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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Great Beginnings-Sept. 9, 2014

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                                                                           

I happened to be in Mr. Pfaff’s room last week when they were doing a project.  The students were working hard to complete the task but they were also working to build community.  They talked about how they could add to a positive classroom climate.  They’d read a book earlier in the day that talked about the power of positive actions.  As students dispersed and went to work, in the period of just about three minutes, I counted eleven children DOING something to contribute to the success of ALL. 
  • Chase collected papers and scraps for others.Chloe supported, “That’s a good idea!”  
  • Aidan encouraged, “You can do it!” 
  • Byron directed, “Here is how you do it nice and smooth.” 
  • Madina said, “Let me wipe that off for you.”Cameron supported, “Yeah!  That’s right.”  
  • Yuki helped another student align items, Nora helped open a tricky glue bottle and McKenzie shared her markers.  
  • Emmalyn offered to share her colored pencils and Paige showed her gratefulness with a smile and “Thank you” when someone shared.

This type of caring and collaborative work starts in the home and is reinforced every year at Sexton Mountain.  We want our learners to be able to THINK critically and creatively, KNOW important content, ACT in a self-directed and collabortive way AND GO into the world with the skills needed to navigate locally and globally.  By acting in a collaborative, caring way in the classroom, they are practicing the habits of mind needed to set them on this path.

During library class, Dawn Kimball has been sharing Dot by Patrick Reynolds.  The story is about leaving your mark in the world and it’s the perfect way to kick off the year!  Each child has been (or will be) given a paper dot to decorate to show how he or she will leave their mark this year.  They’ve been asked to return their dots by Friday September 13th.  The dots will become a part of a larger artwork and we'll celebrate INTERNATIONAL DOT DAY as a school on Monday September 15th.   You can see pictures and learn more by visiting the PTC’s Facebook page at:  To learn more about International Dot Day visit:  Be sure to check out the display in our library when you come for Curriculum Night on Thursday, September 11.

The purpose of Curriculum Night is to inform family members about the why, how and what for each grade level.  The evening is focused on adult learners knowing that when families and teachers are on the same page, kids benefit.  Please plan on joining us September 11th from 6:30pm-8:00pm.   We will start with a Kick Off in the  Cafeteria at 6:30.  This will be a quick, high energy standing room only kick off (think pep rally).  If you arrive early, see how many new families you can meet before 6:30pm.  Based on the actions of the students in Mr. Pfaff’s room, I would predict that we have MANY caring adults in our building and YOU too know how to make others feel welcome and included.  I see your kids working to be inclusive every day in every classoom so I know our families must value this as well.  WE are a strong community and WE rely on one another.  WE work hard for our kids.  Get to know your community.   After the cafeteria introductions, Teachers will hold two similar sessions in classrooms.  The first will begin at 6:50  and will last about 25 minutes.  The second session will begin 7:30 and last 25 minutes. 

As you listen to your child’s teacher, please think about the importance of TIME.  The road to college and career preparation begins in kindergarten and EVERY MINUTE COUNTS!  Your child’s day will be packed! We are going to need your help to make the most of every minute.

Did you know that in a survey last March more than half our staff reported that interruptions to the learning day were a problem at Sexton Mt.?  We have identified interruptions and are working to develop a plan to minimize them.  We’ve developed some protocols for what staff will be doing but we need the support of families and volunteers too.  Here are some of the things we’ve identified as time stealers.
·       Late Arrivals and Early Leavers
o   Every time a child arrives late or leaves early it impacts the whole class. 
o   Please help us to protect learning time by scheduling appointments outside of the school day or during the lunch and recess mid-day break so they can come to the office when others go to recess.
o   Make sure your morning kindergartener or first through fifth grader is here by 8:15am so they have time to connect with friends then go to class at 8:25. This will give students a few minutes to get settled before the 8:30 bell rings and instruction begins.
o    Afternoon kindergarten students should be at the porch at 12:30 when Ms. Diresta opens the door so instruction can start at 12:35.
o   We want kids to be here on time BUT on the rare occasion a power outage causes the clocks to turn off and the alarm doesn’t go off, we will welcome your child and say better late than never. 
·       Phone Calls
o   Every time the phone rings in the classroom learning is stopped. 
o   We deliver messages to students each day at 2:30.  If you have a change in your child’s going home plans, contact the office prior to 2:30.
o   If you need to talk to your child’s teacher, email your request for an appointment.  Know that teachers check email before and after school but the rest of the day, they are often busy with kids. 
·       Lunch Boxes and Deliveries
o   Deliveries to the classroom interrupt instruction.
o   Items will be held in the office until they can be delivered at a time that won’t disrupt instruction.
o   Lunch will be placed on the “Late Lunch” cart.
o   Some families have found that making a list of all the things needed and posting it by the door for quick review the night before and again on the way out helps.  Remember that college and career readiness begin in kindergarten.  You won’t be there to bring forgotten items when they go off to the workplace or college.  Help them develop the habit of mind and confidence NOW.
       Unexpected Guests
o   Visitors and volunteers in the classroom or pod can draw students’ attention away from learning if we are not careful.
o   When children see parents in the pod at the end of the day, they think the day is over and they stop learning.  Please wait for your child outside by the doors.
o   When I visit classrooms, some kids jump up and come to give me a welcoming hug.  I work hard to remind them that they need to continue to focus on the teacher even when I’m in the room.  I’ve noticed that many of our volunteers get the same response.  Some kids LOVE and ADORE some volunteers.  If a volunteer’s presence causes kids to jump up, run to the volunteer for hugs and acknowledgement or conversation, it disrupts learning.  We love our volunteers but want our kids to realize that volunteers are there to help with the learning not disrupt it.  If you are one of these BELOVED volunteers, please quietly remind kids that eyes should be on the teacher and they should be listening.  We LOVE our volunteers and will work to help our kids understand it’s the kid’s job to keep working even when FUN people visit.
       Absent Students
o   When students are absent they miss valuable learning and experiences that can’t be replicated.
o   Fever and vomiting are great reasons to stay home for rest, recovery and to prevent the spread of germs. 
o   If you choose to take your child out of school for vacations, know that teachers will not give homework packets in advance.  Teachers adjust instruction everyday based on the needs of students.
o   Remember that school is like one of those really cool contests where you must be present to win. Our teachers have great things planned for your kids.  With higher standards, they can’t spare a moment.   The learning they plan is responsive to student needs, sequential and builds minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day.  These experiences can’t be replicated. 

This is the first year since I’ve been at Sexton Mountain where we are in the really sweet spot of adding back.  Our class sizes are more reasonable than they have been during the past three years.  Our students have more time during the week with certified teachers for music and PE.  We have more certified learning specialists for our students with special needs.  The team of instructional assistants supervising students at recess and providing extra support for literacy has grown.  For the first time in 25 years, we have a student population under 500 so we aren’t as crowded.  Life is good at Sexton Mountain Elementary School!

So far this year I’ve been sending out newsletters through Mrs. Zwetschke.  We had a change in our email system this year and rebuilding my address book is taking much longer than I expected as I have to toggle between screens and each family takes about 4 minutes.  Even with only 500 kids it’s a slow process.  You can help by sending me  an email from the address that you’d like to have newsletters come to.  In the subject line, please include your child’s name and teacher.  If you’d like to write one thing that your child has enjoyed about the year so far, we share these types of celebrations at staff meetings so your words will be appreciated.  My email address is . 

Thank you for sharing your children with us!  I look forward to seeing you Thursday night.


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

Thank you!
       Thanks to Jenny Tan for updating room labels throughout the building.
       Thanks to Kate Kristiansen for doing the artwork for the library bulletin board.
       Thanks to all the volunteers who spent hours cutting out circle for the library project.

       Please continue to look for the Important Documents in the Back to School Packet.  Sign and return the student verification form and other necessary documents ASAP.  Make sure  the info on the form is correct and let us know if it changes throughout the year.
       We have a number of students with life threatening food allergies.  Remind your child not to share food and to remove food from hands, faces, or clothing before going to the classroom.  Messy fingers and faces can accidentally bring food allergens into contact with classroom tools if kids aren’t careful.  Washing can prevent accidental contact.
       Are you on Facebook?  Stay connected by liking the Principal CB’s Facebook page at
       Remind 101 is an app that allows me to send texts to those who have signed up.  Text @drcleme to (971) 340-2104.   Important events, school closures, weather related delays and other “breaking news” will be shared this way. 
       Are you a Twitter user?  Follow us at

Wish List-These are things or jobs that make a difference to our kids, teachers or school. Send in items or let Mrs. CB know if you can volunteer.
       Donations of iTunes gift cards can be put to good use by our speech teacher Mrs. Moreno.
       Donations of school supply boxes can be put to good use as supply boxes for kids who might not have one.  Gently used or new boxes can be sent to the office.  Our volunteers are building boxes of usable supplies from the many items donated last spring.
       We would love to have someone organize the portables for us.  If you like sorting and moving, this is the job of you.  It can be done anytime during the school day.  Contact Mrs. CB if you can help.

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