Parking Lot Chatter Box

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Academic and Related Questions

  • Is it true that [BYDS elementary students] have fewer [Judaic Studies periods per week] than they did last year? [Question edited for publishing.] (Answer)
  • I heard the older kids are taking the STAR test. Is that the same as the state STAR exam given in public school? (Answer)
  • Does BYDS hold an open house night for the elementary parents? If so,
    when is it? (Answer)
  • Why [are there] no male teachers in the classrooms? Why must the vast majority of teachers be young and female? [Question edited for publishing.] (Answer)
  • Who is the current Educational Diagnostician and Learning Specialist? (Answer)
  • What percentage of the teaching staff has [its] state teaching certification? (Answer)

Extracurricular and Other Questions

  • What if I am unsatisfied with the answers I get from the Chatter Box? (Answer)
  • At any time, before, during or after school, is a car allowed to be left unattended in the circle drive, under any circumstances? (Answer)
  • Are parents able to volunteer in the classrooms? If so, in what capacity? (Answer)
  • Does BYDS have any kind of formal gym class during the day? If so, is there a qualified coach on your staff who does Phys ed? (Answer)
  • Does BYDS have a buddy family program for new BYDS families? If not, has one been considered? It would be great to have a parent to contact – someone who knows the ropes for all of us newbies! (Answer)
  • Is there a way to lighten the kids’ loads? My child’s backpack is very HEAVY. Can they not leave their books at schools and only bring home worksheet type work for homework? Or perhaps do what work needs to be done in the books at school. Please help! (Answer)
  • In a prior question regarding heavy backpacks, the school responds that we can contemplate purchasing textbooks for the home. Aside from workbooks, my children have never had textbooks. What do you mean? (Answer)
  • Is it true that the 1st & 5th Grade “Buddy” program will no longer be in place at BYDS? I feel it is a wonderful experience for both ages & really builds the BYDS community, both in and out of school. (Answer)
  • We love seeing the weekly newsletters from our classrooms teachers each week, both in the early childhood program and elementary school. Could we please have some pictures included, though? Words are great, but seeing what the kids are doing is so much more meaningful. thanks! (Answer)
  • Can you please explain the thinking behind changing the mensch of the week program? Does it seem fair to make it so unlikely to get chosen? (Answer)
  • How can you all address the issues folks might be having that they’re not comfortable coming forward and asking directly and/or in person? [Question edited for publishing.] (Answer)
  • To what degree is the SPARK curriculum actually being used? I still hear about Doctor Dodgeball and kids choosing the teams when my child reports on PE. [Question edited for publishing.] (Answer)
  • Why are kids no longer collecting tzedaka? (Answer)
  • I was wondering why elementary student birthdays are no longer in the school directory. They are helpful to have when planning birthday parties to avoid overlapping, and for planning together. Is there somewhere else to access these? (Answer)
  • I was under the impression that the new school dress code required boys grades 3 and up to wear a belt everyday. Is this not the rule? Are they exempt from wearing a belt on Mondays? Clarification is needed. (Answer)
  • Why does Mensch of the Week still exist? [Question edited for publishing.] (Answer)
  • How does BYDS support its teachers? As a Jewish community, I feel it is important to take care of our community and its teachers. (Answer)
  • When is the Daddy-Daughter Dance? (Answer)

 
 

Responses

At any time, before, during or after school, is a car allowed to be left unattended in the circle drive, under any circumstances?

School safety is always our first priority when looking at our carpool drop off and pick up. School policy states: never leave your vehicle in the front turnaround (such as when picking up kids from After School Activities). If you need to leave your vehicle, please park in the regular lot and walk in. BYDS encourages parents to follow this policy. We also encourage parents to be patient with each other in the carpool line. For more information, please contact dahlstrom@byds.org.

I heard the older kids are taking the STAR test. Is that the same as the state STAR exam given in public school?

No, the STAR test that we utilize is not the same as the STARR exam given in public schools. The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) provides annual assessments for Reading and Mathematics, grades 3–8, Writing at grades 4 and 7, and Science at grades 5 and 8. These tests take several days to administer and they help determine if a child will progress to the next grade level.

The STAR test that we give at Beth Yeshurun is a computer-adaptive test that takes students about 10 – 20 minutes to complete. It is given to students in grades 1-5 three times a year to help us determine your child’s independent reading level so that we can provide them with books on a level that will challenge them without causing frustration or loss of motivation. It is one of many tools including DRA and Children’s Progress that we use to assess your child’s reading progress throughout the year.

Does BYDS hold an open house night for the elementary parents? If so, when is it?

The Fall Parent Education Night is the BYDS equivalent of an Open House. We go into a great deal of detail about the curricula used at BYDS, and we offer the opportunity to visit the child’s classroom and see his or her work on display. Unlike an Open House, the Parent Education Night focuses on detailed targeted at adults; as such, parents should have child care for the evening. Please see the BYDS Calendar for more information about dates and times of the Fall Parent Education Night.

Are parents able to volunteer in the classrooms? If so, in what capacity?

Yes, parents are invited to volunteer by their child’s teacher for special events, field trips, and class projects. as well as helping in the classrooms with bulletin boards, laminating, and any general classroom needs. Anyone interested in volunteering at school contact their child’s teacher to let the teacher know of their interest. Thank you for your commitment to contributing!

Why no male teachers in the classrooms? Why must the vast majority of teachers be young and female? [Question edited for publishing]

BYDS hires qualified candidates without regard to gender or age. Our employees are a mix of young, middle aged, and advanced age, and all are vital members of our school community. Although pre-school and elementary education tends to attract female teachers, we welcome qualified male candidates.

Who is the current Educational Diagnostician and Learning Specialist?

As many in our community are aware, our long time learning specialist Ms. Mesches accepted a position in the Katy school district this summer and tendered her resignation. Currently, BYDS is in the process of searching for a replacement that will fit the needs of our students. In the mean time, BYDS will contract with local specialists and use teachers from our staff to fill the immediate needs of our students.

What percentage of the teaching staff has [its] state teaching certification?

Independent schools develop their own criteria for hiring teachers. At the elementary level, independent schools seek teachers with solid grounding in early-childhood education, and those teaching middle school are expected to understand the developmental issues critical to this age group. At the secondary level, there is a strong preference for teachers with undergraduate and graduate degrees in the liberal arts and sciences and for teachers who have demonstrated academic achievement by succeeding at colleges with competitive admissions standards. These teachers are recognized as specialists in their major fields. Independent schools also value the professional work experience offered by candidates turning to teaching as a second career.

State certification is not usually required of independent school teachers. Independent schools hold themselves publicly accountable through accreditation – a process of peer evaluation that certifies that schools meet certain standards of educational quality, fiscal operation, and staff competence as defined by an independent entity. BYDS is a member of NAIS and is accredited by our approved state association. In addition to NAIS standards and accreditation requirements, over 80% of our lower school faculty are certified teachers.

See also http://www.nais.org/Articles/Pages/Teaching-in-Independent-Schools.aspx

Does BYDS have any kind of formal gym class during the day? If so, is there a qualified coach on your staff who does Phys ed?

Yes, there is formal PE and informal recess at BYDS starting in Pre-K. (Before Pre-K there is lots outside play time but no formal PE class.) We are lucky to have Coach Melanee Weiser, who is herself an alumna of BYDS, as our PE instructor. She partners with a grade-level teacher, as well. Together they use the SPARK PE curriculum to integrate exercise, sports, health, and science into our wonderful PE program. For more about Coach Weiser, please see our informal piece on Facebook.

Is it true that [BYDS elementary students] have fewer [Judaic Studies periods per week] than they did last year?

No, there is actually more Judaic Studies time this year than there has been previously, because Judaic Studies content is being taught in three ways rather than just one. Previously, there had been 4.5 Judaic Studies periods per week (removing art or music time from the fifth period every other week). Now we have three different Judaic times on the calendar, all of which teach Judaic Studies in a different and innovative way.

First, Judaic Studies is itself taught as a course you see on the schedule. Secondly, tefillah/services are a separate class now, which they hadn’t previously been. Each of those classes has three foci: the Hebrew of the prayers, the melody/nusach of the prayers, and the meaning of the prayers. Finally, there is an Integrated Studies program during which a Judaic Studies and a General Studies teacher collaborate in tandem-teaching a class that addresses both secular and Judaic themes and skills.

In addition, we are beginning to integrate the concepts of leveling and assessment to hold Hebrew and Judaic Studies to the same high academic standards as our secular program. We believe all of these improvements will lead to more a powerful educational experience for our students and a higher level of learning. Please feel free to address any further questions to Judaic Studies Director Ms. Olga Lara.

Does BYDS have a buddy family program for new BYDS families? If not, has one been considered? It would be great to have a parent to contact – someone who knows the ropes for all of us newbies!

BYDS had a buddy program for many years run through the PTO. It was discontinued this year. Please contact the PTO with any questions about it: bydspto@gmail.com.

What if I am unsatisfied with the answers I get from the Chatter Box?

The chatter box is intended to to provide a basic and timely responses to most, publicly relevant questions. If you would like more information, please schedule a time to meet with the Head of School or appropriate principal to discuss any of these questions in more depth. Thank you!

Is there a way to lighten the kids’ loads? My child’s backpack is very HEAVY. Can they not leave their books at schools and only bring home worksheet type work for homework? Or perhaps do what work needs to be done in the books at school. Please help!

Heavy backpacks can be a concern for students of all ages. Proper fit is important as well as weight distribution. Parents can also rotate which books are being used depending on the daily schedule. Some parents purchase an extra set of textbooks for home. Parents find that having the extra textbooks at home alleviates this problem. Since we try not to overuse worksheets at BYDS, sending them home for homework in lieu of the actual textbooks is an option we may consider. As a faculty, we can certainly explore ways that we can assist in helping our students resolve this situation.

For more information see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/27/what-heavy-backpacks-are-doing-to-kids-bodies-_n_5700485.html

In a prior question regarding heavy backpacks, the school responds that we can contemplate purchasing textbooks for the home. Aside from workbooks, my children have never had textbooks. What do you mean?

We use soft-cover textbooks (such as science and Singapore Math) in all elementary grades and encourage you to ask your child’s classroom teacher about which textbooks the class is using. Additional questions can be directed to the Elementary Principal Cindy Kirsch or Curriculum Director Cathryn Mellon.

Is it true that the 1st & 5th Grade “Buddy” program will no longer be in place at BYDS? I feel it is a wonderful experience for both ages & really builds the BYDS community, both in and out of school.

The plan is to continue with the buddy program after the high holidays. The teachers, principal, and Judaic Studies director have been working together to create a plan of action to ensure that all of our time is well utilized, and that includes the time spent working with our buddies. Please stay tuned for more news after the holidays!

We love seeing the weekly newsletters from our classrooms teachers each week, both in the early childhood program and elementary school. Could we please have some pictures included, though? Words are great, but seeing what the kids are doing is so much more meaningful. thanks!

Weekly photos are sent via Shutterfly in Early Childhood and through Weebly.com web sites in Elementary. For more information please see your child’s classroom teachers or contact the appropriate principal. Thank you!

Can you please explain the thinking behind changing the mensch of the week program? Does it seem fair to make it so unlikely to get chosen?

The way the Mensch of the Week program is implemented now, it is indeed less likely for an individual child to be given the award during any given week. On the other hand, it changes and improves the nature of the award. In previous years, some teachers gave out the award for basic decency expected of all of our students, and each teacher held the award to a different standard. It wasn’t really a fair award at all. By raising the bar on the award, we create a real opportunity for students to look up to their peers for truly going beyond what is expected. For any additional questions, please contact Judaic Studies Director Olga Lara.

How can you all address the issues folks might be having that they’re not comfortable coming forward and asking directly and/or in person?

American humorist Josh Billings (1818-1885) in his poem, “The Kicker” is attributed with the popular phrase, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” It goes as follows: “I hate to be a kicker [complainer], I always long for peace, but the wheel that does the squeaking is the one that gets the grease.” This phrase is often used when pejoratively describing someone who complains until they get their way. Although it is true that no one wants to be labeled a complainer, I would like to suggest that expressing your concerns in an appropriate forum and in a constructive way is not only a good thing to do but in many instances necessary. The idea is simple enough, if you have a concern share it, because if you do not, it may never get addressed. Simone Weil (philosopher) stated it this way: All the tragedies which we can imagine return in the end to the one and only tragedy: The passage of time.

I would like to add that it takes time to identify and address concerns properly; patience and good humor are always appreciated when dealing with any issue. Having said this, I want you to know that I have had many individuals express appreciation for the However, It is impossible to address concerns that we are not aware of … Parents, students, and teachers continually communicate their satisfaction for many (but not all) aspects of the school and community.

We have been working diligently on improving our school, from the curriculum, to the new web site, to better communication between parents and our faculty. As we move forward, I hope you will continue to express your compliments and concerns. (Dr. Ahlstrom)


To what degree is the SPARK curriculum actually being used? I still hear about Doctor Dodgeball and kids choosing the teams when my child reports on PE. [Question edited for publishing.]

Any curriculum — whether academic or physical — is implemented with customization by the experts: the teachers, the curriculum director, the principal, and so on. Coach Weiser follows the Spark PE curriculum, including one health lesson per week. One period per week is focused on a monthly sport, such as soccer in October and basketball in January. Once a month the students play dodgeball. (The rules and style of play have been changed to make the game safer, as well.) We have seen a major change in the PE program and hope parents and students are finding it beneficial. Please feel free to contact Coach Melanee Weiser (mweiser@byds.org) with any additional questions.


Why are kids no longer collecting tzedaka?

The fifth-grade teaching team has created an integrated-curriculum lesson plan on tzedakah.

Noa Filmar (fifth-grade Judaic Studies teacher) has created a lesson on the role and importance of tzedakah in the Jewish tradition and how tzedakah manifests itself in our daily lives,

Paula Singer (fifth-grade math teacher) is currently presenting a lesson to the fifth graders to collect tzedakah from all the classrooms in kindergarten through fifth grade. This program will develop a consistent mentoring relationship between fifth graders and their assigned kindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms.

The students are learning to:

  • count, sort, and roll coins and batch money;
  • process the money through the BYDS Business Office;
  • keep an accounting ledger;
  • develop a process for selecting recipient(s) of tzedakah;
  • make arrangements for delivery of monies to recipient(s)

In addition, Olga Lara (Judaic Studies director) hopes to lead a fifth-grade classroom discussion on fiduciary responsibility.

We believe this provides a comprehensive educational approach to teaching, learning and performing acts of tzedakah. Please direct any questions to Ms. Lara, director of Judaic Studies.


I was wondering why elementary student birthdays are no longer in the school directory. They are helpful to have when planning birthday parties to avoid overlapping, and for planning together. Is there somewhere else to access these?

Timing constraints caused student birthdays to be eliminated from the directory, but we are glad you asked. We’re going to send home lists of birthdays from each grade this week to resolve the problem, and birthdays will be re-added to the 2015-2016 directory. Thank you!

I was under the impression that the new school dress code required boys grades 3 and up to wear a belt everyday. Is this not the rule? Are they exempt from wearing a belt on Mondays? Clarification is needed.

For third- through fifth-grade boys, belts are required on days with regular or dress uniforms. Belts are not required on Spirit Days, which are typically on Mondays and sometimes on the Tuesday after a long weekend.


Why does Mensch of the Week still exist? [Question edited for publishing.]

Thank you for your comment. As with many programs at BYDS there are differing opinions regarding how and why programs are delivered. In working with Mensch of the Week, our purpose is to highlight a different middah or character trait and connect each trait to the weekly Torah portion with current examples of those same qualities from our students. Our intent is to integrate Judaic learning throughout our curriculum and, we hope, to do it in a way that our students find engaging. Our goal is to make the programs meaningful as well as substantive to our students, and to the degree that this goal is realized, it is successful. Mensch of the Week is a tradition that many of our students look forward to and, more importantly, strive to achieve. It is our responsibility to elevate the experience for everyone.


How does BYDS support its teachers? As a Jewish community, I feel it is important to take care of our community and its teachers.

Supporting our teachers is one of our most important jobs as a school, both ethically and logistically. One important way BYDS supports its teachers is expressed in our strategic plan. Below is one of the school’s strategic goals and strategies to support that goal.

Goal 4: Promote excellence in faculty and staff by supporting their development and advance their professional practice.

Strategies:

1. Build a faculty of lifelong learners who collaborate with students in a process of joyful learning.


2. Refine evaluation so that it better aligns with desired student outcomes, and encourages and rewards innovation, leadership, and strong teacher-student relationships.

3. Enhance faculty and staff training to include mentoring, leadership coaching, and other meaningful experiences.


4. Support professional development.

BYDS strives to attract and retain the best teachers. Research suggests that a faculty culture focused on professional growth is the No. 1 predictor of consistent, high-level student performance, teacher satisfaction, and enthusiasm. (ism. 2013: “The New Faculty Culture Profile”)

When is the Daddy Daughter Dance?

The Congregation Beth Yeshurun Daddy Daughter Dance will take place on Saturday, January 30th from 7:00 – 9:00 pm. Daddies and daughters will enjoy desserts and Dancing. Couvert will be $25 per couple plus $5 per additional daughter.

The Family Life Handbook contains the dates, times, and registration links for all of the Family Life event for this programming year. Anyone is welcome to attend any event; only the High Holidays services and programs are exclusively for CBY members. Anyone is also welcome to get more involved. Questions or ideas should be directed to Jennifer Rosenzweig (cbyfamilylife@gmail.com) or Rabbi Strauss (bstrauss@bethyeshurun.org).

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