Molly Colling: Welcome to all who are here. Second semester seems to be off to a good start. A few housekeeping reminders: make sure you sign in, and grab a slice of pizza. If you’re using the childcare option tonight, please compensate our teen chaperones. There are a few copies of October’s meeting minutes floating around if you’d like to look at them.
Treasurer’s Report Lex Morrison: We had an amazing turnout for BASH this year. We raised a little over $8000.00. Ruth Farrington and Nicole Brown led up this effort and headed the committee of folks who contributed to the success of this event. From a budget perspective, we are sitting well. We are $1100 ahead in the budget this year. Lex has a copy of the current budget available for anyone who would like to see it.
Principal’s Report Dr. Haynes: We were unable to find a boys’ basketball coach for intramurals. We offer the position to staff members, parents, etc., and did not find anyone. We’ll try for boys’ football and girls’ volleyball. We are partnering with Waypoint to offer a dance club after school for kids. o Just a couple reminders – classroom photos are coming up this Friday, January 18th. That afternoon, we also have Kindergarten Roundup. We usually have around 20-30 families that round up with us. o Harrison has had closed enrollment for 5 years now after we experienced large class sizes. We fought hard to close enrollment and it has been that way for 5 years. Class sizes have become much smaller during this time. What it’s also done is pulled our enrollment down. It was a significant decrease but one that needed to happen. I am now being approached to open up enrollment at Harrison again. At this point, we are still closed, but this may change. Even siblings are not eligible for attendance at Harrison as long as the closed enrollment continues. Enrollment may open up for kindergarten and first grade. Everybody wants to come here, and it is not a bad problem to have. We are comfortable and class sizes are where research says they should be. o January 23rd is I Love Public Schools Day. Also, no school on January 21st for MLK Day. o Mrs. Herzog sustained an injury (rupture to Achilles tendon) while playing with her kids and is out, possibly, for another 2-3 weeks. Haynes has listened to her voice mails and is keeping up with things. Mrs. Shafer is substituting for now and she has experience working in our guidance classroom from previous years. We will welcome Mrs. Herzog back in a few weeks, on a scooter.
Formative testing / MAP testing is happening right now – these are not high-stakes tests. These show us where kids are at and where we need to take them next. The end-of-the-year, high-stakes testing will be in April. The OWH showed a school rating scale – Harrison was rated ‘good’ but should be ‘great.’ Haynes has appealed this rating. The majority of OPS schools fell into ‘good’ or ‘great,’ and a few were ‘excellent.’ Haynes sent over 422 documents to appeal our rating. Scores are based on achievement but other things as well. Harrison consistently scores above district average. Science scores went down a little last year which may have hurt us. Schools are also scored on things like family and community partnerships, parent partnerships, and staff development. We were three points away, and anyone within five points could appeal. o The staff in attendance tonight are Mrs. Portis, Mrs. Lenz, Ms. Prieksat, Mrs. Fischer, and Mrs. Barsness.
The staff appreciation committee did a lot of work for holiday gifts, and this comes from the whole membership so we wanted to share a little of that. Jennifer Woolf showed the clipboards that the committee designed and created for the teachers and personalized with their names. There are extra clipboards and supplies leftover from that. This committee also does birthday gifts/treats, treats during testing, staff wish lists, and lunch for conferences. The teacher and staff appreciation lunch is coming up too. o Update about combined teacher/staff appreciation week (Dr. Haynes): In the past, teacher and staff appreciation took two huge weeks and everyone ended up spending lots of money – it was great but got to be a bit much. Now it will be combined into one week. This should be much easier to coordinate for everyone, PTA included.
Yearbook (Annie Johnson): The yearbook deadline is coming up at the end of February, and now is the time to send in your photos from this year, teachers included! We especially need photos of classroom activities and clubs – like Girls on the Run and Student Council and other special groups. The yearbook will have a comic book theme this year – it’s very cool! Thanks in advance for anything you’re willing to send in.
Star Grant recipients: We were able to fund all of the Star Grants this year. But the only people that really know about these grants are the people who applied and the people who were on the committee, so we wanted to give you a chance to hear from some of the teachers whose Star Grants were funded.
- Mrs. Portis and Mrs. Lenz: We have a wonderful mindfulness specialist/former teacher who comes in and covers more than just yoga. The kids learn different breathing techniques. She does yoga with them through music and stories. Mrs. Lenz brought letters that her students wrote about what they get out of learning about mindfulness. They work on improved attention, controlling emotions, better behavior, empathy and understanding others, test anxiety, and stress. Second grade also has morning meetings where the kids hear a story that helps them focus for the week. Mrs. Portis and Mrs. Lenz are using the mindfulness strategies in their everyday teaching as well.
- Mrs. Prieksat: Brain Pop has short educational videos – up to 5 minutes long – that give different kinds of information. The videos cover lots of topics – not just library. Mrs. Prieksat uses it a lot to review strategies for things like doing research and paraphrasing, etc. They can watch a video and take a short quiz. The program includes related reading and games and gives kids a refresher or just another way to make the information come alive besides a teacher telling them. There are some Brain Pop videos that can be accessed from home for free (Brain Pop Jr.). The free stuff on Brain Pop is limited – like a video of the week. Brain Pop Jr. does a video of the day.
- Mrs. Barsness: First grade got a Star Grant to go to the Safari Park. It’s important to take the kids out of the classroom and into the real world. They can see how big a bison is, look at living and non-living things, actually see an eagle up close, get out and pet some animals. It’s a good application to what we do in the classroom.
As you can see from these examples, Star Grants offer an array of different activities and opportunities for Harrison teachers and students.
Hearts for Harrison (Lex Morrison): We’ve been working on different ways to tweak our fundraising process. Starting February 1, we are following through on a project through the Omaha Schools Foundation. It is a direct ask campaign where everyone will get an email saying that we are doing a direct donation campaign. This is a way for us to avoid having kids sell things. A great thing about this is that you can pass along the link to extended family members, alumni, etc. This will broaden the base from which we get funding. Our goal this year is to raise $1500 during the month of February. We may do some classroom competitions. You’ll be seeing posts on FB and getting emails. Some schools do this as their only fundraising method. This will not likely be the case for Harrison. Another great thing about this is that 100% of every donation goes toward Harrison – there are no administrative fees. It will be shareable for everyone through the OSF website as well. We are really excited about this. Be on the lookout in the weeks to come for more information. Right now our goal is to hit it hard in February, and if we hit our number, close the campaign. We also might continue through the duration of the school year. We are still having these conversations. We’re not targeting the money toward a specific thing, but just general support for our outreach and other school events. There will be a budget committee in the spring that can help us reallocate money or make changes to the budget. There are always unexpected events where it’s nice to have extra resources.
Science and Art Fair: In the past, this has been a big process and we’ve been talking about ways that this might look the same or different this year. If you’d like to be part of this committee but didn’t originally sign up, please sign up tonight (list being passed around) or contact the PTA if you’d like to participate in this committee / conversation.
Other committee opportunities: The 6th grade celebration and carnival committees are still welcoming more members. The 6th grade celebration has happened in the past in lieu of a graduation ceremony. There is a send-off party at school and then an off-site activity (last year it was bowling). PTA has shouldered a lot of the responsibility for this in the past. It’s a busy activity, and we’d love to have more volunteers. The committee has been mostly 6th grade parents in the past. Carnival is May 17th this year. It is not as much of a fundraiser as BASH, but we still like to come out ahead. If you’re interested in any other committees, please let us know.
Robotics: They are having a short gathering after tonight’s meeting. Harrison earned first place at the first Robotics competition in two categories. The teams have made a lot of progress. Haynes got good feedback from the Saint Margaret Mary principal as well about our students’ great sportsmanship, respect, collaboration, etc. Harrison will host a Robotics tournament on February 16th – please come! It’s come-and-go for all ages. There is lots of food, and it’s a great way to see what happens in Robotics in person.
PTA Board positions: Next year, we will need a new treasurer and vice president on the PTA board. We have monthly board meetings and monthly meetings with Dr. Haynes. Please let us know if you’re interested in learning more!
Landscaping award: Although this wasn’t on the agenda, Dr. Haynes asked us to give a little update since many people have come forward with questions. Unfortunately, this has not been a smooth journey. We have been disappointed in the response from Kinnan Scaping. Dr. Haynes and the PTA are working together with TAC to try to figure things out. We got posts for the sun shade donated, but unfortunately they were not suitable. We are still hopeful that some of the basic landscaping needs will be met, but the winter season has interrupted things. We all stayed up late voting – but it turned into a bit of a nightmare. The problems have come from the individual we’re working with and some of TAC’s guidelines clashing with each other. TAGG has been contacted and has slightly pushed back but to no avail. We’re not done. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it will be what we envisioned when we won, but we had no way of knowing this would happen. We left this off of the agenda for the meeting because very little has changed since our last meeting – we are hoping the conversation will pick up again after this winter.
January 28th– Family Night at Raising Canes; Raising Canes has been very generous in helping us with Bash. We’re trying to create a reciprocal partnership based on that. This will take place from 4:00- 11:00 at the Raising Canes on 71st and Dodge. A percentage of your purchase will come back to Harrison. o February 1-28th – Hearts for Harrison
February 14th– Classroom Parties; Room parents should be on the lookout for more info about this
February 16th- Robotics Tournament at Harrison; An online signup will be coming out for volunteer opportunities. No experience needed!
February 18th – No School
March 7-8th – No School/Parent Teacher Conferences
March 11-15th – Spring Break o March 25th-29th – Penny Wars; Please note that this date has shifted. This is a competition among classes to raise money. Last year we made $1100.00!
Toni Choquette is the parent of a second grader at Harrison. She is a literacy specialist at Liberty Elementary as well as a Harrison parent. She “invited herself” to speak because of how much she loves Harrison and appreciates the parent support and principal support. She is very passionate about reading and loves informing parents about reading and teaching children how to read. She struggled with reading
growing up. She had parent support but not the kind of resources and strategies that would have made her reading process easier.
Toni talked to us about creating a literate home. Parents are their child’s first teacher and the same strategies apply to us as they do to teachers. The purpose of reading is always understanding / comprehension; even if a child can read the words, they may not be comprehending them. There are many things parents can do to foster comprehension. We need to think past the 5 W’s. We don’t all have the time to sit next to our kids while they read, and we often ask them questions like, “What? Where? When? Why?” but this doesn’t always lend itself to a conversation.
Text tagging/coding is a strategy for readers to capture their thinking while reading and to be aware in the moment of what they are reading. It’s the difference between deeper thinking vs. surface level and helps readers slow down and monitor their thinking. If you practice this at home, your kids will be impressed. Kids get a stack of sticky notes and use them to “tag” their text while they’re reading. A simpler one to use at home is visualizing. This asks kids to use their five senses, like making a movie. They tag with a “v,” and then kids can show their sticky notes and explain their thinking about what they read. Connecting is a another strategy. “This reminds me of . . . “ (text, self, world). They tag with a “C” on sticky note. Questioning (wonder about characters, outcomes, new info, concepts, etc.) – tag with a “?” Inferencing (reading between the lines/drawing conclusions) – tag with “I.”
They can tag in other ways too that work for them: “L” (I learned something), “!,” “LOL,” heart shape, or smiley face.
This is a great way to have a positive interaction with your child at home about reading. Text tagging is happening at Harrison but we’ve never shared strategy with parents.