Hello Dear Families!
We are in the countdown to the end of the school year – only six weeks left before we scatter for our summer breaks coming back together occasionally to play together at our summer park meet ups and then march in a parade together in August (Multnomah Days!).
As always we have lots to get done this month. See the end of my letter for the run down of all the activities coming up
This month is always filled with lots of emotion for all of us as the school year draws to a close. We are graduating many children this year in addition to some families who are needing to make different care/school choices for next year. Saying goodbye is always hard for me because I become deeply attached to all of the children and to you – the parents – over the course of our time together whether it has been one year or five years (or in some cases even more). I have to work hard to make sure that I stay present in the moment with the children this month and then as it draws closer begin the process of saying goodbye.
If your child will not be returning to MPS in the fall, you can process that with them as the actual end of the year draws nearer – especially for those children heading on to kindergarten of whom there are many! We will begin talking about our goodbyes a couple of weeks before their last day. In preparation for this however, I will be reading some books that really help us process the idea of growing up and moving on. A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle is one of my favorites. Hermit Crab outgrows its house and while it is sad to leave, it creates a new and loving place eventually again moving on and leaving its home to a new, smaller hermit crab.
The biggest message we always try to embed in the hearts of the children is that MPS will always be a home for them. We will love them forever and never ever forget them. That is one of the reasons I keep all of those old class photos on my cabinets. I love it when kids come back to see me and go find themselves on my wall.
If you want me to address the end of the school year in any particular way or if you think your child may be upset by the idea and want to strategize ahead of time with me, please let me know. I am always here for you too!
Another ending is on the horizon, although it is still several years out. I have decided that I will retire from Multnomah Playschool in three years at the end of the 2020 school year. That will mark 20 years at the school for me as a teacher (not counting my time as a parent in the co-op!). This is a decision that both excites and terrifies me. The school has been such a big part of my life for such a long time and I can also say it has been the most meaningful work I have done in my long and varied professional career. But it is also getting to be time for me to take a break and consider what I want to do with the next phase of my life.
While it is three years out, it is time to begin the process of succession planning. I have been talking with the board about this subject now for two years. Within a cooperative school it is critical that you, the parents, are intimately involved in the process of finding and hiring a new teacher. I will work with a committee this summer on a few facets of the process. One will be doing some strategic planning and creating a vision for the school over the next 20 years. We will also be taking a critical look at my job description and looking at alternative ways to staff the school. My job could very easily become two jobs, or even 3 part-time positions. I have thrown myself into my role at the school and really defined the scope of my work over many years. While I have been willing to allow the position to grow, it may not be so easy to find a new director/head teacher willing to put in so many hours. I want us to be creative and make a proposal that is good for the school AND will attract strong staff members who will be eager to make a commitment to growing with the school into the future.
Also this summer we will work to formulate a survey and maybe even focus group process so that you as community members can detail the qualities and skills that you most want to see in your staff in the future.
Our goal is to be able to hire my replacement in two years so that in my final year we can work together shifting the lead responsibility over during the course of that last school year. Our school really relies on public perception and word of mouth to fill out our roster and keep the school strong. The more intentional we can be in this process the better off the school will be in the long term.
Financially we are in a good position for this process. Our successful auctions have allowed us to build up a positive cash balance that will allow us to to double staff the school that last year AND absorb any drop off in enrollment for the first couple years afterward.
So, I don’t bring this up now to upset you or have you worrying about the future for your littles who are yet to start school. I mention it because you are going to begin hearing more about it and I don’t want anyone to feel in the dark or worried about when the change is going to happen. No place for rumors – either internally or externally. My hope is that you will actually feel excited and empowered to help the school become an even stronger and exciting place for young children and families.
So look for opportunities over the next year to share your thoughts and hopes for the future of the school. MPS will be 72 years old when I leave it. I want to feel confident that it is in good hands and ready to approach the last quarter of its first one hundred years stronger than ever!
The significance for me of this change is huge. I realized that the incoming three’s class will be the last group of children I have the potential to have as my students for 3 full years if any of them go through the pre-k class. For me this is huge. If the goodbye at the end of each year is hard for me, I can only imagine what that last year might be like. Ack! I have to quit talking about it before I freak out!!!!
Our Last 6 Weeks!
So here is the rundown of what is coming up. Behind several of these plans is this caveat: It Depends on the Weather!
May 1st through 5th: Screen Free Week. Our party is Tuesday night. During class time we will be talking about the role of screens in our lives and how to manage that in a way that keeps our bodies and minds healthy and active! And we will read some hysterical books!
Also this week, depending on the weather – we may be doing some really large and messy outdoor painting projects! Wear clothes and shoes that can take some paint splatters.
May 8th through 12th: Pipping Day! This is when we expect the arrival of our chicks – no weather caveat here, just the vagaries of fertilization and incubation. If everything happened perfectly, we hope to see some live hatching of baby chicks!
May 15th through 19th: Fish Painting! Make sure your child brings a t-shirt with them this week that is light colored, pre-washed and has their name on it (written on the inside collar, on masking tape, etc). We will be using some fish from Uwajimaya to recreate the Japanese Art Form of Gyotaku – fish printing. We will also have some rubber/plastic facsimiles for our vegan/vegetarian families so everyone can comfortably participate. This activity will go on all week. If your kids bring more than one shirt, I will put the extras in a queue and when we get through everyone’s first prints I will let them do multiples.
May 25th and 26th: BIKE DAY! I am cancelling our May Field Day and slipping Bike Day into its spot. This is totally a ‘depending on the weather’ event. I will be watching forecasts closely and there is a chance that I will move it up earlier in the month if conditions look better another week. So stay tuned and watch your emails! On Bike Day bring your child to school with a riding toy: a bike, a scoot bike, a tricycle, a scooter, etc. AND a bike helmet that is well fitted and adjusted to their head. Helmets should be marked with their names (masking tape inside works!).
I make a bike road in the upper parking lot along with many different fun activities. We set up snack in the middle of the upper lot too so if you are snack parent plan to be outside with your food!
We spend our day riding, blowing bubbles, decorating and washing our bikes, eating snack, hearing stories, drawing with sidewalk chalk, etc. This is always a big highlight of the school year!
It is not uncommon for parents to stay and enjoy the day with their kiddos. We have even had people bring a fold up table and coffee and pastries/fruit for the grown ups. Totally up to you but feel free to make it fun for everyone. And with so many kids going around and around on their bikes, it never hurts to have a little extra help as well!
May 29th: Memorial Day Holiday
June 1st: Pre-K Graduation. Even though we extended the school year an additional week, we are keeping graduation on the original schedule to accommodate a family leaving town right after. Plan on being in the gym upstairs for their ceremony by 2:30pm. You are free to invite friends and family. This is a Pre-k only event.
June 7th: Last Day of school for the 4’s class
June 8th: Last Day of school for Pre-k and 3’s class.
June 10th: End of the Year Picnic, 4 to 7pm at West Waluga Park in Lake Oswego.
That’s it for me for this edition of our newsletter! Major props to Kim Rivers for her work on getting us all motivated and publishing the newsletter monthly!