Friday, April 24, 2009

Meeting the Guv

On Monday, my wife Lynn and I had the privilege of meeting with Governor Bill Richardson as he signed a proclamation proclaiming April as ALS Awareness Month in New Mexico. We were there at the invitation of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. It was an emotional and moving meeting for the Governor and the rest of us present. Lynn and I very much appreciate the support we have received from all of the Taylor community as we deal with her illness. Thankfully though, she remains strong and has begun to volunteer her time here at Taylor on Wednesdays working with several students. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Parent concerns and a stinky visitor

One of the most important facets of my job is listening to parents and students. Some weeks I receive as many as one call a day. Other weeks, I don’t get any calls. One call this week stood out and I share it with you to illustrate a point.

The parent began by saying she was quite concerned with her son’s grade (an F) in a core class. The parent expressed serious reservations about the boy’s performance in the class and shared information with me that the child had told her about the teacher and class. She felt the teacher was targeting her son and said she was considering asking to have him moved to another teacher. I listened and then asked “Have you visited with the teacher about your concerns?” The mother allowed as how she had not because she believed her child’s statement about his grades and other issues. I asked if she wanted me to meet with the teacher. “No but you can have her call me if she wants to,” she replied. I passed the message along to the teacher who promptly called the mother.

Lo and behold, the child had not told the mother the entire story. The child had a B, not an F. And the other concerns the mother had heard about were also not as bad as the child had led his mom to believe. In the end, the parent and teacher agreed to work closely together to help the boy succeed. A partnership was forged for the benefit of the child. Thank heavens the mother didn’t just rely on adolescent misinformation but had the gumption to call me and complain. And thank goodness the wise teacher was courageous enough to call an unhappy parent and respond to her concerns. The moral: don’t believe everything you hear and if something sounds funny or weird or wrong, call me or call the teacher and check it out.

On an unrelated note, we removed an unwelcome visitor from Taylor this week. This fellow had taken up residence under one of our portables. And when he was removed on Tuesday, he made a real stink! Can you guess who it was? Yep, a skunk.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A surprising first day of school

You might not realize it but our new school year does not begin August 17; it starts April 22 at 8:15 am. “Huh? That’s impossible”, you say. “I have seen the district calendar and school begins on August 17.” Yes and no. We do begin the official 2009-2010 school year on August 17 but our instructional year starts April 22, the day after testing. This is one of the unforeseen consequences of No Child Left Behind: the start of the instructional year has shifted from fall to spring. We no longer have the luxury of having a relaxing April and May easing on into a three-month summer vacation. Then when we return in August we take three weeks to review and then begin teaching new material after Labor Day. No my friends, those days are long gone replaced by the hard reality that our school is measured by how well our kids score on standardized tests. And to perform well on these tests, we have to use every available minute to help our students master the content standards spelled out by the NM PED. Do I miss the halcyon days of my youth when the warm days of spring were a time to coast into summer? I suppose that Norman Rockwell place in my memory is nostalgic for it but that Vince Lombardi place in my gut tells me that for our kids to compete, we had better not waste the moments we have to teach and learn. With that in mind, I encourage you to challenge your child to be proud of his or her efforts on the SBA and to represent Taylor well because the new school year starts sooner than you thought.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A cause greater than oneself

Last week I expressed my pride at how successful our PED – APS visitation was. This week, I want to share with you how proud I am of three groups of Taylor students who are making a difference in Albuquerque and the world.

Our 6th-7th Grade Orchestra students under the guidance of Ms. Stefanova have started a special project to help the community and other children through music. The idea started as a 6th grade class discussion. Students will be playing at the McDonald House – part of UNM Hospital. The event will take place on April 24th.

Students are raising money for the Deputy James McGrane Officer Survival Training program. Thanks to the initiative of 6th grader Ben Duck and his mom, all monies will go to help this worthy effort. The class that raises the most money will get a K9 demo from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office. For more information, go to www.deputymcgrane.com.

Eighth graders in Mr. Williams’ science class are going to be selling Otter Pops starting mid-April to raise money to help water purification efforts in the Third World. Funds raised will help purchase PUR packets as explained in the 2-27-09 issue of Current Science magazine. It was developed by Proctor and Gamble toxicologist Greg Allgood. One $1.50 packet purifies 10 liters of dirty water.

One thing which helps students feel connected to school is participating in a cause greater than themselves. I applaud the efforts of our community-minded students and sponsors. I invite parents and guardians to financially support these worthy efforts.