Sailing Through the Week

Staff Memo for the Week of January 11, 2016

Important Dates

Monday, January 11

  • Lockdown Drill at 2:15
  • Staff Meeting at 3:45

Tuesday, January 12

  • Rachel to Admin. Team Meeting at 3:00

Wednesday, January 13

  • Popcorn Day

Friday, January 15

  • Super U Challenge (1:30 and 2:30)

Upcoming Dates

Monday, January 18

  • Staff Meeting (Regular and Record-keeping) at 3:45

Friday, January 22

  • School Store

Monday, January 25

  • Board of Education Meeting at 7:00

Wednesday, January 27

  • Half Day, Dismissal at 12:02
  • Skyward Window Opens

Thursday, January 28

  • Half Day, Dismissal at 12:02
  • Rachel at RESA in Morning: Elementary Principals Meeting

Friday, January 29

  • Records Day

Monday, February 1

  • 504 Forms Due to Carol

Wednesday, February 3

  • Popcorn Day
  • Dr. Skalka Visit
  • Skyward Window Closes
  • Lockdown Drill at 10:10 a.m.

Thursday, February 4

  • PTO Meeting at 4:00 p.m.

Wednesday, February 10

  • Popcorn Day
  • Pupil Count Day

Friday, February 12 - Tuesday, February 16

  • Mid-Winter Break

Wednesday, February 17

  • Classes Resume
  • Popcorn Day
  • Third Grade to Dr. Brieden's Office

Thursday, February 18

  • Third Grade Pollution Solutions

Friday, February 19

  • School Store

March is Reading Month

March will be here soon, so it is time to formulate our March is Reading Month plan. An idea is already in play, so I will share it with you. After talking with several teachers and parents, it seems that there is an interest in choosing a book to read as a school in the One School, One Book fashion. A book would be chosen, and each family would receive a calendar with the reading assignments for each evening during the month of March. Every morning during announcements, I will ask a simple question about the previous night's reading for students to answer. Students will write their responses on a slip of paper and place them in a container on the cubbies outside their classrooms. The containers will be collected, and one trivia winner from each class will be announced the following morning after the question of the day is asked. We will keep track of winners from each class so there are no repeats. Students will come to the office to select a small prize based on the theme of the book. Of course, we will also order fun staff shirts to wear to generate spirit and decide upon some culminating activities.

Reading a book as a school truly promotes parent involvement, a critical component of Title I. Because students want to be prepared for the daily question, they motivate their families to read and discuss the chapters each night. A well-chosen book that sparks interest in parents fuels the success of the One School, One Book initiative. From past experience, Charlotte's Web was a family favorite. The story appeals to students in grades K-5, and parents rekindle the nostalgia of reading the book as a child. Many parents who have not read the book become acquainted with the story and are hooked on reading for perhaps the first time in their adult lives. Other books that appeal to many and are of high interest are The Secret Zoo and The World According to Humphrey.

Many of you have ideas about March is Reading Month, and we can pool all of our ideas and come to consensus. Please email me if you are interested in meeting on a March is Reading Month Committee. Include the days and times (before or after school) that you are available to meet.

Informational Text Web Sites

Students are enjoying reading informational text! Here are three web sites that offer short, interesting informational articles. The sites are especially useful in preparing for the reading on the M-STEP, especially if students are asked to respond in writing and cite information from the reading.

M-STEP Update

M-STEP parent reports arrived before Christmas break, and they will be sent home soon with a letter that Dr. Skalka is generating.

Also, the Michigan Department of Education just announced that the classroom activities have been removed from the math and ELA performance tasks for this spring's M-STEP. It was determined that the pool of performance tasks contain enough embedded resources for students to understand and demonstrate what they know without needing to front-load concepts via a classroom activity. There will be math performance tasks in grades 3-5, but only fifth grade will have a performance task for ELA.

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Pink Halo Shirts

Orders for Pink Halo shirts are due to the office by Tuesday morning. If you would like to participate in the staff game, send Chris Ming an email. Chris sent information about the event that I shared below. In support, we should wear our Landon shirts on Wednesday and follow the district spirit week schedule as indicated if the staff is in agreement. Let me know your thoughts and how Belle River has participated in the past. At a minimum, we can send Chris pictures of the students wearing their Landon shirts to include in the rolling ads presentation set up for each game.

Pink Halo Event Information from Chris Ming

It is that time of year again; the time when North meets South on the basketball court for a good cause. Marine City has the privilege of hosting this year's Pink Halo Event, the 8th annual. Below is a basic timeline of events:

Monday, Jan 25 - Thursday Jan 28 = Pink Halo Spirit Week (Friday is a records day)

  • Monday is ​Purple Day
  • Tuesday is Pink Day
  • Wednesday is Remembrance Day (where white with the name of someone affected by cancer)
  • Thursday is Pink Halo Shirt Day (either this year's shirt or a previous version)
  • I will be putting together a short script that will hopefully be read over the announcements at your schools with a fact about cancer. I will do my best to make it positive...for example talking about recent breakthroughs in research, etc. I will have this sheet out to you the week before so that you can advertise. More likely I will have a flier that will be sent to you at that time with the facts right on it.
  • It would be great to see all schools participating in the spirit week and taking a picture of all the spirited students each day. I would like to include these pictures in our rolling ads presentation that we have set up for every game. Participation across the district on this would be a neat thing and a good way to show district unity.

Friday, January 29 at 7pm is the Staff Game

  • Teachers and coaches from the North End (SCH, SCM, EES, GES, PRES) will compete against teachers and coaches from the South End (MCH, MCM, BRES, PES, REHS) in the third rendition of the game.
  • This has been an incredibly fun addition to the Pink Halo festivities and has had the added bonus of being very competitive both years.

Saturday, January 30 12pm - 10pm is the Main Event

  • Marine City vs. St. Clair Basketball
    • 12pm Freshmen Boys
    • 2pm JV Girls
    • 4pm JV Boys
    • 6pm Varsity Girls
    • 8pm Varsity Boys
  • During the day there will be raffles, silent auctions, bake sales, and games
  • The Cancer Quilt will be on display for people to view and add to.
    • This quilt is produced by Piece-2-Peach Quilters to bring awareness of what cancer is doing to our families along the riverfront. There are approximately 1400 names on the quilt and it is free to add a name and story about a person that has been affected by cancer. Donations are accepted and to date almost $10,000 has been raised over the past 3 years for this project.

Monday Staff Meeting Agenda

1. Civil Right Training for Schools Serving Breakfast

Goal: Ensure teacher and administrator compliance with and enforcement of the prohibition against discrimination in all FNS nutrition programs and activities.

(Sign the sheet indicating that you viewed the Civil Rights Training PowerPoint.)

2. Family Technology Night – Kelly Robbins

Goal: Discuss plan for hosting a parent technology training session.

3. iPad Apps and Cart

Goal: Discuss procedure for downloading apps and make decision about the use of the iPads on the carts in the Media Center.

4. School Systems Review (MDE Requirement for School Improvement)

Goal: In small groups, rate the fidelity/implementation of each strand of the MDE School Improvement Framework as it relates to Belle River.

5. Thoughts, Wonderings, Cares, Concerns…

The Great Homework Debate

This might seem like a rant, but it is not. You might feel that I am directing this argument at you, and I am not. This article is merely meant to share my thoughts and generate ideas.

After meeting with a concerned parent last week, it is obvious that Belle River’s “No Homework” reputation still lingers. This father of three girls, new to our school in September, reported that he can count on one hand the number of times his daughters had homework this school year. Last year at another building in our district, he said he could count on one hand the number of times his daughters did not have homework. We had a long discussion about academic rigor, parent involvement, and preparing students for middle school and beyond. He shared how he only moved his students to Belle River because he wanted them to be with their Marine City peers, and he misses the high academic expectations that he left at his daughters’ previous school.

As you can imagine, I was disheartened and a bit defensive. In the short time that I have been at Belle, I have developed great pride for our students and staff. I have witnessed exceptional dedication and collaboration among the staff, and our students work hard and generally show a lot of care about learning and compassion toward others. It is our endeavor to empower our students with the confidence and knowledge to succeed academically and personally in their futures. Yes, we are a Title I building with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged families. Many of our students live in single parent homes, and some live with parents who are substance abusers. A few families are homeless. However, in spite of and because of these challenges, we set high expectations while providing support for students to meet them. It was concerning that a parent perspective did not reflect our efforts.

I decided to talk to other parents, and not surprisingly, they expect some type of homework. They like to see what students are working on in class, and they want to be able to support with daily work to prepare their children for assessments. Homework is another way to provide independent practice that teachers can use to formatively assess progress. Parents also value the soft skills that homework fosters: organization, responsibility, problem-solving skills, resourcefulness, determination, and time management to name a few. Some parents I questioned said that work comes home marked as "done together".

I know that you are assigning homework. I read about homework assignments in your weekly newsletters and Remind texts, and I have talked to frustrated parents who struggle with understanding some of the Math Expressions proof drawings and models. This parent and the voices of others prompted me to wonder: Are some teachers assigning homework more regularly than others? Did the message of limiting homework in the past result in a disparity in expectations among teachers?

This is my belief about homework. Research has consistently shown that parental involvement in a child's learning is a key factor in that child's achievement in school. With the reality of the test driven world of education, many parents expect what they were given in school for homework: familiar daily or weekly assignments. I agree with the rationale behind these daily assignments:

-Homework reinforces skills, concepts and information learned in class.

-Homework prepares students for upcoming class topics.

-Homework teaches students to work independently and develop self-discipline.

-Homework encourages students to take initiative and responsibility for completing a task.

-Homework allows parents to have an active role in their child's education and helps them to evaluate their child's progress.

-Homework activities relate what is learned in school to children's lives outside of school and helps to connect school learning to the real world.

I know that it has been argued in the past that students might not come to school if their homework is not completed. If that happens, I am prepared to deal with those instances on a case by case basis. Because we report progress using a standards-based approach, missing homework assignments do not impact overall achievement as reported on the report card. With that said, academic progress and performance on assessments might be suffering as a result of students not getting enough practice that comes from doing 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about homework!