Saturday, February 8, 2020

February Update

Introduction and THANK-YOU's:

This blog post will focus mainly on providing K-5 families an update on our Attendance zone shifts and where we are with planning associated with this change in preparation for the opening of the 2020-21 school year.  I'll have several other updates in this blog post as well and will use clear headings to hopefully allow readers to thoroughly review the parts that interest them, and skim through the rest.

Before I get to the "meat" of this update, however, I wanted to share a few "Thank You's" to folks that have helped me remain focused on the right things as an educational leader recently.  The pace of this work is pretty fast, and the pressures are often pretty strong since in this job we don't work with building "widgets" but in building young adults and preparing them for their successful futures.  No small feat indeed, but one I am proud to say I believe we here in Gorham do a very good job of.

This success does not come without a cost and often the cost is emotional stress, burnout, and all the negatives associated with performing such an emotionally charged job day in and day out.  For me, the only way I remain focused on the "right things" (supporting our students and staff) is by getting out into classrooms, interacting with students and staff and seeing for myself what their needs are.

Recently, I had the awesome experience of shadowing Elijah from GHS.  Elijah is a student at GHS who also attends the Plumbing and Heating Program at Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS).  When I shadowed Elijah he was learning about how to solder pipes in order to install heat into a modular home they were building that will eventually be sold to an actual home buyer in the area.  The instructor was incredible and the students were awesome!  What a great program and what incredible learning experiences we are able to offer our students who participate in Career and Technical Learning at either PATHS or Westbrook Regional Vocational Center (WRVC).  Thank you, Elijah and team, for an awesome day of learning!

I have also recently had the opportunity to participate in reading aloud to students as part of Great Fall's "One school one author" program and more recently as part of World Read Aloud Day and the "Read To ME" challenge.  Please know the crown was a gift from students and when I was done reading, I challenged all my building principals and AP's to read aloud to classrooms as well. If you are a twitter follower, you can check #ReadtoME to see how this program is spreading across the state!  I'd encourage you to read to a child, post a picture/video with that hashtag and challenge your own friends/family to do the same!

THANK YOU to the classroom teachers who invited me into their classrooms to read.  I will often tell students when I come in to read that reading to them is like "recess" . . . it is FUN for me to get out and see them and to laugh and learn with them.  Although this is absolutely true, the reality goes deeper than that.  It is only through experiences like these that I can remain grounded as a leader.  These experiences help me to get through the more stressful parts of my job and to focus on what really counts - SUPPORTING OUR STUDENTS and OUR STAFF!

Now on to the "meat" of this post...

K-5 Attendance Zone Planning:

In my last posting regarding the K-5 Attendance zone shifts, I stated that during the month of February, I would be prepared to share what we anticipate to be the staffing shifts for 2020-21 associated with the K-5 attendance zone change.  As promised, those changes are outlined below.  

Before I share those, just a quick clarifying statement. . . These staffing lists are our best attempt to make assignments for the 2020-21 School year based on what we currently know.  THESE ARE NOT YET FINAL, nor can they be until we complete the FY 21 budget process.  Therefore, please understand that these assignments are still subject to change as we move through the FY 21 budget development process.  

With that caveat in mind, here is the staffing list we anticipate for the 2020-21 school year across each of the K-5 Schools:

* Sue Small above should be "Sue Speed" - apologies!

Those names that are highlighted in yellow are teachers who will be changing assignments in the 2020-21 School year.  If they are coming from another school that is noted in the parathesis and if they are moving grade levels, but within the same school that is also noted.  These will be the grade level teams at each school for 2020-21 barring adjustments that may need to be made as part of the FY 21 budget development process.

Now that we know grade-level assignments, we are prepared to work through student assignments to specific classrooms in a similar manner to how it has always been done at the K-5 levels.  The only difference will be that we will be cognizant to place students who may be moving from one school to a  new school in groups of peers who are experiencing the same shifts and with the teachers who are most skilled at working with these types of transitions.  As parents, if you have any questions or concerns, I would urge you to reach out to your school's principal.

In my last blog post, I also promised an update to K-5 parents on the various transition activities that are being planned for the spring to assist students, families, and staff in making this transition as positive an experience as possible.  Please know that the list below is not an "all-inclusive" list.  It is constantly being discussed and revised as we work through the spring.  I hope this list provides at least a starting point for conversation and an understanding of the types of things we are trying to do to assist families in this transition process.  Also, please note that some of these activities are "typical" activities that each school plans annually.  Principals are noting these activities both for new families that might want to join in on these activities, but also to know that for those families who may be having to move that they are still welcome to attend and in fact, encouraged to do so as a way to help children "let go" of one school and embrace a new one.

Here's the list:

2019-2020 K-5 Transition Activities
Nov. 4 - June 2020
Ongoing Building Tours for New Families at Narragansett

Ongoing Access to Principal Remick RE: Transition and Individual Student Needs

Invitation to follow Narragansett’s Social Media Sites
Facebook: Narragansett Elementary School@narragansettgorham
Twitter: Narragansett School@Narragansett_ES

Family Movie Night at Narr. (6:00-8:30) has been moved to Feb. 28 due to recent snow days.  Admission is FREE!
Week of Feb. 10, 2020
Student to Student Welcome Letters will be distributed
Feb. 10, 2020
Invitation to attend Narragansett PIE Meeting (6:00-7:00, Library)
Week of Feb. 24. 2020
Cross grade level lunch groups (GF)
Feb. 28, 2020
Great Falls One School/ One Book Family Literacy Night
Great Falls One School/ One Book Family Literacy Night
March 3, 2020 
Kindergarten Parent Information Night (5:30, Gym)
March 9, 2020
Invitation to attend Narragansett PIE Meeting (6:00-7:00, Library)
March 10, 2020
K-5 Parent Information Night RE: Cyber Safety at Narragansett (6:00-7:00, Library)
March 27, 2020
Invitation to attend the Narragansett Family Skate Night (or Bowling Night)
(We are looking for a replacement event for going to Happy Wheels)
March 30 - June 9, 2020
K-5 staff will share known information regarding Individual students across schools as applicable to assist with the classroom placement process.

Some Narragansett staff members (social worker, special education, etc.) will visit Great Falls and Village to meet select students
Principal Remick will invite families to share information regarding individual students to assist with the classroom placement process, as well as the transition to Narragansett School
April 3, 2020
Village School Family Movie Night
(6-7:30 p.m.)
Village School Family Movie Night
(6-7:30 p.m.)
April 1  - May 3, 2020
Invitation to participate in the Narragansett 5K, 1-Mile & Fun Run Event on May 3rd
April 13, 2020
Invitation to attend Narragansett PIE Meeting (6:00-7:00, Library)
April 15, 2020
Invitation to attend the Narragansett Talent Show (6:00-7:00, Gym)
April 16, 2020
Invitation to attend the Elementary Musical ~ Wizard of Oz at GMS
Late April & May
Transition Visits for Individual Students with staff from the sending school
May 3, 2020
Invitation to attend the Narragansett 5K, 1-Mile & Fun Run Event (8:00-12:00)
May 8, 2020
Great Falls Family Fun and Wellness Night
Great Falls Family Fun and Wellness Night
May 11, 2020
Invitation to attend Narragansett PIE Meeting (6:00-7:00, Library)
May 14, 2020
K-5 Parent Step-Up Night for Grades 1-5 (6:00-7:00)
May 21, 2020
Invitation to attend the Narragansett Art Show and Spring Picnic (5:30-7:00)
May 2020 TBD
Village School Celebration of Curriculum 
Village School Celebration of Curriculum
May 27-June 3, 2020
Grade Level Field Days at USM
June 2020 TBD
Village School Spring Fling 
Village School Spring Fling 
June 2020 TBD
Great Falls EOY Family Picnic
Great Falls EOY Family Picnic
June 2020 TBD
Step Up Day for Current Grade 1-4 Students; All students will receive a small gift

Once again, please reach out to building Principals if you have any questions regarding any of these activities and know that this is not an all-inclusive list.  We will continue to update this list and get information out to parents via Thursday folders regarding these opportunities and others that may be added throughout the course of the spring.

FY 21 Budget Development Information and Timeline:

It is definitely that time of year again as we work with staff, administrators, the School Committee, Town Council and the Gorham community as a whole to develop our school budget for FY 21 (2020-21 school year).  This process begins each year in November as we ask teachers and other staff to think about what they need to operate their programs for the following year.  Building principals and program directors then work diligently over the course of November and December to put together their proposals.  Then in January, each principal and program director meets individually with myself, assistant superintendent Record and business manager Hollis Cobb to review each request line by line by line.  Once that process is completed, we then put together an initial proposed budget and then work together as a district leadership team to clarify priorities, make adjustments and create what is called the Superintendent's Initial Proposed budget that is presented to the School Committee in February.  

That is where we are in the process right now.  The Superintendent's proposed budget will be presented to the School Committee on Feb. 12, 2020, for review.  The School Committee will then meet for a full day budget workshop on Feb. 29, 2020, and then for one or two more meetings (as needed) to make adjustments to the initial proposal so that by the end of this work, they approve of a proposed budget in April 2020.  This budget then becomes the School Committee's proposed budget.  This budget is then sent on to the Town Council.  The School Committee then meets jointly with the Town Council to review the proposed budget in May 2020 and then the Town Council votes on a final budget in June.  The final budget approved by the Town Council is then sent on to the voters of Gorham via a validation referendum also held in June.  Although the Town Council can't make line item changes to the budget, they can increase or reduce the proposed budget.  Whatever final budget they approve must be "validated" by voters via referendum or the whole process repeats itself until a budget can be passed by the School Committee, the Town Council and validated via referendum.

For those interested in the specific dates/times of meetings, I've included the Budget Development Timeline for FY 21 LINKED HERE.  All meetings will be either lived streamed or recorded this year using GoCat.  I will also make sure to upload information as we move through the process to the district's website which is LINKED HERE.  Finally, I encourage anyone with questions to please reach out to me via email to ask any questions you may have, big or small.  There is nothing worse than misinformation so please don't be shy in asking questions if you have them.  You may not always agree with my answers, but I promise to always respond to your questions honestly!

School Committee Public Information:

Recently, I've had several questions from folks about how best to follow some of the big-ticket conversations that the school committee has been undertaking in order to ensure we continue to offer the best possible educational programs for our children.  I thought it might be a good idea to run through the best places to find information related to the work of the school committee in one location.  So here goes.

First, for those of you that would like to have regular meeting agendas sent to you via email, you can sign up on the Town's website for that.  Just CLICK HERE and once on the town's site go to the bottom of the page and click on "Subscribe"...when you get to that page, just fill in your email address and then under "Meeting agenda" select "School Committee" and you will be good to go to have agendas sent directly to you.

Of course, seeing the agenda is just part of the equation.  Seeing agenda packet materials will give you more detailed information if you want to dig more deeply into a topic the school committee is considering.  In order to see the specific agenda packets provided to the school committee for all regular meetings, CLICK HERE to go to our website where you can view all regular and special agendas, all regular and special meeting notes, and where there is a specific link to click into the board packets themselves.

Another great way to follow the work of the School Committee is to follow the work done within its various subcommittees.  The School Committee has several standing committees and ad hoc committees.  You can view agendas and meeting notes by CLICKING HERE.  

Finally, if you ever want to reach out to members of the School Committee to ask questions or to share your ideas, you can CLICK HERE to view their names and contact information.  I typically advise folks that wish to communicate directly with school committee members to please email the chair (Stewart McCallister) and then cc the remaining members and myself on your message.  That always seems to get the best and most efficient response.  Please know that even though you may email all SC members, you will only get a response from either the chair or myself.  This is simply intended to ensure that a consistent message is being sent to folks with questions and does not mean that every member of the school committee hasn't read your email or correspondence, because trust me, they have.

Well I think that is enough information for this month's blog post.  Next month I'll spend some time providing more detailed information regarding the proposed FY 21 budget, I will update folks on how we are moving forward with addressing the capital facilities needs of our schools and whatever other timely topics come up between now and then!

Thank you for reading!