Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy!


Upcoming Important Dates

Aug 29 – First day of school for 6th Graders
Aug 30 – First Day of school for 7th & 8th Graders
Sep 2 – No School Labor – Long Labor Day Weekend
Sep 5 – Labor Day No School
Sep 8 – School Picture Day
Sep 8 – Vision & Hearing Screening day
Sep 12 & 13 -MLTI Parent Information Evening
Sep 16 – School Dance

Student Placement

We have completed the placement process for all of our students for the next school year. The process is exhausting and extensive and it is one that we take very seriously. We take information from parents and the students’ teachers to make sure we put together combinations that make sense for the entire school. We also work hard to make sure that students have at least one friend on their team (usually, they have many friends with them!).  In any event, since the 8th grade is housed in one wing of the school, it is very likely that they will still have plenty of time for socializing with friends.

Our goal is to have teams that resemble the grade as a whole, in other words, a heterogeneous group of students with similar strengths and similar challenges. We endeavor to make sure that no one team can be perceived as the team that has far more of one type of student over another.

(Side note: In some of the emails and telephone calls we have received, parents have objected to their child being placed on the team with all of the Special Education students, or the behavior students, or, that another team has all of the “college-bound” students. This is why we do this exhausting process, to keep this from happening)

We also understand that sometimes we don’t get it right. We have set out a protocol for parents top voice their concern and request a change of team. To do so, parents must demonstrate one of the following four possibilities in making the request:

  1. Prior negative experience with the student and a teacher on the team;
  2. Prior negative experience with a sibling or family member and a teacher on the team;
  3. An issue between another student on the team that rises to the level of civil or legal involvement, and;
  4. A teacher on the team who is a relative and placement could cause a problem.

Short of meeting any of these conditions, we are restricted from moving students off a team.

There is a bit of hope, however, we know that over the course of the summer students move in and students move away. We are committed to making our teams representative of the grade as a whole. In late August, when we begin to receive the transfer requests, we re-examine the make up of each team and make adjustments at that time. In the past, we have had to move students to different teams.

What we cannot allow is the idea of “team or teacher shopping”. Making requests for a particular team or teacher would complicate the process to the extent that it would be impossible to keep the mix of students representative of the whole grade.

If I could pass on a little bit of wisdom that I have gained over the years, first as a parent, and then as a middle school administrator, kids are incredibly resilient. What appears to be the crisis to end all crises, can be mollified with time.

Finally, I am happy to meet with any parent to talk about each of the teams at our grade levels. We are incredibly blessed at Gorham Middl School because we have some very talented, dedicated teachers who go more than above and beyond to provide our students with great learning experiences.

 Supply Lists for 2016-2017 School Year

I figured that I would try to beat Staples, Wa;smart and Office Max to the punch and get our supply lists out to all well before the “Back-to-School Sale Season” starts. I want to temper these lists a little bit by reminding you that your child does not need  to have all of these supplies for the first day of school, these are meant to last for the entire year, so you might be able to ease into the purchasing a bit.

I have updated our GMS Webpage with the complete lists for each team. Follow this link to the GMS page and scroll down to “Supplies List” section. Please be very mindful of the amount of supplies your child will need. Also, if you are experiencing financial difficulties, please don’t hesitate to call me. We do have some supplies available for students, if necessary. I will keep any information in complete confidence.

Summer Reading for a Principal

Summer is the time that I can settle in for an afternoon of enjoyable reading. Maybe some history about General George Washington and the American Revolution, or John Sanford novel with Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, those are always interesting, if not a bit gruesome.

But for now, I am elbow deep into Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith’s Most Likely to Succeed (MLS). Tony Wagner has been featured in this blog on a couple of occasions, both in video and in print. I appreciate his take on the challenges we are facing in preparing pour kids for their future. Ted Dintersmith is new to me. The book jacket says he is a venture capitalist who has turned his attention to improving our educational system in a manner that is quite different than other wealthy people are suggesting.

As I said, I am only elbow deep into this book with lots more reading and understanding to do.

About a year ago, Ted Dintersmith was in Fargo, North Dakota, attending a TEDx conference. He delivered this address about his ideas and talked about the documentary he financed about education across the country. So far, I have been completely enthralled with everything Wagner and Dintersmith have said about how our education system needs to be more responsive to the needs of our future. I think we’ll be talking about this more in the coming months. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy his speech from Fargo.

I am Always Amazed How Much We Do!

Important Upcoming Dates

  • November 14 – Faculty Meeting, this is a breakout session for content areas. A little later in this post I will give you an agenda.
  • November 16 – School Dance in the Gym 6:00 to 8:00 pm
  • November 21 – 23 – Thanksgiving break. We hope that you all enjoy this little break to relax in the comfort of family and friends.
  • November 27 – Code Blue Team meeting in the Nurses Conference room 2:30 pm.
  • November 28 – Team Leader meeting in Melanie’s room beginning at 2:30 pm.
  • December 5 – Faculty meeting, Whole Staff in the GMS Library 2:30 pm.
  • December 12 – Early Release Day Community Service day. Details will be forth coming.

Learning Teams

It would seem that many of our learning teams had some great conversations during our early release day on October 25th. I found the notes that you uploaded to the Wiki to be quite interesting. You all really are getting into your topic.

For those who have yet to upload your notes, please do so ASAP.

We have a few meetings left before the New Year, and then we will be expanding the teams and the depth of the conversations. Thanks for your hard work with this.

Breakout Faculty Meeting Agenda

Wednesday’s Faculty meeting is a breakout session. We will gather in The Library at 2:30 for the “social” portion of the meeting with food provided by the 8th grade, and, yes, we are raffling off another great prize or two to some lucky staff member. Then we expect that the rest of the time will be spent in breakout sessions as follows:

All ELA teachers will breakout by grade level to work on the alignment of our curriculum to the Common Core State Standards. The members of the ELA Committee have the details of the work that is necessary.

Science Teachers, I am pasting the email I received from Jane Esty about your work:

Regarding your upcoming science department time, here some tasks that need to happen this year and this is the perfect forum to get started. Thanks!  The Committee reps are feeling very strongly about regular and frequent opportunities to gather as a department (or at least as grade level department), so I am hoping that this opportunity is followed by many more during the course of the year.
I am asking that a recorder is nominated and that minutes of their time together be shared with me. Also, I am asking that the minutes indicate how afar they got with this agenda and what their next steps are, and how they will be sharing this information with the science teachers who will be on different work team on this day. (Can you tell me the specific day and tie of this meeting? If I can, I would appreciate being able to join them.)

My suggestions for the work of the GMS Science teachers is the following:
1) Read and analyze last spring’s Science MEA data. (Documents attached) Document group responses to the following questions:
•    What are the trends or points of interest communicated by the data?  What is interesting… gender? SES?
•    What is thought provoking about student performance in the particular strands of science?
•    Where results are strong, why? Where they are less strong, why?
•    Given the data, what is ONE thing that can be changed in the short term to enable increased student achievement on this coming spring’s MEA’s?

2) It is very important that all science teachers (and administrators) in Gorham have initial understanding of the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards. Knowing and understanding the planning document and the driving force for the formation of the standards, The National Research Council’s Framework, is the first step in this process. So, please:
•    Read all three attached documents.
•    In particular, discuss (and record) the “Three Dimensions” document relative to:
– What are the differences between “scientific inquiry” and “engineering design.”  Where are each of these in your current teaching     practices?
– Where are the opportunities for cross-disciplinary teaching and what can happen this year to accommodate that?  Next year?
– What work will need to happen next to align to this new set of standards (whose release is projected for March 2013)?

I will forward to the science teacher the attachments to Jane’s email.

Social Studies Teachers, you have continued work on Units of Study for your Curriculum Committee that you can continue to work on. My one request for this group would be how you can incorporate as much technology for the students to use as they explore the topics of study at each grade level.

Special Educators and Learning Labs, I know that there is plenty of work for you all to do, however, I would like to have representation at the ELA and math meetings from the Special Educators perspective. I will let you determine who and how. I would also be interested in having Special Education representation at the Social Studies meeting.

Math Teachers, your continued work exploring and becoming more familiar with our new math series is probably enough to keep you all busy for month and months. This would also be a great time to share what each of you has learned about this series and how you are using it differently in your classes.

VPA Teachers, I am sure that Susie has plenty of work to occupy your time. I will ask that she forward to you the necessary tasks for the afternoon.

Health and PE , I would be very interested in what you discovered at the most recent MAPHERD conference. The sharing of this information and preparing a report that Kim could use at the CAC meeting in January.

World Languages, I will check with Polly to see if that committee has a particular need. I would be very interested in having you explore how we can expand our offerings to our Middle School students.

 Student Council Food Drive

We all really need to extend ourselves in our advisory groups to help the Ecumenical Food Pantry this year. More than in any other year our community, as are so many others, are struggling to put food on the table. These cans and dry goods help to feed more families and provide basic sustenance that is so needed.

I know that every year at this time we seem to ask more and more, and I know that this seems rather cliche, but we really need to step up this year.

Family Math Nights

7th Grade Math Teacher, Chris LeSiege, has suggested that we hold a couple of Family Math Nights to highlight and show off our new math series form Glencoe. I am trying to find a night that works for our building, staff and parents. As soon as I get an exact date and time, I will send out an email and post it on the Middle School Website.

We do hope to hold this night sooner, rather than later. We have had several comments from parents about our new program as well as seeking advice and assistance as they try to help their children with their math homework.

Speaking of Math

I found an interesting article from the LA Times about how just thinking about math can cause you to get a headache. Now, I am not proposing that we could eliminate headaches if we stopped teaching math, but… Let me know what you think.

LA Times Article

Budget Development Time Again

I know, it seems like we just finished our budget process and now we have to start again!

Kristen will be placing budget development worksheets later this week for you to look at your supplies list and calculate what you will need for next year. As we have done in the past, and you have all done a terrific job, we are asking that you request only those supplies that you will use next year. We cannot yet afford to stockpile supplies and, that really is not the best use of our cash resources.

I would like the budget sheets returned to me by the last day of school before we leave for Christmas Break.

December 12 Early Release Day is Community Service Day

I am sure that many of you have begun planning already for the Community Service Day on December 12th. This is a perfect time for all of us to get “in the mood of giving” as the holidays approach. In conversations with some of you, I know that there are some great ideas being worked on by the advisories and I can’t wait to see the results of our kids, and yours, great work.

If I could make one plea, or suggestion, it would be that we refrain from activities that require students to raise funds for a particular group of cause. I have already mentioned how many of our families are struggling with these rough economic times, and we do not want to add to their burden. Also, community service can be about giving of one;s self in the cause of making our community better and that is a good lesson for our students to learn.

Teacher Workshop Portion of December 12

The afternoon of December 12th will be dedicated to technology and how we can use it to improve our student’s learning. We have been working on trying to make this day optimally beneficial for all of you. OK, I know that may be an impossible task… not!

I would, however, like to hear from you guys as to what you would find “optimally beneficial”. If you have ideas or suggestions how to make this possible, please let Terri, Susie or me know.

File Under, Now That the Election is Over!

Now that we have counted all of the votes and all decisions have been decided, I turned my thoughts to “Why Tuesday?”

This very short, but interesting video from TEDed tries to explain “why Tuesday” and how folks are trying change it to a day more conducive to turnout. Enjoy!