Welcome Back Letter from Principal Kischner

Dear Genesee Hill Families!

Welcome to the start of the 2017-18 school year at Genesee Hill, our second year in our new building! This is my tenth year with the Schmitz Park/Genesee Hill community, and I know I can speak for everyone to say that we are especially excited to be firmly established in our new building and ready for all the innovation that can come with being settled in our collaboration and our systems. Genesee Hill is a great learning community for kids, and we look forward to getting this year started!

I can’t possibly include everything I want to you to know about in this letter so I am going to limit this mostly to immediate information that all families need to know to get ready for the First Day of School on September 6th.

First, though, I want to use this opportunity to boast openly about one bit of news we received this summer that we are especially proud about because it says so much about who we are and what we do at Genesee Hill. In June, we graduated a fifth grade cohort that represented some of the best work we have done as educators in collaboration with families. This was a cohort that began at Schmitz Park setting a new benchmark from the start. With them, we grew from three Kindergarten classrooms the previous year to four, and they amounted to fully double the size of every other Kindergarten cohort that had come through Schmitz Park since it opened in 1962. That was a learning curve to begin with, but at Kindergarten Orientation we could clearly see the real imbalance: the cohort was 68 percent male!

Despite many different initiatives, we struggled to get good traction with the kids and by the end of their second grade year we started talking about making a move that would disrupt the trend and refocus the student on developing strong learning behaviors. The move we decided to make was to create a “Boys Class” for Third Grade. This would be a class of 16 boys, and the math worked out that in creating this class the other three classrooms would swell to 30 perfectly balanced with fifteen girls and fifteen boys each. The move was controversial because it appeared to shift a lot of resource in favor of the 16 boys in Ms. Williams’s class, but it proved to focus our work as educators on the work we were doing for all of the kids. We pledged that we would commit to being very intentional about returning the kids of fully mixed classrooms for fourth grade.

There is a lot more to this story, but I want to jump to the present. At the end of June, we received the preliminary results back from the Smarter Balanced Assessment to the news that 100 percent of the fifth grade girls had met or exceeded standard in ELA (English Language Arts). 100 percent isn’t a figure we see very much in this business, so it is a pretty huge point of pride. To understand the growth this represents, 77% of these girls met/exceeded standard at the end of third grade. What’s more, the boys posted the same growth, from 71% at/above standard at the end of third grade to 94 percent at the end of fifth grade! Their math results were similarly strong.

This is a story that I feel is important to understand about our journey as a school because it speaks to the success we have had managing our substantial size (we will open with about 725 students in September, the largest elementary school in Seattle) and working together to address the needs both of individual students and whole cohorts at the same time. It speaks also to our growing focus on teaching learning behaviors, students learning to be masters of their own learning, and growth mindset. This is ongoing and exciting work, and we have a staff at Genesee Hill dedicated to pushing into new frontiers. This year, you will first notice teachers’ implementation of new literacy (ELA) curriculum from The Center for Collaborative Classrooms (CCC), new science units, and a return to our roots with Singapore Math. By the end of September, you will start hearing about GH^2 (Genesee Hill Genius Hour) . . . teaser alert!

Clearly, there is a lot to talk about, so here are some quick bullet points of information families need to know BEFORE school starts, in somewhat chronological order:

  • No school supply purchase needed: Once again the Genesee Hill PTA is supporting our efforts to reduce cost and hassle by purchasing supplies in bulk and convenient sets for teachers. Your child needs only a backpack, water bottle and, if bringing lunch from home, a lunch box. Please see the attached letter from PTA President Christine Kraynek about how you can help the PTA continue this great work.
  • In-school medication needed BEFORE school starts: Please see the attached letter from our great nurse, Sue Heffernan, regarding new procedures around medical information and student medication. She needs your help to get this fully organized before the first day of school. Follow these links for Medication Authorization Form and the Student Health Information Form.
  • First annual Back to Business Day is Thursday, Aug. 31, from 9 am to 6 pm: This is an optional day supported by the Genesee Hill PTA to help parents take care of all the paperwork for the start of school before school starts. Parents can watch the video regarding sexual harassment that is required to register as a volunteer (you only need to watch this video once) and renew their Washington State Patrol check (required every year). Fifth grade parents will even be able to write a check toward the class trip to Islandwood on November 27th. We hope many parents will find this drop-in time useful ahead of the rush of the school year, but participation is entirely optional.
  • Bell times change substantially this year: 20-minute later dismissal time four days a week and a 75-minute early release on Wednesdays (please note, this Wednesday release was stated incorrectly on the Seattle Public Schools calendars that families received last week).
    • Mondays: First bell at 7:45, tardy bell at 7:55, dismissal at 2:25.
    • Tuesdays: First bell at 7:45, tardy bell at 7:55, dismissal at 2:25.
    • Wednesdays: First bell at 7:45, tardy bell at 7:55, dismissal at 1:10 (**all Wednesdays EXCEPT the first day of school, 9/6 – dismissal at 2:25)
    • Thursdays: First bell at 7:45, tardy bell at 7:55, dismissal at 2:25.
    • Friday: First bell at 7:45, tardy bell at 7:55, dismissal at 2:25.
    • All days: Supervision starts at 7:30 (playground for grades 1-5, front toy yard for Kindergarten)
    • Breakfast service starts at 7:30 in the cafeteria.
  • Getting to school: Every morning, well over 1,000 people converge on our school – please do your part to keep this routine safe and efficient for everyone. If you would like to participate in a Walking School Bus route, please contact Sara McDougall (and come to Back to Business Day to get your volunteer paperwork taken care of). If you are dropping a student off by car in the morning, ALL drop-off traffic must go to the drop-off zone on Genesee east of 51st street. There must be no drop-off traffic on Dakota or streets leading up to Dakota (i.e. 50th or 49th). As a community, we must be good neighbors and keep the streets leading up to the school safe for pedestrian traffic. We understand SPD will be present to help enforce traffic rules. When Kindergarten starts on Monday, 9/11, please keep both sides of 51st beyond the bus zone available for Kindergarten families to park and walk their children to the front play yard. A helpful map is available on the PTA website.
  • Get organized for after-school child care and Enrichment: The Genesee Hill PTA has a long tradition of supporting kid and families with great opportunities after school. This year, Study Club will start on Monday, 9/11, and Enrichment classes will start Monday, 9/25. Registration for Study Club will start this Monday, 8/26, at 7:00 pm. See the attached list of classes and contact Chau Pho-Tung at enrichment@geneseehillpta.org with questions. In addition, Hiawatha After-school Care (Seattle Parks/ARC) continues to operate at Genesee Hill and Schmitz Park (call 206-684-7441). We have also received word of a new option operated by Island Time Ministries with potential school bus service within the Genesee Hill zone at 41st and Andover (contact islandtimekidsplace@gmail.com ; inclusion here is not an endorsement).
  • Classroom assignments will be posted on Friday, September 1st: If you want to know who your child’s homeroom teacher will be, drop by the front windows of school starting the morning of September 1st where lists will be posted (usually by 9 am).
  • Come meet new staff on the First Day of School: Since we know it won’t be raining 😉 on the first day of school (grades 1-5), please join us on the playground. Students will greet their new teachers on the playground and proceed into school (look for raised signs with teacher names). After the students are inside, parents, grandparents and guardians please join us for a parent coffee in the cafeteria. For those of you who still remember our opening Flag Ceremony at Schmitz Park, we will still have an all-school ceremony before dismissal to kick the year off together. We are looking forward to everyone getting to know our new staff joining our team:
    • Constance Thomas, Assistant Principal
    • Theresa Njoku, Library
    • Shawn Cudney, PE
    • Michael Washington, Kindergarten
    • Erin Munavu, 1st Grade
    • Jennifer Kwintner, 3rd Grade
    • Per Junkerman, 4th Grade
    • Shirley Smith, 4th Grade
    • Lauren Fuller, 5th grade

There is a lot more share. Please plan on coming for Curriculum Night on September 14th (grades 1-5, specific times for grade levels will be forthcoming). At that time, we’ll provide plenty of information about how you can support kids this year at Genesee Hill.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone soon! Please let us know if you have any questions!

Gerrit Kischner, Principal, gakischner@seattleschools.org

Liz Dunn, Assistant Principal, eadunn@seattleschools.org

Constance Thomas, Assistant Principal, cothomas@seattleschools.org

Pam Jones, Administrative Secretary, pkjones@seattleschools.org

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