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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Foothills Lego Robotics Team WINS AZFLL State Championship over 61 teams from across Arizona

 Representatives of Local Legends and Team Jason
ARIZONA FIRST LEGO LEAGUE Tournament at Arizona State University on Saturday

Guest Blogger: Julie Farbarik, ECMS parent

Our 2 Foothills FLL teams did exceptionally well at yesterday’s FIRST Lego League tournament.

Local Legends WON the AZFLL State Championship over 61 teams from across Arizona.  In taking home the Champions Award, they were recognized as the team that embodies the FLL experience by fully embracing the program’s Core Values while achieving excellence and innovation in both the Robot Game and the project.  They will represent the state of Arizona at the LEGO World Festival in April 2015 in St Louis, MO.

Coaches: Ms. Charlotte Ackerman and Ms. Nancy Hsiao.  
The team has 3 ECMS students and 2 BASIS students.  ECMS students: Michael Gross, Jeremy Wang and Josh Tint.  BASIS students: Alex and Wesley Chiu.

Code Name: JASON, with ECMS 8th graders Sean Bergan, Andy Liaupsin, Alex Melde, Jason Peper and Jackson Tint, won the Robot Strategy and Innovation Award, which recognizes a team that uses solid engineering practices and a well-developed strategy to design and build an innovative, high performing robot.  

Coach Kerrie Bergan, ECMS parent, won the Vivian Chen Adult Coach/Mentor Award (AZFLL Coach of the Year) for her work with Code Name: JASON as well as mentoring other Foothills teams.  

The two teams, while in direct competition with each other through the past few months, supported each other throughout the season culminating in great behavior at the tournament, high fiving and fist bumping after each challenge.  At yesterday’s awards ceremony when one team won, the other would stand and cheer.  It was fun to see the FLL spirit of 'gracious professionalism’ in action in our Foothills boys.  We have much to cheer! 

Fun fact:  Ms. Kerrie Bergan has coached most of the students on Local Legends throughout the years; and Ms. Charlotte Ackerman has coached members of Code Name: JASON, so there is much mutual support of each other.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Supporting ECMS with Tax Credit Dollars

Dear Parents:

 Our Community Schools Director, Mr. Travis Kolter, has beautifully organized 
this blog entry about Arizona Tax Credit in CFSD and is, indeed, my guest blogger!  We thank our families for their tax credit donations. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

Mary Setliff, Principal

Arizona Tax Credit in the Foothills
by Travis Kolter, Director of Community Schools

The Catalina Foothills School District is a wonderful school community! It is impressive to see a community with such a commitment to educational excellence and support of the schools here in the Foothills.  CFSD would not be the district it is today without the community that surrounds and supports it! The success of our schools' extracurricular programs is tied to the generous contributions of community members who divert some of their state tax funds to the CFSD programs of their choice!

How does it Work?
Any Arizona taxpayer has the opportunity to give to Catalina Foothills School District instead of paying it in taxes. The donation must be earmarked for support of one of our many qualifying fee-based, extracurricular activities. We'll send the donor a receipt for their records. Then, when the taxpayer fills out their 2014 Arizona state taxes, they can subtract the amount of the donation, up to $400 (joint filers) and $200 (individuals), from what is owed in state taxes.  This is not just a tax deduction…it is a tax credit that reduces the amount of taxes owed to the state, dollar-for-dollar.  For more information about how this credit will work for your individual tax situation, contact your tax advisor.

How are these Dollars Spent?
Tax Credit dollars are spent to support fee-based, extra-curricular offerings. However, regular communication between building principals and Community Schools, leads to a beneficial partnerships that also helps support the needs at each school, as dollars are spent to serve a joint purpose.

What is the Tax Credit Goal at Esperero Canyon Middle School?
We are aiming for $35,000…that is only 175 individuals at $200 each!

Where Can I Donate?
You can donate online ( with your credit card or fill out the 2014 Tax Credit Form, which can be mailed to Murphey Administration Center, 2101 E River Rd., Tucson, AZ, 85718 or dropped off in person at any CFSD school, by December 31, 2014. Please make checks payable to Catalina Foothills School District (CFSD) and note the program to which you'd like to contribute on the check.

What have we purchased at Esperero with tax credit dollars?

Here are some of the things that Community Schools and Ms. Setliff have worked together on within the past 4 years:

·      Math remediation software
·      12 Additional iPads and cases to benefit ECMS students and Community Schools Programs (current project goal)
·      15 iPads, iPad cart (iPow) and iPad software to benefit ECMS students and Community Schools programs
·      Basketball and Soccer Uniforms utilized by ECMS students
·      Volleyball poles and nets (joint project between ECMS FFO dollars and tax credit dollars) used by ECMS Physical Education teachers, students, and Community Schools
·      Athletic equipment utilized by EC students, staff and Community Schools
·      Maintenance of soccer, softball and baseball fields utilized by ECMS Physical Education teachers, students, and Community Schools

 Digital Cameras utilized by ECMS students in yearbook class

      My sincere thanks to Mr. Kolter for being my guest blogger.  Partnering with Community Schools is always a great experience.   We are able to offer an amazing array of opportunities for students in the areas of fine arts, science, sports, and yoga. Community Schools enriches our students'  educational experience by providing high quality late start and after-school experiences.  Please consider donating your tax credit dollars today!!! Thanks for all that you do for our students!  And HAPPY HOLIDAYS to our wonderful Eagle Families!!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Current Research on Dating in Middle School: What Parents Need to Know

This month, my guest blogger is Jack Simons, our 8th grade counselor at ECMS.  Jack's background in counseling is in high school and middle school.  He is currently finishing his doctoral dissertation in the Department of Counseling and Family Therapy at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. 

Middle School Dating? What is it, and Should My Child Be Doing It?
By Jack Simons, M.Ed., LPC
Esperero Canyon Middle School 8th Grade Counselor

As a middle school counselor, I often wonder which students are dating among the 8th graders with whom I work.  Occasionally, a student tells me that she or he is dating, but this is very rare. Moreover, when I ask students about what dating means, responses always vary. It appears that a pure definition of what it means to be dating does not exist for these students. Some can only smile making me wonder what they are actually really thinking about. Parents have questions too. They ask, “Do you think that my daughter or son should be dating?” Indeed, dating is a perplexing area for early adolescent youth and their family members.

While there is literature that exists which supports dating and offers recommendations for students, there is also literature that discounts the practice. And, more of the latter research has been published. A quick review appears to indicate that more negative consequences exist for students who date at the middle school level than those who do not. A database search brings up words such as aggression, drug use, academic failure, psychological harm, prevention programs, and more. As parent myself with a daughter who will be an early adolescent in just a few short years, this finding makes me hold my breath. I ask, “What could be so harmful about a student who wishes to date earlier than others? What exactly are these risks?” Well, the reality is the costs appear to outweigh the benefits – at least for now. Regardless of how well intentioned your child is, when it comes to formally dating, she or he may be on the precipice of peril. Major consequences are clearly present for middle school students who date.  These students are more likely to develop poor study skills and problems with substance use. They are also more likely to drop out of school. Why might this be?

Learning to date is like taking a new class. I see that even the most successful and well-intentioned middle school students could find it overwhelming. Dating introduces factors including confusion, distraction, and discussions about intimacy. Defining what it means to date is challenging. On one hand a student might think that dating is exchanging a few text messages whereas another might think that it is about spending every waking moment of the day with another person. I could easily see this affecting a student’s schoolwork and emerging academic identity. Peer reviewed research has confirmed these outcomes as well. Orpinas et al. (2013) studied the trajectories of students enrolled in 6th grade. Special attention was paid to their study skills and dropout rates as well as drug use levels. It was discovered that 60% of the students who began dating early had significantly worse study skills. They were also more likely to drop out of school and use alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana more.

Rebecca Hill of provides the following recommendations for parents of students who ask about dating: (1) Have early ongoing conversations about dating with your children. (2) Make an effort to guide your children. Avoid power struggles and work towards middle ground when trying to establish what dating looks like. Questions to ask include, “What do you expect in a relationship? How do you want to be treated? How do you plan to treat others in a relationship?” (3) Oversee electronic media in the lives of your children and know who they are contacting. (4) Promote positive peer relationships in the lives of your children. Individuals in these relationships are often drawn upon by children before they contact you. (5) Connect with your children to develop a better sense of how to nurture them. They will remember these interactions whether they want them or not, and they are observing your relationships too.

To conclude, “Should dating be excluded from the middle school?” I would say most likely, yes, but not always. It’s worth a discussion with your child, and the outcome depends on your child’s needs. As a parent, you will make the final the decision, and hopefully with more knowledge and discussion with your child, you will be able to make choices that are in your child’s best interest and welfare. As a school counselor, I support modeling healthy dating behavior practices, providing students with dating information, and, certainly, always advocating for school success.  


Hill, R. A. (2014). Dating in middle school: Is it worth the risk? School Family: Your Go-To for School Success. Retrieved from
Orpinas, P., Horne, A. M., Song, X., Reeves, P. M. & Hsieh, H. (2013). Dating trajectories from middle to high school: Association with academic performance and drug use. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 23(4), 772-784. doi: 10.1111/jora.12029

Ten (Humble) Suggestions for Parents on How to Address Middle School Dating
by Mary Setliff,  ECMS Principal

1.  Don’t call it “dating.” Call it “hanging out."  Emphasize friendship. 
2.  Make "hanging out" with friends something that happens under your supervision. Taking kids out for a movie and pizza or to the game are all possibilities.  This de-emphasizes "dating" and makes it less glamorous.  
3.  Avoid "couple speak."  Making seemingly innocuous statements like "You look cute together" may not send the message you intend. Instead of "boyfriend" or "girlfriend," say "friend" when referring to your child's pals. 
4.  When students talk about romance and fantasies of love and marriage, be direct.  Tell them that you believe that they are too young to date. Explain why.  
5.  Focus on school;  encourage effort; monitor your child's academic progress regularly. The social aspect of school should not be the first concern.  In truth, a student needs only a couple of good, solid friendships and an ability to be happy in his/her own company.  
6.  If your child goes out with friends, you have a right to know all of the details.  There should be a plan in place where all time is accounted for.   If details are sketchy, consider getting more information before you say "yes" to the outing.
7.  Misuse of social media among adolescents can lead to unhealthy boundaries and abusive, controlling behaviors in potential dating scenarios.  This can happen in middle school when students become intensely involved. Talk to your child about his/her use of social media. Monitor, monitor, monitor…it is your right as a parent. Highly rated parental control software products according to PC Magazine include Net Nanny, Web Watcher, McAfee Safe Eyes and PC Pandora.  
8.  Remember  that 10 percent of students in grades 9 to 12 consistently say they’ve been physically hurt on purpose by a dating partner during the past year, according to the ongoing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) youth risk surveys.  It is important to start talking to students about safe relationships and healthy boundaries.  
9.  If you feel that your child is dating too early and don't know what to do about it, seek professional help sooner rather than later. Your school guidance counselor is a great place to start.  
10.  In middle school, dating in unchartered territory for both parents and students.  It is one thing to experience adolescence firsthand, yet another to experience it as a parent.  Take advantage of local parent educational opportunities.  Talk to other parents.  You will find you are not alone.  

Thanks to Jack for his expertise!  Jack is at

Caryl Altman is our 6th and 7th grade counselor.  She and I will be teaming up to write about eating disorders and cutting in the next EAGLE ANGLE.  Caryl can be reached at 

We are so fortunate at ECMS to have such a competent and highly qualified counseling staff.  Thanks to Jack and Caryl for all they do for our kids!

Please write to me at or simply post a comment!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

School Tragedies and How to Talk to Kids

Safety of students is one of our primary concerns at Esperero and in CFSD.  Friday’s tragedy at Marysville Pilchuck High School near Seattle may cause students to feel anxious and to ask questions about the safety and security of school. This entry is taken from one of my 2012 blogs that took place shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

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.  

Take some time to talk and listen to your children. 

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 Marysville 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, teachers, and parents).  We  continue to check IDs at the gate every morning, and to practice fire drills, lock downs and evacuations.  Teachers and staff at Esperero talk to students and make it their business to understand what is happening among the student body. Conflicts between students are constantly monitored and resolved very quickly by the teachers, counselors, administration and parents."

Thanks to RoseMarie Cress, our school psychologist, for her suggestions for this entry two years ago. Sadly, we are addressing the same issue once again.  
Please hold the Marysville Pilchuck High School students,  staff and families in your hearts.  Also, please reach out with condolences to the Tulalip Tribes, a small Native American community grieving in the wake of this tragedy.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thank You for Telling On Our Students

  I attended our FFO event at Hacienda Del Sol on Friday evening.  A lovely time was had by all.  Two sets of our wonderful parents were seated at a table.   I made my way over to say hello.  They proceeded to tell me two incidents that left me beaming with Eagle Pride.  One of the moms told me that her student lost a Nook (portable digital reading device) in the first few weeks of school and was pretty heartbroken, never expecting to see it again. In no time at all, a good citizen on our campus found the device and turned it in.  The Nook is now back with its owner.
   Another heartwarming story was about a student who had left an IPHONE on our campus.  The student went back much later in the day, without much hope of finding the lost phone.  The IPHONE was still where it had been left. No one had taken it.
   Parents remind me that this is not so in other places.  They also said that they perceive our students to be very honorable young people.  I agree.
    Eagle On, students!  Thanks for being responsible by making good choices!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Deserts, Monsoons, Storm Safety

  A good drink of water can be a lifesaver in a desert.  When torrential rains course through the desert's unofficial highways, it trails and washes, they do so with a ferocity that only nature can produce.  We feel safe here because Tucson is our home. It is a beautiful place to live and to raise a family. All it takes is more rain than usual, and we are reminded that we are mere guests of the Sonoran Desert.

   As always, here at ECMS, student safety is our primary concern.  This is especially true during monsoon season.  As many of you know, our Site Council has spent a lot of time developing our emergency plan at Esperero.  We want to be prepared for any situation. We are not alone in our mission.  We are part of a larger district team and we are so grateful for all of their support.  Thanks to the wonderful, hard working members of our district facilities team, who arrived around 7 pm last night and strategically placed heavy sandbags in areas of our campus that could potentially flood.  They worked late into the evening to ensure the safety of students.  A special thanks to Mr. Doug Huie, CFSD District Director of Facilities, for being onsite and making sure ECMS is ready for any storm.

   And, speaking of safety, during monsoon season,  it is a good time to remind students about storm safety. Here is my storm safety tip of the day:

  Keep children away from running water.  Though many children (and young people) love to play in puddles after storms, Rural/Metro advises keeping them away from storm drains, washes, and creeks due to rushing water and the potential for danger.  Moving water as little as one or two feet deep will carry away most vehicles and 6 inches of moving water can knock a person off his feet. 

The advice from our Rural Metro Fire Department is: WHEN IN DOUBT, WAIT IT OUT!! 

Stay safe, Eagles.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Remembering 9/11

   On September 11, 2001,  I was walking to my classroom.  Our school's audiovisual clerk came out onto the sidewalk to stop me.  I could hear the television blasting from her workroom. She motioned to me, "You have to come and look at this.  A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City."  The morning kept on.  Then, there was a second plane. Then, the towers fell. Students were scared and had so many questions about what was happening.  It was a day when teachers knew no answers.  We all lived in liminal space between disbelief and speculation.

   On September 11, 2014, we will observe a minute of silence at Esperero Canyon Middle School during the morning announcements.  Our flag will fly at half-staff in honor and remembrance of the victims of September 11, 2001 and their families, as well as all the men and women who have bravely served and continue to serve our Nation in the fight against terrorism.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

These Digital Times

Dear Eagle Families:

Welcome to the ECMS Eagle Angle Blog.  This blog is my opportunity, as principal, to communicate with parents about issues that concern those of us who are raising and educating young people.  I was very faithful about blogging year before last.  I stopped as I really did not perceive that people were interested.  However, several parents have requested that I start blogging again.  I am more than happy to do so!!!

I feel so fortunate to work in the Catalina Foothills School District.  We are privileged to have the visionary leadership and parental support to offer students the most innovative approaches to education.  Our implementation of 21st Century Skills and Deeper Learning Proficiencies is yielding amazing results among our students. They are making I-movies, digital stories,  and using google docs.  Fitness Gram is an app they can use to track their fitness in PE.   Every year, technology enriches the content students are learning. A lesson utilizing technology standards and tools  is richer and can engage students at a deep level in all content areas, thus contributing to "deeper learning." Technology in education is truly revolutionizing both teaching and learning.

There are caveats when traveling these new and exciting roads.  I am a digital immigrant.  I admit it.  I was in my 30's when I became aware of the implications of the internet on my chosen profession.  A student taught me how to turn on my first computer.  And, even though I have devoted a lot of time to learning about technology, I was not born into the digital age.  If you remember a typewriter and correction tape, chances are you are a digital immigrant like me.  I am always more careful with things that I do not fully understand.

Digital natives, of course, were born into the age of computers. They play on computers many times before they can read.  The digital natives who are our students/children navigate the worldwide web in the security and comfort of their homes sometimes without a thought that they are putting themselves  at risk for cyberbullying and internet predators.  Our children may be corresponding with people they do not know in real time, people who are being dishonest about who they are.   These are all very frightening possibilities to educators and parents.

At school, we have technology policies and procedures which we implement and monitor with fidelity to ensure student safety.  Our goal is to teach internet safety habits and for those habits to transfer to when students are away from the school setting. At home and in other settings,  using the internet and the worldwide web safely requires discernment and education.  I also want to encourage parents to monitor your child's online activity.   Things can and do go wrong for kids on the internet.   It is important to be aware. Prevention through education is key.  Here is a cautionary list, not made to scare anyone, but to raise awareness. 


 1.  Youtube challenges are not new.  These "challenges" are aimed at young people, modeling and encouraging the performance of dangerous stunts.  These "challenge" activities can cause injury or worse. From eating caustic cinnamon to burning oneself with ice and salt, it is too bad that Youtube allows these videos as they put young people at risk.

2.  KiK Messenger. Kik is a mini social network. Similar to iChat or Google Chat, users can talk to multiple people, upload pics and files and even send built-in greeting cards or sketched pictures. Like Facebook or Twitter, it's impossible to verify someone's identity through the worldwide web, thus making our kids vulnerable.

3.  SnapChat. This iPhone app allows users to send photos that will "self-destruct" within a few seconds. This means that the user can send a potentially damaging picture to a friend or someone else, and it won't stay on the recipient's phone.  Talk to your child about the dangers of sending risky photos.

4.  iFunny. The app lets users create comic strips using photos and captions, and post or send them to friends.  This app is rated for ages 17 and over. Once created, the comic strip can make its way to social networks, or it can be saved to phones and computers by other users. This can expose students to humor and behavior that is not age appropriate.

5.  Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them on a variety of social networking platforms.  This service also makes it easy to hide your identify and to create "fake" accounts.  Instagram can be a platform for bullying.

Additional Caveats
Many of these sites require the user to be age 13 or older.  I would venture to say that this is not well monitored and impossible to regulate.   Parental Controls in Windows Media Center can help you set limits on your kids' computer time as well as limiting the programs they can access and games they can use.

What does "friend" mean on the worldwide web?
 Who are your child's friends on Facebook and other apps?  Is it possible for a 12 year old to have 1,000 friends?   Accepting cyber friendship requests for someone you do not know in real time is dangerous.  People are often not who they say they are.  Look at your student's list of friends and ask questions.

What do I do if my child is harassed or bullied online?
Call law enforcement.  Make a report even if you do not know who is harassing or bullying your child.

Steps to Take to Have Content Removed from Google and Instagram
If you come across content that violates your family's privacy on Google, here is a the website to request content removal.

Here is Instagram's Privacy and Safety Center Site:

My hope is to help parents better monitor their child's activity in cyberspace.  And, most importantly, to empower digital natives and immigrants to keep themselves safe on the internet.  Knowledge is power.  Let's work together to keep kids safe for years to come.  The internet is here to stay.  Let's teach kids to use it wisely and to protect themselves and their families.

Please feel free to email me with any concerns that come up as a result of my blog.