Thursday Notes – August 13, 2015

Thursday Notes                           

Published for the Arts Based School Community                                                             August 13, 2015



First Day of School –Wednesday, August 19th


How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.”  – B.B. King


Theater is an important component of powerful teaching. As a parent, you are often an actor yourself. You might actually be fearful of storms, but when the thunder rolls and startles your little one, you act calm and reassuring. For teachers, there is not only the masking of personal issues that must be set aside for the work day, but there is the actually 7-hour presentation, with its goals determined by the state legislature, and a demanding, precious audience. This week, ABS teachers have been reviewing skills they hone daily, seeking always to improve, just as any actor does.

While we are excited to welcome our young friends and their families back to school next week, that first day of early rising is challenging! So when our teachers gathered at 8:00 on Monday morning, they were welcomed with the “Back-to-School Blues Café”. A trio of professional blues/jazz musicians were playing the blues in our 7th Street dance/drama space: Matt Kendrick, bass, John Mochnick, piano, and Diana Tuffin, vocalist. We greeted new teachers and shared pastries and coffee as we traded stories of our summer away. Then we focused on the music we were hearing, examining the traditional 12-bar structure of blues, learning a bit of its history, surrounded by posters of John Bearden prints depicting blues musicians and quotes from blues greats. The musicians shared insights about the music, then departed, leaving us to craft our own blues and share them. Grade level teams split off to review lists of developmentally typical behaviors and abilities of their students, then wrote their own blues songs to share with other staff. They now have that structure ready to write the blues with their own students, perhaps on a day when rain steals recess away.

The structure of the blues allows the artist to improvise. Without the structure or the “rules”, creativity can’t be funneled into a focused form. We equate this with our lesson plans, which guide us toward our goals. But the students always add energy and input that inform the way we present, and as long as the structure is clear, we can riff together over the ideas.

At SECCA yesterday, we gathered to study improvisation in acting, playing improv games together to build our skills. We were interrupted by two men who told us there was an air quality issue due to construction which required us to move from our classroom to the auditorium. Once there, the men revealed that they were actually comedians from Comedy Potluck of Winston-Salem (like them on Facebook, to follow their fun events.) They shared the rules and structure of theater improv. We then gathered to discuss the similarities again.

We also find parallels in pre-setting our props, dressing the part, staying in character, and working with the quality and variation of our voices. Nick Zayas and Heidi McIvor helped us explore the perils of vocal fry and other vocal habits that can lead to fatigue and restrict our vocal effectiveness.

Teachers also spent some reflective time with the richly moving current exhibits at SECCA (free to visit as always…a sanctuary for our community.) and made pottery together at Sawtooth (great date night: “A Taste of Art” at Sawtooth) and now we are busy setting the “stage” for your students to join us.


Parent Workday

Sunday, August 16, 9am-1pm

We’ll need all hands on deck to help us put the finishing touches on the school and grounds for the opening of school.   For this workday, we are offering double credit.  You can get 2 hours for every hour you work!  Don’t miss this great opportunity!


ABS Board Approves New Grading Scale

Grading Scale for Grades 6th-8th

The Arts Based School will use a 10 point grading scale as follows:

A   90 – 100

B   80 – 89

C  70 – 79

D  60 – 69

F   59 and below

This is consistent with the state public school policy and will provide an easier transition into public high school after 8th grade.


Staffing Updates

More great news about staffing…


Jennifer Lewis has been hired to teach middle school math for 7th and 8th graders.  Mrs. Lewis is a veteran math teacher with 17 years of experience having taught math at Ravenscroft in Raleigh, East Wake Middle School, and most recently Southern Guildford High School.  She is an educator, an artist and a small business owner.  We are delighted to have her joining the ABS team.


Bobbi Flynn will be joining the ABS team as our lunch monitor in the MLK building.  She’s currently working on her Master’s in Elementary Education at Salem.   She’s completed her student teaching at Jefferson Elementary.


Activity Fee

Each family is asked to pay $30.00 per year per child to help cover the costs of our extensive curriculum enhancement activities, including field trips and art trips.  Fees are payable at the start of the year and may be paid for the full year or in smaller increments, if needed.  Financial assistance is available to those families with demonstrated need per the approval of the principal.  Checks should be made out to The Arts Based School and turned into Ms. Wise in the front office or at Back to School night.  Also payable online at


After School Options

ABS families use a variety of local after school options.  The following programs have bus service that will pick up your child from ABS and transport him/her to their facility.  To find out more about their services, please contact the program directly.


A Child’s World 721-0105

Creative Palooza 970-5102

First Baptist  723-7071

Mt Zion 727-0117

The Salvation Army-Boys and Girls Club 788-6563

The Sunshine House 759-0514

YWCA 722-0597


Also, MudPies offers before and after care open 6:30 am to 6:00 pm.  Mudpies- 448-0341

The YMCA operates an afterschool program on campus at ABS.   YMCA- 724-9205


Staff Opening at ABS

5th – 8th Grades Part-Time Spanish Teacher 

Our ideal candidate will be passionate, energetic, creative and innovative; a team player who will plan together with other disciplines to create new curriculum. We seek someone who would be excited to work with the music teacher to coach Spanish lyrics for traditional songs, and to integrate vocabulary and cultural studies with other disciplines. Interested teachers should contact Principal Robin Hollis at


Parent Council is looking for a few good volunteers:

We need class reps for Kindergarten, 2nd and 4th grades. Anyone interested in helping our specialists this year is also encouraged to volunteer. We need specialist reps for our new PE Coach Smith and our drama teacher, Ms. Heidi. Please contact Michelle Hopkins Lawrence


Staff, Class Rep & Specialist Rep Breakfast

Volunteered to be a Class or Specialist Rep?  Please join us on Monday, August 17th at 8 am in the ABS Café for a light breakfast and meeting with the ABS Staff.  We’ll review the role of Class and Specialist Reps, offer some helpful hints and give you a chance to spend some time with your teacher or specialist to plan for the coming year.  Child care will be available so feel free to bring the kids!


Back to School Night

ABS Back to School Night is scheduled for Monday, August 17.  To ease parking, we have scheduled three sessions- K-2 grade will attend 5-6pm and 3-4th grade will attend 6-7pm. Grades 5-8 will attend Back to School night 7-8pm in the 7th St building.  The first part of each session will be a presentation about school wide information.   The second part of the session will be in your child’s classroom.