Archive | March, 2012

School Boundaries and Enrollment Update

Dear Crocker Families,

I believe there are a lot of questions floating around regarding how the boundaries have affected enrollment for next year.  I am writing this week to share what I know with everyone and hopefully put some of the concerns to rest.

The boundaries for our school have been expanded.  I posted the information prior to the expansion at school, as well as shared it in the November 2011 newsletter, in an effort to make the proposals public.  I’m not sure anyone knew just how much it would affect our school.  For the first time, not every incoming neighborhood kindergarten family was assigned to Crocker for the upcoming school year.  That has been disappointing, to say the least, to many of the families.  I am discussing how to best remedy the situation with district leadership.  One possibility is to add one kindergarten class for the 2012-2013 school year.  This is not something we could do every year.  There is some conversation regarding readjusting the boundaries, but nothing is yet confirmed.

If we were to add another kindergarten class, there will have to be some adjustments to schedules, but we can accommodate the changes.  There are class size limits negotiated by the teachers’ union, so classes won’t grow too big! I heard one rumor of 30 kids in each kindergarten class; this is highly unlikely.   We are hoping to make the final decision about the 4th kindergarten class in April.  The tricky thing about enrollment is how things can change, especially over summer.  This is why we sent home a note a while back asking you if you were planning on your child returning to Crocker Highlands in 2012-2013.  I understand that plans change, but it gives us a good idea of enrollment numbers.

Many assume that our enrollment jumped because of students coming from the closed schools.  Actually, we have a very small group coming from Lakeview, only 6-7 students.  The growth is attributed to the boundary changes.  The boundaries for Piedmont Avenue, Crocker Highlands, Cleveland, and Lincoln Elementary School all expanded.  I want to ask that when our families come from the closed schools, we make a special effort to welcome them into our school community.

I hope this puts some of your concerns to rest.  I believe the economy is playing a role in why more families are going to public elementary, but I would also like to think that more people want to come to Crocker because we are offering a wonderful educational experience here and our community is becoming stronger.

Beth Rhine

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Minimum Day/Report Cards

Don’t forget, Friday, March 16th is a minimum day.  Report cards also go home that day!

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Community Dialogue

Last week, several staff and parents attended a talk by renowned educator and author, Gloria Ladson-Billings at Oakland High.  She discussed “the achievement gap” and encouraged us to reconsider it as an “educational debt.”  She discussed how the characterization of students and their families can lead to continued deficit thinking, and keeps us trapped in a paradigm about what students cannot do, instead of what their personal and cultural strengths allow them to do.

It was a very thought-provoking and inspiring presentation.  If you have an opportunity to look up some of her work, I would highly recommend it.  She also wrote a book called, Dreamkeepers.  I’m pulling it off my shelf to reread!

If you want to hear more, here’s a You Tube link you might want to check out!

Beth Rhine

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Bulletin Letter 2012.03.05

Dear Families,

The Auction was a big success!  It was a nice evening in a beautiful venue with nice company, good food, and lots of shopping!   I want to thank Melissa Heller and Nicole Fee for all their hard work coordinating this major fundraising event.  I know they have spent many, many hours committed to making it a success.  And to all the volunteers, thank you, too.  From a “guest” point of view, it went very smoothly and was a lot of fun.  It was nice to talk to so many people last night, and what a glamorous crowd!  Everyone’s generous contributions fund our programs and make Crocker the outstanding school that it is!

The funds raised from the auction (and other fundraising events) go toward supporting the many programs at Crocker – Vocal Music, P.E., Library/Computer, Intervention, Classroom Aides and Spanish.  We are in the process of evaluating our current programs and will then review and discuss proposals submitted for next year.  We want to make sure the programs are meeting the needs of the students.

On a separate note, our 4th graders returned from their overnight trip to Coloma on Friday.  They came back tired, dirty, and happy to be home!  I would like to thank the teachers, Ms. Kucharski and Ms. Foster, for overseeing this valuable educational experience.  It’s a great experience for our kids, even if it was cold and raining for part of the time.   I wish I had taken before and after pictures!

Have a great week and hopefully the spring weather sticks around!

Beth Rhine

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Coffee Chat Q&A – 17 Feb 2012

Coffee Talk with Principal Rhine – 17 Feb 2012

The following notes were taken from the “Coffee Talk” with Beth Rhine, which is an informal chat with parents/guardians that occurred on Feb. 17th at school. The following is a summary, not a transcript.

Parent Question: Update on new students joining from closed schools?

Beth: Word is there are 7 students. Most students from the closed schools are gravitating toward other schools (not Crocker) where the teachers are going.

Parent Question: Any thought about moving classes around to more appropriate sized rooms?

Beth: There are not larger rooms available. 4 and 5th have the larger rooms. The 3rd grade classes already have the next largest rooms.

Parent Question: How are things going on the playground, especially in regard to the student conflict manager program?

Beth: Many of the conflicts do happen on the playground. We will be looking to how we can improve the conflict manager program next year. Seems to be most effective for K-1, but then those older students are out of class. Looks like we will still have 15 classes next year, and I am looking at how we could adjust the schedule. Also looking at a program that would facilitate structured games on the playground (which could help reduce conflicts).

Parent Comment: Structured games would help kids feel like they are not left out.

Beth: Agreed. If parents that are on the yard could help facilitate more games, that would be great.

Beth: Budget for the school looks pretty good. District gets a certain amount of money per child per student (CA is low, nationally). Portion of that goes to school sites, and the district is saying a larger portion will go to schools next year. Maybe some of the surplus could be used for playground supervision/programs.

Beth: The new family tours were very popular this year. So there may be a larger influx of new families than we know about right now. No official word yet. Crocker has been up to 525 students in the past (when it went up to 6th grade, and had 30 students per class), but hopefully the parents will help push back if they try to increase the enrollment too far. Worst case may be that we have to limit enrollment and not all neighborhood families get in.

Current student caps per class:
K – 27 students
1-3 grades – 30 students
4-5 grades – 31 students

Also possible there will be “combination” classes, for example a mixed 2nd – 3rd grade class. This has not happened for a long time, but is a possibility for next year.

Beth: Since we will have over 400 next year, the district requires an attendance clerk (part time). So that may provide more help in the office next year.

Parent Comment: There are a lot of 5th grade families going to Brewer next year.

Beth: There were also a lot of private school applications that were processed as well, but perhaps many of them are deciding to go the public option.

Parent Question: How are new teachers and programs going?

Beth: New Spanish program is going very well. Our teaching staff is very cohesive, including our new 2nd grade teacher. Everyone is pretty exhausted right now, but things are going smoothly.

Parent Question about enrollment numbers and projections.

Beth: We are at 400 right now, and projected to be at 410 next year.

Parent Question: What are the 3 biggest things that are on your plate (in the context of “what do you need help with”)?

Beth: At School Site Council this week a parent asked that. 1) Social/emotional care for students. 2) We could use more help dealing with bullying. Structured games at recess would help. 3) How can we continue to improve professional practice? E.g. use of new technology. Teachers are currently so strapped for time, and they need time together to plan. The classes have been becoming more collaborative over the years, but they need more help and structure to do that.

Parent Comment: It feels to me that the teachers are overloaded, and they don’t have time to address social/emotional areas.

Beth: We have some new systems in place to be able to look at that. I have been sitting down with students directly, and have had very productive discussions. Having more supervision and structure would help. It is a challenge to investigate conflicts (very time consuming to get all sides of every problem).

Parent Comment: There are also cliques forming that may not be “bullying” but are still causing issues, as early as 2nd grade. It would be great if there were more “tools” to offer students to understand and deal with this behavior.

Parent Comment: Nice if the word of the month was further practiced and reinforced with students and families.

Beth: We have classroom buddies and word of the month. Now we need to create time for the students to explore these topics. Given the other academic demands of the classroom, there is not time.

Parent Comment: Maybe the reason why bullying is coming up more, is that kids are feeling more empowered.

Beth: Hard to find the line between teasing and bullying. I try to make a good call on when the line is being crossed, but again it is hard to balance this against all my other responsibilities. Having a safe environment at school is my #1 priority. It is great to have parent help, but too much makes the teachers feel like the parents are driving things. So there needs to be a proper balance.

Beth: We are seeing that students that enter the school in middle grades (e.g. 3rd) have a more difficult time breaking into the social structure.

Parent Comments: We need to find a way to encourage parents to be more proactive around discipline, and find a more positive way to reinforce good behavior.

Beth: My approach is to find a balance where the children maintain their dignity.

(There was an extended discussion about student discipline, from the parents and school staff, and how we need to work together to reinforce good behavior.)

Beth: There is a lot of positive praise for good behavior. Other times there needs to be firm verbal discipline. Sometime we have to reinforce to kids– your job here is to learn, and if you disrupt the opportunity for others to learn, there are consequences. Sometimes the kids bring stuff from home that we have to deal with. Yes, sometimes they are read the riot act, but I also help them maintain their dignity. Parents need to trust the school staff, and the staff needs to trust the parents.

Parent Comment: Parents can easily reinforce and praise good behavior, for example, on the playground in the morning. An example was shared that was very productive.

Parent Comment: There has been improvement on the playground in terms of physical altercations.

Parent Comment: Thank you to Beth for the session with the 5th grade boys. It was very helpful for the boys. (Beth explained they had a circle discussion about experiences with bullying.)

Parent Comment: Hillcrest has a school psychologist to work with the general student population.

Beth: We have a school psychologist one day a week, mostly for IEP. We would have to hire her and pay if we wanted to expand her role.

Beth: Sometimes I will sit in a classroom and do my work, and that helps with observations and maintaining discipline in the classroom.

Beth: My priority is to find help that benefits the students and staff.

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