Follow by Email

Monday, December 31, 2012


I am grateful for:

1.  ECMS students . . . because you are amazingly charming, funny, intelligent, hard-working, and kind.
2.  ECMS teachers . . . because you are skillful, caring, demanding, inspiring and simply a great group of  professionals.
3.  Mrs. Castro, our Dean of Students, because of her dazzling skill set, work ethic, and wry sense of humor.
4.  Mrs. Johnson, principal's secretary, for her infinite patience when I cannot get logged into Munis (and countless other examples).  Thanks for helping me change my password at least 5 times and for always being glad to see me in the morning.
5.    ECMS counselors...  Thanks to Mrs. Bromiel and Mrs. Altman for having huge hearts for kids and  for going to great lengths to help them be successful. Thanks for building morale at every opportunity and for sustaining our ECMS family with your kindness and encouragement.  You both make the day brighter. 
6.  The ECMS FFO--- from registration to the Family Fall Dinner and Concert to the magazine drive to the Book Fair to our Honeybaked Holiday sale . . . you are awesome, one and all!  Long live the triumvirate of Cathy Rosen, Kris Johnson, and Lalita Hadley. Loved the framed picture, ladies!  Jeannine Pudwill, thanks for putting on a rocking Book Fair.  Janna Alexander, I appreciate all you do to organize the healthiest and best lunches around!
7.  Rachel Maleski, CTI, for always accommodating my every techno whim and for helping to empower kids  and teachers through proper use of technology.
8.  Our Special Education Team (Ms. Migler, Ms. Janes, Ms. Owens and our team of extraordinary educational assistants) . . . you teach and support our students with the greatest needs.  Thanks for all of your hard work in helping us learn how to accommodate and differentiate so that all students can move forward.
9.  Mrs. Weyand, Spanish and ELL teacher.  Mrs. Weyand started supporting our English Language learners last year and I want to commend her for doing such a fine job as a teacher and an advocate for language learners.
10. The parents of students here at Esperero . . . thank you for your trust.  We have truly exemplary parents who inspire us to do our very best every day!

Our goal is to make every family here at ECMS feel valued and know that we care.  We want each and every one of our students to feel very special and empowered.  Kids deserve our very best.  Please feel free to contact me by email at or by phone 209-8100, if you have any concerns or questions about anything related to our school.

Happy New Year to all of our dear students and their families1 Happy New Year to my faculty and staff! May many blessings come your way!

Strategic Plan: PBIS

Our Strategic Plan and PBIS

Planning for educational success is no easy feat and we take it very seriously at Esperero Canyon Middle School.  In this entry, I want to update you how we are progressing on our District Strategic Plan in terms of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

This is our goal as written in our part of the CFSD Strategic Plan:

1.13 Continue to use Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to identify and provide interventions in order to increase self-directed critical thinkers.  Data teams will identify students who require intervention.

What Does School-Wide PBIS Emphasize? (from www.
In general, SWPBS emphasizes four integrated elements: (a) data for decision making, (b) measurable outcomes supported and evaluated by data, (c) practices with evidence that these outcomes are achievable, and (d) systems that efficiently and effectively support implementation of these practices.
These four elements are guided by six important principles:
  • Develop a continuum of scientifically based behavior and academic interventions and supports
  • Use data to make decisions and solve problems
  • Arrange the environment to prevent the development and occurrence of problem behavior
  • Teach and encourage prosocial skills and behaviors
  • Implement evidence-based behavioral practices with fidelity and accountability
  • Screen universally and monitor student performance & progress continuously
 What Outcomes are Associated with Implementation of PBIS?
Schools that establish systems with the capacity to implement PBIS  with integrity and durability have teaching and learning environments that are
  • Less reactive, aversive, dangerous, and exclusionary, and
  • More engaging, responsive, preventive, and productive
  • Address classroom management and disciplinary issues (e.g., attendance, tardies, antisocial behavior),
  • Improve supports for students whose behaviors require more specialized assistance (e.g., emotional and behavioral disorders, mental health), and
  • Most importantly, maximize academic engagement and achievement for all students.

How are we implementing PBIS school wide?

Through the teaching and reinforcement of the Eagle Honor Code and the EC 10,  students are
schooled in the norms of our school in the first weeks of the academic year. We reinforce these norms throughout the year with such programs as Student of the Quarter.  We have also started a chapter of National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) which honors the academic and behavioral achievements of students at ECMS.  NJHS members  will also provide tutoring and support for their fellow ECMS students and eventually to students at our feeder schools, Canyon View and Ventana Vista.

Our administrative team and counselors have taken on a personal challenge to coach students who are having behavioral issues in making better choices.  Many times that includes going to the student in the classroom and redirecting by modeling the desired behavior.  Administrators, counselors and our ISS coordinator also engage in data talks with students who need redirection.  The special education team and school psychologist meet weekly with ECMS administration to discuss students who may require additional assistance.  

Our counselors conduct several groups for students.  The groups are conducted during lunch and are designed to give additional behavioral, social, and emotional support based on teacher recommendations and parent approval.  

We have identified students in grade level teams who need a variety of supports and interventions.  Support structures include after school study halls and lunch time homework assistance. 

Interventions can be distinguished from supports in the following way:  intervention is "extra time" outside of the school day.  Frequency, intensity, and time (FIT) are elements that we consider carefully when assessing the efficacy of interventions.  

Our math intervention structure includes time on Wednesday morning before school starts and after school four days a week.  It also targets students who score "approaching" in math.  Other interventions include online programs that are highly structured and geared to move students forward.

Literacy support structures are in place in our Social Studies and Science classes.  This year,  the Social Studies and Science teams are focusing on developing writing-to-learn strategies in conjunction with the Common Core State Standards.  The district has provided us with a part-time literacy coach to help teachers develop and implement these research-based strategies.  Such best practices allow students to hone their critical thinking skills by using writing-to-learn strategies.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have implemented D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) time during the first 10 minutes of period 1 (which is 10 minutes longer than other periods of the day to allow for announcements which we no longer do on Tuesdays and Thursdays).
This has made it necessary for students to always have a book checked out from the library.  D.E.A.R.  results in approximately 80 extra reading minutes per month; multiply that by 9 months in a school year and it comes out to approximately 720 minutes.  Furthermore, self-selected reading  increases the chances for high levels of engagement. 

Our faculty is constantly reviewing our student outcomes in grade level teams, data teams, and individual teacher conferences with administrators.   Our "data-driveness" allows us to constantly assess our efforts and make the necessary adjustments in order in order to move students forward.  

Thanks to all of our parents!  You are great partners who support us in every way in our work.  Happy New Year to everyone!  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Preserving Your Family Holiday Memories

Goal:  using the writing process, families can craft a memoir of the holiday of their choosing.

Pre-writing:  Draw a map of a holiday dinner table.  Label who is sitting at each place, the kinds of food on the table, the table decor.  If you can, start recalling quotes of what people said, wore, etc.  Are there any peripheral details that you can add? What smells were in the air?  Noises, music?  The more thoroughly you label the map (take your time over a series of days), the more memories can come forward as they occur to you.

Web: Choose an aspect of your map that you can develop by adding details. It is helpful to make a web of the aspect and some details. Here is a sample web graphic organizer.

Rough Draft:  Start writing the story from your web.  Simply freewrite all that you can.  Don't try to do it all in one day. Write all you can and stop.  In a day or two, shape the piece by adding and subtracting details, and refining.  Zero in on details that represent the experience (hint:  sometimes the peripheral details are the most interesting . . . like a "hi-fi" in my piece or "winter chintz").   When you think you have a good draft, let someone read it and give you feedback.

Other things to add:  I added a recipe.  You can also add photographs or a collage of photos (use the iPad app Pic Collage, for an example).

My piece took about 20 minutes a day over a few weeks.  I just kept adding and deleting.  I had Mrs. Maleski read it and critique it for me.  She basically shared what she really liked and one part where she thought I could refine the details.  When you cannot refine it any more, proofread and edit the piece for conventions (you can also let someone read your piece and help you edit).

Extensions:  Make your memoir into an iMovie.  You might consider storyboarding your memoir, it would help in the making of the film.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Here are some links to help students cope in the aftermath of the Newtown, CT school tragedy.  
Again, our thoughts go to the Sandy Hook Elementary School family as their loss is simply unfathomable.  

Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Relief Fund
Make a donation
Sandy Hook Elementary School
Send cards and letters

Responding to Tragedy

Our hearts reach out to the victims and their families in Newtown, CT.

How can we help our students process their feelings about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary?  On Monday, we want to focus on maintaining our normal routine and on assuring students and parents that our school is safe and secure.  Our counselors will be available to talk to students who are struggling in the wake of this tragedy.

Here are some suggestions:

1.  Limit students' exposure to the media coverage.  Such reports can make students very upset, especially younger students.
2.  Provide a straightforward explanation of the facts surrounding the tragedy.
3.  Stress the safe environment at Esperero and in CFSD.
4.  Return to a normal routine.
5.  Know that it is okay to feel upset or angry.
6.  Focus on compassion for the victims and their families.  

Two questions I like to ask are "What do you know?"  and "What have you heard?"  This helps us as adults to ascertain what kids know so that we can gently correct any misinformation that they might have.

Some language that might be helpful . . . "The events at Sandy Hook Elementary are tragic.  But, in truth, our school is very safe.  Everyone who enters our campus is carefully screened and is wearing some form of ID (including our students).  We  continue to check IDs at the gate every morning, and to practice fire drills, lock downs and evacuations."

Thanks to all of our fine parents.  Several of you have written to me this weekend.  I appreciate our open lines of communication.  Thank you for all that you do!!

Thanks to RoseMarie Cress, our school psychologist, for her input into my blog.  She immediately responded to my email on a Sunday and numbers 1-6 come from her excellent and thorough response.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Holiday Memoir

 Holidays are a great springboard for writing. I want students to know how important it is to write about family traditions, rituals, and anecdotes. Memoir is the genre that helps us to do this.  Whether celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, take some time to preserve some holiday memories in writing. My next blog entry will feature a family writing activity. 

   December was my father's month. Dad worked out of the country for most of my childhood. When he could come home for his birthday and Christmas, it was like an extra present.
   One of my mother's goals every December during their 52 year marriage was to make sure that my dad never heard these words,  "This is your birthday present and your Christmas present, too."
   My mom wanted to make certain that dad enjoyed his birthday and Christmas as two distinct events.  "Your father cannot help the fact that he was born when he was born.  We want to make sure that he isn't shorted a holiday." My mother's mission to ensure my father's happiness was fueled by her compassionate heart.
   My paternal grandfather  passed away in 1922, when dad was 4. Dad moved with my grandmother from Atlanta, Georgia to live on her parents' farm in Natural Bridge, Alabama. Nathaniel and Emily Florence Edmonds were hardworking, no-nonsense people who knew how to weather hard times by doing without.   Christmas, in the 1930's, was a homemade stocking filled with oranges, nuts (in the shell, by the way), and some hard candy--in better years, a quarter and a couple of dimes.  "Ty, this is your birthday and your Christmas present," was a familiar phrase.  For dad, oranges, nuts and hard candy were a truly big deal.  Each present was eaten slowly and savored.
   When dad recalled these times as an adult, he spoke of his grandpa telling stories in front of the fireplace and of his grandma sewing every shirt he ever wore.  He never had a birthday cake, a special dinner or a party.  His childhood Decembers held memories of hard but treasured times.  For my sweet fairy of a mother (we call her Tinker Bella), a birthday without a celebration was unimaginable.  She was driven to give dad the birthdays he'd never had as a child.
   Mom's determination led to a t-chart sort of approach to pull off her often grand schemes for Dad's December.   There were rules:  birthday presents had to be in birthday wrapping paper; Christmas presents in holiday paper. Birthday presents had to be free of Christmas themes.  A duck decoy or fishing lures were appropriate for dad's birthday.  But candy canes and a red tie, those were for Christmas.  And, while our friends got to put up their tree after Thanksgiving, we had to wait until after December 15 or later, depending on whether dad's birthday fell on a weekend or a week day.
    Dad's birthday bash was usually buffet-style.  Mom made a big Italian cream birthday cake. The grownups were all dressed up.  Dad worked in Naval Intelligence so most of the men wore uniforms or suits and the women wore their winter chintz dresses and pearls. There was always music and sometimes dancing.   In an over-the-top gesture, Mom hired a harpist to play--once and only once--not dad's style, to be certain.  He preferred the hi-fi.
   At age 90, my mother still makes Italian cream cake for her grandchildren.  She recalls, "Your dad used to crack the nuts for me.  He was really too busy but he did it to please me. Now, I don't own a nutcracker because they sell the nutmeats pre-packaged at the supermarket. Store-bought walnuts are not quite as flavorful as the black walnuts that dad used to get from the farm in Alabama. They were hard to shell but delicious. He would sit in the kitchen and talk to me while he cracked nuts for my baking. When TV got bigger and better, we didn't talk as much."
   My dad would have been 94 this month. Happy birthday, Dad.  xxoo

Here's the recipe for Italian cream cake (it's very rich so one cake feeds about 12).  Enjoy!  Happy holidays to all of our Esperero families. 


Cake Batter
2 cups of sifted cake flour
2 cups of sugar
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
1 cup of finely chopped walnuts
5 egg Whites (beat until stiff peaks)
5 egg Yolks
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 cup of buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Cake Icing
8 oz of cream cheese
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon of buttermilk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
8 oz of powdered sugar

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour 3 round cake pans.

1. Cream butter with sugar and add vanilla.
2. Next add 5 separated egg yolks and 1/2 cup of olive oil – mix and beat until fluffy.
3. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients: Sifted flour and the baking soda.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture a little at a time alternating with the buttermilk (about 1/4 cup at a time).
5. Next mix in walnuts and coconut.
6. In another bowl beat the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.
7. With a spatula gently fold in your egg whites into the batter by making the figure 8 pattern.
8. Spoon the batter into your 3 pans and make them as even as you can.
9. Bake until light brown and for about 30 to 60 minutes (use a toothpick in the center and make sure no batter is on the stick).
10. Once the cakes are done pull them out and let them cool.
11. After they cool place the cakes on parchment and use a brush to dust off the crumbs (easier to ice).
12. Next Cream all of the ingredients together for the icing in this order: cream cheese, butter, buttermilk,vanilla extract, and powdered sugar.
13. After the icing is mixed, start to assemble the cake by taking one of the layers of cake and making it your base. Stick strips of parchment paper around the bottom of the cake. Ice the top of it and add the next layer of cake and ice the top of it adding your final layer of cake.
14. Now start to ice the sides and the top of the cake until covered. Use chopped walnuts or coconut to decorate the sides.
15. Refrigerate the cake until you are going to slice and serve!