My Back-to-School Letter to My New School #SAVMP

*Update* I recently became part of an exciting on-line mentoring project called School Admin Virtual Mentor Program, or SAVMP (#SAVMP). As part of our guided discussions, we have been invited to write about our vision for our school. I thought my letter below pretty much speaks to this, so I have added the #SAVMP hashtag. For more information on the SAVMP, please visit the site here.

It has been such a whirlwind year for me, with lots of milestones: both kids in university and turning 18 and 20, I hit the big 4-0, and I became a Principal. I have spent the last few months trying to get my thoughts straight, excited about this new opportunity at Dunlop PS, a jewel of a school in the South Keys/Greenboro area of Ottawa. I just recently posted this back-to-school letter to the school community on the new school blog and wanted to share it with you.

Dear Dunlop Families,

It is always remarkable to me how quickly July and August go by, and that the beginning of the school year is right around the corner. If you’re like me and my family, you are treasuring these last few weeks, whether by getting that one last trip in, relaxing with family and friends, or finishing up that stack of books as you lounge on your couch, in your backyard, on your porch, or by the pool. I hope everyone is feeling refreshed and ready for another exciting year!

I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself.  My name is Erin Paynter, and I am truly honoured to be serving as Dunlop’s Principal. I am a proud life-long resident of Ottawa. I spent my first few years in Metcalfe until my family moved to Bells Corners in the west end of the city when I was 6. My parents still live in the house we moved in to 34 years ago.  I met my husband here, and we have spent the last 24 years together, raising our two amazing kids. Our daughter Adrienne is 20 years old and in her second year at Carleton University, and our 18-year old son Alex is starting Carleton this September.  My husband Chris is a chiropractor and owns Bridlewood Chiropractic in Kanata. We love spending time together watching movies and hanging out playing cards or other board games.

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Before I came to Dunlop I was the Vice-Principal at Elizabeth Park PS, an elementary K-8 school just a few minutes away on the Uplands Base. Prior to that, I was a homeroom teacher and Vice-Principal Designate at A. Lorne Cassidy ES in Stittsville. I’ve also taught at Glen Cairn PS in Kanata, Leslie Park and Meadowlands. I have taught primary, junior and intermediate grades, in both English and French, and I have taught primary-aged children with special needs. Please feel free to check out my qualifications at the Ontario College of Teachers website.

I pride myself on being an active member of a learning team at Dunlop PS, key words being active, learning and team. As the lead learner in a school, I am always pushing my own learning, building connections with others in education and other fields, and expanding my horizons so that I can support the creation of a safe, rich, creative learning environment for students and staff. I chart my learning and my connections through the use of my own personal/professional blog, ErHead at erinpaynter.org.

We have a truly caring, dedicated and enthusiastic staff at Dunlop for 2013-2014. Please visit our staff page to meet our team. They bring with them a wide variety of talents, interests, skills and backgrounds to make our school a really diverse learning hub. On our first day together this past June, we participated in an activity where returning staff spoke about their favorite thing about Dunlop, and new staff expressed what they were most excited about. The answers that were shared all revolved around many of the same themes: genuine care for kids, trust and teamwork, honest and open communication, and supportive families. I left that day feeling downright giddy and brimming with enthusiasm. I had heard wonderful things about Dunlop when I learned I was coming here, from former students, from former staff, friends of current staff, former administrators, and our Superintendent of Instruction. I am a very lucky person to have the opportunity to work with this community.

Dunlop’s 6 C’s:  Creativity, Critical-Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, Character and Community

Our goal at Dunlop is to prepare students to participate fully, even transform, our global word.  In order to do so, we must create the conditions in our school and our classrooms  that will facilitate the 6 C’s: creativity, critical-thinking, communication, collaboration, character and community – all essential 21st century skills. This does not mean that we are “adding” anything, but it does mean that there is a shift in how we teach students – the process of learning is the goal, not the content of learning . Our School Improvement Plan for Student Achievement will reflect our commitment to the 6 C’s, as these elements will be embedded in HOW we teach students, not WHAT. And our parent/guardian partners are encouraged to join us.

Creativity

In its groundbreaking new document: “Unleashing Potential, Harnessing Possibilities“, the OCDSB defines creativity as  something that:

quote_creativity

Creating the conditions for creativity and innovation to flourish will pave the way for higher student engagement and achievement. The more we tap into and nourish every child’s unique creative capacities, the better able we are to reach and engage all our diverse students.

Critical-Thinking

The OCDSB Exit Outcomes document highlights the necessity of encouraging critical thinking in our students:

quote_critical_thinking

Learning will be meaningful in a “thinking” classroom.  The content of learning is no longer the end-goal of an education. The process of learning, of how to think, of connecting ideas and reflecting on the validity of ideas is key to preparing our students for an information-rich world.

Communication

“Students who are effective communicators are skilled at listening, speaking, questioning and writing” (OCDSB Exit Outcomes document). They are comfortable with a variety of communication tools, including technology and social media, and engage with these tools responsibly, fluently and confidently. Daily engagement in inquiry-based learning opportunities will help develop students’ abilities to ask appropriate questions and to effectively communicate with others.

Collaboration

Working in a team setting is a fundamental component to being an active member of our globally-connected society.  Advances in collaborative technology (Google docs, cloud computing, etc.) have made it increasingly possible to work with members of a team that can be as close as the office next door, or as far away as a country halfway around the world! Our students will need to be flexible in meeting shared goals, will need to assume responsibility in group efforts, and have an appreciation and commitment to diverse perspectives.  Learning opportunities in the classroom that allow for students to work together will help develop these skills.

Character

OCDSB Community of Character Wheel

The OCDSB Strategic Plan 2011-2015 identifies four key priorities: Well-Being, Engagement, Leadership and Learning. These four areas work interdependently to create a healthy, progressive and caring environment, whether it’s at the classroom level, the school level, or the system level. My main goal as a school leader is to ensure the physical, emotional and personal well-being of your child. Our school will maintain its focus on creating safe learning environments for all students. As I work with the students at Dunlop, I will be ensuring that they are happy and excited to come to school, and that there are an abundance of opportunities for them to take risks, learn from mistakes, and develop the habits of mind and character traits that will ensure they are healthy, productive and successful in life.

One of the ways I will facilitate this is through application of the elements found in the OCDSB’s policies and procedures on Safe Schools, Bullying Prevention and Intervention, and Progressive Discipline and Promoting Positive Student Behaviour. I am always open to discussions when it comes to student behaviour and positive ways we can intervene and support students.

Community

The OCDSB Strategic Plan 2011-2015 has as one of its objectives that all of our schools have active community partnerships programs that essentially support the school as the hub of its community. This is exciting to me as Dunlop’s Principal. One of my goals as I enter into my role is to learn what community partnerships we have, and to explore with the staff and community more ways we can enhance our current connections, and facilitate new ones. One of the areas that I have been looking into this past summer is how establishing a “makerspace” in a school can catalyze some exciting community partnerships at the school for the benefit of student learning and engagement. A school in our district has already begun work on such a model with amazing results. Please feel free to visit the Glen Cairn PS site where you can learn how the school’s innovative Principal, Shannon Smith and her staff have developed an “i-Hub Makerspace“.

Social Media at Dunlop PS

I value transparency as a school leader, and one of the ways I try to facilitate this is through regular, open and honest communication. While I will always make myself available as best I can through phone, email (erin.paynter@ocdsb.ca) and in-person chats, I will also be using a variety of other modes of communication through social media. The school will continue to provide occasional notes and newsletters home, however, you are invited to subscribe to the school blog, our Twitter account (@Dunlop_PS) and our Facebook page. With a wide range of communication possibilities, we hope that families are able to find the one(s) that best suit their needs.

There is a Calendar of Events page that you will see at the top of this site. There is a Google calendar on this page. Please check it frequently as I will be adding important events to it as we proceed through the year. You will notice that the school is moving to a Day 1-5 cycle model, rather than the traditional Monday-Friday. This is to ensure that all students are receiving the required minutes of instruction per year for every subject as outlined by the Ontario Ministry of Education.  A year-long Day 1-5 calendar will be available on this site, and a hard copy sent home on the first day of school so that you can refer to it as we go.

In the next few weeks, more information will be coming regarding back-to-school routines and important dates. Our office re-opens on Monday, August 26th.  Hours will be 8:00am-2:30pm Monday-Friday of that week. School begins Tuesday, September 3rd at 8:00am. For those entering Kindergarten, please visit our kindergarten page where you will find links to information about registration, FAQs and staggered entry. For busing information, please visit the Ottawa School Transportation Authority website. For your information, School Bus Safety Awareness Day is Sunday, August 25th. Please visit this link to get location and registration information.

All the best to you as you enjoy the last few weeks of summer. I look forward to working with you and your children this year, and for many years to come. I am excited about what this year has in store, and I know that with all of us working together, it will be an amazing year for everyone!

Regards,

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Erin Paynter

Principal

3 thoughts on “My Back-to-School Letter to My New School #SAVMP

  1. Erin, I love this post. Your passion for education and your vision come through very clearly. You did a great job communicating so much great information to your community. Great start! ~Bob

  2. Erin,
    Hello, my name is Kenesha Brown and I am a student in EDM 310. I really enjoyed reading your letter. I think the communicating is very essential in order for everyone to be on one accord. The 6 C’s is a great way to build a foundation for your school to stand on. In addition, I admire your passion for education. You know how to make teaching and learning interesting. I hope you have a great school year.

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