Calgary Board of Education

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Principal's Message | October

We have accomplished so much in our first six weeks of school, that it’s hard to believe it’s only the beginning of October. Douglas Harkness School is truly a great place to learn and work! Our teachers and support staff have worked diligently to ensure the start of the school year has been welcoming, engaging, and exciting for all our students. Our Twitter feeds have been showing families and the community the incredible things happening at our school. If you haven’t already, then you definitely need to check our Twitter feed because we are celebrating learning daily here at Douglas Harkness School and the best way to see what’s happening is through the various tweets that teachers are posting for you!

Our students are demonstrating the beauty and strength of our school’s diversity and generosity in a number of ways. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the enormous whole-school created display in our front hallway! Our annual Terry Fox Run was a great success! The run happened on a beautiful fall afternoon where the temperature was perfect for long distance running. Not only did the students recognize Terry Fox and how he inspired a worldwide movement. This event raised more than $500.00 from our generous community for the Terry Fox Foundation! Since we were able to meet our goal, an additional donation of $500.00 was made. Therefore, on behalf of Douglas Harkness School, $1,000.00 has been donated. Way to go!

Also, on September 29 our school’s recognition of Orange Shirt Day allowed us to honour students and families impacted by residential schools in Canada. Recognizing Orange Shirt Day provides opportunities for First Nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come. Way to go Douglas Harkness School! We truly appreciate the work that staff are doing, and the support that our families are constantly providing, as we work for strong academic progress and excellent citizenship for all our students.

Thank you to all the parents who attended our first School Council meeting of the 2017-2018 school year. The meeting was held on September 14. It was an informative meeting where parents met the new administration team and learned more about some of initiatives we are planning for this year. At the Annual General Meeting, also held that evening, a new School Council was elected. Thank you to Pam Smid who is our Chair, Christine Argue who is our Vice Chair and Secretary and to Sonia McGrath is our Treasurer. Our next School Council meeting is on October 19 at 6:30pm and all parents are encouraged to attend. Please come and share your voice and ideas to help make our school even better. Childcare is available at these meetings.

It was great to see so many families attending our Parent-Teacher Conferences on September 21 and 22. Overall, we had an attendance rate of 81% which is great, however, we would have liked to have the opportunity to meet every family. If you were not able to attend on either of these days, it is important that you get in touch with your child’s teacher to arrange another time to connect. I have asked teachers to call any families which were unable to attend. Teachers are working hard to get to know your child in order to provide the best educational programming for him or her. Your input and the information you can share with the teacher about your child is critical in these plans.

We are very fortunate to be connected with Alex the Dental Bus this year. The bus visited our school for two days in September, providing free dental care to grade two and grade six students who returned their consent forms for this service. The bus will return in the spring for follow up. If you have concerns for your children about dental care, please do not hesitate to contact Mrs. Billeck in the office to see what is available for you.

I’m pleased to be able to facilitate the Roots of Empathy program in one of our grade 3/4 classrooms this year. Roots of Empathy is a program that works to build the capacity of children and helped to develop positive citizenship. The Roots of Empathy program focuses on raising levels of empathy which results in more respectful and caring relationships and reduced levels of bullying and aggression in children.

We are proud to be supported by a partnership with Calgary Reads which is an organization working in the Calgary community with the mission to help all children read with confidence and joy. Calgary Reads will support us with literacy resources and volunteers who will read to children in our school. If you are interested in participating in this worthwhile initiative, please contact Mrs. Miller at the school.

In August, we requested that parents please provide their feedback to us so that we could better understand our school, and the hopes and wishes that you as parents have for this fantastic learning community. I’m pleased to provide a summary of the 12 responses we received:

Q1: Please describe some of the best things about Douglas Harkness School.
• The teachers at Douglas Harkness school make every child feel welcome, teach them with love and assist them with whatever they need whether it be academically or socially.
• The teachers! They are so caring, love to teach and love the students.
• Douglas Harkness community is highly welcoming and loving.
• They facilitate everybody to the possible extent.
• Very great teachers, relaxed environment.
• Community spirit, smaller class sizes, fantastic teachers
• Great teachers, great teaching methods and activities.
• The teacher-parent interaction and communication.
• Involved
• Diversity
• Community focused, close to home, amazing teaching staff.
• They work hard with the kids.

Q2: What suggestions do you have to make Douglas Harkness School even better?
• Communication well in advance of an event. With many working parents more than a couple days’ notice is often needed to be able to attend events in the day and the evening to support the children.
• Bring back the school agendas. Twitter is good for seeing what students are doing during school time but teachers are so inconsistent in posting that it gets tiresome to look and see nothing or see posts late at night after kids are already in bed. The school website also needs to be updated regularly.
• I think there should be more focus on maths and books should be given to students for homework, so that parents may help out students with their individual problems.
• Improving traffic and parking situation during pick up/drop off hours. Better office management.
• Continued communication and applying of grants for school activities.
• Better communication with parents. Also, I don’t like the online booking for parent teacher interviews.
• More homework.
• Communication and planning. In the pas great projects and events have been underutilized or haven’t been as successful as they could have been because the planning happened at the last minute and information about an event wasn’t shared in a timely enough manner to allow families to fully participate.
• It is a pretty good school already.

Q3: Please provide any other comments or suggestions that you feel will be helpful.
• As twitter is wonderful with regards to seeing into the classroom, it is inconsistent telling about the major events of the school that parents need to know bout. Getting through to the office can be difficult even to leave a message.
• Cracking down on parents parking in the no parking zone along the side of the school on 60th street. This is a safety issue.
• Sending a book or two home for revision or problem discussions
• Making the 15 minute parking zone in front of the school a no-parking zone during pick up and drop off hours and using it as a kiss and ride zone.
• Love this school. We are sad that this will be our last year here.
• Something done with the parking! The parking is horrible, people doing u-turns, parking so far away from the car in front so that you can’t get another car in between (3 spots turn into 2 spots). People J-walking, double parking, some of the staff parking on the street. We always thought all staff parking in the staff areas but a lot of the staff park on the street which is less spots for parents. Especially during kindergarten drop off and pick ups. Someone is going to get hurt. Last year a couple of parents got into a fight over parking. I know it was a walk to school, but it is a 50 minute walk there and back. If we could have a letter or something to outline the issues. Maybe some tips to help all parents with drop off and pick ups might help.
• Continue to provide quality education to students.
• It seems that families at DHS need to be drawn out individually and many of our ESL/new immigrant families may need to be taught the culture of our school and the CBE. Involvement by parents and care givers has been minimal in the past years and having an education leadership team who can help encourage families to attend events/council/celebrations of learning would be excellent.
From reading this feedback, traffic concerns seem to be a high priority for many parents. Please be reminded that making a u-turn anywhere near the school is dangerous and illegal. If you can walk to school with your child, instead of driving, please choose to do so as this is a healthier choice to make and can help reduce traffic issues at our school. For the sake of our children, please choose safety over convenience, every time. I have recently requested the support of Calgary Police Service to help deal with traffic issues at our school so you will see their presence at key times of the day. The most important thing is the safety of our children. Thank you!
Communication is also a top priority from this feedback. Teachers have shared their email addresses with you and you are always welcome to send them a message. You may also call the school, however, keep in mind that teachers cannot take phone calls while they are teaching and would return your call before or after school or at the noon hour, if possible. We also hope that this monthly newsletter posted on our website and with a link emailed and/or texted to you will help improve communication. We are always looking for ways to keep parents better informed. Another way you can stay well informed is to attend our monthly School Council meetings mentioned above! Thank you -- your feedback is very important to us.
Finally, we are pleased to let you know that the Calgary Board of Education has been provided Classroom Improvement Funding for one year. As a result of this funding, a new teacher, Mr. Jason Salter has been hired for a .6FTE position in our school. Mr. Salter will join our staff toward the end of October. He will be teaching Physical Education classes and providing other support in the school which will allow us to give more time for Mrs. Bodley to provide English Language Learning and Literacy teaching across the school. Please help us to welcome Mr. Salter to our school.
We love our school and we are very proud of the great things happening here. Please ensure you view our website and twitter accounts to view and help us celebrate!