Portland Schools are up and running! Last Thursday, I attended the Valley View Open House and enjoyed seeing so many parents and learning about classroom life in our primary grades. Thank you for taking the time to be a part of your child’s school life. When I was in Miss Pavelchak’s kindergarten classroom, she referenced her kindergarteners as “the class of 2030”---WOW!
I want to convey a sincere welcome to you and underscore my continued desire to involve all parents in the life of our schools. Our parent partnership remains vital to our public schools, and in many cases, your involvement is integral to the success of our students’ learning. I encourage those of you who are interested in becoming more deeply engaged to accept this invitation and to share your talents and interests with us. There are numerous ways to become involved and I know each of our building principals is eager for your partnership and contributions. As a former classroom teacher, principal and now as a superintendent of schools, I have seen the positive benefits to children, to teachers, to my schools, and to parents as well. I want you to be confident in our ability to provide quality instruction for your child, I want you to know and understand our programs, and be more aware of, and become more active in, the policies and practices that we are implementing throughout our five schools.
Last week’s professional learning days for teachers and staff featured numerous new training opportunities. Preschool teachers and staff participated in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) training with one of our highly respected behavioral consultants, Patrick Burke. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the use of specific techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive change for students who have more significant behavioral challenges due to such disabilities as autism spectrum disorder.
Teachers in kindergarten through grade five spent a day learning about the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) reading assessment. The BAS will be replacing other reading assessments we have used in the past as it is more closely aligned with our reading workshop instructional methods. Using this Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems to determine student’s independent and instructional reading levels, teachers are able to observe student reading behaviors one-on-one, engage in comprehension conversations that go beyond retelling, and make informed decisions that connect assessment to instruction.
Teachers from Brownstone Intermediate, the middle school, and the high school spent time learning more about school and classroom restorative practices from the presenter, Kris Wraight. Positive school climate remains a priority focus in our school district as we continue to increase our own understandings about methods to promote community, acceptance, and belonging in a safe environment, and as we strive to improve the quality and character of school life in each of our schools. Restorative Practices are a framework for building community and for responding to challenging behavior. Teachers learned and practiced the use of “Circles” as one tool for strengthening relationships among and between teachers and students.
Valley View and Gildersleeve teachers also spent time working on climate and culture in an effort to refine classroom and school-wide practices that decrease problem behaviors, improve social skills, and enhance school-wide community using approaches developed by The Responsive Classroom.
Learning and growing is an important part of teaching in Portland. An extensive professional learning plan has been created for the year and I am confident that principals and other administrators will be sharing more about these new training efforts with you our parents as the year progresses.
Trimesters to Our Elementary Schools
In early July, several elementary teachers came to me to advocate for a shift in our system for issuing student report cards from four quarters to trimesters. Having made this move in my previous district, I was comfortable approving this request for the following reasons:
- Trimesters correlate with our assessment windows (Fall, Winter, Spring), which reduce the amount of time spent testing.
- Trimesters allow more time for students to demonstrate growth between assessment periods. (In particular, with the current quarterly assessment periods, there is not a great amount of opportunity to share growth from November to January (especially with holidays occurring during those months.)
- Portland elementary teachers are always willing to meet with parents and share academic updates at any time, particularly if parents feel the need to receive information more frequently.
- Trimesters provide a longer time at the beginning of the year for students to acclimate to new classrooms, schedules, and even new schools, before baseline testing and grading for the first report card.
I know that each of our elementary principals will be speaking about this upcoming change at our Open House events in the coming days. (There are no changes currently planned for the middle school or high school reporting card system.)
I am attaching a brief biography about each of our new teaching and staff members. Please take a minute to read about these talented additions to our teams.
I am also attaching information about several school support groups and information about an upcoming town wide event.