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May 8, 2005
For Rising 6th Grade Parents

Last Monday we had the Rising 6th Grade Open House for parents. I always enjoy meeting and talking with the parents of our rising sixth graders. We had several important things to share which I will include summarized in this post. Additionally, I am presenting a few other items for you.

Safety
As your principal, I consider safety as my foremost responsibility. I want to be certain that every child and staff member is safe at all times so that all of their attention can be focused on maximizing academic achievement. In this regard, I ask that every adult always sign in when arriving at the building. Please do not be offended if you are stopped in the building and asked to identify yourself and return to the front office if you inadvertently enter the building without signing in.

Weblog
Naturally, since you are reading this, you are aware of my blog, From the Desk of Dr. Tyson. I will post to this blog throughout the summer and the school year to keep you informed of various important matters. Additionally, next year, all teachers at Mabry will have a blog to facilitate communication with parents and students.

At the beginning of the year I will host an evening meeting at Mabry to teach parents how to set up what is called an RSS feed for all of your student's teachers' blogs. Using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, you will be able to have any new information posted on a teacher's blog come to you. This should prove to be a convenient and effective way to remain "in touch."

Summer Camp
Because we will have a significant amount of demolition and renovation in our building throughout the entire summer, we will not be able to have our summer camp for rising 6th grade students. Hopefully, if funding allows, this wonderful program, which we started 2 years ago, will return next summer.

Construction Information
Once the construction project is completed at Mabry (about $8.8 million in work), our school's physical plant will have increased from 100,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet. The construction company has really done a very good job of minimizing disruption to the learning environment. They delayed doing all of the interior work until this summer. Additionally, this summer the back parking lot will be repaved and the front entrance and parking area will be completely redone. I am hopeful everything will be completed by the time teachers return from summer vacation.

Please visit my blog from time to time as I will keep you posted as to how things are progressing.

Charger Day
Last year, just before school started, we held Charger Day, a time for parents to bring their student(s) to Mabry to have their school pictures taken, purchase their school picture package, a yearbook, school lunches, school supplies, etc. We wanted it to be as much of a back-to-school, one-stop-shopping event as possible. Aside from having to manage in a large crowd of people, we received tremendously favorable responses to this event.

We plan to have this shop-till-you-drop event again just before school starts. I will share the date with you here on my blog, on the school website, and on the front sign (if it is still there) once we feel more confident that the construction completion dates will actually be met.

I also want to let you know that the school supplies made available to you for purchase from our PTSA during Charger Day are typically substantially less expensive than you will find in the stores. The PTSA purchases them in bulk quantities and passes that savings directly on to our school community. We know having children in school is expensive and want to help you in every way that we can. Several parents commented to me last year that they wished they had not already purchased their school supplies before Charger Day as they paid more for them.

Challenging Students
Before school starts parents of 6th graders often express a concern to me that they fear our 6th grade teachers will not adequately challenge their child. Let me allay your concerns. The transition to 6th grade is significant. The new 6th grade curriculum is rigorous, and the math curriculum is substantive. (See my previous post on the math curriculum.)

Our teachers will work diligently to help your son or daughter successfully transition into 6th grade. In the meantime, I hope you will join me in emphasizing to your child the need for him or her to do their best work. I will stress to our students on the very first day of school that each of them needs to do their personal best, needs to see how far they can go, and needs to attain more than they think is possible. Working together elicits the success we all want to see at Mabry Middle School.

Our mission here is simple and direct: maximize student achievement in a culture of caring.

No Child Left Behind
By now I think everyone is familiar with some aspects of this federal legislation. I want to be certain you are aware of some very important information related to the law. The federal government requires all schools in the nation to be labeled as passing or failing. Each state was required to enact legislation that met the federal criteria. In the state of Georgia every school must meet the following criteria or will be labeled a failing school:

Stealth Parenting the Adolescent
When students reach middle school they want mom and dad to give them more freedom and responsibility. In other words, they want you to "back off." What their peers think tends to become more important to them than what the adults in their lives think. If you don't believe me, just suggest to your child that you will be having lunch with him or her in the cafeteria one day. Most would rather die. Since we want children to grow into responsible adults, this is not necessarily a bad thing--as long as their peer relationships are positive, supportive, and deeply rooted in your families values.

Children at this age begin to search out their identity and form a sense of self. Often this is a time of experimentation. There are times when mom and dad need to say and mean "No." I can not suggest strongly enough to our moms and dads that you must be far more involved in your child's life, knowing who s/he is associating with, where s/he is, and what s/he is doing, than you ever have before. Simply give the appearance that you are giving them more "space," allowing them to make more decisions. I call this stealth parenting. Be especially attentive to the music they have playing through those headphones! Listen carefully to the words. Are they consistent with your values?

Research tells us that what (and who) they are listening to literally will affect how their little brains wire up--the neural connections that are formed. Years ago we called it: "Garbage in, garbage out." What they listen to and whom they associate with will affect how they think, what they do, and who they become. Adolescence is a critically important time in their lives.

Recently a mom said something I thought was really significant, "We need to remember that cell phones will only tell us one thing: they're alive--not where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing. These cell phones are giving us parents a false sense of security." Appropriate supervision, especially after school, is essential. Too often my heart gets broken when I hear parents say to me, "Dr. Tyson, I just didn't see this coming."

OK, I'll get off of my soap box. I just want every single child at Mabry to have every opportunity for success. I want them to really be the bright hope of tomorrow. This necessitates more time and attention be spent with them today than ever before--from all of us. As the expression goes: "The future just isn't what it used to be." We accomplish our best work when we are all working together for these children.

If you would like more information on effective parenting strategies for adolescents, study skills parents can use with students, or have some specific concerns related to your child, I would encourage you to contact Mrs. Cindy Jackson, your 6th grade counselor for next year. She is wise and wonderful.

Dress Code
You should receive a copy of the Mabry dress code from your elementary school at the end of the year. We will also post it on the website. I involve students, parents, teachers, and administrators in providing me with input for the dress code. I want students to be comfortable at school, but our school dress code must reflect our commitment to maximizing student achievement, which requires a level of formality consistent with a learning environment that promotes attention to learning and academics. We enforce the dress code at Mabry Middle School.

You will want to carefully review the dress code, but here are just two items of note as you purchase for school next year: no flip flops at school, and no tummies showing. With hormones raging we want to focus on textbooks, not tummies, etc.

PTSA
Join! Volunteer!! Make a difference at your child's school.

As I Close: School Mission Gains Increasing Recognition
I want to reiterate our school mission: maximize student academic achievement in a culture of caring. We are doing wonderful things here with students. Children are finding success, and people around the metro area, the state, and the nation are taking note of what we do.

From the over 3,300 schools who applied, Mabry is one of 60 finalists nationwide for the significant National Schools of Distinction Model Schools Award. I encourage you to read my post about the recent site visit. This is a significant accomplishment and recognizes the wonderful things our students and teachers accomplish.

The Georgia Movie Academy, a statewide competition for students and teachers, designed to promote technology and information literacy, was started because of and patterned after the Mabry Film Festival. They recently presented our students' work in the Best Picture Category at their statewide event.

This year we had a team of teachers and academic leaders from one of the most prestigious private schools in the metro area spend a day with us. They want to replicate in their school setting some of the innovative, highly engaging and effective programs we have in place here at Mabry.

And, finally, last week we were invited to be featured in the National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Conference next year.

The recognition is wonderful. But what really matters to me is that we keep our focus on what makes Mabry worthy of the recognition, working together every day as a team to achieve our mission: maximizing student achievement in a culture of caring.

I am delighted that you and your child will be joining us next year.

Posted by Dr. Tyson

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