June 20, 2012
Dear Lawton Families,
First, I want to thank you for being an active part of our school community. Tonight we are celebrating our 5th graders – launching them into their middle school experience. We are proud of them and their growth in their time here. We look forward to hearing and reading about their accomplishments as they grow, mature and contribute to our community.
Second, I wanted to share with the community our current staffing plan for the upcoming school year.
Robert Kirby will be joining our staff half-time to support our work of creating a Multi-Tiered Student Support system – in non-educational lingo – a block of time dedicated each day to support small group differentiated instruction. He has an impressive history of working with schools in Seattle and Shoreline as a teacher and a coach.
Since my last communication, Dorcas Yamashita, who has worked with our students on the playground for many years, has announced she is retiring to spend time with her family and husband who also retired this year. We will be celebrating her at our end-of-year assembly this coming Friday.
Because of our enrollment numbers there has been an adjustment in our classroom teaching staff for the coming year to 17 (the same number that we have this year, but down 1 from what was previously communicated). This has necessitated the creation of two multi-grade classes. Mr. Terry will be teaching a 3rd/4th grade class and Ms. Ulmer will be teaching a 4th/5th grade class. Both teachers have experience teaching multi-grade classes. This spring, we had staffed 18 teachers, but Ms. Hensley has taken a position at John Hay Elementary. The result of this is that we did not have to displace any of our current teachers. There are many factors that go into these decisions, and as a leader I have worked in consultation with teachers and our building leadership team to create strong teaching partnerships.
In light of our numbers these are our current staffing plans.
K: McDonagh; Rudisill; Mitchell
1st: Matzner; Palewicz; Conner
2nd: Eppley; Dowd; Reddy
3rd: Wong; Rybock
4th: Shernoff; Kelly
5th: Hubbard; Misner
Teachers have worked to create classroom assignments and these will be revisited in the fall in light of student movement and further shifts that may happen before assignments are published and available for families.
Thirdly, this morning a piece aired on KUOW about recess in Seattle Schools. I was interviewed for this piece by Ann Dornfield and parts of that interview led off the story. I did not know that this would be coming out today and am sorry if it was your experience to have learned about changes at Lawton over the radio rather than in a direct communication from the school. Here is a transcript of the story that ran: Less Recess for Seattle Students
I wanted to address the shift that we are making as a school in the coming year and the give a bit of context. This year we have had 45 minutes of recess during the instructional day for students in grades K – 3 and 30 minutes for our 4th and 5th grade classes. The structure has been such that students in grades K-2 receive 3 recess breaks, and 3rd grade receives 2 recess breaks (30 minutes at lunch and 15 minutes in the afternoon). Our 4th and 5th grade have one 30-minute recess after lunch.
Our plans for the 2012-2013 year shift this structure to the following: Grades K and 1 still have 45 minutes of recess with three breaks. Grades 2 – 5 have 30 minutes of recess with each grade receiving two recess breaks.
Our goal in planning for the coming year is to be very intentional about our schedule, our instructional model, and our use of funds to support student learning. The principal is ultimately responsible for the master schedule of the school.
We made the decision to increase instructional minutes. For example, our Walk-to-Math schedule with transitions often leads to fewer than 60 minutes of math instruction a day. In our planning for next year we are working towards building a block schedule that allocates 75 minutes for math instruction. The result of this had implications for recess.
One consideration that we have tried to address in our plans for next year is a reduction in transition time. This stemmed from, in part, staff observations and concerns (highlighted in our “Lawton Walks” experience where teachers went and visited other classrooms) about the amount of transitions they observed. This is important because recess breaks are not just 15 minutes of time in the day. The transition times in and out of the building as well as the time it takes to return to focused instruction/learning is often significant.
We are shifting our lunchtime recess block to recess before lunch because schools that do this find that the transition back into learning is calmer, quicker and more focused. We have added 5 extra minutes into the lunch time partially in response to parent input that some students are rushed – or rush to finish eating to be ready to go out to play.
We have limited time with students each day. There is a lot of material to be covered to ensure that all of our students are at standard. As a school we have committed to making our learning engaging and active. One of our top staff professional development priorities is to infuse more arts and movement into our classroom instructional minutes. Lawton has 90 minutes of PE in all classes, and our music program also often incorporates movement and kinesthetic activities into the lessons. Classroom teachers may always take movement breaks as needed – walking in the secret garden, stretching in class, planning or spontaneously building movement into their lessons.
Lastly, I want to share that I am personally and professionally excited about our work at Lawton. It is a great community to be a part of. I wish for you a happy summer – filled as mine often are – with campfires, swimming, friends, fireworks and laughter. The one thing we can all count on is change. Please reach out to me with any thoughts or concerns. I will be in touch over the summer with more information about Lawton and ways you can be involved.
Dr. Neil Gerrans
Principal Lawton Elementary
206 252 2130