Superintendent's Chats

Strong relationships between schools and families play a critical role in the education and success of students and we are committed to continuously building these partnerships.

With a goal of fostering transparent, two-way communication, Superintendent of Monroe School District, Dr. Fredrika "Deka" Smith, extends an open invitation to families for a monthly "Superintendent's Chat." Family members are welcome to come ask questions, provide input and share viewpoints on district procedures, practices and policies. In order to accommodate busy schedules, monthly meetings will be offered both in the morning from 10:00-11:00 a.m. and in the evening from 6:00-7:00 p.m.

The Superintendent's Chats will occur monthly, typically on the second Thursday of the month. Meetings are held in the Board Room at the District Administration Office, 200 East Fremont Street, Monroe. The schedule of meetings for the 2018-19 school year is as follows:

Thursday, October 11, 10:00-11:00 a.m. and 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 8, 10:00-11:00 a.m. and 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Thursday, December 13, 10:00-11:00 a.m. (evening chat cancelled due to conflicting school events)
Thursday, January 10, 10:00-11:00 a.m. and 6:00-7:00 p.m. (evening chat will include School Board Community Conversation at MHS) 
Thursday, February 14,10:00-11:00 a.m. and 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 14, 10:00-11:00 a.m. and 6:00-7:00 p.m. (evening chat will be held in the Park Place Middle School Library)
Thursday, April 11,10:00-11:00 a.m. and 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 9, 10:00-11:00 a.m. and 6:00-7:00 p.m.

We welcome families to join us as much as their schedules allow!

To further foster open communication, we are also encouraging each school's parent group (PTA, PTO, etc) to select a representative who will serve as a liaison. This representative will gather questions, input and feedback from the school's parent community, bring those topics to the Superintendent's Chats to share, and report back to the school's parent group on a monthly basis. If you are unable to attend a meeting, but have questions or feedback, please reach out to the parent representative at your school.

Meeting Notes

October 11, 2018

Number of parents in attendance at 10:00 a.m. chat: 11
Number of parents in attendance at 6:00 p.m. chat: 8

Designated parent group representatives from each school:
Monroe High School: Kim Cripe
Hidden River Middle School: Deb Seaney
Park Place Middle School: Casey O’Roarty
Salem Woods Elementary: position open
Chain Lake: Hannah Huber
Fryelands Elementary: Rob McMillan
Frank Wagner Elementary: Amber Mehta
Maltby Elementary: Christina Hutto, Derek Wyszynski, Marisa Parker
Leaders in Learning High School: position open
Sky Valley Education Center: position open

*If you are unable to attend a chat and have questions, input, or feedback, please reach out to the parent representative at your school. These parents serve as the communication liaison between families and district staff.

Welcome, introductions & purpose of chats:

  • School Board Community Conversations - quarterly (December, March, June)

  • Input on district-wide decisions

  • Communicate accurate information to families

  • Ask questions, open dialogue

  • Parent reps asked to report back to school communities

Upcoming big topics to address this year:

  • A/B schedule at MHS (set to begin in 2019-20 school year)

  • Changes in local levy & state funding and how that will impact district budgeting

  • Enrollment & capacity: new home construction has not equated to an increase in enrollment

  • Shuttle (transfer) buses

Parent brainstorm of topics to address this year:

  • STAFFING & PARAEDUCATORS

    • Are there any professional learning opportunities for paraeducators?

    • The need for more special education trained paras for push in students

    • Shortage of paraeducators (are we competitive with other districts?)

    • IEP funding & funding for paras for students w/special needs

    • Special education IEP/504

  • SOCIAL EMOTIONAL

    • Brain and trauma informed discipline

    • Mental health seriousness/social emotional needs met

    • Cell phone policies ‘away for the day’ policy?

    • Mental health (before crisis)

    • School climate (all kids feeling of belonging)

    • Social & emotional learning (year long all kids)

    • Possibility of district wide implementation of “PAX Good Behavior Game”?

  • TRANSPORTATION

    • How bus routes are determined (why aren’t Hidden River and Maltby buses taking back roads to school and avoiding 522 traffic?)

    • Long bus rides and being late due to traffic

    • Cost of transportation for JROTC (why do they pay but Sno-Isle students do not?

  • BUDGETING

    • Chain Lake playground equipment

    • How district budget is allocated for playground equipment?

    • School budget more transparent (how money is being spent)

    • New levy for operations?

    • Teacher contract & budget impact

    • Why the MC JROTC Monroe Cadets limited to 20 students?

    • Why is there a continued $335 fee for JROTC students?

  • INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAMS

    • Digital learning

    • Availability of AP Classes

    • More support for students who are academically advanced so they do not feel that their only option for advancement is Running Start or ORCA.

    • Update on new curriculum in district

    • How will the district accommodate the MCJROTC students w/next year’s changed class schedule?

    • High school A/B days - will that start next year? What will that look like?

    • More college in the high school classes - Monroe has less than surrounding schools?

  • GRADING/ASSESSMENT

    • Grading policy changes at middle school? Future high school?

    • District homework philosophy

    • Encouraging and allowing freshman and sophomores to take the PSAT before their junior year - instead of placing them on a waitlist to potentially be able to take it.

    • i-Ready testing. What? Where? Time for students to take? Too long?

  • SAFETY

    • How is the move/evade/defend training going in schools?

  • SPECIAL EDUCATION

    • Special education support group meetings

    • Interest in implementing district-wide special needs awareness campaigns to foster understanding and improve peer interactions

November 8, 2018

Number of parents in attendance at 10:00 a.m. chat: 8
Number of parents in attendance at 6:00 p.m. chat: 6

Special guest: Dr. Justin Blasko, Assistant Superintendent of Learning & Teaching

Designated parent group representatives from each school:
Monroe High School:
Hidden River Middle School: Deb Seaney
Park Place Middle School: Gena Weeks
Salem Woods Elementary: Position Open
Chain Lake Elementary: no parent reps in attendance
Fryelands Elementary: no parent reps in attendance
Frank Wagner Elementary: Gena Weeks & Amber Mehta
Maltby Elementary: Derek Wyszynski & Marisa Parker
Leaders in Learning High School: Position Open
Sky Valley Education Center: Position Open

*If you are unable to attend a chat and have questions, input, or feedback, please reach out to the parent representative at your school. These parents serve as the communication liaison between families and district staff.

Follow up to discussions/questions from the October Superintendent’s Chat:

We have a partnership with Snohomish High School where our students attend ROTC. The fees students pay for ROTC are to cover a portion of the teacher’s salary. Currently the program is capped at 20 Monroe students, but we will be upping that to 30 students. It is not likely we will have our own Monroe ROTC program because the program requires a minimum of 100 students participating in the program.

New English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum adoption for elementary schools

We are in our 3rd year of an implementation of balanced literacy in all of our elementary classrooms. We have been partnering with with the University of Washington’s Center for Educational Leadership (UW CEL) for support in leadership in curriculum at elementary level and classroom professional development for teachers. This has included job-imbedded professional development, which is more effective than attending off-site conferences.

The focus of this work has been on effective instruction and reading as the foundation for all other subjects.

The last time we adopted new ELA materials was in the 2008-2009 school year. This was the  Reading Street curriculum. Our student demographics show we should be performing above the state average; however our students’ test scores indicate we need improvement in ELA. So, we have been looking at how our curriculum aligns with the WA State Learning Standards.

In 2014-15, the reading literacy committee looked at state standards, best practices and curriculum materials. Balanced literacy emerged as the most effective way to teach ELA.

Assessment kits through Fountas and Pinnell (F&P) were purchased last year to move us in a direction of balanced literacy instruction.

We have been looking at two sets of curriculum materials: Lucy Calkins and F&P. The decision on which curriculum to use has been left to each school with teacher discussions based on student needs.
2 of 5 schools have selected materials
Frank Wagner Elementary - Lucy Calkins
Salem Woods Elementary- Fountas and Pinnell Classroom
The other schools are still determining their needs.

Balanced literacy is the focus, not the materials, and the professional development provided to teacher will focus on balanced literacy. “Train the trainer” model happening on Friday early releases.

Materials aligned with standards and rich with book dependent literacy instruction - Getting kids to read real books at their independent reading level.

Professional development work for school leaders to evaluate teachers’ instructional practices. Principals are teaming across the district to support teachers.

Parent question: How do you ensure teachers are improving in their balanced literacy practices?

We are equipping principals with the tools and skills of what to look for when assessing where their teachers are at in the implementation of balanced literacy practices.

Principals are directly evaluated by Superintendent and have monthly conversations, tour classrooms

Dr. Blasko is the principals’ coach instead of evaluator, checking in for accountability in completing scheduled tasks

UW CEL coach, Maria Losee, and Dr. Blasko visited every classroom in the entire district to look for the alignment of balanced literacy practices

Parent question: What professional development is provided for paraeducators?

We believe strong paraeducator support is critical. We have been working on funding for professional development for paraeducators, but it will take some time to get this implemented.
 

Moving from STAR Assessment to i-Ready Assessment in grades K-8

STAR is not aligned with WA state learning standards and has not been informative of student needs in meeting state standards.

Started looking at other options to better predict learning progressing towards WA state learning standards.

Review of our student data showed that our students were scoring at high levels on STAR and then not meeting standards on SBA state testing. i-Ready is directly correlated to WA state learning standards and more accurately predicts SBA test scores. i-Ready also offers differentiated instruction for students individual needs. In addition to assessing students, i-Ready also offers 45 minutes max of intervention lessons on computer coupled with classroom core instruction

Piloting i-Ready at our middle schools this year and some elementaries will pilot it for special needs students this year. All elementaries will implement i-Ready next year.

Parent question: Why did all board members vote to not approve the portable moves? Where is the district planning to locate the 18-21 Transitions program, which was supposed to be relocated to one of those portables moved to the high school?

The original plan was to move our surplus portable to MHS once school construction projects were completed. The original bids to move portables to high school came in around $1M, but costs skyrocketed over the summer. After increased costs related to union bargaining and a loss of levy dollars (cut in half), we were left with a $2M deficit in district budget. We have more staff than the state defined “prototypical model” that they fund and we don’t want to reduce staff.

We have plenty of space for the MHS students, so we don’t need portables added there. Leaders enrollment and MHS enrollment is down. The board cannot justify money spent on moving portables at this time. Potential to move just special education portable (purchased with federal dollars) or upgrade current buildings for the Transition Program, currently located in Wagner Center.

Increased Credit Requirements for high school graduation and the possibility of Monroe High School moving to an A/B schedule next year

More information will be provided at the next school board meeting (Nov 13) & at the Parent Hub meeting on Nov 14.

The state required number of credits required for high school students to graduate will be increasing to 24 credits. To offer more flexibility in schedules and allow students to take a larger variety of courses, Monroe High School is considering moving from a 6-period day to an A/B schedule. This would mean students are enrolled in 8 classes per grading period, but only attend 4 courses per day (A day) and the other four courses on alternating days (B day). Daily classes would be longer in duration to allow teacher to go deeper into instruction and the addition of courses would allow students to take additional courses.

December 13, 2018

 

Number of parents in attendance at 10:00 a.m. chat: 4
Number of parents in attendance at 6:00 p.m. chat: cancelled due to conflicting school events

Special guests: Ed Crow and Joanne Dickinson

Designated parent group representatives from each school:
Monroe High School: Kim Cripe
Hidden River Middle School: Deb Seaney
Park Place Middle School: no parent reps in attendance
Salem Woods Elementary: Dustin Schlicemeyer
Chain Lake Elementary: no parent reps in attendance
Fryelands Elementary: no parent reps in attendance
Frank Wagner Elementary:
Maltby Elementary:

*If you are unable to attend a chat and have questions, input, or feedback, please reach out to the parent representative at your school. These parents serve as the communication liaison between families and district staff.

Follow up to discussions/questions from the November Superintendent’s Chat:
Transitions Program (students 18-21)

  • Working to extend business partnerships and job opportunities.
  • Washer/dryer is on-site and can be used by the program.

New topics:

MHS 8 period schedule
Q: How will affect electives? A: It will increase the opportunities and access to electives.

  • MHS is excited about:

    • Ability and access to more electives. Kids can explore their interests and take a variety of classes.

    • Ability to add additional support classes:

      • Struggling in math? Take a support class (extension class) with their assigned math teacher.

      • Sign up for AP and and the support class to maximize success.

    • Orange day/Black day = alternating schedule

    • Gives students choice and flexibility in their schedule

    • Adds a study skills class to increase success in rigorous courses

    • Allows MHS to evaluate how instruction is delivered

    • Outline in course catalog approx how many hours each week of homework to be expected

    • Introduce critical thinking across the board (pe, choir, etc.)

    • Surveyed possible electives and classes to 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th

Safe Schools App Launch

  • Another opportunity to report issues/concerns:

    • Allows for two way communication

    • Q: can you make the entries more specific i.e. force you to pick a school/location/etc.? A: No. The very anonymous nature of SafeSchools encourages usage.

    • Parent expressed hope that the app lands well with kids and usage of SafeSchools increases

    • Can parents look at the report of usage? End of the year Joanne provides that report to the School Board and it is available on BoardDocs.

    • Middle level utilizes (7-9) SafeSchools the most, right now.

i-Ready

Link to intro video: https://www.curriculumassociates.com/products/iready/i-ready-takethetour.aspx

Parent request: i-Ready presents the need for headphones (classroom sets? Set in backpack?) District to address this request with schools.

Drug use and vaping at school

  • Suggestion - Cell phone use class for parents at elementary level
  • Seminar for parents on drug/vaping use before middle school
  • State-wide discipline policies
  • As a district, we are growing the security team which means more eyes in more places.
  • We are also working in partnership with the City of Monroe.
  • Our district has one of the most robust health teams in the state that is excellent at grant research and writing.