Saturday, February 1, 2014

MCDOWELL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Little frogs do the math!

Mrs. Lavender's Frogs love to do math at McDowell Elementary School.

These first graders start their day using their math skills because they know how really important math is. As with reading, math is a subject that children need to begin learning early in life. Having even the basics of math skills will allow our students to solve real-life problems.

With math, children learn to reason and to connect ideas logically. Mathematics uses a universal language that is shared all over the world. Math is what helps us to make cars, explore space and even create what our children today tend to enjoy a lot – video games.

Way to go, Mrs. Lavender's little froggies!

MCDOWELL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: PTA, staff plan for future

McDowell Elementary School parents are excited to make plans for the future. Recently, our newly formed PTA group met and discussed the coming months.

The parents and principal met with vendors and made plans for the best way to support what goes on at McDowell. One great item the principal talked about was our "Giving Tree" located in our lobby. If you need mittens or hat, you can take them or you can donate them as a way to extend kindness to others.

It is exciting also for McDowell to be part of the PTA, which is the oldest and largest child advocacy association in America. Today’s PTA is comprised of 5 million parents, teachers, grandparents, caregivers, foster parents and other caring adults who share a commitment to improving the education, health and safety of all children. It speaks with one voice for every child.

WEST MIDDLE SCHOOL: Hosts Math Family Night

West Middle School hosted another parent night, "Math Family Game Night," on Tuesday, January 21.

The night included munchies, math games and prizes.

Parents, students and families had the opportunity to challenge each other in math-integrated games of Connect Four, Yahtzee and many others. Extra credit was given in math class to the students that attended with their family.

All West families are encouraged to attend our parent nights!

TOMMIE SAYLOR: If you want to be a winner in life, you need to go above and beyond

By Tommie Saylor
Kennedy High School Principal

Winners do what losers aren’t willing to do.

I have said this over, and over, and over again, but some messages are so important that they bear repeating. In most cases, I strive to remain calm even in the most difficult times.  I do so because when I was a young man, I experienced anger issues and had to learn to “keep my cool” when plans go wrong.  Because of this, most have never seen me truly angry. I try very hard to suppress such negative emotions.  

But, once in a while I slip and a little poisonous antagonism oozes out. This was the case with my daughter this last week.

My younger daughter, 20, came home after “running around” with her friends, She was in a foul mood because she had to stop “hanging” with her comrades and come home to prepare for a job interview.  She lamented that it was ridiculous that she had to change her clothes and “look nice” for the interview, and that she even had to go to the interview “on her time” because she already worked at the place and was only applying for a promotion.  

They already knew her, she reasoned, and asking her to come in and interview for a position “off the clock” was just going too far.

As you could imagine, I lost my temper and could no longer stand this “spoiled brat” attitude. I verbally jumped back at her.  I roared at her and exclaimed, “Do you think I wear a shirt, tie and jacket every day to work because I like to do so?  Do you believe I enjoy coming in early, staying late, working through lunch, running up to the school for after-hour meetings or on the weekend when someone wants or needs something because I find it amusing?  

I did whatever I had to do. I still do whatever I have to do to be successful. I am willing to do what others are not willing to do to find success.

When I was in college, I was willing to work at McDonald’s when others thought that such employment was beneath them, but I needed the money to make my dreams come true.  When I was a young teacher I volunteered to stay after school every day to tutor students, I wore a shirt and tie every day to work when others did not.

I volunteered to work on after-school committees, helped out at games and coached. I became noticed. You have to give more than you get, you have to keep your eye on the prize not the price, you must be willing to do what others are not willing to do and you will be noticed. You will find success. You can’t expect maximum gain from minimum efforts!

Success is earned not given or found, it is earned through mounds of hard work and an almost fanatical sense of tenacity toward a refusal to give up especially in the face of failure.

You must work as if you already make a $100,000 a year if you ever hope to have a change to make $100,000 a year.

I often believe that we fail to teach our students this concept. We need to make sure they understand that in real life not everybody is looking out for their best interests, that people around them do not exist to serve their needs as is the case they find in school.  

Life is hard.  Only through continual hard work will efforts pay off. There are no guarantees.  We must teach our students that if they want a chance to “get theirs” in life, they must be prepared to go above and beyond the average efforts of others, that they must be willing to do what others are not willing to do.

Remember, their future is in our hands. Making Kennedy the school of choice. Excellence by design.

MELISSA SKOPCZYNSKI: Plenty of announcements at Truman

By Melissa Skopczynski
Truman High School Principal


I wrote this on Friday – at least I think it was Friday. It is hard to keep track of what day it is with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Parent-Teacher Conferences and our three cold days the last two weeks.  

We had a nice turn out for conferences and I appreciate the dedication of the staff to stay on task and make adjustments to ensure our students are staying on pace with their curricular needs.  

Here are a few announcements, reminders and updates:
  • Congratulations to basketball player Aaron Foster Smith who scored his 1,000th career point against Inter City Baptist on January 25!
  • Welcome Coach Ellis Slaughter, Truman's New Head Varsity Football Coach!
  • The Kennedy vs. Truman Boy’s Basketball game has been rescheduled to Monday February 10.
  • The February 5 Staff Meeting has been changed to Monday, February 24 to accommodate MME training. Mark your calendars!
  • Please make an effort to attend the eighth-grade orientation on Monday February 3.
  • Please remain vigilant with students on IDs, passes and hats.

Enjoy the weekend and hopefully we will be able to make it through a whole week next week

Remember: This is your team, this is my team and this is our team. Together we are making a difference.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

HOOVER MIDDLE SCHOOL: More photos from science projects

More photos from Mrs. Miller's science classes at Hoover Middle School.

HOOVER MIDDLE SCHOOL: Photos capture seventh-grade science projects

These are pictures from Mrs. Miller at Hoover Middle School.  She's done quite a few activities with her students this year and has captured some pictures of a few of them.

She does activity labs with her seventh-grade science classes on a regular basis, which the students enjoy due to the hands-on nature of those lessons.


Each month, Taylor Parks Elementary School pupils and staff gather for the Road Runner Rally.  

Ms. Downie announced pizza winners for best attendance, which went to Mrs. Bailey’s first-grade and Mrs. Iwaniec's third-grade classes. Prizes of deluxe water bottles were given out for good behavior awards.  

Next, the second-grade pupils from Mrs. McDonald’s, Mrs. Zielinski's, and Mrs. Schmitt-Miller’s classes performed for everyone about “Choosing The Right Book!”

Sunday, January 26, 2014

RANDALL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Video honors Martin Luther King Jr.'s memory

Here's a cute video created in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Randall Elementary School.

TOMMIE SAYLOR: Learning what a student can do is more important than learning what they know

“You can’t change the fruit without changing the root.”  
Stephen R. Covey

By Tommie Saylor
Kennedy High School Principal

The world has changed, and we in the field of education must change with it.

Since the conception of public education, students have been forced to memorize a collection of facts, figures, and general good-to-know information.  At the time, pre-industrial revolution, this made sense. Books were rare and very expensive, libraries were few and only existed in major cities, and for the most part, information was hard to find and/or gather.  

So, the solution was to just simply have students memorize facts and information to include capitals, countries, history, world leaders, science, poems and other literature, important documents like the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, and so forth.  One’s level of intelligence was even measured by how much information a person could or had memorized.  

The more information you could blindly spew out, the “smarter” you were, as it was once thought.  To measure one’s level of learnedness, standardized tests were developed where a battery of questions would be asked and the more a student could answer in a specific time frame gave educators a standard in which students could be measured against.
Rote memorization was king, repetitively reading, speaking and writing the same thing over and over again was the one and only education methodology.

At the time when this method was developed it made sense. Accurate and up-to-date information was difficult to find.  
We now live in a day where most people carry with them a smart phone and/or tablet that can access the Internet. The Internet essentially holds the accumulation of all human knowledge. Memorizing information that can be found in seconds on our devices seems rather pointless.  

Hand a kid a smart phone and ask them any question. Within seconds they will give you the answer.

Furthermore, in the business world employers are looking for employees that can work cooperatively and can find information that is more likely to be up-to-date as opposed to knowing old information. They are seeking employees that are creative and can think “out of the box.”  The old idea that you “sit in perfect rows, be quiet and don’t talk to your neighbor, keep your eyes on your own paper, figure out the problem by yourself”-type of teaching method is no longer effective in today’s world.  

Today employers don’t want this kind of employee, and students no longer understand nor respond to this archaic pedagogy.

Today’s classroom needs to focus more on how to use information and less on the acquisition of information. Teach students how to work together in teams and groups. Teach students how to find, break down, filter through and utilize the easily accessible mounds of information.

Ten years ago when smart phones first “hit the scene,” schools were quick to tell students to leave them at home. We didn’t want them to be used when taking a test.

Today, the field of education is turning toward allowing students to use smart phones, tablets and laptops in class. After all what is wrong with students looking up information, facts and figures in a classroom?  

A paradigm shift is occurring where cooperative problem solving, teamwork and information synthesis is now king.  Even our standardized tests are changing from regurgitation of information to problem solving and analysis.  

What a student can do is becoming much more important than what they know.

Remember, their future is in our hands. Making Kennedy the school of choice. Excellence by design.