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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year-December 12, 2017


Dear Sexton Mt. Families:

"My mom let me eat all the broken cookies this weekend!"  The whole cookie he held up for me was a complete shape until he bit into the red and green sparkled surface.  It was the first thing that disappeared from his lunch.  

Our kids are  excited not only about cookies but also about many things happening in their world right now!  Frost on the bark chips, Amazon deliveries, the ACMA music program, Zoolights, Hanukkah, family photo shoots with Santa, visiting relatives from far away places and an upcoming 10 day break from school are all causing a special sort of energy in the air here at Sexton Mountain School. 

Our focus remains on academics and positive classroom routines.  We will maximize every minute of learning between now and the start of winter break.  Thanks for making sure kids are well-rested and on time for school.  Relationships are the heart of teaching and learning and our teachers spend the first 15 minutes of the day working to strengthen our sense of community.  Together we are better!

Though it's not even January yet, I'm already preparing for the 18-19 school year.  We are getting ready for Kindergarten Orientation.  Please let your neighbors know that our kick off for fall will begin with Kindergarten Orientation at 4:30pm on Tuesday, February 6.

Though we haven't yet made it through Winter Break, we are busy planning for a summer of student reading.  Our Summer Reading Kick Off-Family Literacy Night at the Beaverton City Library will be Thursday, May 31 from 5:30-6:30pm.  Like last year, we hope to showcase the many languages and cultures our school represents.  If your family would like to host a table, please email Teresa_Clemens-Brower@beaverton.k12.or.us.

Thank you for sharing your children with us!

Sincerely,

Teresa Clemens-Brower
Principal
Sexton Mountain Elementary School
503-356-2470

Screen Time-Many families have shared concerns with me about the amount of time kids spend on devices and how screen time impacts sleep, play and home literacy habits.  Check out a tool the American Academy of Pediatrics has come up with to help families make informed decisions. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx

Sleep-Remember that children need plenty of rest for brains to grow and thrive!  Kids in elementary school should get 9-11 hours a night.

Parking Lot Safety-Thanks for continuing to keep our parking lot safe for children, families and staff by exercising caution, patience and following traffic patterns and laws. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Personal Safety, Inclement Weather and Attendance-Sexton Mt. News, November 28, 2017




Sexton Mt. Families:

Over the long weekend my family went to Bend to visit my parents.  It was likely the warmest Thanksgiving we've experienced for a while so my brother gave my dad a hard time about the enormous snow blower my dad has parked and ready in the garage.  My brother recently moved back from Florida so my dad had to help him get ready for winter weather.  

Is your family ready for winter? Check out the website below to learn about how we respond or plan for inclement weather.


Personal Safety

At school we are reviewing expectations for safe, respectful and responsible behavior.  Because routines change and the people in a child's life are often different as extended family visits, now is a great time to talk about personal safety with your child at home too.  Stranger Danger, Pedestrian Safety, Being Separated While Shopping, Safe Touching and Fire Safety are all important topics to have ongoing conversations about with your children.

Attendance Matters

In the Beaverton School District, we know that attendance matters.  Research shows that chronically absent students (attending below 90%) can suffer academically.  We understand that some absences are unavoidable.  The important thing is to get your children to school as much as possible.  Whether absences are arranged ahead of time, or not, they can still have a negative impact on students because they represent lost learning time in class.

In the State of Oregon there are three types of excused absences.  They include the illness of a student, the illness of an immediate family member, or an emergency (ORS 339.065).  All other absences, even those that are prearranged, are noted as unexcused. 

Attendance matters starting in Kindergarten. By middle and high school many attendance habits have been formed.  Chronic absences are the leading warning sign that a student will drop out.  Please do not schedule vacations during school time.  Families should avoid activities that require your children to miss school.   Try to line up vacations and doctor appointments with the school calendar in order to avoid missing valuable learning opportunities.  Good attendance will help your children do well now and in the future.

Please refer to the following link for tips for families on building good attendance habits.

Gratitude
Thank you for sharing your children with us!  We look forward to a productive work period before our next break in December.

Sincerely,
Teresa Clemens-Brower, Ed. D.
Principal
Sexton Mt. Elementary School
503-356-2470

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Joy of a Great Book-November 21, 2017

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:
     On my nightstand right now, Ivan Doig’s The Last Bus to Wisdom sits finished. It looks so lonely.  Before I finished it, I couldn’t put it down. I was so sad when it ended. I hope that each of our students will leave elementary school knowing the joy a good book can bring.
 When I visited classrooms this week, I was delighted to see students engaged in reading!  I passed by the library earlier today and Anthony was in a rocking chair previewing a book.  In Ms. Burnett’s class, Caleb was reading Green Eggs and Ham.  In Ms. Cole’s room, students were comparing a video with a news article.  It’s that time of year when students are deeply engaged in a great text.   Students are working to build deeper meaning as they develop vocabulary, play with sounds, analyze characters and make predictions.    I am delighted that students not only seem to be eager readers but also understand the importance of understanding what they were reading at many levels.
I hope that your children will enjoy great books over the 5-day weekend.   On Monday, I will greet kids out front with, “Glad your back!  Tell me what you read!”  Based on what children have already revealed, I know that some have real adventures planned and others look forward to adventures in books.
            This afternoon I joined kindergarten in music and they were doing a snow dance with scarves.  I was reminded once again that I need to make sure my car is stocked with extra warm clothes, snowboots, and books just in case I get stuck in the snow due to weather.  Thank you for sharing your children with us!
 

Sincerely,

Teresa Clemens-Brower, Principal


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Preparing for Winter-November 14, 2017


 Sexton Mt. Families:

Our students are active learners.  As I visited classrooms Monday afternoon, kids were dramatizing stories, comparing spelling patterns, comparing words with similar meanings, ordering words from least intense to most intense and cutting out power words from a kids’ newspaper. Some readers were reading just right books on devices (does your child know how to log into Bookshelf) and others were lost in paper copies of just right books.   Most kids were able to tell me how the activity they were doing related to their individual learning goal.

An essential part of learning any new skill is practice.  While our students spend at least 90 minutes a day engaged in reading or learning about reading, practice at home is important too.  By the end of kindergarten (Level 1G), students are expected to be able to read at home for at least 30 minutes each night.  Building stamina takes practice.  Thank you for making sure kids have lots of fun, fast easy books to enjoy at home.  By the white level, students should finish a chapter book every week.  Practice makes proficient!

Last winter when we had school closures due to weather, some children reported not having enough reading materials at their level.  When school closed early, one student took a stack of books home with her.  

 Not all were so forward thinking.  If you need to stock up on books at your child’s level OR if you need access to your child’s password for Bookshelf, please let us know. 

Thank you for sharing your children with us!

Teresa Clemens-Brower
Principal

Winter Weather Planning


Some forecasters are predicting a winter with lots of snow and ice.  Please make sure you have a plan for closures, late starts, mid-day closure and snow routes.   See the link below for general information regarding Inclement Weather.

Stay Informed
School closure or delayed start decisions will typically be made and posted on the District website by 5:15 a.m., then communicated to local media including TV, radio, electronic and print. Information is also sent to parents via SchoolMessenger and posted to BSD’s Official Facebook Page and Twitter .

2-Hour Delay
When there is a 2-hour delay in opening school, all schools will open two hours later than regularly scheduled.  The Sexton Mt. instructional day will begin at 10:30am.  The Sexton Mt. cafeteria will open for before school supervision at 10:05am   Students may go to class at 10:25am.  The school day will officially begin at 10:30am. 

Snow Routes
If buses are not able to safely navigate at higher elevations, buses will be on snow routes.  When buses are on snow routes, Bus Route 349 will be canceled.  If your child rides bus 349, plan accordingly for before and after school.  Send a note with your child telling how your child will get home after school and make sure your child is aware of the afterschool plans if conditions don’t change by afternoon.  Learn more at https://www.beaverton.k12.or.us/depts/trans/Pages/snow-routes.aspx.

Early Closure
If weather conditions change dramatically during the day, schools might close early.  Last year when this happened we had over 200 families pick children up very early.  Over 100 children were picked up well after dismissal time.  Our last bus delivered kids home after 6:00pm.  We encourage and support families to make attendance decisions for your child(ren) based on your own assessment of travel conditions at your location.  Please think now about how to support your child. 

Upcoming Dates to Note
November 22, 23, 24-School Closed for Thanksgiving Holiday
December 21-January 3-School Closed for Winter Break
January 4, 2018-School Resumes


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Routines, Rituals, Regulation-November 7, 2017



Sexton Mt. Families:

During “News and Announcements” time in Ms. Baldwin’s class today I learned some interesting facts.  One student shared that Christmas is in 48 days.  Another shared that two family members would be living with her for an extended period.  Another shared the weather forecast.   One student had gained a pet and another had lost a pet.   Exciting things are happening in the lives of our children.

The time between October 31 and January 1 can be especially stressful for children.  At school, we are trying to create a supportive, predictable environment where kids can stay engaged in learning despite all of the exciting or stressful things happening away from school.  We practice and reteach routines more frequently this time of year so that kids can rely on them when things get exciting or stressful.

Think about the routines and rituals your child relies on for success at home.   Think about what you do to set your child up to make it to school on time and ready to learn each day.   The nine-year old living at my house this fall had a morning routine that started the night before.
1.     Put completed homework in backpack. Wash and fill water bottle and put it in backpack.   Put backpack next to the door with shoes and coat.
2.     Pick out clothes and put everything on the chair in the bedroom.
3.     Take a shower and brush teeth.  Leave the toothbrush and toothpaste in a spot that will be easy to find in the morning.
4.     Ask about options for breakfast.
5.     Sleep then wake up and let mom know choice for breakfast. 
6.     Eat breakfast, brush teeth and hair, put on shoes and get backpack. 
7.     Leave for school.

When parts of the routine were left out, it could change everything and result in tears or crisis in the morning.  When a child is upset in the morning, it can change the whole day.   

Knowing that routines help children regulate and that regulated children are better able to engage in learning, I’d like to invite you to think about the routines your family relies on in order for kids to be ready to learn.  Before things get crazy busy, see if you can list the steps to your routines so that your child could have a non-verbal support if you weren’t available.  Perhaps you can approach it like a fantasy vacation opportunity.  If you were going to leave your child with a loving caregiver for a week so you could vacation in a tropical paradise, what would you identify as your child’s most important ritual or routine?  List the important steps of your child’s most important routines.   Have your child add a picture to represent each, then encourage your child to use the list.


When we can capture the routines of daily life, it’s easier to use the same skill to help kids develop routines for new or perceived difficult times or tasks.  Now might be a good time to think about your own healthy ways for dealing with stress and the routines or rituals you use to keep regulated during stressful times.  Does your child know that you experience difficult things but have ways for staying regulated?  Is there a way you could make your healthy strategies visible?  (i.e.- “I’m going to the gym because it will energize me before the meeting I’m dreading.”  “I feel grumpy and tired so I’m going to sing along with this song while I make dinner because it makes me feel HAPPY!”  “That driver made me mad so I’m going to inhale deeply and count to 4 to calm down.  Will you help me?”

Developing the skills and habits of mind needed in order to tackle daily tasks and challenges builds resilient children.   Helping our kids learn how to identify emotions and deal with them in healthy ways allows them to be ready for academics.  Whether it’s just an ordinary average day or a windy day after the clocks have changed and the beloved pet passed away and house guests have moved in, we are striving to provide an environment where kids can grow and flourish.  Thanks for partnering with us to provide a great place for kids to grow!

Sincerely,


Teresa Clemens-Brower


Upcoming Dates to Note
November 10-Veteran’s Day Observed-No School for Students
November 22, 23, 24-School Closed for Thanksgiving Holiday
December 21-January 3-School Closed for Winter Break
January 4, 2018-School Resumes

 Help Wanted-Fun Volunteer Opportunity

 We are looking for a few volunteers to support our students in the lunchroom by:
                Modeling and acknowledging good manners.
                Praising students who eat efficiently and make good choices.
                Making personal connections with our students.
                Helping to wipe tables between classes.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Thinkers!-October 31, 2017



Sexton Mt. Families:

As I visited classrooms this morning, I was amazed by how hard our kids were working!   Students in Ms. Cole’s first grade class were hard at work.  They were busy playing games, solving problems and building math fluency.  They were using ten frames to organize numbers in order to more efficiently solve problems.  In kindergarten, students were analyzing shapes and numbers.  Fifth graders were working in pairs to convert quarts to gallons.  Throughout the school, children were hard at work AND enhancing the learning around them as evidenced by their supportive, focused conversations about the learning targets teachers had shared.

In second grade students were reading and writing.  Emma and Eli had a great conversation about how to spell Costco and whether or not an “e” was needed at the end of the word in order to make the long vowel sound. Both were using evidence to support thinking as they gave examples of other words with similar spelling patterns and using words in context.  We have THINKERS at Sexton Mt. Elementary! 

Our students have the world at their fingertips.  The thinking skills that students are using to build and test theories are PRICELESS!   Thank you for sharing your children with us!

Sincerely,


Teresa Clemens-Brower


OMSI Science Assembly-Thank You PTC
Thanks to our PTC for providing funds for the OMSI assembly Monday and thanks to Lisa Williams for organizing the special events. Students got to learn about the unique properties of solids, liquids, gases and plasmas and observed how materials change from one state of matter to another.   The freezing, flowing and glowing phenomena in the show were described by one student as “totally awesome!”

Family Dance Night
Thanks to parent volunteer Kate Kristiansen for organizing the Family Dance last week.  Students enjoyed moving to the music with friends. 

Scholastic Book Fair
Thanks to parent volunteer Ruth Merz for organizing the Scholastic Book Fair.  Classroom and home libraries grew as a result of this special event.  Proceeds from the event will support our school library as well.

Upcoming Dates to Note
November 3-Assessment Day-No School for Students
November 10-Veteran’s Day Observed-No School for Students
November 22, 23, 24-School Closed for Thanksgiving Holiday

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Eagle Scout, Change, Dress Code and More-October 11, 2017


Sexton Mt. Families:

This week’s newsletter is a bit later than typical because we’ve been very busy with several changes here at Sexton Mt.   Because next week is a short week due to conferences, there will not be a newsletter.  In the midst of our busy-ness, kids are learning and great things are happening for kids at Sexton Mt.  Earlier this week one of our students asked if he could help me by inviting a child to lunch.  His kindness touched my heart and is the perfect example of the many little things that take place every day that make our school so special.  Thank you for sharing your children with us.


Eagle Scout Project-Thanks to Will Zundel for creating a new garden spot for students in our SRC classes.  His team transformed the courtyard last Saturday.  


Changes -Because our projected enrollment did not match our actual enrollment at first grade and kindergarten, we made staffing adjustments at both grade levels.  After careful consideration, we decided to consolidate the first grade classes so that we now have three classes.  Ms. Cohn's class was the smallest class so her first graders joined other classrooms and Ms. Cohn moved to kindergarten.  A more detailed explanation of the change can be found at the end of this newsletter.  This was the information shared with our Kindergarten and First grade families. Our fifth grade classes are at 31 and 32 so we have been allocated 6 hours of instructional assistant time to help our older students and we are deep in the planning for how to maximize this resource.  We’ll communicate with 5th grade families when we have more details. 

Conferences-There will be no school for students on October 19 and 20 so that teachers can meet with families to discuss students and set goals for the upcoming year. While you are at school, make sure you check out student work in our hallways.
Volunteering and Confidentiality
Sexton Mountain School is supported by hundreds of volunteers.  From high-school students working to build community service hours to parents, grandparents and community members willing to give time to make a difference in the lives of our learners, we enjoy GREAT support.  From playing with kids at recess, joining them for lunch, working with students in classrooms or pods to supporting students by preparing materials or doing other behind the scenes work, volunteers learn so much about our school and students as they serve.  We are following the lead of other schools and asking that our volunteers sign an agreement showing that they agree to comply with the Volunteer Confidentiality Policy as stated in the Beaverton School District Volunteer Handbook:  The policy states:

“Volunteers must protect the teachers’ and students’ right to privacy.  You may not disclose school affairs or personal matters which have come to your attention.  Discuss student problems or concerns only with the teacher or staff member with whom you are working; discuss other concerns with the teacher or principal.”

By following the confidentiality policy above, volunteers will help meet an important Beaverton School District priority:

“Staff, students, parents and other community members shall contribute to maintaining the school as a safe, secure and positive center for learning.”  

The Volunteer Confidentiality forms will be available in the pods during conference time and in the office this week too.  Please turn completed forms into your child’s teacher or the office if you plan to volunteer and haven’t already done so.

Celebrations

Each year the PTC provides classrooms with a funds for fall, winter and spring celebrations (a.k.a. parties).  Students look forward to these special days and always appreciate the hard work of the volunteers who do the planning and implementation.  Expectations for parties are based on safety and maintaining an environment focused on instruction.  Several students in our school have severe allergies.  In an effort to maintain a safe environment for all we are very careful about any special things brought into our learning environment.

Student Dress and Accessories for October
Over the past few years, I get the same questions asked over and over regarding attire for the October party.  I’ve included information you might find useful here.

Dress and grooming are primary responsibilities of students and parents/guardians. However, students may be directed to change dress or grooming if it interferes with the learning process or school climate, is unclean, or threatens the health or safety of the student or others. Clothing, jewelry, or wording/graphics on clothing or on the person that is sexually suggestive, drug or alcohol related, vulgar, which depicts violence, insulting, gang membership related, or ridicules a particular person or group may be prohibited.

Students are expected to be safe, respectful and responsible all day, every day.  One aspect of safety is being able to clearly see and identify who is in our school. Faces should not be covered so no masks or head coverings unless it is part of regular religious dress. 

Just as we prevent the spread of germs by not sharing food or utensils, we prevent the spread of lice by not sharing brushes, hats, masks, costumes, coats, hoodies, and other items that come into contact with heads.  As we assume that others’ blood or other body fluids may carry harmful germs and we thereby take universal precautions, we must also assume that others’ hair or things that come into contact with hair may also carry things we wish not to catch and practice precautions.   Please remind kids to be mindful of how easy it is to spread lice when clothing items and hats are shared between kids.  This note is not intended to cause panic but instead provide a reminder about the importance of teaching children prevention techniques.   

Weapons, including play-weapons that sometimes come with costumes or look-alike weapons are NEVER allowed at school.  The use, threat of use, or possession of these at school may result in disciplinary action.  The expectations outlined in the Beaverton School District Student/Parent Resource Handbook are below.  
·      The use, threat of use, possession, or sale of knives and/or look-alike knives of any form and/or length will result in disciplinary action.
·      The possession, use, or threat of use of a look-alike explosive device, firearm, or other dangerous or deadly weapons will result in disciplinary action.

Help Wanted-If you can do a small project at home for our new kindergarten class, let me know and I'll send home the project in backpack mail. (Teresa_Clemens-Brower@beaverton.k12.or.us)

Head Lice
District policy requires us to share with families if three or more unrelated head lice cases occur in a two-week period but I wanted to pass along this information now since this season brings unique challenges.  During the costume season, I predict that kids will have cool clothing items that friends might ask to try on.  Now is the perfect time for you to teach or reteach your child why they should say, "No."  We expect that parents will check their own children regularly for lice or nits. Students must be lice free at school.  Some experts believe that checking your child's head weekly is a good practice because it helps you to catch outbreaks early and interrupt the life cycle.  

Teaching and Learning
With so many things not really related to teaching or learning in this newsletter, I want to emphasize the importance of creating a safe and inclusive environment as the foundation for great learning.  The structures and systems we have in place show our best thinking and use of resources as of today.  Oregon has the largest class sizes according to the National Center for Education.  Because things have gotten better with recent changes as the Local Option Levy (funds 3 or our 20 classroom teachers) and state revenue forecasts have improved, in order to level the playing field for our students, we need to use every minute.  Thanks for helping us to maximize instruction!

Fondly,

Dr. Teresa Clemens-Brower
a.k.a.  Mrs. C.-B.
Principal

Learning Options Information for 2018-19
The Beaverton School District is nationally recognized for high student achievement and innovative programs. Beaverton students in grades 6-12 have the opportunity to investigate learning options that best fit their academic needs. Students can choose their neighborhood school or one of a number of small learning options. Transportation is provided.  
Applications will be available starting Monday, October 23rd, 2017. All applicants must reside within the Beaverton School District boundaries. Current Beaverton School District students are encouraged to apply online using their student ID, once the application portal opens. Resident students not currently attending a Beaverton school will need to complete a paper application.
Open House information will be available the middle of October at

Pre-K Cadre:
Did you know that we are in the process of adding a new grade in our Beaverton elementary schools? That’s right… we are in the process of planning for a seamless, integrated Pre-K in multiple elementary schools next school year. Are you interested in being part of this exciting movement? If so, we want you to know that we will be starting a Pre-K-3rd grade Cadre soon. Applications for this Cadre will be sent out in the Weekly Bulletin, ELA Memo, and by email on October 6th. Please look for the application and consider partnering with BSD staff, Early Learning partners across the State, and business leaders as we develop a comprehensive, integrated Pre-K in Beaverton. Kudos to Megan Irwin, our Administrator for Early Learning, and a host of other individuals and departments for their support in this critical endeavor! Applications can be found HERE.

More Detailed Explanation of Teacher Changes
Our original staffing school-wide was based on projected enrollment of 501 students.  Our current enrollment is 518. If the difference was evenly distributed between our 20 classroom teachers it would have been ideal but two grade levels have very large class sizes.  We are over projection by 12 at kindergarten and 9 in 5th grade.  

Overall, we believe that the primary grades should always have lower class sizes than upper grades so we are making adjustments in our primary grades. If you have a fifth grader, know that we are working to support there too but in a different way.  

First Grade-Our year started with 4 first grade teachers.  We made the decision last spring to go with 4 teachers for several reasons.  We expected that our first grade group would be bigger than they were last year as kindergartners.  Because our neighborhood has several highly regarded private kindergartens, we usually add new students to our first grade class.  Because our class sizes for 2017-2018 would also include students in our self-contained specialized programs (9 students in this case) this year, we expected our group of first graders to start at 82 and grow to 85-90 like it typically does.  Taking into consideration all of these variables, we aimed to have lower class sizes in first grade in order to better support students.  

Kindergarten-We started the year with 3 kindergarten teachers.  We were projected to have 73 students (24 per class).  By August 24, the group had grown so there were 26 in each class.  In order to support larger classes and ease into the year, we used non-salary dollars to provide one instructional assistant for each kindergarten classroom the first week of school.  Our classes grew so we extended the instructional assistant support.  I predicted that this would be a temporary solution until we received funding from the District for an additional teacher.  While an assistant does help with the management of bodies if an effective sub takes the job, it does not address all of the aspects of instruction including teaching, assessing, planning and communicating with families.  This was not a sustainable solution.  I used dollars from our non-salary budget to pay for the assistants so about 10% of our paper, book and supply budget was used during September. We don't have the funds to continue the support. 

Until last week, I was hopeful that we would get extra staffing allocated to us and I knew the district was closely monitoring our big classes in Kindergarten. Some years, when growth happens in September, additional staffing allocations are made.  Because our overall school allocation is 26 students for every classroom teacher, we did not get extra staffing for kindergarten and are to make adjustments with the staff we have to meet our needs.
Ms. Cohn was selected to be the teacher to move for several reasons. She knows our overall building, community and school routines well.  She's worked with kindergarten students in the past and I'm confident that she will be a fabulous kindergarten teacher.  Additionally, her first grade class is the smallest class so fewer reassignments will need to be made.