Weekly Update 12-18-15

Wright City R-II School District

Hello Wildcat Nation!

What a busy time of the year!

I want to thank all of you for a great first half of the school year! It is so hard to believe that we have just a couple days left in the semester. It goes so fast.

The good news is that we appear to have avoided snow days this semester. Kids might not agree with that being good news!

I may or may not send something out next Tuesday. If I don't, I wish you the happiest of Holidays and hope for safe travels and great visits in your future! And...if you have been good this year, let's hope that you get the real Santa and Rudolph to visit you...not these two (both are family):

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  1. Is Vitamin E water soluble or fat soluble?
  2. What color is Teletubbies character Laa-Laa?
  3. Author Samuel Clemens is better known by which pen name?
  4. Which planet in our solar system is the largest?
  5. How many teaspoons is equal to one tablespoon?
  6. In which film did Tom Cruise sing 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling' in a bar?
  7. Obrigado means 'thank you' in what language?


East, West, MS and HS have had successful Choir and Band concerts this month. Thank you to each of them for creating such wonderful holiday events.

We had 18 kids receive free new glasses via LensCrafter. Thank you to John Clark and the entire counselor team for helping us identify and get kids some much needed glasses.

Kudos to the robotics team for doing so well at a recent competition.

And...so far...no snow days!

Building Offices Closed

Reminder that the building offices will be closed from December 23rd through January 1st. They will reopen when you return on the 4th of January.

If you are in the buildings during that time, please double check that the doors latch and lock!

ESSA...what next?

Last week, the educational world celebrated the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The new version is called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) that was passed in 2001.

That is a lot of letters...but what does it mean?

Well, NCLB and the waivers for it are set to expire in August of 2016. But, the ESSA is not to be in full effect till the 2016-17 school year.

What happens next, and throughout the 2016-17 school year is that the United States Education Department (USED) and states have some decisions to make.

USED, per ESSA, will meet with educational advocates to work on rule making. What is that? Well, it is what they call 'guardrails.' Yes, ESSA does pull back federal involvement in education, but they are still going to require certain items. What will they be? How will they look? When they say states must flag traditionally overlooked student groups that are underperforming...what do they mean by flag...traditionally overlooked...underperforming? When they say that academics must count 'much more' than school quality factors, what does that mean? (more on this in a few paragraphs)

To make this change even more fun, the current Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is leaving. John King is taking his place. King, last week, gave a speech how this puts a clear academic focus on disabled students and students of color. And, that it still gives the USED the ability to withhold $ if states are not progressing in those areas. Again...what does that mean?

And...will he be the Secretary of Education in 2017? Remember, we do have a Presidential Election coming up.

What if the USED and advocates are not progressing during rule making processes? USED does it on their own. Accept for one unusual twist. ESSA says that Congress will have access to the entire process and monitor. That is not the norm. Does that mean Congress will have influence? They technically cannot change anything unless they pass another law. That should prove interesting.

States will still have to put forth an ESSA plan to be approved by USED. What is in that for our state? If rejected, they can request a hearing, which is new.

Last Friday, 24 hours after this became a law, I asked Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Margie Vandeven (who has a Wright City Wildcat magnet on her refrigerator from when her husband worked at American Bank on Bell Rd.) what her take was on the 1,061 page bill was. She said they are looking over it now, and it will be some time before they know what to think of it. For example, the Highly Qualified (HQ) teacher language is gone. That is good, as it conflicted with our states certification requirements. However, ESSA, according to Commissioner Vandeven, had 3 different spots that it mentions certification...and they conflict with each other. Do we have a defacto HQ requirement? If so, what is it?

When you have little kids, you tell them to play and create whatever they want within a sandbox. But, the sand must be in the sandbox. You define the area of play. ESSA is a fuzzy sandbox. We will wait to see what it actually defines...and what we are free to play and create in.

ESSA does require assessments at grade levels 3-8 and once in the HS. It does, perhaps, give states the ability to ask for not 1 test for the entire state....but rather districts could possibly have different tests from each other. That is something that many districts have been interested in exploring...and a group of schools in New Hampshire is piloting now.

ESSA does still require standards. However, the waivers that required Common Core will be no longer. They will stay out of the standard picking business it appears. P.S., Missouri adopted Common Core State Standards prior to the waiver process of NCLB dictated it.

ESSA still requires supplement-not-supplant language.

There is some confusing language about expanding Title II.A into Academies, which may or may not have to follow state rules, certification and such. Hmmm.

ESSA also requires states to expand their accountability system to beyond test scores and graduation. School climate? Student Engagement? Access to Advanced Coursework? Postsecondary readiness? The latter is already in our system. Then, they state that academics must weigh more heavily than other factors. Well, ours is 50% of the entire Annual Performance Report. That is bigger than Graduation. That is bigger than Attendance. That is bigger than College / Career Readiness. It is = to those three areas combined. Is that in compliance?

Some of Title I.A dollars are no longer going to the SIG program, but the states will have a pot of Title I.A that they target at the lowest 5% performing districts (including in achievement gaps) and those that have a graduation rate lower than 67%. At first, the districts are required to collaboratively (teachers + staff) create evidence based interventions. If the scores persist, then the state moves in with their plan. Unlike NCLB, there are not dictated ways the state intervenes.

ESSA also creates some block grants. If you are awarded one, 20% of the funds must be spent on 'well-rounded academic activity' and 20 % must be spent on 'activity that supports safe and healthy students.' Funds also must be used to expand the use of technology. Not very defined.

ESSA also keeps the preschool development grant program via the Department of Health and Human Services. Also staying are the 21st Century Community Learning Centers and the Promise Neighborhoods.

What USED must do now is define these...and define how they will monitor and what they will look at for approval of plans. It will be some time before the sandbox goes from fuzzy to clearly defined. Stay tuned!

So...the path to change to ESSA is best explained like this:

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New Website

We are in the process of creating our new website. Everyone that has had a sneak peak say they are very impressed.

The task now is getting the right information for each page. Many of you have been asked for information to put into the website. Many more of you will be asked soon. Please respond to this quickly. We would love to have the website up by mid-January, but we will not launch publicly until the site is mostly complete. That will depend largely on the information flow.

We have a training for individuals in each building that will maintain their building pages set up for early January.

I thank Andrea Schremp, Jill Smoot, Michael Hansen, Dawn Hickman and Jennifer Hecktor for their countless hours in the selection of and transfer to a new website. There has been many a bumps in the road that were not foreseen. In fact, the picture above fits this transition as well!

Once we get there, it will be much more user friendly, pleasing to the eye, and have device type logic built in so that when you access the website on a mobile device, it will adapt to continue the user friendliness.

BOE Meeting

Here is what occurred in the BOE meeting last night:

  • Call to Order and Roll Call of Members
  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • Approval and Adoption of Amended Agenda (after posting last week, Tuesday we added an item regarding the BOE being invited to a County Meeting on Tolling)
  • MSBA Board Meeting Review
  • East Elementary Board Presentation
  • PAWS reports were reviewed.
  • Approved the Audit Report (we were in compliance)
  • Approved the Annual Secretary to the Board Report (ASBR). This is required by law and is a look at revenue, expenditures, fund balances, debt, and transportation data. The state pulls from these reports for use in such things as Local Effort calculations, Current Expenditure calculations, report card information and federal reporting requirements.
  • Approved the Climate Survey Program Evaluation and the Special Education Program Evaluation
  • Discussed the Greater Warren County Economic Development Council and the incoming new business, EPC.
  • Discussed the upcoming MSBA SBAN regional meeting on April 19th, 2016.
  • Discussed the February 16th MSBA Legislative Forum.
  • Discussed the newly passed ESSA
  • Discussed two Missouri legislative bills filed for the upcoming session that directly affect BOE members.
  • Approved the Travel Reimbursement for C. Ruge
  • Discussion of an invitation to elected officials to a January 7th Warren County Commission in conjunction with the Greater Warren County Economic Development Council regarding the potential impact on tolling of I-70
  • Accepted 1 teacher resignation and 1 coaching resignation.
  • Accepted hires of a nurse substitute, special education paraprofessional, intermural basketball coach and a food service substitute.
  • Accepted the retirement of 2 teachers. (I will not announce them at this time, giving them time to tell folks the way they wish. We will celebrate them at the Spring Banquet for Teacher of the Year, Support Staff of the Year and Retiree celebration.
  • 3rd reading of IGCBA
  • 2nd reading of BBB, BBBA, BBC, BHA, BHD (rescind), DGA, DLCA, JFH (rescind), and KL
  • Approved bills sans a bill that had already been paid.
  • Approved transfer of funds from Fund 1 to Fund 2 to cover Certified Salaries.
  • Approved Band Overnight Trip.
  • Moved to Closed Session.
  • Adjourned.
  • We then reopened in a special BOE meeting to rescind the approval of the bills and approve new presented bills with the correction due to an incorrect document present during open session.

Expulsions and Suspensions

This is my not so fun entry of the update.

In this semester, we have had several students whom we have suspended for a year due to possession of drugs.

In this semester, we have recommended the board of education expel 5 students for either distribution of drugs or breaking into a building and stealing over $1600 worth of district and personal property.

Those numbers represent much less than 1% of our student population. We have such a positive and great student body. They represent our schools and community so well. It is a great place to be. That is why I've been so happy to have my kids involved in the school system or even PAT for nearly 8 years now. I am proud of our Wildcats, both big and small.

I want to thank everyone involved in helping us to catch and respond to the tiny fraction of students who made the mistakes listed above. We wish nothing but the best for all the individuals involved. We are providing off campus education to kids who are suspended for a year. We are cooperating with outside agencies when appropriate to help students get the help they need.

We will not release names unless you are in a need to know basis, but wanted all to know that we will continue to strive for a very safe campus and that we will utilize resources and protocol to address any need. Thank you to the Juvenile Division, Division of Family Services and the Wright City Police Department in assisting us in this endeavor as well.

Wildcat Nation is a safer place today thanks to them and you. Thank you for that!


One of the things we as administrators have been doing 2x per month for 3 years now is norming ourselves on the Growth Guides. The technical term for what we are trying to do is ensure Inter-rater Reliability. As administrators, we do this by videos and classroom observations, then talk about what we saw in terms of various Growth Guides, what scores we would give, and what feedback we might consider to push that segment of a lesson to a higher number. We also talk about the flow of a lesson and a unit, what levels of student engagement we see, what rigor we see (verbal and written), what differentiation we see, gradual release of control from teacher to student and so on. We most likely will not see those all at once of course, and there is a place for various levels within a unit.

We thank you for what you do. One administrator commented this week that the lessons we see now are light years ahead of what we were seeing 8 years ago. I agree with them...the strides forward in quality of instruction in the past decade is something we all should be proud of...and excited about how much father we can go for our kids' sake. Thank you for working so hard to increase rigor, student engagement and using data to take action.

And...thank you for the new ideas. Like this week, we walked into a MS Mathematics class and saw a short clip from Zoolander being used to stimulate the application of scale (you never know what you will find in a MS classroom!). Here is a picture of the kids trying to help old Zoolander understand that the little school in front of him is a model of a real school:

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Education Funding

A recent publication from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities takes a look at the school funding levels in each state from 2008 to now. Below are some graphs I thought you might find interesting. If you want to read the entire article, you can find it here: http://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/most-states-have-cut-school-funding-and-some-continue-cutting

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From The Desk Of Andrea Schremp

  • How to add a shared folder into your drive: https://goo.gl/E4R9O8

  • Reminder: All of your files must be moved out of your “my documents” and into Google Drive by the end of the school year. They do not have to be converted to google format, just stored on Google Drive. Utilizing Google Drive Sync can help with this. Here is a guide a put together on setting up Google Drive Sync: https://goo.gl/eOg07V

From The Desk Of Dawn Day

  • The West 4th and 5th grade choir did a fabulous job at the performance.

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Holiday Humor:

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Then, there is this educational poster at West Elementary...Rudolph is looking out for the kids this holiday season!

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Then, for those of you who are excited about a moving coming out today...only 3 of these were made!

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National Graduation Rate

Good news...it rose to 82% in 2014, which is a record high! Looking at subgroups, they all went up. The gap also closed some between black-white and Hispanic-white.

Missouri's rate is 87.3% in 2014.

Which state had the lowest? Alaska at 71.1%.

Which state had the highest? Iowa at 90.5%.

Articles of the Week (via K. Marshall)

  1. http://bit.ly/1I52vKR - An article out of the December 7th, 2015 Education Week Teacher that looks at the qualities of a good teacher.
  2. http://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/11/23/how-search-google-592/ - A November 23rd, 2015 article on how to guide students to use Google searches that go deeper than the surface.
  3. http://bit.ly/1lIUXU8 - a December 2015 School Library Journal article that lists the top 10 graphic novels for schools.

Staff Banquet is set for April 27th

We will host our 2nd Annual Wright City R-II School District Staff Recognition Banquet at East Elementary on Wednesday, April 27th in the evening.

At that time, we will recognize all retirees, all building support staff of the year winners, and all building teacher of the year winners. We will also have announce the District Support Staff of the Year winner and the District Teacher of the Year winner.

Each winner and retiree will be free as well as their immediate family. We encourage everyone else to attend, but there will be a cost for the meal (me included). More information will be coming in the late winter / early spring. If you attended last year, you know the food will be amazing, and the celebrations rich and well deserved. Please mark your calendars and I hope to see you there.

District Calendar

This is the going ons between now and our next Weekly Update on January 8th:

December 18th

  • 10 a.m. assembly at West (Secondary Choir singing)

December 19th

  • HS Saturday Remedial Attendance

December 22nd:

  • Last day of the semester
  • Holiday parties at East (10 a.m.) and West (2 p.m.)

January 4th:

  • School opens, students return
  • All week, Varsity Boys and Girls Basketball Teams are in the Clopton Tournament. Concludes on Saturday, January 9th.
  • Magical Adventures moves off campus.

January 6th-9th

  • JV Boys Basketball Tournament in Winfield

Trivia Answers

  1. Is Vitamin E water soluble or fat soluble? Fat Soluble
  2. What color is Teletubbies character Laa-Laa? Yellow
  3. Author Samuel Clemens is better known by which pen name? Mark Twain
  4. Which planet in our solar system is the largest? Jupiter
  5. How many teaspoons is equal to one tablespoon? 3
  6. In which film did Tom Cruise sing 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling' in a bar? Top Gun
  7. Obrigado means 'thank you' in what language? Portuguese

Lastly, from the 5 Bucks to you, thank you for everything you do and Happy Holidays!

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