DOWNEY - The first day of school is a joyful moment in the lives of students, teachers, parents, administrators, school employees, and everybody else who is in any way involved with the education of our kids.The kids troop to their classes keen-eyed and alert, not to the earnest teaching tone of the teacher who is there not to teach their subject on this first day but to welcome them from their pleasure-filled vacations, inform them of their bell and lunch schedules, and otherwise assure them that they will experience an advance in their learning if they'll just attend school religiously and do their homework. The real business of learning begins the next day, when everybody will have settled down from the previous day's excitement. The first day of school brings relief to parents, when they can look forward to enjoy peace and quiet at home. It's not a knock on the kids, this is just the way home life is. The teachers by this time all have their individual student plans ready, especially if they have followed the state-aligned instruction and assessment protocols and other suggestions courtesy of the educational services office. They will also have arranged the furniture beforehand, put up the bulletin boards, gotten the sequence of assignments ready, and clarified any confusion about textbooks and other matters. Like a great symphony, the whole district educational establishment will have their teaching instruments at the ready, poised to play their allotted tunes of instruction, the rhythmic sounds that will issue forth representing the ebb and flow of the teacher teaching and the student learning according to his/her level of comprehension. The day before, Superintendent Dr. Wendy Doty and assistant superintendent of educational services Jerilyn King-Brown were scheduled to visit as many schools as they could to "rally the troops" - reminding the principals and other school administrators and managers of what is expected of them in the year. A top priority this year, for example, is the implementation by principals of an action plan -based on 2009-10 achievement data specific to their school site-- emphasizing instructional improvements to assist significant subgroups. Another important mandate is to continue professional (teachers and staff) development in data analysis, diagnostic online reading and math assessment for K-8 students, differentiated small group reading instruction, cognitively-guided instruction in math, and SIOP (the increasingly effective Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) for teachers and administrators, as appropriate. In addition to referencing the test scores the specific school achieved, the principals were enjoined to develop K-12 English/language arts and math pacing guides. They also urged the high schools to help in the encouragement to continue expanding Career-Technical Education (CTE) pathways in the secondary schools, focusing on options for continuation and adult school students. From the student services department has meanwhile come a call on all the schools to pay more attention to anti-bullying measures, to help eliminate the potential psychological injury bullying may cause on campus. Carpenter fifth grade teacher Charlene Shimada, her associate fifth grade teacher Denise Wood, and principal Ruth Heskett, all confirmed the above-named district directions, at the same time reaffirming the school's added emphasis on raising the level of proficiency of English language development of non-English students. "We meet all the time," they said, "because, in the final analysis, these students are all our children." As it happens, Carpenter's mascot is the Patriot, so they've adopted the battle cry, "Patriot's success, Nothing less!" "The district is very, very supportive of us," they said. "We have a great atmosphere, there is great energy here, it's all very organized, and the camaraderie is just great." If this spirit is characteristic of the entire district, then all the planning done by administrators and teachers and staff (including the great job the work crews of the maintenance department does practically all year round) can only but bear fruit in the year ahead.
********** Published: September 08, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 21