October 2014 Home and School Minutes

Prince Street Home and School Meeting
October 1, 2014

We started the new year of home and school with a round of introductions. Laura Bird chaired. She invited nominations for the roles of President and other positions on the executive. There were no takers, so she agreed to serve as President. Shelley Muzika, last year's President, will serve as Vice-President to help with transitions. Heather MacEwan will again serve as treasurer. Jane Ledwell agreed to serve as Secretary again.

PEI HOME AND SCHOOL

Shelley is the Treasurer of the Provincial Home and School. She and Laura talked about the relationship between the local Prince Street Home and School and the provincial body. The Provincial Home and School is very active working as an intermediary between community and government. It is the umbrella organization for all the local homes and schools in the English Language School Board. They help local units if there are particular issues in their schools. They are also a great resource for providing examples of what other schools have done in facing particular questions.

The PEI Home and School Federation semi-annual meeting is coming up this month. We can send up to five representatives from Prince Street School. The Prince Street Home and School pays the fees if anyone wishes to attend. It is a good opportunity for exchanges with the Department of Early Childhood and Education.

The priority topics to be covered this year are the following:
* Student achievement
* Staffing in schools
* Health and wellness
* Communication
There will be roundtable discussions on all these topics.

The semi-annual meeting this year will take place Tuesday, October 21, 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Queen Elizabeth Elementary in Kensington. It might be possible to car pool from Prince Street. If you want to attend, we need to know by October 14.

PRINCIPAL'S REPORT

Erin circulated a report and commented on the items in it.

Staff Chances: She included the full staff list because there have been so many changes. She reviewed the changes in detail. There was a question about the teacher exchange program for the Music position. The exchange will be reviewed by the teachers and administration at the end of the year to decide whether or not to swap permanently. There was a question about the Teacher-Librarian position. Liz Pendergast, who had been on sick leave after a stroke, is volunteering, working up stamina to come back to work. Wendy Poirier is continuing in the teacher-librarian position on an open-ended timeline.

The A+ Program has moved to St. Jean Elementary where there was more space for the program.

The September PD Day was a wonderful day. The day was broken into thirds: the first third focused on reading assessment data and what we do with it; the second third was devoted to reorganizing our school's data to make meaning of it; the final third was a review of Math pacing guides, a valuable resource for planning Math teaching. PD Day allowed for collaborative team approaches based on staff's interests and needs, with multi-school collaboration possible.

In past years, Homework Club took place after school, led by Mr. Stanley. This club was not used enough in the past number of years, so it was time to try new strategies. In place of homework club this year, there will be blocks of after-school activities, such as flag football and chess. They will try to change up the activities regularly to meet students' interests.

Vice-Principal Kelly Gillis is going to offer a dance club on Fridays, before school for grades 1-3 and after school for grades 4-6. Each year, we receive some money from MLA Doug Currie for after school programs in drama, dance, and art. Drama will begin soon, with Laura running it. Since there will now be a dance club option, there is an opportunity to consider an alternative to the dance lessons. One suggestion from parents for an alternative to dance is Martial Arts. There were suggestions for possible instructors.

The Breakfast Program is running school days, Monday to Friday. The program has full complement of volunteers. They have made a change in the way the program runs logistically. Students no longer have to unpack in their classrooms and pack up again after breakfast. This is working much more smoothly for students.

The Lunch Program ordering process is going to change because a lot of people are sending in money late. There will now be a final cut-off of 8:45 a.m. on the morning of hot dog day or pizza day, with no exceptions or late orders after that time. This will make sure that each class has the correct amount of pizza. This was piloted last week, and the new system is working better, especially for the smaller children.

There must be 5 fire drills completed by mid-October, and we have completed 4 drills already. These have gone very well. There will be a notice about a lock-down drill upcoming. Bus evacuations will be taking place later this week.

The open-house style Meet the Teacher Night was very successful and well attended.

Installment 1 of HPV needles took place last week for Grade 6s.

Our public health nurse for this year is Michelle Millar. She is in every Tuesday.

September is the busiest month for volunteers in the building. The number of volunteers this past month was about 40. This requires a lot of choreography, but it is awesome, and the support is great. There was a question about parents and volunteers checking in at the office and whether or not parents need a visitor tag. Whether or not they need a tag depends on what they are doing in the school. All volunteers who will be moving through the school sign in and get a visitor tag.

We've done major renovations to the school without rebuilding. A lot of junk and clutter have been removed. All the halls have been repainted. A lot of cabinets in halls have been moved around. The rationale was to make the school look as good as it feels.

A new Fabulous Board will celebrate positive stuff at school. When teachers catch students doing something wonderful, they are being recognized with a celebratory Fabulous bell and a posting on the Fabulous Board. There is dancing by the Principal. :) The Trophy Cabinet also now includes a section for student work to be featured. We are trying to bring positive energy to student achievement and positive behaviour.

The coupon book fundraiser successfully raised over $1,500. Proceeds go towards student stuff.

The Terry Fox Run raised over $130 for cancer research. There will be a hat day on Friday to raise a few more dollars, and a notice will go home tomorrow.

The snack cupboard always welcomes donations for students who forget their lunches or don't have a lunch or snack -- fruit juice boxes, granola bars, and other snacks in the nut-free and healthy category…

PRINCE Street identity project has identified words to go with each letter of PRINCE. These themes will be incorporated into the assemblies this year. We're now in the stage of picking a mascot. At the end of last year, each class made suggestions for the mascot. The ideas from last year have now been put out to the voters in the school. There are probably 15 suggestions. There will be class votes to narrow to the top 4. Then there will be an individual vote. Students did pictures of the suggestions, and these are posted on the bulletin board.

Field Trips are coming up for Grades 1, 2, 2/3, and 5. Kindergarten classes are taking part in participatory research project with UPEI for an intergenerational project to learn about plants, growing plants, gardening, and cooking. There will be a permanent light garden -- ours forever -- at the school and field trips to the Farm Centre and the like. The number of outcomes this project will cover is incredible. The UPEI researcher leading the project is Lyndsay Moffett.

The Primary Math Assessment to assess math learning from K to 3 will be written by Grade 4s soon. This year's Grade 3s will write at the end of this year.

Head lice is going around. A note will go home if a student has live lice. If there are nits, a note will not necessarily go home. Parents and guardians need to keep a careful look out for lice. Please call the school if your home-check shows lice. It has not been bad at the school so far this year.

A Joint Occupational Health and Safety committee is required for the school. A parent has to sit on the committee. She or he can be a conduit for health and safety concerns. There were questions about the meetings. They are likely to take place monthly on Thursday afternoons. Kristy Phillips volunteered.

The Triple P Parenting Program is a great opportunity to provide parenting support and improve parenting skills. Calvin MacPhail from Prince Street is one of very few people trained this year to be a facilitator of this program. Part of his training will be a practicum, working hands-on with parents.

Provincial assessment data is still under government embargo, but as soon as the embargo is lifted, Erin would like to present it to the Home and School. There is now schoolwide data to compare the provincial data to.

Playground and lunch time schedules have been changed so that there is now one play period for all students, with the playground divided geographically. Numerous intramural lunchtime activities draw students off the playground so it is not too overcrowded.

The whole school will be going to Confederation Centre to see Cinderella this later fall. The cost is $10 per child. If there is a way to subsidize, and if Home and School can help, that would be welcome. There are resources in the community to help support and subsidize students. There will not be a decision about the high-school production until we know what show is on and how age-appropriate it is. Protecting instructional time is always a consideration; however, parents value students' opportunities to see the high-school productions, since it is schools supporting schools and gives students a chance to see productions from the schools they will go to.

Book Fair -- any parents willing and able to help with that during parent-teacher meetings in early November can contact the teacher-librarian, Wendy Poirier. She will need help.

There were some questions and discussion. Shelley asked about the School Development Plan. This is now called "school effectiveness" and is a yearly plan a school makes based on data. Our plan last year was to improve results in transactional (procedural, technical non-fiction) writing. There was also a math goal developed later in the year on the number strand. Work continues on that goal this year. The Principal and the two school effectiveness representatives had meetings last week with support people from the board to lead them through the process to analyze own data. They will lead a discussion with staff to analyze the data on Monday and a literacy goal will come out of that. There will be PD for staff on reading, writing, and math.

There was a question about "ORFF" Club. This is a music club involves percussion-style, keyboard-based instruments.

PUPPY PROJECT

The puppy project at Prince Street ended and there has been a lot of discussion in the media and in the community.

Laura called for questions or comments from the floor about the ending of the puppy project. No one has formally approached the home and school: information has been playing out in the media.

Provincial Home and School chair (and past Prince Street Chair) Peter Rukavina provided information about policy and decision-making processes and some of the questions that might be raised and next steps to take. Members of the executive had some opportunity to discuss these points over email.The focus of discussions has been communications and policy. There are many policy motions the School Board has not addressed, so policy related to the puppy project might be very far down the pipeline. We may need backing of Provincial Home and School to get policy accelerated on this.

People shared the personal observation that this issue has generated a lot of talk, and not only in this school. A lot of teachers and parents from other schools have approached Prince Street parents with concerns about how the program was dealt with. There are concerns about the personal nature of the debate.

There was a question about the lack of policy about animals in schools. There have been dogs, rats, chicks, and mourning doves used in school curriculum in Prince Street. If the Board does not have a policy and they don't feel a policy is a priority, there should be something that outlines what can and cannot happen and how concerns can be addressed.

However, there are two policy issues that need examination:
1) Presence of animals in schools
2) How to deal with innovative programs

There need to be two policy streams. There is a lot that needs to be considered. For instance, how are service dogs or working dogs addressed?

There is a protest being planned for Friday in front of the school board office. This is a concern. Emotions are running high. The Home and School is concerned to figure out how we can deal with the undercurrent and make sure it doesn't affect students, staff, or parent community.

Responding as parents: We want to support our school and our teachers, especially a program that teachers put their own time and energy into. We want to avoid personal attack on the individual who said publicly she registered a complaint. How do we support the school community and press for progress, with respect for both sides?

There was some discussion of a letter to the editor based on email exchanges among executive members. If this is to be drafted, we'll share it with school administration before sending it elsewhere. Erin said that the School Board Superintendent offered to meet the Home and School executive.

There is now an opportunity to communicate more directly with the Board and we need to treat it as an opportunity.

The Home and School would like to request the meeting with the Superintendent. There is also the Board of Trustees to consider. The Trustees also have monthly meetings, and there is also an opportunity to request a meeting with the Trustees and to present to them.

NORTH OF EUSTON COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PROJECT

The neighbourhood around the school -- north of Euston, south of Allan, east of University and west of Longworth -- is doing a project to build community spirit and identity. The Home and School kindly provided a letter of support for the project proposal. Would Prince Street School like to collaborate on the project?

It was suggested an event could take place in the school. The library has a new mural highlighting the history of the school and might be a great place for a history-related event. It doesn't have space for a very big group, but this can be looked at.

Erin said that they have been finding at the school that a sense of identity is really important, there's such a diverse population of staff and students. Using the work Prince Street is doing as a spin-off into the community is a great idea.

Parents suggested we offer the same suggestion to the Birchwood community as well, to get them involved in the community engagement project. They might also be willing to foster some interest in that. We're not sure who the new chair or coacher is, but could check in with Peter Rukavina to find out.

NEXT MEETING:
We will try to meet 1st  Wednesday of the month; when not possible, the 2nd Wednesday.

The next meeting will be Wednesday November 12th.