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Monday, August 12, 2013

Why Two Lunches?

  This year, Esperero Canyon Middle School has gone from three to two lunches.  Like our sister school, Orange Grove (who switched to 2 lunches a year ago), we feel this change is a necessary one so that we can allow our teachers common content level team planning time.  In order to prepare our students for rigorous 21st Century learning in light of the Common Core State Standards, research says that teachers need time to plan and collaborate.  Instead of having 6th, 7th, and 8th grade lunches separately, we have eliminated one lunch period.  The 6th graders and 1/2 of 7th graders go to A lunch.  One-half of 7th graders and all of the 8th graders go to B lunch. 
  In order to accommodate additional students at each lunch, we ordered and put into place additional cafeteria tables.  We committed to giving teachers  a duty-free lunch so that they can be available at lunch to assist students.  We have increased our supervision with our very experienced team of counselors, our curriculum technology integrator, and our educational assistants.  Ms. Castro and I always do lunch duty except for days when we have district level meetings when we appoint a designee.  Our cafeteria manager, Ms. Lee, and her cheerful and efficient staff are always present along with additional staff to make sure that the students can purchase and eat their lunches in a reasonable amount of time.  
    Some of the events that will take place this year at lunch include our theme lunches.  We will continue our Valentine lunch for parents and grandparents.  We will also have an international lunch for our students where they can experience cuisine from other countries, specially prepared by our wonderful food service provider, Sodexo. Many of our students tell us that they really love our lunch menu, especially the pizza and freshly baked pretzels. 
     We appreciate any feedback that can help us be a better learning community.  Please email me at or call at 209-8102.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Open Enrollment Students Can Apply for Bus Transportation Services NOW!!!!

In a nod to Pat Benetar, I really should call this entry "Hot Child in the City." It seems to describe students, teachers, and parents who are experiencing morning and afternoon drop-off and pick-up at ECMS during the first days of the school year.   I have received numerous emails and phone calls from frustrated parents who have been spending inordinate amounts in long lines.  I have been in communication with homeowners near our school who are concerned that students are being dropped off on private property in order to circumvent waiting in line. 

The first days are never easy at ECMS in terms of parking.  It takes a while to learn the routines of our parking lot.  We increase our staff coverage and employ an off-duty deputy to direct traffic. Mr. Rob Henikman, principal of Canyon View, and I are in constant communication about our mutual challenges of managing our schools' traffic patterns and the inevitable back up on Sabino Canyon Road past Sunrise. Be assured, as people learn the routines of our parking lot, traffic flow will improve and wait times will diminish. In the meantime, we encourage all students who can take the bus to do so. 

The good news is that all open enrollment students can apply to ride the bus right now on the CFSD website!  We assess the ridership of our in-district students during the first couple of weeks of school to determine whether our busses are at capacity.  If there is room on the bus, we open the seats to OE students.  Last year, we were able to provide bus service to all open enrollment families who requested it.  To apply for transportation services, go to the CFSD website, click on the "Parent" tab, then click on "Transportation" and then you will see the application. Submit it ASAP!

Please know that we appreciate your patience during these times of long lines and high temperatures.  Please know that safety of our students is first and foremost for us here at ECMS and in CFSD.  We are in this together and for the long haul.  Please know that we are trying our very best to ensure that everyone arrives and departs in total safety.    

Monday, August 5, 2013

6th Grade Orientation and Welcome!

Dearest Esperero Family:

Welcome to the 2013-14 School Year!  We are so happy to see our new and returning students.  
Just want to say how much we have missed you over the summer.  It has been very lonely at ECMS without our wonderful students and faculty.  

I want to extend a warm hello to all of our 6th grade students and parents!  We want to invite all 6th grade parents to our Parent Orientation Session from 10:15-11:15 in our library on Wednesday, August 7. 6th Grade Orientation for students starts at 10 am in the MPR on the same day! So drop your student off and come to the library for some great information.  Ms. Jennifer Marner, 6th grade counselor and Mr. Cory Walavich, ECMS Band Director will facilitate this session.  The primary goal of parent orientation is to support parents in helping our 6th graders to be successful at ECMS.  This is NOT mandatory and we realize that not all parents will be able to attend. There will be many opportunities to interact with us, so not to worry. 

Our 6th grade counselor is Ms. Jennifer Marner and her extension is 209-8112.  Ms. Marner is amazing at helping students and parents. Counseling is her passion and she is here to advocate for students.

If you have questions about how ECMS works, please allow us to assist you.  We are here to help! Ms. Sheryl Castro is our Dean of Students.  Both Ms. Castro and I can be reached at 209-8100.  

I have spent almost 3 decades in education and every year, I still get butterflies.  If you are the same way, just know it is a normal state of being.  We all care about our kids' well-being and academic progress.  Let me assure you that all students will be known to their teachers by name and feel connected to our school academically, socially and emotionally.  It is our mission to move all students forward in a safe, caring and nurturing environment. 

Welcome aboard!  

Mary Setliff, NBCT


Monday, August 5
 Schedule Distribution - 7th grade
Wednesday, August 7
 6th grade orientation
 Schedule Distribution - 8th grade
Thursday, August 8
 First Day for Students!
Thursday, August 22
 FFO General Mtg
Thursday, August 29
 Back to School Night!
Monday, September 2
Wednesday, September 4

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

THINK LIKE A PHYSICIST: Ms. Setliff's 2013 Principal's Promotion Address

Once upon a time, a man lived with his wife and child in a modest apartment in Bern, Switzerland.  He worked as a 3rd class clerk in the Swiss Patent Office.  During the day, he travailed performing mundane and menial tasks. 

But at night, his head was wrapped around the universe.  In one year, he wrote 4 papers that laid the foundation for quantum mechanics, defined special relativity, and furthered Newton’s analysis of light.  The year, 1905, was termed by the scientific community as the annus mirabilis, “the year of wonder.”

This 3rd class clerk was none other than Albert Einstein.  I tell you this story because it illustrates what our learning community here at Esperero Canyon is striving to achieve:  excellence. Excellence is the pursuit of continued improvement in fulfilling one’s own potential. 

Albert Einstein was one person,  working in a very unpromising clerical job.  He had no lab, no formal resources, and very few connections.  What he did have was belief in his own abilities.  His passion for science drove him to pursue continual self-improvement in order to fulfill his potential. 

So what can we learn from Albert Einstein about excellence?  How can we construct our own annus mirabilis?   Those of you who know me have been exposed to my love of list-making; it’s my nod to logos.  

I have been reading about Einstein lately and I have derived the following list:

Albert E.’s 5 Hints on How to Strive for Excellence

 1.  "Adversity reveals genius. " When trouble comes your way, hang on tight and let it move you forward.

2.  “Imagination is more important than knowledge and is the true sign of intelligence”…. Dare to imagine!

3.   “Never stop asking questions . . .but learn to ask the right ones.”

4.  “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and science."  Embrace the mysteries of life.

5.  “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.” 
  Ask yourself if what you are counting is truly important. 

Tonight, as you walk across this stage, try to think like a physicist and know that you are walking into in the universe.  Be assured that the amount of love in this room for each and every one of you is immeasurable by any scientific standards.   Einstein said “Gravitation is not responsible for love.”  Yet, such love is past, present and future . . .  but most of all, it is wondrous.

Source for quotes:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

80% of College Admissions Officers Check Out FACEBOOK Pages of Applicants for Admission

Mary Setliff, Principal

Facebook is a 21st Century phenomenon.  It can be the penultimate preserver of connections.  This is the wondrous part about being a Facebook user; it  keeps one in touch with people who would otherwise be a fading memory.  Facebook can expand the world of its users if navigated skillfully and appropriately, with safety being first and foremost.  But using Facebook is also about discretion in anticipating who might be reading one's Facebook page.

Many students have Facebook pages with and without parental permission and/or knowledge.  This is not an endorsement of allowing kids access to Facebook or not.  Students cannot access Facebook here at Esperero.  However, it is important to know how your child's online image can affect his/her future.  I am not going to address the huge concern about cyber-predation in this entry, although the suggestions on how to make a Facebook profile private will help with safety, too.   What I want to focus on is how your child's Facebook page may portray an unintended image to certain audiences that he or she has not anticipated.

A Kaplan Survey of College admissions officers, cited in the Huffington Post,  found "80% of college admissions officers use Facebook to check out students who have applied to their schools."  One Harvard admissions officer posted a response to the question:  Do high school students' Facebook profiles affect their college applications?  She responded that "a student's online presence absolutely prejudices me." Here's the link for the article (double click on the title):  Facebook and College Admissions

I have a colleague in Phoenix who consults students applying to highly selective colleges and universities.  She was a counselor for years at an Eastern prep school and knows all of the ins and outs of the college application process.  One of the first things she does is look at the student's Facebook page.  She then coaches the student on how to adjust the privacy settings on the account. This is essential.   She also suggests deleting any images and postings that might cause a student to be inaccurately portrayed.

 Employers and HR directors look at Facebook all of the time.  Young people sometimes forget what is posted on their pages.  They also may lack the filter that tells them if something is appropriate or not.   It's important, as parents,  to guide students in making good decisions early on in their career as  Facebook users.

If you have additional questions, please give us a call at ECMS.  Clicking on the link will take you to the Facebook help center and explain the privacy control options:

Mary Setliff, Principal 209-8100

Rachel Maleski, Curriculum Technology Integrator 209-8117

21st Century Mamas and Papas: Management Hints

Okay, you 21st Century mamas and papas, are you completely intimidated by your child's proficiency at social networking?  Are you feeling under-educated about what you know about Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, etc., vs. what your child knows.  Rachel Maleski, ECMS CTI,  and I thought that we might invent a little list of Rights and Responsibilities for Parents.  This is our unabashed reflection in response to the Arizona Attorney General's Office presentation and some of the comments that parents have made to us privately vis a vis their frustrations with child internet usage.

Rachel Maleski is amazing! I am so grateful that she is on our staff as Curriculum Technology Integrator!  Rachel used to teach English and Journalism at Catalina Foothills High School but
made the move to Esperero in 2011.

21st Century Rights and Responsibilities for Parents (Unofficial, of course)
by Rachel and Mary (#10 is a suggestion from Nick Debus, from the Office of the Attorney General)

1.  My child's IPHONE, IPAD, computer, digital camera belong/s to me, his/her parent.
2.  I allow my child to use these devices but I can reclaim them at any time.
3.  I have the right to monitor and supervise my child's online and social media life.
4.  It is my right to know all of my child's passwords.
5.  I have a right to set limits and boundaries in regard to my child's online and social media usage.
6.  I have the right to give my child increased freedom and independence when he/she has demonstrated a deep understanding of how to use technology responsibly, respectfully, and lawfully.
7.  I can and will be an active participant in my child's online and social media life.
8.  I have open lines of communication with my child regarding his/her online activity and social media life. We have frequent conversations about his/her communications on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, InstaGram, etc.
9.  I have a right to know who my child has "friended" or is interacting with online.
10.  I understand that if my child receives inappropriate pictures or other material that he/she needs to inform me so that the inappropriate material can be deleted. My child and I will then sign a document that reads:  On September 14, 2013, I watched my child delete inappropriate material from his/her account.  This material was sent by ___________(if you know).  

A parent at Thursday's AZ Attorney General's Office presentation stated something that I thought was particularly powerful  in ensuring open communications with kids.  Confirming the unconditional love you have as a parent might sound like (paraphrasing):  "Nothing that you do can ever take away my love for you.  If you make a mistake, if you do something wrong, I will still love you.  You can tell me anything . . . bring it on.  I will help you.  We will walk through this together."

Thanks to the 30 parents who attended (on a U of A basketball night, no less).  In my next entry, I will talk about how your child's activity on Facebook can follow him/her to even through the college admissions process and into the work world.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

AZ Attorney General's Office Cyberbullying Workshop


10 Reasons Why Parents Should Attend the Presentation on Bullying by the Arizona Attorney General's Office

1.  Learn about the law and cyber-bullying.  
2.  Discover ways you can keep your child safe when using Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
3.  Hear about how privacy settings can protect your child.
4.  Learn about how text messages and emails can be traced back to the original sender.
5.  Do you know to whom your child is talking on the internet?
6.  Do you know how cyber-predators can get to your front door in minutes?
7.  Do you know how to report abuse on the internet?
8.  Someone sends your child an inappropriate picture or text on the internet  . . . do you know what to do?
9. What is the one thing that kids should never give to strangers on the internet?
10.  Do you know if your child has ever been asked for personal information on the internet by someone he/she does not know?  

Arizona Attorney General's  Office CYBERBULLYING WORKSHOP

Where:  ECMS, in the library
When:  Thursday. March 21
Time:  6-7pm

Monday, February 25, 2013

What is Your Legacy: Helping Kids Craft a Beautiful Life

   This year, our ECMS Student Council will take on a Legacy Project.  Sponsors Annie Holub and Pam VandeWater are assisting these wonderful students in designing a project that will allow them to contribute a gift to the school in the form of a permanent feature on our campus.  Selecting a gift for our campus that represents the student body requires making connections and defining how the Class of  2017 wants to be remembered as middle schoolers.

   There are several ways to view the concept of legacy.  One sort of legacy is a gift of money or property.   Legacy can also involve assembling a sort of “collage” of one’s actions, contributions and achievements.  During Rodeo Break, I had the opportunity to listen to some fireside wisdom about establishing and preserving one’s legacy.  And the good news is, building a legacy is for the living and the time to start is now.

     Thinking about one’s legacy helps us to discover ways to use time, talent, and resources in order to leave a lasting impression on those we love and on society at large.  It can also be a way of defining one’s core values and beliefs.  Constructing one’s legacy can be a dynamic,  self-edifying process where high expectations coupled with action and ongoing reflection can lead to a beautiful and meaningful life.

    In my personal teaching practice, I began having students think about legacy and goal-setting as seniors in high school.  This was part of my unit on teaching students to write high-quality college essays.  It was challenging for them because of the hyper-focus on self.  Several years ago, I presented some of these strategies at a workshop on college and career readiness.  Two teachers approached me afterwards and told me that they had been doing this kind of work with elementary students and seeing results in the form of motivation and an increased understanding of the importance of education in general.   I have included more formal studies at the end of this entry about the value of goal-setting with students.

   Mary’s List of Tools and Resources for Building a Legacy
     (By the way, this list is intended for kids and adults-- the process is ongoing).

#1.  Make a Lifetime Achievement List. (This is a kind of Bucket List of things you want to do/achieve in your lifetime). It’s okay to think big!
#2.  Create a Values List (What things are important to you? )
#3.  Write a letter of recommendation for yourself.  If you have trouble doing this, get help from someone who knows you and can recommend you.  Mention your best qualities (give evidence) and areas that you are actively trying to improve.  This can be more challenging that it seems as the letter must be "written by you and about you."
#4.  You have a million dollars to give away to any cause that is dear to your heart.
What cause would you choose and why? Who will benefit and how will they benefit?   
#5.  Someone has given you the opportunity to create your own museum.  What will go into your museum?  What do you/will you collect?  (Example:  Mr. Kwok On began the Kwok On Museum in Paris, France by collecting types of puppets from around the world.  It was his passion. The museum has about 12, 000 pieces in a very small space but is the best of its kind in the world…all because of Mr. On’s passion and love of the art of puppetry). 
#6.  Revisit your lists on a regular basis. Remember that they are not written in stone and as you change, so will your lists. 
#7.  Share your list with a friend or family member.  Do this periodically as a matter of habit. 

Research studies that support writing down goals and sharing them:

Study 1
According to Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech:
1.     People who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetimes as people who don't.
2.     80% of Americans say they don't have goals.
3.     16% do have goals but don't write them down.
4.     Less than 4% write down their goals and fewer than 1% review them on an ongoing basis.

Study 2
Psychology professor, Dr. Gail Matthews, of the Dominican University of California conducted a study on goals that included 267 participants from a wide variety of businesses, organizations, and networking groups throughout the United States. 
    The results of her study were "Share your goals with a friend."     
    People who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why Being on Time Matters

  Punctuality is a challenge for many people.  Recently, we have been experiencing an inordinate amount of students who are late to school in the mornings.  When students arrive late to school, they must be checked in, go to their lockers, and then go to class.  This leads to falling behind in work, missing out on  presentation of new content and any feedback that might come as a result of having time to access prior knowledge at the beginning of class.  If students are tardy over time, it can mean a huge deficit in learning.  Ten minutes late to first period mounts up over time.  If you have 10 tardies,  you may have missed 100 or more minutes of class.  That's a conservative estimate.
   This is an entry that will focus on solving the problem.  In praise of self-directed behavior, I offer advice from Peter Bregman from The Harvard Business Review.  Bregman talks of the necessity of transition time and how 5-10 minutes of planning ahead can shave 30 minutes off a task.  So what does that 10 minutes look like?
   Here are some suggestions that might help your middle schooler's morning go better.  Take 10 minutes to plan the night before.  Do it together with your student several nights in a row and then turn him/her loose and monitor.  That might involve organizing what your Eagle is wearing, eating, taking with him/her in the backpack.  Putting out the clothes he/she will be wearing, packing a lunch/snack, locating ID and loading the backpack with materials and work are all tasks kids can manage. Having everything ready to go and in one place can shave off time and reduce stress.
   Help kids to help you, too.  This might involve reminding mom/dad to locate those car keys or to gas up the vehicle.   Just doing one of these tasks can greatly reduce stress and save time in the morning.  And the more we can empower kids to do organize their morning before school, the more self-directed they become at school.
   "The goal of adolescence is independence, " according to developmental psychologist Erik Erikson.
Empower your kids to help you to get them to school on time.  The benefits to students are to develop the essential school (and later workplace) habit of punctuality and reap the many rewards being on time offers. Plus, it helps to eliminate frenzy from the morning routine.