Graduation and the end of the school year is quickly approaching. Here are some quick notes on what to expect, when to expect it, and what happens next:
9th, 10th, and 11th Grade Students:
Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday through May 25th we will hold "Homework Help" in the Media Center. This lasts from 3:15-4:10 PM with transportation to all feeder schools and Evergreen Village.
We will also be holding Saturday Schools from 9:00-12:00 PM on May 12 and May 19. On May 12, this will happen in the Graduation Academy. May 19, they will be back in the media center.
I grew up on a small farm near Soldier, Iowa. We raised a variety of livestock from hogs to chickens with the crops being the staple corn and soybeans. We also raised hunting dogs and greyhounds for the racetrack. It was a unique childhood compared to the students we serve here at North High School. One fond memory (not necessarily at the time) was the early summer chore of "walking beans." This required us to walk the rows of beans and cut weeds from the rows. The task was often completed by my mother, my brother, and me. My dad always got out of it by doing other chores.
What I enjoyed about it was doing a meaningful task together. It allowed us to talk (yes, no cell phones back then), share laughs, and accomplish something we needed to complete for the good of the farm. It was all about the time we spent together, doing something, for the common good. This is something I want all of our students to experience - coming together to build positive relationships and give back to our "homestead."
On April 20, 2018, North High School will be joining forces with the City of Sioux City for "Litter Dash". Students, organized through homerooms, will be working alongside teachers and staff in picking up trash and beautifying the attendance zone of North High. We will be providing transportation for our staff and students to spend the afternoon working together to make Sioux City a better place to live, work, and learn.
Please look for more information, including permission slips acknowledging that we will have students leaving campus for an afternoon of community service. This will be a great opportunity for us to give back to the city.
Strength based leadership is important to the success of any organization. The Gallup Organization conducts thousands of polls and studies each year. One study we found interesting is one focused on strength based leadership. It states, "First, the most effective leaders are always investing in strengths. Employees who do not work in strengths areas are only 9% engaged in their jobs vs. 74% engagement levels for people who do work in their strengths. Further, engagement has been proven to substantially increase productivity for the company. Second, the most effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and then maximize their team" (Gladis 1).
We recently announced a re-assignment of roles for our administrative team. We utilized our strengths to maximize our team's effort. We wanted to utilize this newsletter to provide parents and community members with information about these new roles. Our goal was to organize our team and use our strengths to strengthen the school. Here is a brief synopsis of our updated leadership organization:
Brant Bemus - Mr. Bemus will now be leading a focus to support students during the sophomore year. Most of our students who struggle show signs during their sophomore year. This requires us to shift the focus so those students do not fall through the cracks. Additionally, we realigned some of our intervention programs (PBIS Tier II) , Academic Enhancement Center, and School-Within-a-School to have one leader overseeing it. He will also be involved in researching trauma informed practices for our school. He will be focusing primarily on the 10th grade students.
Joni Swenson - Mrs. Swenson will continue her work as Freshman Principal. In this role, she works the transition of students from North Middle to North High. This coupled with a strong team of teachers at the freshman level, the number of students failing during their first year of high school has been dramatically reduced. Additionally, Mrs. Swenson will be overseeing the Special Education Department at North High. Over 200 of our students are on Individualized Education Plans. Previously, the department was divided among multiple administrators. This will allow for a single focus and vision for supporting our students. She will be focusing primarily on the 9th grade students.
Chris Koch - Mr. Koch will now be serving as our Activities Director and continue to support Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). However, instead of overseeing the entire program, he will be focused on the Tier 1 Support System. This includes interventions received by all students and focuses on the increase of desired behaviors and the reducation of unwanted ones. He will also be involved in researching trauma informed practices for our school. Additionally, he will be working 11th and 12th grade students.
Ryan Dumkrieger - The adjustments above allow our administrative team to focus on two high need groups. Moving forward, I will be able to more directly support and direct our English Language Learners (ELL) and our Talented and Gifted (TAG) student programming. Both groups need specialized programming and structures to ensure needs are met. We will be analyzing schedules, course offerings, student data, and teacher strengths to ensure meaningful supports and structures are being developed for student success.
Change is not easy. The adjustments will begin during the 2018-2019 school year. However, we are currently transitioning into our new responsibilities. These changes will allow us to "maximize" our team and ensure that North High continues to grow academically and provide high quality service for all students and their families.
As a parent myself, I know what it feels like to send my children to school and trust someone else with their safety. So, as the principal of your child’s school, I thought it may be helpful to share some facts with you regarding how we ensure your child’s safety at North High. In schools, safety takes on a variety of appearances including physical safety, emotional safety, and academic safety.
Adult supervision in our building happens in a variety of forms. Most people are aware of the supervision provided in the classroom and during lunch, but I often get questions about how we monitor safety in the halls. Here are some examples:
While this gives you insight into our day-to-day safety measures, let me also take a moment to shed light on our crisis preparations. The District has a crisis management plan that outlines the protocol for all potential crisis, including lockdown and lockout drills. While we recognize that each crisis is unique, a well-established plan guides employees’ swift action and initial steps to de-escalate the crisis. In the event of a crisis, District administration collaborates with school resource officers and local law enforcement to assess the threat level and best course of action. For “high-level” threats, law enforcement directs the situation management.
While this is the protocol to respond to threats, the important work comes before a crisis ever occurs. It is the proactive work of the District that really maintains the safety of our school communities. Every Sioux City school has cameras trained on every door, even those that can't be used during the school day, plus other cameras inside and outside the buildings. All doors are secured during the day and entry is obtained through contact with the main office. Students and staff are directed to not open doors for others - known or unknown. The District also has a Sioux City Police Department officer at each high school and middle school.
In planning an appropriate response to possible danger, mock drills for various possible incidents take place during the year and some drills are planned in concert with the Sioux City Police Department, Sioux City Fire Rescue and Woodbury County Sheriff's Office. Each school also completes safety drills to help students prepare for potential crisis. Moving forward, we will communicate with you on days when those drills take place. This will allow for you to have conversations with your sons and daughters about school safety.
North High staff are proactive at fostering emotional safety for our students. Over the past five years, we have worked to develop student/staff relationships by focusing on positive behavior interventions and supports. We have also, through a grant, added mental health therapists to our school staff. We recognize that students must have a positive relationship with at least one staff member to feel emotionally safe.
We continue to offer "Mentors for Violence Prevention" as the foundation to our efforts in decreasing violence in and out of school. This effort is championed state-wide by former North High principal, Alan Heisterkamp. (Video below). In addition, we have strengthened the role of the homeroom teacher as an adviser and added student groups and activities to expand opportunities for student involvement.
Still, we recognize that there are times when students may struggle. District employees are trained to watch for warning signs. Many North High teachers have been trained in "Mental Health First Aid" to help spot early warning signs of mental health struggles. Programming and speakers have also been organized at North High to help students understand the warning signs and what to do if oneself or a peer need help. Each year, parents can also elect for their son or daughter to participate in a mental health screening (Learn more about the SDQ Assessment here). We all have a role in sustaining a safe learning environment. If parents or students see something out of the ordinary or concerning, please make a report to administration. Reports of any concerns can be made to a teacher, counselor, principal or local law enforcement officials.
Safety also applies to academic learning and the learning environment. Learning new material can be difficult and students need support when challenged mentally by rigorous work. Teachers provide students with the academic tools to challenge their thinking and push their learning. This also means that they must provide the interventions and supports to ensure that students stay positive and confident when faced with challenges and adversity in learning. For example, teacher feedback on student work is intended to reinforce the student support and promote further effort, because after all, struggling to learn is part of growing as a learner.
These are all actions that North High staff can take to ensure your child’s safety, but it can’t stop here. Together, we can do more to reinforce student safety.
Together, we need to maintain open lines of communication between students and school staff AND between parents and school staff. North High principals are at your fingertips. I recommend using Let's Talk, which has an average four hour response time. You can also send a direct message on Twitter or Facebook .
The school-home team is vital. If we want to make the most impact, we must work together. We often have parents call or schedule meetings to discuss issues facing their son or daughter at home. Together, we develop plans that support the young man or woman at home and at school. When we work together, we share the load and make gains at a higher rate.
We look forward to being your continued partner in building a strong school community where students feel safe to learn and grow.
One of my favorite holiday songs is "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas." As my children are older, I better relate to the line in the song, "and mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again." Wow! I get it now. If you are anything like me you look forward to and dread school breaks all at the same time.
My wife and I are always looking for something to keep ourselves and the kids entertained. The problem is that many things can break the bank really fast. I often search the internet for free or low cost ideas of what we can do. Below is something I found - a school break life preserver from one parent to another! Some ideas may be a little "elementary" for high school students, but it often surprises me what we can get students to do for elementary style rewards - they are still kids at heart.
Here are a blog's 100 ideas of free (or nearly free) things to do over winter break:
Happy holidays and enjoy your family time!
I need to brag a moment about your son and daughter’s teachers. This school year has seen a number of changes. We all know that when things change, it isn’t easy. Your teachers have embraced each enhancement and are committed to providing the best school experience for our students. They are highly professional and committed to all students learning.
Our leadership team (made up of teachers, principals, and instructional coaches) outlined a common lesson plan template. It isn't news that every teacher plans lessons. With over 90 teachers at North, we knew that every teacher planned differently based on how they were trained. That's not good enough. We want to guarantee to parents that, no matter who their son or daughter is educated by, they will receive the same, high quality, education. Every day, your student has a teacher organized and planned for success. Here are our planning non-negotiables for this year:
A high quality education is one part of student success. The other is a high quality intervention system. We will discuss our PBIS Intervention System in another newsletter.
We decided to enhance our newsletter. We are a 21st century focused, #FutureReady school and our previous format did not allow us to fully engage our parents with our school. We will tweak this from week to week and keep the new format consistent, easy to navigate, and visually appealing. Secondly, and most important, we want to make sure that the lines of communication between the school and parents/guardians stays strong.
North High School is a large school with many activities, events, and learning opportunities occurring each day. This newsletter will continue to provide an avenue for us to share needed information as well as celebrate our students, teachers, and organizations. Our newsletter will continue to be sent to all parents and guardians who have entered their email address into Infinite Campus during registration. The new format also allows us to share it to social media.
The goal of our newsletter is to keep parents informed. This newsletter will provide general ideas of what is happening at North High School. From announcements to schedules, we know our students don't always get information they receive at school to parents. We want to bridge that gap.
We thank you for taking the time to ensure you have the most up-to-date information. If you ever find something to be confusing or incorrect, please don't hesitate to let us know. You can do so by clicking the "Let's Talk" button at the bottom of the newsletter. We are always open to suggestions and ideas on contents.
Over the past few weeks, I have been stopped by a teacher who, for a lack of better word, struggles. I will be clear, she never struggled in the way that I questioned whether she should teach - she has the heart of a teacher. She struggled in the way many teachers do. She questions her worth, whether she is making a difference, and whether or not she should keep teaching. I am not surprised we have had the recent conversations we have had. Today was our latest conversation.
Today, I was busy. I had meetings all morning, was in the building for just a short while, then had to leave again early. My time in my office and completing my tasks was my top priority. Then, she walked in. She did that, “Hey, do you have a minute?” thing that everyone answers first in their heads, filters it, then replies. I of course said, “No, I am really busy, but come on in.” I struggle sometimes being “on-demand.”
We walk into my office and take a seat. I am at my desk, straightening things up. I am half heartedly paying attention. Then, she says it. “Thank you.”
She had my attention.
This teacher began stating how this is one of her best years. That she is taking risks and doing things she never would have done in the classroom. She talked about how she is making deeper relationships with students and finding they are rising to her higher expectations. She is collaborating with her peers in PLC and taking their ideas and trying them after tweaking them to her style. She isn’t afraid to fail.
At that moment, I was fully re-engaged. My management hat was off and my instructional leader hat was on full display. She came into my office, took a risk, and won my attention.
This teacher reminded me today of a few things:
This teacher is every teacher - every school professional. We question our worth, our value daily. These teachers have the efficacy to get the job done and done well. Sometimes they (we) lack the confidence because we are scared, unsure, or tired. I personally have spent a lot of time this afternoon reflecting on this teacher’s journey by putting the pieces together and trying to read the map that lead her from Point A to Point B. There is no map, just trust and awareness that good teaching and learning has a level of risk.
🎼 Summer learning, had me a blast. Summer learning happened so fast... Tell me more, tell me more...
Over the past three days, teachers, consulting teachers, program coordinators, building administrators, and district administrators attended Iowa Core Institute 2017 (#ICI2017) to gain a deeper knowledge of what works. The focus remained on integrating various literacy strategies into classrooms.
We must be deliberate in everything that we do. This fits perfectly with our 2017-2018 focus of completing a common lesson plan templates. Planning saves time and ensures the focus remains on the most important aspects of learning. Teachers must be intentional in thier planning for learning to be effective. Consulting Teachers must be intentional in their coaching for teacher growth to be effective. Administrators must be intentional in their feedback for teachers to grow and reflect.
This finally makes sense to me. When I am deeply interested in something I read it closely. Self taught, many of us use elements of close reading to ensure a deep understanding. I recall elements of my professional learning where I closely read and interact with my text. I have a personal system of annotating and recalling content of text I felt important. The missing element may be the most important - collaboration over the article.
The final take away is the importance of collaboration. Every session I attended had an element of collaboration. In my first session with ASCD's Heather Donnelly (@DonnellyinFOCUS), she connected the need for our collaboration to that of our students. They thrive on the ability to interact with one another. We know that students will interact whether we want them to or not. When we are intentional with what we want students to collaborate on, learning happens. I also see the connection between close reading and Authentic Intellectual Work. Students receive both a deeper understanding of a text and collaborate. Students have greater opportunities for substantive conversations. Well planned collaboration achieves deeper conversations and understanding of the concepts.
Learnig alongside staff is a great way to spend the first few days of summer. The learning simmers in the back of teachers minds as they refresh and renew for the fall semester. It is the job of building leaders (teachers and principals) to revive those thoughts and great ideas when we return.
At professional development Monday, I ended the day with this quote:
“First of all, a planned lesson is just better. Not all planned lessons are fabulous and not all unplanned lessons are a disaster, but even a bad lesson will be less bad planned, and even a great lesson can be greater with a plan. If you are good at teaching unplanned lessons, you will be even better at teaching with a plan.” The Importance of Lesson Planning
There are multiple reasons to embrace lesson planning. At the end of the day, there is a different reason for each person. For some, it frees time because it improves organization. For others, it reduces stress as they know exactly what is happening and that it’s deliberately sequenced. Lesson planning ensures teacher focus on those things that matter most. Our school has selected the following non-negotiable elements for our lesson plan template:
Connecting our day-to-day work with our professional development in Authentic Intellectual Work is key. By connecting each day’s learning to one of these elements directly ties to our district’s instructional framework as the learning is “linked to Enduring Understandings, not linked to tasks or activities.” When we deliberately plan, we make those connections.
This is a continuation on the great work completed this year. It should never be a surprise on what is being learned. This is the mini-goal for you and your students to ensure learning for the day. This is directly linked to the district’s instructional framework.
This is a continuation on the great work completed this year. With nearly 22% of our students having English as a Second Language and 70% of our students on free or reduced lunches, targeting and addressing literacy is key. We need to be purposeful in how we have students engage in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. This is directly linked to the district’s instructional framework.
This is the next step in Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol. This section is optional for the plan but encouraged. The reason it is important as it supports language acquisition along with the language target.
Four years ago, we moved to the A/B Block Schedule. We were very deliberate in how we used that time the first few years. As time has gone on we have snuck back into old habits. Having an agenda on the plan will ensure your lesson is pacing as expected and that the 88-minute block includes multiple learning opportunities.
As stated, connecting our day-to-day work with our professional development in Authentic Intellectual Work is key. The task summary should list what the students are doing with the content or skills. It should be something that could be brought to AIW to score. It could be anything from a graphic organizer, instructions for a discussion with prompts, a creation assignment, an essay prompt, a scene, a project, etc. This would be the one thing that ties in your content target.
We must plan how we will know if students know, understand, or can do the target/goal. The formative assessment should tell teachers if students meet the target. It is great if they do so through the language target. When writing the formative assessment, it is best to keep the targets in mind.
Literacy is key. One of the best ways for learning to be visible is through writing. This section can have an explanation of how they will use writing or the prompts themselves.
Taking time to reflect and ponder on how to enhance lessons is key. Teachers are the number one factor of student achievement. The work of Hall and Simeral shows that ongoing reflection is key to becoming and being a great teacher. When teachers engage in reflection, the understanding of needs deepens and the responses to those needs improve.
We understand that a common template and submitting weekly lesson plans is a shift – a change from the past. We know that this will take the many great things happening to the next level. Our parents and students deserve the best.
Ryan Dumkrieger is the principal of Sioux City North High School.