Weekly Update 4-29-16

Wright City R-II School District

Hello Wildcat Nation!

This week, we celebrated Administrative Assistant's Day. We celebrated our retirees. We celebrated our building Teacher of the Year winners. We celebrated our building Support Staff of the Year winners. And you know what, we are just beginning!

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week. We have honors and awards and ceremonies coming in each building for kids. We have graduation coming on May 20th. All of this and we have just 11 days of school after this week. They are packed, frenetic, and wonderful days.

Thank you to each of you for making that happen.


  1. Who wrote Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus?
  2. Gamma is the ____ letter of the Greek alphabet?
  3. Which U.S. state extends the furthest south?
  4. What band released albums called In Utero and Bleach?
  5. What is copper's atomic number?

Jackie Nierman

Congratulations to Jackie for being selected as the Wright City R-II School District Support Staff Person of the Year!

All 5 building winners were so worthy! Kudos to each of them for the difference they make in people's lives, both big and small.

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Staff Banquet

Thank you to Lynn, Tracy, Patty, Bonnie, Jack, Julie, Dawn, Jill, Jen, Bill, and to so many others for making the night work so wonderfully. We had 15 honorees present. It was such a nice evening.

I thanked them Thursday morning for allowing us to celebrate them, as I truly believe that ceremonies are important. I particularly like the symbolism of kids performing for them and serving them during this event...as a thank you for all the service each of these 15 individuals have given to these and other students this year and over the years. Kudos to each of them...and thank you for all that you have and continue to do.


We received the following email on Friday of last week:

Dear Wright City R-II School Board:

Congratulations! Your board of education has been selected as a recipient of a 2016 Outstanding Board of Education Award in Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

All applications were carefully reviewed by members of the MSBA Leadership Development Committee according to the degree to which the criteria areas outlined in the application were addressed. Each of the criteria was scored on a four point scale. The applications that earned at least 85% of the total points possible and did not receive any level one ratings were selected for recognition.

Again, congratulations on receiving an Outstanding Board of Education Award! We look forward to seeing you at the MSBA Leadership Summit.

Signed by (the actual signature is not showing up via copy/paste):

  • Chairman, Leadership Development Committee
  • Associate Executive Director, Leadership Development
  • Director, Board Development

Janet Tilley

Director, Board Development

To put this in perspective, 5 school districts in the state of Missouri won this award in this category, and Wright City R-II BOE is one of those! Last year, the Wright City R-II School Board of Education was 1 of 2 who won the award in the area of Human Organization Capital. This year, only 1 district won it in that category. In all, 12 school district boards of education won an award this year.

I asked what who the other 4 districts were, but they can't release that until June 4th. The districts can though. Janet did tell me that the Leadership Development Committee members did share that our board submitted an excellent application and are definitely deserving of this award. They scored a 93.75% score on the rubric. Nicely done.

Please join me in congratulating our board of education on this award! Go Wildcats!


We have a MS student, Thomas Trollope, who just won a COMP award. COMP stands for Creating Original Music Project and is made up of two programs directed at younger composers. One of those is a statewide competition that recognizes Missouri students (K-12) who compose original works in a variety of musical styles. Mr. Oberlin had participated in this as a performer when he was in graduate school and set a goal of submitting student work. Thank you Todd!

Tommy Trollope composed an original 'popular music' tune entitled Giants for guitar and voice. He worked on this during the last third of first semester. Todd recoded him performing it and they submitted it to the competition in January. He won 1st place in the Junior Division and his work was performed at the ceremony on April 16th. His family and Todd were able to attend and celebrate his accomplishment.

Thanks to Tommy's 1st place, the Wright City R-II Vocal Music Program received a $1,000 award!

How about that! This month we had 2 elementary DI teams become state champions and a MS student become a state champion in composing!

Congratulations to Tommy and to Todd!

Board of Education Meeting

The Board of Education held a Special Board meeting on April 27th. They had 3 agenda items.

The BOE passed a motion to continue to pay coach's stipends over 12 months.

The BOE endorsed a candidate for President Elect of MSBA.

The BOE hired 3 individuals.

Extra duty contracts and support staff letters

For those of you who have received a contract for coaching and already signed / turned it in, we will submit a new one. For those that have not done so, please still do so by the due date of May 4th, and we will then submit a new one to you. Timing will likely be after school let's out but in the month of May.

For support staff, we are working on those now and have set a self-imposed deadline of May 11th. You should then receive those on May 12th or earlier.

Extra Duty

Are there sponsorships or clubs that we currently are not paying a stipend for but you believe we should be?

On Friday, I will send out a form to all staff on this topic. If you would like us to consider adding something that already is occurring but not being compensated for, please submit that for review. We want to honor your time and efforts. Deadline would be May 9th.

Reaction to the new Missouri Learning Standards

Here are two articles from other parts of the state on the topic. Thank you to the teachers involved in this switch in advance. Sometimes work finds us. However, it is an opportunity to improve at the same time, and I so look forward to the improvements we will leverage from this mandate.

Scenic Regional Library

On Tuesday of this week, I had the pleasure of listening to the library's director, Steve Campbell, address the Wright City Chamber of Commerce. The 5 Bucks frequent the library every other week...and we take out multiple bags of books each time. We may even run into one of you there from time to time. So I felt I knew what the library had to offer. Oh my was I wrong!

Since the tax passed, they have expanded into so many areas, many of which I believe you can utilize for your classroom!

Here is some of the highlights that I caught.

  • Tutor.com is an online tutoring service available free from their website ( www.scenicregional.org ) with your library card. This service is fro K-12, and early college courses. The tutors are all certified teachers and students are matched with a teacher who is certified for their grade level and subject area requested. The largest percent of usage is by HS math and science students. It sounds like you have live video feed with a person and they have a marker board they zoom in on while they walk you through homework help or study material. I believe he said this is open from 3 to 11 p.m. each day (may have the times wrong)
  • Read the Books - book recommendations based on interests, lists of state award nominees, AR lists that connect to Scenic Regional Library's online catalog.
  • Mango Languages - like Rosetta Stone, you can learn over 40 languages. Again online via their website.
  • Consumer Health and Medline - medical info online.
  • Literature Resource Center - research on literary topics, authors and their works...online.
  • Newspaper source - access to articles from over 40 U.S. and International Newspapers including St.L P-D...online
  • Local Historical Newspapers for Union and Franklin County newspapers dating back to 1887.
  • Driver's Ed Test Prep.
  • Learning Express Library - free test prep, scores, and correct answers given after the test for ACT, SAT, GED, GRE, Realtor, etc. All online and you can do from home or your classroom.
  • Virtual Library - ebooks, eaudiobooks, emagazines, streaming movies and tv. Some of these are via strange named apps (why do we name things so oddly when it comes to apps?). You can live stream 3 hours of songs a day. Or, you can download 5 songs a week for free...and keep them forever. Next week, add 5 new ones. They have around 5,000 ebooks. They have around 100 magazines. All online via their website.

And I know I'm not capturing all that Steve shared. He talked fast to fit in all his news...which was many.

I have contacted their outreach program person, Christy Schink. We will either have Christy come to buildings to do a teacher orientation or we will have her at the back to school district day (or both). More to come, but till then, check out their website and find so many wonderful resources!

New Library

As you drive down Wildcat Drive, you may notice some stakes in the ground near West Elementary. The new library will be going in next year. They believe they will break ground in February. Not yet set, but soon they will host a community forum regarding the design of the what they expect will be a 7,000 square foot facility with ability to add on. They hope to have a community room and have a computer bank. They were excited to learn we are moving to 1:1, and will likely upgrade their bandwidth they were planning on.

In comparison, the current Warrenton facility has 9,000 square feet.

New Ambulance Building

As of Wednesday, the Ambulance District now owns the property on Bell / Westwoods across from the MS. They hope to break ground very soon and be in their new facility by October of this year. Having them right next to 4 of our 6 buildings will be very nice.

Socratic Seminar

I was a group email helping someone plan out a college lesson. Fun. One person sent out a Grant Wiggins 2004 document on seminar. I thought I would share:

What is a seminar? A seminar is a genuine discussion. As the opening quote suggests, a seminar is meant to be a different kind of class (or instructional strategy). The seminar is designed to enable students to explore a text, a problem, an experience; it is not a more conversational form of teacher-led instruction. Rather, it is the students’ opportunity to ask and consider questions and explore each others’ answers. In short, it becomes the student’s opportunity and responsibility to develop habits and skills that are traditionally reserved for the teacher.

The seminar experience rolls ‘content’ and ‘process’ into one. The student not only learns more about an idea or text, the student learns how to discuss it: the student gains practice in leading discussions, listening for insights in the comments of others, proposing alternative paths of conversation, insuring that quiet or “weird” voices are heard, and how to help talk move beyond superficial but unconnected sharing to sustained and thought-provoking dialogue.

What a seminar isn’t. A seminar can perhaps be better understood by considering what it is not: it is not training; it is not interactive lecturing; it is not canned student speaking (like the 19th century ‘recitation.’) A seminar is neither a debate nor a teacher led “class discussion” (where “discussion” means students taking turns sharing thoughts, feelings, and reactions). Rather, the seminar is a collective inquiry into questions and issues, typically prompted by a reading or shared experience. A key aim is to develop everyone’s understanding of the issues – not to be confused with “answering” the teacher’s questions. But it also aims at everyone’s selfunderstanding – through speaking, idea testing, listening, and reflection. The purpose is to ‘uncover’ not ‘cover’ a subject.

The teacher may well have to learn and practice new habits, therefore. In a seminar, the teacher becomes a mature co-colleague in the conversation (after some initial training and modeling). The great challenge for the teacher is to break habits – to very self-consciously try to stop managing all the talk and leading students to an answer. The seminar leader’s job is more like that of a counselor, therapist, or spiritual leader: to keep the important issues alive and to keep important voices, perspectives or past strands of talk from getting lost. Initially one must direct and train. But once students have grasped the new purpose, routines, and norms at work, the teacher can become less of a “teacher” and more like a coach as students manage their “team” performance. In advanced seminars, the teacher becomes even less obtrusive – more like the referee.

The aim of a seminar is not to replace or jazz up instruction, then, but to supplement it. The seminar works best as a precursor to or synthesizing experience of traditional didactic teaching and skill coaching The seminar presents students with chances to explore the meaning of the work (assignments, lessons, discrete learnings) that make up their formal instruction.2 A seminar works best when the issues arise “naturally” out of prior work and experience.

“What is my job?” Students must come to know that their job is different. It is not to sit passively and await instruction or answers, or only to say whatever pops into their mind. Their job is to come to a common and an individual understanding of what something means. In the broadest sense, the goal is to make sense of a ‘text’ -- be the text a book, a story heard, a video, or a shared experience; and to bring the whole group along on the quest for meaning as much as possible – what we like to call Intellectual Outward Bound. This student freedom and responsibility takes some getting used to. Habits and expectations run deep: students will typically glance toward the teacher during each lull, to find out the next “move” in the conversation (even if the teacher has worked hard to shed the mantle of “traffic cop” and authority). A key understanding occurs when a student realizes that the seminar is only as engaging and effective as what each person puts into it.

Many teachers report happily that good seminars often improve student preparation for class and decrease student absence. A good seminar often becomes as engaging and compelling as team sports or putting on a play: the talk becomes so important that to get a later summary just won’t do. Leadership and maturity often arise from surprising sources, too. Learners who may not have been effective or outgoing in a teacher-led class may well shine as seminar leaders. Alas, the opposite happens, too: seemingly bright and able students may become sadly timid and anxious when the Teacher is no longer the All-Knowing Arbiter of Truth. Be prepared, too, for losing your bearings as a teacher, especially at first. You may misjudge success or failure by basing your evaluation too much on your own feelings of being in or out of control of the process. Often the best seminars feel out of control as teachers shed the role of tour director; discussions that seemed to go well may only have felt that way because it was a smooth flow toward good answers. So, seek feedback from students, videotape, and student work to test your perceptions against the evidence.

Certain texts, questions, or problems lend themselves more than others to seminar work. So-called ‘great books’ are ideal for seminars, as many learn in college: they are ‘great’ precisely because they raise as many questions as they answer; we project different meanings into the text, leading to lively argument; and they focus on ‘big idea’ questions. Organizing a seminar around provocative “essential” questions and texts that offer different compelling perspectives on those questions is thus an effective entry point: students come to see quickly that the text is a means to an end, that the ideas come to life in a free-wheeling dialogue, and that a good text profits from re-reading and re-thinking.

The seminar can be as loose or structured as a facilitator desires. But with pre-college students, being clear about the forms and rituals of seminar is useful, especially at first, since a new form and function is being tried out. Deliberate training in the new roles is therefore vital. Below, the reader will find examples of how more explicit structures -- i.e. roles, rules, and relationships -- can be designed to make the conversation more deliberately productive and focused. (A full set of seminar rubrics is available in a separate handout). But no set of rules can substitute for your sound judgment, good ears and eyes, and tact. For, at bottom, the seminar is co-operative learning at its best: finding whatever ways we can to insure that everyone feels included and competent as a seminar member.



The questions below are not just your facilitative “moves”. Students should be trained to use these strategies, to see them as their moves, on the field of play, as it were. These vital roles involve some unnatural habits. Make them explicit; get everyone to be metacognitive about them, even if it seems awkward at first. Try assigning the roles for a period of time to different students. Of course, there needs to be a modeling of them, feedback about their use, and incentives for using them if they are to “stick.”

a. What question are we trying to answer? Why?

b. Could you give me an example or a metaphor to explain that?

c. Can you find that in the text? Where does the reading support you?

d. What are you assuming in that argument?

e. But what about...? (That seems at odds with what we said before, what the author said here, etc.)

f. How does this relate to... (what was said before, read last week, etc.)

g. Do we need to modify or rephrase the question (or answer) we are working on?

h. What do you mean by _____ (key words)?

i. I think we are lost. Could someone tell me where we are, where we are going, help me find some "landmarks"?

j. (To a quiet but clearly engaged member:) Bob, what do you think? (Or) Is there someone who hasn't yet spoken who might have something to say at this point?


These roles, once understood and practiced, become very useful not only in managing the seminar but in prescribing guidance for specific areas of student weakness in seminar. Thus, overly-dominant students can be assigned listening roles for 10 minutes, for example. Or, with large classes and a fair number of quiet speakers, the class can be divided in half (with the talkative ones in one group). While one half conducts the discussion, the other half can take on listening roles, etc.

As Speaker

Explorer Let's try a new path or perspective...

Gadfly Everyone seems to be too easily content with saying...

Sherlock Holmes I think we have overlooked an important clue (comment/bit of text).. Librarian Here's a passage in the text that supports your point...

Matchmaker What you are saying is a lot like what Sue said earlier...

Judge Judy Let's see what the argument is between you two and try to settle it...

Will Rogers Let's find a way to make her/his seemingly odd/unpleasant/ incorrect comment more plausible or helpful...

As Listener

Journalist Summarize the important points briefly

Map-maker Make a visual chart of paths and terrain covered in the conversation, noting major "landmarks" and "twists and turns"

Shadow Listen to and observe one person for a fixed period of time, noting their comments and behavior (effective in large classes and for listening skill practice)

Referee Judge which "moves" in the discussion seem warranted or unwarranted (in terms of content) and exemplary of or outside the "rules" of good seminar behavior (in terms of process)

Coach Diagnose the overall "play" and propose some new ones, improvements in performance, strategies, etc

How did you feel about today's discussion?

Class' treatment of issues

superficial 1 2 3 4 5 thorough & deep

Quantity of your own participation, as compared with your usual performance

low 1 2 3 4 5 high

Quality of your own participation

poor 1 2 3 4 5 excellent

Your own interest in the conversation low 1 2 3 4 5 high

The class' interest, reflected in intensity of conversation and % of participation

low 1 2 3 4 5 high

Complexity of discussion low 1 2 3 4 5 high

Degree of your own understanding of material

lost & confused 1 2 3 4 5 full understanding

Facilitator's Success

too much input 1 2 3 4 5 too little input

too much control 1 2 3 4 5 too little control

showed great 1 2 3 4 5 showed too little respect respect for others

Comments (including your view as to the high and low points):

1 A modification of a claim by Eva Brann in Paradoxes of Education in a Republic. 2 See the writings of Mortimer Adler on this subject. See, for example, The Paideia Proposal and How To Talk, How to Listen.

Parent Portal

Last week I gave you some information on Infinite Campus Parent Portal. We were around 66% of parents signed up. IC encourages 90%. Andreas sent out portal activation emails to the parents / guardians who did not have an account but did have an email on file. Many signed up. We jumped to 74.39%! Thank you Andrea.

Google Certified!

Kudos to Todd Oberlin and Dawn Hickman for passing their Google Level 1 Certification! They join Andrea as our Google Certified personnel. I know many more will take the test the week of May 23rd. Good luck to all of you and thank you for continuing your learning!

Phone Survey

As of noon on Thursday, the random phone survey is complete! We should get the big picture data (they call it topline data) on Friday. The second and final set of data is what they need to insert the cross-tabulations (responses by age, student status, etc.) and the verbatim comments, which will turn the topline into the final report.

We will have a Community Advisory Team meeting on May 12th to share out the data. Feel free to come.

In addition, we have a staff, parent and community link to surveys. These are not random, thus they cannot use it to make any prediction, but it is still valuable information. If you need help locating any of these, please contact Jill Smoot.

Special education data

Below is a graph of our students with an IEP and the % of their time in the regular education classroom. The left bar in each year is the % of students who are in the regular education classroom 40-79% of the time. The bar on the right is the % of students who are in the regular education classroom more than 79% of the time.

In 2014 (latest data I could pull from DESE), 16.8% of our kids spent 40-79% of their time in a regular education classroom. The state average is 26%. 80.1% of our kids spent more than 79% of their time in a regular education classroom. The state average is 59%. We do try to honor the least restrictive environment as much as possible to ensure our students don't fall farther behind yet receive the supports they need to grow. Thank you to all of you who serve on Special Education IEP teams looking out what is best for each individual kid!

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From the desk of Konee Box

CBIZ Retirement Plan Services on behalf of CSD Retirement Trust is pleased to provide the quarterly Retirement Matters newsletter to you in both an English version ( http://files.ctctcdn.com/52de3250301/dad7e732-efa5-405a-8853-aa7303dd63e9.pdf )and a Spanish version ( http://files.ctctcdn.com/52de3250301/b7489a6a-e639-4246-9f65-28208b21883c.pdf ) . Just click on the link on either of the underlined versions. Sorry for the flyer not copy/pasting correctly. Smore and the flyer are not liking each other.

This Newsletter is intended to provide participants with relevant market information and retirement plan strategies. CBIZ Retirement Plan Services applauds the CSD Retirement Trust’s effort to assist its participants with their retirement planning.

After the volatile start to 2016, the first quarter's Retirement Matters newsletter highlights why participants should focus more on their length of time invested in the markets, not timing the market itself when it comes to their retirement plan. Evidence suggests that participants are better served when it comes to saving for retirement when they have a long-term mindset. The newsletter reviews how to withstand volatility, the importance of avoiding marking timing, and the significance of having an appropriate asset allocation.


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To register, just click on the link that pops up when you click on the website address below. https://docs.google.com/a/wrightcity.k12.mo.us/forms/d/1aCzsr4PNDAAs4WIrPNZyfSSdUHYKqVizMePNNO7GrLE/viewform

Articles of the week

“The Value of Knowing How Students Learn” by Benjamin Riley in Phi Delta Kappan, April 2015 (Vol. 97, #7, p. 35-38), www.kappanmagazine.org; the full Deans for Impact report, The Science of Learning, is at http://www.deansforimpact.org/the_science_of_learning.html Interesting article.

“Small Changes in Teaching: Giving Them a Say” by James Lang in The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 22, 2016 (Vol. LXII, #32, p. A34-A35), http://bit.ly/1SFhMn5; Lang is the author of Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2016)

This is what Amy Rinearson has been doing with her student choice projects this year.

“Teaching Middle-Grades Mathematics Through Financial Literacy” by Heather Glynn Crawford-Ferre, Lynda Wiest, and Stephanie Vega in Kappa Delta Pi Record, April-June 2016 (Vol. 52, #2, p. 79-82), available for purchase at http://bit.ly/21cPjZ7; the authors can be reached at hcrawford@unr.edu, wists@unr.edu, and stvega@washoeschools.net.

This article is full of online resource. Many links!

“Researchers Probe Equity, Design Principles in Maker Ed.” by Benjamin Herold in Education Week, April 20, 2016 (Vol. 35, #28, p. 8-9), www.edweek.org

We will have our first Maker Space next year at the high school thanks to Becky Brinkmeyer!

Also online

a. An app to form student groups – The CATME website http://info.catme.org has a tool for instantly forming different configurations of classroom groups.

b. Information graphics and your brain – In this article in ProPublica, Lena Groeger explores visual displays of information – and how graphics can trick our brains. One startling graph displays the results of a study showing that judges were much more lenient in sentencing right after eating a meal. Groeger’s article contains numerous graphics and a list of no fewer than 98 cognitive biases. “How Information Graphics Reveal Your Brain’s Blind Spots” by Lena Groeger in ProPublica, April 20, 2016, http://bit.ly/1WQadNq

Book of the Week

I picked up one of my 'on my desk' books. It is Leading with Focus: Elevating the Essential for School and District Improvement by Mike Schmoker.

I might as well have been reading about our journey.

Chapter One: Focused Leadership: Doing Less - and Doing it Better. While he keeps quoting Collins book Good to Great, he might as well have been talking about our 3 rocks model. Research. Find your leverage points. Find your purpose. Do a few things very well. Reduce things you can. Clarify obsessively. All of this is together...not as an individual. Monitor results. Respond immediately to bad outcome data.

Chapter Two is on leadership opportunities in curriculum, literacy and instruction. He warns against curricular chaos or curricular anarchy...i.e., just teaching but not aligned to standards...or your peers in the building. He also pushes against building too much into curriculum...as it will 'implode.' He advocates for clear, teacher-friendly curriculum that focuses and allows for both common assessments and teacher dialogue to create a clear and coherent curriculum. O.k., he doesn't line out what those words mean, but he quotes many authors. He quotes research saying that a coherent and content-rich curriculum is probably the single largest factor affecting levels of achievement in schools.

Literacy. He quotes Thomas Friedman: the primary skill set for success in the 21st century is advanced proficiency in plain old reading and writing. His advice? Build a liberal number of specific, common readings into course curriculums...including at least 8 whole books in English per year. 1 per year in social studies. This reminds me of a small district about an hour south of St. Louis who a decade ago made a goal that every student would read 25 books per year in their school. The content areas divvied out how many they would take care of at the high school level. They saw their scores jump tremendously. He suggests scaffolding all reading assignments...which Doug Smith has done many a training on. He also says we should collect and codify student and professional examples of good writing...which I like very much.

Effective Instruction. He goes into elements of a quality lesson. I won't delve into those here, but I will quote a state he cited that was a bit shocking to me. "Over 10 years and in 5,000 classroom visits, author and educator Barry Beers has found that less than 5 percent of teachers employed checks for understanding, communicated clear learning objectives, or engaged in activities visibly connected to the completion of a clear learning objectives." Really? I know we can improve in this area, but I would hope if he came to Wildcat Country, he would see a lot higher number than 5%!

Chapter Three is several district / school examples. Not a bad book. Chapter three might be the best part.

Thank you to every administrative assistant!

They do such an important job! Thank you to each of them for making such a positive impact on Wildcat Nation!
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Trivia Answers

  1. Who wrote Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus? Mo Willems
  2. Gamma is the ____ letter of the Greek alphabet? 3rd
  3. Which U.S. state extends the furthest south? Hawaii
  4. What band released albums called In Utero and Bleach? Nirvana
  5. What is copper's atomic number? 29