Weekly Update from the Superintendent - December 1, 2017

tchurchill Fri, 12/01/2017 - 9:46am
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December 1, 2017

This weekly update includes information from the District Office and department staff regarding District operations and reminders.  It does not include updates or activities from each school site.

Office of the Superintendent:

Chronic Absenteeism in Meridian – Over the last four years Meridian School District has seen a double digit increase in the number of students who are chronically absent from school. The term chronically absent refers to students who miss 10% (18 days) or more in a school year regardless of whether or not the absence was excused or unexcused.  These are not the students who are occasionally absent for health reasons and are absent less than 10% of the time.

At this point we are still better than the state average, however, Meridian’s percentage of students who are chronically absent has increased from 6.7% in 2013/14 to 13.3% in 2016/17

Students do better academically when they are actively engaged with their teacher on a daily basis. In order to reverse our absentee trend, I am asking each teacher to identify students who are chronically absent.  Please reach out to the parent/ guardian of these students by phone (or in person) to talk about how to help their child to attend school on a daily basis.  Together brainstorm a solution and agree on a plan moving forward.

Research is very clear that the single most effective method in reversing the absenteeism trend in schools is through regular, ongoing communication between classroom teachers and parents/guardians.  That means that you, as the classroom teacher, are the most effective person to reverse this trend in Meridian. Notes home, auto-calls and e-mails can easily be ignored. Personal phone calls from you are not easy to ignore. Please make the necessary calls and then follow-up. Thank you.

Highly Capable Program Referrals - Meridian School District is now accepting referrals of students to participate in programs for highly capable students. Teachers, staff, parents, students and members of the community may refer a student (WAC 392-170-045). To refer a student, please complete a form and return it to Rosalind Schumann, Highly Capable Coordinator, through your school office. Referral forms are available in the main offices of Irene Reither Elementary, Meridian Middle School and Meridian High School.  Forms must be received no later than December 15th, 2017 in order for the student to be assessed. 

Please contact Rosalind Schumann at rschumann@meridian.wednet.edu or call 398-2111 if you have questions or would like more information.

School Board:

Reception for School Board Director Karolyn Crabtree – All District employees, students, parents and community members are invited to a reception for School Board Director, Karolyn Crabtree who is retiring from her Board position effective the end of December. The reception will be on December 13th from 6:30 – 7:00 p.m. in the Board Room at MHS. This is prior to the regular Board meeting at 7:00 p.m. 

Next Regular Board Meeting - The next regular School Board meeting is at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, December 13, 2017. Board meetings are held in the Professional Development/Board Room at MHS.  All staff members are invited and welcome to attend School Board meetings.   Meeting agendas and minutes can be accessed via a link from the District web site or at http://www.boarddocs.com/wa/msdwa/Board.nsf/Public

Business Office: (Daniel Yorton, Director of Business Services)

Annual Financial Statements – The finance department recently completed and submitted the District’s 2016/17 annual financial statements to OSPI. Staff members who are interested in obtaining a copy of the District’s financial statements may contact Daniel Yorton, Director of Business and Finance at dyorton@meridian.wednet.edu or at extension 2161.

Human Resources: (Kurt Harvill, Director of Personnel, Grants and Risk Management)

Employees Planning to Retire - If you are planning to retire or leave the District effective at the end of the school year you should contact Tracy Newby for retirement information, COBRA, and other benefit impacts. You must write a dated and signed letter of retirement, leave, or resignation addressed to Superintendent Churchill. Send the letter to Human Resources and CC your supervisor. After the Superintendent approves your letter of intent it will go to the School Board for action.

Early Notice Incentive for Certified Staff Planning to Retire or Resign – As a result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between MEA and the District, there is a financial incentive of a $500 lump sum payment in the June paycheck for certified employees who submit letters by February 1st.   The certified employee must have worked in Meridian for 5 years to be eligible and the letter of retirement or resignation is effective June 30, 2018. 

Food Services: (Maria Doyle, Food Services Supervisor)

Use of School Kitchen Facilities During Non-School Hours – Anyone, including school employees, wishing to use the District kitchen facilities are required to submit a kitchen usage request prior to use for approval to the Food Service Department Supervisor. 

Please contact Food Services Supervisor, Maria Doyle at 318-2360 or mdoyle@meridian.wednet.edu for more information. 

Transportation: (Mark Dennis, Transportation Supervisor)

Bus Inspection - On November 14 the Washington State Patrol conducted their surprise inspections on our bus fleet.  This process involves inspecting 25% of our fleet for safety purposes.  I am pleased to advise we had zero buses placed out-of-service.  I attribute this success to both our drivers keeping a keen eye on their buses for deficiencies, as well as the comprehensive maintenance schedule of our Technician "KB" Bilg.  I thank the department as a whole for ensuring our students are getting to and from school as safely as possible.

Special Services: (Dr. Carolyn Jenkins, Director of Special Services)

Holidays and Student Stress - With the holidays there are a number of stressors that impact us as adults and even more so, our students. For example;

  • Absent family members
  • Shared child custody
  • Angry, violent or depressed family members or those involved with drugs and/or alcohol
  • Shortage of gifts and/or food   

What can we, as educators, do?

  1. Don't assume everyone is going to have wonderful holiday season. Keep conversations around personal choice activities the student plans to engage in during their time off, rather than their expectations that may or may not come true.
  2. If a student expresses concern about with whom and/or where they will be spending the holidays refer them to a counselor for follow-up.
  3. Remember that not all our families celebrate Christmas and be respectful of that by being inclusive and allowing other traditions to be shared and honored.
  4. Beware of our own stressors and take steps to ensure we do not transmit our stress on to our students. By taking care of ourselves, we will have the patience and energy to support our students.

Teaching and Learning: (Patti Fouts, Director of Teaching and Learning)

Professional Learning Communities - Part of the work in Professional Learning Communities is to assure that all students in a grade level or course have access to a guaranteed and viable curriculum.  This resource, Why Should We Ensure Students Have Accessto a Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum?, concisely outlines why educators should engage in this practice. This fillable document, Questions to Guide the Work of Your Professional Learning Community:  To Clarify Essential Learning Ask,  provides six questions for teams to consider as they determine essential learning.  And finally, this PowerPoint, Identifying Essential Standards, is a useful tool for PLC teams to reference in understanding how essential standards fit into the PLC process, why the development of essential standards is a powerful practice, the criterion of identifying essential standards and how PLC teams can use essential standards in their work to assure high levels of learning for all students. 

My Favorite FLOTUS Quote of the Week:  “It is one of my sources of happiness never to desire a knowledge of other people’s business.”  (Dolley Madison)