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News & Director's Notes

September 27, 2016

Director's Notes 9/25/16

On Friday, I met with the Room Parents and all of us had a very rich discussion about partnerships.  It was a great meeting and certainly reaffirmed that Bridges operates within the "it takes a village" framework. As I have reported in my previous Director's Notes, this year, the staff and I have spent a great deal of  time engaged in team-building activities.  Already, the time spent building staff community is paying huge dividends. Educators supporting each other is the most effective professional development there is. Too often, schools do not set up the safe environment that allows educators to grow. It is no different than what teachers must do to ensure student growth. Whole Child Education is no different than whole adult education.Good teaching and learning is good teaching and learning - plain and simple. And of Whole Child Education, the beauty of the current Bridges staff is that we have such a rich blend of veteran and new educators - all working together to support each other, and all having full knowledge of whole child education.  The great thing about current teacher training programs is that whole child education and 21st century learning is at its core.

Each child, in each school, in each of our communities deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. That's what a whole child approach to learning, teaching, and community engagement really is.  

Being a school leader is more about bringing together the critical people who directly effect the lives of children than anything else. It begins with the classroom teacher.  This year all teachers are engaged in a variety of mentor programs.  The reciprocal mentoring begins with each teacher having a grade level partner - at each grade level, there is a veteran and a new teacher. The geographical reconfiguration done this summer, so that each grade level teacher could be adjacent to each other was done by design. During the summer, I also asked each veteran Bridges teacher to "adopt" a teacher who is new to Bridges so that informal, "as-needed" meetings could occur in order for such things as learning about the Bridges culture, sharing teaching strategies, etc.  The veteran teachers eagerly jumped at the idea of welcoming the new Bridges family members.  The new teachers eagerly welcomed the perspective of the Bridges veterans. Additionally, every teacher, employed by Bridges who has not completed California's mandatory tier-two, clear credential program (a teacher has five years in which they must take additional coursework to obtain a "clear" credential) is enrolled in the Ventura County Mentor Program.  These teachers have been assigned an official induction mentor from Bridges who may, or may not be their "adopted" informal Bridges veteran buddy. There is a host informal partnering that occurs before, during, and after school, and each Friday the entire teaching staff formally meets together as a whole staff (K-8), or in grade span groups (K-2; 3-5; 6-8), or in grade level teams (1st/1st, 2nd/2nd, 3rd/3rd, etc).  It is a thing of beauty to watch them plan curriculum and assessments together, and share best practice. One more thing that is different this year than in previous years, is that I am offering increased  substitute time for peer-to-peer observations, demo lessons, team teaching etc.  An example of this type of professional development occurred two weeks ago when one day, two teachers taught a Lucy Caulkins Writers workshop and two teachers observed each of those lessons. Our team approach is extending well beyond the classroom, as well. Each week I meet with a grade span leadership team, comprised of representatives from k-2, 3-5, and 6-8.  We collaborate on a wide variety of educational issues including, but certainly not limited to curriculum, instruction and assessments, conflict resolution, trash management, and playground safety. And our students are becoming a bigger part of the culture of community mentoring and leadership.  While we have always had reading buddies, I never want to under-utilize the greatest gift on our campus - the Bridges students! Eighth grade honors students have been assigned to tutor in the primary grades, and a powerhouse student leadership group has been formed, currently consisting of middle school students. We have expanded on our Builder's Club and CHAMPS leadership teams to form  super-group named "The Wolf Pack". They meet regularly, spearheaded by Mr. Jason, and are currently tackling our battle with campus trash with a beautification program modeled after "Adopt a Highway" to ensure campus cleanliness and environmental stewardship. Over the course of the next few weeks, I am sure you will be hearing about our Adopt a Hallway program! This year, partnerships are such an important component of Bridges success. So how do parents fit in and how are they best able to keep the bus moving in the right direction? Clearly we have the right people on that bus and clearly volunteerism is at the core of Bridges support. At our Friday Room Parent meeting, we discussed some key issues and challenges that are inherent in any parent/teacher partnership.Teachers are the only ones trained to lead a classroom; all those who otherwise enter, are there to support. Yet, teachers face a daunting task, especially if they attempt to teach in isolation. So, the Room Parents and I came up with a few important intentions in order to maintain a positive supportive relationship between parent and teacher:
  • The absolute best, most sure fire way to help...keep conversations with teachers and other parents positive, constructive, and productive.
  • If a legitimate concern arises, determine the appropriate channel through which to communicate this concern.  Direct concerns regarding your child to the teacher.  Direct concerns regarding curriculum, classroom management, or school wide matters to the Administration (Mr. Jay or Ms. Cindy).
  • Encourage teachers through words of affirmation, a hug, small tokens of appreciation (coffee, treats etc.).
  • Give teachers time to adjust to their new classes of students and parents.
  • Keep teacher communications confidential; it is never appropriate to discuss concerns about one teacher to another teacher (doing so puts both teachers at risk).
  • When communicating to teachers and administrators, keep the tone of the conversation solutions based (rather than complaining)
Additional Insight and Consideration:
  • The foundation of all strong relationships is TRUST.  Our goal is to foster trust among the administration, teachers, and parents.
  • Human interactions are complex due to different perspectives and expectations.  It’s important to remain patient, open, and positive as we navigate through our interactions with each other.
  • When we discuss areas of growth, our words must remain positive and point to the next step needed to move forward.
  • Many of the changes that occur at the school wide level are not arbitrary but rather are needed for legal compliance and liability concerns.
  • Teaching is challenging.  When providing feedback, we must be especially sensitive to our new teachers, as ell as our veteran staff.
Finally, one of our phenomenal room parents, Teri Gabler, who is also a wonderful Bridges educator, shared this very powerful Ted Talk with us.  I urge all of you to log on and watch this inspirational video. Thank you Teri.  You are awesome! Rethinking Challenging Kids-Where There's a Skill There's a Way | J. Stuart Ablon ROUNDING OUT THIS WEEK's  DIRECTOR's NOTES: Don't Forget - PARENT TEACHER CONFERENCES BEGIN MONDAY.  Dismissal is at 12:20 this week.  In order to accommodate all Middle School Families, conferences begin at 8:30 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Peace Week With Ms. Alanna: This week was Peace Week in 3rd Grade. Together with their first grade little buddies from Ms. Meghan's class, we created Peace Bridges out of popsicle sticks. A Peace Bridge is a conflict resolution tool used to help our students communicate their needs & resolve a conflict peacefully. We went to Ms. Ambers Mindfulness class & learned how to create awareness by "putting our attention in our feet!" in many creative, fun & calming ways, to learn how we can create peace in our bodies. We played cooperative games & will continue to read books about peace all month long. 3rd grade also had a chance to complete their solar ovens & cook up veggie dogs & buns for a fun & sustainable snack. Third graders continue to learn that peace starts within ourselves & that tools to help us can be found in many different modalities: movement, communication, books, media, songs, & even sustainable practices & healthy foods. PEACE IN MS. MARSI'S CLASS! There's a PEACE tree in Ms. Marsi's class. It's branches are filled with oil pastel colored hand prints, leaves and apples. This tree is a collaboration and ties in with the conversations we had this week to celebrate World Peace Day. Also, Ms. Marsi's first graders collaborated to create Peace puzzle. First everyone colored the puzzle pieces then they worked together to create the puzzle. This ties in with our discussion that it takes everyone working together in order to have PEACE. From Deb Flaherty: BRIDGES GOT TALENT IS COMING!!!!!!
"Bridges Got Talent will be held in the MPR onOctober 7th at 6:30 p.m.!Tickets go on sale this Friday - Sept. 23. Please go to to purchase. Tickets are $10 for Premium Seating and $5 for General Seating. Doors open at 6pm and light refreshments will be available for purchase. Come out and support our students!  For more information or assistance with ticketing, email
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls - Get Ready For....... A Quick Reminder from the Director... The Bridges Family Handbook is undergoing the last revisions for the 2016-2017 school year and has yet to be distributed.  However, I have been asked to remind everyone that trading cards including Pokemon cards are NOT allowed at Bridges. A Farewell From Mr. Jamin: Greetings! So far this is another invigorating year at Bridges. All the students, staff and faculty are doing awesome in my humble opinion. If there are a few staff and faculty that are not doing awesome, I surely hope they strive for awesomeness in some shape or form. My update is the fact that I will be leaving Bridges this following week. Due to scheduling conflicts I am only able to fulfill half the week which is Wednesday the 28th and Thursday the 29th of September. This means Monday the 26th and Tuesday the 27th I will not be available on campus. In the year plus time frame I've been at Bridges from subbing in P.E., read live with 4th and 5th graders, being an assistant in resource, spearheading reading and math intervention seminars with CORE, yard duty duties and being in extensions, in all of the highs and lows it has been utmost enjoyable. I look back and question, when were the highs and lows truly? In hindsight there were none. It was all just positively awesome. Remember that. There is never a perfect moment to say good-bye and who knows maybe it's only see you later. "we jammin, we jammin,  and I hope ya like jammin too"~Bob Marley Cheers, Jamin From Stacie Dourthe: Harvest Festival is a unique Bridges tradition, it is a whole school/ parent led day of interactive centers that foster a sense of community and tradition at Bridges, followed by a whole school feast where students, parents, teachers and staff share a meal and reflect on the day.  Are you interested in finding out more, have ideas that you want to share, want to lead a center or just help out?   Harvest Festival will beFriday, November 18th SAVE THE DATE: Bridges annual Silent Auction will be on Saturday November 5th-plan for a fun night out! More info to come. From PAC:
FAMILY DONATION PROGRAM Our Family Donation Program has begun!  You should have received an envelope and complimentary magnet from your child's classroom.  Donations are still coming in! Thank you! The current total is $11,096. Our goal is 100% participation. Please take a moment to check out the budget for the 2016-2017 school year, so you can see what your tax deductible donation will pay for. Thank you to the families who have participated!STAFF AND TEACHER PLANNING TIME TREATS This year as part of giving back to our BRIDGES community, PAC would like to start by acknowledging our teachers every other Fridayby bringing them treats for their whole staff planning period, 1:45-3:00.  If you would like to volunteer to bring something for the teachers to share please contact Carmen.HOT LUNCH WEDNESDAYS AND PIZZA FRIDAYS Hot Lunch Window is closed.  The next ordering window is Sept. 26-Oct. 1.  If you have any questions regarding ordering please email Carmen Holder. BRIDGES' KIDS Our students are thoughtful, amazing children and young people.  PAC would like to feature a student each week who has done or is doing something exceptional for our community.  If you would like to share something please email Carmen Holder. FINGERPRINTING PAC wants to help you get FINGERPRINTED! We have budgeted $3,000 to fingerprinting for this year.  This means you get close to a 50% discount!  You pay $34 and PAC pays the rest, $35. Please call Jay Ravens at (805) 777-8171 or visit his office at 2277 Townsgate Rd. Westlake Village.  No appointment needed. PAC REPORT If you have any PAC related events to add to eachWednesday's PAC Report, please email byMonday 4:00 pm for inclusion. Thank you!
Peace, love, health, growth and happiness!  Mr. Jay

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