By Maureen Robertson
Ramona students, who had Monday off for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, have another day off on Friday — but it will be a work day for teachers.
While most of the teachers will spend the day in the performing arts center at Olive Peirce Middle School, Ramona High teachers will be “doing their own thing,” Theresa Grace, senior director of education services for Ramona Unified School District, told trustees last Thursday.
It’s a staff development day, and all of the teachers will be focusing on some aspect of the Common Core State Standards, new academic and teaching standards set to start in English and math next year. The new standards target, among other things, critical thinking and writing. According to the state Department of Education, they will provide students with the “deeper learning, critical thinking and other skills they need to prepare for college and a career.”
Ramona Unified is spending $6,000 of federal money for instructional materials and to have Kate Kinsella, Ed.D., come to OPMS on Friday. She will be talking to all K-12 teachers except RHS educators.
The district is required to spend the federal money on professional development, said Grace.
“Dr. Kate Kinsella, a nationally recognized expert in vocabulary development for students and student engagement, will facilitate the professional development for us,” said Grace.
Kinsella’s morning session will be directed to all of the teachers attending. They will split into two groups in the afternoon, with Ramona teachers-on-assignment Pixie Sulser and Leslie Wilson leading a break-out session titled “Applying Kinsella Strategies to Student Learning” for kindergarten through fourth-grade teachers. Kinsella will lead the other session, titled “Focusing on Informational Text in Summary Writing,” for fifth- through 12th-grade teachers.
This is the first time in the 10 years Grace has been with the district that K-12 teachers have participated in professional development together, she said.
“It’s going to be a great day,” she said, inviting trustees to visit.
Activities at Ramona High will not cost the district any additional money, since a task force of 11 RHS teachers and Principal Christopher King, Ph.D., have been working on the content that will be presented.
“It’s a big commitment, said King. “We meet an hour a week.”
The 11 teachers volunteered to work with King on the task force to design professional development for the new standards.
“The No. 1 request (from RHS teachers) has been more time for professional development related to the common core,” said King.
In addition to Friday, the entire RHS faculty has earmarked one hour on nine late-start Monday mornings for common core professional development.
“Staff members will be teaching other staff members on those nine days,” said King.
Teachers Robin Brainard, Carol Canfield, Alexandra Cavell, Rose Darrough, Robert Grace, Steve Koch, Laurie McBride, Cori McDonald, Lori Roque, Liz Schaude and John Swafford are on the task force. They teach English, history, biology, chemistry, art, automotives, economics, math and critical issues.
“Common core implementation is all about professional development for this year,” King said during a presentation to trustees. “As the board knows, we have a bit of a hiatus from state-mandated testing this year and we’re using that time to prepare for the changes that are ahead of us.”