Weekly Update 9-4-15

Good Day Wildcats!

September has come! It is hard to believe that we have already been in session for 17 days! That is 10% of the school year!

For our new to the profession teachers, it was great seeing you shine at our TNT program on Wednesday. You represented Wildcat Nation well! Your mentors would be proud.

Trivia (answers at the end of the Smore)

  1. What nationality was Stieg Larson?
  2. In law, what does peremptory mean?
  3. How many covered bridges (for public traffic in their day) still stand in Missouri?

50 States

A recent study tried to classify states based on where they try to keep authority concentrated, distributed, and how much public education is encouraged. Want to know what the study says about Missouri? See here: http://edexcellence.net/publications/schools-of-thought-a-taxonomy-of-american-education-governance?utm_source=Fordham+Updates&utm_campaign=c0e567603e-Schools_of_Thought_Email_18_24_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d9e8246adf-c0e567603e-71497053


As you know, our state test scores are out. We've shared them out at multiple venues.

We continue to grow with best practices. It is interesting to see us grow two in particular as they are strong at opposite ends of our spectrum and growing the other direction. Those are: Response to Intervention (RtI) and Differentiation.

How do these differ? RtI are targeted responses to what each student knows and what are the next steps to achieve them. This is for all kids. It is done outside of core time. To do correctly, this involves flexible grouping at the elementary level. Let's simplify the math and say a grade has 100 kids and 5 teachers. The team collaborate around assessment data and stratifies out the student ability along a continuum. Let's say reading. And, let's say there are 3 other teachers for RtI time from our interventionist ranks. That is 8 people to flexible group the 100 students. For the students who are struggling the most in some conventions of reading, they are in very small groups and assigned to a teacher during that time. They have targeted Tier II interventions with progress monitoring to judge success by. For some that are on target, they are assigned to a teacher or 2 (depending on size of the group) and are also give targeted instruction to further their development. For the high flyers, they too are assigned a teacher or two and they are given relevant enrichment. Not a study hall. But things that drive their learning further. Accelerates their growth. Keysor Elementary in St. Louis County uses a double triangle to show this. It is sort of a bell curve on a skill or set of skills. And, at the end of 6 weeks, or sooner if it is apparent, kids are regrouped based on growth or lack thereof. That is RtI. I will brag on K and 1st grades who have been so strong in this area for half a dozen years now. We've seen a thurst and growth in grades moving up. We need this. Our current 4th graders on a whole really need this. However, all of our kids need this.

Differentiation. Our high school has become exemplar in this practice. This is when every kid has the same standard and even the same questions and activities with the same learning taking place, but the level of material or amount of scaffolding for each group is different based on their current ability. To stick with reading, this could be levels of text complexity. The kids all have the same question to wrestle with. They all must synthesize and form arguments around said text, but their texts may be of different reading levels based on the reading levels of the students. We are seeing this grow downwards over time, and it is exciting.

Why do I mention this? In the medical world, if a better practice is found, it is ethically imperative to share out that better practice and for others to adopt it. Ethically imperative. That must be true for us. We have practices that have accelerated learning for all kids at a faster rate than before said practices. That means we must replicate them. We can't say...'but that is not the way we want to do it.' It is ethically imperative for us to replicate. And...it is exciting to learn from our peers' successes! Exciting times are here in Wildcat Country!

Assessed Valuation

This is just an FYI for those of you who are curious.

As you may or may not know, our Assessed Valuation is redone every 2 years by both our County Assessors. This was the year. They use both Real and Personal Property. The simple difference between the two is that Personal Property is movable. Real Property is not. So, if you own a car, that is Personal Property. If you own a house, that is Real Property.

Here are the numbers for us:

Lincoln County:

  • Real Property = $9,443,310
  • Personal Property = $2,644,732
  • Total = $12,088,042

Warren County:

  • Real Property = $144,686,145
  • Personal Property = $25,857,391
  • Total = $170,542,436

Thus, we have, including new construction (which the tax rate calculates differently), $182,631,578 in Assessed Valuation.

What does the bond refinance do to future plans?

This week, I fielded this question and others on how that affects our capital projects and future growth. This is in regards to possible faster growth in the near future. We hear rumors that one of the two big subdivisions that never came to Foristell may be about to start and have 150 homes within 5 years. We know that Wentzville continue to grow fast and that a possible new interchange at Point Prairie is in the hopper. Thus, the question is timely.

Here is how I replied:

Bonds are Fund 3 monies that can only be used for what the Bond Issue was passed on. What we gained by saving almost $1.1 million by refinancing those bonds is that we will pay off that debt quicker. That will save taxpayers money on the back end. It also allows us to reach a bonding capacity level quicker if we are in need to build a new high school in the future.

Capital Projects are not changed based on this. Capital Projects are Fund 4 monies. Our next big thing in our 5 year plan is the High School locker rooms. We do have some smaller items such as the underpinnings of the High School roof for example.

In regards to future growth, we have options.

East Elementary is at capacity classroom size. It was built with a capacity of 242 students (double that for the common areas). Today, we are at 238 students in the building. We have no empty rooms.

West Elementary capacity was 500 prior to adding on 3,000 square feet and 2 rooms for the Early Childhood Special Education Department which now has it's own building. We do have a couple of empty rooms to grow into. Today, they are at 511 students.

Middle has a capacity is 440. The Middle School has 341 students and several empty rooms.

High School also are built to have around 500 capacity. The high school has 459 students and are tight on room space right now.

The demographics of growth will make a difference. That is, age make up and location of homes will dictate what options are best. We do have room to grow a little at West and quite a bit at the Middle School. Before building East Elementary, the district had flexed 5th grade into the Middle School. That wasn't popular, but it did buy time for the district to build East Elementary. East Elementary (and the Middle School) were designed so that wings could be added to. That is an option as well. The issue might be if all the growth is in town or west of town, then to make East a K-5 building would be to put the boundary for the two elementaries in town and very close to West Elementary. Also, to add on to East Elementary would push off the bonding capacity of a new High School by several years.

No decisions are needed today. Only awareness of where we are and what we need to be mindful of.

New Truck

You may have seen a new flatbed truck with our district name on it. Dr. Gaines ordered that this past spring. One of you heard a patron commenting why we would need such a new vehicle.

I asked Jack for some numbers, and you will see why CG decided now was the time to buy a truck. Our only existing flatbed truck was built in 1985. 30 years ago. There are many of you reading this Smore that are younger than that truck. Beyond oil and tire changes (standard work on a vehicle), we spent over $2,400 on the truck recently. And, it now is using about 2 quarts of oil a week. CG decided it wasn't to keep putting $ into a truck that was appearing to get worse quickly. I think buying a new truck every 30 years is pretty good track record! I though you would want to know the facts in case someone asked you.


  • No school on Monday! Offices will be closed as well.
  • Tuesday, September 8th: JV/V Softball home vs. Community R-VI; JV/V Volleyball home vs. Barat; and JV Football home vs. Borgia.
  • Thursday, September 10th: JV/V Volleyball at Valley Park; JVV Softball @ Silex and the Board of Education will have a workshop at Central Office around Kolbe-A.
  • Friday next week, the Varsity Football team will be in Bowling Green.

20 profound quotes form Children's books...

1. “Today you are YOU, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than YOU.”

(Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday To You)

2. "Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me...Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."

(Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends)

3. “Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you. Because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”

( Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

4. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

( J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone)

5. “For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.”

(C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew)

6. “Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them–that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

(L.M. Montgomery, Anne Of Green Gables)

7. "Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real."

(Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit)

8. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

(Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince)

9. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”

( Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You’ll Go!)

10. “I don’t understand it any more than you do, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to be.”

(Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle In Time)

11. “You must never feel badly about making mistakes… as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

(Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth)

12. “So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!”

(J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan)

13. “You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

(Roald Dahl, The Twits)

14. “What day is it?”, asked Winnie the Pooh.

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

“My favorite day,” said Pooh.

(A. A. Milne, The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh)

15. “There’s no place like home.”

( L. Frank Braum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)

16. “The moment where you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever being able to do it.”

( J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan)

17. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

(Dr. Seuss, The Lorax)

18. “We all can dance when we find music that we love."

(Giles Andrege, Giraffes Can't Dance)

19. “It’s no use to go back to yesterday because I was different person then.”

(Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

20. “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

(E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web)

Book of the Week

I like to read. In school, that wasn't the case. I was told I am an undiagnosed dyslexic in school. I kept picking up books and kept playing Scrabble to increase my spelling and vocabulary. For that, I'm thankful. I love to read (still not the fastest reader in the world). That includes fiction and non-fiction. Every once in awhile, I will take a moment to share what educational book I've recently read and give you a few highlights.

This week, I will share out a few tidbits about a book titled Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins.

This duo has been at it for a very long time. And their work is always solid. They are the architects of Understanding by Design. I've had the pleasure of seeing both of them present. Their presentation styles couldn't be more different, but their work is worth anyone's time. Grant, sadly, passed away this past May. His work will endure.

I will keep from giving a book report here, but let you know what the book covers and then give you my current 'aha' or 'hmmm' or 'yes!' moments when reading this book.

Jay and Grant make a case for why we should use EQs. They talk about that makes a question an Essential Question, how to design them, and how to use them. They look at various ways to address special cases and how to build a culture of inquiry in the classroom.

Things I keep pondering after reading the book:

  • They start the book with lists of Essential vs. Non-Essential Questions and then ask...what is the difference? They then claim that EQs are open ended, thought-provoking, intellectually engaging, calls for higher order thinking, are important, transferable, raises more questions, requires more than just an answer (support...justify), and recurs over time.
  • This brings me back to Kelly Gallagher's work. He would say don't teach Romeo and Juliet by breaking down each page and dissecting it like it is a science class. Instead, what are the big hairy questions to wrestle with. Ask the kids to wrestle with those same questions in a short text. Then, say that is what we will keep coming back to during Romeo and Juliet. Model. Build off those. Student engagement will go up. The text becomes more meaningful.
  • And that is what Jay and Grant says EQs do...they can hook the reader. This is opposed to leading questions or guiding questions. Those are needed for scaffolding toward the EQ, but they are not the EQ.

In fine, the book is a quick read with many examples and a template on how to write them. They make good claims on why they are good for us to consider as well. I know that some of the buildings focus on EQs now. If you are interested, it is worth a look see.

Articles of the week

One of the things I had done the past 7 years is share articles each week with administrators within the district. As I said, my free time (i.e., when not at work or being held down by small children) is sometime spent reading educational pieces. Here are a few articles that you might be interested in (note: you do not have to read any of them!):

  • “How to Make Your Questions Essential” by Grant Wiggins and Denise Wilbur in Educational Leadership, September 2015 (Vol. 73, #1, p. 10-15), http://bit.ly/1Jx67SJ This builds on the book above.
  • “Making the Most of Multiple Choice” by Susan Brookhart in Educational Leadership, September 2015 (Vol. 73, #1, p. 36-39), available for purchase at http://bit.ly/1hsydVy Brookhart is a prolific author on questioning and assessments. The high school focused on this arena because ACT remains a MC question type test.
  • “Learning from the Feet Up” by Kathy Checkley in Education Update, August 2015 (Vol. 57, #8, p. 2-3, 6), available for purchase at http://bit.ly/1WO55ZG Many of you have heard me say...give kids a legal reason to move! You know how hard it is for you to sit for long periods of time....it is very hard for our kids!
  • “Order of Operations: The Myth and the Math” by Jennifer Bay-Williams and Sherri Martinie in Teaching Children Mathematics, August 2015 (Vol. 22, #1, p. 20-27), available for purchase at http://bit.ly/1IYPyNk As a science guy, I always love a good math article. I even belong to several math blogs. I never taught math, but the intentionality of best practice is intriguing, and often in stark contrast to how I was taught math as a child.

Many, but not all, of the articles you will see here and in future Smores come via Kim Marshall out of Boston. Prior to finding him, I gathered many publications.

On the Web

From the desk of Konee Box

In regards to September and October PD days:

Paras and nurses do not work Sept 18 & Oct 26, but do work Oct 27

10-month staff (East custodian & admin assistants) work Sept 18 & Oct 27, but do

not work Oct 26

In regards to October non-school days:

paras & nurses do not work Oct 2 and Oct 23

10-month staff (East custodian & admin assistants) work Oct 2, but do not work

Oct 23

From the desk of Anita Brace

Please watch your emails for questions regarding insurance/open enrollment choices.

Working on payroll and matching all paperwork and looking for missing paperwork, will need ASAP to get payroll correct and also your insurance choices complete. Thanks for your help in completing this task.

From the desk of Donna Lindsey

New travel forms are on the Staff website under District Forms : Accounting. Please

make sure you are using the correct form. See the Travel Reimbursement Guidelines for

directions. If in doubt, please ask. (see picture below)

When entering a requisition in the Portal for a conference please make sure the dates

and your name are entered. For example: registration Lindsey Oct 1-3 or hotel Lindsey

Oct 1 & 2.

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Trivia Answers

  1. What nationality was Stieg Larson? Swedish
  2. In law, what does peremptory mean? Not Open To Appeal
  3. How many covered bridges (for public traffic in their day) still stand in Missouri? 4