Dr. Hart: School Seeks to Improve by Using Student Input

Student input is helping Garfield update some of its primary educational and support  strategies, Principal Tarance Hart told last night’s PTSA General Meeting, which also featured a guest speaker on college/career planning resources.

Dr. Hart noted that student “Engagement Circles,” the District’s annual climate survey and other work by teachers, staff and parents will help update how the school handles discipline and attendance issues, plus contribute to a new 3-year version of the Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP). This document, required of all SPS schools, is a template for setting out strategies and measurements of success related to overarching goals of both the District and Garfield. The school’s Building Leadership Team is currently working on the new CSIP.

Dr. Hart also said:

  • The Engagement Circles are intended to hear from students how to improve the learning environment and what supports they need. The school is also looking at how to best address issues such as vaping, disruptive phone usage and inconsistent attendance. The Principal said the school will seek to emphasize  supportive and restorative practices when policies are violated.

  • Garfield is looking at how to adjust staffing to deal with the District budget cut of two teaching positions (one each in the Math and World Languages Departments). Dr. Hart says that, in looking at student needs and the master schedule, Garfield will try to reduce sections of a course rather than lose any course itself. However, one choice being studied is elimination of Japanese. Dr. Hart is hoping that PTSA funding and creative solutions can reduce any impacts.

  • Multicultural Week has been moved by the student government to next week. The school is to send families an updated May/June list of major events.

The attendees at the meeting (held via Zoom) also heard about how Garfield and other resources can help students to think about career and/or college goals, and make good choices. The overview was provided by Tiffany Bigham, a full-time staff member who both teaches Career Connections courses and oversees the College and Career Center. (A second planned guest, Counselor Daniel Lee, was unable to attend because of sickness.)

Head shot of Tiffany BighamMs. Bigham offered ideas on how students can start in Grade 9 to work toward college and career goals. Students can effectively blend academics, activities, volunteer roles and/or jobs. She suggests that parents and caregivers encourage students to take responsibility to learn about the full range of resources at Garfield and beyond. Ms. Bigham answered many questions during the PTSA meeting, and mentioned that she is available for student meetings during the school year (afternoon office hours or by appointment). She also suggested families and students might enjoy videos she recorded during the pandemic.

Also during the General Meeting:

  • The PTSA membership approved the seating of Puneet Dewan, Sara Dickerman and Jennifer Marquardt on a Nominating Committee seeking candidates for open 2023-24 Officer positions.

During the Board Meeting that followed the General Meeting:

  • Co-Treasurer Mary Murray noted that the financials through the end of April don’t yet reflect final numbers for the Spring Fundraiser. (Preliminary numbers show the event achieving its budget goals.) Recent expenses included $3,000 in gift cards that the school and partner agencies distributed to families in need and staff appreciation events.

  • The Co-Treasurers are forming a Budget Committee to work on the 2023-24 spending plan. Volunteers welcomed!

  • Parent Perry Schmeidel has agreed to be nominated as a 2023-24 Co-Treasurer, but the PTSA still has other roles to fill. A “meet and greet” event with current PTSA Board members will be scheduled soon. See the full list of PTSA open positions!

  • The Board discussed the current policy of “free” membership, which has increased the number of people signing up for membership, but may not have increased engagement with the work of the PTSA. It is expected that further clarification of our membership program will occur by next year.