Laurel School Home Page
Principal's Message

August 2015
Dear Laurel School Community,
It’s hard to believe that in just two weeks, it’s back to school for our Laurel students!  I hope this letter finds you enjoying your last days of summer break. After a wonderful month of relaxation and family time, I am returning to the new school year invigorated and recharged, ready for an engaging 2015-16 school year, as well as the excitement that lies ahead as we plan for the opening of Laurel’s Upper Campus in the fall of 2016.
The first day of instruction this school year is Tuesday, August 25.  Click here for the school start and end times -- please note, times have changed to allow all students to have the opportunity to ride the district bus to and from school.
Please see our recently updated school calendar for all other important dates.
Meet Ellen Kraska, Assistant Principal
I am overjoyed to introduce Laurel’s new Assistant Principal, Ellen Kraska.  For the last three years, Ellen has served as an instructional coach in the Palo Alto and Los Altos School Districts.  Before that, she was a classroom teacher who was dedicated to bringing rich and engaging learning experiences to her students.   Throughout her career, she demonstrated her expertise as a coach and thought leader, and her core values match MPCSD’s.  Thanks to Ellen, Laurel is now on Twitter @LaurelMPCSD and Instagram @Laurel_School.  Don’t worry, we won’t post any student faces unless previously approved by parents.  Follow us!  
Laurel’s Visioning Work
If you were able to attend the volunteer brunch at the end of the year, then you have heard about our plans to develop Laurel School as a K-5 school across two campuses.  I plan to keep you apprised of our progress and decisions along the way.  To read more about the process so far, please scroll down to the end of this letter.  
Fourth Grade
For the first time ever, Laurel School will have fourth graders on our Edge Road campus!  I am elated for this new evolution because of the positive impact it will have on all Laurel students, particularly our oldest kids.  The fourth grade team of teachers (Clemo, Conour, and Yamada) met throughout the summer and is bringing to Laurel all the best from their combined past experiences (Design Thinking, Highly Effective Teaching, Teachers College Trainings, and more). They are already developing new, innovative programs for our oldest students.  One of my goals for this year is to work with this small, amazing team to prototype a new way to report progress to parents each trimester, incorporating mounting research about how to deliver meaningful and effective feedback.  The teachers are thrilled with the opportunity to break the mold — stay tuned!

Focuses for 2015-16
This year, Laurel teachers will continue to implement programs and practices that have brought us success.  Reflecting on student, teacher, and parent feedback, we achieved solid results with our writing program in the 14-15 school year.  Over 95% of parent respondents on Laurel’s School Survey indicated that they agree or strongly agree that we are “doing whatever it takes” to ensure their child progresses in writing.  
With regards to reading instruction, a handful of Laurel teachers implemented the Reading Workshop model of instruction last year, which complements the Writing Workshop model that Laurel has used for the past two years.  Analysis of year-end DRA scores showed that the model was successful, and therefore we will continue to train and develop more teachers in Reading Workshop.  As such, 15 out of 25 Laurel Teachers were trained in Reading Workshop in June by Teachers College Staff Developers.  This school year, Lucia Rocha-Nestler, Laurel Teacher and Language Arts Coach, will provide daily, in-class coaching support to help teachers implement both Reading and Writing Workshop.
For math, all Laurel teachers will be using the new District adopted math curriculum, Math Expressions.  The curriculum was adopted by MPCSD after a group of teachers in the district piloted different math programs.  Math Expressions was far and away the favored curriculum by our teachers.   Two full days this fall will be devoted to teacher training on the new program.  
Finally, much of our work this fall will be spent analyzing three educational models as potential models to implement as Laurel moves toward an integrated and inquiry-based model of teaching and learning. Our visioning team selected Project Based Learning, International Baccalaureate, and Design Thinking as the three models to test during science and social studies instruction.  All Laurel second and third grade teachers will be piloting one of the models for approximately six weeks from late September through early November.  We will use a number of measures to determine which model best helps us engage and develop confident students and passionate teachers, and matches the values and aspirations of the Laurel community. Again, please scroll down to read more about the process.
This will be a year of nearly 550 students on our campus.  Be prepared to adhere to tighter rules for parking on and off campus. Notices about campus expectations will be included in the newsletters.  Also, MPCSD will offer bussing for Laurel students in all grades.  Please sign up for the bus and/or consider arriving earlier in our drop off window to help.
2015-16 Teaching Staff
I am proud to present the teaching teams for 2014-2015 School Year:
Kindergarten First Grade Second Grade Third Grade Fourth Grade
Alma Ortiz-Agib* Whitney Argyres & Chelsea Bassett Courtney Maury
& Jeannie Wynne
Lucía Rocha-Nestler*  
& Anne Evans*
Maria Clemo
Ashley Regan Judy Fairbrother Ilana (Schwalb) Bell Cilla Seely/Andi Dehne Grant Conour
Brynn Reynlib Liliana Gomez* Jeriann Hirsch Steffany Cressey Heidi Yamada
Gina Watkins Teagan Lazzarotti Sandra Horwitz Andrea (Mazz) Madison  
Leigh Wilson Nari Yee Marlene Lehman* Stacei Santana  
    Ruth Peterson Emily Smith  
   * Spanish Immersion
Support and Specialist Teachers
Counselor: Ashley Guilliot; Teacher Librarian: Sheila Warren; Music: Rachel Bergeron; Art: Monique Donecho; P.E.: Megan Stone; World Language (Spanish): Marisela Ghahramani; Reading Specialist: Bets McKnight; Early Intervention & Reading Recovery: Robin Reding; English Language Learner: Emily Chen & Lucía Rocha-Nestler; School Psychologists: Kristi Quinby & Lisa Walton; Speech & Language: Dawn Edgren & Hannah Essenberg; RSP/Inclusion: Katie Houston & Lisa Edberg; OT: Brie Cioffi; Science Lab Aide: Monica Casey
In partnership with you and the Laurel staff, I look forward to providing an incredible educational experience for your child this year!
Kind regards,
Linda Creighton
Visioning Process
Last year, Laurel School assembled a Visioning Team consisting of teachers, administrators, and parents, to take advantage of the opportunity for change that we had been given with our transition to a two-campus, K-5 school. It became clear early in our process that to unify the two campuses and achieve a well-articulated educational program, the K-5 campuses should align to one shared vision, and an educational model that can best achieve that vision.
Our visioning work began with one guiding question:  What would the best school experience for Laurel’s five to eleven year olds look like, sound like, and feel like?

Honoring the main tenets of design thinking, with an additional emphasis on empathy, we began by talking to our stakeholder groups:  current students, former students, parents, and teachers both at Laurel and at other schools. We asked them about their current experiences at Laurel, and their vision of a perfect school. Based on this empathy work, we learned the following:  
Laurel should be a place that every student remembers fondly for the rest of their lives. It should give students the academic, social and emotional skills they need to be successful middle schoolers, and that will continue to serve them well in college, the workplace, and beyond. Laurel School should be staffed by inspirational adult role models, and it should nurture lifelong friendships. It should be a place where every student feels valued, and where every student comes to school with a smile on their face, eager for the day ahead,  
As the team talked to more than 100 people about their vision for Laurel, we learned that our community had shared goals and values for our school’s students, teachers and community:    
Ours is a community that values confident kids, where confidence is broadly defined as:
  • Students who are well-balanced
  • Students who have a strong command of their academic skills
  • Students who ask questions, and who seek to understand processes, systems and inter-related ideas
  • Students who maintain a growth mindset —that is, students who aren’t afraid to take risks, and who learn and grow from failure
  • Students who have the social and emotional skills to do what is right for themselves, and for those around them
  • Students who understand their potential influence in our global community, and who see themselves as part of a bigger whole.
We learned quickly that our community considers every adult involved with Laurel School to be a role model for our children. We are, therefore, all teachers for our students, whether we are classroom teachers, support teachers, specialists, instructional aides, on- or off-campus staff, administrators or parent volunteers. We all share a duty of care for our students, and we should all be doing whatever it takes to engage, challenge and support every single student at Laurel School.  The visioning team heard loud and clear that Laurel should recruit and develop staff members who are passionate about this work..
Take one step onto Laurel’s campus and you will feel the support, engagement, and positivity of a strong community.  Head to a Little League game, and you will hear parents promoting Laurel School to their friends in neighboring districts.  Members of the visioning team heard in our empathy sessions that Laurel School would not be the place it is without its involved community, and that going forward, we only want to grow the community-school interdependence.
After reflecting on the ideas articulated above, the team distilled the input down to our new Laurel School vision:
Laurel School:
The Best Place to Spend Your Childhood!
We are Confident Students,
Passionate Teachers,
and an Involved Community.
Educational Models
Now that we have our vision, we are investigating which educational model might help us achieve it. Our work last year was supported by a Stanford Grad student, who researched and presented to us a variety of educational models. Our work over the first trimester this year will test the three most promising models (Project Based Learning, International Baccalaureate, and Design Thinking) concurrently. Our second- and third-grade teachers will all be involved in this process, working in teams to develop and implement an integrated unit of study so the three educational models can be compared side by side. In September, each team (consisting of 2 teachers from each grade level) will work with a coach, as well as with our Instructional Technology coach, Theresa Fox, to learn about the educational model and plan their unit of study.
The implementation of the inquiry lessons will take place in October-November. We will compare the results and experiences for each educational model in December 2015, with the hope that we will be able to determine what is the best course of action for Laurel School in early 2016. 
This early prototyping is important to provide plenty of time for professional development for the whole school, and planning for school-wide implementation, if this is the route we choose to take.
The visioning team will keep you updated through letters and community meetings, and you will have an opportunity to hear from us and provide your thoughts and feedback. If you have any feedback at this point, feel free to email me.  This is an exciting time at Laurel School!  

Site Map | Privacy Policy | View "printer-friendly" page | Login   In Japanese  In Korean  En français  Auf Deutsch  In italiano   No português  En español  In Russian  
Site powered by © 2017 - Educational website content management