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Archive for the ‘Nathan Bishop’ Category

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We’ve been contacted by a parent who had a number of questions about the academic programs at Nathan Bishop.

We’ve heard about the “word on the street”, and this post is intended to clarify, to the best of our ability, the state of academics at Nathan Bishop. Ultimately, we would strongly advocate that parents come to the building, talk to the Principal, Guidance staff, and teachers, and form their own opinions.

Nathan Bishop just graduated its first full three year class of students since reopening. To say this was a pioneering group of students is an understatement. They entered a building that had just been extensively remodeled, with a teaching and support staff that was only 33% hired, and into a program that had not existed several months earlier. Readers of this blog will note that extensive administrative and community involvement went into formulating what the “new” Nathan Bishop would be. Again, if there are questions, talk to the parents of recent graduates… Most everyone left the building on “promotion day” with wide smiles on their faces.

Providence Public Schools at this time continues to only designate Nathanael Greene as having an “Advanced Academic Program”. For years, this was the best public middle school option for parents with motivated, academically talented children. There are 104 seats per year, and your child is either “all in” or “all out” of the advanced core classrooms.  Over the years discussions were held at the School Department about expanding the Advanced Academic programming to other middle schools, but entropy prevailed.

The opportunity to re-open Nathan Bishop allowed the planners of the academic programming to come up with an “a la carte” advanced programming concept. Unlike Nathanael Greene, your child might be advanced in math and average in English, and would participate in classes geared to their academic level.

There never was “tracking” at Nathan Bishop (except for a separate Math track that parallels the Math program at Nathanael Greene (7th grade algebra and 8th grade geometry)). Instead, the school administrators and guidance counselors made an effort to group students by ability, such that the teachers could differentiate instruction between the stronger and weaker students. Core concepts were taught, and enriched material or advanced goals were provided to the kids that could benefit from them. This coming year, another option for an enriched core math program is being discussed, which won’t shortchange kids by jumping ahead too quickly.

Over the past two years more and more high performing kids have been coming into the school. The administrators and faculty at Bishop see this as an opportunity to expand advanced level instruction to a larger group of students. Their goal is to meet the school department standards and mandates, and then to supplement and exceed them for appropriate students.

Nathan Bishop benefits from the involvement of a number of community organizations, including the Gamm Theater, and PASA, the Providence After School Alliance. Dedicated teachers have organized theatrical presentations (including Shakespeare), talent shows, and a Science Olympiad team. In fact, the Nathan Bishop team placed 2nd in the state-wide Science Olympiad 2 years ago, and 4th this past year… not bad for a school new to the competition!

And don’t forget the beauty of having this dedicated faculty in your own neighborhood school. While many of our children attended Nathanael Greene, and had great experiences, there was something wonderful about our kids at Bishop being able to walk or ride their bikes to school, and develop a large cadre of friends in the neighborhood, with whom they could spontaneously get together with after school, rather than having to rely on “play dates” to get back and forth across town. The value is outstanding. You have paid for it. What is private school tuition this year? $26K? More?

Every school has a few “warts”, and Bishop is no exception. The strength of any public school comes from a principal, faculty, parents, and students that are strong supporters  of the academic mission, the student body, and the school culture. Nathan Bishop has this, and will benefit from further investment by East Side parents.

Many of the ESPEC steering committee members have had, have, or will have students in the building. We’re happy to answer any questions we can, but feel that the best information will come from taking a tour of the building and talking to the Principal and other faculty members. You can call the school about a tour, or attend the Open House in the Fall (see links below). You have to take that first step though. Many of your neighbors have, and with few exceptions, were happy they did.

A few pertinent links:

http://www.nathanbishoppto.org/

http://providenceschools.org/middle-schools/bishop

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nzrIBjDidI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xHKrxTgJVE

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Providence schools has posted a schedule on-line and instructions for registering your child for kindergarten. These can be found at:

 

http://www.providenceschools.org/media/159414/registration dates for new kindergarten students.pdf

 

Note that if you are seriously interested in your child attending your neighborhood Providence Public school, you stand the most chance of getting your child into the school if you apply when your child enters Kindergarten. Once seats are filled, regardless of whether a child is from the neighborhood or outside the neighborhood, the only way to get your child into your neighborhood school (eg. in first grade) will be to fill seats empty by attrition.

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Please come support our school and our PTO at the Mills Tavern Fundraiser!
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 | 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm | 101 North Main Street

Mill's Tavern
$25 Per Person suggested donation         Hors D’oeuvres & Drink Ticket Included

Tickets will also be available at the door.

The money raised from this event will go directly toward enrichment for students at Nathan Bishop Middle School.  Your support will help promote teaching and learning by providing critical educational materials and opportunities for both students and teachers.
For information e-mail: nciniglio@gmail.com

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Headline in today’s Projo:

“Providence superintendent says new teacher hiring process is intact”

Story is found at this link:

http://www.projo.com/ri/providence/content/lusi_on_contract_10-02-11_9OQL33B_v16.693f1.html

According to today’s Projo, “Supt. Susan Lusi says the new teachers’ contract does not dismantle the district’s new hiring process nor does it allow seniority to once again be the dominant factor in assigning teachers to classrooms.”

The article then goes on to describe all of the ways the system goes around or negates the criterion-based hiring (CBH) process that was introduced three years ago, and allows seniority to be a dominant factor.

The intent of this process was to hire teachers based upon certification, performance and merit. Of course seniority might play a role, but it was not the deciding factor. Principals and a committee of peers would interview candidates, and choose the best candidate for the position. HR was to be sure that candidates were appropriately vetted for the position.

We and others have been very concerned that the new collective bargaining agreement with the PTU undermines this process… and now we hear this from the Superintendent herself.

In the article, Sup’t Lusi describes the matching process which occurs in January or February. This basically shuts down CBH to deal with displaced teachers. After “speed-dating”, Principals and teachers submit their rank order lists to a “match” system. What the article doesn’t mention is that in this system (at least as done this year), you have to rank EVERY teacher who is applying for a job, even the ones you would not want. The article also does not mention that if there are not enough positions available for displaced teachers, they potentially can “bump” junior teachers based on seniority.

“Lusi concedes that the contract does give some priority to seniority…” The interview process not only gives an additional 10 points to senior teachers based on years of teaching, but also states that at least 5 of the interviews must be given to teachers based on seniority, and a minimum of 7 applicants (if they exist) must be invited to apply. Given that this process is time-consuming, how many Principals are going to go out of their way to identify and interview an additional 5 or 10 junior teachers and give them a chance to interview?

Lusi also states “I personally would like to see the criterion-based hiring process last longer but not forever,” Lusi said. “The goal over time is to have more and more teachers placed via this process.” Does this statement make sense? If the goal is to see teachers placed by this process, why not advance the process, streamline the process, support the process, and not it allow to be undercut?

According to the article, she also stated that there was nothing to prohibit external candidates from applying for these jobs. Yet, if there is a pool of displaced individuals, and they are prioritized in several ways based on seniority, AND the contract has a no layoff provision, how would an outside candidate ever get a foot in the door?  Lusi also faults the school department for not doing a better job of evaluating teachers and terminating ineffective staff, or managing people who go out on leave. Yet, there still is no evaluation process in place. The processes that were put forth by RIAFT and RIDE have a several year timeline before a teacher who is identified as ineffective can ultimately be dismissed.  And when the school department was assessed several years ago, Human Resources was identified as a department in need of serious review and repair. Has that happened to date? We have a lot of faith in Spencer Dickinson as an individual, but how much support does he have?

And probably the most important question of all: How far does this contract go in improving the overall educational experience for our kids? We’re not holding our breath…

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I came across an article in the Projo the other day.

Entitled “Providence’s School Management Team Dispersing”, it details the “exodus” of five of six top managers of the Providence School Department, including Tom Brady, Sharon Contreras, Stefanie Federico, Matthew Clarkin, and Kim Rose. The details can be found at the following link:

http://www.projo.com/ri/providence/content/providence_exodus_06-27-11_NIOPV5N_v17.3e699.html

Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Educational Policy, is quoted as stating, “It could set back a district for years in terms of the loss of valued leadership, institutional memory and just people who know how to get things done.”

Warren Simmons, executive director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, is quoted as saying that too much emphasis is placed on the superintendent as school savior, the superhero who rides into town and saves the day (lack of “” per the article).

Around the same time, I received an email message from a friend, attaching a news article link and telling me that “we dodged a bullet.”

The article was about a new superintendent being chosen to lead Cumberland’s Schools.

http://breezepapers.com/2011/06/28/cl/thornton-tapped-to-lead-cumberland-schools

This was very important to me not because of who was chosen, but who was not… my child’s middle school Principal, Michael Lazzareschi.

http://www.projo.com/news/content/CUMBERLAND_SUPERINTENDENT_06-21-11_A9OOSQQ_v41.3ad31.html

So this got me thinking…

It has always been clear that dynamic, charismatic leaders can make something good into something great. Even better than making something great is leaving behind a structure or framework to continue that level of greatness.

We are all very dismayed by the turmoil at 797 Westminster. I’m sure Carleton Jones and Paula Shannon are doing their best to hold things together until Susan Lusi arrives. The concerns that have been aired about how difficult it may be to hire a management team have some truth to them… it is frightening to think about our school system trying to move forward without a strong central office. All the groundwork that has been laid over the past few years (aligned instruction, curriculum development, criterion based hiring) may be lost in the shuffle over school closings, teacher firings, endless court cases, and now this leadership drain.

Frankly I was also very frightened about the prospect of losing our wonderful middle school principal.

But the comment about institutional memory got me thinking…

Institutional memory in the Providence School system is alive and well, and resides in the form of committed parents, teachers, and school administrators. For the moment, I’d like to focus on the parents.

It was institutional memory that recently led some parents to protest the reassignment of the Vartan Gregorian Principal without any parental engagement. My wife and I (as parents) have served on several Principal selection committees at several schools over the years. This decision was a fait accompli, foisted upon the Principal and school community without any outreach to or involvement of the parents.

It was institutional memory that recently led the Martin Luther King PTO to protest the recision of the plan to place an Assistant Principal in their school. We all remember that the number of administrators in a school was usually based upon the number of students, and MLK will likely top 600 children this coming year as it receives students from some of the elementary schools which have been closed.

RIDE and PPSD are both struggling to come up with a teacher evaluation plan. And yet, it is institutional memory that allows any active parent in school building to know who the ineffective teachers in that building are (at Classical, for example, they are the teachers whose students (sometimes the brightest) year after year are getting tutors to help comprehend the material that is so poorly taught in class). Why is systematizing an evaluation process so difficult?

Active PTOs support numerous school events throughout the year, year after year (another form of institutional memory). Some go so far as to bring in supplemental programming, or provide support to teachers whose classroom needs are unmet by the limited school department budget.

Even among our School Board, consider the institutional memory possessed by Ms. Crain, Mr. Touray, Ms. Sanchez, Mr. Oliveira, Mr. Wise, Mr. Lalli, and Mr. Gould (before his departure) as either parents of children who attend or have attended PPSD schools, or as individuals who went to our schools themselves. No matter what side you take about the school closings and teacher firings, you have to appreciate that the Board made impossible decisions within a ridiculous time constraint. The Board members took their fiduciary and educational responsibilities seriously, and have served the City honorably. The Mayor recently appointed an education task force, many members of which also possess significant amounts of institutional memory. Hopefully this task force will work alongside the School Board, and not attempt to supplant it.

The loss of our Principal at Nathan Bishop would have been devastating. And yet, our Principal has set our ship on a smooth course. Along with a strong PTO (which came together before the school reopened) and dedicated teachers, he has established a strong esprit de corps and culture within the school. If he leaves at some point, of course we would want another dedicated, dynamic principal, but the groundwork for a great school has been laid.

So, what is the point here? Yes, the school department needs strong central leadership. But the existing and incoming leadership needs to recognize the resources that already exist here. No, parents cannot write curricula, or establish pedagogy, but we can play a role in helping to determine the direction in which our school system should move. Although parental engagement has been slowly improving, it is still often unidirectional, and trivializes the participation of parents in the process of governance. I’m sure teachers and administrators hate to consider this, but parents are both the purchasers (as taxpayers) and consumers (as parents of school children) of school department services, and have every right to work as partners with the administration to support and improve our schools.

Along with a change in leadership, there needs to be a change in the attitude toward parental engagement. Parents are a source of institutional memory for the Providence school system, and must be allowed to work alongside administrators toward the common goal of making our schools high achieving facilities that benefit all children, and are the schools of choice for Providence residents.

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NATHAN BISHOP MIDDLE SCHOOL

ARTS NIGHT

THURSDAY, MAY 19TH 2011

5-9 PM

We are part of Providence’s Gallery Night , so you can take the free Art Bus from downtown!
For information on parking and more, go to: http://www.gallerynight.info/galleries.html.
If you are not going to other galleries that night, you can park at school, of course.

NB’s Arts Night will showcase artwork created this school year by
over 300 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. Featured are selections from
Breathing as Drawing, Transforming Portraits, Typeface Design Posters, Word
Portraits, Our Own Dinner Party, Design Challenges, Where I’m Going sculptures,
Character Cards, Exercises in Perspective, Mythological Creature sculptures,
Narrative Ceramic Tiles, ceramic Drinking Vessels, and wire exercises in
Structure and Form, and Festival Ballet-inspired cut-out silhouettes.

There will be intermittent performances throughout the night by students,
including classical, hip-hop and break dance; violin, cello, drums, piano, vocals,
and other instrumentals.  A special performance by Nathan Bishop’s Build Up
the Beat group is scheduled as well.

Nathan Bishop’s Destination Imagination team won an invitation to the Global Finals! They collaborated on an Invention Challenge that includes storytelling, performance, music, and structural engineering. A table will be set up by the nurse’s office to gather support for their upcoming trip to Knoxville, TN where they will compete against other invention teams. Buy raffle tickets to win great prizes! Drawing at 8PM.
The NB Story Project student crew will be conducting interviews in the
principal’s conference room.  Project students interview our alumni and learn
about the diverse neighborhoods and individual life stories that are vibrantly
woven together through our school community.  We will exhibit some interview
materials, and interview alumni in attendance between 5-7pm!

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