Principal’s News

November 2017

 

Dear Spencer Butte Families & Friends,

On behalf of the staff at Spencer Butte Middle School, I would like to extend a warm mahalo as we move into the holiday weekend. In my 20 years as an educator I have noticed an increase in the challenge of our work and community needs and a decrease in the resources we need to do so, requiring high levels of dedication and collaboration from each and every school staff member. I am thankful for the team I get to work with everyday. I am thankful to you for partnering with us in this critical work.

 

Our combined efforts show up in our students’ growth and achievement. SBMS recently earned high marks from Oregon Department of Education in the annual school report card. In addition, on September 19, The Oregonian declared Spencer Butte one of the top ten schools in Oregon for math growth and achievement. Though we are proud of these marks, we know our work is far from done. We will continually strive to support high levels of growth for each and every one of our students. Our staff firmly believes that achievement is defined and demonstrated in so many different ways, many of which cannot be measured by a test. With the high-stakes nature of the report cards and state tests, it is easy to get side tracked from the true purpose of education. We are determined to stay focused on our purpose: quality teaching, rigorous learning, and nurturing community-minded citizens.

 

We take great satisfaction when students rise to challenges and engage the world around them. As an example, please check out our new, student-led, live streaming broadcast, SBTV, on our school website. The student broadcast crew has tackled a steep learning curve–navigating broadcast hardware and software and honing presentation and writing skills, media awareness and more! The crew’s next steps are to share and celebrate learning through ‘in-the-field’ interviews in our school and community.

 

You make a difference as your student’s first teacher. Your follow through with learning at home and involvement in school events does make a difference in your student’s comfort and success here at school. Please continue that practice by taking advantage of the upcoming student led conferences (Dec 7 & 8). If you have not had an opportunity to schedule your conference at this point, feel free to simply call our office to do so as soon as you can. No matter how big or small, do not hesitate to connect with us if you have any questions about your student’s progress or experience.

 

Growing up in the warmer climate of Hawai’i did not prepare me for Oregon’s wet, dark, and cold and over the years I have depended on getting my warmth from being with people I care about and doing things that matter to me. I hope you make the most of your holiday weekend doing the same.

A hui hou…

Tasha Katsuda

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October 2017

 

Dear Spencer Butte Families & Friends,

On behalf of the Spencer Butte staff, thank you for a strong start to the 2017-18 school year! While we have been diligently working to get to know your student(s), planning and facilitating instruction, we have also engaged in our own professional learning as part of our commitment toward improvement.

 

The complexity of teaching adolescents require educators to engage in continual collaborative learning, not just on what we teach and why, but how. Since the start of the year, the staff and I have partnered with experts from University of Oregon to begin development of restorative practices, a framework for building community and for responding to challenging behavior through authentic dialogue, developing understanding, and making things right with individuals impacted. Restorative practices involve students and staff working together towards just resolutions that are safe and preventative with a focus on restoration. This requires a sense of community and belonging, empathy, and on-going development of interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. It can include a variety of practices from extensive conflict resolution skill building to community circles. We have taken the first steps of this journey and will share and work with you as we develop our program.

 

Spencer Butte will be holding our annual Harassment and Racism Free Zone (HRFZ) re-dedication assembly this coming Friday, Oct 20 at 2:30pm (Large Gym). For those new to our school, the HRFZ is a commitment students can make to honor and value our differences and treat others with dignity and respect. For more information and history about the HRFZ, go to spencerbutte.4j.lane.edu/harassment-and-racism-free-zone. Please join us for this festive event, featuring student musical acts, poetry and speeches, the history of the creed and our school’s Native American totem pole (in the garden area), Eugene Taiko (Japanese drumming) and more. To guarantee seating, please RSVP (by calling 541-790-8300).

 

I can never thank our staff enough for all of their heart and investment as they work together to care for and teach our students. The science and art of teaching is much more complex than it seems at first glance, especially now that we know so much more about the learning process. I invite each of you to participate, observe, and volunteer in your child’s class so you can see it in action for yourself.

 

Thank you for partnering with us in support of your student in these first weeks. We know that together we can continue to provide learning that pushes growth and potential. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or input regarding your student’s experience.

 

A hui hou,
Tasha Katsuda

 

 

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August/September 2017

Standing in the inspiring vision of my future,
I boldly take every step – large and small – with courage and intent.
-Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Dear Spencer Butte Families & Friends,

I hope this letter finds you refreshed and ready for the 2017-18 school year! We are looking forward to seeing our students and the buzz of excitement back in our classrooms. Here are a few announcements to give you a head start in thinking about and planning for the year as well as update you on happenings in our school. To ensure you get important information, a reminder postcard has been mailed to all families and this week’s emailed Spartan Update will have further details about upcoming events.

 

Please join us in welcoming new staff to Spencer Butte team!

Amy Johnson, Secretary
Anna Aarons, Records and Scheduling
Charlie Wilshire, AVID/Data Team/Reading Teacher
Jonathan Thornton, Educational Assistant
Gabby Martin, Educational Assistant
Wesley Joyner, Educational Assistant
Tonya Beckler, Educational Assistant

 

Toward the end of last year we were awarded a Eugene Education Grant to develop a dynamic, live-streaming program called SBTV. I am thrilled to share that over the summer a few staff members pitched in to begin preparing our new green room studio, purchase the latest technology, and train student anchors to deliver a live show that will include important announcements, vital instructional reminders, features on student learning, and expand learning beyond our school building. I would like to thank Doug and James (our custodians), Jennifer Kotlarek (Library Aide), Regina Ligon (Technology Consultant), Heather Acharya (Office), and Margaret Albright (Counselor) for their work this summer to make this happen! Our website will include a link so you can check out this innovative program and our students in action!

 

In addition, we will be providing a term of required Health/Physical Education/Guidance class for each grade (rotating through the Social Studies period), adding guitar and additional courses to our list of elective offerings, and 25 minutes of community building for two weeks at the start of each term. We hope that the changes provide a well-rounded learning experience that strengthens students’ sense of belonging in our learning community.

 

Students are the heart of our work. I know from experience that our students’ success is dependent on strong, collaborative relationships between parents (home) and school. Our plan for the year is to hold multiple events that support collaborative exchange and increase two-way partnership in support of student learning and growth. In the meantime, if you have questions or input about your student’s experience, please don’t hesitate to connect with me. On behalf of the Spencer Butte team, welcome back to school!

 

A hui hou,
Tasha Katsuda

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June 2017

Dear Spencer Butte Families & Friends,

 

On behalf of the Spencer Butte staff, I would like to extend a big thank you for your involvement in the many activities and events, enriching student learning this year.  Thank you to the Spencer Butte teachers for another year of dedication.  Our teachers devote excess of 40 hours a week thoughtfully designing teaching and learning.  I am continually inspired when I hear about all that our teachers do to impact students’ learning and lives.  We will continue to challenge and improve our practice, shifting to the needs and strengths of 21st Century citizens–developing critical, compassionate thinkers.

 

Please join me in acknowledging our amazing classified staff for keeping our students safe, cleaning, cooking, teaching small groups, directing traffic, caring for injuries, managing operations, maintaining technology, ordering building supplies, fixing equipment, running the library, and beyond!  Our school cannot run without their critical work!  Thank you!

 

Every year we reluctantly move through the bittersweet stage of goodbyes.  Though it is hard, it is heart warming to know that the best of what people give resonates with us even after they leave.  Please join me in fond farewell to—

 

 ♦  Laura Queirolo (AVID Teacher)—“Mama Q” (as we affectionately call her) was shared between SBMS and SEHS this year, will be an AVID teacher at South full time next year.   She is committed to serving as bridge for our students and families, supporting student achievement and college and career readiness.  Mama Q, thank you investing 10 of your 28 years of teaching pushing our students to excel!

           

♦  Tana Bailey (Reading Intervention Teacher) –A big mahalo to Tana Bailey for jumping into a temporary position mid-year to teach the reading intervention class.  Her hard work has made a difference in the daily learning experiences of our students.

 

You, our parents and community, lay the life foundation that supports our work with students.  We do not “teach” alone and our students thrive the most when we work hand-in-hand. Thank you for your support.  It has been my pleasure and privilege serving the Spencer Butte community this year. Please watch for a school mailing this summer that will include 2017-18 school year details.

Have a happy, healthy, and safe summer!

 

A hui hou…
Tasha Katsuda

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May 2017

Dear Spencer Butte Families,

 

Students’ safety is of the utmost importance to us. In Eugene School District 4J we have updated school safety protocols with best practices to keep everyone as safe as possible in an emergency.  These updated safety strategies, known as ALiCE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate), are recommended by law enforcement.  ALiCE strategies expand on our traditional safety practices and empower staff and students with more options during a life-threatening emergency, the kind we all hope never happens.

 

District staff will share age-appropriate safety strategies and training with all district students this May and June with sensitivity to students’ needs.  At middle and high schools, class discussions will include more specifics about potential dangers and options, and students will practice evacuating, sheltering or barricading in response to a threat.  Student training will not include the active-shooter simulations that staff have participated in. Here at Spencer Butte, our training and drills will occur on May 18.

 

As advertised in our weekly Spartan Update, the district offered two parent information nights in April (April 17 and 26) to give families an opportunity to review ALiCE materials and ask questions of district staff and local law enforcement.  With student safety as our priority, the Spencer Butte staff and I will be continually revising our procedures throughout the year to maintain and increase safety for all. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

 

Sincerely,

Tasha Katsuda

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March/April 2017

Dear Spencer Butte Families & Friends,

 

Our school’s priority is the safety and welfare of your child. Even in light of the fact that schools are one of the safest places for students, recent suicides in our local and greater communities compel Spencer Butte to make time to learn and work together. Nurturing mental wellness is an issue that goes beyond the boundaries of our schools and deeply affects our students and our community. I write to you this month with the goal of communicating about our response and partnering with you to increasing awareness and prevention.

 

Spencer Butte’s initial plan involves three pillars: staff training, school-wide instruction, and a parent partnership. Sandy Moses (Community Health Analyst from Lane County Public Health) facilitated prevention and response training for staff on April 26th. Our school counselor and school nurse will be pushing in to classes to provide instruction (focused on increasing awareness, stress management and wellness) starting the week of May 8th. In future years, instruction on this topic will be annually covered as part of the state mandated health instruction (standards linked here). If you would like to opt out of classroom instruction regarding the topic of mental wellness, please let us know by calling the office at 541-790-8300. Lastly, we invite parents and guardians to join us on June 1st from 6:30-7:30pm (Library) for a parent information and resource night with our school team and Sandy Moses.

 

Studies show that ignoring the topic of depression and suicide can be harmful. At the same time, we recognize it is a difficult topic that requires a sensitive and caring community approach and, as such, we will be collaborating closely with our families, district, and local agencies. We must work together to identify youth who are at risk and get them the help they need as well as engage in and support activities that promote mental wellness and resiliency. Together, we can ensure that our children will grow and thrive in a safe community.

 

Sincerely,

Tasha Katsuda

 

(Linked) Lane County Prevention Resource List

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February 2017

Dear Spencer Butte Families & Friends,

 

Every year at this time, many schools across Oregon begin to turn attention to budget preparation for the up-coming school year. Since the landmark legislation of Measure 5 (in 1990), many schools have faced on-going, significant cuts in funding, Spencer Butte Middle School included. Despite the extended pattern of inadequate funding, our district strives to maintain quality programs and learning experiences for our students.

 

The state budget forecast assumes an 8% growth in funding available to K-12 education for the 2017-19 biennium and, as a result, statewide state school fund revenues are predicted to increase slightly. Unfortunately, that may not translate to more funding for our district due to a number of variables that impact district revenue growth (e.g. district enrollment).  If you would like to learn more or provide pubic input regarding the district budget, public forums are scheduled on March 20 and May 8 (at 200 N Monroe) prior to the approval the proposed district budget on May 22nd. More information about the district budget preparation is available at http://www.4j.lane.edu/finance/docs.

 

The Spencer Butte staff and I have begun our staffing processes and program planning. Though money plays an undeniable role in what and how much we can offer, the spirit, focus, and mission of individual educators make the difference in each child’s education. I am heartened when I interact with our school and district staff whose focus remains guided by what will be best for students.

 

To counter the ongoing inadequate school funding and maintain a comprehensive program, we have launched our Direct Donation Drive campaign. Funds raised will increase elective classes and school services like the library. Please make sure you check out Spencer Butte’s website and listen for automated telephone invitations to meetings that will serve as a venue for providing your input in regards to fundraising and events that support our school’s program for next year. As always, parents are welcome at our public Site Council meetings (dates listed on our website) and PTO meetings (Feb 28, 7pm, Library).

 

In challenging times our students continue to remind us of our purpose. I would like to thank and congratulate the following Spencer Butte Harassment and Racism Free Zone student committee members— Towa, Mackenzie, Isaiah, Akea, Bella, Giovanni—for their hard work in organizing our re-dedication events and assembly. They organized and MC-ed the assembly that included the Chinese American Benevolent Association’s Chinese Lion Dancers, opening talk from Mayor Vinis, SBMS Choirs (led by Chris Dobson), a piano performance by Hannah and Jackson Seubert, a vocal performance from Matti Tenney, and presentations from Student Council and GSA. In addition, we hosted a variety of workshops throughout the week that built upon the ideals of the HRFZ pledge. We are proud of their work and all the students who contributed to learning focused on the health of our school’s learning and living community.

 

Thank you for your continued support and for the opportunity to work with your children!

 

A hui hou,

Tasha Katsuda

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January 2017

Dear Spencer Butte Families & Friends,

 

Every school day counts in a student’s life. Regular attendance is essential to providing students with opportunities and time to learn. There are many studies that verify the importance of effective teaching and a caring environment when it comes to learning. However, chronic absenteeism impacts even the best teacher’s ability. Learning opportunities are limited when students do not attend school.

 

In fact, we are finding that attendance is impacting students beyond just understanding concepts and building skills. Attendance shapes attitudes about school and learning. The more school a student misses, the more behind s/he falls and the connection to the classroom culture, peers and school adults is inevitably fragmented. Even for students who come well prepared, the social and emotional connection to their learning environment and routines is significant.

 

Our instruction is also dependent on information we gather about your child’s strengths and needs. When students are chronically absent, we don’t have the regular, frequent opportunities to gather needed information to inform instruction so that it is designed to meet students at their rate, level and engaging interests. Building a strong instructional plan for each student is closely tied to attendance.

 

Here at Spencer Butte, we are not only obligated to follow Oregon’s laws around monitoring school attendance, we are revising our practices to clearly communicate with parents to maintain high attendance and learn why students are tardy or absent to inform support. We have reserved resources to provide positive, motivating supports like Attendance Club and even make personal calls to ensure accurate communication. We also talk about chronic absenteeism/tardies as well as possible interventions in our regular staff data team meetings as we analyze student progress.

 

We cannot emphasize enough how important daily attendance is. We would like to partner with parents to make sure every student is present and ready to learn in the classroom by 8:47am. Our supervision starts at 8:25am and ends at 3:30pm. Please call our attendance line at 541-790-8325 before school starts to report an absence due to illness (or other excused reasons). Our Parent-Student Handbook (found at http://spencerbutte.4j.lane.edu) is a great parent reference for Oregon’s laws and policies regarding attendance.

 

Your child’s success is our mission. In partnership with you, we can increase opportunities. Please don’t hesitate to call or connect with me if you have any questions.

 

A hui hou,

Tasha Katsuda

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October 2016

Dear Spencer Butte Families & Friends,

 

Thanks to the hard work and preparation of the Spencer Butte staff and to you, our families, for your contribution to a successful start to the 2016-17 school year. Your involvement has supported and established a routine and focus, helping us get right to business. Fall term is the start to our process of getting to know students, what their passions and strengths are, and what they need to grow and thrive. Understanding your student is a vital ingredient for bridging essential knowledge and skills to who they are as people, ensuring that their learning is engaging, relevant, and applicable to their lives. High participation by families and students in events increases communication and opportunities to know our students.

 

In our effort to know and gather feedback from our school community, we will be surveying our families and students. Parents and guardians, we invite you to provide feedback by completing the 2016/17 Parent Partnership and Engagement Survey (information and link to be emailed to parents/guardians this week). In addition, this fall our students will have the opportunity to complete the 2016/17 Student Climate Survey during the school day. Both will provide the school with initial feedback and a measure of our school culture and instruction. These initial measures will be compared to end-of-year surveys to determine improvement.

 

We value your time and appreciate all who were able to participate in Open House and now ask that you to clear your calendars for Student Led Conferences on Dec 7th (4-8pm) and 8th (12-8pm). Student led conferences put students in the driver’s seat of their learning–supporting their meta-cognition, academic goal setting and action planning. Detailed information will be provided in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I welcome and encourage all parents to continue communicating with teachers and let us know if you have questions regarding your student’s experience.

 

Spencer Butte was selected by Oregon School Board Association to be featured in the Promise of Oregon (promiseoregon.org), a campaign focused on the accomplishments and ambitions of Oregon’s students. Over 15 students will be featured in vignettes, connecting their educational experiences with their aspirations. I have left our few practice sessions truly moved by the depth and caring of their stories and appreciate this powerful opportunity to shine the spotlight on our students as our inspiration and purpose.

Thank you for a great start to the year and the opportunity to work with your children!

 

A hui hou,
Tasha Katsuda
Please check out the “Spartan Update-Special Walk the Amazon Thank Yous“.

 

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August/September 2016

Dear Spencer Butte Students, Family Members, & Friends,

 

Where I grew up, on the island of Maui, community was, and still is, everything. With such cultural and economic diversity as well as a history of struggle, people relied on family, friends, and neighbors to survive, thrive, and inform our understanding of our place in the world. We call this feeling of belonging and purpose “Aloha Spirit”, the product of people caring and working together to make the most of limited resources—tapping into our greatest resource, each other.

Relationship is community. I could feel Spencer Butte’s sense of community the first time I walked into the building. From the welcome in the front office, to the collective drive to grow and achieve, to the commitment to “make myself and the world a better place” as displayed in the school entryway, this is a community that cares, where students come first. I am excited to join Spencer Butte, a school with a strong reputation of academic rigor, caring for students, and partnering with the community.

To support communication and strengthen our partnership, we now have a new and improved multilingual website (104 languages) at http://spencerbutte.4j.lane.edu. It provides basic information about policies and procedures as well as student opportunities, achievement, and excellence. The website will be complimented by monthly electronic family/community newsletters (hard copies available upon request) and weekly electronic Spartan Update, our weekly reminder of notable events. It currently highlights important back to school events. Please refer to our website for a complete calendar of upcoming events.

Guardians are cordially invited to our monthly parent coffees with the first on Sept 12, 9-10am in the Library. Each session will focus on a particular topic of interest as expressed by parents through quick surveys and input during the sessions. The goal is to support a strong two-way partnership between families and the school with our aim toward student growth.

 

WelcomePlease join me in welcoming three new staff members:

George Gillett, Assistant Principal – With experience spanning elementary through high school, “Mr. G” comes to us from Guy Lee Elementary, where he taught and was involved in positive behavior support, technology, school improvement, and established a mentoring program for students of color.

Kim Lum, 6th Grade Science Teacher: Ms. Lum previously taught science at Cal Young and Kelly Middle Schools. Prior to moving to Oregon, she taught at the elementary level in Alaska.

Kim Hanson, Art Teacher: Ms. Hanson has been an artist/teacher for over 20 years, served as Springfield District’s Art Coordinator, and has taught in our district since 2012. Not only has she taught art (digital to glasswork and beyond), she is endorsed in ESOL, speaks three languages, and worked in Japan.

Brian Hartman, Technology Support Specialist: Mr. Hartman has over 23 years of commercial and educational technology expertise and has served our district in the TSS role for over 12 years from elementary to high school.

It is a privilege to work side-by-side with you, the staff and our community, focused on the heart of our work — our students. Please don’t hesitate to connect with me if you have any questions about our program or your student’s experience. On behalf of the Spencer Butte staff, welcome to the 2016/17 school year!

 

A hui hou,

Tasha Katsuda

katsuda@4j.lane.edu