Dear Southern Heights Families and Community,
Welcome to another exciting year at Southern Heights Elementary School! As the principal of Southern Heights, I am passionate and dedicated to lead the students, staff, and families of this community to accomplish high levels of success. At Southern Heights our vast diversity is a treasured asset in our work together to create a community of learners. Every child that comes through our doors deserves the very best educational and life experience at our school, for that reason our goal is to know each student by name, strength, and need. This coming school year, we will continue to strive for excellence and improve our reading, writing, math, and science progress for all students. One of the ways we plan to improve instruction is to continue refining our multi-tiered systems of support and personalized learning approach. We will be again be utilizing technology and online-based programs as part of our strategy to meet the needs of all learners. Through this approach our teachers focus on assessing students’ needs and strengths, and designing instruction to refine skills, develop concepts, and extend learning opportunities and understanding.
This year we will continue to focus our instruction on the Common Core State Standards being implemented throughout Washington State. The Common Core standards push our teachers and students to engage with text and math content at deeper levels of complexity and comprehension. Students are asked to think critically, to analyze text, justify thinking, and find text-based evidence.
In reading this year, we will continue to implement the Lucy Calkins Reading Units of Study and other Balanced Literacy components such as Interactive Read Alouds. These units are aligned with the standards, and push students to think critically about both literary and informational text. In order to design instruction to meet the needs of whole classes, small groups of students, and individual students, teachers will continue utilizing a variety of assessment forms including a common districtwide assessment system called Fountas and Pinnell. This allows teachers to recognize the strengths and challenges of individuals so that they can design individualized learning experiences to push them as readers. This will be our second year implementing Lexia at Southern Heights. Lexia is an online learning program that provides explicit and personalized learning in the various areas of reading instruction. Teachers utilize data from this program to identify next steps in instruction for students. All students have access to this program at school and can also access this program at home. The best part is that kids love it!
In math, we will continue to implement our district-adopted math program, Math in Focus. Teachers plan math instruction with plentiful opportunities for student discourse. Our teachers focus on having students explain their thinking, and engage classes in mathematical conversations in order to solidify learning. Teachers also utilize various forms of assessment in order to plan for differentiated learning opportunities. Students learn in a variety of formats throughout the math session. Teachers deliver whole class instruction, but also plan for small groups, and personalized learning opportunities through online learning programs such as ST Math and Think Through Math. These programs allow for students to experience mathematical learning in different ways, and they apply and refine skills learned through core instruction.
Supporting the social-emotional needs and growth of our students is just as important as our support for academic learning. This year we will continue to strengthen our implementation of the RULER Approach (Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating Emotions) to enhance our students’ learning in regards to emotional intelligence. In year one of this work we have begun to see positive outcomes for students, and the overall emotional wellbeing of our school. As an example of this growth, our office discipline referrals were reduced to 78 in 2015-2016 from 145 in 2014-2015. At Southern Heights we have monthly assemblies recognizing Students of the Month from each class who show outstanding performance and/or growth in our three Guideline for Success (Show Effort and Respect, Solve Problems, and Make Good Choices). I also host “Lunch with the Principal” for our Students of the Month. Students receive Wish Tickets from staff members for showing examples of our guidelines, and classrooms work together for “100 Wish Ticket” celebrations throughout the year. Working towards a classroom goal helps to build strong and supportive communities.
One of our key goals is to partner with our families for student success. This year we will be providing families with opportunities to attend Family Academies throughout the year. These academies will be focused on working alongside families to support student academic growth, and learn together about grade level expectations and strategies to push student learning. We also have a PTA at Southern Heights that is dedicated to providing students with enriching opportunities and a close school community. There are countless ways that families can be involved in our school community, and we welcome all involvement. We strive to not only know our students by name, strength, and need, but to also know and connect with each of our families on this level.
I am honored to educate your children and build relationships with each of you! I look forward to working together to make Southern Heights a great community for learning! Don’t hesitate to reach out in any way.