be plowed.  We were one of the lucky few).
  2. A phased dismissal.  Perhaps the bussed kids could be picked up later?  Or parent pick-up?
  3. Encouraging carpool.  How many can you stuff into that SUV? Kids are small.
  4. Right turn only out of the parking lot.  Yes, it sounds inconvenient for those further up McDaniel, but the fact is, you aren’t saving much time after stressfully waiting on McDaniel to enter the parking lot, vulturing for a parking spot, holding your breath as you reverse OUT of said spot, idling in a jammed parking lot and THEN wishing/praying/swearing that someone on McDaniel will let you turn left, only to wait AGAIN on McDaniel until you’ve passed the school entrance.  If we keep the lines moving, everyone wins.
  5. Deal with the hassle.  The number of snow days this year is unprecedented.  2001 had five snow days, but really, these “no bus route” days happen MAYBE once or twice every couple years.  Grin and bear it?  Collective kumbaya? 
  6. Back to the drawing board.  Got any brilliant solutions?  Email Janet.

And what’s with canceling school when the majority of the school could walk?  Well, as easy as it may have been for some of US to get to the school, it’s not so easy for our staff and teachers, who live across the entire metro area.  And it’s all or nothing with BSD.  If it’s too icy/snowy for a few schools, EVERYONE gets canceled.

PYP, Look at Me

Jennifer Oordt, our PYP Coordinator, was on hand to discuss the upcoming IB reauthorization.  International Baccalaureate programs aren’t just found in public schools and wherever they are found, certain priorities and standards must be met. And… they can be a bit hard core about it.

To ensure these standards, the IB has an assessment process that includes a self study survey prior to an IB visit.  Bonny Slope’s reauthorization visit is set for next school year, so right now Ms. Oordt is looking to hear not just from staff, but from parents as well, in order to take the results and score ourselves.  Currently we are revisiting IB’s Standard A-- Philosophy.

If you are interested in participating in this parent survey, please contact Jennifer Oordt.

 And that’s a wrap!  See you on February 24 at 2pm for our next principal chat!