Notes from State of SLLIS Talk – May 23, 2013

Good afternoon SLLIS community,

Thank you again to everyone who joined us Thursday, May 23rd for my State of SLLIS presentation.  Steve Sanchez, chairperson of our Board of Directors co-presented several agenda items with me and was also available for questions and comments following our talk.  Attached please find the PowerPoint document as well as the strategic plan overview that we distributed.  In the future we will work on videoing these talks and making them available as webinars, as it is challenging to capture the comments in written notes.  This e-mail is long and I thank you in advance for reading it (or saving it to be read at a later date!).  The focus of State of SLLIS was for the entire organization, so we did not delve into many school-specific needs or growth.  The 58 families who joined us for the evening represented all three schools and all five grade levels (incoming kindergarten families).  Two Board members and a 10 staff members joined us as well.  We did note that several of the announcements/conversations should have been announced by the Board, but given the timing of my talk and our priority to give parents as timely information as possible, we included them in the State of SLLIS agenda.  
 

Agenda

Strategic Plan:  

I presented the strategic plan for 2013-2019 which was based on a series of public meetings with SLLIS stakeholders.  This strategic plan will guide our annual goals, incremental progress, and budget alignment throughout the organization.

Board Research Action Plan: 

Steve Sanchez presented the Board’s research action plan from the fall and progress made towards specific elements.  

Campus Climate Survey Results:  

Steve also presented the preliminary results of our campus climate surveys.  The next phase for survey data analysis is to compare our rate of response and level of response to the state and schools/districts with similar demographic composition.

Recent Site visits:

Partners for Developing Futures and International Baccalaureate: In May we had three sets of site visits that were very helpful mirrors to our current level of development and performance.  The first group, Partners for Developing Futures (http://partnersdevelopingfutures.org/) spent two days with us, visiting every classroom and meeting with students, parents, and Board members.  They were very impressed with our school community and ranked us “Established” on their scale.  They noted that in several areas we were “Well-Established” and provided us with some critical feedback to make gains in necessary areas.  During our Admin Team week at the end of the month, we will spend time reviewing the critical feedback and developing an action plan to address our needs.  As a result of that visit, we are being recommended for funding through their start-up school portfolio.  Their Board will make final decisions this month and, if approved, we will share more information with the full SLLIS community about this investment.  

Two different teams from International Baccalaureate Organization visited TFS and TSS in May for our verification review.  These teams were equally impressed with our school community, implementation of Primary Years Programme and community-wide training.  While these teams gave us very positive feedback following their visits, the PYP process requires two more steps before we will learn about our status.  Within the next 90 days we will know if IB has decided “Yes” or “Not Yet” with regards to each school’s authorization status.  We will keep you updated on their decisions.

Facilities & Operations updates for 2013-14:

I presented the operations/daily life updates for next school year.  

         The biggest news is that we will not be performing any summer construction and will focus on 1)tighter financial controls/managements/fund building and 2)identifying master campus location.  The Chinese School will continue to operate all of their 6 classes on the 2nd floor of Papin with some flex space for specialists.  The Spanish School will continue to operate all of their classes and specialists on the 1st floor and lower level of Papin.  The French School will continue to operate on floors 2 and 3 of Pine. Each Head of School is reviewing their class assignments/floor plan to provide the best possible experience for all students.  This announcement sparked some conversation and question about long-term space plans, particularly for The International School and whether SLLIS founding students would ever benefit from our facilities development.  Our Facilities, Finance and Audit Committee is hard at work to identify and finance the first building for our master campus.  Until we have finalized the building, developer and development structure, we don’t have any promises to make about which school(s) will be in which buildings.  This level of space ambiguity is frustrating and motivating for all of us and we look forward to making an announcement about a permanent building acquisition and space plan for the next few years.    

         I clarified that across SLLIS we don’t typically “loop” students (keep the same students and same teacher from grade to grade).

         I mentioned that we are doing a budget study of Mosaic and considering re-engaging the YMCA to provide this service.  It is our preference to keep Mosaic in-house and continue to build strong relationships for all of our students across school-day and extended care experiences.  The final decision about our in-house program will be made when the Board approves the June budget.

         I mentioned the cost of transportation and ways that we will attempt operational efficiencies.  We currently spend more on a single bus route than we spend on a teacher’s salary.  We recognize the value of busing for students who rely on transportation services and for our entire school community.  That said, we need to get creative.  Next school year, buses will serve both campuses.  This school year, if you and your neighbor attended different SLLIS buildings, two different buses came to your neighborhood to pick up your children.  We are proposing to stagger school start/end times so that only one bus comes to your neighborhood and drops students off at each building.  We will communicate the revised school day start/end times to all families by the August intake conferences.

         Pending budget approval, we are scheduled to hire our own Director of Student Support Services who will oversee all of our Special Education and Social Work programming.  We will continue to contract with Belle Center/St. Louis Arc for direct student therapies.

The International School, grades 6-12:

The International School will open in August 2014 with grade 6.  We will only enroll 25 new students for 6th grade and reserve all other space for graduates of TSS and TFS (and ultimately TCS).  Beginning next year all SLLIS students will take STAMP (http://avantassessment.com/stamp) assessments in their immersion language.  This will allow us to review and set goals for all SLLIS students’ language proficiency with a standardized computer adaptive assessment.  Students in The International School will receive 50% of their academic instruction in English and 50% in their immersion language.  The language of instruction will be determined by their STAMP assessments.  One track of students will receive core academic instruction in the immersion language (communication arts, math, science, history) and the balance of their academic instruction in English (PE, art, music, technology).  These students will also receive a second communication arts course, meeting the same state literature expectations in English.  Our goal is that all of our current students graduate from 5th grade prepared for that track.  The 25 new students will receive core academic instruction in English (communication arts, math, science, history) and the balance of their academic instruction in the immersion language (immersion language and literature, PE, art, music, technology).  The International School will operate on a block schedule with daily advisory periods.  The before and aftercare will be structured around a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) lab where students are able to complete mini-lessons and projects at their own pace.  We are still working on scheduling to allow a third language elective opportunity.  In the Middle Years Programme (MYP) of International Baccalaureate, art, music and technology are required courses for all students.  In grades 6-10 all students will study all three areas annually.  The technology framework is focused on design and product solution, much like a pre-engineering/graphic design/architecture experience.  We are still searching for the Head of The International School.

Charter Renewal Highlights:

Language assessment updates in immersion language:  I don’t think that we really had time for this point.  Our charter renewal application is due to UMSL by the fall and will be presented to the State Board of Education by December.  The Board and Academic Excellence committee are scheduled to review the document over the summer.

Following the State of SLLIS I received communication from officers of the Parents Assembly (PA) requesting our community support.  During our school’s first two start-up years the Parents Assembly performed amazing feats of parent engagement and school support that included substantial fundraising.  As each schools’ SAC has become more active, and our Board committees are transitioning to governance functions, the PA has no longer operated in those capacities.  The PA still has about $8,000 that parents raised to support their schools.  In order for the PA to release those funds to each school, they require a dissolution vote from 50% of parents.  Attached please find the dissolution ballot for the Parents Assembly.  You will also receive a backpack version of this ballot. Please return your ballot to your child’s teacher by Monday, June 10th. 

I look forward to seeing you at your schools’ Learning Celebrations and at the SLLIS-wide games day at SLU, Saturday, June 15th.

Best,

Rhonda

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