We always welcome your thoughts! Please feel free to comment on specific posts or send your comments to us at feedback@tamdistrict.org.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 23 Board Meeting to be Held at Tam High

It's time for our third On the Road Board meeting which will be held on Wednesday, October 23, at Tamalpais High School.  You can read about our earlier On the Road meetings here and here.  Open session starts at 7:00 p.m. in Classroom 2020 (Rm. 300).  In addition to other Board business, the agenda is packed with Tam-specific topics, including:
  • Principal Julie Synyard, teachers David Tarpinian and David Rice, and students, will discuss the development of Tam's CORE program, and how work begun this summer in TUHSD's Instructional Technology Teacher Collaborative is being implemented
  • Teachers Christina Amoroso and Aaron Pribble, along with Principal Julie Synyard,  will discuss the recent Crucial Conversations training and how it will impact daily work with students, staff, and the community 
  • The Physical Education teachers and Principal Julie Synyard  will discuss how work done as a Professional Learning Community has enhanced work with program goals, proficiency scales, and curricular delivery
  • Teacher Brian Zailian and Principal Julie Synyard will provide an update on the Global Studies program
There will be opportunities for public comment on any agenda item.  In addition to the Tam High presentations, the regular business of the Board of Trustees will be conducted.
It is our intention is to make these meetings as interesting and accessible as possible for students, parents, and community members; therefore, the Tam-specific presentations will be the first items on the discussion agenda.
When:   Wednesday, October 23, 2013, at 7:00 p.m.
Where:  Classroom 2020 (Rm. 300)
              Tamalpais High School
              700 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley
I hope to see you at Tam!  This is a great opportunity to learn more about some of the fabulous things happening at Tamalpais High School--and a chance to see local government at work. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Every Voter Should Know About School Boards

Public participation in local government is the foundation of American democracy.  Nowhere is this more evident than in our public schools, where elected boards of education work together to ensure that systems and policies are in place to support student learning.  Since the decisions of a school board impact our children, the stakes are high, and it's essential that voters take the time to be informed before they cast their ballots.
The Role of the Board
Although school board meetings sometimes look structured and routine to the outside observer, the board makes a number of very important decisions about how our schools operate.  It's important to remember that school districts are governed collectively by boards, rather than by individual trustees.  Because the board is a governmental body, it can only take action by majority vote at a public meeting.  According to the American Associations of School Boards, there are some characteristics that are common to good school boards no matter where they are in the country:
  • Good boards set a vision for their districts based on input from stakeholders.  The vision is an aspirational statement of what should be true for all students.  Decisions of the board should be made in light of the mission.
  • Good school boards set policy for the district and listen to a variety of stakeholder groups as a part of the policy-setting process.
  • Good school boards understand the budget and ensure that it responsibly supports the mission.
  • Good boards attempt to reach decisions that all members can support.
  • Good school boards make every effort to operate openly by encouraging public attendance at their meetings and keeping constituents informed of the district's progress.
  • Good boards are efficient and have protocols and procedures for how they will operate as a team.
  • Good boards know that they are in the business of education.  They talk about education, they study the needs of students, and they are familiar with current educational research.
  • Good school boards know the difference between governance (which is the board's job) and management (which is the administration's job), and place a high priority on respecting that difference.
What to Look for in an Individual Trustee
Good school trustees can come from all walks of life.  The ability to work together as a team is not determined by age, race, occupation, income, or social standing.  Both the California School Boards Association and the American School Boards Association have identified the characteristics of effective trustees.  These qualities may be helpful to keep in mind as you are researching the views and experiences of the candidates.  An effective individual trustee:
  • Has the proven ability to work as a member of a team, including keeping an open mind and engaging in give-and-take to arrive at a group consensus.
  • Keeps learning and achievement of all students as their primary focus.
  • Takes the time necessary to become informed and do the homework required to actively take part in effective school board meetings.
  • Recognizes and respects differences of perspective and style on the board and among staff, students, parents, and the community.
  • Acts with dignity and understands the implications of demeanor and behavior.
  • Keeps confidential matters confidential.
  • Participates in professional development and commits the time and energy necessary to be an informed leader.
Effective trustees are often those who have proved successful in their particular vocations or avocations, and who have demonstrated a genuine concern for the needs of students and community improvement.  Schools and students need trustees who believe unequivocally in the value of public education.  Trustees must be dedicated to serving and teaching each and every student.
As with all elections, we should become informed voters and make our choices wisely.  After all, our new trustees will have the awesome responsibility of looking out for the best interests of our students, and our students deserve the very best.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

TUHSD to Hold Board Meeting at Drake on Wednesday

As noted in my earlier post, "Taking the Show on the Road," our second On the Road Board meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 9, at Sir Francis Drake High School.  Open session starts at 7:00 p.m. in the Student Center.  In addition to other Board business, the agenda is packed with Drake-specific topics, including:
  • From the Drake engineering program, student Luis Samartin and teacher Ben Varvil will share student-designed and manufactured classroom signs
  • Principal Liz Seabury, teacher Chizzie Brown, and Trek students will give an update on the New Tech Pilot program, including a student presentation on digital citizenship
  • Leadership students, teacher Kendall Galli, and Principal Seabury will present "Drake is M.A.G.I.C." ~  Hint:  It stands for Making A Greater Individual Commitment  
  • Drake's bid to become an Ocean Guardian School will be discussed by Principal Seabury, teacher Michael Wing, and students
There will be opportunities for public comment on any agenda item.  In addition to the Drake presentations, the regular business of the Board of Trustees will be conducted.
It is our intention is to make these meetings as interesting and accessible as possible for students, parents, and community members; therefore, the Drake-specific presentations will be the first items on the discussion agenda.
When:   Wednesday, October 9, 2013, at 7:00 p.m.
Where:  The Student Center
              Sir Francis Drake High School
              1327 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo
I hope to see you there!  This is a great opportunity to learn more about the great things happening at Drake--and a chance to see government in action. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tam High School's Conservatory Theatre Ensemble Does it Again!


Tam High School's award-winning Conservatory Theatre Ensemble (CTE) is back in action with an amazing production of The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing.
These two Shakespeare classics have been trimmed to just over an hour each and will be performed together.  The cast of 21 and the technical team of nearly 20 have been working hard to create an exciting production, as directed by Juliana Rees and choreographed by Heather Basarab.
As with any CTE production, the amount of planning, preparation, and back-stage goings-on are mind-boggling.  Well-crafted sets, complex sound systems, and excellent lighting design are big contributors to CTE's professional-quality productions. 
A recent technical workshop helped students prepare for the upcoming performances.  4th year student Eliza Mantz taught 3rd year student Tizjohn Armstead how to edit sound cues on CTE's Q-Lab software.  Eliza is the sound engineer for the production, and Tizjohn is the sound operator.  Eliza was just admitted to Carnegie Mellon's School of Theatre as one of five incoming Dramaturgy majors!  Here they are editing sound cues:
4th year student Emma Boyle is the lighting designer and worked for many weeks with the director to develop the lighting looks and concept.  She has 90 cues to program!  Emma also spent weeks drafting, and she led the hang and focus this past week.  She is pictured, below, programming cues into the lighting system.
The photo at the top of this post shows the set being raised by the ensemble.  4th year student Lucy Peterson conceived and designed the set, and led a team of peers in the construction.
Now that you know just a bit of what goes into making a spectacular CTE production, don't you want to see a performance?
The show plays October 8 through October 12 in the Caldwell Theatre at Tamalpais High School.  Click here for tickets and more information.
Thank you to CTE teachers, Ben Cleaveland and Susan Brashear, for providing information and photographs for this post.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Parents, Teens, and Social Media

In addition to my “day job” as the TUHSD superintendent, I am also the parent of two high school students.   Those that know me well understand that being a superintendent doesn’t exempt me from worrying about the same things as other parents of teens—and that includes concerns about social media.  Our family experienced a strange electronic phenomenon over the past weekend that made me think about the role of parents in monitoring our children’s presence electronically and on social media.  I don’t know how or why, but for the duration of the weekend, my husband, my children, and I received all text messages sent to or from each family member.  While, thankfully, I saw nothing shocking or revealing, it made me wonder – how much do we really know about what our teens do online? 
A quick Google search did little to ease my worry.  The world of bullying and aggressive behavior that happened face-to-face when we were young has now moved to text messaging and social media sites. It’s not hard to find statistics to tell us that the problem is significant and sometimes results in dire consequences.  According to www.bullyingstatistics.com:
  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying
  • Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the internet
  • About one in five teens have posted or sent sexually suggestive or nude pictures of themselves to others
Cyber safety is included as a part of the Tam District's required 9th grade course, “Social Issues,” and we have recently updated our policies about bullying, but as parents, we often wonder what more we can do for our teens.  As I tried to address that question, my next Google search produced a series of disturbing articles such as,  “Ten Ways Teens are Hiding On-line Behavior From Parents,” and “How to Spy on Your Teens On-line.”   I have spent 24 years as an educator and 18 years as a parent, and I wonder if it has really become necessary to spy on our teens.  Like other parents, I would stop at nothing to keep my kids safe, but is this really the best method? 
I do not claim to be an expert, but perhaps the solutions to our cyber-problems actually lie in good old-fashioned conversations with other parents, teachers, and teens. What would happen if we each made an effort to:
  • Connect with and have ongoing conversations with the parents of our children's friends
  • Use headlines and current events to discuss "good judgment" in a digital world
  • Learn about social media first-hand by creating and using our own accounts
  • Share a bit about our daily social media use as a way to facilitate daily conversation about our children's online habits
  • Remember to make a point of discouraging kids from gossiping, spreading rumors, bullying, or damaging someone's reputation digitally or in person.  In addition, be an example of empathy and caring for others' reputations.

These are just a few ideas, but so much more is available for us all.  Check out some of the following resources:
The Marin County Office of Education is hosting "Beyond Differences" with Matt Ivester, the acclaimed author of "lol...OMG!"  These two timely presentations will provide guidance about the opportunities and dangers of social networks and online behavior that will save reputations and lives. 
The presentations will be held on Tuesday, October 15, 2013, at Terra Linda High School.  The first meeting will be held from 4:00 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., and is specifically for teachers, faculty, and administrators.  The second meeting will be from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m., and is especially for middle school and high school students, parents, and community leaders.  Please click on the flyers, below, for more information.