Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Day 1

Day #1 is in the books.  Despite some last minute panic and anxiety (on my part) things went off without a hitch thanks to our tremendous staff, excited students and supportive parents.  My son (pictured), who left Step-Up-Day last spring stating, "I just want to skip summer and go right to 5th grade," surprised me again by saying the first day was great, but he couldn't wait for the second day because "now we'll get to do some things." 

Yes, the first day is always filled with more listening and less doing than we'd like.  Unfortunately, in most cases, it's less about building relationships and more about expectations.  It is however, a critical step in allowing students to feel comfortable in their new surroundings, getting them to feel confident in moving about the building - in general insuring those 'safety needs' which come before relationships and learning. 

Thank you staff, parents and students for a great first day.  The first step in a great year.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Newsletter to Parents -

August 20, 2012

Well, tomorrow is THE day.   Summer has come to an end.  Before we get too far into the swing of things, I wanted to give you an update on a few things.

Welcome Back Night – Thank you to those who attended our Welcome Back Night last Thursday.  We had a great showing and it was nice to see so many smiling faces ready for the new school year.  

Standards Based Grading – As you may or may not know, the district adopted the following guidelines regarding our grading philosophies:

  1. Entries in the grade book that count towards the final grade will be limited to course or grade level standards. 
  2. Extra credit will not be given at any time.
  3. Students will be allowed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of classroom standards in various ways.  Retakes and revisions will be allowed.  
  4. Teachers will determine grade book entries by considering multiple points of data emphasizing the most recent data and provide evidence to support their determination.
  5. Students will be provided multiple opportunities to practice standards independently through homework and other class work.  Practice assignments and activities will be consistent with classroom standards for the purpose  of providing feedback.  Practice assignments, including homework, will not be included as part of the final grade.    

The guidelines will be incorporated into all classrooms over the course of the year.  Some teachers have already been using a Standards Based Grading approach, and many more will be fully implementing the guidelines from day 1 this year.  In any case, you should see a shift across the district to “grading what matters.”  You can count on individual teachers communicating their grading procedures, as they have in the past.

Attendance Procedures – Attached to this e-mail, you should find the policy approved by the district.  In essence, it means that any student absence is considered an “unexcused” absence until you provide documentation that proves otherwise.  After a number of unexcused absences, interventions are planned.  The new procedures required a shift in thinking on my part.  I’ve always viewed “excused” as “OK” and “unexcused” as “truant.”  By being marked as “unexcused” we are not saying that the reason is not legitimate.  It just doesn’t fit the criteria.  As a parent, I realize that my children will have a number of “unexcused” absences in the coming year.  It doesn’t mean he/she is skipping school, or truant. 

Please remember to report any student attendance issues to the office.  If your child is leaving early for an appointment, we’ll see that he/she is up there and waiting for you when you arrive.

Spartan Stadium – I’m sure most of you have driven by the ‘new’ Spartan Stadium.  Hopefully many of you are planning on attending Friday night’s opening game against Mount Vernon.  There are a few new expectations that you need to be aware of:

1.     Family Passes – only admitted on the home (South) gate.
2.     Elementary age students must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
3.     Middle school age students must sit with parents or in the ‘middle school section.’
4.     Spectators are expected to be in the stands – no loitering, running around, or leaning on the fence.

Gym Floor – We are nearing completion of a long overdue renovation of the SMS gym.  Last spring new lights were donated and installed.  This summer we painted and put in a new floor.  It looks like an entirely different (new) facility. 

Air Conditioning – With the exception of the gym and hallways, SMS is now entirely air conditioned.  This is a huge step in not only providing students with a more comfortable environment during the school year, but also opens up possibilities for use of the facility during the summer months in future years.

Handbooks – Student handbooks can be found on our middle school webpage under “information.”

Communication – Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@MikeHerdliska) and my blog at for random updates on my thoughts and experiences at Solon Middle School.  Please feel free to contact me at or phone 624-3401 ext. 1303 if you ever have any questions. 

Upcoming Events –
August 24 – Pep Rally @ Spartan Stadium – 2:40PM
August 30 – Magazine Sales Kick-Off
September 3 – Labor Day – No School
September 6 – 1PM Early Dismissal
September 6 – Fall Activity Pictures

Thank you – let’s make this a GREAT year at SMS,