Minutes of the January 2016 Meeting

Parents of Prince Street Home and School Meeting
January 14, 2016

Catherine welcomed everyone to the meeting. Just over a dozen people attended the meeting on a cold Thursday night.

The Nepali translator was not able to attend at the last minute, so Grade 6 student Prabin translated. He did a great job!

PRINCIPAL’S REPORT
Erin reported on many school goings-on.

We are ordering sports jerseys for team sports for when they participate in competitions. It will have the Prince Street logo on it.

It’s cold outside, so parents and neighbours and friends are to encourage each other to help make sure students are wearing enough warm outdoor clothing.

There used to be a police anti-drug program for Grade Six called DARE that has been replaced with a new program called “Healthy Me.” This program looks good and will be delivered to students by police in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, January 27, will be Prince Street Literacy Day with activities all day to promote literacy at home and at school.

This is “Never Give Up” theme month (following “Pride,” Respect,” and “Inclusive” themes from the school motto). The school is figuring out what that will be involved, but the theme will feature a visit from the Island Storm basketball team in February.

The CDs from the Christmas concerts should have arrived today but were delayed by the storm. This has been a very popular project. There have been a lot of late orders and we might want to do a second call for orders to make sure everyone who wants one gets one.

Kindergarten registration is still open and decisions are being made right now about staffing for each school, so it is very, very important that children who will be entering kindergarten get registered right away.

Ms. MacMillan in Guidance has had her baby and is now on parental leave, and Mr. Greg Anderson has started in her place and will be with us to the end of the year. He is fitting in marvellously.

Many, many Prince Street families got supported by donations at Christmas — gifts, grocery cards, and holiday food baskets all helped support families the school, thanks to lots of generosity and collaboration.

The school’s Turkey Dinner is one of the best days of the year. It was wonderful. This is sponsored by Trinity Clifton United Church.

Chip the Elf on the Shelf was joined by Magic the Reindeer this year. Students love this holiday-time tradition. Chip gave a book of their choice to every student in the school, and every child went home as well with a Prince Street Power yellow backpack bag.

Vice-principal Kelly Gillis applied for another ArtsSmarts grant like the one that funded the school song. We were accepted for a new project this year. This will provide funding and access to artists to make a school video.

Ms. J has been working with Home and School member Heather MacEwan to set up an after-school program on computer coding. They are working out the final details.

There are two tutors in place in the school, tutoring students from different grades at different times during the school day.

SCHOOL-WIDE DATA AND PROVINCIAL DATA

Erin circulated data about how Prince Street students are doing in reading, writing, and math. The school collects school-wide data about student achievement in writing and reading. The Province collects data about Grade Three and Grade Six achievement in reading, writing, and math. Last year’s data from the school and from the Province has helped inform this year’s school achievement goals.

Erin walked the Home and School attendees through the data report.

Reading data: Erin talked about the indicator of how many students are showing improvement from the beginning to the end of the year. Whether they were meeting grade-level expectations or not, all students showed improvement from the beginning of the year to the end of the year — a huge accomplishment. There was a small group of 14 students who did not show reading growth from the middle of the year to the end of the year. (They reached their highest level of achievement before March and retained that level but did not progress.)

Writing data: There are a lot fewer students meeting expectations in the writing goals compared to reading goals. For this reason, writing is one of the school main focuses for this year. Students are assessed on three writing traits (ideas, organization, and convention) and to meet the provincial grade-level expectations, students have to meet expectations in all three of these traits. When the data is broken down by writing traits, it is clear that the number of students meeting expectations in each trait is higher than the number meeting expectations across all three traits. The biggest drop in achievement from 2014 to 2015 was in the “ideas” trait, so there is a focus this year on developing ideas in writing in particular.

Math data: We have no school-wide way of measuring math achievement but will develop this in the next few years. Erin noted that incredible professional development for Grade Six teachers has helped boost Grade Six achievement in math across the province, including at Prince Street. The data show declingin numbers in Grade Three achievement, but there will be a similar focus on working with Grade Three teachers to improve the math achievement at that level.

Erin clarified that students who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) are exempt from the school’s testing and the province-wide testing, since they are working to achieve individually set goals, not the standard grade-level outcomes. In the school-wide data, all other students participate in the assessments if they are present that day. For province-wide assessments, there are very strict guidelines about who is exempt and also the time window in which they need to complete the assessment. If a student is absent one day, they still complete the assessment.

What percentage of students are on IEP? Probably 15 to 20 students (at a rough guess). How many students are EAL? There are 40 to 50 kids with an EAL designation, most of whom would write this assessment. EAL students are only exempt from provincial data in very specific circumstances, if it would interfere with learning goals.

MOVIE NIGHT

Catherine said we were thinking of getting movie rights to be able to show a movie and have a movie night. We need to pay some of the bills from the wish lists first. If the budget allows, we’ll host a movie night in the next month or two.

ADVISORY COUNCIL

Late last year, government announced major changes to the Education system, abolishing the English Language schools board, rolling its duties into the Department of Education, and setting up district advisory councils, a principals advisory council, and a learning partners advisory council to shape education policy for the future.

Each Home and School association has the chance to put a nominee forward for the district advisory councils. A notice went home to see if any parents were interested in serving on this council for Prince Street. Jane Ledwell volunteered, but also offered that if anyone else was interested in trying out this role, she would step aside and help support the new volunteer. Catherine explained the deadline was tight to put our nominee forward, and we registered a concern that the process was undemocratic, since we had to put a name forward before a meeting and a vote. Catherine put Jane’s name forward on the understanding that we would vote tonight and if someone else wanted to represent the school, we’d submit the new name. Catherine asked people at the meeting if anyone else wanted to represent the school. No one did.

MOTION: To nominate Jane Ledwell to represent Prince Street School at the new district advisory council. Catherine moved the nomination. Ramona seconded. There was a unanimous vote in favour of the motion. Carried.

STAFF APPRECIATION WEEK

The week of February 16 to 19 is Staff Appreciation Week. It is a four-day week this year because Monday is Islander Day. The Home and School usually plans treats and supports for staff.

Last year, we did treats each day, had a lunch catered on Thursday, and offered school-ground coverage at lunchtime on the day of the lunch. Erin said the challenge with covering the playground is that it is not possible to only have parents out on duty. Some staff have to go outside even if parents are there, for safety/liability and to meet students’ special needs. The parental help is still welcome, but it is help but not replacement. Some parents really enjoy this. 

The treats are very much appreciated. A thank you note in mailboxes to each of the staff would be very welcome. Last year, notes from the principal and vice-principal during staff appreciation week were thought to be from Home and School. Two years ago, the Home and School coordinated a thank-you to staff.

Catherine will follow up with Erin about appreciation notes this year. Could the Grade Six leadership group be involved in soliciting notes from students?

Catherine will send a notice to parents to see what treats or volunteer time they can offer and on what day. Erin hinted a number of times that she would like chocolate cake. There are about 40 staff, so this is the right number of cookies or pieces of chocolate cake. ;)

There were a few questions about Staff Appreciation Week. Nepalese food welcome! All food treats are welcome, but no peanuts are permitted in the school, and one teacher is allergic to curry.

POLICY RESOLUTIONS

Each year, the provincial home and school federation welcomes policy resolutions to be discussed at the annual general meeting. If we wanted to submit a policy resolution, it would be due in January. Catherine and Ramona reviewed possible policy resolutions but concluded there wasn’t an issue we wanted to address this year.

Others agreed this was a good decision this year with all the changes in the education system. We will want to see how policy decisions are being handled before making resolutions to add into the discussion.

WELLNESS PRESENTATION

All parents in the Colonel Gray family of schools will be invited to presentation about helping youth (under 12) dealing with anxiety and developing coping skills. This will take place on Tuesday, February 16, at Spring Park. Details will be in the February school newsletter and perhaps in a stand-alone notice that will go home as well.

Who is delivering this session? Representatives from the Triple P Positive Parenting Program.
Will there be child care? At this point no, but Catherine will look into it.
Would there be any interpretation? Catherine will ask this as well. Even if any of the handout material could be translated this would help EAL parents.

PARENT LEADERSHIP GRANT

Catherine and Heather are working on a grant application for a parent leadership grant. These grants let the Home and School put on learning activities for parents.

Past presentations at our school and other schools would be presentations on healthy eating or the new ways of teaching math. Catherine and Heather are proposing a presentation to parents on homework, to help parents help their children better with homework. They are working with Erin on the application and thinking of ways to make it interesting enough to entice parents to attend.

Any questions? Thanks to Catherine and Heather for working on the application. Erin has started conversations with the resource team about it. Homework is not uniform from class to class or from teacher to teacher, so the focus might have to be very general.

It was suggested a resource we could create as part of the parent leadership grant could be a checklist of questions to ask individual teachers about homework. The workshop could even be used to generate the list of frequently asked questions. The presentation could also include general information about good homework habits and practices.

ROUND TABLE

Does the school still have stationary bikes and under-table pedals? Are these being used? The stationary bike gets used every day by students who need to burn off extra energy. The under-table bike pedals were ordered for Ms. Gillis’s class. They are also being used well. They are challenging for the students to use. The machines were inching forward and needed to be secured with cinder blocks.

In Grade Six, is there any presentation from post-secondary programs to begin students thinking about post-secondary education? No, there are not presentations from university or college. Junior Achievement comes in during Grade Three. There is a career component in the health curriculum.

Does the school or the school board order sanitary items such as toilet paper and hand soap? There have been reports from a number of parents of chafed, sore bums from low-quality scratchy toilet paper and chapped hands from harsh soap. These items are not ordered at the school level. They are delivered to the school in bulk. The items are probably tendered through the school board and probably the cheapest tender wins. It just gets delivered to school. Students can bring in their own soap pumps as long as the soap is scent-free. Several children with skin conditions use their own special soap.

NEXT MEETING
The next meeting is scheduled for February 11 at 6:30. Catherine asked if it might be possible to move to another night than Thursday to accommodate members who are not free Thursday. There was not a better night, so the previously decided date was retained for February. We will return to this discussion at the next meeting to consider alternating nights of the week or changing the March meeting date.

Catherine thanked everyone for attending and especially thanked Prabin for translating.