• PTO Meeting
    March 9, 2020
    Red Cafeteria (blue atrium cafeteria)

    5:30 - 6:00 pm - Meal from Dino’s
    6:00 - 7:30 pm - PTO Business and Children’s Activities

     

    • Lego League Presentation by Capitol Hill Students

    8 wonderful LEGO Llamas (Capitol Hill students!) presented their project about outdoor learning spaces that they are working to build. They spoke about researching outdoor learning spaces, coming to consensus on what they wanted the space to be, touring the Capitol Hill roof with Principal Hodges as potential location, gathering signatures for other students to lobby for the outdoor learning space, contacting an architect, and more.

    • Panel of Capitol Hill Teachers: Mr. McGill (M), science specialist; Ms. Hawksford (H), Middle School English Language Arts; Mr. Porter (P), 3rd grade teacher
      • How or why did you decide to become a teacher?
        • H: parents were teachers and grew up around it.
        • M: nothing else I could have done - also family grew up around it. Taught tennis for many years and then switched to school. 
        • P: definitely the $ [laughter] . Was a camper with amazing counselors. Gave back and became a counselor and loved it. Became a daycare provider. Then moved to elementary.
      • How can families best support their kids’ education?
        • M: Being at CH is a good indication you support your kids. I’ve been here for 20 years. I have been impressed with the level of commitment and care and love from parents. I’ve been at other schools and none have the parent support that I’ve seen. Keep up the good work. 
        • H: Stay engaged. Ask questions. Know what is going on in your student’s classrooms even in middle school. Keep prodding, keep asking. Check in with Schoology - even just knowing the titles of the assignments. Ask what are you reading? Teachers put information out there - try to stay up-to-date. Come to conferences. 60-75% of my families attend.
        • P: There is academic and social-emotional. I know it’s tough - I have older children. Keep the friendships/playdates going on to help kids connect with school. Don’t wait until conferences - if you are concerned about something, contact your teacher. There is no dumb question from parents. Also - kids are the ones in school and not parents. Parents step back - it can be hard to find that balance.
      • How do you incorporate social-emotional learning in your classrooms?
        • P: Being mindful that kids have basic needs. Everyday the students have to come up to me and say good morning - and sometimes I can read a lot. I tell kids to let me know if there is something going on. As a teacher, we also learn to read students and learn when kids need a break.
        • M: The social-emotional learning aspect is huge. Kids come in with different backgrounds and have a lot going on. Being mindful of this is a challenge. I try to get around to every kid and make an individual contact. I have tried other things like a mindful minute/meditation - some kids respond well. As a specialist - I just have the 47 minutes. I try to be mindful of where everyone is coming from.
        • H: As middle school teacher, every kid has a Foundations class every other day. The district has a program called Second Steps in which the ideas/concepts are relevant (emotions/making the right decisions) even if kids don’t always think so. So, every other day, there is a focus on that. With middle schoolers, there are hormones and questionable decision-making sometimes. We try to have a relationship with the students. As the ELA teacher, we get to talk about things in literature - or I see how they are expressing themselves in memoir or arguments in their writing. This gives a lot of connections. The social-emotional is a part of who they are. We do deal with it every single day. As parents, be there for your kids.
      • How do you differentiate learning in the classroom?
        • H: Give them choice. So, not every student is reading the same thing. Allow them to read what they are passionate about. There are different groupings which might exist in the classroom. We try to offer different things (I offer debate). We have those students that want a challenge and push them. We try to give opportunities, choices, and independence. And recheck with students if kids need extra support/relearning.
        • M: Be flexible and listen to the kids. The kids at this school will tell you.I got a letter from a kid recently - a Stanford graduate who had Mr. McGill in 2nd-5th grade and gave Mr. McGill credit for where he’s at. Kid was bored, and Mr. McGill asked him some questions that got him thinking. Try to figure out what excites kids.
        • P: Our reading program - we have so many books and different levels. The difficulty about differentiation is also you want to have some commonality so there can be conversations. In 3rd grade, we do animal research. Can allow a kid go to the next level or help support a kid who is having trouble. One aspect is you have to draw our animal. Some kids say “I’m not an artist” which is sad - these kid are only 8. In this school, there are some kids that go for the easy route. Trying to push kids. 
      • How is your classroom tailored to G&T/
        • P: There differentiation answers that a bit. Also, the 3rd grade team - some teachers have had different training. Teachers within the team share. Also, I have a classroom full of G&T kids. I have been here for 20 years - I know the tricks G&T kids do when they are used to learning so many things quickly and try to avoid a real challenge. I look for kids with those similar needs and work with them.
        • M: In science, we are lucky there is a revolution in teaching. My approach is about observing phenomenon, ask questions, learn background info about the phenomenon. Not just about showcasing knowledge. Ask lots of questions? It keeps the engagement high.
        • H: In middle school, we do have courses that can fit where a child is at and activities and extracurriculars. In my classroom, we have a lot of students that are at the highest level. 
      • What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher and how do you deal with those challenges?
        • M: Time. I don’t have the answer as to how to deal with it.
        • P: 28 kids. They are each doing their own animal right now. I go through my kids’ animal fact cards all the time (breakfast, dinner, etc.) Time. Sometimes, I feel like the sand on the playground is the biggest one - it’s all over the place.
        • H: Time and space. My largest class is 37 8th graders, all together. It can be hard to maneuver to each student - I wish I could have a 5 minute conversation with each student about everything a student turns it. We just don’t have the capability to do that. Disruption sometimes is an issue - whereas having more space might help with that.
      • What ideas do you have for the PTO for strengthening community at school?
        • H: Our PTO has always been awesome. Whether it’s hosting the book club or funding field trips. I applaud our PTO. Whether you are on the board or not, the PTO is comprised of all of you. Not just for your money but also to be engaged. They have helped out with 8th grade recognition. Anytime you can volunteer on any level - dinners at conference nights. I don’t get to see elementary teachers very often -  those nights, we get to bond a little bit. Even if it seems trivial or if you have an idea - put it out there. Everybody is open to ideas and suggestions.
        • M: It’s huge. My colleagues at the school are unbelievable in the energy level and commitment that they bring to their jobs. It’s all go, all the time - you have to be positive for the kids. It can be tough for teachers. I am thankful that I get to thank all the parents - the support, the phone calls, the smile, the positive feedback is just huge. The understanding that we are on the same team.
        • P: I wish you could see the look at 3rd grade students when they see their puppets and their work with the artist-in-residence, going to the theater which PTO funds. To be specific about community, just plan a play date - no money, just at Rondo. Do a different playground once a month. To take it up a step, game nights/movie nights helps bring community. 
      • What do you enjoy most about teaching?
        • P: It’s 28 individuals/characters all year long. The money. [laughter]
        • M: When you see a kid light up about anything. I wasn’t always in education and that doesn’t happen much outside education.
        • H: engagement with the children.
    • Principal Hodges Update
      • Morning drop off starting on March 23rd - this is the beginning of the Dale Street Bridge project. You will have to go west on Concordia and take a left at the upper parking lot. There will be signs. Loop around the parking lot to drop off by the yellow doors. Dismissal will not change.
      • A lot of things are happening in middle school. We have been working on the middle school model here at Capitol Hill. But we have twice as many students as usual. Middle school teachers all got together for 3 hours recently. The schedule they came up with is what was used 2 years ago: Advisory period (focused on building community and social-emotional learning) - and then  7 classes. It also increases elective offerings for middle schoolers like content based electives like mythology and book club. (Current system has Foundations in the middle and kids start their day at different subjects.) It doesn’t bring back recess. We don’t have funds to staff recess for middle school. We are able to get almost all 6th and 7th graders to a PE class in a gym. And offering 8th graders a health class. Parent asked about the possibility of St. Paul Parks & Recs staff to staff an outdoor recess. There are licensing requirements which the school run into. There are some time constraints on playgrounds being accessible.
      • Elementary school - big focus is strengthening math (this year and next year).
    • PTO Treasurer Update
      • Note $15K of the bank balance belongs to robotics/bands/chess club, etc. (It erroneously says $0)
      • Within $6K of direct drive
      • Keep donating. We will have a discussion about what the right minimum balance will be ($25K? $35K?) We only have 2 fundraisers - APEX and direct drive. There is risk involved so please keep donating.
      • Alex welcomes the discussion on minimal capital. Email her at treasurer@capitolhill.gmail.com
      • Voice, Choice, Joy Day is asking for extra $5-$7K. Because our school start times changed, when using buses after 1 pm, there is an extra fee for the buses. There is a 75% increase in bus fee. Not sure if it’s sustainable.
      • Principal Hodges shared that the idea for V,C&J Day came out of conferences for gifted kids. It pays dividends in their engagement in school. Not your typical field trip. Mixes kids in different events throughout the school. 
      • One parent asked: Are school buses required - can we look into a private bus? Private coachces can sometimes be reasonably priced. The school often has to pay extra fees when using outside vendors.
      • Parent - Has a lot of the planning has already happened? Yes.
      • Parent - How many kids does this effect? Probably a couple hundred kids/
      • Parent - Is this an avenue to get people to be involved in the direct drive?
      • The vote was yes for $5K-$7K this time with a plan to figure out what to do for next time given the concerns about sustainability.
    • Celebration of Community - Libby Starling
      • Handout for 4 options given participation hasn’t been great in getting this event going/coronovirus/strike.
      • Option 1 - Keep the event as is on March 20th
      • Option 2 - Get rid of the in-person aspect and have an on-line only option (could be nice for families to not have to deal with babysitters but does having an on-line option only defeat the purpose of community building, even if some of the events people purchase are community building events)
      • Option 3 - Move to May 
      • Option 4 - Move to fall (Option 4 wins) (could capitalize on the energy people have at the beginning of the year and allows community building events to occur all year long)
    • Spring Carnival - Kristin Abraham
      • Friday, April 17: concessions, cake walk, face painting, etc. We need many volunteers. There are signup sheets at the meeting. Watch the Headliner for the link to the on-line signup.
    • Announcements
      • Running Book Fair Next Year - need a new organizer. Email Sara Weil if you can help/be trained in at sarabethweil@gmail.com
      • Middle School Game Night - this Friday (parent lounge, basketball, arcades. It will happen regardless of the strike.) CANCELLED after PTO meeting
      • Interest in Joining PTO Board - Leslie rolling off. Also, would love to have a volunteer coordinator, fundraising coordinator. Email ptochair.capitolhill@gmail.com
      • Providing Conference Meals - signup here.
      • Running Conference Meals Next Year - need a new organizer. Email Steph Lonetti to volunteer and learn the ropes at stephlonetti@gmail.com if interested.