Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hip Hop Speaks to Kids

Who says that  appropriate “rap” music and “hip-hop” dance moves can’t be used as stimuli for creative writing, word imagery and creative expression?

Using this music is a connection and opens doors of communication for learners. The students in Mrs. Wells 4th grade class at Pershing School have been actively engaged in bringing words to life through writing, art expression, dance and music. These experiences will lead to the creation of a performance piece created by the students that weaves music, dance and their original expressions of rhythmical raps.

Visiting performing artist teacher, U. Citian Diane Davenport, is assisting in working with the students, Mrs. Wells and Mrs. Hume, the Literacy Coach in this collaboration. The students have met two University City Alums, Orlando Watson and Dedrick Mullen who are producers of rap artists. Fidel Muhammad, a University City High School Freshman shared his writing with the students.

Redd Williams, hip-hop choreographer and teacher at COCA is working with the kids on hip-hop moves to use in their performance. He has choreographed for Beyonce, Nelly, Lady Gaga, and many others.

Let’s re-visit the question. Can appropriate “rap” music and “hip-hop” dance moves be used as stimuli and tools in communication arts? observe these Grade Level Expectation:Reading 2B: Identify and/or explain examples of sensory details, sound devices, and figurative language in text along with basic literary techniques.  The answer to the question is “yes.”

The Hip-Hop Speaks to Kids Event will be held at Pershing School on MAY 16th at 6:00 p.m. in the gym.

Submitted by Diane Davenport
Photos provided by the Communications and Media Services of the School District of University City

Monday, April 29, 2013

U. City’s Bass picked by Raiders

The story comes from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

With the final round of the 2013 NFL draft wrapping up Saturday afternoon, David Bass’ hopes started to fade just a bit.

But just as the University City High and Missouri Western State defensive end began to ponder his options as an undrafted free agent, Bass got the call he was waiting for.

He was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the seventh round with pick No. 233.

“I’ve heard that in some ways it can be better to not get drafted late because you get a chance to look at the teams’ rosters and basically pick your spot (as a free agent),’’ Bass said. “But getting that call and getting drafted really means a lot to me. I’ve dreamed of this day since I started playing football and now that dream has come true.

“This is a blessing that I hope to make the most of.’’

Bass, who stands 6 feet 4 and weighs 262 pounds, was a three-sport star in high school. He wanted to play football in college, but the Division I interest simply was not there.

“I think we won four games total through my junior and senior seasons, so it’s not like we were being seen by many people,’’ he recalled. “We just weren’t very good.’’

But the coaches at Missouri Western saw enough to offer Bass a scholarship. And he accepted.

Read the rest of the story at the Post-Dispatch.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

University City Teachers seek Nation’s Highest Professional Teaching Credential: National Board Certification

Brittany Woods librarian Kelly Werthmuller is
 one of six district teachers currently seeking
National Board Certification 
Teachers tend to be busy.  Really busy.  Between lesson planning, grading, meetings, conferences, training (not to mention teaching) free time is not something most teachers possess in abundance.  So what could possibly motivate six School District of University City teachers to willingly take on a grueling three-year, 400-600 hour-long project (!)?  Could it be a sadistic love of paperwork?  Or perhaps an aversion to quiet evenings spent with loved ones? Maybe a strict adherence to that old wives’ tale about idle hands? Most likely it is the satisfaction of knowing that once the work is completed they will rank among an elite 3% of educators nationwide who hold the most prestigious professional certification available in their field: the National Board Certification.
National Board Certification is an advanced teaching credential, similar to certification in fields like medicine and law.  The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards  website describes it as “a rigorous, peer-reviewed process that ensures that Board-certified teachers have proven skills to advance student achievement” through which “teachers expand and refine their content knowledge and pedagogy. The outcome is more powerful teaching that improves student achievement and reflects college and career readiness.”
Retired Jackson Park Elementary teacher Kelly Mueller was the first in the district to earn the distinction, and now she serves as the NBC coordinator for Maryville University and works with NBC candidates both locally and nationally.  She says that the importance of the National Board process is easily understood when you think about it this way:
“Other professional development tells us what to go back and do in our classrooms. The NB process simply says ‘Here are the highest standards in your teaching profession - recognized across the country. Give us evidence of how you meet them.’ They recognize there are countless ways to get there. Each of us is an individual. We teach different children in different settings at different times. Each is a professional, and in that role makes thousands of decisions in a week. An accomplished teacher uses his/her knowledge of the students in the class, knowledge of the subject area, and knowledge of available resources to plan worthwhile lessons to meet the goals they children need to learn at this point in time. WE say what we did, giving the rationale for our decision(s) as to what to teach, how to teach it, and how to evaluate student performance. THAT is teaching.”
The certification process involves a series of performance-based assessments that include teaching portfolios, student work samples, videotapes and thorough analyses of the teachers' classroom teaching and student learning. In all, teachers spend hundreds of hours beyond their normal workload preparing materials and being tested in order to attain this lofty distinction.

Although the process is entirely voluntary, the School District of University City has stepped up to not only cover most of the registration fees, but also to provide a generous stipend (which Ms. Mueller notes is on par with some of the best in the country) to all district teachers who become National Board Certified.   Candidates claim that this sort of financial support is a great motivator and a wise move, as research continues to show that the students of National Board Certified Teachers (NCBTs) out perform those of non-NCBTs on achievement tests (particularly in STEM fields), and that the impact is especially significant for minority and low-income students.

Brittany Woods Middle School librarian Kelly Werthmuller is one of the current crop of six NBC candidates in the district.  She says that that seeking certification is making her “reflect more on my teaching practice. I am pushing myself to be more innovative and focus on each individual and class, instead of the entire grade. It is a VERY frustrating process, but I can already see positives in my teaching.” 
Likewise, Brittany Woods communication arts teacher and NBC candidate Katherine Adams explains that the process has prompted her to “deepen my reflection and really analyze why I make the choices I make in the classroom. In the past I have thought, ‘Well this worked well last year, so I will do this activity again.’ Now I am analyzing why the particular activity worked. How exactly did it impact my students? What aspects need to be retooled so all my students are impacted by this lesson? How can I involve my parents and our community as part of our learning process? While I am still working through the certification process, I feel the work itself has truly made me a more reflective and effective educator.”

If this year’s six candidates succeed in achieving certification they will join current district NBCTs Dr. Jamie Jordan (Principal, Brittany Woods Middle) and Shenelle Dubose (UCHS Assistant Principal).  Seven additional district teachers have signed up for a pre-candidacy class, suggesting that we will soon see a flourishing of NBC teachers in our schools.  This is exciting news for our students and for our community. 
The bottom line, says Kelly Mueller, is that seeking National Board Certification is a “great opportunity for teachers to work on their practice. Showing evidence makes you think about teaching much more methodically than ever before....cutting out fluff and things that really don't impact student learning. THAT is what this process is all about!”

Monday, April 8, 2013

Students on the GO!

Beginning in mid-January, as high school students were easing back into the second semester, a small group of UCHS students started running. Two miles at first and gradually working up to longer runs three days a week after school. After a few weeks, the running group from UCHS started meeting with students from eight other area high schools for long runs in Forest Park on Saturday mornings – eventually working up to an 11-mile Saturday morning run. These were Students on the Go! Students with a goal of completing the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon.

Forest Park Visitor's Center - the Saturday
morning meeting place for long runs
Students on the GO! is a program designed to train high school students to run or walk (or a combination of both!) the GO! St. Louis Half Marathon each April. Students embark on a personal journey of self-discovery where they explore and experience the lifelong benefits of a comprehensive health and fitness program. At UCHS, teachers Carol Hackmeyer, Liza Harkins, and Brian Ashley coordinated, coached, and encouraged the student runners.

There were material incentives as well. As they progressed in their training, students were given running gear to benefit their running, including running shoes, running jacket, and a technical running shirt (for us non-runners that is a lightweight shirt that transfers moisture away from the skin to keep runners dry and comfortable). The program is provided at no cost by the GO! St. Louis organization.
In its second year, just over 200 students completed the Students on the GO! training – 15 were from UCHS. On the Friday evening before the big event, all of the metro area Students on the Go! and their families gathered at UCHS for a pasta dinner (great carbo loading) and some words of wisdom from some of the elite runners in town to compete for the $10,000 top prize for the half marathon. What a treat for the kids to meet Mattie Suver who went on to win the women’s half marathon title, setting a new course record with 1:12:22.
Students on the GO! hosted a pasta party at UCHS.
Mattie Suver is in the back in the red jacket.

Just as they were at the Saturday runs, on hand were Nancy Lieberman, president and founder of GO!St. Louis, which began in 2000, and Jesse Novotney, director of youth programs. Ben Rosario, co-founder of Big River Running stores and now with McMillan Running, provided the inspirational speech. The student runners then peppered the elite runners with questions on how to prepare for the race – questions like what to eat, when to go to bed, and how to tackle hills.

When the big day arrived the runners met at 5:30 a.m. to get their race bibs and catch the bus that would take them downtown. There they joined 15,000 other runners preparing to race through the streets of St. Louis.
15,000 runners cross the starting line.

The elite runners must have provided good advice as all the UCHS runners completed all 13.1 miles of the race. Some were a little sore, but all of them had bragging rights to their first half marathon.

Just some of the UCHS Students on the Go! after the race
with teacher-coaches Liz Harkins and Brian Ashley.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Thank you!

On Tuesday, April 2 residents overwhelmingly passed Proposition U with nearly 70% of the vote. The renovations that will take place with Prop U funds are a wonderful gift to our students and teachers and also to the community. Thank you to everyone exercised their right to vote.

The Prop U campaign committee worked hard to inform voters of the facts on Prop U, but it took the help of many involved citizens to spread the message and motivate voters to go to the polls.  On behalf of the Prop U campaign committee I’d like to thank the citizens who supported Prop U and helped get out the vote. Whether it was handing out literature, posting a sign in their yard, talking to others in the community, or sending emails in support of Prop U – you helped make a difference in our community and in the lives of many children. So, from the bottom of my heart...

Mother Teresa once said, "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples." The support U. City continues to provide our schools is impressive and a testament to the good work going on in our schools. Let’s keep the momentum going. There are opportunities big and small to get involved and create more ripples. Here are just a few ideas:
  • Join the PTO at your child’s school and/or volunteer for a committee
  • Participate in the school district’s discussion on current and future plans for Early Childhood Education in U. City.
  • Work in the school gardens with U. City in Bloom.
  • Volunteer your time to work in the schools. Volunteers are needed in such areas as tutoring, library assistance, school stores, and office help.
  • Donations are always needed. Items like books for the “Take It” libraries, items for the PBIS (positive reinforcement programs), food for special events, or gifts the high school graduation party.

There are many ways to get involved in our schools. As the proverb says, “It takes a village.” And I am so proud of our village. Thank you!

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Place for Kids

One of the great aspects of University City Schools is its community partnerships. Kids’ Place was founded in 1998 by University United Methodist Church, in partnership with Delmar-Harvard Elementary School, as a community outreach program with 12 volunteers and $1,200 in donations from church members.

The mission of Kids’ Place is to provide academic, social and behavioral support to children struggling to overcome the achievement gap.  The Kids’ Place program focuses on developing literacy, along with civic and social responsibility.  Families are selected based on a variety of need-based factors and organizational capacity.  Students interact with positive adult role models, listen to stories, engage in fun and unique curriculum activities, and work one-on-one with tutors to complete their homework.


Initially, University United Methodist and its members provided Kids’ Place with financial support, in-kind services, space, and volunteers.  Despite this church connection, Kids’ Place has always been a program with no religious affiliation or agenda.  It is a good fit with the church building because it uses space used earlier in the day for the preschool, keeping this large building near the Loop busy serving the community’s children throughout the day.

The closing of Delmar-Harvard school presented a challenge to Kids’ Place, as the kids had been walking over after school, with the adult volunteers.  Fortunately, Kids’ Place had demonstrated its value, so that the School District agreed to provide buses enabling students from the more-distant Flynn Park school to attend.

Over time, Kids’ Place broadened its support and became a self-sustaining not-for-profit corporation. Kids’ Place now serves about 40 children and their families four afternoons each week, also offering a special Odyssey of the Mind program on Fridays that was initiated this year.  Odyssey of the Mind is an international program that provides students with the opportunity to develop skills in teamwork and creative problem solving.

Kids’ Place now has eight paid staff members and over 100 volunteers from nearby churches, synagogues, high schools and universities.  Students are well-supervised, with a 12:1 student-teacher ratio and a 2:1 student-volunteer ratio throughout a majority of programming, and a goal to reach a 1:1 ratio during individual tutoring sessions.

For further information on Kids’ Place, see the website at http://kidsplace-stl.wildapricot.org/ or contact Executive Director Lynda Wolpert, MSW, MBA, at lwolpert@kidsplace-stl.org or 314.853.7630.

A Trivia Night

Saturday April 13, 2013, at 7:00 p.m. (doors open 6:30), Kids’ Place, Inc., will hold a Trivia Night at Washington University's 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity Avenue. Bring your own treats and drinks for your table.  Delicious desserts will be available for purchase; event also includes silent auction, games, and raffle.

Individual admission is $20, or $150 for a table of eight.  Tickets are available at http://kidsplace-stl.wildapricot.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1275345, at the door, or by mailing check or money order payable to Kids' Place, Inc., to:

Kids' Place
Attn: Trivia Night 2013
6901 Washington Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63130

Donations are also accepted.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dancing with the UCHS Stars

Four of the five winners of the Dance St. Louis 2013 Dance Career Awards were from University City High School. Another testament to the fine arts programs at UCHS. Congratulations to Daphne, Dontel, Camaron, and Jordan.
Dance St. Louis’ 2013 Dance Career Award Winners: Daphne Pastard,
Ta'Shayla Montgomery, Dontel Pattman, Camaron Ballard, Jordan Davis

The following is from the St. Louis American newspaper.

Dance St. Louis recently announced the winners of its 2013 Dance Career Awards.  This year’s winners include four students from University City High School and one student from Central Visual and Performing Arts High School.

The award winners are:

  • Camaron Ballard, age 17, University City; senior at University City High School
  • Jordan Davis, age 17, University City; senior at University City High School
  • Daphne Pastard, age 18, University City; senior at University City High School
  • Dontel Pattman, age 18, University City; senior at University City High School
  • Ta’Shayla Montgomery, age 17, South St. Louis; senior at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School

Recipients of the Dance Career Award are offered guidance and support towards more intensive dance training and ultimately towards careers in the dance world. Awardees are also given assistance with preparing for auditions, deciding on whether or which college to pursue, getting letters of recommendations and making connections in the professional dance world.

Read the full article here.