Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Mr. Miller's Summer Blog 2008

Summer is the time when all of us at College Heights make plans to improve the learning of our students. This summer, we are making changes to our library to help it be the center of the literacy development of our students. This summer the computer network in the library is being expanded to 18 computers and moved to a corner. The library will have a computer to manage the borrowing of material and two other computers that users to search local databases of library information. A group led by Mrs. Furfaro is continuing to look at how to improve our library. Our librarian, Ms. McGuire, is working hard to create mobile collections of reading materials of interest to our students that will be available to move to classrooms to support the expanded reading initiative for the fall. .

There are major changes taking place with computers at College Heights this summer. The Board has come up with a computer plan that will result in all computers being replaced every 6 years. College Heights is slated to have 193 computers to handle all the computing needs of the school, except for the computers needed for special education, which are in addition to the 193 total. This summer, approximately 100 new computers will be installed here. The other 93 computers here will be two years old or less. Every classroom will have a computer with high speed access to the internet. Teachers will be able to do attendance on Maplewood, our student management database, or access other information sources such as the IEP Engine which manages all the IEPs of our students who have one. Most of our networks in room A106 and A107 will be replaced by new computers built and supplied by a Canadian company from Oakville called MDG. All our new computers will come with a service plan that guarantees that a machine will be fixed or repaired within 24 hours of it being reported to the company. We here will have to get our act together to make sure a problem is reported very quickly. Our computer server, which is now quite old, in computer terms, is being replaced this summer by an IBM server which has a very large amount of RAM and storage well above the gigs level. The Board IT staff, who do a great job for us, is also replacing our outdated switches that manage traffic on our network with new state of the art switches manufactured by Nortel. The have found a way to connect our library to the fiber optic backbone of the school. This will increase the speed of our library network.

The Board’s computer plan also includes the provision of 20 new video projectors for classrooms. Over the summer we will decide what room or rooms will be most suitable for these projectors to be placed and how we will install them to prevent any from walking away from us.
We have finalized our school improvement plan for next year and will work hard next year to implement steps to make it successful. The first goal is to improve the success of our students as measured by credit count. We will take steps to make sure that more of our students pass all of their classes. This will be done by carefully monitoring the progress of our students and intervening when they need help, involving parents when ever possible. We will use differentiated instruction strategies in more classes and use child development information and information contained in IEPs to teach materials in such a way that more students will learn the required material. An important aspect we will pay attention to is the organisation of the material in our courses to enable our students to better understand the body of information contained in each course. A key part of everything we do here includes literacy improvement and we have a plan to do this. This plan includes all students reading 4 times a week and being assisted to improve their comprehension skills. Having more students pass the literacy test is a good measure of the success of our strategies. We plan to have 40% of our grade 10 students pass the test. That would be up from the 31% who passed this year. To do this we will have all our students complete a test practice booklet in all their classes, each one prepared by the teacher of that class and it will be part of the curriculum in each class. Students will be given appropriate feedback on how to improve their performance. This process will be repeated in second semester before the test. All grade 10 and 11 students writing the test will be taught the necessary literacy skills and given extensive opportunities to practice these skills. This should give our students even better preparation for the test than ever before. These strategies are all part of our literacy plan for next year.

Next to literacy, student attendance is the major problem for us at College Heights. Too many of our students miss too many classes. This has a major impact on the learning of these students. We plan to continue to track attendance of our students and intervene to try and improve attendance. We will try to involve parents as much as possible to try to get their students to attend their assigned classes.

We will all work together to improve the self esteem of all of us in the building. Activities that will help to create a positive environment in the building for all of us will be run next year. Workshops to give ideas on how to improve a student’s self esteem will be organised and the good ideas learned will be implemented.

Improving the responsibility of our students is an important step to preparing our students to face their future after they leave us. Next year we plan to improve the responsibility of our students by teaching leadership skills to all our students and provide opportunities in all our classes for our students to practice these skills.

The final goal of our school improvement involves the teaching of problem solving skills We will focus on problem solving skills in the widest context. That means solving problems in the classroom and in many different phases of a student’s life.

One of the ways we are improving the programs we offer to our students is the implementation of the Specialist High Skills Majors in different areas. This school year we offered high skills majors in Manufacturing, Hospitality and Tourism. Again we have students graduating with both these extra skills. Next year, we will add Construction and Agriculture to our high skills programs. Mr. West has plans to have his students build special model homes which you will hear about in our fall newsletter. The Agriculture High Skills major will involve senior students who have taken our Horticulture courses learning more about Agriculture on coop placements at Agriculture specific sites. Our Hospitality program has started to increase in size with many more of our students opting to take foods courses. Next year we will have to schedule three foods classes in our Family Studies room, A103.

If you have visited our school site this spring and summer, you would have appreciated the beauty of the gardens and the landscaping here. All this has resulted from the hard work of our Horticulture students under the direction of Mr. Boutin.

In the area of staff changes, we say good bye to Mrs. Fair after three years as Vice-Principal. Mrs. Fair has moved over to GCVI. Mrs. McDonald has also left us for Wellington Heights in Mount Forest. We also say good bye to Ms. Stockford of our cosmetology department. Mrs. Atanasoff will be on leave for the first semester next school year. We will welcome Mrs. Burns as our new Vice-Principal and starting September 2009, will be Principal of College Heights. We welcome back Ms. Rivers from a maternity leave. In our office, Mrs. Evans will return to us as our receptionist. Next year Mrs. Cook of our staff will be our Student Success teacher.

Coming up on Wednesday August 27 is a pre-registration event for our new grade 9 students. The event starts at 10:00 AM and will end with a barbeque at noon. Returning students will have a chance to pre-register at 1:00 PM in the afternoon. An orientation event for our new grade 9 students is planned for the morning of Tuesday September 9.

Our parents have given us their recommendations for improvement of the learning of our students. These recommendations are posted on our school web site. To see the proposal, go to our school website and scroll down to our Billboard News section.