Webster Elementary School

Principal's Welcome

August 1, 2016

Dear Webster families,

Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year! It’s hard to believe summer is almost over! We are busily preparing for the upcoming year and we are excited to see you all soon! You have likely heard we have Co-Interim Superintendents until at least January as the SMMUSD Board of Education sets out on a nationwide search for a permanent superintendent. Both Dr. Rousseau and Dr. King collectively share the belief that all students can learn, and our schools and communities are the best vehicles to drive the learning!

Our focus for the upcoming school year is to deepen our academic growth through Thinking Maps. Thinking Maps provide ways to concretely visualize our abstract thinking. These patterns help all students reach higher levels of critical and creative thinking – essential components of 21st Century education! What’s most exciting is we can use Thinking Maps in all content areas and at every grade level, so can transfer learning from abstract to concrete from TK through 5th grade (and beyond)!

In addition, we will begin to work with a writing program to provide a set of consistent structures and expectations around student writing throughout our school. We’ll receive initial training in the late fall and begin to work with the program in the winter and spring. This will extend in to the next few years, and will be exciting to develop!

We will continue to broaden our knowledge around understanding Mathematics. Utilizing our new math program in conjunction with Cognitively Guided Instruction, Problem Solving Strategies and Math Practices, we’ll also support student growth from the concrete to the abstract, and work with them to explain their thinking regardless of the complexity of the concept.

Finally, we hope to develop our science programs, and with thanks to our PTA, Mr. Kravitz (or Mr. K, the “rock guy”) will return on a bi-monthly basis. As 21st century thinking revolves around STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) we’ll do our best to engage our students in critical thinking around the sciences as well as Technology (with thanks to Planet Bravo!).

In the last week of June I attended an Equity Institute led by Dr. Noguera, whose team studied all Santa Monica-Malibu schools and made recommendations moving forward. I was thrilled to learn the team found many areas of strength in our school – students are happy to come to school, and believe they are learning while in school. Students understand our school norms and generally adhere to them – and enjoy being celebrated when they do what they’re supposed to! Teachers work hard to gather data, use the information to build programs suited to our students and provide differentiated experiences in their classrooms.

There were also areas for growth – not all students are always engaged, and some students disengage when they don’t understand or find value in the learning. While we are working to support academically striving students, we still need to do more during the school day for both strivers and students who are advanced. We also want to make sure we are responsive to the needs of all our families, not just a few. It is always difficult to hear about the need for growth, but we know we can be our best when we open ourselves up to listening, learning and trying. I’ll be asking our school site council members to work with our staff and help us determine ways to grow and improve our already fabulous school! If you’re interested in assisting us with this type of work, please keep an eye out for our site council elections – we need 3 new council members this year!

Though there continues to be differing opinions about if or when Malibu will become its own school district, I would be remiss in not reminding everyone that for at LEAST the 2016-2017 school year we are one school district, with a focus on all of our children! I would like to once again ask you to donate to the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (SMMEF) at www.smmef.org. SMMEF provides funding so we can have Instructional Assistants, Planet Bravo Technology and our PSArts program. Any donation at your giving level will be GREATLY appreciated!

Finally, I am also asking you to donate to our PTA Webster Whale Fund. As SMMEF provides funding for “STAFF”, the Whale Fund provides funding for “STUFF”. With thanks to our PTA, our teachers can purchase all necessary materials, we have all our assemblies and field trips covered, and all technology can be purchased and/or updated. Your students get access to materials like those at private schools, and it’s thanks to our PTA and your donations to the Whale Fund! These donations can be made at: www.mywebsterschool.com at any time!

We are sad to share that Cathy Morrison will no longer be our part time office support staff. While she needs to focus on her family, she has said she’ll be happy to help out whenever possible. We are happy to announce that Michaele Ward has accepted the position. She subbed for Cathy in the spring. Once again we ask for your patience as we help Michaele get acclimated to our school and the position!

Katherine Hunter, our Occupational Therapist has decided to move up to Washington. We will truly miss her, but wish her all the best. As soon as we have a new Occupational Therapist we’ll introduce him/her to our community.

We were also sad (for us) that Sandra Baral, our school psychologist decided to retire. Happily for her, she gets to be with her new granddaughter! We would like to welcome Victoria Law as our new school psychologist. Victoria will be the psychologist for all three Malibu Elementary schools and comes to us as a graduate from CSULB and from Orange County. She worked with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Orange County and realized helping children was a lifelong goal. We are excited to have her join our Webster team!

Finally, we “officially” welcome back Mr. Kisskalt! He was the superhero who stepped in last year at the last minute and did an awesome job teaching 3rd grade for us. Our enrollment has grown for this upcoming school year so Mr. Kisskalt will remain on staff with us – truly a thrill for all of us!

We are looking forward to welcoming all families at Webster for the opening of the 2016-2017 school year on Monday, August 22nd at 8:40am. Members of our Webster community are also excited to announce our second annual “Welcome Back Beach Day” on Friday, 8/26 after school (3pm -6pm) at Zuma Beach – details to follow!

If for any reason your child will NOT be attending Webster, please call us immediately so we can plan our class configurations as accurately as possible and enroll students who have been placed on our waiting list or have applied for a permit.

Have a wonderful final 3 weeks of your summer and I anticipate hearing some wonderful stories from you all!

All the best,

Susan Samarge-Powell

Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District