Monday, December 17, 2012

From This Principal's Heart

I've avoided this post.  My intent when the day started Friday was to write about our CCE tradition of having "Auntie Claus" visit and read to every grade level throughout the day.  It's a wonderful day where I get to spend time with every child before we send them off for the break.  We talk about the important life lessons you should learn in this season of giving - it's better to give than receive, sometimes you have to believe to see, getting everything you wish for doesn't always turn out like you plan and that taking care of each other is the most important thing in life.  I always send them off with the reminder that I love them and I mean it - I do love each and every one of them, as if they were my own. 

The day didn't go quite as planned, in fact no day since Friday has gone as planned for me.  I have spent much time watching the news and trying to make sense of the senseless.  I've spent time thinking about those children, the ones who were killed and the ones who weren't. I've spent time thinking about those teachers and staff who tried to protect their students only to lose their lives and of those left behind. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the principal who sacrificed everything trying to stop the madness and I've swallowed down a huge lump in my throat over and over again.  I've always understood the weight of my responsibilities as an elementary school school principal and I have never felt burdened by it.  I have never been afraid.

The safety of the children entrusted to my care has always been my number one priority.  Emergency plans and procedures have always been in place, designed to check and double check on teachers and students.  All of those plans have been reviewed over and over in my mind this weekend and I have spent the day reworking them to add caveats for a danger I could only scarcely imagine before Friday. There will be increased expectations, changes implemented so that every stakeholder feels secure. This school must continue to be a safe place for my children and it is of paramount importance to me that they are reassured as they return on January 2.

Ironically something else happened at school on Friday which serves to punctuate the absolute need for everyone involved in the lives of children to focus on making sure they are taken care of emotionally.  None of us can possibly know exactly what the future holds but it is our duty as grown ups to deal with what we are faced with and search for ways to help our children cope with life.  We must teach them to love and respect themselves and one another, deal with disappointments appropriately and focus on all the possibilities before them.  For some direction on how to handle this tragedy with our children please see the resources found here.

To every person impacted by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary I offer my heartfelt condolences.  I promise to always remember your losses and how they have strengthened my resolve to love and care for every member of my school community.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tacky Sweater Day

Some days you just have to laugh at yourself and have fun!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Spelling Bee

18 Rounds and 2 hours later the top spellers in the fifth grade finally spelled it all out and Jordan was the last student standing! I was so proud of all the students who represented their class and these four spelled words I had never even heard of!! I was so proud!!!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

If You Can't Say Anything Nice...

Not much I can actually say about today and if I could none of it would be good. If we didn't have bad days though, we wouldn't appreciate the good! :)

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's a New Dawn, a New Day

Best Part of the Day!

My precious teacher who underwent surgery to remove thyroid cancer several weeks ago dropped by today to update me on the treatment plan. She looks fantastic and is healing beautifully but the best part was her teaching partner bringing her little first graders by the office so they could say hello to their teacher through the window. Excited faces, sweet smiles, happy waves - hands down the best part if the day!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fa La La La Fiesta

First two of the Second Grade Musicals was tonight! It was new and the kids and teachers did a great job. I really enjoyed it. It's a perfect end to their study of how other cultures celebrate at this time of the year. It's all about HOPE!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Today was all about prepping for Accreditation.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Betsy's Letter

Today I had the honor of recommending our Teacher of the Year, Betsy McCall, for DCPS TOY. Her recommendation letter was a breeze, kinda like Betsy. How could it not be easy to explain how someone has a heart big enough for every person they come in contact with. Empathy, Compassion, Acceptance.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am beyond grateful for so many things, especially for my Chets Creek family! I am so glad my life has been touched by such incredible children, parents, teachers and staff. This week I got a wonderful letter from one of my incredible third graders - I'm also glad they choose me for you!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Creek Cares

Tomorrow one of my precious teachers undergoes surgery for thyroid cancer. She's going to be fine but times like this are very trying and during the trying times is when the folks at the Creek show support in force. Between the faculty, staff and PTA Board members over $1000 was collected and presented to her this morning at a surprise breakfast. There is no more caring group of people on the planet and I am touched daily by their incredible spirit. Biggest lesson in school today...nothing is more important than for us to take care of each other, especially when we need it most!

The Tradition Continues...

My 18th Kindergarten Pow Wow was today and it was just as special as the first. What an incredible learning experience for students. One of my favorite days of the year!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Amazing Math

I'm always so amazed at the way a student's mind works, especially in Math. In third grade today they were using a wide variety of strategies to solve and prove problems - from ratio tables to division clusters - wow! I was especially blown away by J's out if the box thinking when it came to dealing with remainders in his division cluster. Just brilliant.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Conservation of Cardinality...Yep!

I learn something every single time they meet. Wow! We are so lucky to have these mathematicians leading our work. Today we got a sneak peek of some new work on CPALMS around the common core. Do you know what Conservation of Cardinality is? I do!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Whew! What a Day!

Training in Close Reading this morning followed by an awesome PLC Principal's group at a friend's school this afternoon. Awesome Family Night dinner at Chets followed by K Make and Take and 5th Grade Walk and Talk to showcase their Native American studies. So many highlights - absolutely loved touring another school today! It also didn't hurt that the baby teacher I had to surplus there practically jumped into my arms when I surprised her. She loves her new school but it was nice to be missed.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Heart Beat...

Today did not go quite as planned...but then it often doesn't with 1250 students. During the middle of an observation I was called out for a medical emergency - for a student. Nothing will make your heart beat faster. I'm good in a crisis, I can quickly assess the situation, make decisions and stay calm. Today I was grateful to have a loving para, dedicated sub, experienced teacher and responsive front desk clerk with me. It took all of us to manage this. They handled it perfectly - the picture of true compassion. The child is fine and this principal's heart beats normally again.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Anything To Get Kids To Read

Today we kicked off our Readers to Leaders challenge to read a million words this year! To celebrate our students for meeting their first reading goal of the year and keep them motivated I allowed myself to be turned into a banana split! My children know I'll do anything to get them to read - and they promised to reach that 1,000,000 word goal!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Voted...Did You?

Made it through a crazy, hectic day at school, grabbed my 15 month old and made it to the polls on time. I informed myself on the issues, made decisions and voted! Did you?

Today's a Long One

Tonight I got to spend time with two amazing groups of parents. Our hardworking PTA Board and School Advisory Council. So thankful for their commitment to help Chets be the best school for all stakeholders!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

CCE Clothing Exchange/Giveaway

Friday night the Dining Room was transformed into a clothing store for our second annual Clothing Exchange/Giveaway. This is a great idea conceived by one of our awesome teachers and PTA moms for families to send in gently used children's clothing and then make them available to other families for free. There are even many items with the price tags still on them!! Doors open in 18 minutes...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Trying To Be A Big Girl Is Tough

For the third time since I became a principal I had to stand in front of my faculty and tell them that one of their colleagues has cancer. I tried so hard to be a "big girl" and keep my emotions in check - it happened only long enough for me to look up into their eyes. The faculty reacted with concern and an immediate desire to help, just like I knew they would. I think that is a big part of what always touches me most.

Prime Partnership (let's pretend it's yesterday)

Disclaimer: Wrote this post yesterday but never published apparently...that in and of itself should speak volumes.

I meet with our longtime partners at Chets Creek Church today. They have been such supporters of our mission the entire 15 years there has been a Chets Creek Elementary. Partnerships with the community are of prime importance to success in schools. I am grateful beyond belief for their extraordinary vision and outreach to us.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Marvelous Surprise

Marvelous Marvine stopped by Chets on Monday while I was out. I know this because of the wonderful handmade surprises I found on my desk this morning. Marvine has been retired for years but she can't stay away. Every year she creates a wonderful handmade themed surprise for the faculty as a gift when school opens. Once a Creeker, always a Creeker!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nine Reams of Paper Later

Ugh! That's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The End of the Line!

We've had a fabulous Literary Pumpkin Week at the Creek! We have decorated pumpkins as book characters, our littlest students have paraded the hallways dressed as their favorite characters, and tonight this wonderful week culminated with our PTA's Food and Fun Carnival. I'm always last - last in line at the hallway treating and last out of the building well after 10 PM. Truth be told - I love this night and I love being the end of the line!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Baby Boyd of Dance

Today Chets students got to experience a dance demonstration by former Creeker, James Chip Boyd and friends. Chip has been touring internationally with the Bad Boys of Dance who will be performing 2 shows at UNF this weekend. He is an incredible young man and this show is not to be missed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

All Hail The Queen

"The Queen" held court today and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. I have worked with dayle timmons my entire teaching career and boy do I feel lucky. We have teased her by calling her The Queen ever since she was selected as Florida's Teacher of the Year in 2004, but really, she is. She makes teaching look positively effortless when we all know it is anything but. As I watched her have a book talk with her first graders while I read the introduction to the Kevin Henkes author study she has written and rewritten, I was moved to tears. How blessed we have all been to have spent time talking, thinking, writing and learning with her. My one regret is that that time is becoming shorter as she plans retirement in the next couple years. I was shocked to find out later she was nervous, just like every other teacher is when they are being observed. I'm not sure why I was surprised - dayle is a teacher's teacher and I'm glad I've had 20 years as her student.

The Theme Is Everything

At Chets the theme defines the year. Evidence is everywhere you look, in our communications and serves to focus us around a single purpose. It is highly anticipated and top secret until the reveal at the end of the year. Each year I have people guessing or trying to trick me into telling them. Today I got my first theme suggestion for the year. :) Thoughtful, creative meaningful. You never know...

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Blessed Boss

Yesterday my 'plate' overflowed with school and family life and I never got to my post but today cannot pass without sharing. This morning I got to have breakfast with the best faculty and staff on the planet. They ordered pumpkin donuts from Cinotti's (my fav) and gifted me with a beautiful orchard and a gift certificate for the restaurant Blue Bamboo. Wow!!!

I've never felt like a boss but I have certainly been blessed to spend my school days working shoulder to shoulder with incredible people for the good of children. I learn more from them than they could possibly learn from me! Thank you for honoring me today!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

An Exercise In Frustration

I was so excited about my plan for professional learning today. I had read, studied, planned, planned some more and then fell short in delivery. I had a great activity planned for a fantastic audience and only was able to accomplish half of what I NEEDED to because I was rushed. Time is such an issue. I'm sure the audience left just as frustrated as me. We need more time in our classrooms and out of them in professional development. Time to talk and think and work together. Time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mind Is Still Whirling...

I'm so grateful for a great, idea generating, thought provoking workshop today on Text Dependent Questioning. Get of the month is about to be turned upside down.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Today Was About The Pile

Today my whole goal was to make the pile of 'loose ends' disappear from the top of my desk. These weren't critical items but they kept getting pushed further down the to do list. Simply put, I just haven't gotten to them. I love being in classrooms watching teachers teach and kids learn but I end up having to schedule time to take care of all of the little things that just pile up. I didn't quite clear the pile today but I made a very decent dent.

Friday, October 12, 2012

When Technology Won't Cooperate

Today several very important documents were trapped in my iPad because I mistakenly try to install an update on the app that held them at school. I forgot I can only do that at home. I'm sure there is some rule against it to protect somebody from doing something wrong but it sure would have made the day run smoother.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I Hate The Monkey Bars!

Nothing is worse for me than hearing one of my babies (students) is hurt. Today a very brave little first grader sat calmly with me and her teachers while we applied ice to an injured arm just above the wrist. Mom got there and we slid her arm on a trusty clipboard to keep it flat and straight and got her loaded into the car. I've worried all day and just got word - broken. :(

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Whew! My Observation is Over!

This year I got to be observed for a pre conference, observation and post conference with the same teacher. I just heard the collective sigh of relief as 83 of you realized you weren't the lucky one picked for this opportunity. :) I welcomed the opportunity to showcase the instruction at Chets and for the feedback. There are always ways to grow and improve when you're a lifelong learner!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Observations - Digital Style

I'm several days in to going digital with observations this year. I have a wiki set up to house artifacts and I created a template to type my notes in. So far I'm loving walking into an observation with only an iPad!!!!


I didn't get my blog post done yesterday. I was so thrown off by the end to a long and crazy day. Just as I finished meeting with PTA Board last night and was headed into SAC lightning struck a house next door to the school and it caught fire. The biggest problem is that house belongs to one of our long time employees. The rest of the night I could think of nothing else. They are all ok, thank goodness, but theirs damage. The Chets family began rallying immediately just like they always do and in the days to come this family will need us and we'll be there.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Today two precious first graders brought this yummy and healthy snack their class cooked for me to try! They were inspired to learn to eat with chopsticks after reading our Book of the Month, How My Parents Learned to Eat. Yum!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Using a quick snapshot at the end of a lesson to capture a student's learning, and sometimes misconceptions, is a great way to assess daily and then plan for instruction to follow. Today I got to see it's use in clarifying a student's misconceptions and for highlighting a clear understanding of the big idea in Science!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

And it begins...

Today I could easily have written 20 blog posts! So many things going on but the most fun of the day was spending an hour in a fourth grade Math class completing the first formal observation of the year. It's work - and it'll take me a couple months to get through them all but I'm excited. It feels right when I'm in classrooms watching teachers and students work!!

Some Days...

Some days my job involves fixing furniture...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Which Came First? Chicken or Egg?

Today's post wasn't the biggest thing on my Principal plate today but it certainly was the most special. For several years our fifth graders have incubated and hatched chicken eggs in their Science classrooms. It is an incredible unit of study and the whole school eagerly awaits the chicks arrival each spring. For a couple years we have kept a rooster and hen from one of the broods in hopes than we could really complete the life cycle by hatching eggs laid by the chickens we had hatched. It finally happened! Our first real Chets Creek babies were born several weeks ago! Today though one of the teachers brought me a special surprise - a freshly laid egg!

One. Last. Read.

I think today I finally finished the School Improvement Plan! I've spent many, MANY hours on it in the past month. Digging through data, creating strategies with teachers to help us meet our goals and making sure it is an accurate reflection of our work. Laborious - Yes! Worth it - Absolutely!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Off...Yea Right!

I was off today, but not really it would seem. We had an appointment 4 hours away and I've spent almost all 8 hours of the car ride working on the School Improvement Plan and studying Text Complexity. My understanding family has given me some much needed think time and I've gotten lots done! I'm sure they actually stayed so quiet because I wasn't nagging my husband about his driving or my oldest child about doing homework!

The Tables Are Here! The Tables Are Here!

Today 24 brand new Dining Room tables were delivered and installed! After 15 years our old ones had outlived their service and were breaking and difficult to fold and move. Thank you to our awesome PTA for this gift to our school!!!