ABS Thursday Notes- August 23, 2018

Thursday Notes                           

Published for the Arts Based School Community                                        August 23, 2018




How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” – Phil Collins


In our first year of operations, The Arts Based School served 65 students, Kindergarten through third grade. This year, we expect 530 students, and we are managing space creatively until our new 5th grade classrooms are constructed. We have regularly had over 400 families on our waiting list at the start of each year, but these new rooms will finally allow us to operate at full capacity.

Two weeks before school started seventeen years ago, we were temporarily lodged in a vacant wing of a middle school near Old Walkertown Road. Our classrooms were entirely empty, awaiting delivery of used tables and chairs. We were crossing fingers that they would arrive before the students did. We had no supplies, no arts specialists, no bus, and no playground equipment. It might have appeared that the board and staff were lacking commitment or organization, since the accustomed model of a school is one of regimented organization with a broad support system. But a charter school is similar to a start-up business. All hands are on deck, day and night, until the customer is served with the highest possible quality. There is no “central office” and the corporate center might look more like young Bill Gates’ cluttered dorm room. But when the students arrived, we had our chairs and tables, borrowed art supplies from Sawtooth, a few jump ropes and a soccer ball, a guitar and a powerful philosophy, and we were ready to fly. And a year later, that same board of directors helped us lift those tables and chairs into borrowed trucks, then carried that furniture into our current building, piece by piece. That’s commitment. You could have seen the same spirit if you visited last week, with the amazing fifth grade team setting up welcoming classrooms in dance and theater spaces, our principal and assistant principal preparing to teach fifth grade as we support the healing of a beloved colleague, and teachers hauling furniture up and down the hill and in and out of the basement, sometimes with the help of their own parents.

We are still always learning, and there’s never a moment when we feel we’ve “arrived.” For our new staff this year is a first, with many opportunities for learning. It’s nothing like a start-up, but we still expect surprises. We’ve enjoyed many years of those. Some favorites: were unexpectedly given a fleet of guitars one year. We had visits from a blind Huichol shaman and a Nigerian chief within weeks of each other, both of whom were, coincidentally, string-painting masters. We have transformed a mud and gravel yard into a series of abundant gardens, with mature trees, fruits and vegetables, and weeds. Plenty of weeds. We’ve built long-term relationships with resident and visiting artists, some of whom have visited for over a decade and a half: Diana Greene (writing, photography, film making) Bill Scheidt (African drumming) “Mr. Bob” Moyer (acting, puppetry, poetry) “Dancing Classrooms” (ballroom dancing) AND the WSSU “Burke Singers” for example. It’s so delightful to book those artists again each year, and to find them filled with anticipation, reporting that working with our students is one of the highlights of their year. Each year, they deliver surprises too, because each year the students are different, inspiring new ideas and results.

This year we anticipate more unexpected joys, and challenges that bring strength and clarity. While our maturity has brought stability and wisdom, we remain open to growth and change. All year we will treasure every one of our students, knowing that teaching is a two-way exchange. We will be the learners too.


Parking Lot News

Thanks to each of you for being so careful and patient as we master the drop off and pick up routines in the parking lot.  A few notes…


-For morning drop off near MLK building, please pull all the way forward before letting your child out of the car.   This allows us to unload five cars at a time.  Do not pass anyone in the line.  Ideally, student should unload from the passenger side and move quickly to the sidewalk.  If your child must exit from the driver’s side, be sure to have them walk in front of your car toward the sidewalk.


-To expedite morning drop off, cars dropping off at the 7th St building only can “cut through” the MLK parking lot behind the yellow school bus.    This cut through is only used during morning drop off.


-You should already have name placards for your dash. Students in the MLK building who are picked up at 2:30 have yellow cards.  Students in the 7th St building who are picked up at 2:45 have green cards.  Please display the placard on the dash on passenger side.  Leave the sign in place until your child has been loaded into the car.  Please share your sign with whomever is picking up your child.  If you need additional signs, please email Hannah Brown at hbrown@artsbasedschool.com


-Thank you to the amazing volunteers who have helped each morning with traffic.


Where’s Mrs. Frazier?

We’re happy to report that Mrs. Frazier is at home and recovering very well from her recent surgery.  She is expected to be out on medical leave 4-6 six weeks.

Mrs. Frazier, Mrs. Raper and Mrs. Hollis worked throughout the summer to identify and hire a long term sub who is a certified teacher and a good match for ABS.  Unfortunately, we were not been able to find the right person for the role. For that reason, Mrs. Raper and Mrs. Hollis will share teaching duties for Mrs. Frazier’s 5th grade class until she returns.  We know how important it is to get a good start to the year and create as much normalcy as possible for our students. Both Mrs. Raper and Mrs. Hollis have many years of classroom teaching experience and have taught while working in administration. Mrs. Raper served as the 6th grade AG teacher last year.  In 2008, when the school added an additional 2nd grade, Mrs. Hollis stepped back into the classroom to teach there.

Welcome and Farewell

You may have noticed a few new faces that I have yet to introduce.

Scott Ertl will be serving as our second school counselor along with Amanda Sullivan.  Mr. Ertl has his Master’s and is Nationally Board Certified with over 18 years of experience.  Many in our community already know Mr. Ertl as the inventor of the Bouncy Bands.

Karon Kiger is joining ABS as a first grade assistant working with Nicole Howard.  Ms. Kiger is a veteran teacher retired from Brunson Elementary.

We’re delighted to have them join the ABS team!


Goodbye to Hadera Lowrance, K Assistant.  Miss Hadera has taken a full time job providing early reading intervention to families in their homes.  We’ll miss her but so happy she’s able to do such important work for our community.



We have a few more teachers still in need of a Classroom Representative.  Serving as a Class Rep (or Co-Rep with another parent) is a fantastic way to stay involved in your child’s classroom – it’s also a great way to get to know your teacher and the other parents!  We need for volunteers for Mrs. Lewis (8th), Mr. Brown (Drama),  and Ms. McIver (Drama).  If you are interested in one of these positions, please email Jennifer Bender (jennifer.r.bender@gmail.com).


All parents, grandparents, and caregivers are members of the Parent Council and are invited to attend our monthly meetings.  Attending meetings is a great way to learn more about what is happening at school and how you can get involved.  Plus, attendance at meetings counts toward volunteer hours!  Parent Council meetings for the 2018-2019 school year will be held monthly on Friday mornings from 8:15 – 9:15 in the MLK Cafe.  The meetings will be held on the Friday following the ABS Board meeting (which are held the second Tuesday of each month) so that Principal Hollis can update parents on board decisions.  Meeting dates are : September 14October 12,  December 14February 15March 15April 12, and May 17. There will not be a Friday morning meeting in November or January.  We look forward to seeing you at our first PC meeting of the year on Friday, September 14!


We need a few volunteers for cutting Box Tops after the collection dates. This is a great volunteer opportunity if you would like to get some of your volunteer hours in at home. If you are interested in assisting with Box Tops, please email Gwen Ashburn (gwendolyne.ashburn@gmail.com). The first Box Top collection date will be October 19.


Current Volunteer Needs:

Traffic Volunteers needed for school days.  Please email Donna Brown dbrown@artsbasedschool if you can help tame the traffic in the mornings 7:45-8:15am


Furniture Moving As classroom teachers rearrange and reinvent their classrooms they often have pieces of furniture that they need moved to the basement or brought up from the basement.  Please check with your classroom teacher to offer your help.


Garden Workday

Join Principal Hollis in the garden, Saturday morning, Saturday, August 25 from 9-12 to help get the gardens and playground ready for the start of school.  Bring gloves, tools, wheelbarrows and plenty of water!  Double hours for your volunteer time!


Kindergarten Speech Screening

We will soon begin screening kindergarten students for any speech or language difficulties.  Ms. Jennifer Carter, our speech pathologist, will visit each kindergarten classroom to have a short conversation with each student.  If further testing is required, the parents will be notified.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Mrs. Carter at jcarter@artsbasedschool.com.



ABS Student Handbook

The updated Parent/Student Handbook is now available on our website  Handbook and Forms

Please take some time to read and review our handbook to help us all get off to a great school year!  If you would prefer a printed paper copy, stop by the front desk.



Have your kids been reading from the Bookmarks Summer Reading Passport? It’s not too late to participate!  Be sure to read 3 books and complete 5 activities from the Bookmarks Summer Reading Passport.

Upon completion, the Summer Reading Program Passport may be turned in on Saturday, September 8 at the Bookmarks’ Festival for a book of the student’s choice. In addition, all participants will be entered into a contest where four winners will receive a $50 gift card to Bookmarks.

The school with the most participants will win $500 worth of books for their school library.  Help us win books for our school library by participating!   

Even if you cannot attend the Festival on September 8th, you can still participate.  We will collect entries at ABS for those who cannot attend the Festival (details coming soon).


For more information, visit: https://www.bookmarksnc.org/summer-reading-2018


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 your classroom teacher or front office.


Beginning of Grade Test

The State Board of Education requires a standardized reading test  for all third graders in North Carolina.  Third grade students will take the Beginning of Grade (BOG) test in reading.  A student’s BOG score will be used as baseline data to measure growth as well as a screening tool to identify those students who will need remediation to pass the End of Grade test.  The NC Read to Achieve initiative which requires retention for students who do not pass the Reading EOG at third grade.  The test has 42 questions and takes approximately 90 minutes to complete.  It will be administered on September 11.    Testing accommodations will be provided for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEP).  Make-up tests will be required for any student that is absent from the regular administration of the test.


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 your classroom teacher or front office.


Afterschool Care at ABS

ABS Before and Afterschool Care Program was created out of a need for high quality care with a flexible, convenient schedule for working parents. We look forward to providing a safe and fun filled environment where we focus our efforts on the social, emotional and physical development of your child. We’ll do this by nurturing strong relationships and offering your child choices that reflect his/her individual needs, interests and abilities.  The onsite child care will be staffed by ABS teachers and staff with Stephanie Lefever as the Afterschool Program director.  Registration is open on the ABS website.


Before and Afterschool Hiring

Most of the Before and After School staff  are ABS teachers and staff.  However, we need a few extra who can begin at 2:30 to cover the time that teachers are not available.  If you have an interest in working for the ABS Before & After School Care Program, please copy and paste the link below into a new internet tab and fill out the application.  Contact Stephanie LeFever with any questions.  slefever@artsbasedschool.com