Cougar Comments

Nov 4, 2019 - Nov 8, 2019


Henry. Sweet boy. Oldest of my three, and I can't for the life of me figure out what is actually going on between the hours of 9am and 3pm while he attends middle school. You'd think that I, as an administrator, could ferret out why he has an "E" in science. For those who don't know, I think an E is code for failing in Tacoma. Insert more irony considering that as a content teacher I taught... science. Awesome.

My wife and I rack our brains while making him flip through binders, grill him about what is going on and what he's doing in class each day, but to no avail. It would be tempting to blame the fact that he's on his third teacher this year, or that assignments just aren't in the online gradebook yet, etc. However, for those of you who know me well, you can imagine that there's a scarcity of sympathy for the plight of my son as he has a failing grade in a class.

Best efforts + blind faith + super fun interactions at home (sarcasm) = still scratching our heads + a grounded son named Henry.

Here's why I tell you this story...

As we approach the end of our first quarter, I wanted to take a quick moment to share a few things that have cropped up regarding CORE/FLEX and communication.

Obviously CORE/FLEX is one system that we use to hold students accountable for bringing or keeping their grades up. I wish my son's middle school had a similar structure in place. For all the positive things CORE/FLEX has yielded however, I want to make sure that it doesn't replace the absolute essential need for communication to both students and families.

Let me start with an example less "Robinson family"...

The mechanism of SST does a great job of taking a snapshot of grades every 5 weeks... but what about the days immediately following? Depending on when assignments are entered and the time of year, students' grades can (and often do) fluctuate quite a bit. Picture a student who was in FLEX HELP and with one assignment earned his or her way out of that session only to allow another grade to slip. I was racking my brain about how to best address this type of issue, but then realized that CORE/FLEX was never designed to be real-time.

That said, here's where the importance of communication comes in. Although CORE/FLEX is a great model from intervention, it will never replace communication from:

  • Teacher to student


  • Teacher to home

I say this because you are and will continue to be the best gauge of how a student is doing in class. This is especially true when students or parents are asking the question "What can I do to see improvement?" A valid, albeit sometimes frustrating question to be sure, but I'd rather have the question asked than not at all.

With conferences around the corner (Nov 21), it is imperative that we are as a building reaching out to families of struggling students. Similarly, the SST process can't possibly replace the moment you pull a struggling student aside when they've fallen behind or did poorly on a test and strategize with him or her how to best utilize CORE/FLEX or tackle a task at a different time. I'm actually one of those people who believe it's unacceptable for a student to be failing a class without hearing from the teacher (more specifically when grading windows come to a close).

Back to Henry...

You can bet that I'm not done brainstorming ways to help him bring his science grade up. It's not for a lack of effort, and so I was absolutely ecstatic when I got an email from his newest teacher regarding how we can move forward. And I'm even more glad that the teachers my son has this year are working with him as he learns the skills of "doing school." He is a kid. He is also the first test subject and guinea pig of the Robinson family. I'm confident that my son will have a higher grade than an E by the end of this term, but I can still use all of the help I can get. Without communication from and with his teacher, I'm only doing my best to figure out what's really going on.

You're on the front lines. We are counting on you to help our school meet the needs of students. You, and all that you do, are appreciated, and I love that this is a "whatever it takes" kind of staff.

Whatever it takes!



Five day week with a Veterans Day assembly at the end.

$5 Starbucks gift card to the first two staff members who email me with the letter grade Henry has in Science.


  • Huge thank you to Mr. Minger and the Leos for helping out two recent events in our neighborhood - Harvest Festival and the Halloween Party.
  • Mrs. Render and Mr. Troupe created a wonderful presentation to highlight STEAM Innovators at last week's board meeting! Nicely done.
  • Thanks to all staff on various committees! We can't do the important work we do each day without our combined efforts. Whether ILT, AVID, SST, or PBIS, what you do matters!
  • Nice job to our Social Studies dept for bringing in the VR goggles to create a cool learning experience for kids. Even cooler that you all continue to think of how to design lessons while working together.


  • Our Veterans Day assembly will be on Friday during CORE/FLEX. Keep an eye out for an email with details.
  • Due to Veterans Day, the departmental process of student/staff assignments that usually takes place on a Monday morning will need to be done whenever time allows!
  • STUDENT GROWTH GOALS!!! Please let us know if you have any questions regarding the process of setting Student Growth Goals in eVAL. Mr. Lezcano and I are hoping to sign-off on SGGs by November 15th. That being said, please make sure you have worked within your dept to articulate your SGGs and that you can write these into that particular section of eVAL. Whether the actual development of these goals or the technical side of eVAL, it's really important to let your evaluator know if you need any assistance whatsoever with this.
  • The end of first quarter is on Tuesday. Half way to the end of semester... that point in the year when grades get stamped as truly counting on transcripts. Mrs. March just emailed out. Please make sure that you are communicating with the homes of students who are struggling. The office will be mailing home progress reports for students with Ds or Fs, along with some other information.


Instructional Leadership Team (ILT)

  • The ILT met with AVID had a conversation about what it might look like to begin our AVID schoolwide journey.


  • This group is working to highlight our #CJHKIND efforts. Keep passing out those cards and recognizing our great kids.

AVID Site team

  • Joined forces with ILT this past week.


  • These two groups will meet this week to do CORE/FLEX assignments that they will send to departments. Due to Veterans Day, the departmental process of student/staff assignments that usually takes place on a Monday morning will need to be done whenever time allows!



Monday, November 4th, 2019

  • Collaboration Monday! Choose your own adventure. Two potential orders of business include preparing for Tuesday's Family Time lesson and working on your Student Growth Goals in eVAL. I will hop on the intercom at 7:25 to remind folks to head to C407 for a 10-minute overview of the next day's lesson. If you haven't been working on your Student Growth Goals, please make it a point to talk within your departments about what you might need to accomplish this in the next two weeks.
  • The Special Education department is meeting after school.
  • Our CJH Booster Club is meeting in the evening at 6:30pm in our library.

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

  • First Quarter Progress Report day! Actual posting of grades without comments.
  • Mrs. Holmes will be out of the office in the AM as she attends an important meeting about 504 plans.
  • Some colleagues from FHS will be stopping over in the afternoon to help us understand some of the new programs they have going.
  • We have our November staff meeting after school- 2-3-fiver. Please think about CJH students who have made significant growth these past couple of months (or even from last year to now) and be ready to share. We will be talking about Trauma Informed Practices as well as some updates to discipline law as they apply to school.
  • Post your grades for quarter one.

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

  • The SST 8 and 9 staff committees will be meeting after school in the library to make CORE/FLEX assignments for struggling students.

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

  • Pretty open day.

Friday, November 8th, 2019

  • Veterans Day assembly to end the week. We have already made contact with students who are bravely reading their poems and have our music groups ready to perform. It's a brief but poignant way for us to observe this important holiday.

Of note in the coming weeks:

  • No school 11/11 for Veterans Day
  • Class picture day 11/13
  • Fall arena conferences on 11/21


PROFESSIONAL LEARNING resources, articles, or other resources