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Secretary Training

posted Jul 29, 2015, 4:41 PM by Norman PTA Council   [ updated Jul 29, 2015, 4:46 PM ]

Last Friday (Jul 24, 2015) during the NPTAC Unit training workshop, the secretaries met for about 30 minutes and covered some topics.  The session was led by Matt Esker, last year's Council Secretary.

His handouts are attached to this post.  He had two main pieces of advice for Norman Unit Secretaries.  First was to view the e-Learning sessions on the National PTA website (http://www.pta.org/members/content.cfm?ItemNumber=3090) and specifically the titles: PTA Basics, Board Basics, and Local Unit Secretary.  The attached handouts were downloaded from the Local Unit Secretary Training resources.  The second piece of advice is to not only have a printed or digital copy of your Uniform Unit Bylaws and your Unit Standing Rules with you at every meeting, but to read them thoroughly and know what they say.

If you have any questions about being a Secretary or about the training that was conducted, please contact Matt at mattesker@gmail.com or the current Council Secretary, April Price at ameason1@gmail.com.  We will do our best to answer your questions or find out who can.

Inclement Weather Survey, the comments – part 2

posted Mar 22, 2015, 8:12 AM by Norman PTA Council

Stay tuned for:

Inclement Weather Survey, the suggestions – part 3

 

The feedback comments on the survey (see previous post) ranged from fully supportive of my concerns to fully dismissive of them and just about everything in between.  So let me say up front that I completely understand that this is not an easy decision for the district administration to make.  Let me also say that I agree with the many comments submitted in the survey that said that safety of the students and staff should be the number one priority, before instruction, before the students’ self esteem, and before the schools’ and district’s A-F grades.  And my motivation in starting this conversation is not to gripe and then walk away.  I see a problem and am ready to be part of the solution.

 

Here are some of the many feedback comments that made very good points that I think should be considered.

 

“NPS is not a babysitting service. If roads are icy and unsafe children shouldn't be put at risk in busses, waiting on busses, braving unsafe walking conditions or driving (high school) in bad conditions. Teachers shouldn't be forced to work, unable to care for their own children, if absences are excused. It's significantly safer to err on the side of caution and avoid the chaos. Parents who work and complain about having their child home need to understand that school isn't a babysitting service and have backup plans in place. It's part of being a parent.”

 

The decision to excuse absences was made after zero hour had started for the high schools and made our town's most novice drivers drive in deteriorating conditions. The school district needs to consider high school drivers when making inclement weather decisions. “

 

While I understand that on both days the decision was a difficult one to make before school started, I would prefer a more conservative cancellation policy. I have a teen driver that reported that there were multiple wrecks in the parking lot of her school. I would rather do make up days than have someone injured because of lack of a cancellation.”

 

“I appreciate the school district's proactive approach. But I think there should just be a standing rule that in case of severe or winter weather parents can check their kids out early. Not this mass call/text/email unless the national weather service says there is significant weather headed towards Norman. What kind of example are we setting for children if we drop everything for a potential snowflake? Yes, when roads are icy or there is a PDS in tornado season, close school. Otherwise, carry on.”

“The school district should work closely with the NWS in Norman and could also follow protocol set by the Department of Public Safety concerning state employees in Cleveland county. If State offices close early, then, perhaps send out a message.”

 

Even though the school staff did a terrific job, I do think the checkout process at the school was a little chaotic/crowded and wondered if they shouldn't come up with an alternative checkout procedure for days such as this. I can't imagine how overwhelming it was for the secretaries to try to keep up with all of the waiting parents and students. For safety reasons, I think an alternative plan for pick is needed. Overall, I think NPS did the right thing both days based on the info they had at the time. “

 

I think your survey answer options are very leading and biased on the question "choose the sentence with the condition that best matches your experience. One of the days school was released early, my son stayed at school because I was not able to pick him up early. The second time it was an option I was able to pick him up. His class was watching a Charlie Brown movie because so many kids didn't make it to school. It would have been better in that instance to have canceled school rather than releasing during school, in my opinion. “

 

Although I understand your concern, I don't feel that students should remain in school if the weather is causing horrible road conditions if they're able to be picked up however I have to say I would much rather the district err on the side of caution and make the decision to cancel school before it ever starts. I'm sure that most parents would rather have their children off the roads all together.”

 

This is a no win situation. If the district calls it early before school starts, and nothing happens, parents are upset. If weather starts to get bad and they don't call it, and someone gets hurt, that wouldn't be good either. You can't make everyone happy all the time. Weather is a forecast...it's not always correct. It's a prediction. “

 

If schools are going to release students due to possible weather conditions they should do so for the entire school district. My child said that zero instruction was done after the announcement, all students remaining were sent to the auditorium. If the administration has decided the conditions warrant sending students home early then also start running the buses early for those students who cannot be picked up. “

 

“Schools have an incredibly difficult decision to make and blasting them with hindsight doesn't do any good for anyone. If the weather deteriorates and parents are more comfortable with their kids at home, that is fine. If they are comfortable leaving them at school, or they must leave them at school, then the kids are safe. “

If you feel that it is unsafe for students to stay at school, please make an all or nothing decision: send all students home early or stay until the end of the day. Parents who make a choice to pull their child because of inclement weather are not preparing their kids appropriately for the future.
For days that the primary roads are drivable, create severe weather bus routes. Parents should be responsible for getting their children to location where the bus wouldn't have to enter the neighborhoods. I say this knowing that both of our kids ride the bus. “

 

“I am aware that it is not a easy decision to make. I feel if the teacher or school administrator would send out a detailed explanation to inform parents of the policy or expectations for students during these situations that it could help eliminate some confusion.
Explaining or reminding parents about the check out policy would be helpful. It was a tough day for our office staff to keep up with all the check outs.”

 

“The school has a responsibility to keep our children safe and educate them. If I the parent feel that due to deteriorating weather conditions warrant early pickup, be it ice or a tornado, I expect that my demands to take my child for their safety are my unalienable rights and should be granted with it being our responsibility of getting the assignments missed done in an efficient manner.”

 

“I find it better to cancel school without the option of staying. I think most jobs respond better to I have to pick my child up, not I choose to pick my child up.”

 

“When winter weather is imminent, school should be cancelled completely. If the district deems conditions hazardous enough to allow early check out, it is acknowledging that staff and students that remain are unsafe. Procedures need to be put in place to enact a weather delayed opening of school and an early closing, or finish the school day. I don't think this applies to thunderstorms, because those pass by and travel to and from school can go on unaffected. Parents always have the option to pick up their children if they feel it necessary. What I saw as a volunteer on the early check out days was parents checking kids out simply because they could, not because of weather conditions. It was impossible or teachers to instruct, turning them into babysitters who were unable to go pick up their own children. “

 

“As a teacher, I can't take my child home early, so no matter what, I will be driving in inclement weather. That being said, I feel the district does a fabulous job of making these decisions and allowing parents to use their judgment as to whether or not to send or pick up their students. We actually lost an entire day of instruction time because of "impending" weather that didn't show it's head until release time but I still support the districts decision to cancel school. No matter what, someone will be inconvenienced or upset but I feel the majority of NPS patrons are in support of these decisions and policies.”

 

“The weather was fine both of those days and I made the right decision to leave my children in school for our circumstances (live close by) ...I was frustrated Tho by the amount of kids picked up just to go other places and have fun. And then finding out once all the other kids leave to go their various activities, my child was no longer learning. I left my child in school to learn. We could have had a play day driving all over town like our friends I suppose. “

 

“If school is canceled due to a forecast of bad weather and it doesn't happen the kids have missed a day of school. When or if it deterioraties the parents have an option to pick up children or leave them in school. I think the schools handled it well.”

 

Any absence stemming from district or parental action to protect a child from possible harm should be an excused absence. (eg. Imminent threat of tornadoes, flooding, ice/snow or potential threat from an armed person on or near a school grounds or suspected by the authorities to be planning an attack on a school).”

 

There were quite a few comments made about how unpredictable the weather is in Oklahoma.  They seemed to be worried that if the district cancels school and then nothing bad happens, parents will be angry and we will have missed a day of instruction.  First, I agree that weather can be unpredictable but there is always a forecast.  We can only make decisions based on the best available information at the time.  We can always look back in hindsight and say it was a bad decision to cancel school, but wouldn’t we rather make that error than have kids and staff at school in dangerous conditions?  There are 9 extra days of instruction built into the schedule with planned snow days and the extra minutes added to each school day.  The district did that a few years ago, I assume, so that it could make good safety decisions just like this.

 

There were also a couple of comments about how parents should be allowed to pickup their children early if they feel deteriorating conditions warrant it.  I am definitely not arguing against that.  You, as parents, already have that right.  My big concern is that by excusing that absence ahead of time, the district is encouraging and incentivizing parents to check their children out unnecessarily, and in some cases, causing safety issues in the schools parking lot because they did not have an early check out dismissal plan in place.  If a parent checks out a student early for safety purposes, there should be some appeal process by which they can argue, after the fact, for it to be an excused absence.

 

Coming soon…Inclement Weather Survey, suggestions – part 3

Inclement Weather Survey, by the numbers – part 1

posted Mar 16, 2015, 7:02 AM by Norman PTA Council

Stay tuned for:

Inclement Weather Survey, the comments – part 2

And

Inclement Weather Survey, the suggestions – part 3

 

I would first like to thank all of you who submitted responses to the inclement weather survey.  As of Mar 12, we had 166 parents respond.  These parents represented 16 of the 17 elementary schools, all 4 middle schools, and both high schools.  Because a few of my survey questions allowed for multiple answers the percentages below may add up to more than 100%.

 

Which school(s) is(are) your child(ren) enrolled in?

Elementary School Parents – 151 (91%)

Middle School Parents – 51 (31%)

High School Parents – 40 (24%)

 

How did you find out about the early checkout/excused absence option for Monday, Feb 23 and Friday, Feb 27?

IRIS – 156 (94%)

Social Media – 27 (16%)

Child Texted – 34 (20%)

Other – 7 (4%)

 

When you received this notification, how did you interpret this message?

As school was not cancelled outright, I expect instruction to continue normally – 66 (40%)

The school district is closely watching the weather forecast and thinks the deteriorating conditions warrant my child coming home early for safety reasons – 77 (46%)

Instructional activities have ended and it is expected that I pick my child up early – 9 (5%)

Even though I am unable to pick up my child early, I expect instruction to continue normally – 43 (26%)

Even though I am unable to pick up my child early, I expect instruction to end and the staff at my school to keep my child safe until I can arrange for them to be picked up or they can ride home on the bus – 27 (16%)

Other – 18 (11%)

 

What did you do when you received this notification?

Even though I had the ability to check my child out early, I elected to keep them in school – 50 (30%)

I did not have the ability to check my child out early and they had to remain in school – 47 (28%)

I went to the school and checked my child(ren) out early – 53 (32%)

My child is old enough to drive him/herself to and from school and I gave them permission to leave early – 11 (7%)

My child was not in school either day – 3 (2%)

 

Choose the sentence with the condition that best matches your experience

My child left school early on both days – 51 (31%)

My child stayed at school (at least one of the days) until the end of the school day and informed me that further instruction was made extremely difficult due to the exodus of students throughout the day – 59 (36%)

My child stayed at school (at least one of the days) until the end of the school day and informed me that further instruction was affected but not impossible due to the exodus of students throughout the day – 35 (21%)

My child stayed at school (at least one of the days) until the end of the school day and informed me that further instruction was unaffected due to the exodus of students throughout the day – 14 (8%)

 

Do you support the school district's policy to send this notification after the school day has begun with the understanding that instruction may be affected by the disruption caused by parents checking children out early?

Yes – 78 (47%)

No – 62 (37%)

No Opinion – 24 (14%)

 

Would you prefer the district to make the decision to cancel school before it starts on days that are forecast to have deteriorating conditions, rather than post this notification?

Yes – 111 (67%)

No – 40 (24%)

No Opinion – 14 (8%)

 

If you checked your child out early, did you understand that your child would be responsible for makeup work missed later that day?

Yes – 58 (35%)

No – 30 (18%)

Stayed in School – 76 (46%)

 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that 85 of you left feedback comments in your own words.  I wish I could list them all here and discuss them all.  However, for brevity’s sake, I will list just a few that seem to be representative in part 2.

 

But first…a few observations of the numbers listed so far.  The school’s IRIS notification system and social media outlets seem to be working very well at getting important information to parents. 

 

The various interpretations of the message and the fact that they were fairly evenly distributed, indicates that there existed some confusion about what the district was actually trying to tell us as parents.  Of all the responses, 49% expected instruction to continue normally and of those that remained in school 87% reported that it did not.  

 

Almost half (46%) of the parents interpreted the message to mean that the district felt it was not safe for children to remain in school.  My follow up question then is this:  If safety is the motivating factor behind this notification, what safety precautions is the district taking for those children who cannot be picked up early or who must ride home on the bus?

 

Ninety-seven (58%) of the respondents indicated that their children stayed in school, either by choice or because they had no ability to pick up early.

 

Support for the district’s decision to notify parents that early pickups would be excused absences was fairly evenly split.  However the preference to call the snow day before school starts, based on the forecast, even if morning conditions are not bad, was overwhelmingly preferred (67%).  It appears that most parents agree (and many feedback comments support the idea) that the school district should err on the side of caution.   It is much better to have declared the snow day prematurely, than it is to let school continue and, by posting this notification, create unsafe conditions with novice drivers on the road and parking lots unable to handle the traffic.

 

It is also worth noting that a third of respondents who checked their kids out did not understand that any instruction done after their child left would be considered makeup work that the child was responsible for.

 

Coming soon...

Inclement Weather Survey, the comments - part 2

 

Inclement Weather Survey

posted Mar 4, 2015, 6:45 PM by Norman PTA Council

Here goes my first attempt at a blog post.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Matt Esker and I am currently serving as the Secretary for the Norman PTA Council.  I have a son in the third grade at Lincoln Elementary and a son in the 7th grade at Irving Middle School.

In my day job, I run the Sooner Flight Academy, a K12 STEM outreach program in the Aviation Department at OU.

For my first blog post, I wanted to share with you some of my concerns about inclement weather days.

Last week, the district twice sent out notifications after school had started that the weather was deteriorating and that parents could come early to check their children out of school and that the absence would be excused.  My concerns fall into three categories.

1.     Safety – If this decision was made for safety concerns, I worry that the children whose parents are unable to come to school in the middle of the day or who need to ride the bus home are put in a position of reduced safety.   Additionally, when parents attempt to check out students during the day en masse, they must park and enter the school, creating extra safety concerns in the parking lot.

2.     Emotional – The children who must remain at school may feel some level of emotional discomfort or exclusion having to spend the day listening to the office staff announce the names of other students being checked out.  I also worry that NPS staff members are not given the opportunity to check their own children out of school and that the elementary CASP programs are closing at 4pm, before middle school and high school staff are released from duty.

3.     Academic – When the district makes this announcement and parents arrive to check their children out, schools appear to be following normal check out procedures, which were not designed for mass checkouts.  I worry that the near constant disruption of calling students to the office for the remainder of the day makes any further instruction impossible.  I am also concerned that even excused absences count against the school for its attendance reporting as it pertains to school report cards.

I would very much like to know what you think of this notification policy.  I created a short climate survey to help gather information from across the district.  Please consider taking a few minutes to fill it out.

http://goo.gl/forms/mVIm0msIID

Stay tuned for ideas to improve this policy.

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