News from Alfonso - Sept 8/09

Dear Friends,

First, in my last communication to you, preoccupied as I was with working with teachers and many other things, I was not sufficiently polite in reference to the Oregonian article about the modular. The Oregonian is a fine newspaper, and I would never want to offend anyone who works there. I did feel the article was a bit subjective and disparaging of our school in an off-hand way, and that brought out my protective instincts. I am already proud of this school and have heard many positive comments about it from everyone I meet in Portland.

Last week was an amazingly positive week. In addition to working hard on setting up classrooms, we had a fine all day workshop with Tracey Johnson on managing student behavior. Out of that workshop we developed a school wide focus for our work with students. This year we will work on establishing a stronger school wide ethos around these key principles:

  • Be fluent (in languages and cultures)

  • Be safe

  • Be respectful

  • Be responsible

  • Belong

We also spent three solid days on understanding the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB-PYP) in more depth and on starting to restructure our units of inquiry to create a more logical, coherent, and deeper program of study. As you may have learned, the PYP is an inquiry based program where students explore central concepts in depth and build meaning and understanding. I feel very optimistic about our PYP authorization visit this coming December because this is a faculty of inquirers with an evident hunger to learn and improve practice. To read more about PYP and how it compares to traditional teaching approaches, click here. For more about the IB-PYP at TIS, please visit

In addition, this past week:

  • We reached consensus on a staff evaluation system which will have a clear timeline and process;

  • We began discussion of a homework policy which we will refine this coming week in track level meetings; and

  • We had some good discussions about our professional responsibilities to students, to parents and to each other.

  • We have our plans in place for a potential flu outbreak, and we will be in close communication with local health authorities. We will of course keep you informed every step of the way.

Finally, during the opening week and throughout the year, school staff and I will be on hand to help smooth the drop off and pick up process. Given our current location, we do the best we can and we too need to

* Be safe * Be respectful * Be responsible * Belong

Drop off and pick up will be challenging at first, but if we remain patient and listen to the folks in orange vests (including this writer) we will manage admirably, I am sure.

See you soon,