Saturday, October 13, 2012

What's the big deal about student attendance?

So, what IS the big deal about school attendance? In fact, school attendance is extremely important in a student's school career. Often, we have parents who express their disregard for the importance of their kindergartner, first, or second grade student being at school everyday - on time & remaining at school all day. I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you why attendance is emphasized right from the beginning of a student's school career at Petal Primary School.
  • Chronic absence in kindergarten is associated with lower academic achievement in first grade. Starting right from kindergarten, too many absences can cause children to fall behind.
  • Many people don't realize that growing numbers of elementary age students have attendance problems. Nationally, one in 10 kindergarten & 1st grade students misses up to a month of school every year.
  • Students can fall behind if they miss just a day or two days every few weeks.
  • It is critical that good attendance habits are developed in the early grades to ensure success for the remainder of a child's school years.
  • Absences can affect the other students in the classroom when the teacher has to slow down to help children catch up.
  • Being late or checking out early may also impact a student's academic performance.
  • Good attendance helps children feel more confident about school and themselves.                               
In addition to the negative impact on students' learning, absences impact school districts' funding. The Petal School District receives its funding based on ADA - average daily attendance. Therefore, student absences negatively impact the funding we receive. Last year our district worked hard to increase the overall ADA. In August/September of 2011-2012, Petal Primary's ADA was 97.05%. This year Petal Primary's August/September ADA is 95.89% - down 1.16%. We are asking for your help as we try to increase our ADA each month throughout the remainder of the school year.

How can parents help?
  • Establish those critical routines - bed time, morning routines, etc. Lay out clothes, backpack, etc. the night before.
  • Send your child to school unless he/she is truly sick. Of course, children with fever need to miss school. 
  • If your child seems worried or nervous about going to school, please talk with the teacher, the counselor, or one of the principals so that we can help him to feel safe and welcome at school.
  • Try to schedule medical appointments &/or trips when school is not in session.
Please keep in mind that the habits developed early in a child's school career are very important - we want these habits to be good ones so that the patterns that develop help the child succeed throughout their academic career.

Throughout the year, each class works hard to have good attendance. Many of you probably saw the pictures of students with perfect attendance posted shortly after midterm of students receiving the gold medallions. This will become a ritual that we will do each midterm and at the end of each nine weeks term. In just a few days, we will present the end-of-term medals. Stay tuned for pictures.

Thank you for your continued support & for helping us continue to "Stand Tall"!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Staying Above the Line at Petal Primary School

Good morning!!!
We are into our second day of the beginning of this school year, and it is so exciting to see the faces of our beautiful children. One more day, and then we will be ready for the "real deal" on Monday. Thanks to all of you for your support and especially for sharing your precious children with us at Petal Primary School.

In my very first blog entry, I shared that one of the goals of the "Standing Tall" blog will be to communicate with the families of our students. Today I have asked Kim Raulston, one of our awesome PPS Assistant Principals, to share her belief statements. In addition, Kim will also share  information about how we will be teaching boys and girls to learn self control and to show respect to one another.

We are off to a great start to what I feel will be a wonderful year.   I believe that our MISSION is POSSIBLE at Petal Primary!

Dede mentioned in an earlier blog that teachers and administrators spent time reflecting on our “bone deep beliefs” as we prepared for the new school year.  I would like to share my beliefs with you. 

1.      I believe that we learn by becoming a student of others.

2.      I believe that we must remain teachable in order to teach.

3.      I believe that empowering others makes a difference in me.

4.      I believe that for me to see what others see, I must feel what they feel.

5.      I believe that through struggles we gain strength.

6.      I believe that we must strive to understand others before being understood.

I would also like to share a quote with you from Abraham Lincoln:  “There is but one way to train up a child in the way he should go, and that is to travel it yourself.”

I love this quote!  Abraham Lincoln understood the importance of teaching young children guiding principles through modeling the desired behaviors for them. Our Petal Primary School Creed emphasizes the importance of these very important principles. 

PPS Creed

I am Petal Primary.

I will respect myself and others.

I will do what is right.

I will be the best that I can be.

I am Petal Primary.

In an effort to promote a safe and caring environment, where all students are taught the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior, we have implemented an “Above the Line” behavior plan. The plan will allow us to instill in each individual student an awareness of his /her importance and the need for cooperation among all members of our school family.  Clear expectations assist students in understanding how to relate in the classroom, hallways, on the playground, and in areas outside our school setting.

One of the components of our school wide behavior plan is the “Fix-It” plan.  The Fix-It Plan helps a student to identify the inappropriate behavior, assume responsibility for the behavior, and develop a method to repair the damage that was caused. 

Students will receive training and a lot of practice learning the “language” of the plan.  Pictures will be used to help our students understand what Above the Line and Below the Line behaviors look like. I’ve attached a copy of our Above the Line plan.   







At the beginning of the school year the teacher will spend time discussing the PPS Creed.



The teacher defines above the line/below the line/bottom line behaviors.



The teacher provides students with a clear understanding of appropriate and inappropriate behavior, focusing on teaching students to “live above the line”.



If a student makes an inappropriate behavior choice and falls “Below the Line”, the student will be responsible for developing a plan for “fixing” the problem.The teacher will assist the student with developing a “fix-it” plan.

Teacher & Student


If the “Fix-It” plan works, the student may go back above the line.

Teacher & Student


If the “Fix-It” plan does not work, a consequence that “fits the offense” is given.The teacher will notify the parent of the behavior,and when necessary schedule a parent conference.


Student & Parent


When a student’s behavior is considered “Bottom Line”, the student will be referred to the office.The assistant principal will determine the necessary action depending on the severity of the inappropriate behavior.Although “Bottom Line” behaviors automatically result in a consequence, the student is also expected to complete a “Fix-It” Plan.

Assistant Principal,

Teacher & Student


The teacher will notify the parent of bottom-line behaviors.A referral form will be sent home with the student explaining the behavior and the consequence.Parents will be asked to discuss the behavior with the student.The signed form must be returned to school the next day.

Assistant Principal,

Teacher & Student

We have an awesome group of students and faculty at Petal Primary. It is our hope that this plan will foster responsibility, accountability, and respect among our students.  Take a look at some of the pictures that we use to teach the students about above/below the line behaviors.

We appreciate your support and welcome your feedback.    

I hope that this information is helpful to you - don't be surprised if your student comes home and talks about the above/below the line behaviors. I shared with you in the very first post that we talk a lot about "Standing Tall" at Petal Primary. We will be learning the above the line behaviors so that we can truly Stand Tall at school AND in any other situations we may encounter.
Ms. Dede

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Is the mission possible?

Good morning,

I hope that you are as excited about this new school year as we are. A new year brings about new possibilities, challenges, and opportunities. Our district's theme this year is Mission Possible. Throughout the school year, we are going to be referring to this theme and what it means at Petal Primary as we work to meet the needs of the Petal School District's youngest scholars.

Our goals at Petal Primary this year are very simple and straightforward, and we want you to know up front what we will be working toward so that we can all work together.

Goals for 2012-2013
  • Improve communication and further engage our parent population
  • Continue implementation of the Common Core State Standards
  • Increase our average daily attendance to 97%
These are very broad goals and really are extensions of work that we have begun prior to this school year. However, we recognize that there is always room for improvement, and we solicit your support and feedback as we move throughout the school year. I plan to share with you regularly the various things that are going on as we work toward reaching these goals.

As the Petal Primary School teachers prepared for the new school year, we spent some time clearly articulating our "bone deep beliefs" about teaching & learning. What is a "bone deep belief"?  It is one that is true to the very core of that individual and remains constant during both good times and bad times. A "bone deep belief" is so much a part of an individual that it can be stated "on the spot". The time that we spent reflecting on our beliefs was truly time well spent. Opening your heart to share your passion for teaching and learning is risky, but this process reminded each of us precisely why we are in this business.

Today I want to share with you my very own "bone deep beliefs". These should be evident in my practice, so as we work together during the upcoming school year, you should be able to see these beliefs in action.
  1. I believe that relationships are the foundation for learning.
  2. I believe that collaboration is essential for true growth in schools - collaboration among teachers, parents, and students.
  3. I believe that teaching IS rocket science.
  4. I believe that lifelong learning is critical and that as the principal, I must be the lead learner.
  5. I believe that we must set goals high. Even if we fail, we will learn from our mistakes.
  6. I believe that change is fundamental & in order to truly prepare students for the future, we must embrace change.
Over the months ahead, I plan to give a bit more details about each of these beliefs that I've shared. I would also like to share some of the teachers' belief statements, along with those of my fellow administrators, Kim Raulston and Sandy Hampton.

I was amazed as individual teachers shared their own beliefs. I am so privileged to work alongside individuals who have such a burning passion for what they do everyday. As I said, sharing your inner most feelings and thoughts is risky and very personal, but this process allowed us to put into words those beliefs that are at the very core of why we do what we do everyday. As teachers read aloud their belief statements, you could've heard a pin drop. For some educators out there, teaching may just be a job, but at Petal Primary, being a teacher is much more than what we do, it's who we are.

Is this mission possible? We believe that it is indeed possible, and we plan to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Petal Primary is ready to embrace the challenges that await us.

Please give us your feedback. We can't wait to see you and your young scholars later this week.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Kindergarten Registration

Good Morning!

Yes, it's about that time! Kindergarten registration is just around the corner. This year, for the very first time, Petal Primary will be registering entering kindergarten students on a separate day from the registration of first and second grade students. We made the decision to do this for various reasons. Most importantly, we want to make sure that our entering kindergarten students and parents are provided guidance and support throughout the entire registration process. Because our school is so large, it is difficult to register almost 1,000 students on one single day. So, we are anxious to see how this will work, and we look forward to feedback from our parents.

Kindergarten registration will take place on Thursday, July 26 from 11:30-6:30. If your child attended an area preschool and if you completed the "preregistration" paperwork, we have already placed your student in a class.  This will also apply even if your child didn't attend an area preschool, but if you brought him/her to Kindergarten Roundup in April. You should receive a call from your child's kindergarten teacher prior to the actual day of registration. The teacher will answer questions you may have, explain what all you need to bring to the registration day, and listen to concerns you may have about registration, start of school, etc.
Even if your child has been "preregistered", it is still necessary to attend the Kindergarten Registration on July 26.
If your child did not attend an area preschool, it is essential that you bring him/her to Petal Primary School during the registration hours on July 26 for registration. Once you have completed the registration process, your child will be assigned to a classroom, and you can accompany him/her to meet the teacher.

For all students - those who have already "preregistered" and those who have not:

Requirements for all entering kindergarten students:
  • Children entering kindergarten for the first time must be 5 years old on or before September 1, 2012. 
  • Parents must bring: 
    • Child’s Original Certified Birth Certificate 
    • Mississippi Immunization 121 Form (complete for school) 
    • Child’s Social Security Card                                                                                                 
In addition to the items listed above, parents of kindergarten students must provide residency information:

Please note that the Petal School District has updated the residency requirements. In order to proceed through any of the registration process, the residency requirements must be met first. Please see the link below for the updated residency requirements and other documents needed for registering your entering kindergarten student:. All of these forms must be completed in order to fully register your child.

Petal Primary Kindergarten Registration Forms

While this process seems overwhelming, please know that we will have personnel in place to guide you from one place to the next and to assist you with questions as needed.


 If you do not have the required documents for the updated residency requirements, we will not be able to complete the registration process until you bring the necessary documentation.

We want every kindergarten student to be able to meet his/her teacher on this day, so it is critical that every parent brings the required documentation to prove residency.

Please feel free to call the school office for further information if necessary. The number is 601-554-7244.

There is nothing better than looking into the eyes of a little kindergarten student. Their eagerness to learn is evident by the twinkle in the eyes. We are looking forward to an awesome 2012-2013 school year.

Kindergarten Jumpstart
Boys and girls are loaded into cars at the kindergarten pick-up/drop-off area.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

So, my child is going to kindergarten?

Good morning!

Last week I promised that I would share some ideas for various summer activity ideas to ensure that learning continues right on throughout the months of June and July. I decided to try this from a different angle as many of our parents are preparing their child for the very first day of kindergarten. This entry will offer suggestions that are focused on getting ready for kindergarten. The first part of the blog will give ideas that are appropriate for home. Following this information are additional ideas/opportunities in the community. These ideas, of course, can be extended to include your school-age child as well. There are learning opportunities all around us!

Guest bloggers this week are Emily Branch and Tessa Trimm - both teachers at Petal Primary School. Mrs. Branch teaches kindergarten and is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. Mrs. Trimm teaches one of our kindergarten/first grade looping classes. She is also a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. Both of these ladies have several years of experience working with young children and provide excellent leadership within our school. I know that these suggestions will be helpful. 

Your child’s first day of kindergarten is an exciting and important event, and there are many things you can do this summer to prepare your child for this experience.  In kindergarten, children learn many important social and academic skills.  These are some ways to get your child ready for his first big year of school.

Words! Words! Words!
In Kindergarten, your child will begin learning to read.  This summer, take as many opportunities as possible to read to your child.  Read everything!  Read books, billboards, words on TV, labels, everything!  Encourage your child to read things back to you after you’ve read them.  Help your child pick out letters that he knows as you’re reading. When you read stories, ask your child to draw a picture or tell you about the story.  Help your child learn to write his name and recognize the letters in it.

Talk to your child.  A good vocabulary is important to a child’s success in kindergarten and throughout school.  Talk to your child about everything.  Use “big words” and explain their meanings.  Ask your child “why” and “how” questions as often as possible.  Many everyday experiences provide great opportunities for learning.  Encourage your child to count things and problem solve when you’re in the grocery store.  Explore how things are alike and different with your child when you are at home or running errands.

Your child’s social life is also important.
In Kindergarten, your child will learn through collaboration with other children.  Children learn best by talking and playing with their peers.  Be sure to give your child opportunities to spend time with other children.  Encourage your child to take turns, share, and listen to other children when they are talking. 

Growing up is also an important part of kindergarten.
When children start school, they quickly become more independent.  As a part of a learning community, your child will have responsibilities.  Help your child by encouraging independence at home.  Give your child some responsibilities at home and encourage your child to do things for herself.  Small jobs around the house may also help your child be more successful with academic skills.  For example, organizing silverware provides a good experience with sorting.  Opening mail, tying shoes, tightening screws, and hammering may help your child develop fine motor skills which are necessary for handwriting.

Take advantage of opportunities in your community.
      The Center for Families and Children has an abundance of resources available for you and your child and they are absolutely FREE. The Center is open 5 days a week all summer. Utilize this resource to checkout academic games that will build literacy and math skills and provide an opportunity for you to spend valuable time with your child simply talking.

      The Petal Public Library offers story-time every Thursday at 10:00am. (Hattiesburg library offers story-time at 10:00 on Wednesday morning).  This would be an excellent opportunity for your child to sit with other children and listen to a story read aloud. And while you're there, get your child a library card and checkout a few books.  The library also offers a summer reading program for children that encourages reading and offers prizes and incentives as your child finishes a book.

The Hattiesburg Zoo offers summer camps throughout the months of June and July.  The zoo provides a great opportunity to spend time with your child observing animals in their habitats.  It also is an opportunity to read to your child about each of these animals.

Register your child for Kindergarten Jumpstart.  Jumpstart is a half day introduction to Kindergarten offered July 16-18.  Incoming kindergartners will be introduced to Petal Primary School throughout the day in a small group setting.  Our Kindergarten teachers will provide the incoming students with opportunities to experience circle time, hands-on centers, play on the playground, and tour the building. Please call the school office to register your child for one of these Jumpstart days.

The Children's Health Fair will be held July 19th at Petal Primary School.  This is a free service that provides dental, hearing and vision screenings for children.

       As you can see, there are all kinds of learning opportunities around us this summer. Please feel free to respond to the blog entry if you have other suggestions for great activities available. Also, your questions are welcome as well.  Blogs are meant to be interactive, so it is fine to comment or ask questions. Much thanks to Emily Branch and Tessa Trimm for sharing their expertise. 

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Looking Ahead...

Happy Summer!

Students have JUST gotten out for the summer. Families are on vacation, boys and girls are staying up late and sleeping in, and moms and dads are typically getting a little break from the daily grind that wears us down during the school year.

The summer is actually one of  the busiest times of the year for administrators as we look ahead to "next year"! One of my goals for the 2012-2013 school year is to do a better job communicating with parents and making myself available more often. With almost 1,000 students at Petal Primary School, one of my greatest challenges is reaching out to all of the families of our boys and girls. I am looking for suggestions and ideas on how I can be more effective in this area. However, one of the ways that I plan to do this is by writing a blog. My goal is to post monthly on various topics of interest to parents of our students. (You know what they say - when you make a commitment and tell people, you are more likely to keep that commitment, so I will have to make a strong effort to stick with the monthly goal!)

At Petal Primary, we talk everyday about "Standing Tall". This phrase actually comes from a special children's book about a little girl named Molly Lou Melon. If you haven't already read this book, I encourage you to do so. It has a wonderful message, and we use this story to remind our boys and girls the meaning of our Petal Primary Creed. In the Creed, we talk about respecting ourselves and others, doing what is right, and being the best we can be. So, when I talk about "Standing Tall"in the future, you will know exactly to what I am referring.

This entry is just an introduction. I will be posting in a few days about summer-time learning opportunities. Feel free to offer feedback, suggestions, etc. It is my goal to use this blog as a tool for communicating with parents and for making our school better. Thank you in advance for helping us to "Stand Tall"!

Enjoy these summer days,