Principal Bloom’s Monthly Message – November
Dear Montclair Elementary School Community,
I’m just back from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Washington, D.C. with kindergarten teacher Karen Nicola to attend the National Blue Ribbon School Award Ceremony. I cannot tell you how proud I was to be in our nation’s capital representing the wonderful Montclair Elementary School community. Really, words just can’t express how deeply moving this event was both for me personally and because Ms. Nicola and I got to represent the thousands of people—teachers, staff, family members, caregivers, and friends—who made it possible. If you see me in the halls, I can tell you more stories about the trip, but in the meantime, here are just a couple of highlights:
•Talking with other school leaders from around the country to share ideas and learn how they juggle the myriad demands of high-achieving schools.
•Working with Superintendent Antwan Wilson and School Board Member Nina Senn, both of whom attended the ceremony, to decide how we will celebrate our accomplishment: On Thursday, December 3, we will hold a school-wide parade from our campus into Montclair village in conjunction with the evening Holiday Stroll. We are very excited about this and will be sending out more details soon.
ANOTHER AWARD ANNOUNCEMENT
As if the National Blue Ribbon School Award wasn’t enough good news for the year, we just found out we’ve been verified as a Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) school—this is a big deal! CHPS is leading a national movement to improve student performance and the educational experience by building the best possible schools with a goal of:
•Protecting student health and well-being to enhance the learning environments of school children everywhere
•Conserving energy, water, and other natural resources
•Minimizing waste, pollution, and environmental degradation
More details to come, but in the meantime, you can read more about CHPS on their website: www.chps.net
THE OTTER WALK DOES IT AGAIN
When the Montclair community does something, they do it right. And last month’s Otter Walk proved this once again. We had our highest participation rate ever: 92% of our 600 students laced up their running shoes and hit the pavement to help our school. The Otter Walk is always my favorite day of the year, and this year it made me so happy to see our community come together and stay all day to celebrate our school. And the kids! Their drive and motivation inspires me every year, especially on those last few laps where so many are sprinting to make their goal. Thanks to all who helped plan and run the event, volunteered, walked, ran, ate, or kept us all entertained. I already can’t wait until next year.
SAFETY IS JOB #1
If you’ve seen me in my neon vest in the mornings, you can probably guess what I feel is my most important job here at MES: keeping your kids safe. And though we are very lucky to be located in such a lovely neighborhood, I cannot stress enough that there is no place that is ever totally safe. So here are a few gentle (and not-so-gentle) reminders about how you can help keep your kids safe at school:
1) Our campus opens at 8:20am and until that time, there is no adult supervision. I know how crazy life can get and how tempting it can be to drop your kids off early, thinking they can just play on the monkey bars so you can get to your meeting. But here’s the thing: They won’t be supervised, and it’s not safe. If your schedule isn’t working with ours, please check with Margaret at Adventure Time in the Ottertorium; they’re open at 7:30am and have regular and drop-in slots available. If you have a one-time emergency and need to drop off before 8:20, please send your child to the school office to wait.
2) Please remind your children that once they’re on campus, they must stay here.We’ve had some recent incidents of kids going to hang out in Montclair Park or taking an unaccompanied stroll to the village. Again, not safe.
3) Every week, parents from a different class at MES don their own vests andhelp with morning drop-off. We’ve had trouble getting volunteers from some classes, so if you’re not sure when your class’s week is, please check with your room parent. Or if you’re a self-starter, you can go to the Google doc, find your class and just sign yourself up:
Having parents pitch in to help at drop-off not only keeps our kids safe, but helps to keep the line moving smoothly and lowers the blood pressure of parents in a rush. Do your part; it only takes 30 minutes or so.
And now for some great safety news: thanks to MES parent and Oakland City Council member Annie Campbell Washington, we now have a crossing guard at the Thornhill/Mountain intersection! His name is Gregory, and he’ll be keeping our kids safe both in the mornings and afternoons every school day. I’ve been working on getting a crossing guard ever since I got here 10 years ago, so this is a big deal for us. Go down there and introduce yourself, say thank you, and maybe bring him a cup of coffee once in a while.
The MES Climate and Culture Committee, a thoughtful group of teachers from grades K-5, are helping find ways to work on more social and emotional learning stuff with our kids. In November, we’re focusing on manners. Lower grades will work on their pleases, thank yous, and excuse mes. Upper grades are going a step further, looking for ways they can be helpful and positive, as well as learning to get better at waiting their turn. Like many things in life, good manners are a habit and developing them takes a lot (a lifetime?) of practice. We invite you to help your child practice at home.
At the end of October, we had a great presentation from Devin Dillon, PhD, OUSD chief academic officer, about SBAC, the new testing for grades 3-5 built on Common Core principles. If you weren’t able to attend, I highly encourage you to check out her presentation and watch the short video that explains test scores and gives links to resources for parents.
If you were expecting your child’s scores from last year to be higher, please keep in mind this is a brand new testing system, and last year was a learning year for everyone. Also, since the tests are now administered on computers, SBAC is testing not only kids’ learning skills, but their typing and computer skills as well. Our teachers are now working with kids to improve their typing and Chromebook skills so when test time rolls around in May, the kids can focus on the test, not their typing. Here are a few kids’ learn-to-type websites you can use for free at home:
A TIME FOR GRATITUDE
I encourage you to take part in The Great Thanksgiving Listen, a StoryCorps project about the sharing of wisdom, gratitude, and respect across generations. StoryCorps is encouraging students to record an interview with a grandparent or another elder over the Thanksgiving weekend using the free StoryCorps app. With permission from the participants, each of these interviews will be uploaded to the StoryCorps archive in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
For more details, check out this guide: http://bit.ly/1OLiyiM
MAKE THE SEASON BRIGHT(ER)
There’s not a person among us who hasn’t been through a difficult time, and going through one at the holidays can be particularly hard. We’re continuing ourHoliday Giving Program this year to help out the families in our community who need an extra hand making the holidays happier for their kids.
Need help? Just fill out the application form at http://www.montclairschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/MES-Holiday-Giving-Program-Application-FINAL.pdf (or pick one up in the office) and drop it off confidentially to me. It includes holiday gift requests for all children in the household, whether or not they attend MES, which a contributing family will fulfill to the best of their ability. Additionally, each family will receive a gift card to a local supermarket to purchase a holiday meal.
Want to help? Please email Lauren Grayman: givingatMES@gmail.com
Deadline: November 20th is the deadline for applications.
Every family deserves to have a special holiday season, and I can personally guarantee that if you’re able to help out this year, you will feel better about this donation than pretty much any present you’ll get. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to teach our kids how good it feels to help others.
As always, I have an open-door policy and welcome any and all questions or feedback about our school. Please also feel free to contact PTA Board Members (see below) or my Communications Committee:
Tina Rundel, email@example.com
Laura Scholes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann Sinclair, email@example.com
Brooke Welch, firstname.lastname@example.org
Libbi Ziegler, email@example.com
PTA BOARD 2015-16
Amy Omand, Co-President
Sharleen Haarsma, Co-President
Kitty Neumark, EVP External Affairs
Jennifer Porcinito, EVP Volunteers
Monica Mehta, VP Communications
Marivic Hammond, VP Diversity & Outreach
Patrice Reynolds, VP Events
Jennifer Keith, VP Fundraising
Asonda Adams, VP Membership
Renee White, VP Technology
Johanna Jones, Co-VP Programs
Tricia Tangeman, Co-VP Programs
Michelle Branner, Auditor
Kevin Tam, Financial Secretary
Jennifer Ames, Historian
John Tully, Parliamentarian
Angie Louie, Recording Secretary
Erin Posey, Treasurer
Nancy Steimle, Teacher Rep