Parent Newsletter

Dec. 16th - 20th

Winter Break begins Monday Dec. 23rd and Students Return Tuesday Jan. 7th (Winter Break Dates: Dec. 23 - Jan. 6)

Final Week before Winter Break

We are winding down the first semester of the 2019 - 2020 school year. On Friday, students will attend a half day with dismissal at 12:45 pm. Friday will also be the end of the second nine weeks. Check out this week's newsletter to learn more about finishing strong:

- A look at the Week Ahead

- Finishing Strong

- New Vaping Policy

- STEM Night - Save The Date 2/20/20

- Understanding Canvas and Skyward

- Promoting a Growth Mindset over the Break

- Counselors Corner

Thanks for a great semester! We hope you and your family have a wonderful winter break and you are able to rest, relax and recharge. We look forward to a great 2020!

Phil Cox, Principal

Chris Layton, Vice Principal

Jenifer Laurendine, Dean of Students

Friday Dec. 20th is an Early Dismissal Day at 12:45 pm

Next Home Basketball Game is Thursday 12/19

A Look at the Week Ahead


A day

Chess Club-Library 2:45-3:45

Atomic Eagles Lego League Team Meeting (Shanafield) Science Wing 2:45-4:45

RadioActive Brix Lego League Team Meeting (Davis) Rm 223 2:45-4:45

Master Builders Lego League Team Meeting (Scott) Rm 102 2:45-4:30

Orchestra Concert Grades 4, 5, and 6 at ORHS 7:00

Basketball vs. Jacksboro Middle School @ Jacksboro MS GJV—5:00, GV—6:00, BV—7:00


B day

5th/6th Grade Morning Homework Help (Martin) Rm 319 7:00-7:30

Get Hired! 8th Grade field trip to Roane State CC 11:30-2:30

Interact Club (Painter) Rm 311 2:45-4:00

Atomic Eagles Lego League Team Meeting (Shanafield) Science Wing 2:45-4:45

Master Builders Lego League Team Meeting (Scott) Rm 102 2:45-4:30

5th/6th Grade After School Homework Help (Martin) Rm 319 2:45-3:30

Girls Basketball Christmas Party-Cafeteria 3:00-4:30

Boys Basketball Practice 3:00-5:00


A day

Youth Ambassador Coalition (YAC) Meeting (Brewer) Rm 201 7:00

Girls Basketball Practice 4:00-6:00

Boys Basketball Practice 2:30-4:30


B day


Math Club (Tracey) Rm 203 2:45-4:00

RadioActive Brix Lego League Team Meeting (Davis) Rm 223 2:45-4:45

Robotic Sumo Bot Team meeting (Franco) Rm 316 2:45-4:00

7th/8th Grade Tutoring (Hondorf) Rm 301 2:45-3:30

Cheer Practice 3:00-4:15

7th/8th Grade Orchestra Concert-ORHS 7:00

Basketball vs. Norris Middle School @ Home GJV—5:00, GV—6:00, BV—7:00


A day

Youth for Christ-JPAC 7:30

Early dismissal (12:45)

Interact Club Hat Day $1 (see your homeroom teacher)

Boys Basketball Practice 3:00-5:00

Dec. 23-Jan. 6

Winter Break—Students return on January 7

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Finishing The Nine Weeks Strong

Over the past few newsletters we have been highlighting the end of the semester with students and parents. One of our biggest goals is to get ALL students to submit ALL assignments. We have made it a primary focus to inform students of the impact a ZERO on an assignment has on their overall grade. In addition, in keeping with promoting a Growth Mindset, we have encouraged students to make corrections on assignments or take advantage of re-take opportunities from teachers.

Here are a few practices to finish the nine weeks strong, but also prepare for the second semester in January.

- Get organized, either digitally, traditionally, or both

Utilize the tools you have including a planner, the Canvas tools discussed many times in the newsletter, OneNote, and or Microsoft Outlook to set up dates and reminders for you of when projects, tests, quizzes and assignments are due

- Complete ALL assignments with your best effort

When the nine weeks ends, many students want to rush to submit work from the first week of the term. They see their grade may need help, but the reality is you should have considered that in early October when you didn't originally submit the work. Take pride in having ZERO unsubmitted assignments. In the end, the math of including ZEROES only has a negative impact on your overall grade.

- Prepare the first time

You may have a teacher who allows test corrections or allows a re-take, but it is critical to prepare the first time. Don't be surprised if you tell your parents every night, "I don't have any homework or anything to do" and then you fail a test or quiz that you never studied and prepared to take. Even on nights where you don't have an assignment, it is always wise to spend a little time reviewing, reading and organizing. If you prepare the first time, you may not have to spend more time and extra time on a retake.

- Take advantage of the resources you have

If you don't understand something, blurting out in the middle of class, "I don't get this!" or "This is stupid and no one understands this" is not the best strategy to help you. Take advantage of time before class, after class or during lunch etc. to speak with your teacher. Use soft skills to help them understand your dilemma and problem. For example:

"Ms. Johnson, I had a hard time understanding today's lesson, is there a time I can get a little more help or a resource you think could help me?"

Don't forget to say please and thank you. Also keep in mind, if you had a hard time with today's lesson because you were distracted or distracting others you may get that as feedback from the teacher. It is not out of the question if you were off task or distracting for a teacher to comment, "I noticed you had a hard time with what we learned today, but I also noticed you were playing games as we were learning or talking with your buddy etc."

Take ownership over your learning and prepare a plan to help you be successful. Can you be Gritty? Do you want to succeed and if so, are you willing to work at the steps as listed above continuously to improve your grades?

Picture Orders went home Friday Dec. 13th

Picture Orders Have Arrived!

Friday, December 13th, your child was sent home with any picture packages that were ordered. Any orders that were placed for make-up day pictures will arrive at a later date.

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STEM Night is 2/20/20

STEM Night: 2/20/20 We hope to see you there

This is a message to Save the Date for STEM Night which will be from 6 pm - 8 pm on Thursday February 20th at Jefferson Middle School. The goal of STEM night is to invite our families and students in to our school to learn more about STEM, careers in STEM and applications both at JMS and the world in which our students will work, live, and thrive in their futures.

If you have any resources or you work for a group that may want to be a part of the STEM night, please contact either of our STEM coaches Callie Painter at or Alex Goldberg at

We will keep reminding everyone of this date as we hope to have a HUGE turnout like we did last year!

Meet Molly, the Kid Who Never Stops Inventing GE Commercial

New Vaping Policy - Takes Effect Jan. 2020

To effectively address and discourage student vaping, Oak Ridge Schools board of education has approved the following addendum to the 2019-2020 Oak Ridge Schools Discipline Code. This addendum will go into effect January 1, 2020, to allow us to communicate specifics to students and families.

Read the updated policy below or at this link.

Smoking/Tobacco Citations/Electronic Cigarettes

Smoking or the possession or use of any tobacco product including smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes in school buildings, on school premises, or at school-related activities is prohibited. (BEP SEC. I-5, TCA 39-17-1601 and school board policy 1.803) Students who are found in possession of tobacco or tobacco products including smokeless tobacco, and electronic cigarettes will be issued a tobacco citation for a court hearing. (T.C.A. 39-17-1505). Electronic cigarettes mean an electronic device that converts nicotine into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. Nicotine vapors or oils will be considered as paraphernalia for the electronic cigarettes. All uses of tobacco including electronic/battery operated nicotine delivery devices, vapor products, and all other associated paraphernalia are prohibited in all of the school district’s buildings and in all vehicles that are owned, leased, or operated by the district. Smoking and vaping shall be prohibited in any public seating areas including, but not limited to, bleachers used for sporting events or public restrooms. (School Board policy 1.803)

Students who are vaping or found to be in possession of tobacco or tobacco products on school property including smokeless tobacco, and electronic cigarettes, will be assigned the following consequences:

. First Offense – Student will be assigned five days of out of school suspension, receive a tobacco citation and be required to attend a tobacco/vaping education class. The length of the suspension may be reduced pending the successful completion of the tobacco/vaping education class.

. Second Offense – Student will be assigned seven days of out of school suspension.

. Third Offense – Student will be assigned a long term suspension (10 days or more).

Students who are found to be distributing tobacco or tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes, will be assigned the following consequences:

. 1st Offense – Student will be assigned seven days of out of school suspension, receive a tobacco citation and be required to attend a tobacco/vaping education class. The length of the suspension may be reduced pending the successful completing of the tobacco /vaping education class.

. 2nd Offense – Student will be assigned a long term suspension (10 days or more).

Vaping products containing THC – Student activity involving possession or distribution of products containing THC will be addressed as a Zero Tolerance Offense.

Lego League Has Great Success

The Jefferson Middle School FIRST LEGO League teams competed at the Marble City Qualifier on December 14, 2019. The RadioActive Brix received the 2nd Place Robot Design Award. The Atomic Eagles received the 1st Place Robot Design Award. The Jefferson Middle School Master Builders received the 1st Place Robot Performance Award and the 2nd Place Champions Award. It was a fun day of celebrating and sharing all that they have learned since the season began in August.

Congrats to Former Jefferson Eagles on Great Success at ORHS

We would like to recognize and congratulate the following JMS alumni for being selected as All Region Players of the Year after their successful football season with Oak Ridge High School. Isaiah Johnson (No. 20) was selected as All Region Wide Receiver of the Year. Others selected to the All Region Team include Jack Replogle, Issair Franquez, Matthew Calhoun, Tyler Galloway, Samuel Hensley, and Mitchell Gibbons. Cole Adams and Johnathan Stewart were also listed as All Region Team honorable mentions.

This is a testament to the incredible amount of work and energy that coaches Brian Wilson, Mike Murphy, Jacob Nicely, and Michael Laurendine put into the Eagle's football team. We want to recognize them for all that they do for our athletics program here at Jefferson Middle School and their efforts to develop athletes both on and off the field to ensure they are prepared for whatever the future may hold beyond a student athlete's tenure at JMS. Go Eagles!

Here is a link to the Oak Ridger's Article:

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PTO News

Teacher Luncheon Thank You: Our teacher luncheon last week was another success thanks to all the wonderful JMS parents and grandparents that donated food! Thank you all! And a special shout out to the luncheon organizers: Julie Dallas, Becky Hughes and Shona Ellis!

Next PTO Meeting: There will be no PTO meeting this month. Our next meeting will be January 28.

Fundraiser Spotlight: Are you curious about how your fundraiser dollars are being used? Each week, the PTO section of this newsletter will feature a different department or classroom from JMS that was helped with money from our annual Direct Drive fundraiser! This week the spotlight is on Mrs. Kerr and Mrs. Sample’s classrooms. These classes are now using an online learning tool called Quizlet to help build Spanish vocabulary. PTO was able to purchase a 1-year subscription for each teacher using funds from the Direct Drive. Thank you JMS families!

JMS Parent's Introduction to Skyward

Using Skyward and Canvas for Student Success

It's the time of year to think about New Year's Resolutions. One such goal could be to utilize the tools for both Skyward and Canvas to help students remain organized and submit assignments on time. We spend a lot of time focusing on how large of an impact a zero can have on a student's grade or the impact they can have when they resubmit an assignment. As we work with students to set up goals, these tools can have a major impact to help keep students up to date and organized for their academic goals.

You have probably heard about Canvas or Skyward, but you may not know how they are used by teachers. Both are incredible tools that work to help both students and teachers keep up with their classes. Below are some brief descriptions for each tool and how you can utilize them at home to help your student stay organized and on top of their work.

Skyward - (video above)

For the 2019 - 2020 school year parents will be able to check out student grades in Skyward. Teachers will work to keep the grade book up to date weekly. This will help to have a better idea of student's progress weekly. Around 4.5 weeks into the nine weeks, students will get a midterm report sent home and at the end of the nine weeks.

Canvas (video below)

For 2019 - 2020 Canvas will serve as the place to get information about your child's class. For example, "what did you do in school today?" or "what did you learn about today?" etc. Canvas allows teachers to post announcements, links to resources, videos, PowerPoint notes, links to OneNote and other information that will help students in the class.

We ask our teachers to work to keep the announcements section updated each week in Canvas. This will allow parents to see a glance at the week ahead. Please keep in mind that some assignments, quizzes, tests, projects etc. may be subject to change and that the look at the week ahead is a tool to help students and parents have an idea of what will be discussed each week.

JMS Parent's Introduction to Canvas

Interact Club Fundraiser Hat Day

The Interact Club is hosting their first fundraiser at JMS. Students may wear a hat on Friday, December 20 after turning in $1 to their homeroom. The money raised will go to help Interact students going to our district conference as well as our community project (The Pat Summitt Foundation, part of the East Tennessee Alzheimer’s Association) and our international projects (Polio Plus and Heart2Heart). Thank you for your support of the JMS Interact Club and these worthy causes!

Student Device Checks Jan. 8th - 10th

Laptop Inspection

Making SMART Goals for 2020

This is the final week of the second nine weeks and we want our students to make a great effort this week to finish strong. After this week, we want students to spend time with family, friends and rest and relax. As we near our return to school on January 7th, we also want to help encourage students to work on goal setting for a successful second half to the school year. Even students had struggles in the first semester it is important for students to understand that they second semester is a new beginning. As a part of our focus upon our return, we will continue to inform our students about the importance of setting goals, and working towards making our goals S.M.A.R.T.

The following article lays out some good ideas and practices for students and parents about goals and how to set goals. Check out the article from Edutopia "SMART goal setting with your students" to learn more. Below is an excerpt from that article:

With all that is being written now about "mindset," it is an excellent idea to begin school by having our students set positive goals. More and more K-16 schools are introducing concepts like SMART goals as a way of gradually building students' capacity to tackle the increasing challenges they are facing.

Developing a Specific Goal

SMART goals are:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Relevant, Rigorous, Realistic, and Results Focused
T = Timely and Trackable

Learning how to frame goals as SMART goals and being willing to adjust them to get SMARTer is an important skill that would help every student get off to a better start and have a better school year, this year and into the future.

Here is a practical example, starting with a typical, but not especially SMART, goal:

I will do better on my report card in the next marking period.

Here is a way to make it SMARTer:

In the next marking period, I will get at least a C on all my math tests, and at least a B on most of my quizzes and homework assignments.

But it's not SMART yet because it has no action plan or benchmarks. Here is a pretty SMART goal:

In the next marking period, I will take careful notes and review them at least two days before tests and quizzes so that I can ask the teacher questions about what I don't understand. I will do my math homework before I do things with friends, and when I hand it in, I will ask the teacher about anything I am not sure about. When I get anything wrong, I will make sure to ask the teacher, or one of my classmates how they got the right answer.

It's not easy to write SMART goals. This skill takes time to develop, and it’s especially important to have in place for students at the secondary level. A goal is an outcome, something that will make a difference as a result of achieving it. It can't be too ambitious to be out of reach, but also not so simple that it does not challenge. A goal has to be realistic with a stretch, requiring effort and focus to achieve it. That's why goals need time frames and measurable action steps along the way so that we can keep track of progress and make adjustments as necessary.

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Promoting a Growth Mindset over Break

We spend a lot of time working with our students on developing a growth mindset. We talk about it in our assemblies, publicize it on our school TVs, in our newsletters and through our social media campaigns. We want to take this opportunity to continue to provide information and resources in reference to promoting a growth mindset. We want to provide ideas, tools, resources and strategies to help our students think about the process of a growth mindset over the break.

While we want students to relax, rest and enjoy their holidays with family and friends, it is also important for students to continue to work their mind. While their pursuits may not be directly related to school and assignments from classes they may still have opportunities to engage in challenges designed to expand their brain and growth mindset. For example, it could be a holiday art project, using legos, reading for fun, making a video project about a topic of their choice, developing a solution to a real world issue etc.

The following article talks about how we can all work collectively to help students who may have had academic struggles understand that they are capable of learning, but there may be some challenges along the way. Promoting a growth mindset is great for all students and even adults. As our world is continuously changing, so is our need to continue to be lifelong learners. Here is an excerpt from "Helping Struggling Students Build a Growth Mindset" :


This outlook helps struggling students become more motivated, alert, and ready to learn, so that neurotransmitters that enable learning can be released. Many students who have learning challenges become pessimistic about school and lose hope that they can make academic progress. These teaching strategies help reinforce how useful it can be to develop a state of practical optimism:

  • Model practical optimism and point out examples of this approach in action; for example, say, “We knew this would be a tough project, but we stuck with it and worked hard. Just look at what we’ve accomplished!”
  • Share examples of how you have overcome learning obstacles. It’s helpful for struggling students to realize that everyone occasionally faces learning challenges.
  • Share stories that illustrate the benefits of practical optimism.
  • Maintain a positive learning atmosphere by posing questions such as “What was the best thing that happened today?”

In previous posts, we’ve discussed cultivating practical optimism in the classroomand in schools generally.

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Counselors Corner

For many schools, today is the last week of classes in session before winter break. Students will be headed home to enjoy holiday and winter fun, but that doesn’t mean they need to put their learning on hold much learning takes place outside the traditional classroom.

Read for pleasure.
Remind your students that reading can be fun at any age. Whether your students are reading holiday stories before bedtime or catching up on their favorite mystery series, winter break provides the perfect opportunity to read for fun.

Here are some holiday books that were voted the best for 2019.

1. Tween boy must salvage Christmas in fun, moving adventure.

2. Scrooge learns compassion in granddaddy of Christmas tales.

3. L. Frank Baum is mostly known as the author of The Wizard of Oz, but few know he also took a crack at a different all-powerful man. If your kids have ever asked who Santa was before the reindeer and the North Pole, Baum traces his life starting in childhood.

4. Queenie Peavy is a puzzle to everyone but herself. She knows why she is defiant with her teachers and deliberately mean to her schoolmates -- aren't they all against her? And Queenie doesn't care -- not Queenie Peavy!

The fact is that Queenie has a chip on her shoulder too big for a lonely thirteen year old to carry. Times have been hard for everybody in the early 1930s, and they are especially hard for a girl whose idolized father has been in jail and whose mother works long hours.

But in spite of all that, Queenie can be happy, for Queenie has character.

5. A cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house on the West Bank that has just been commandeered by two Israeli soldiers. The house seems empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards.
Should she help him?

After all, she’s just a cat.

Or is she?

It turns out that this particular cat is not used to thinking about anyone but herself. She was once a regular North American girl who only had to deal with normal middle-school problems — staying under the teachers’ radar, bullying her sister and the uncool kids at school, outsmarting her clueless parents.

6. Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom - the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she's determined to let everyone know it - somehow.

In this breakthrough story, reminiscent of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, from multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper, readers will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will change forever how they look at anyone with a disability

Have a Happy and Safe Holiday Break!

From the Counseling Office