Mr. Sullivan's Blog

Think Tank Meetings

posted Mar 7, 2012, 6:10 AM by Unknown user

    A few weeks ago, a brand new forum was created to give parents and AC educators the opportunity to discuss parent expectations of the school, as well as current topics in education. This past Friday, the meeting's topic was technology. The parents who attended agreed that it would be helpful if they knew what technology the school used, so that they could plan accordingly about technology purchases at home. This would be particularly helpful to students for achieving a consistent technology platform between school and home. You may view the technology that is currently being used at school by clicking on the following line.
 Click here.

The Next Step

posted Feb 13, 2012, 4:14 PM by Unknown user

    Today, for the first time this winter, we had enough snow to make recess a very happy time of the day. And, for the first time in seventeen years, I got to watch children display unadulterated joy at sledding, rolling down a hill, making snow angels, and building snowmen. In southern California, every recess was the same thanks to a daily dose of 70 degrees, blue skies, and sunshine. Here in Rochester, the activities at recess are determined by the weather, so every day can be different. It brought a smile to my face to hear the laughter and the repeated, "Watch me, Mr. Sullivan," as your children enjoyed the true winter weather. 

    Today also brought to an end a series of Next Step Coffees presented by our teachers. It was interesting to witness the six Coffees because the tone of each one was different. This confirms for me the notion that a child's educational experience is truly a collective experience over the course of several years. No one year makes or breaks a child; instead, the developmental process, relationships with teachers, and love for learning drive progress throughout the entire lower school experience. 

    I am in the process of planning the fourth quarter of Encore. If you have a suggestion for a course that you would like to see offered during this final quarter, please let me know as soon as possible. Thanks to all of you who supported Encore this year. We have served on average seventy students per quarter and are always looking for ways to make the program better. 

Second Semester Reminders

posted Jan 30, 2012, 10:35 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jan 30, 2012, 10:36 AM ]

    Second semester begins today, which in the lives of Lower School students doesn't mean a whole lot. Certainly, teachers talk to their students about the "new start" that the new semester offers in terms of academic work. Lower school students are at such significant stages in their developmental process that the social, emotional, and physical growth that takes place never stops and starts by semester; it just continues as they mature and enjoy more life experiences. 
    A reminder that I gave to students today at lunch was to be sure to come to school dressed for winter weather. As silly as it seems to have to remind upstate New Yorkers to dress for winter at the end of January, it really is necessary considering the mild (and for the most part snowless) winter we've had to date. Your children should expect to go outside for recess unless the chill factor makes it prohibitive, so they should come to school with a hat, mittens, boots, and snow pants. Hopefully, they'll have the opportunity to enjoy a little more snow before Spring arrives!
    It's also the time of year to remind parents who pick up children at car line about a couple of rules that help us maintain a safe dismissal procedure. Parents should not get of their cars while parked in car line. Instead, please allow the teacher to walk children to their cars. Parents who want to meet their children at the exit door should park in the parking lot and walk to the gym. It is also important to ask children not to run or play near the car line for obvious reasons. With all of us working together to support these rules, we can make the car line process as expeditious and safe as possible. 
    As you know, we are already planning for the 2012-2013 school year. This Thursday, fifth graders will be visiting sixth grade classes to meet next year's teachers and get a taste of the sixth grade program. Fifth grade parents are invited to attend the Next Step meeting with Middle School Head, Hank Theuer, on Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. Next week, Lower School teachers begin their series of Next Step meetings with parents. I hope to see you there.
    Finally, as I wrote in last week's blog, report cards are being edited this week, and we are hoping to mail them home by Friday. If this changes, I will let you know.
    Have a great week!

Personnel Changes

posted Jan 24, 2012, 5:08 AM by Unknown user

    The transition from Mrs. Hyatt to Mrs. Stark as the first grade teacher begins this week. The two teachers are spending Mrs. Hyatt's last week together to make the change as seamless as possible. Mrs. Start will officially begin her duties as our first grade teacher on Monday, January 30. 
    Mrs. Hyatt's new role will be that of full-time Assistant Librarian. Head Librarian, Judy Van Alstyne, is excited about the opportunities that will be made possible with a second adult in the library. In addition to library duties, Mrs. Hyatt will be initially responsible for working with our preprimary students; she will read to them, help them pick out books, and design extension projects for them, such as looking at ways that books get damaged. She will also be available to all Lower School teachers by pulling resources that support classroom programs. As teachers develop TOEs, Mrs. Hyatt's curricular expertise and creative bent will be extremely beneficial. 
    Because Mrs. Stark is moving to first grade, her responsibilities in kindergarten and third grade need to be covered. Three members of the Student Support Team will be working with Mrs. Hellebush in various ways. Mrs. Bjorklund will be working with the Reading Workshop program from 9:15-9:35, Mrs. Gebel will continue working with this program from 9:45-10:30, and Mrs. Brockler will assist students in social studies from 12:11-12:54. A group of Student Support Team members and specialists have been scheduled to assume special duties to support Mrs. Mealey in kindergarten. 
    Please remember that there is no school this coming Friday. Lower School teachers have a student-free day to work on their comprehensive January report cards which will be mailed home by the end of next week. Third through fifth grade parents can also expect to receive the results from the CTP4 testing that took place in early December. You are encouraged to schedule an appointment with any of your child's teachers or with me to discuss the report card or the test results.
    Finally, a letter was sent home about a vision screening day here at school. Although Nurse Shea does screen all of our students for visual acuity, the screening by Dr. Kaplow on February 2 will test for other visual skills, as well. These kinds of screenings  reveal issues that can be corrected with early intervention, so I encourage you to consider having your child tested.

Upcoming Events

posted Jan 18, 2012, 9:41 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jan 18, 2012, 9:42 AM ]

    Our first through fifth grade boys assembled a couple of weeks ago with scouting District Executive, Dave Cheney, to hear about the benefits of scouting. He was great about getting the boys excited about the experiences to which they could look forward. John Reese, our Assistant Director of Development and an Eagle Scout, joined us to tell the boys that scouting was one of the most influential experiences of his life. Needless to say, there was a great deal of interest expressed by our students to become part of a cub scout pack. This Thursday, January 19, interested parents and students are invited to attend a meeting at our School to hear more about a potential Allendale Columbia scouting opportunity.

    Kristen McKenzie, our Lower School Technology Teacher, has put together two assemblies presented by The National Center for Exploited and Missing Children, scheduled to take place this Thursday. The topic of both presentations is Internet Safety. Both the K-4 and 5-6 assemblies will last 45 minutes, and students will be given materials to take home. Please take time to ask your children what they learned from the presentations.

    Lower School teachers are in the process of putting together a series of Coffees that will take place by grade level in early February. The Coffees are part of the "Next Step" program, in which parents are invited to meet the teacher(s) at the next grade level. Teachers will talk about the developmental changes (cognitive, social, emotional, and physical) that generally take place in children at their specific grade levels. They will also share many of the unique experiences your children can look forward to next year. Please keep the following dates open so you can attend the appropriate Next Step Coffees: 

February 6; entering Kindergarten
February 7; entering first grade
February 8; entering second grade
February 9; entering third grade
February 10; entering fourth grade
February 13; entering fifth grade

    You will receive information about the specific time and place in an official e-mail invitation from the School.


Citizen of the Week

posted Jan 8, 2012, 4:14 PM by Unknown user

    Last Friday, at lunch, our first Lower School Citizen of the Week was chosen and honored. This will become a weekly acknowledgement to promote kind, respectful behavior in our division.
    Throughout each week, teachers are encouraged to nominate students by writing their names on a slip of paper and placing the paper in a fishbowl. Teachers look for behaviors such as helping a classmate, modeling appropriate behavior, or picking up a piece of paper on the floor without being asked. The student, whose name is chosen on Friday, receives a Good Citizen certificate and is asked to choose a small reward. The student is also asked to lead a silent "AC Rocks" tribute. To take part in this tribute, all of the students stand and are led through a non-verbal proclamation by displaying an "A" and a "C" with their arms, then pumping the air for "Rocks." 

    We're gearing up for our first Encore Sneak Preview evening on Monday, January 23 at 7:00 p.m. in the Dining Commons. Not only are you invited to attend this event to see firsthand the offerings for third quarter, but you are also encouraged to get the word out to non-AC families. There will be a delicious dessert bar, so plan on eating dinner and grabbing a sweet treat at our Sneak Preview!

    This coming Friday, Martha Bjorklund and I will talk about the two types of testing that take place in our Lower School at a Lower School Parents' Coffee at 8:30 a.m. in the theater. I will specifically discuss the CTP4  (a.k.a. as ERBs) that were administered to students in grades 3-5. Martha will discuss the AIMS Web testing that is done three times a year with students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Each of these tests has a clear purpose, and we hope you'll join us on Friday.

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Holiday Time!

posted Dec 7, 2011, 10:34 AM by Unknown user

    Beginning with Grandparents' Day, the school truly kicks into a fast-paced, holiday-themed mode! It's an exciting time at our school, and I must admit that I'm delightfully surprised at how our teachers brilliantly choreograph every special event.
    Grandparents' Day was a precious coming together of loved ones for an assembly, a special project in the classrooms, and a delicious lunch. Fifth grade teacher, Randy Northrup, reprised his Wolfie puppet show, writing a script that utilized a high level of technology. The event concluded with a slide show of the day, and the pictures of grandparents and grandchildren set to music brought both laughter and tears from the participants. 
    The second grade's Monet presentation was letter perfect. Mrs. Masterman, Mrs. Ellmaker, Mrs. Morgante, and Mrs. Ragan created a unit for our students that was interdisciplinary, challenging, and resulted in a proud feeling of a job well done by the children. Again, technology was used to produce a slide slow of two second grade trips to the Memorial Art Gallery, where parents served as scribes to their children's discovery about three of Monet's paintings. 
    Lunch time is always a barometer of the level of excitement our students are feeling about an upcoming event, and I knew at lunch on the Friday of the Holiday Bazaar that it was an event being greatly anticipated by all of the children. 
    Today, our third, fourth, and fifth graders presented the Lower School Concert at an all-school assembly. What a remarkable job Marianna Gonzalez, Lisa Barnes, and Gabe Costanzo do in putting together a highly-polished, entertaining show that highlights singing, dancing, and instrumentation! The concert is quick and upbeat and leaves you wanting more.
    The excitement is not over, yet. Kindergarteners are planning to host their annual Bake Sale on Thursday morning, December 8, in the Dining Commons. Those of us who work here have had to smell the scent of freshly-baked cookies all week as our young students get ready for their big event. What a shame, huh?
    I am looking forward to my first Holiday Breakfast at Allendale Columbia scheduled to take place on Friday, December 16. From what I've heard, it's one more opportunity for all of us to watch your children perform with confidence and joy, then to say, "Good-bye" for the holiday break. 
     The administration of the CTP4s went smoothly, and we should have the results back and ready to be sent to parents sometime in January. To help parents better understand the CTP4 testing program, I am going to include a presentation in my next Lower School Coffee, entitled, "CTP4 101." It will take place in the theater on Friday, January 13 at 8:30 a.m.
    We are also planning our first evening Encore "Sneak Peak" Open House for parents and students interested in learning more about the classes being offered during the third quarter. There will be a dessert bar available, so you can spend time enjoying sweet treats while talking informally to next quarter instructors. 
The Open House is scheduled for Monday, January 23 at 7:00 p.m. in the Dining Commons. Hope to see you there. 

Schedule Change for Standardized Testing

posted Nov 4, 2011, 5:06 AM by Unknown user

We currently administer the CTP4, a norm-based, standardized test, to students in grades 1-5.  This battery of tests has traditionally been completed by students in May.  Test results are sent to the School at the beginning of the summer and those results have been mailed to you. 

In the past, the School has used CTP4 results to compare our students’ scores to scores of other independent school students, to suburban public school students, and to public and independent school students nationally.

On a recommendation from members of the Student Support Team, the Lower School faculty decided that we could make better use of the CTP4 results by administering the test in the fall to students in grades 3, 4, and 5. By doing this, we will have the results back at a time in the school year when your child’s current teacher can use this information to enrich or support the school experience for each student.  For example, if we discover that a student scored exceptionally high on the math section of the CTP4, we will discuss that child’s math performance in the classroom to see if he is working up to his ability and to make sure that we are appropriately challenging that child.

On the other side of the coin, if a test score indicates low performance in an area, we want to be able to work with the teacher to see if the classroom performance matches the test score and, if so, support the child in every way we can.

With this said, we will be administering the CTP4 to students in grades 3-5 the week following Thanksgiving break. Various parts of the test will be given on Tuesday through Friday mornings of that week. We have found that children who come to school well-nourished and well-rested are better able to focus on these tests.

I will offer a CTP4 101 class for parents in January to explain how to interpret the scores. Then, your child’s results will be mailed home with the January report card. If you have questions about your child's scores after you receive them, I will be happy to schedule a meeting with you to discuss them.

Students in grades K-2 will continue to have their skills development monitored through a benchmarking program that we administer three times a year.


Topics of Exploration

posted Oct 24, 2011, 11:50 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Oct 27, 2011, 5:26 AM ]

Many of you have already heard about the T.O.E.concept that has been introduced this year as part of the way that curriculum is structured in the Lower School. Essentially, the T.O.E., or Topic of Exploration, is a way for students to apply the skills and concepts they have learned in a way that speaks to their passions and learning styles. Mr. Glavin's fifth graders recently finished  a T.O.E. about the novel, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. It was exciting to observe the projects the students completed, and I decided to ask them to share with me their thoughts about completing their first T.O.E. 

    George Godfrey enjoyed learning how to play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on the piano. He explained that his older brother videotaped his "recital" using an Ipad. George then was able to show his recital on the classroom Smartboard for the whole class to see. (As George was explaining this process to me, I realized what a difference technology is making in the lives of our children.) For his second project, George drew a picture of Jackie Robinson.
    Jean-Paul Klem constructed the Brooklyn Bridge out of cardboard and string. Although he didn't make it to scale, he used Google to search pictures of the bridge so that his design would be accurate. He also created and posted a You Tube video about why some people supported Jackie Robinson and some people did not.
    Synthia Marino painted a picture of Jackie Robinson's jersey using tempura paint, but also learned and sang all verses of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." (Did you know there was more than one verse?)
    Tristan Nicosia painted a portrait of Jackie Robinson that I'm posting on this blog. It's quite remarkable.
    Jailene Arroyo and her grandfather made a map of Brooklyn. What was so cool about this project for Jailene was that her grandfather and her mom shared a similar activity when her mom was a girl. 
    Band instructor, Gabe Costanzo, commented that the T.O.E. gave students a greater purpose for learning to play instruments. Students in his class learned to play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on instruments that included the trombone, the trumpet, the flute, and the guitar. 
    Fifth grade teacher, Matt Glavin, summed up the advantage of using a T.O.E. by commenting, "It allows students to work in a way that they enjoy the most." He went on to explain that since one normally reticent student's presentation was received so well by her classmates, she has participated with more confidence in subsequent class discussions.

Reporting to Parents

posted Oct 11, 2011, 11:31 AM by Unknown user

    I will be meeting with all interested Lower School parents on Wednesday, October 19 at 8:15 a.m. in the Dining Commons to discuss changes we are making in the way we report student progress to parents.

    In our current system, parents receive four report cards a year, which includes a face-to-face conference in November. Although this system has generally been effective, there have been some challenges with it. With comprehensive reports written four times a year, teachers are constantly writing, or thinking about what they're going to write, all the time. For specialists, who have in excess of 100 students, this process is especially taxing. To fill space, they have included more about the curriculum than individual student progress, an issue of concern about which  both they and parents have expressed to me. There is also a greater need to have more than one conference time. No kind of written report can ever take the place of a teacher and parent sitting down and discussing a child's progress. For these reasons, reports to parents will be scheduled as follows:

    November 4:    Parent/Teacher Conference Day with a check-list of skills performances documented by every teacher and given to parents by the child's homeroom teacher. A Plan of Action will be agreed upon by both the parent and teacher, put in writing and acknowledged by both parent and teacher, and serve as the official document that states how improvement can be made in specific areas.  This conference will be known as the Interim First Semester Conference.

    End of January: Comprehensive report cards with grades and narrative comments will be mailed home to parents at the end of the first semester. These grades will become the grades of record and transferred to each child's school transcript.

    March 30: Parent/Teacher Conference with a check-list of spring-appropriate skills performances documented by every teacher and given to parents by the chils' homeroom teacher. A Plan of Action will be agreed upon by both the parent and teacher, put in writing and acknowledged by both parent and teacher, and serve as the official document that states how improvement can be made in specific areas. This conference will also be devoted to discussing summer support and hearing from parents about their needs for the following school year. This conference will be known as the Interim Second Semester Conference. 

    June: Comprehensive report cards with grades and narrative comments will be mailed home to parents at the end of the second semester. These grades will become the grades of record and transferred to each child's school transcript.

    No matter when official school reports are delivered to parents, it is the School's practice to keep parents informed about a child's progress whenever the need arises. This can be an e-mail voicing concern about a poor performance on a test to a phone call expressing joy about a job well done by the child. Parents, too, are encouraged to check-in on the teacher's website on a regular basis to keep up-to-date about what's going on in the classroom.

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