Thursday, December 3, 2009

Magnet update

We had a FANTASTIC session with Dr. Morrison and the writing team on Thursday after school. Let me give you a rundown of the session.

Our first objective was to address the representation of the team to all members of our staff. After much dialogue we agreed that we would have Team members be responsible for a certain geographic region of the school and all the staff that have their home in that area. It was universally agreed that each Team member was responsible to listen and share information with anybody, yet this assignment to an area will put the responsibility of initiating communication on the shoulders of the Writing Team.

Venice Hailstock and Deb Fidali will communicate with the K-1 hallway residents.
Kim Mason and Karon Kiger will communicate with the 2-3 hallway residents.
Janet Gauss and Chris Wasko will communicate with the West End Learning cottages.
Demarie Anderson and Tanya Lovin will communicate with the top floor residents and the East End Learning cottages.
Jeff Faullin will communicate with the office staff.

We then turned our sights to our Jigsaw. Kim Mason began the sharing with her research on Learning Focused. This research-based and nationally renowned program is based on Marzano strategies and addresses the need for increased student Engagement in our magnet grant. Dr. Morrison added to our discussion with information on Essential Questions and Activating Strategies. Kim concluded her piece to the puzzle by acknowledging her need to change in order to address the needs of her students.

Demarie Anderson then reported her findings on the Renzulli Model. This piece would address the need for differentiation in our magnet grant. We learned that Differentiation is vital for all students and the Renzulli school wide enrichment model provides a common language to ensure that all students are served. We also learned that this does NOT mean a separate lesson plan for each student. We learned about the student survey of interests and the "hook" that is necessary to engage students.

Karon Kiger research helped us to realize that we cannot do multiple programs in their entirety. We are an organism that needs to take components of many things that will allow Brunson to Grow and morph into a new and UNIQUE school that meets the needs of our diverse population.

Tanya Lovin shared her passion for RTI - "Response to Instruction." She taught us the operational definition and how this would address the need for a Literacy based component in our Magnet Plan. We learned that our early forays into DIBELS and Letterland align with this very successful program. The emphasis is to get all students on Grade level before they exit the second grade through early intervention and support.

Venice Hailstock presented her research on Project Lead the Way and the connection with Hanes and Atkins. We learned that right here at Atkins high School is a National Trainer for Project Lead the way. Our exploration of this path would be ground-breaking as there are only a couple of elementary school involved. Very exciting times for the innovative teachers who are motivated by creation.

Deb Fidali then shocked us all with the depth and breadth of research she had done on the current information. Our Federal government is vocal about the need for STEM to be a transformative event that moves schools. She continued to report that President Obama stated in a recent webinar that STEM will help our students become producers not consumers. Deb also pointed to the ARRA funds that will be available to augment the grant both during and after the 3 year grant cycle funding.

Janet Gauss informed us that our efforts in Balanced Literacy are critical for the magnet grant. This model helps to equalize the ages-old battle between whole language and phonics. Balanced Literacy works to move learning from Teacher centered to Student Centered through the use of authentic texts. These high interest books are vital to student learning and the magnet grant expectation is for each classroom to have a 500 book library before the end of the 3 year cycle.

Chris Wasko Finished our jigsaw by sharing information about "STEM days" and opportunities to infuse student engagement into the grant. This is not an "add-on," yet a "hook" to get toward high interest from the students. He spoke of Hands-on as main course not just a desert.

We concluded the meeting by looking at our next steps and time frame.

On Wednesday we will do a visioning exercise to "reveal" what the plan will look and feel like in any classroom in our building. We also selected Deb Fiadli as our Principal writer. She is honored to do this for our school and is supported by all members of the writing team. We also discussed the need for a Primary budget person, as our financial meeting will be in Early January. Dr. Morrison suggested that this is the area where a Classified employee would fit into the early part of the process. Let me, or any Team member know if you believe you have the excel spreadsheet skills and the desire to serve. The team will identify and select someone to fill this role as our first order of business at Wednesday's meeting.

As to our time frame, it has been extended and a majority of the work will be done in January. The final proposal is due in March, but our work needs to be to the editors and readers in early February.

I have tried to be comprehensive and faithful to the words and ideas shared in the meeting today. Of course I hope you have questions and will have MULTIPLE discussions about our future with any and all members of the team.

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