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Monday, October 20, 2014

Volunteering, Parties, Lunch, Lice and More-October 21, 2014

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                                                                                 

Last week I was in Ms. Burnett’s  (a.k.a. Teacher Amanda) classroom for an observation when one of her students read my nametag.  He carefully pronounced my first name then smiled at me and said, “Hello Teacher Teresa!”   I appreciated that this young fellow sees me as a teacher since that is my most important job!  In this week’s newsletter, I hope to teach you about some policies and procedures about which you may not be aware.  I also hope to inform you about upcoming events and share more about what makes our school special.

Conferences
There will be no school for students on October 23 and 24 so that teachers can meet with families to discuss student progress and set goals for the upcoming year.  Teachers can provide specific information about expectations for conferences.  While you are at school, make sure you check out student work in our hallways.  Check out the photo posters in each pod.  There will be one booklet in each pod for you to view.   This booklet describes the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. You can also find Learning Targets at https://www.beaverton.k12.or.us/depts/tchlrn/lts/Pages/Browse-Learning-Targets.aspx.  Feel free to use computers in the office and the pods to access info.  Computers can be used for completing Volunteer Background Checks if you haven’t already done so (go to the Community section of the BSD webpage then drag down to Volunteer) or visit https://www.beaverton.k12.or.us/community/volunteer. If your child waits for you in the pod, there will be a basket of crayons and coloring sheets.   

Remember that the purpose of the conference is to make sure that Team “Insert Your Child’s Name Here” has aligned goals and shared strategies to promote your child’s growth and development.  Come to conferences thinking about how the adults at home and school will collaboratively develop goals.

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.

Lunch Time
The highest decibel level ever recorded at Centurylink Field in Seattle is 137.6.  The average decibel level range in a restaurant is about 60-70.  School cafeteria decibel levels are around 75. Some believe that hearing damage happens at about 85 decibels.  In order to be in a safe range, we expect students in the cafeteria to have a collective decibel level of less than 80. 

Hollywood gives us many examples of what it looks like or sounds like to dine in various locations.  John Belushi in Animal House showed what NOT to do with food while dining with friends.  Robin Williams showed us what NOT to do when he traded rude remarks around a dinner table in Hook.  I looked for clips that exemplified respectful and responsible dining experiences but was hard pressed to find one.  Instead, I asked some of our students to tell me about their dining experiences.  I noticed some themes in their descriptions and applied the ideas to school in the chart below.

AT HOME
AT SCHOOL
Most families expect those around the table to talk quietly. Families get loud on occasion but most kids describe family dining as calm and relaxing.
We expect students to talk quietly.  We recognize that kids will get loud on occasion and supervisors will ask for silence, give instructions then quiet conversations will resume.  With about 90 kids in the cafeteria, it’s important for the volume to be kept reasonable to keep the environment calm and relaxing.
Families expect kids to stay at the table until they are excused.
We expect students to remain seated until they are done eating.  At the beginning of lunch they should gather everything needed for lunch.  During the last five minutes, students will make one trip to the trash.  Kids are encouraged to have a full water bottle in their packed lunch in order to prevent multiple trips to the water/dixie cup station.
Families expect those around the table to talk AND listen.  They are expected to show interest in others.  When someone talks, they do so with an empty mouth and most kids mention that they never interrupt other family members.
As students visit, we hope they will practice the art of conversation with one child talking as another child or children listens.  We expect they will take turns in conversation.
Family dining experiences provide a safe place for each person to share about celebrations and challenges of the day.  People around the table are expected to be nice or not mean.
We expect children to be kind to one another.  We expect respectful diners.
Families expect school age children to eat food but it sounds like younger children (age 3 and younger as described by our school age siblings) may play with food a bit.
We expect that students will eat food.  Playing with food or lunch containers can be unsafe.
Larger families seem to have more rules in order to have peaceful meal times. 
We expect that students will understand that lunchtime with 90 others is different than dinnertime at home with a few.  We have expectations posted on the wall near the stage so that all 90 students will know their responsibility in creating an enjoyable dining environment.  We expect kids to be safe, respectful and responsible.
Gross things (burping, bodily emissions, or potty humor type topics) are not allowed in most families.
Gross things are not allowed at school.
Some families eat evening meals in different parts of the house depending on interest (sports) or activity (curled up with a book).  According to students, we have many fans of The Voice and football. 
We have supervision during lunch time ONLY in the cafeteria on most days so kids aren’t able to find a silent spot to curl up with a good book and there is no place for them to watch TV.  If kids are having an especially difficult time, they may be asked to finish lunch in the office.
Some families eat in different locations depending on activities (Taco Bell, Lexus, Mini-van, deck, couch, Burgerville, Shari’s, grandma’s house, Red Robin). 
When we have extra adults to help with supervision, we may be able to spread out with students on the stage or in other spots on sunny days.  Sometimes kids are invited to eat in the office if a quiet spot is needed.  Sometimes teachers hold classroom events and we have a whole school picnic during the last week of school.

We expect students in the cafeteria to act in a safe, respectful and responsible way.  This mid-day break sets the stage for learning during the rest of the day so we want the experience to be positive for all students.

Parking, Private Property and Politeness
The neighbors behind the school asked me to thank drivers who are parking in legal parking spots and keeping the zone labeled “No Parking” free of cars so that drivers are able to see kids as they prepare to cross the street.  They’ve asked that I remind drivers that driveways are private property so cars should not be using our neighbor’s driveways to turn around.  One neighbor in particular believes that Sexton Mountain families are causing damage to her driveway as it’s repeatedly used as a turn around.  Please strive to be polite to those around us.  Our neighbors are the first to report when unsafe things happen on the playground on evenings and weekends.  This watchful group likely prevents vandalism, unsafe behavior by middle-school aged kids and always communicate concerns when things look suspicious on campus.  Please help us return their kindness by showing them respect.

Fall Parties
Each year the PTC provides classrooms with a fall, winter and spring party.  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.  The information below may be useful to party planners and other volunteers.

Several students in our school have severe latex or peanut/nut allergies.   Latex balloons are not allowed.  Balloons of any kind cannot be taken home on the bus.  Strict avoidance of peanut/nut products is the only way to prevent a life threatening allergic reaction. If exposed to peanut products or nut products through contact or ingestion, the student may develop a life-threatening allergic reaction that requires emergency medical treatment.  In an effort to maintain a safe environment for all, students at our school will not be doing art projects that include nuts or nut products.  Please plan nut free projects!  With so many projects available, this should be an easy task.  Party snacks cannot include any peanut or nut containing products..  Because there are so many nut free products in our world, maintaining a nut free environment should not be a problem.  We also have kids with dairy and egg allergies or gluten intolerance so plan accordingly.

Be sure to park in designated parking spaces when you come to school.  Our parking lot has been known to be rather unsafe on party days due to so many illegally parked cars.  In order to maintain a safe parking lot, I expect all parties to end by 2:55 p.m. so teachers can help students return to calm before dismissal and bring closure to the learning of the day.  If you take your child home with you at that time, please sign him or her out in the office.

Check with your teacher to determine when parties will take place.  Fall parties might begin as early as mid-October or extend well into November (although this year they are all scheduled for October 31).  Winter parties might take place in December or January.  In all decisions, our first priority is safety followed by what is best for student learning.  Sometimes this means that to maintain instructional integrity on certain days, we continue learning as normal and move parties to days that work best for teaching and learning. 

Fall parties should have an autumn theme and winter parties should have a winter theme.  This will allow all children to comfortably participate.  Again, with so many different projects available, this should not be a problem.  

Student Dress and Accessories Info-Planning for October 31-Costume FAQ
Over the past few years, I get the same questions asked over and over regarding attire for the October 31 party so I assume others are wondering the same thing. 

Most Asked Question #1-May I wear my costume on Halloween?
Answer: Check with teachers for exact expectations but know that on October 31, 5.5 hours of the day will be learning and school as usual.  An hour has been allotted for a PTC sponsored fall party.  There are many exciting things that happen in the fall, including Halloween, but our fall parties will be fall parties (not Halloween parties) so costumes are not required. Students in grades 1-5 will be allowed to slip costumes over clothes during the party. Costumes may cover clothes but not faces or heads.  Kindergarten students are here four hours less than students in grades 1-5 and October 31 will be especially packed.  Because of the limited time they don’t have the time to change AND party.  Our kindergarten students are encouraged to dress in fall colors but not costumes.  This will give them more time to enjoy the party. Since kindergarten students have an extra four hours at home or daycare compared to older siblings, I’m sure they’ll find ways to enjoy dress up away from school during the day.

Students are expected to be safe, respectful and responsible all day, every day even when they are wearing costumes.  One aspect of safety is being able to clearly see and identify who is in our school. Faces should not be covered in the school so no masks or head coverings unless it is part of regular religious dress. Clothing worn during the party should reflect our expectations as well as the expectations outlined in the Beaverton School District Student/Parent Resource Handbook (see below). 

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.

Most Asked Question #2-My costume comes with a little pretend weapon (i.e. bow and arrow, gun, sword, knife, bomb).  Can I bring that?
Answer:  No.   Weapons, play-weapons or look-alike weapons are NEVER allowed at school.

In keeping with our safety theme, students should know that weapons as accessories are not acceptable at school.  Toy Weapons or Look-Alike Weapons are NOT 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. If the knife is a dangerous weapon (readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, threatened to be used, possessed, or sold) or a deadly weapon (Specifically designed for and presently capable of causing death or serious physical injury) then expulsion is required.
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.

Head Lice and Halloween Costumes
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."

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.  With the potential for trying on others' costumes, I wanted to remind adults to 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.   

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 fewer school days per year according to the National Center for Educational Statistics and we have among the largest class sizes.  Because things have gotten better with recent changes as the Local Option Levy as passed and state revenue forecasts have improved, in order to level the playing field for our students, we need to use every minute well since students in Oregon are more likely to have larger classes and attend fewer days of school than students in 40 or more other states.  We need to do our very best work in schools while state leaders work for stable funding.   Thanks for helping us to maximize instruction!

Fondly,

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

Thank you!
·       Thank to those who shared more information about COYOTE AWARENESS.  Posters are popping up on local walking trails with information about what to do if you encounter a coyote while out and about.  Visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/coyotes.asp for more info.

Reminders
       December 5 is the Winter Music Program. All grade levels will perform during this evening event.
       Are you on Facebook?  Stay connected by liking the Principal CB’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Principal-CBs-Page-Sexton-Mountain-Elementary/227153960776053
       Are you a Twitter user?  Follow us at https://twitter.com/PrincipalCB

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.
·       Next fall we expect all three of our kindergartens will be full day.  In preparation for full day kindergarten, we will be collecting items in the upcoming months.  Because we use wagons to transport lunches to and from the cafeteria, we hope to get three wagons donated before June. 

·      Are you a woodworker?  We’d love to have someone make a sign for our 155th and Sexton Mtn. entry with the name of our school and our address. 
  • Donations of folding card tables can be put to good use.  Please deliver them to the stage.

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