Minutes from Our Meeting - April 2016

Prince Street Home and School
April 14, 2016
6:30

There were 16 people present at the meeting. Catherine called the meeting to order at 6:30. The main item on the agenda was planning for the Spring Fling. Student Prabin provided translation into Nepali. Parent Dima provided translation into Arabic.

Chairperson Catherine Nicholson started us off with a welcome and round table of introductions.

PRINCIPAL’S REPORT

Principal Erin Johnston gave a verbal report.

The school has been celebrating each of the words in the school motto. April is “C” month: Caring is the theme, and there will be a “caring” themed assembly on the diversity celebration day next week.

Next Friday, April 22nd, we will celebrate Diversity Day at Prince Street with food, activities, music, dance, and an assembly. (This event replaces the International Dinner that used to take place in years past.)

There will be a spring concert in May for choir, recorder, and other musical performances. It will take place during the day. Parents of students who are involved will be invited.

Coming soon will be the Environment-a-thon community cleanup fundraiser. The dates will be set for late in May. In past years, this has raised $8,000 or more, and had great prizes for students. It is also a great community event. And last year, Erin kissed a goat. The Grade One class challenged Erin that if the school raised $8,000, she would kiss a goat. And she did.

We’ve had some staffing changes in the last while. Ms. MacKinnon in Grade Five has gone on a maternity leave and her replacement has begun. Steve Connor has joined us as a new EA to help support new students with special needs who have joined the school. Ms. MacFarlane is on medical leave for a period of time, and her replacement while she is on leave is Megan Grant.

Erin and Kelly have made their proposal for staffing for next year and hope to have the staffing allocation confirmed by the end of this month to begin planning for next year.

Last week, there was a pyjama day to raise funds for Easter Seals, and yesterday the Easter Seals Ambassador visited the school for a lovely assembly.

Tomorrow, there is no school for students. It is a school effectiveness day, where there is professional development within the school, based on the priorities set by the school. Prince Street will be working with a literacy coach to develop and learn about the writing workshop model and how that can be used more effectively in classrooms.

Every school in the province is getting wireless (wifi). Planning for how it will be installed in our school has taken place, and Kelly and Erin will meet to consult about devices, since there will be brand-new devices in the entire school. Every teacher will have a new laptop computer and the computer lab will be completely stripped of old computers. Chromebooks will be available on carts so there is a travelling computer lab, with the devices taken to where the students need them rather than students going to the lab. The hope is for all the plans to be completed by the end of June, then the intention is to have everything in place for the beginning of school in September.

The ArtsSmarts project Kelly Gillis applied for and that is being led by Grade Five is almost complete. The project was to create a video about the Prince Street values, and the final product is getting ready to be unveiled next week! The goal is for the day of the assembly for it to be launched on YouTube and shared on Facebook. One of the pieces the Grade Fives who are coordinating this are working on is learning about using social media and generating hits. This is part of their learning about persuasive writing. Look for the video on social media and YouTube on April 22.

It has been a great year for the Leadership group in Grade Six. They have begun mentoring Grade Fives into the program. They took part in the Play Academy, a leadership training program, for a day and were extremely proud. The group applied for a grant themselves around healthy lifestyles, and they are going to prepare a presentation for the Home and School and gain some feedback from us. Their plan is to present to us in May. They were one of five schools in the province to get the grant.

Prince Street tee-shirts were such a big hit that there will be sweatshirts available and long-sleeve tee-shirts. An order form will go out next week. The sweaters are pricier, but there were lots of requests for sweatshirts. There is no obligation to buy shirts.

The dental check-up clinic was here this month. A parent noted that her child was treated before she gave consent. Erin will look into that.

Kevin Atkins, long-time bus driver, retired recently. He has been part of this school community a long time.

The week before March break we celebrated French Week in the school. Mr. Brown led the school-wide activities throughout the week.

During the March break, Trinity Clifton United Church held its annual pancake breakfast to support the school breakfast program, and the church donated a significant cheque. They are great ongoing supporters!

We have 32 students registered for kindergarten for next year, which is two classes. There will be an Early Years Evaluation assessment in the school, then Welcome to Kindergarten on May 12, then Friday, May 27 will be the day the incoming kindergarten class comes into the school. (Current kindergarten students will have no school that day.)

BREAKFAST PROGRAM

Kathy Kiley who is a Grade Six teacher is the coordinator of the breakfast program at the school. There are many tasks related to coordinating this program. She will be on leave from September to December next year. In order for our breakfast program to continue next year, we will need a volunteer to coordinate. The coordinator can be either a staff member or volunteer.

This is a very important program for our school community. In some schools, the Home and School coordinates this program, so Erin wanted to let us know what was coming up. Coordinating is a big job but not a hard job. If there’s someone interested, please let Erin know. This will need to be decided soon so that we can ensure the continuation of the program.

There are adequate numbers of committed volunteers who turn up on a regular basis. More volunteers and new volunteers are always welcome! There were questions about the timing and flow of volunteer tasks for the breakfast program, answered by school staff and volunteers.

CROSSING GUARD AWARD & BUS DRIVER OF THE YEAR AWARD

There are two awards from the Home and School Federation this year: one for a crossing guard and one for a bus driver.

The group decided to prepare Prince Street nominations for each of these awards. Catherine took notes about who to approach for letters of support for our nominations.

The deadlines are coming up May 13.

There was a suggestion of someone from the Prince Street community to nominate for a future Volunteer of the Year Award.

SPRING FLING

We will need to have another meeting just about the Spring Fling in the coming two weeks. The Spring Fling will take place on June 3rd this year, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. It is like a carnival for the school and the neighbourhood.

Based on last year’s activities and numbers, we will need many volunteers.

Catherine explained we will need at least one adult to be the volunteer responsible for each activity for the evening. Some of the past activities have been:

• Cake Walk (musical chairs game which requires a dozen cakes as prizes)
• Dunk Tank
• Face Painting (might be possible to hire someone)
• Nail Painting
• Barbecue & Snacks
• Popcorn
• Bake Sale
• Craft
• Fish Pond
• Indoor Games (sucker pull, plinko, ring toss, and so on)
• Bouncy Castle

Catherine asked each person at the meeting tonight to recruit one or two additional volunteers.

There will be a notice going home to invite parents to volunteer. It will list jobs that could be options for people.

It’s hard to make Spring Fling happen unless we have enough people. The more volunteers, the less work for each volunteer and the more people can participate in the activities instead of just working at them.

Catherine is also looking for support on communications tasks for Spring Fling.

Catherine is looking into
• Balloon Animals
• French Cafe
• Cotton Candy
• Selling Tulips or Potted Plants
• Fortune-Telling
• Magic Tricks
• Costume Room (costumes and props and take a picture)

In the past we’ve done a silent auction, which is a huge amount of work and which we will take a break from this year. The silent auction works best when there is a particular fundraising project or goal (such as getting funding for playground equipment).

Date for a Spring Fling meeting: Thursday, April 28 at 6:30 p.m. Spring Fling will be the only topic.

Catherine had to leave early. She thanked everyone for attending and asked others to report on the final items on the agenda.

PEI HOME AND SCHOOL FEDERATION ANNUAL MEETING UPDATE

Heather reported on the annual meeting.

Catherine, Heather, and Jane represented Prince Street at the provincial annual meeting of the Home and School Federation last week. This was very well attended and was an excellent event. We had not had a Parents of Prince Street meeting in March, so we did not get a chance to discuss the resolutions in person, but there were opportunities to comment on them on Facebook.

Heather said that at the annual meeting, four of the five resolutions passed, a few with small amendments. One was tabled until the fall, pending further research. This was the resolution to have a Teachers’ Professions Act for PEI. There was a lot of interesting discussion on each of the motions, and Heather shared some of what was said.

The Department of Education and/or any other groups that receive the resolutions are responsible to follow up on each of the resolutions put forward by the Home and School Federation.

As part of the day’s events, Catherine and Heather went for a tour of the Fab Lab at UPEI in the new school of sustainable design engineering. This was very rewarding. Jane participated in a workshop led by Gerry Hopkirk to imagine different models of education. The workshop gave participants space to imagine education from the ground up, to imagine an education system as different or similar to the current system as they wished. It was inspiring and it will be interesting to see what ideas and themes came out of the workshop.

ADVISORY COUNCIL UPDATE

Jane represents Prince Street on the Colonel Gray family of schools District Advisory Council. The next meeting is April 21. Jane would be happy to raise any questions or comments that the Prince Street community has.

The summary of the discussion at the first Colonel Gray District Advisory Council meeting is here:
http://www.gov.pe.ca/eecd/index.php3?number=1054738&lang=E

The highlights from all the District Advisory Councils’ first meetings are here:
http://www.gov.pe.ca/eecd/DAC#agenda

GREENING SCHOOL YARDS PROJECT

Ramona reported on this item. There is a grant program through Toyota for schools that want to implement a nature-based learning area for students. The grant would provide $3,500 towards a project. This can be an outdoor classroom area or play area or other project to “green” the yard.

We are planning to put together an application for the September deadline. Ramona has met with the school administration about this. The school has been very supportive and the School Board has said it would also be supportive if they like the site plan.

Ramona said the next step is to meet with landscape architects to see if they would be willing to help and make plans and recommendations from their expertise.

PROGRESS MONITORING

Jane explained that there had been some discussion about progress monitoring at the District Advisory Council, and she knew that Prince Street was using this model but didn’t know much about it. She had asked Catherine to request some more information from Erin to help parents understand this progress monitoring process.

Erin was happy to explain. She said we’re in our first year of progress monitoring at Prince Street. The pilot schools are in year four of applying this process in their schools. Erin said it is excellent and provided an overview of the principles.

There is a provincial curriculum for every subject in every grade. The curriculum lists many outcomes that teachers are expected to cover in every grade. The list of outcomes can be overwhelming for teachers and for students. However, it is clear that some outcomes are more important than others, especially outcomes that get carried to the next grade level and built on for future learning.

Progress monitoring is a way of tracking skills students need to carry from grade to grade in order to achieve success on future outcomes. For each grade level in literacy and math, the progress monitoring process identifies seven to twelve “foundational learnings.” These are the skills that a student needs as a foundation for next-level learning, to be able to build their learning year to year.

While teachers are still required to teach and assess all the outcomes for the curriculum, the progress monitoring process acknowledges that the foundational learnings are the most important.

Progress monitoring changes the way the teachers and the school think about “grades.” The new approach considers the K-9 school journey, and what learning students need to complete and achieve by the end of that journey. Progress monitoring keeps track of students’ progress on the foundational learnings along that journey so that it is possible for each student to look back and identify gaps in foundational learnings and then fill them in.

There is structure and support laid over top of assessment. This creates a shift in mindset for teachers and students and how we identify who needs what specific help. Progress monitoring is focused on how to identify the most important gaps and create a plan to fill in those gaps to get individual students to where they need to be.

Erin used the analogy of learning a skill in hockey. A hockey player in a Midget league may be trying to learn to do a slapshot, and may be struggling. Rather than getting the hockey player to keep trying to make a slapshot again and again using the same approach, a progress monitoring approach would get the coach asking why the hockey player was having trouble by looking at gaps in the foundational skills. Do they know how to hold their stick? Do they know where their feet are supposed to be? Do they know how to skate? Is the stick too long? The player struggling with the snapshot would still stay in Midget level hockey, but coaching would work on filling in the gaps in skills that create barriers to making a slapshot.

Translated into a school environment, what would that mean for a Grade Six student struggling with Grade Six math outcomes? A progress monitoring approach would require the teacher to go back and figure out which foundational learnings the student still needs to meet. Is the problem with a foundational learning from Grade Five? from Grade Four? or even from Grade Three? When the foundational learning gap is identified, the teacher can work with the student to fill in the gap.

Part of what progress monitoring relies on, then, is a continuous record of each student’s foundational learnings that teachers can look back to. Prince Street is in the first year of progress monitoring, so that means we are beginning the start of this record. As each year goes on, the record for each student will grow, and it will be easier to look back. This process is called creating a continuum profile for each student that shows exactly what skills each student has completed for foundational learnings and what gaps they have.

Erin said that in addition to helping students fill gaps when they are not at grade level, there will be opportunities for students who have completed the foundational learnings for their grade level to go beyond and/or to go deeper.

The assessment and record of an individual student’s foundational learnings will be for teachers; it won’t come back to parents directly. However, next year, there will be a new report card format based on progress monitoring that will share information with parents in a new way. The progress monitoring process will also change some of the understandings around “promotion” and “placement” (related to meeting grade level expectations), but that will not be in place next year. Under progress monitoring, students stay with their age-level peers for the most part, but progress monitoring will be in place to allow them to fill in gaps in foundational learnings.

The resources and PD available related to progress monitoring are tremendous. Applying this new mindset is challenging and new, but the results are amazing. It has been a huge learning curve for the school but is well worth it.

A parent asked if cuts to administration positions with the integration of the School Board and Department of Education put progress monitoring in jeopardy. It is not yet know what changes to curriculum delivery within the Department of Education will mean for this process, but there have not been cuts that affect progress monitoring yet. Parents agreed it is a program worth fighting for!