Principal News and Notes


Opportunity #Mindset

Last week I had the opportunity to visit classrooms to observe teaching and learning in action. I am happy to share that we have great things happening at Garden City. I had the opportunity to see Safety Nets, Guided Reading, and Classroom Instruction happening. During my visits most students were engaged; willing to share and show me what they were learning. Students were meeting high expectations in both literacy and math. I also observed successful implementation of ENVoY in most classrooms. I came back to the main office with a big smile on my face (ask Donna and Linda) reporting how happy I was to see high levels of teaching, learning, and engagement happening at Garden City. I know sometimes we lose sight of the successes because it is human nature to focus on the challenges we face every day, but as the most recent data that Nick shared with us indicates, over 80% of our students have less than one referral! This is news for celebration! While the perception may seem that student behavior is on the rise our data indicates otherwise. Once again we have students in crisis. Some of these students are presenting very challenging and public behaviors; creating safety concerns for students and staff. We know suspensions and dismissals are not the solution. Research actually shows suspensions have an overall negative impact on Black students (see link to article below). To assist these students we are collaborating with families, county social workers, district supports and each other to help guide these students through crisis so they can begin to engage in learning.

After a particularly challenging day last week I decided to purposefully shift my thinking. I literally woke up and tweeted the following, "Good morning Twitter! Today I am focused on turning the challenges of yesterday into opportunities today! #Mindset". I felt that with all of challenges I had faced the day before I needed to be INTENTIONAL and PURPOSEFUL about how to approach each challenge faced from that day and for the rest of the week. I am challenging you to do the same this week and beyond. Yesterday is behind us today is in front of us. Our students, families, and colleagues need us to push pass the challenges and create entry points for opportunity & growth. #Mindset is everything!


Equity Team Corner

Here is a link to article on suspension and the achievement gap in the Atlantic, entitled, "How School Suspensions Push Black Students Behind". Many believe that the Achievement Gap and dis-proportionality of Black students being suspended is the social justice issue of our time. Here are a few more articles that you can find in my Dropbox; Racial Equity Link, Racial Equity Link2, and Racial Equity Link3. These articles were originally published in the January 25 edition of Education Week and share with me by members our E-Team.

1617 Staffing Process

This week I receive the staffing for 16-17 school year. Over the next two weeks we will be creating the 16-17 staffing plan with input from families and staff. Please follow this link to the 16-17 Staffing Feedback Survey. Your input is appreciated and will be used as we develop the staffing plan for next school year. The survey is very short. The survey will be open February 15 - 19.

Black History Month

I want to share why I think it is important that we celebrate and discuss Black History with our students. I have been in education 40+ years (counting my own education and years as an educator). During the time I was being educated the narrative I received was through the lens of the curriculum chosen by White teachers or professors. As a Black child and youth being educated primarily in White educational systems my exposure to Black History within the curriculum was limited. It was a chapter here or there in history books and social studies classes; if anything it was an "add-on" to the curriculum. In elementary school it was a word search or coloring book about Dr. King (Malcolm X was not mentioned in elementary school). In middle and high school I learned about other" heroic" Black figures in history (except Nat Turner - he was described as a crazy murderous slave; not a rebel fighting for freedom and liberation like the colonist were described to me in earlier history book chapters). Not until I entered graduate school did I discover the richness of Black History. Not until I became an adult did I really understand that a huge part of me, my Blackness, was systematically denied through the public education system. For many Black Youth this can create trauma, but I will say that being raised by my parents kept the connection to Black History real for me. My family was living proof that no history book, class, teacher, principal, or professor could deny me my living history. Let me explain that statement. My father is one of the first Black Lutheran Pastors in the nation. One of my uncles was a Professor at the University of Washington (teaching history and writing books), my aunt worked for the US Post Office for over 35 years, another Uncle was an entrepreneur (selling everything from fish, vending machines, and watermelons), and another aunt and uncle opened Edmar Dry Cleaning in Chicago and owned several properties in the city. Another Uncle is a Navy veteran and gifted artist. Yet another uncle, the Honorable Charles Hayes, was elected to the US Congress. He marched with Dr. King (see the picture below), was harassed by the FBI and called a communist for fighting for social justice and civil rights. You see I did not need a history book telling me about Black History because I was been taught Black History every day of my life by the most important people in my life - my family. However, many of our students do not have connections to Black History through family. The stories of Dr. King, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Emmett Till, Harold Washington, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Rosa Parks, Nat Turner, Angela Davis, The Black Panther movement, Mahalia Jackson, Coretta Scott-King are distant fairy tales. By celebrating Black History month we make connections for our students to the not so distant past. We make connections to why the Black Lives Matter movement is Black History in action.

Make time to celebrate Black History Month in your classrooms throughout the school year. Think about how we can embed not only Black History but the history of Hmong, Latino, and Indigenous peoples (we are about 90% SOC) into our everyday instructional practice. Just think how rich the educational experience will be for not just our SOC but also our White students! I don't have the answers but I know that we can develop plans and take actions that will truly make Black, Latino, Indigenous and Hmong students feel more connected to their learning than I ever did as Black student being taught in a White school system. I know that if we put our collective minds together and share what we are doing in our classrooms we can impact our students in a profound way. There is more information available through the internet and multimedia than ever before. Find videos, readings, books, etc. to share with students and each other. Most importantly let's figure out ways to create space for multiple racial perspectives from our students, staff, and families around race and culture in our school. We have knowledge and talent within our own school that has yet to be tapped.

David Branch