Using Engage NY

 
Over the last several weeks several classrooms and nearly every teacher has begun to implement pieces of classroom materials called EngageNY. This program was created under the direction of New York State’s department of education and has teachers use some of the best teaching practices in their daily instruction.

 

In classrooms using the language arts lessons we are seeing an immediate impact in what is called close reading. This reading strategy has students read passages in short chunks in order to determine the meaning in great detail. So far our students are doing a wonderful job with this skill and will be able to use it when spring assessments begin in early May.

 

With EngageNY the mathematics classes have returned to a practice that was common years ago in math classes known as math fluency. Fluency in mathematics is the ability to quickly and accurately compute math facts. Students still need this skill as they tackle the difficult and challenging word problems that have become so evident in math education today.
 

John Hannah

Harrah Elementary Principal

 
 

44 Ways to Help At Home

 
As you move through the winter months it becomes easy to forget to stay on top of your student and their work in school. As a parent myself I know that leaving home and returning when it is dark outside has both a physical and emotional effect on me. That being said, I want to encourage everyone to continue to work with your student on their school work and keep in contact with their teacher. This is essential for their success.
 
I would like to suggest a website from the Reading Is Fundamental group. On their site they list 44 ways parents can help their students be successful. These include items like: use of television tickets, reading to and in front of your student, have your student talk to family members about the family history and many more. If you would like to visit this site please go to the link below
 

http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/articles/44-proven-ideas-parents-can-use-to-help-their-children-do-better-in-school.htm

 

John Hannah

Harrah Elementary Principal

What CCSS Means To My Student
 
 If you haven't heard most every state in the country has adopted CCSS, which stands for Common Core State Standards.  This movement is national push to align the education quality throughout the nation.  I am reminded of our Director of Teaching and Learning, Mr. Heinle, comments on education, "What a student learns shouldn't depend on where a student learns."  The State of Washington has signed on to this movement, and beginning next year all students throughout the state will be measured by these standards.
 
The important thing to pass on is how this effects our entire school community, from students to teachers to parents.  The biggest change is the amount of rigor that is demanded from these standards.  A rule of thumb in one sense is that was required at any grade level before has either been pushed down to the grade level prior to it, or the rigor has been dramatically increased.  As you know our school has been making small gains towards improvement of the State's old standards, and now with the increase our job has just been made bigger.  The staff of Harrah are up to the challenge.
 
We have initiated several new steps this year to make sure we are doing everything in our power to prepare our students or these standards right now:
  • Every 2-3 weeks each grade level meets with our Instructional Coach and myself to review current data and trends.
  • The benchmark tests in language arts and math have been converted to CCSS in order for both staff and students to understand the rigor required.
  • Following each benchmark every teacher will meet individually with our Instructional Coach and myself to review students scores and make plans for moving forward.
  • After each benchmark the building leadership team and district administrators create an action plan and review the steps needed for schoolwide improvement.
  • Our policy of consequences for disciplinary actions has been increased in order to ensure that every student has the opportunity to receive a quality educational experience.
  • In addition to the attendance clerk and the work done last year around unexcused absences, I have directed Mr. Everts to make both phone and physical contact with families at predetermined intervals of any and all absences.  The goal is to make families aware of our concern around absences and encourage attendance. 

Our STAR Staff

 
For the past several years the Mt. Adams School District has worked with selected staff on a procedure called STAR walks.  These are visits by teachers to each others classroom where they use a tool to take notes on what they see and hear in a classroom.  After walking any number of classrooms the teachers take time to meet and discuss what they saw.  Since all the teachers visited classrooms together they should see much of the same thing, but as often is the case, we all tend to see different things for a variety of reasons.
 
This year the staff of Harrah will all partake in STAR walks for a minimum of three different times throughout the year.  Our purpose isn't to judge staff or students, but to see the practices of our peers and reflect on our own practices that we use on a daily basis.  The five areas of focus for the Harrah staff are skills, knowledge, teaching, assessment, and relationships.  From these five areas a complete instructional model is able to be developed, and are intention is that we reflect and improve what we do instructionally.
 
We use the same tool each day as we plan every lesson that our students receive here in Harrah.  No matter the class, no matter the subject, each student is receiving instruction based on skills, knowledge, teaching, assessment, and relationships.

Huddles and Harrah

 
On September 17th Harrah Elementary had its first ever huddle.  You may be asking what a huddle is and why are we doing it?  I want to take a few moments to answer both questions because I feel it is important for everyone to understand.
 
What is a huddle?
 
A huddle is a meeting with each grade level team, the instructional coach, and myself where we look at the scores from a variety of assessments and create action plans on what to do next.  As a group we work through a set of questions to guide us to discovering what is working well and what we need to improve on. 
 
Why are you having huddles?
 
As you are probably aware Harrah Elementary is a low performing school on the state's standardized tests.  This fact alone is reason enough to look for ways to improve, but we also have different ethnicities within our school performing at vastly different levels.  Neither of these is acceptable to anyone associated with Harrah or Mt. Adams. 
 
The first huddle each grade level team set goals for where they want students to be in terms of performance come May of 2014.  My hope is that you hold us accountable as we progress to meeting and maybe even exceeding our goals.

Harrah's Top 3

 
As we move into the 2013/14 school year I want to share with you our message to the Panther students of Harrah.  All staff and students of Harrah Elementary are focused on:
  1. Reading
  2. Mathematics
  3. PAX

READING: Reading may be the most important skill that you and your student's teacher can pass on.  Each and every day we are asked to read important information, and increasing reading in our students is essential to their future successes.  I have asked each student to read at home every day.  It doesn't even matter what they read for the most part, just read.  To help students learn to read please sit with them and have them read to you, and for students still learning to read have them track words with you as you read. 

MATHEMATICS: Too often we hear from students that math is hard and they don't like it.  Often this is an attitude that they pick up socially as disliking math is socially acceptable.  Please help change your student's mindset about math.  Point out to them how often you use math when you are at home and in public.  Math is simply logic skills being put to the test using numbers.  I have seen our students excel in the classroom with math and with just a little push we can see them excel personally with math.
 
PAX: As you are probably aware PAX has become a major part of both Harrah Elementary and Mount Adams School District.  PAX is a proven program that helps kids learn to regulate their decision making through a positive and supportive manner.  The staff of Harrah have implemented PAX earlier than ever before and the results are amazing.  We ask that you assist us in our work by being supportive of the program and ask your student how they did with PAX games each and every day.

It's a New Year

 
Welcome back Panthers and Panther staff!
 
I am so excited about the upcoming year.  Much planning has been accomplished as we look for ways to improve our practice in order to give our students the best education we can as they deserve it.  We know we have challenges in front of us all, yet we know that we have the ability to make the changes needed.  I ask that all parents, families, community members, and staff assist us in changing for the best. 
 
One thing that many people will notice are the common components between the Harrah and White Swan campuses.  Mrs. Janrecke and her staff have worked very hard alongside the Harrah staff and myself in order to create our plans for this year.  We hope that the systems we have put in place will be evident to all.
 
PAX has become a major part of our culture here at Harrah Elementary.  I appreciate the work of Mrs. Fiander and her determination to make sure PAX is part of who we are.  Over the last year I have been very fortunate to see the statistics of PAX in schools across the country for several decades and the tremendous impact can have.  Please support our efforts with PAX again this year as we try to improve on our practice and commitment.
 
One last thing is that we need your help at home.  I know as a parent myself of two Harrah students how hard it is to sit with my own kids after a long day, but as an educator I know how helpful it is to my kids.  When you come home please check their bags, ask them about their day, read their work, have them read to you, and practice basic math facts whenever you can.  Doing this daily will help them achieve.
 
Thank you,
 
Mr. Hannah

Thank You School Board

  
The week of January 25th was School Board Appreciation, and the students and staff here at Harrah took the time to write Tootles to the school board members.   Please take the time to look at the selected Tootles from some of our students and classrooms.
 

 

John Hannah

Harrah Elementary Principal

Meet Mr. Hannah

I would like to introduce myself to everyone here in the Mt. Adams School District.  My name is John Hannah and I will be serving you as the new principal here at Harrah Elementary. 

I am very fortunate to have a wonderful family to help support me as I serve as principal.  My wife Lisa is a RN who currently works with hospital patients with heart conditions.  In the past she has served as a school nurse, county nurse, family practice RN, staff development RN for a nursing home, and as RN in a cardiac clinic.  She has also spent several years as a Paramedic, EMT, and firefighter for a volunteer fire department for nearly twenty years.  My daughter Delanie (Lanie) and son Jackson (Cleet) will be entering 4th and 5th grades here at Harrah.  They like most kids their age enjoy several activities that include sports, family, computers and just having a good time.
 
I come to Harrah from a small rural school in Western Washington where I was able to work in a several grade levels and perform several functions.  I have been able to teach in grades 5-12 with my focus being on math and science since my career began nearly 12 years ago.  During that time I have also found ways to work with students outside the classroom as a coach.  This included HS football, HS wrestling, MS football, and youth wrestling. 
 
For the past few years my focus has shifted to administration where I have directed my efforts at assisting teachers and educational assistants in perfecting and focusing their ability on improving student performance.  As educators we are committed to our students and their success through academic achievement.  This is done through our continued effort to improve and impact your students. 
 
My commitment to the students and families of Harrah Elementary school and Mount Adams School District is to find ways to help our students achieve success.  I look forward to working with each and everyone of you and know the staff feels the same way. 
 
John Hannah
Harrah Elementary Principal

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