Can I be blunt?

I tried to think about how to start this article and how I could communicate my concern about an issue that has growing attention swirling around it. I thought of all the data points and all the politically correct messages that might somehow increase the focus on this for all of us to consider. I want to elicit partnership while being sensitive to our diverse population. I want us all to understand the implications and urgency of the matter and, most importantly, we all want to protect our children. And, I know this is not the only topic where we have to have conversations. There are probably a dozen other things that some may find equally urgent. But, I need to share this message now because the frustration surrounding it is beginning to grow beyond our bounds of understanding. Ready for the message? Here it is:

Vaping is killing our children!

To be quite blunt about it, there is no need to further investigate or explore due diligence on this topic. The smoking and vaping industry is delivering messages to our youngest minds that vaping is somehow safer than cigarettes. That is a lie. They are trying to develop a mythology that no one gets hurt by using these flavored products. That is a lie. They place their products at children’s eye level despite unenforced laws that are supposed to limit their access. More lies and manipulation. There is nothing redeeming about a company that is stating they are not selling to children when in fact they craft their advertisements to specifically target the youngest, most vulnerable demographic.

Without the lies, it is quite simple. Your lungs are not biologically engineered to absorb heated chemicals. They are delicate organs that must only breathe clean air. We can’t complain about air quality in one arena and then allow smoking and vaping to grow and spread before our very eyes. We learned from our FCD visitors last year that any vaping product was putting upwards of 100 chemicals into the lungs between the preservatives, coloring agents, and active ingredients along with the chemicals created during the heating process across the metals involved. This is not for your lungs. Never will be. There is no safe way to breathe things into your body.

My nephew just celebrated the one year anniversary of a double lung transplant. His issue was not related to vaping, but instead was an outgrowth of a childhood virus that caused damage that could not be repaired. But, it is a lesson in the delicate nature of the lungs and the importance of taking care of them. My nephew was lucky that a donor was found and his strength of character is now carrying him forward through life despite the constant fear of rejection associated with this gift. How, in the face of his strength, can we allow kids to have access to these things that are an assault on their fragile and growing bodies? How can we allow them to take a risk with their lives that is now proving so deadly that many states in the U.S. are outright banning these products?

Our policy at ASW is quite clear. We do not allow these products or substances on our campus. We have rules that speak to this and we will take all necessary disciplinary action up to and including expulsion when students choose to break these rules. With my message to staff today, we will continue to aggressively address this issue on a curricular and supervision basis. But, we can’t do this without your help. We need parents to reinforce this message at home with all ages. This has to stop! Smoking and Vaping must end. To any parent out there who is still smoking, please be a model for your children. Find your solution and protect their future. If you need help, reach out to us. We’ll find ways to assist, whether parent or child. Let’s all adopt the same understanding. There is nothing right or acceptable about smoking in ANY form! I hope you will join me in that belief and send that clear message to all who will listen.

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Finding our Stride!

Over the weekend, our Board of Trustees met for their start of year retreat and have begun work to craft their goals for the year and set up their committees. Similarly, the regular schedule of meetings for the year has all been entered into the calendar so that we carve out the time when teams will work collaboratively to achieve the goals of the school. While teachers fill their classrooms with learning and engagement, the leaders throughout the school are already starting to consider some of the focus areas for reflection this year, with an eye toward planning next year as well. With Mission and Vision as our backdrop, we will look forward to opportunities to gather with parents and other stakeholders to architect that path forward. Our theme this year, with a focus on strategic design efforts that are almost upon us, is “taking our next steps toward our future.” Finding the right steps and placing our investment into the right projects will be a focus of our attention in the coming months.

Meanwhile, we had a wonderful gathering last Saturday night that was truly empowering for all of us in attendance. The goodwill throughout the room was amazing and our thanks go out to PTO for their efforts in making this a truly special event. Our thanks also to the staff and leadership at the Mariott and Champions. They did a spectacular job and we appreciate their service and attention! Now it is BBQ time and the efforts this week have been ramping up significantly as the last bows are being tied and baskets prepared for the annual auction. Come and put lots of tickets into every basket knowing that each ticket is supporting a wide array of activities and events throughout the school year. Please plan on joining us on Saturday no matter what the weather brings. We are prepared this year with quick transition plans to make sure the day is a success no matter what the sun and clouds decide. See below for details.

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Back to School Nights are Done!

With back to school nights complete (Ooops – not High School yet – that’s next week), let’s reflect on what we’ve heard in recent days.  First, you should have heard broad goals and timelines for key events in the coming months and should have a general sense of how the year will unfold.  You won’t know everything and our plans are flexible in order to take advantage of unique learning opportunities.  But, the general flow of the year should now be evident.

Second, you should have a better understanding of our International Baccalaureate framework and how it helps us to weave content into deeper understanding.  I saw this in presentations throughout the school at both the Elementary and Upper School opening events and in the classroom presentations in a variety of formats.  In essence, you should now be seeing the mastery of how inquiry is used as a backdrop to give students ownership of their learning, making it both relevant and accessible.  The real gift her is that our students will retain more learning and the learning will be more usable in new settings, something that education strives to assure at every opportunity.  Our capable and talented staff will work tirelessly to ensure scaffolded experiences that are both challenging and rewarding for students.

Third, you should now have a sense of how we will keep you informed of student progress.  Depending on the age level, the systems were described for you and our work to keep you informed of both process and product will expand significantly.  You are already seeing some evidence of this.  This is one area that was a clear focus for us coming out of the parent survey.  We have embraced that feedback and will seek to improve in this area across the school.

As a responsive and reflective school, our aim is always to keep pushing to greater levels of capability and accomplishment.  We never stop and the work is never done.  But, the talented teams of teachers are up to the task of working closely with you to assure student outcomes.

Facility Access

Hopefully, we are now settling into our main patterns.  Parents seem to be adapting well to wearing their badge at all times and thank you for this!  To help with after-hours access to the facility, we’ve prepared a document to guide you on the times that access is available.  In general, access to the building is only for scheduled and arranged activities outside of normal school hours.  Open access to indoor facilities is only during scheduled and published times.  Outdoor areas are accessible but limited by requirements for school ID and supervision.  While our outdoor areas are accessible, they are not the same as a public park and we depend upon our community helping us to take care of the entire campus and show responsibility for the care of our equipment and spaces.  Scheduled events will take priority over any open use.  The entire document is here: Campus Access – School Hours

PowerSchool

We have initiated our annual PowerSchool update of contact information update and permissions.  You must now complete this process before being able to access other PowerSchool features and we are logging your completion of this important GDPR and personal information task.  ALL parents must login to PowerSchool and submit their responses.  Parents who have not done so by next week, we will be calling you!!  If you need help accessing your Powerschool account, please see our divisional office staff or write to support@aswarsaw.org for assistance.

Looking forward to seeing you all at the two upcoming PTO events.  See below, but really important to come and join us for the gatherings.  Adults can join us for the Mixer this weekend and the wonderful PTO BBQ is the following weekend – fun for the whole family.  Exciting and powerful way to create community at ASW!

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Some things to be reminded about…

As is always the case, we must take stock on the routines and simple rules that help us keep everyone safe and assure that the school runs smoothly for everyone.  To that end, and continuing on the good work last year, some reminders are always helpful in the early days of school.  As I noted at the PTO meeting last week, we have done well reminding ourselves of our basic safety rules, but can continue to remind each other regularly as the year progresses.  Here’s some key bullets to check and see if you are ready for the year:

  • Parents and staff must wear their ID badge visibly at all times.  This is for students to identify adults who are authorized to be on campus and have stipulated to our code of conduct.  The badge, visitor or regular, is a commitment to the code of conduct that is also in our handbooks and policy. Please wear your badge at all times.  If you need help getting or replacing a badge, please ask at the Security Desk for assistance.
  • The campus working hours are 8:00a to 4:30p each day (Monday through Friday).  We’ll send out more details on this, but we have clear times for accessing the campus and a different set of rules for times outside our normal working hours.  Activities that start just before 4:30p continue until complete and then students must depart.  The basic rule is that students may only return to campus after hours for scheduled activities or to access outside areas only for recreation purposes only.  They may not re-enter the building.  In order to gain access to the campus after hours for Middle School and High School students, they must have their student ID (we are in the process of making sure students all have their ID).  For elementary students (who do not have an ID except in their classroom), they may only access the campus with parent supervision (therefore with a Parent ID).  Parents can escort their elementary students onto campus for outdoor recreation or for organized activities.  Just know for now that students will not be admitted back onto campus if they have departed unless they are coming back for a specific activity and have their ID or are in need of assistance.
  • Thank you for all your work to make things as smooth as possible in the parking lot.  All seems to be going smoothly, but please remember the following:
    • Park carefully and please help to maximize our parking by staying within lines.
    • NEVER leave your vehicle in a yellow zone for any reason.
    • Turn engines off if waiting in a yellow zone or if parked for more than a minute.
    • Never drive over a curb or park in areas not designated as parking.
    • Use overflow parking outside the back entrance if necessary or drive the loop until space becomes available.  Don’t block traffic flow under any circumstances.
  • Please be sure to respect the learning environments in the school.  Parents are welcome in the cafeteria after students go to class, but please don’t linger in hallways or classroom areas while school is in session unless you are there at teacher request.
  • Remember that pets are not allowed on campus and we have signs posted in this regard at both entrances.  We do allow pets to transit in vehicles, but they must remain in the vehicle at all times on campus.  Thank you in advance for your kind attention to this rule.

That should be enough for now.  We’ll offer additional details and other reminders as the year continues.

Also, please note that our handbooks have been refreshed and are now available on our website for reference.  Here are the links for easy direct access:

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