Superintendent’s Message 3-21-16

March 21, 2016

From the desk of the Superintendent

Dear Parents/Guardians and Community Members,

As we begin the District’s Spring Recess, I have several brief items for our education community.

I am pleased to announce that on March 16, the SRMS Grade Alignment Task Force unanimously agreed to recommend to the Board of Directors maintaining 6th grade at the middle school level. A sincere “thank you” to those Task Force members whose insights, garnered from participation on the original task force, proved to be invaluable and to those members of our community who volunteered to serve on the current task force. I believe that the benefits from the current work are threefold for the District. We completed the task presented by the last committee through our review of the updated enrollment projections and facilities reports. Secondly, we added to our knowledge of anticipated residential development (proposed and potential) which will inform short term District decisions about use of the school buildings and revenue projections. Finally, we presented information to our constituents about our evolving practice of moving one time revenues into our capital improvement and debt service funds as a way of preparing for our needed facilities improvements.

UD Proud! Our Upper Dublin High School swimmers excelled at the PIAA State Championships last week with the boys team following their District One championship by taking the podium as State Runner-Up to LaSalle College High School. Michael Jensen was recognized as “Swimmer of the Meet” for his outstanding achievement. Our girls team finished the meet 14th overall. Congratulations to our UD swimmers for an outstanding season. Full coverage of the 2015-2016 Cardinal swimming & diving season can be found at www.udswimming.com.

Blog Post Image: UDHS 2016 States Team – just before leaving “The Cardinal’s Nest” (L to R): Boys head coach Geoff Scheuer; Alex Flynn, Girls head coach Pat Redican, Ogden Leyens, Saemmi Yoon, Abbie Amdor, Michael Jensen, Rebecca Pendleton, Wyatt Amdor, Jenna Johns, Jake Easton, Megan Paris, Scott Luttmann, Devon Polak, Boys assistant coach, Brandon Pierce.

Here is a link to an interesting commentary published in Education Week about the potential of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2016 (ESSA) which recently replaced No Child Left Behind (2001) as our federal education legislation. Briefly, ESSA is presented as an opportunity to leverage significant improvement in school reform efforts as much responsibility for decision making is now returned to the states and local levels. The key question posed by the author is compelling: “Will policymakers use this opportunity wisely?” The connection to our work in UD is the identification of the “most critical in-school factor” linked to student success as classroom instruction, which has been the focus of our District professional learning activities for two years. Through our commitment to developing our teacher-leaders we are moving slowly but purposefully toward expanding our learning environment in which non-evaluative peer feedback is valued and sought. You will hear much more about this as our District initiatives in learning walks, peer coaching and embedded technology evolve over the coming school years.

We are happy to announce the 2nd annual Asian-American Parent Night on April 5th, 2016 at 7:00 P.M. in the UDHS Cafeteria. We invite Asian-American parents to come out for this important event. We invite you to fill out the following survey to help prepare for the evening. SURVEY

Our work toward finalization of the proposed 2016-2017 budget continues. The Board will engage in discussion of the proposal during upcoming Legislative and Finance Committee meetings. Please visit the District website for dates and agendas for all Board meetings. The Board of Directors will hold their next Legislative session on April 11, 2016 at 7:00 P.M. in the Cardinal Room at UDHS. The Finance Committee will meet on April 21, 2016 at 6:00 P.M. also in the Cardinal Room. We encourage all members of the community to attend Board meetings to hear the discussions and ask questions. Approved minutes from Board meetings may be accessed on the District website.

As always, I invite interested members of the Upper Dublin community to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have. I can be reached at 215 643-8802 or through dwheeler@udsd.org . Follow me on Twitter @UDSDSupt.

Sincerely,

Deborah S. Wheeler, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

21st Century Project Based Learning

From our New UD NEXT series.

Teacher Reflection (Erin Loch):

I love teaching environmental science because the content easily lends itself to practice problem solving skills. Though we investigate many small problems throughout the year, typically my classes tackle a larger environmental problem in the beginning of the year and then another towards the end of the year.  Each year the problem is different as it reflects a true environmental issue that we have either at our school or in our community.

Every year, I take my classes to the Loch Alsh reservoir to discuss watersheds and every fall the APES class does an extensive water quality study.  During our visit, I tell the kids what little I know about the reservoir and always wish there was more solid information to provide. My 7th period was presented with the scenario: We don’t know much about the reservoir and we want to create an accessible resource.  Students decided to build a Wikipedia page on the reservoir in order to provide a centralized resource.  While they thought the first step was to collect information, it was really to gain some 21st century skills and awareness. To help with this we gathered a team of professionals. Not only did we enlist our school librarian, we also had the privilege of working with the district’s Director of Technology and K-12 Instructional Technology Specialist. As a result, students were provided with many perspectives on why this project was not just important for a grade in my class. Once these conversations and “trainings” took place (students became certified Wikipedia editors!), now we could tackle what they thought would be the first step! What an amazing opportunity to teach the complexities of group work and technology skills all at the same time. So off to the library we went…

With the help of Mrs. Kane (Head Teen Librarian), students explored primary documents at the Upper Dublin Township Library.  Sifting through meeting notes, books, and archived maps was a new experience for most students.  While paging through documents, one student commented, “I really wish we could google this.”  Several replied, in unison, “That’s the point of our page!”

Final touches to the Wikipedia page are currently taking place, so look for our “Loch Alsh Reservoir” page soon!

The Role of Technology

Of course, easy access to the internet was vital in the building of our Wikipedia page.  However, Google Classroom was also an essential component of successful peer collaboration.  Classroom was used extensively by students to post documents for whole class collaboration, as well as make announcements to keep everyone on the same page, and provide surveys to gather everyone’s opinions.  Classroom and collaboration through google docs allowed for all students to contribute and be heard, especially those who tend to be less vocal in whole class settings.
Students found our new access to technology and GAFE extremely beneficial in reaching their goals.  One student wrote, “We were able to share everything with each other and we were all able to edit it when we wanted and have our own inputs. The Chromebooks gave us easy access to any information that was on the internet.”

Student Reflections

When asked about the project (in an anonymous Google Form!), student responses centered around the themes of peer collaboration, new experiences, and skills development.

Here’s what they had to say:  

 

    • “I liked how we worked in a team and if we had challenges we fixed them as fast as we could.”
    • “It was something I had never done before and it was very interesting.  I didn’t learn from my teacher, I learned from my peers so it was a pleasant change up.”
    • “It taught us how to create an official Wikipedia page which we never even thought about doing before. I enjoyed learning how to do this.”
    • “I liked being the first ones to have to find out this information, being the first ones to ask the questions that we asked and getting feedback.”
    • “I gained valuable skills like how to organize groups together, how to contact people properly, and how to put together a professional wikipedia.”
    • “I was able to be more open-minded, meaning that I used to think that my idea was the best, but now I am open to other ideas.”
    • “We gained good people skills and how to talk to adults and act professional in the real world.”

 

 

Superintendent’s Message March 1, 2016

 

March 1, 2016

From the desk of the Superintendent

Dear Parents/Guardians and Community Members,

 

I have several items of interest to share with our education community.

The new District website was launched successfully and we thank those who suggested improvements in the site content and presentation. This continues to be a work in progress; we anticipate continuous improvement in all aspects of our communication with our community. Our District newsletter is back following a 5 year hiatus and will enhance our commitment to a comprehensive distribution of information to our community. To that end, watch your mailbox for the new and improved Cardinal Notes!

The 2016-2017 Program of Studies for UDHS includes a proposed revision to the grading scale, moving from a straight letter grade A-F scale to a scale that includes pluses and minuses. Scores of 0.49 or lower will round down to the nearest whole number; scores of 0.50 will round up to the nearest whole number. A complete description of the proposed scale can be found HERE or on the UDHS link on the District website, click on Academic Program of Studies under the Quick Links. The Board’s Policy Committee considered this revision to Policy 214 Grade Point Average during their meeting on February 29 and will review additional information during their meeting on March 28. We anticipate that this proposed revision will then move to the Board’s Legislative meeting agenda for first reading on April 11.

To share information with the community about changes to the Program of Studies for 2016-2017 a community meeting will be held on March 28 at 6:00 PM at the Antioch Baptist Church in North Hills. Specifically we will review the restructuring of ninth grade and the provisions that will be in place to support students in moving from level three to level two classes as well as those moving from level two to Honors/AP classes. Watch for additional information about this opportunity.

State Budget update: the budget impasse in Harrisburg continues. The District now has received information of concern in regard to some anticipated funding. Under the current 2015-2016 Commonwealth budget proposal, two additional months of our social security reimbursement funds would be pushed from the current fiscal year into the 2016-2017 fiscal year. While this will not be lost revenue, it would present a delay in receiving funds from one fiscal year to the next. The District’s books would therefore reflect an accounts receivable for four months of social security reimbursement on June 30, 2015, with the expected receipt of cash to follow in September or later. Additionally, our anticipated loss of the 2015-2016 PlanCon reimbursement for debt service on building projects and improvements is a permanent loss and will result in a $309,991 reduction in revenue and cash for the current year. Our Board and I continue to communicate with our local legislators about the need to finalize a budget and we encourage members of our community to join us in this advocacy effort.

Nominations are now being sought for the 2016 Upper Dublin Medals awards. This prestigious recognition program is sponsored by the School District of Upper Dublin, Upper Dublin Township, the Fort Washington Business Alliance and the Upper Dublin Education Foundation, and honors community members for excellence in education and community service. Nominations for Outstanding Educator, Outstanding Citizen and Outstanding Community Business or Non-Profit Organization are due by March 17, 2016. The Awards Ceremony will be held on May 18. Please consider this opportunity to honor excellence in our community. Information and the nomination form are available HERE.

Our annual Music In Our Schools concerts will be celebrated this week in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at UDHS, with the Choral Concert today at 7:00 PM and the Instrumental Concert on Thursday March 3 at 7:00 PM. Tickets may be purchased at the door. Please join us to celebrate the impressive talent of our students and our teachers.

The 7th UDHS Athletic Hall of Fame Awards Dinner & Induction Ceremony will be held on Saturday March 5 at 5:30. The new class of distinguished athletes and coaches includes Gary Miller, Larry Brown, Kim Faust Frantz, Katie Ewart Rusch, Hope Donnell, Paul Reilly, Michael Palmisano, Matthew Lorenzo, and Christopher Melton.  A hearty Cardinal congratulations to our inductees!

The Board of Directors will hold their next Legislative Meeting on March 14, 2016 at 7:00 P.M. in the Cardinal Room at UDHS. All members of the community are encouraged to attend. Approved minutes from Board meetings may be accessed on the District website.

As always, I invite interested members of the Upper Dublin community to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have. I can be reached at 215 643-8802 or through dwheeler@udsd.org .  Follow me on Twitter @UDSDSupt.

 

Sincerely,

Deborah S. Wheeler, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools