Thursday, November 29, 2012

Students Run Lunch Intramural Tournaments

One of the reasons middle school students are so fun to work with is that they are old enough to begin taking on new responsibilities.  Many have developed skill-sets that can translate into real-world application.  As educators, we have a responsibility to tap into their intellectual and social growth, providing them opportunities to succeed.

At DSMS, students (under the guidance of DSMS duty aide extraordinaire, Joel Newbury) organize lunch intramural tournaments each quarter.  During the 1st quarter, students organized, promoted, and successfully ran a dodge ball tournament during 7th and 8th grade lunches.  The bleachers were filled with spectators as students participated in dodge ball games, met new friends, enjoyed physical activity, and bonded as a campus.  The winning team earned an opportunity to play one final game against DSMS teachers!  Can you imagine being 12 years old and getting to hit your teacher in the face with a dodge ball ... consequence free?  Awesome!

The dodge ball tournament was beneficial for our students and campus in many ways.  One of the most important benefits was that students were given opportunities to facilitate, organize, manage, and market a complicated event, from beginning to end.  The students will use those skills in whatever industry they decide to pursue later in life.  We couldn't be more proud.

Within the next few days, the 2nd quarter lunch intramural tournament will begin.  The sport - volleyball!  The student leaders organizing the tournament are going to try online team registration for this tournament.  Well-played.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Modeling Expected Behavior

I'm always amazed at the impressive behaviors we get from our DSMS students.  They are respectful, kind, compassionate, caring, and understanding.  We are very lucky and grateful to have the opportunity to work with our kids every day.

Last night, DSMS hosted a community meeting regarding the possibility of closing 3 elementary schools, including Sandpiper Elementary School, one of 5 current PVUSD elementary schools that feed into DSMS.  I would imagine there are few educational scenarios that could be more emotional and personal than the possibility of closing a school.  During the meeting last night, Sandpiper parents had the opportunity to make public comments to the PVUSD Superintendent and his Cabinet.  Given the emotion involved in this process, I anticipated the event might include some awkward moments.

I could not have been more impressed with the Sandpiper parents, who reinforced what I have long known about the families in our community.  They were reflective, articulate, and understanding.  They were unbelievably professional while commenting on a scenario that couldn't be more personal.  They were aware of the opposing perspective and kind in the way they voiced their disagreement.

As I sat in the back of the room observing, I couldn't help but draw the connection between the impressive behavior of the parents and the way their children carry themselves at school each day.  Through a very difficult process, the Sandpiper parents were teaching their children how to appropriately advocate for what they want.  They were modeling expected behavior and it was a valuable lesson for parents in all communities.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Assistance

On Monday of this week, DSMS Counselor, Susan O'daniel, learned of an opportunity to assist families impacted by Hurricane Sandy by collecting new socks and gently used blankets, sweaters, and jackets.  The only problem ... the items needed to be collected, packed, and shipped the following day.  Mrs. O'daniel jumped into action and recruited her Pathways Leadership class to assist.  Click the link below for a quick video showing what they were able to accomplish in just over 24 hours.

DSMS Hurricane Sandy Assistance Video

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Interesting Enrollment Trends

Every now and then, I run across school data that I find incredibly intriguing.  In reviewing DSMS student enrollment numbers earlier today, I discovered some trends I thought you might find interesting.

In the last 3 school years, the total student enrollment at DSMS is as follows:

2010/2011 - 703 students
2011/2012 - 705 students
2012/2013 - 685 students

Total student enrollment consists of students who reside within the DSMS homeschool boundaries plus any open enrollment and transfer students who choose to attend.  In the last 3 years, the homeschool vs. open enrollment figures are as follows:

2010/2011 - 525 homeschool / 160 open enrollment or transfer
2011/2012 - 490 homeschool / 215 open enrollment or transfer
2012/2013 - 456 homeschool / 229 open enrollment or transfer

We have known for years that the number of middle school-aged students (and children in general) in our DSMS community has been steadily declining.  We have anticipated a drop in total enrollment for a while.  Instead, our total enrollment has stayed fairly static.  The reason is the increase in the percentage of open enrollment/transfer students each year.  As students in our homeschool boundaries has decreased, the number of open enrollment and transfer students has increased dramatically:

2010/2011 - 22.75% of total student enrollment was open enrolled or transfer
2011/2012 - 30.5% of total student enrollment was open enrolled or transfer
2012/2013 - 33.4% of total student enrollment is open enrolled or transfer

I'm guessing the trend will continue into next year.  I wouldn't be surprised if we open next school year with an open enrollment/transfer population between 37%-40%.

What does it mean?  I'm not sure yet.

I hope it means we offer a product that families find exciting.
I hope it means we offer opportunities other schools don't or can't.
I hope it means families believe in our mission and vision as passionately as we do.

Regardless of what the trends mean, we will continue to do whatever we can to help raise happy, productive, intelligent and respectful young men and women.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I believe great schools create an environment in which students invest in the school academically, socially, and emotionally.  If we're doing our jobs right, DSMS should become part of the identity of our students.  "My name is Brock.  I'm 12 years old.  I love my mom, dad, and two sisters.  I play hockey and piano.  I'm earning straight A's at Desert Shadows Middle School."

That's the goal.

The only way we accomplish the goal is to invest in each of our kids academically, socially, and emotionally.  We must strive for strong personal connections with our students through engaging yet rigorous academic and elective programs.

Last week provided evidence that progress was made towards the goal.  As I walked throughout campus, student faces were lit with smiles and excitement and they participated in project based learning.  7th grade students practiced marching drills in social studies as they prepared for the reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg.  The campus came alive after school with all-star basketball (boys) and softball (girls).  The cafeteria was filled with students and family members on Tuesday evening during another unbelievable chorus concert.

This week brings much of the same with home basketball and softball games after school on Monday (10/15) and Wednesday (10/17), as well as our first after school dance of the school year on Friday (10/19).

I can't help but notice and take pride in the way our community invests in DSMS.  Thank you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

For years I have said that if you love kids, teaching is the greatest job in the world.  I was a middle school teacher for 9 years (primarily 8th grade science) and I flat out loved every minute of it.  When I left the classroom 7 years ago to pursue my interest in administration, I left a big piece of my heart in the classroom.  I'm grateful my teaching experiences were so enjoyable.  My fondness for the classroom helps keep me connected with the kids and I hope, makes me a better principal.

Tomorrow, I will have the pleasure of going on a field trip with the 20 newly elected members of the DSMS Student Council, and their sponsors Mrs. Erwin and Mrs. Kendrick.  I will lead them through a series of exercises, activities and discussions that will help prepare them for their roles as leaders on our campus.  My hope is that the group of 20 individuals will form relationships resulting in efficiency, honesty, and integrity as they work together to help shape the direction of DSMS this school year.

Selfishly, I'm unbelievably excited to spend tomorrow back in the classroom with an outstanding group of kids, working together to achieve a common goal.  It doesn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

As the principal of DSMS, I have the unique opportunity to walk the campus every day observing and interacting with staff, students and parents.  I am constantly blown away by the creativity and commitment to excellence at our school.  At the encouragement of our youngest staff member at DSMS, I have decided to blog about some of the things that catch my eye/imagination as I travel throughout our campus.  Feel free to check in periodically or subscribe by email to my blog.

Earlier today, I visited one of Mr. Zepeda's 7th Grade Pre-Engineering classes.  Each day, as a warm-up to the lesson, a different student prepares a current event report and presents to the class.  Today's student presentation was about a new automotive software in development at the university level.  The idea of the software is to eliminate or limit glare while driving in a rain or snow storm.  A mechanism is attached to the lighting system that tracks rain or snow drops, anticipates where they will be as they pass through the light beams, then turns off the necessary beams of light to limit the glare on drivers.

The student presented articulately with such passion that I was immediately drawn into the concept.  He spoke about the limitations of the current software and benefits if it can be perfected.  The student conversation that followed was inspiring.  As a former middle school science teacher, I beamed with excitement as I watched our students engage in and dialog about real world concepts.