Posted on 11 March 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.