Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Susan Semonick On Schools - H.D. Stafford Info


The first information meeting on transitions and opening of the HD Stafford Middle School was held on January 14th at 7 pm at Uplands Elementary. Mr. McCuaig, the principal for HD Stafford Middle School (not official name change yet) and Mr. Kozlovic, the vice-principal provided information, listened, and responded to the many of the questions posed. The two administrators have spoken to five PACs so far and Uplands was the first school to hold a public information meeting.

Only about 20 parents were in attendance. Notice of the meeting was sent out on the Friday before the Monday meeting. One parent asked if they could get the schedule for the meetings at other elementary schools due to the late notice. Mr. McCuaig, the new middle school principal, stated ‘yes’ and that anyone was welcome. Meeting information would be released by school newsletters or arrangements may be made with the school district to create a new website for the middle school.

This of course, if history repeats itself, will not happen until it is too late, although we may be surprised. For a district that has spent millions on technology, it is sad to see this type of efficiency shown. District Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Lenarduzzi, had been asked at the last HD Stafford parent meeting to post information on the district website and there is still no signs of any Transition newsletters being posted or any update information from Ms. Wright. Maybe it is time to invest in people who know how to integrate and utilize the systems effectively, instead of what we appear to have. Good communication continues to be a skill that district personnel have not yet conquered. It is also time the staff and Board of Education of this district to remember their scope of view. The groups of people that they think are directly involved in this transition may not encompass all those who truly are affected by these changes. The district should be widening the scope of the people that they are providing direct communication to (newsletters, invitations, etc.)

The long and short of this is that if you wish to hear what is intended to be offered at HD Stafford Middle and are considering enrolling your child in this school, attend one of these meetings. The next information meeting will be held at Simonds Elementary. The date was not provided at this meeting.

There is still no set plan on when and if there will be parent representation on the decision-making committee. I certainly hope they do not consider that meeting with just a few PACs could possibly touch all areas of concerns. They should be meeting all at the same time.

It would seem that Mr. McCuaig plans to visit all directly involved elementary schools. They mentioned five schools in total before February 1st. The last time I counted, there are seven elementary schools involved with this and should be involved in the information sessions. If any of the elementary parents have time to advise when the next meetings are, let us know and we will try to attend and send out a report if any new information is forthcoming. Parents could also post your comments here on this posting if you are so inclined. Any questions you would like answered would be good to post in comments also.


General School Operations

§ The middle school will be a closed campus. This means that the students are to stay on the school grounds once they arrive, until the end of the day.

Parents, if you do not wish your child to leave the school grounds during the day then it is VERY IMPORTANT that you DO NOT sign the form that allows them to do so. For those parents with good forgers I would check with the school about 2 weeks after the start to ensure they are not able to leave if that is your wish.

§ Approximate start time is between 8:30 to 8:45 am with an end time around 2:45 pm.
§ Class sizes will be around 27 – 28, hopefully. They are expecting approximately 720 students to attend.

The Ministry sets the nominal capacity and I expect it will not change unless there are significant modifications to the facility. Currently the operational capacity is 850. Mr. McCuaig stated that he would like to see a cap of around 750. I would guess that is what he feels is manageable with what staff they will have. So according to the numbers mentioned, the capacity will be determined to be less than it is now, which at present is 850. Listening to what was said, I would think the district is considering reducing the operational capacity.

According to the enrolment figures provided by the district for last year, there could be as many as 772 in-catchment students who should be eligible to attend HDS in September 2008. This is more than the cap of 750 being suggested. It makes me think that they have missed a few students in their calculations or that they are expecting a greater flight from the district and/or the school catchment area.
A reduction of the operating capacity for HDS could cause major problems for in-catchment students who are currently attending elementary schools outside of the HD Stafford catchment area. Right now, there are about 295 of these students who over the next 8 years may be affected. A very rough calculation suggests that somewhere between 35 to 45 students of them will soon have to make a decision about where to go for grade 8 this September.

If enrolment at HDS is capped, these students may be highly surprised that, in certain instances, they effectively could be displaced from HDS because there might be no room for them. They may have little choice. Now wouldn’t that be ironic. This would also be true for the few students attending from out-of-district. The 30-35 or so students living outside of the HDS catchment area but who are attending HDS feeder schools would find themselves in a similar situation this fall (about 249 students over the next 8 years).

The parents of these current grade 5 –6-7 students have to take stock and look 3 years into the future, and determine whether they want to place their children into the middle school system now so their children are up to speed with their peers in terms of Fine Arts skills which would be enriched at HDS. Or, do they wish to just plop them into HDS for the one grade eight year and then have them go to Grade 9 at LSS ill prepared or at a disadvantage. This is because the closest K-12 schools in Langley will probably all be full and will not be able to take many out- of -catchment students, leaving parents with DWP, Aldergrove, Distance Learning, home schooling, private schooling, or going out of district as some of the options remaining. Parents will have to look into the future and consider what they feel is best. IMHO, I believe, for these students, if Fine Arts is an interest for your child, the sooner you can get them into the HDS with its Integrated Arts program the better and parents should consider going back to your catchment area NOW rather than later.

Travel Safety
Pedestrian crossings at 208th St, 43rd Ave., 203rd St. and several other areas were brought up as creating dangerous travel areas for the walk to school. It appears that the City and Township will have to kick it up fast to have these pedestrian walk ways in place before September when schools start. The increased volume of traffic will be monumental, especially for the first month of school start. Let’s hope we will not have to wait for a deadly accident to occur before something is done in the hot spots.

Hopefully the district will survey the parents now to identify all areas of concern since all the students will be heading to one destination all at the same time - some to catch buses to LSS, some attending the school, and some students who will be traveling the streets to the elementary schools in the area. Since older brothers and sisters may not be in the elementary school there will be more traffic in all areas affected, at least for a while until people can determine the best way to get their child to school whether it be by bus, car, or walking with friends etc.
I would say that for the first month it would not be advisable for students to use their bikes until they get familiar with the traffic flow and best route for themselves. It would be a good idea for all parents and students to do dry runs well before school starts and ensure you leave lots of time the first few weeks after school starts.

After school programs were mentioned, especially for the grades 6 and 7’s. Many of the parents are concerned in regards to the distance students will have to walk and also, they do not wish to have children coming home to an empty house. The same problem will have to be overcome for the elementary children who may get out earlier than the middle and secondary students.

There was a suggestion that the secondary students would have an earlier pick up time to catch the bus for LSS to reduce amount of traffic merging in one place at the same time. If the middle and secondary schools ended earlier than the elementary schools, then older siblings may be able to pick up their younger brothers and sisters. However, later start times for the middle and secondary schools would be academically better for older students according to reports on teens and sleep. I hope that they will weigh the pros and cons. Earlier start times means less chance of before-school activities but it would enable older siblings to tend to younger siblings after school. On the other hand later start times could mean that older students would be able to do before-school activities.

Playground area - there is none at HDS. The principal thought that the District would get and install some, but parents know that the Ministry does not fund playgrounds as a normal part of their funding and past experience has been that the district does not either. I doubt that there is surplus equipment from the schools that have been or will be closed that would be politically safe to move to the middle school. What should be done is a transition PAC should be formed now so that they can take advantage of all the government grants currently being offered. With the recent vandalism problems, I am not sure if library books would not be a better bet. Students can still keep active without equipment.

On another note, for any elementary school PACs that will be receiving direct access grant money for students who have left the school, they should consider allotting those funds to library books or playground equipment at the middle school. It would be easy to calculate the amount you can give which is $20.00 per student or any portion of it. The transition PAC could be responsible in contacting these PACs and asking them to consider this. Hopefully, since DPAC was almost invisible during all this, it will step up and help with communication between these PACs since that is one of their main functions.

Library books - There has been no plans set but it is a hope that all elementary schools will check their libraries and deliver to HD Stafford those resources not required for K-5 students. In turn, HD Stafford would send any materials to LSS that is not needed for grades 6-8 students.

Cafeteria - They are looking at creating a lunch eating area because there is no cafeteria at this time. So, kids get ready to bag lunch for this year at least.

Staffing - Postings for a few key positions will be announced in the next several weeks. Closer to March, LSS and HD will be posting the rest of the positions required for this new middle school and the growing secondary school. The teacher postings will be relatively specific. The hope is that they will be able to acquire only teachers who actually want to be there.

The Framework
Middle schools are a new concept for both administrators. I guess this means both the philosophy as well as the configuration. There will be one principal, and one vice-principal, for the 720 some odd students. They are both very excited about this new endeavor and are looking forward to overcoming any challenges. The District has no option but to make this successful.

Staff are taking examples and ideas from other middle schools that are located in Coquitlam, Saanich, Cowichan and Chilliwack. Some of these districts are different from us in that they had lots of money and a different configuration so our administrators will be creating a unique program with early adolescence as a focus.

§ Core teachers function as both a homeroom and classroom teacher.
§ The teachers will move between classrooms, not the students.
§ Homeroom for 80 minutes. Elective (exploration) classes will have “outs” but students will have to check into homeroom first. (Delay to class)
§ One teacher will teach most of the core coursework.
§ Children will be exposed to approximately four or five teachers per year who will be working collaboratively using the pod concept.
§ There will be about120 students per pod. The grades 6 and 7’s will be in smaller pods than the grade 8’s. The Principal stated that the best way to think about the pod concept is as a mini school within a school.

Foundation GOALS for the middle school

A: Self-Learning Environment
B: High Academic Achievement
C: Welcoming and Caring Community
D: Uniquely designed for Early Adolescence
E: A place that “everyone” can be proud of - parents and children to have a positive outlook.

Programming and Curricula
§ Integrated Fine Arts will be found in Social Studies, Math and English.
§ There will be a Dance program.
§ A Music program is pending (I understood it to be more of a staffing problem than anything else),
§ Intramurals sports will be offered during lunch as long as they have teachers willing to be coaches. (It cannot be a requirement when hiring.)
§ District hockey will not be offered to the Grade 8’s attending this school.
§ There will be leadership opportunities. Grades 6-7-8 Advisory classes, which will be 20 minutes in duration, will be offered.
§ Montessori will not be offered.
§ Hearing program will not be offered. Currently Uplands has three children in the Hard of Hearing program, with one new Kindergartener this coming September.
§ AVID will be offered at LSS which (according to the staff postings) will have trained AVID teachers only. Since the District is not currently offering any AVID training, I guess the teachers who specialize in this would be maintained.

LSS Information

§ LSS will be running an intensive fine arts program rather than an integrated arts program. Two levels of intensity MAY be offered at LSS.

§ Students in the Intensive Arts program at LSS will not have to select only one major area of focus but instead may select at least two possibly three fine arts areas to work in.

A parent asked whether students in this Intensive Arts program could graduate with a Fine Arts Dogwood diploma and the answer from the principal was “yes”. I did not think there was such a thing so I had someone check to make sure and as far as they know there is no such thing as a “Fine Arts diploma” and it is not part of Ministry policy. I hope that if staff will be going around to all the elementary schools by February, that they spend the time to get their facts correct before then.

Hopefully, I have accurately reported the details that were provided at the meeting. As I said, please post any corrections, comments, or other info on this posting.

Respectfully submitted.

Susan Semonick


From the Ministry of Education…

B.C. High School Students #1 in College-Level Exams

British Columbia students taking college-level courses while still in high school placed first in North America according to the results of the latest advanced placement (AP) exams. The AP Program allows students around the world to pursue college-level studies while still in secondary school. Students with high AP exam results receive credit for first-year college or university courses, which can save them time and money when they start their post-secondary education.

· BC’s average score for all AP exams is 3.65 (out of 5). This is an all-time high for British Columbia and the highest average of any Canadian province or American State.
· Canada’s average score was 3.40, compared to 2.88 in the United States.
· Internationally, more than 16,000 schools participate in the AP program, including 145 BC secondary schools. Worldwide, close to 1.5 million students wrote more than 2.5 million exams. In BC, 4,554 students wrote 7,175 exams, comprising more than 37 per cent of all the AP exams written in Canada

From the District…..

Names sought for PASS/Route 32 School Site
Langley School District is looking for a name for the old Anderson school site, located at 20381-66th Street. The school site is home to the district's PASS (Pathfinder Alternative Secondary School), Route 32 and Project Resiliency programs. At its December 11 meeting the Board of Education passed a motion to begin searching for a new name for the school.http://www.sd35.bc.ca/news/080114-school_name.pdf

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