Below is the text from 2015 Back to School Night Welcome Speech, which I delivered with the help of Associate Principal Mary Martin and Assistant Principal Danielle O'Brien:
Good evening, distinguished guests. I am Willy Haug, proud principal of Hillview, a California 2015 Gold Ribbon School, and I am so pleased to welcome you to Back to School Night. The beginning of the year always holds such excitement and promise, and for us it is an annual rite of passage where we open our doors and share with you our hopes and dreams for the coming year. Tonight will mark my twentieth such event in Menlo Park City School District, and I cannot tell you how thrilled and honored I am to greet you in my new role. My objective is to serve, inspire, and empower the Hillview community in our pursuit of excellence, and this will continue to be my mindset for years to come. I speak for all Hillview staff when I say, what a blessing and a privilege it is to serve you, the Menlo Park community, where anything is possible, and the sky’s the limit - especially if you’re a Hawk!
Each year we like to have a little fun here at Hillview with a theme to focus our work. This year we’ve borrowed from the book Rookie Smarts, by Liz Wiseman. We seek to cultivate, both in ourselves and in our students, a “rookie mindset,” and we have also adopted the metaphors of professional sports to guide our collaboration: We are a highly performing team that practices to improve its skill set, develops a game plan for victory, relies on teamwork, and executes. But let us return to the rookie mindset for a moment, which can be described by the following four adjectives: “Curious, humble, playful, deliberate.” You might see these words emblazoned on our Hillview staff sweatshirts, which, for obvious reasons, we are not wearing this evening. Curious, because we never stop asking questions about the important work we do and how we can do it better. Humble, because while we have achieved levels of mastery in our profession, we realize that there is always more to learn. Playful, because there is an inherent joy in the field of education, and we want this feeling to translate to our students so that they, too, are energized by their learning. Deliberate, because we need to stay focused on that which is most important. And speaking of being deliberate, each year Hillview identifies clear goals on which to focus, and it is these objectives that guide us on our arc of continuous improvement. Tonight I would like to declare where we are going and headline the goals that will define our work this coming year.
I hope you will return again on Thursday, May 19, for Hillview’s Open House, where I will report out on the progress we have made toward our goals.
For the first time ever this year, all California public schools will receive feedback on their students’ progress toward the Common Core State Standards. Today, in fact, marks the official public release of results from last spring’s Smarter Balanced Assessment, and no doubt you will soon see coverage of this in the local press. Individual student score reports are being prepared, and you can expect them to arrive in your mailboxes no later than September 21. Hillview and Menlo Park City School District have been proactive in their transition to the Common Core, and already our scope and sequence and curriculum maps for English Language Arts and Mathematics reflect the new standards and define our students’ learning objectives. Nevertheless, this year, we are eager to analyze our students’ Smarter Balanced Assessment results with the goal of establishing baselines, identifying opportunities, and setting quantitative improvement goals. This comprises our first main focus. While the preliminary data indicates that we have much to be proud of, our teacher teams look forward to using the feedback from last year’s assessments to adjust and strengthen their programs. This is what high performing teams do. To the Hillview community, the reporting of Smarter Balanced Assessment results is like the win-loss column. How do we compare to other teams in our division? Are we going to compete for the championship this year? For us, however, the key questions are, “What aspects of our execution can we improve?” and “How can we use this macro-level data to inform the smaller components of units and lessons, in order to prepare all students for success?”
Another key area that continues to define our game plan is the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. It used to be that we talked about how to integrate technology into education. Schools and districts created technology plans, but these often sat on the shelf while teaching and learning continued in the same way that it had for generations of students before. But now, with the availability of tablets and cloud computing, technology is the medium in which teaching and learning occurs, and MPCSD District-Wide Technology Plan published in the spring of 2015 reflects this shift. Hillview’s 1:1 iPad program leverages the power of technology to increase student engagement, augment 21st century skills such as creativity and collaboration, and transform instruction. The tasks that our students complete with their iPads are a far cry from traditional paper and pencil tasks. Our teachers curate a rich collection of resources for students, who then take these resources and from them create something entirely new to demonstrate their understanding. This year, we will continue with our goal of optimizing the use of the iPad for its highest instructional and learning benefit.
[This paragraph delivered by Mary Martin] One of my main roles is to oversee the 1:1 iPad program on the teaching and learning end. With our commitment to the iPad as a tool for learning also comes the critical task of teaching our students how to be efficient, productive, and responsible users of technology. While there is much talk about our students being “digital natives” and surpassing their parents and teachers in their tech-savvy, they still need explicit instruction on the proper use of the iPad. 2014-15 marked the first year of our Digital Driver’s License, or “DDL,” program for all incoming 6th graders. Partnering with such organizations as Common Sense Media, we implemented a curriculum that not only taught our students how to get the most out of the tools available to them on the iPad, but also offered them sound advice and direction to remain safe, kind, and smart online. We also developed companion resources for our parents for each of our student lessons, understanding that this partnership would further promote the key take-aways for students. This year, we continue with our focus on digital citizenship and tech wellness with DDL 2.0. We have enhanced our curriculum based on student, parent, and teacher feedback, and we also are integrating components of this program into the 7th and 8th grades. Already, for example, we have asked 7th and 8th grade families to complete a customizable Tablet Contract in order to reinforce healthy tech habits in the household, and we have beefed up our parent resource collection and removed some of the barriers to allow improved ease of access.
[This paragraph delivered by Danielle O'Brien] My role here at Hillview centers on ensuring that we have a positive, student-centered school environment. Our goal is to create the safest, most supportive, most vibrant middle school experience in all of California. From our academic and social/emotional intervention programs that accelerate our students to grade level, to lunchtime clubs that give kids a place to go and an opportunity to connect, to Associated Student Body officers who plan awesome spirit competitions, we work hard to create a space where kids enjoying coming each and every day. This positive climate is the precondition for student success, and it is always our most important focus. This year, our goal is to more precisely measure student wellness. We will use our spring 2015 California Healthy Kids Survey data, student discipline data, and data from School Site Council survey to create baselines for student social-emotional wellness and behavior, and identify future growth opportunities and methods to achieve that growth.
These three goals - analyzing Smarter Balanced Assessment data to inform our instruction, optimizing the use of the iPad for teaching and learning while at the same time promoting digital citizenship and healthy tech habits, and identifying opportunities to further improve our school climate - are Hillview’s main focuses for the 2015-16 school year. And just because we are overachievers, we will also be working to revise our school mission and vision statements, reduce the number of unexcused student absences, and increase the speed, efficiency, and quality of student progress through our math and reading acceleration programs.
The Hillview Neighborhood is an amazing place, and as you travel from class to class this evening, it will be evident how and why this school is so special. What the team here manages to accomplish is truly remarkable. I invite you not only to share your gratitude directly to the teachers and staff throughout the year; but also, when you experience a member of our faculty doing something special that truly impacts your child or family, please click the “Gratitude” button on our website; these messages will come directly to me, and it brightens my day share them personally with teachers and staff.
Before you head off to your student’s first period class, which will begin with a special 5-minute broadcast, I also ask you to join me in supporting the PTO and Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation with a financial commitment that makes sense for you and your family. We can’t all give the same, but we can all give something. So far this year, just over 65% of our families have contributed, and we are 87% of the way toward our goal. Thank you, and I encourage those of you who have yet to give to do so soon. There is no better way to voice your support for the direction we are headed than to give to your PTO and Foundation. Truthfully, without the PTO’s direct contributions, and without the Foundation’s generous $3.6 million grant to the district, much of what we do here at Hillview would not be possible. Our audacious goal is 100% participation.
Once again, we are so excited to welcome you all back to Hillview, and we know you will have a wonderful evening!