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Great job this school year!   The end of the school year always seems like a mad dash to a finish line.  We are so thankful to all of our staff for their efforts and our community for their support as the staff and students finish up the year.  There are so many memories that have been made ~ cheers to endings and beginnings! Did you know? There were 87 Maritime and Place-based projects this year. 84% of teachers report using Google for Education tools and applications with students. As of May 29 there were 629 work orders processed by technology staff and 663 by maintenance staff. There are over 50 community members who have volunteered for committees at the building and/or district level. There are 78 official community partners engaged in the Maritime and Place-based learning projects. Port Townsend Schools seek to be a contributing member of the greater community. We believe our focus on place-based, authentic learning builds a sense of belonging and develops a sense of stewardship for our community. What a great place to live, work and learn!
Posted by john.polm  On Jul 12, 2018 at 11:55 AM 52 Comments
Many of us have heard the quotation that teachers make all professions possible, or something to that effect.  The truth is, teachers are some of the most influential people in the life of any person. When I think back to my most memorable teachers, I think of those who were humble, yet confident….knowledgeable, yet not all knowing…..caring of all students, even those hard to like….focused on equity….and had a sense of humor.  I can think of Mr. Stamp, Mrs. Ditewig, Mr. Walworth, and many others. My reasons for entering our profession were largely because of the inspiration from these teachers, and the love I developed for my content area. For many of the teachers here in Port Townsend, I can guess many of the same reasons sparked their interest.   As more time and commitment is put into the preparation and continued dedication to be a good teacher, the more devoted teachers become.  As we set upon our annual Teacher Appreciation Week (May 7-11), please take some time to thank a teacher. Maybe reach back into your past to thank that teacher you think of from time to time.  Or, perhaps you have a colleague or friend who mentions how impactful a current teacher has been for them or their child. Let me say, “THANK YOU!” to all the wonderful teachers here in Port Townsend who make a difference each and every day.  You are the best!
Posted by john.polm  On May 04, 2018 at 11:18 AM 113 Comments
There has been unprecedented attention to school safety in the wake of the Florida school shooting last month.  Last week thousands of students nationwide participated in a call for stricter gun laws in an effort to slow the access to weapons used in school shootings. Just this weekend a march in Washington D.C. was organized by students, and there were sister marches all over the country.  Port Townsend students at all three schools participated in the event on March 14, and many area students went to Seattle to march there as well on March 24. The Board of Directors worked through many topics in their most recent meeting, which included discussion around school safety and what more can be done to safeguard our students, staff and community.  The following is a brief summary of the discussion. All of the directors agreed that the district has made many investments in the schools in an effort to make them safer.  For the most part these improvements have been paid for from the capital levy dollars supported by voters in 2012. These investments include cardlocks on doors at Blue Heron and the high school, lighting at the high school, leveling walkways, and security cameras.  The directors agreed that we need to continue to work on our local safeguards, preparedness, and training. However, Director White used an analogy that attempted to simplify the role of schools in this complex problem. I will try to paraphrase his words.  Imagine we are dealing with a leaky roof and we focus our efforts on the bucket to catch the drops and avoid damage to our home. When we have a leak in our roof, a temporary fix is to catch the drips in the bucket. The worse the leak, the bigger the bucket.  One can continue to get bigger buckets, but the leak remains. Eventually the leak must be fixed. Of course, school keycards, single point entry, security cameras, school resource officers, drills, and other training are all important. But, they are represented by the bucket.  Until our society decides to place reasonable limits on access to firearms, and invests in adequate mental health treatment, the leaks will continue. There are no easy solutions to the complexity of school shootings.  Our district will continue to invest, and likely tighten access to the buildings further.  However, no building can be completely secured short of a prison. Our students, nationwide, are letting their voices be heard. They are calling for common sense legislation that over time may help. Perhaps it is time to listen to the youth. The directors (and your superintendent) are not in favor of a prison climate in schools.  Consequently, our directors will be continuing to hold schools accountable for safety and preparedness, but also will discuss their role in advocating for changes in law that deal with the “leaks” while also supporting efforts to continue evaluating and improving the “buckets” in Port Townsend.
Posted by john.polm  On Mar 24, 2018 at 12:50 PM 164 Comments
A recent blog (10/18/17) in Education Week by Jill Berkowicz and Ann Meyers discusses the ways we use homework - sort of prodding educators and parents to think about this practice a little more deeply.  Arguably, there is academic value in homework - but it does depend on the age of the student, the level of support they have, and the feedback they receive.  The authors say, “Rather than assigning independent work because we always have, assign it with the knowledge that the practice will be correct and effective and supported with immediate feedback. Discussions and feedback about what is being implemented and how it will affect the practice of the teacher are essential.” Hmm... Experts might suggest that students with strong parent support may benefit from homework more than less supported students. While there is research that supports a positive relationship between homework and achievement, the effect for young students may be limited (Cooper, 2007).  Also, high schoolers who do more than two hours a night, may have worse achievement results (for a variety of reasons).  These are some interesting thoughts. Hmm.... I have always wondered about the efficacy of homework. If homework is intended to develop non cognitive skills (responsibility, etc…), then that is a different purpose than acquisition of knowledge and understanding.  When I was a teacher, I remember thinking that I needed to assign homework because parents expected it.  But, I have learned to keep in mind that there can be negative effects of homework.  Families can experience stress when students are frustrated with homework.  Students can also develop negative attitudes toward school.  Hmm….. Later, when I was a principal, I became interested in when homework might be a good leverage to increase student achievement.  I also became interested in how teachers might use homework in grading.  I did learn that when too much of a student's grade is assigned to homework, then there may also be an increase in copying just to get a score - the results is an unclear picture of a student’s understanding.  Interestingly, when I worked in a district that stopped assigning a grade to homework, the copying (cheating) went away.  But, I must admit, there was also a lower rate of homework completion.  Hmm….. I firmly believe that the purpose of homework should be to help students learn.  I also believe that we should think more about what, when, why and how much homework we expect of students.   There is a lot of literature in journals and books about this topic. One of the more balanced books I have found is The Battle Over Homework by Harris Cooper.  Parents, teachers or others may want to check it out.  (Corwin Press, 2007).  
Posted by Guest  On Oct 30, 2017 at 2:51 PM 96 Comments
As we begin school, I would like to take the opportunity to share some of my beliefs and commitments that I like to refresh each new year.  I hope you will join me in these ideas as we march into the 2017-2018 school year together.    I believe the education of each student is a responsibility shared by students, families, schools and communities. This belief leads to my commitment to the continued development of our place-based curriculum and Maritime Discovery Schools initiative. This belief is grounded in the idea that students need to be engaged in collaborative and meaningful educational activities in order to build the skills and knowledge needed in the 21st century. I believe we all are guardians of the school district values, mission, vision, and goals.  My commitments are to be fair, truthful, reliable, and respectful while we diligently work to deepen the learning experiences for our students. These deeper experiences take a lot of effort and thought around how we can leverage our place-based ideas, engage our community based on real needs, and assure that rigorous standards and assessments are part of every project.  Further, I would like to share a short list of what students really need. Challenge and rigor Interest and choice A sense of belonging and community A safe environment A teacher who believes they are valuable and capable Support Growth and development intellectually and socially/morally I hope you will join me in these beliefs and commitments. We can all be committed to the student experience. That is, we can understand that our public schools are where our students experience a significant part of their life. Let’s work together to ensure we are centered on creating quality opportunities for students that are rigorous, relevant and connected to our community.   Further, I would like to thank the wonderful Port Townsend community for supporting the school bond to create Salish Coast Elementary.  Many superintendents never have the opportunity to oversee new school construction, and here I am getting to do this in my first two years in this seat.  I am humbled by the opportunity and thankful for all the great people contributing – from our staff, to our school board, to committee members, and our local city, county and agency officials.  This project is truly a big team effort!   This past summer the State legislators approved a state operating budget. Within the budget, there are significant shifts in funding and implications for public school districts and how we receive and account for funding. The changes will be phased in over several years with some starting in the 2017-18 school year. These changes bring a big learning curve to all of us, and we are learning as much as we can as we work closely with the state, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), our local Educational Service District in Bremerton, and neighboring school districts. Many of the projects that were funded during the 2012 Capital Projects Levy are complete, but we have held on to some of the funds as we are continuing to vision our long-range facility plans at the High School, which includes the Lincoln School Building.  We will carry over funding into the 17-18 school year, and potentially beyond, as we continue work on Salish Coast Elementary.  With these tax dollars, we have been able to focus resources to continue to improve our student learning environments, safety lighting, student and staff safety with updated security cameras, asset preservation at Blue Heron, and significant technology upgrades in all buildings.   If you are still reading….thanks!  I do want to point out that I publish a newsletter as a tool to share information about the district. Please sign up or bookmark this to receive regular updates on our school district. 
Posted by john.polm  On Sep 27, 2017 at 2:26 PM 111 Comments