Superintendent Weekly Update
by Craig Conte on October 13
Growing up in Oregon, one of my most vivid and scary early childhood memories was of the Columbus Day storm in 1962. Unfortunately, I now have a fresher, more horrific reality to replace in my Columbus Day timeframe. The Sonoma County firestorm calamity that has befallen our area has been incredibly traumatic for both children and adults. I want to reassure all of our community that we will recover with time and make ourselves whole again.
Extraordinary events bring out the extraordinary goodness in people. This has been especially true of the district office staff and our leadership team. Dawn Walker, Lynda Williams, Becky Emanuel, Lisa Baughn, Sonya Wasden, Mary Lou Ramirez, Linda Wallace, Denise Irving and Larry Black have all been working long hours this week to check in on staff members and check their status. They all have also been monitoring weather reports, air quality information and local agencies public communications so that we could provide accurate and timely information to the staff and our school community.
Ellie Johnson came in to help with the Google mapping of the fire zones and an overlay of employee addresses so we could see who might be in danger. Maricela Rojas was my intrepid interpreter who saved me from mangling our Spanish announcements. All the Principals have been contacting folks and working this week to support their community and Gina Silveira has been a great command post resource even as her heart was deeply saddened by the devastation in her former school district near the Coffey Park neighborhood. The Miwok staff also quickly pulled together to support Resource Teacher, Kara Lemieux who lost her home by collecting money and setting up a donation site. Our former Nurse, Sharon Helmer, also lost her home and we are banding together to support her in any way we can.
This has been a tragically tough time. Eventually, as we work together, it will never be forgotten, but it will become just a memory.
Superintendent Weekly Update
by Craig Conte on October 6
Sometimes a meeting is more than just a meeting, it morphs into an event or celebration. Such was the case this Friday when the Emeril Lagasse Foundation (ELF) came to Old Adobe Charter to visit the school gardens and discuss a possible edible garden and teaching kitchen grant. I knew it would be special when sixth grade students started the meeting by reading a beautiful poem that was written about the garden while a colorful slideshow played behind them. Then the younger students led the visitors on a walking tour along the various paths that meander through the well-manicured planted rows and planter boxes brimming with vegetables, fruits and herbs.
The foundation members, some from Louisiana, and others from our local wineries, were impressed and visibly moved by the passion and ownership that students, teachers and parent volunteers demonstrated in showcasing the school gardens. Expanding the garden further and connecting it to a culinary teaching kitchen that celebrates food and the land it comes from is an exciting opportunity for Old Adobe Charter. Thanks to the several years of hard work by the school staff and community led by Garden Coordinator Beth Stoep and Garden/Science Facilitator Jacqueline Holley, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation grant may make that dream possible. Plus, how often can you say “that was a really nice meeting”?
This past week the kindergarten and first grade teachers all got together to talk math. Bridges Math. Fantastically facilitated by Gina Silveira, our new Director of Curriculum, the day focused on Bridges assessments, supporting struggling students, data and problems of practice (areas of difficulty within the curriculum). Teachers also enjoyed differentiated planning time in the afternoon session. Rumor has it that the first grade team was so enthralled in their working session that they continued right through their lunch break! What incredible concentration!
We also had some great Write Tools training all week long with Deb Lasse, our Write Tools coach. Deb led two half-day sessions for grade level teams from Miwok Valley, La Tercera, Loma Vista and Old Adobe on Monday through Wednesday. She then hustled over to Sonoma Mountain on Thursday and Friday for more work sessions with their grade level teams. I saw her on Friday afternoon and for some reason she looked a tad bit fatigued--must be coming down with something .
South County Consortium
Not everyone in our district is aware that we are part of a eight school district group in the Petaluma area that contributes to our own special education district called the South County Consortium. Petaluma City Schools is the district of record for the consortium and is the employer for all the staff members. The students, however, come from all over the Petaluma area covered by our eight school districts. This week, I attended my third board meeting for all eight of the superintendents in the group. I am always overjoyed to attend another meeting, but in this case I take a personalized interest in the consortium. My wife teaches in one our consortium classrooms at Mckinley Elementary. This is her 29th year in special education and her fourth year with the consortium. She raves about the quality of the instructional program and the leadership level of support that is provided within the consortium. Although originally conceived as a cost-saving alternative to the Sonoma County Office of Education special education programs it is very gratifying to see that we are also immensely improving the educational experience for our students.
Superintendent Weekly Update
by Craig Conte on September 29
It’s not often you meet a man with a thumb as green as Richard Fashbinder, our hard-working maintenance-landscaper extraordinaire! Just think about the mowing, trimming, pruning, weeding, planting and irrigation repair that is required to maintain your own yard. Now multiply that by a thousand and you get the idea of the Herculean effort required of this weed-whacking superman to maintain the landscaping on all 5 of our campuses plus the district office. It’s a good thing Richard has a degree in Ornamental Horticulture! You might not know this, but he also has a degree in History. That degree probably comes in handy as he tries to remember the tangled web of irrigation lines that constantly need valves and sprinkler heads replaced in our ever shifting adobe soil.
So, when you see Richard flying by on his mower or digging up that tough clay ground give him a wave and a big thank you. We are all glad he’s our talented, knowledgeable one-man landscaping crew!
All of our school libraries schedule Book Fairs every year. They’re a great way for students and families to preview and purchase the latest in children’s books in a variety of genres and they also help to fund library purchases of new books for the shelves. Behind the scenes of each and every book fair our school librarians work overtime with staff and volunteers to set up and take down the displays. Here is a picture of all boxes that will magically turn into one of those colorful book displays!
The librarians oversee the fair for extra hours before and after school in order to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to get a new book or two. They also work with teachers to create wish lists for their favorite new books to update classroom libraries. Our students and families love the book fairs and I love our librarians and all their helpers for making them happen!
Twenty-three EdCamps are scheduled this year and we just had our 5th one of the year this week. EdCamps are professional learning classes that happen after school and are open to all staff. We even pay our staff to attend the two hour classes! The classes are facilitated by Larry Black, our Technology Director and Gina Silveira, our Curriculum Director. Sometimes we bring in special instructors to facilitate the class. This last week we had our Illuminate Representative, Jill Albracht, facilitate a session on using Illuminate grade books. This year the EdCamps are moving to all our different campus locations. Please check the schedule on our website under the Staff tab or follow the link here.
Superintendent Weekly Update
by Craig Conte on September 15
Someone once said about the famous dancer Ginger Rogers that she did everything that her dancing partner did, “but she did it backwards, wearing high heels.” This level of difficulty could also be used to describe an extra hard working team at our schools, the Special Day Class teachers and staff. These teachers go to school longer for the special credentials required in their teaching job. Each and every year they have a “combo” class of different grade levels. They write individualized goals for every student that they report on each trimester, but they also fill out grade level report cards for their students as well. They use Illuminate for data, but wait for it, they also input data into the special education database, SEIS, too. And, of course, there are the meetings and the meetings about meetings. That’s a lot of backwards dancing with or without heels! Our support staff in these classrooms also do a tremendous amount of extra work, instructing with multi-age curriculums, connecting with students and families, and creating a safe and supportive classroom environment. We have 3 special day classes on our Miwok Valley campus that are our Old Adobe District classes, but we also have a South County Consortium class at Miwok and one at La Tercera. In addition, we have one Sonoma County Office of Education class at La Tercera and one at Loma Vista. These classes are a valuable and integral parts of our district. When the dancing is done, I give them all a 10, (as in Dancing with the Stars)! Congratulations to all the hard working and dedicated staff members in the special day classes of our district.
Starting last week, our teachers met with their school grade level teaching partners in PLCs. A (PLC) Professional Learning Community is “An ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.” This definition is quite a mouthful, but in simpler language this means that our teachers meet once a week to work together on how to improve student learning. The teachers develop the same question (inquiry) for all their students for each trimester. For example, teachers might ask “How can we increase our students persistence in solving complex mathematical problems?” They then work on the actions and implications for their teaching strategies that will have an impact on the question they are asking themselves. The teachers collect data and other information that gives them feedback to their question. It’s hard and challenging work and requires that teachers work together to better understand the results of the changes they make to their teaching practices.
Is there anything cuter than a kindergartner all dressed up for their first school picture? Probably not. Long before everyone was posting selfies everywhere, elementary school pictures were a big deal. And you know what? They still are.
Superintendent Weekly Update
by Craig Conte on September 22
After-school events are some of the best things about the Old Adobe District. This week I was lucky enough to be able to attend two different evening events at our schools. One of the events was the Friday Fun Night Dance at Loma Vista sponsored by the PTA. This dance was a family-themed dance party with a DJ. The kids and parents all enjoyed dancing together and the 6th graders sold snacks to keep the party going. Loma Vista holds a Friday Fun Night once a month and you should try to attend one of them because the fun never stops!
The other school event was the Star Party at La Tercera. No, Beyonce didn’t show up, but Venus and Saturn sure did! This party was assisted in the viewing of stars and planets by the Sonoma County Astronomy Society which brought fantastic telescopes to the school. The sun went down promptly at 7:13 pm and the stars showed up shortly afterwards. A big thanks to Kristy Corbett who coordinates many of the STEM-based after-school activities at La Tercera.
The track project at Old Adobe Charter has been many years in the making and is now nearing completion! The project was the dream child of the Old Adobe PTO 14 -15 years ago. The dream has finally become a reality due in great part to the efforts of Angie and Jim McCall who have overseen and coordinated the design and construction of the track. It is a bit smaller than the traditional ¼ mile oval, so you kids will need a few more laps to get your miles in! The official track dedication is scheduled for the first week in October and the first big track event is the Wednesday, October 11th Walk-and Run-athon.
The Petaluma Kiwanis Club announced their grants this week. They have generously granted a total of $6,570.91 to 22 teachers and other staff members in varying amounts up to $500.00. Some of these grants will help fund projects such as Novels for Girls in Lisa Beaudry’s class, Sensory Tools for Kara Lemieux’s class and a Lego Simple Machine Set for Juliet James’ class. The Old Adobe District community thanks the Kiwanis for all of their support over the years in the Micro-Grant Awards program!
Superintendent Weekly Update
by Craig Conte on September 09
Our teachers are incredibly flexible, resilient and overcome all the obstacles that they may confront in order to educate the children of our district. A perfect example of this “can-do” spirit is the teaching team at Loma Vista Dual Immersion Academy. Transitional Kindergarten teachers Jessica Quirt and Chelsea Tran and first grade teacher Samantha Grimaldo have had all kinds of hurdles to overcome in the start of their school year. They started in temporary classrooms, moved into new portables and set up classrooms for the second time in just a few weeks and weekends! These teachers are true models to a “Growth Mindset”, because if challenges make you grow these teachers are ten feet tall!
I would also like to thank the endlessly patient staff and families at Old Adobe Charter who have been waiting for construction to wrap up on their campus for many months. Cecilie Stuelpe, Tami Petrie, Heather Carpenter and Wendy Fergus have lovingly taught children in various nooks and crannies in the school throughout last year and the beginning of this year as they await building construction to finally be done on their rooms.
Although I have had plenty of previous experience in managing both residential and commercial construction, I must say that managing school construction projects has been an eye-opening and at times, frustrating experience. With all these construction challenges you might even notice that I’ve gotten a little taller too!
Last week, many of our school PTA groups met for the first time this school year. Did you know that PTA is the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the nation? The national PTA, founded in 1897, has been the organization that has advocated for many school reforms including the creation of Kindergarten classes, child labor laws and mandatory immunizations just to name a few. A robust PTA needs the active participation of both school staff, parents and the community. If you haven’t joined yet please consider it. By joining and participating in PTA you will make a difference for our children.
Last Monday was Labor day. This Federal holiday honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country. We have two unions that represent the employees of our district. The California School Employees Association (CSEA) represents our classified staff and the Old Adobe Teachers’ Association (OATA) represents our teachers and other credentialed staff. Our dedicated and extremely hard-working union members are the reason we celebrated Labor Day!
What kinds of homework seem to be most effective?
This is where things get really interesting. Because homework should be about learning, right? To understand what kinds of homework best help kids learn, we really need to talk about memory and the brain.
Let’s start with something called the spacing effect. Say a child has to do a vocabulary worksheet. The next week, it’s a new worksheet with different words and so on. Well, research shows that the brain is better at remembering when we repeat with consistency, not when we study in long, isolated chunks of time. Do a little bit of vocabulary each night, repeating the same words night after night.
Similarly, a professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, Henry “Roddy” Roediger III, recommends that teachers give students plenty of little quizzes, which he says strengthen the brain’s ability to remember. Don’t fret. They can be low-stakes or no-stakes, says Roediger: It’s the steady recall and repetition that matter. He also recommends, as homework, that students try testing themselves instead of simply re-reading the text or class notes.
There’s also something known as interleaving. This is big in the debate over math homework. Many of us — myself included — learned math by focusing on one concept at a time, doing a worksheet to practice that concept, then moving on.
Well, there’s evidence that students learn more when homework requires them to choose among multiple strategies — new and old — when solving problems. In other words, kids learn when they have to draw not just from what they learned in class that day but that week, that month, that year.
One last note: Experts agree that homework should generally be about reinforcing what students learned in class (this is especially true in math). Sometimes it can — and should — be used to introduce new material, but here’s where so many horror stories begin.
Tom Loveless, a former teacher, offers this advice: “I don’t think teachers should ever send brand-new material that puts the parent in the position of a teacher. That’s a disaster. My own personal philosophy was: Homework is best if it’s material that requires more practice but they’ve already received initial instruction.”
Or, in the words of the National PTA: “Homework that cannot be done without help is not good homework.”
The first day of school. Nervous butterflies in the stomach. New shoes on the feet. Wondering about the new teacher and the other students we would meet. Appologies to Dr. Suess, but the first days of school are always an exciting time for students and their families. Today, I visited all of our five schools and saw many smiling and happy big and little people! Our amazingly enthusiatic staff members were making sure that all students and parents felt welcome, safe and part of the Old Adobe family! Thanks to all for a great 1st day with many more (179) great learning days ahead!
This week we wrapped up our first registration window and enrollment numbers were astounding. Over 280 Kindergarteners are already registered for 2017-2018!! Our office teams have done an exceptional job welcoming families, answering questions, following up on paperwork, and supporting this process. Our principals have led many a tour and have been singing the praises of their schools- and families like what they see. Registration, of course, continues all the way through the start of the school year so we don’t know for sure where the numbers will land, but it looks likely that we will have over 300 Kindergarteners and another full six classes of Transitional Kindergarten. This is a real tribute to all of the hard work in Old Adobe Union. Enjoy the weekend.
Our students learn every day, but sometimes, on a day to day basis it is hard to recognize just how much academic learning they are achieving until we look at it over a longer period of time. Each trimester we check on progress in a number of ways, including the computer based STAR reading and math tests at grades 1-6. Once again, our trimester gains have been stellar. A big congratulations to students and teachers across the district.Read more ...
Music, please! For many different reasons it feels like we should strike up the band at the start of the school year, but in reality many of our students miss the music filled time of their summer. While music is a part of our program in Old Adobe Union, it is not the popular music or favorite music that students often listen to during the summer. Technology has completely changed the music landscape and opened up fun learning opportunities. The ideas that follow are not an exhaustive list, but hopefully can open the door to some new family activities that can make language and learning come alive through music.Read more ...
This past month I have had the pleasure of listening to a number of outstanding audiobooks while driving to and from work. The amazing thing is that I have not purchased any of them. Our library systems have been fairly aggressive at leveraging technology to get books in our hands using 21st Century technology. There are a few ways to use these services, but I recommend the following:Read more ...