Thursday, April 27, 2017

And Down the Stretch They Come! Finishing the School Year Strong

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If you've ever been in or watched a race, you know that the end of the race is not the time to coast. It is the time to "kick it in!"

Having been at WJHS for the last four years, I've had a first hand look at how our teachers continue to have school to the very last bell.

Will we celebrate?  Absolutely.  The effort and achievement of our students and staff members is worthy of celebration.  So, we will have fun events to honor and reward our students and staff members.

However, for us, the end of standardized testing doesn't signal that the school year is over.

In fact, we see the end of the year as an opportunity to "kick it in."

The focus that we place on establishing positive relationships with students will only become more important.  We know that a positive classroom environment is just as relevant the last month of the year as it is during the first.

Our instruction will continue to focus on the essential learning that our students must master.  We will set clear learning targets, assess progress toward mastery, and provide meaningful feedback.

Professionally, we will continue to grow by reading educational research, trying new practices without fear of failure, visiting other classrooms, etc.

Our teachers will strive to create memorable learning opportunities for students.  We will look for ways to demonstrate our love for teaching/learning.  We want our students to see our passion for learning, reading, making, thinking critically...Maybe some of it will rub off on them!

To get a behind the scenes view of just how we "kick it in" down the stretch, check out our hashtag- #gowjhswildcats.

Tim Sparacino, Principal



Friday, March 3, 2017

WJHS: A Place of Making

Check out this post by Mrs. Beach on her Tinkering in Making blog.

At WJHS, we believe that "making" is an essential part of meaningful learning.

You can support our campaign and increase access to makerspaces at WJHS by visiting www.gofundme.com/WJHSmakers.

We appreciate you!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What Are Teachers Doing on PD Days?

Next Monday and Tuesday, students will be out of school and teachers will be involved in professional development activities.

As a parent, you may be wondering what types of activities teachers are involved in on these "release days."

Monday, February 20
Most WJHS teachers will be in our building Monday.

We do have a few teachers that will be involved in training at other sites that relate directly to their area of expertise.

Our morning sessions will focus on developing the technology integration skills of our teachers.  We know that just "integrating" technology doesn't automatically lead to improved learning or engagement.  Our use of technology has to purposefully improve learning.

Teachers have been offered a menu of five technology training options and they have selected three one hour sessions that are most beneficial to them.

These sessions are facilitated by teacher leaders within our building and our Instructional Technology Specialist, Dee Thomas.

Our afternoon learning will focus on:

  • The work of our Response to Intervention(RTI) SWAT Team and how it relates to Priority Time
  • Professional Learning Community (PLC) best practices as they relate to RTI
  • Our ongoing Rethinking Grading book study.  (Two of our teacher leaders will be helping us investigate Chapter 4: What How and When to Grade).
  • Reflect on the data from the Gallup Student Poll that we administered in the fall (time permitting).

It's important to note that our teachers had input into the structure of this day.  They were surveyed to identify the most pressing needs that they had for professional development.  That input was used to select and craft the sessions detailed above.

Tuesday, February 21
On Tuesday morning, some of our teachers will be involved in district-level professional development activities (Co-teaching, Math Lab Best Practices, Social Thinking, etc.).

Some teachers will be involved in district-level PLC meetings focusing on vertical and/or horizontal alignment of curriculum, expectations, assessment, etc.

Other teachers will be at WJHS in building-level PLC meetings focusing on ensuring a guaranteed and viable curriculum, common assessment, remediation, and enrichment opportunities, etc.

On Tuesday afternoon, all 7th-12th grade teachers will meet at BHS for district-level PLC meetings focusing on quality Tier 1 instruction, vertical and/or horizontal alignment of curriculum, expectations, assessment, etc.

Conclusion
As you know, lifelong learning is one of the CORE values of our staff and a vital component of The Wildcat Way.

We are looking forward to a great two days of learning so that we can be better educators and even more successful  at building a school that students run toward for the children that you allow us the privilege of working with everyday.  Thank you!

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Thankful Principal 2016

Last year, I wrote a post called "A Thankful Principal" and listed just a few of the things that I was thankful for with regard to our faculty and staff here at WJHS.  Please click on the link to review that post because every word of it is just as true in 2016 as it was then.

This year, I thought that I would turn my attention to the "stinkin' awesome" students that I have the pleasure to serve every day.

In our recent Veterans Day Assembly, outlined in the post Patriotism: Now More Than Ever, I took the time to tell our Veterans how wonderful our students are.

My unscripted comments were something like, "I know that you served so that we could have a better America.  And, I know that today's youth often get a bad rap.  But let me tell you, these students that we have here, those that have performed for you today as well as all of those sitting in the bleachers, give me confidence in a brighter future for America.  They love our country, are patriotic, and consistently serving.  They will lead us to a brighter future.  America's best days are still ahead."

Obviously, as an administrator, I do get to see our students mess up.  Messing up is part of being a 7th/8th grader!  However, most of the time I see students that give me hope for the future because I see them model our Wildcat traits everyday.

Our Wildcats are:

  • Welcoming
  • Involved
  • Leading
  • Dependable
  • Cooperative
  • Ambitious
  • Teachable
  • Serving
Thanks to the parents that trust me to work with your students every day and thanks to the teachers that help mold and shape our students into the wonderful young people that they are.

I am indeed very thankful.

Tim Sparacino, Principal

Friday, November 11, 2016

Patriotism: Now more than ever.

What do we need now more than ever?  Patriotism.

Patriotism has been defined by Wikipedia as an emotional attachment to a nation which an individual recognizes as their homeland.  Merraim-Webster simply states that patriotism is a love that people feel for their country.

We start every school day with the Pledge of Allegiance and one minute of silence.

Sometimes you wonder if the ritual becomes just something we do without a real observance of the meaning of the words or an appreciation for the freedom that we have.

Yesterday, we held our annual Veterans Day assembly.  Let me tell you, it was an amazing celebration to be a part of.

Our students were genuinely patriotic.  Our visitors, which we were very honored to have several Veterans in attendance, were extremely complimentary of our student body and the respect that they demonstrated.

As always, our students played a prominent role in the assembly by:

  • Leading the Pledge of Allegiance
  • Our Band and Choirs jointly performed the National Anthem
  • Introduced each branch of the military during the Armed Forces Medley
  • Our Orchestra performed A Soldier's Hymn
  • A Forensics student recited Robin Williams' Flag Monologue
  • Bel Canto and Cantari sang America the Beautiful
  • Bel Canto sang Doba Nobis Pacem
  • Two students performed Taps
Those performances helped make the assembly so special and touching.  Many tears were shed throughout the gymnasium and several of the Veterans thanked us profusely for such a wonderful celebration.


Often times in today's culture, young people are perceived as anything but patriotic.  I can tell you that our students consistently exhibit a love for our country and a respect for those that have served to protect freedom.

I'm honored to be able to work with such a wonderful staff and such amazing students.

I hope that everyone takes the opportunity to celebrate Veterans Day and to reflect on the awesome privileges and liberties that are afforded to us because of those that are willing to serve.

Tim Sparacino, Principal


Thursday, October 6, 2016

PTO Learning Walk

Our first PTO Learning Walk of the year was a huge success (except for the fact that I got so carried away with the discussion that I forgot to take any pictures!).

During the PTO meeting, I had a chance to describe our approach to the "Why school?" question and the type of transformative classroom practices that we strive for at WJHS.

My presentation started with the fact that at WJHS we strive to be about more than a test score.  We operate under The Wildcat Way so that our core values drive us, not curricular mandates or standardized tests.

We're also strive to build a school that students run toward rather than away from.  We want students to be excited about coming to school and learning. We believe that visitors to our school should walk away convinced that learning is a joyful act worthy of celebration.

The PTO got to hear a brief explanation of the type of instructional transformation that we work for daily.  Our teachers strive to:

  • Teach like Google exists.  
    • We want to eliminate the tedious pursuit of one right answer and provide students with problems to solve rather than stuff to memorize (and then forget?).
  • Get Real.  
    • We want our students tackling real problems, creating real products, that make a real impact beyond the classroom walls.
  • Get Above the Line.
    • We want to move our students from passive consumers of information to active, creative, problem solvers.
    • We want to move from a completely teacher directed environment to more student choice and voice.

After the presentation, we visited several classrooms to look for evidence of the transformation described above and then we debriefed about what we had witnessed.

Not only was our learning walk fun, our parents learned a tremendous amount about what is happening in our classrooms.  I personally enjoyed learning from the parents and listening to their insightful comments about the things that we observed.

We'll have another PTO Learning Walk in the spring and I hope that you can join us.

Tim Sparacino, Principal

Monday, September 19, 2016

The FabLab Story: Making a Makerspace

Over the past two years, Mrs. Beach has done a phenomenal job of creating our makerspace (which we call The FabLab).

The FabLab is open to students before school and at lunch on Tuesday's and Thursday's.  We also have scheduled FabLab events frequently during Priority Time.

Mrs. Beach's latest post on her Tinkering in Making blog sheds some light on what the FabLab is and the continual growth that the program is experiencing.

Thanks Mrs. Beach!

Tim Sparacino, Principal