ABS Thursday Notes- September 22, 2016

Thursday Notes                           

Published for the Arts Based School Community                         September 22, 2016




How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

–        Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


In 2012, well over five hundred teachers left the Winston-Salem Forsyth County school district. Pay remained frozen, keeping NC teachers among the lowest in the nation for average teacher pay. Budgets for assistants were cut. Increases in testing, accountability, and a state-wide curriculum change added to the stress that drove teachers away. But, even with these challenges, teachers who leave the system report that the most frustrating aspect of most public schools is lack of freedom to teach creatively. This is often a casualty of “teaching to the test.”

A number of teachers describe their move to ABS as a flight from rigidity. One left us as a fledgling to experience another environment, but quickly, to our delight, returned. Others student-taught here, and said they would rather wait unemployed for an opening to teach at ABS, than to teach elsewhere. Still other veterans who enjoyed teaching before find that they are passionate about it with us. This is critical to our identity and success.

Although we managed to give annual pay raises to our teachers during every one of our fifteen years, that is not what teachers report as being the greatest attraction to our environment. What they appreciate are creative freedom, positive relationships with other staff, warm interactions with student families, joyful, self-expressed students, and access to the arts.

About seven years ago, the local school district removed “enrichment” from their Highly Academically Gifted program in middle school. No longer would these students attend plays or concerts or visit art museums, as part of their accelerated program. Instead, due to budget cuts, they would switch from working one year ahead of their peers in math, to working two years ahead in math.

ABS offers that advanced math as well. In addition, in any given week, ALL of our students, not just those who are labeled as gifted, are likely to participate in activities which would be considered “enrichment” at a typical public school.

Yesterday alone, for example:

– Illustrator/designer/inventor/author Kyle T. Webster visited 7th graders in art class, introducing them to basics of graphic design, for timeline elements they will create to hang in their social studies classroom.

– 4th graders traveled to the Piedmont Environmental Center to learn about rocks and minerals. Meanwhile, they are learning the song/rap “I Got a Rock” to help them learn three basic classifications of rock.

– 5th grade studied multi-cultural ballroom dancing with the internationally celebrated “Dancing Classrooms” program.

– 1st grade enjoyed a visit from children’s book author John Hutton.

– 5th grade was introduced to an important melody from The Emperor Quartet by Franz Joseph Haydn, to which they learned lyrics about the order of operations in math.

– Dr. Adam Dovico, visiting clinical instructor at Wake Forest University and an alumnus of the faculty at the Ron Clark School, visited ABS for observations with his college students.

– 7th graders rehearsed an opera composed by holocaust victim Hans Krasa;

– 2nd graders worked on retellings of African stories with acting teacher Heidi McIver

– 7th graders took a dance class from Jan Adams, to audition for dance roles in their opera.


Our charter charges us with delivering hands-on, experiential learning. With the same budget cuts the public school system faced, and with no access to bond money or lottery proceeds, we continue, in our fifteenth year, to provide uninterrupted “enrichment” for our students. We just call it school.


Outdoor Fire on ABS Property Last Night

We are grateful to our local firefighters and law enforcement who quickly discovered and put out a mulch fire on ABS’ playground last night. The fire damaged an air conditioning unit, which will be replaced immediately. There was no damage to the building or playground. Police regularly patrol our campus, and will increase night-time surveillance in response to this incident.

Spanish Classes

Spanish classes are well underway for 5th-8th graders. Students are learning different vocabulary and how to conjugate different verbs at each grade level. 7th and 8th graders have Spanish twice a week and younger students have Spanish once per week. 3rd and 4th grade classes will start Spanish classes next week. When the trimester ends, other elementary classes will be included in Spanish lessons.


ABS Scholastic Book Fair

The Annual Scholastic Book Fair is coming to our school NEXT WEEK!! 

This is a wonderful way to support the school and to help reinforce the joy of reading to the students. The children get very excited about the fair every year. Students will enjoy browsing the fair and creating wish lists with their classes which they will then bring home and will have the opportunity to return later in the week to purchase. Parents are also encouraged to shop all week long! Scholastic matches every dollar of purchases with credit for the school to use to supply teachers and libraries with more books. Click this link:  Book Fair 2016 to sign up for many fun volunteer opportunities. “Get Hooked on a Book!”


Fall Festival- October 1st

Calling all ABS families, friends, and community members to join us in the ABS Middle School Courtyard for the annual Fall Festival – Saturday, Oct. 1st from 11:00 to 3:00!  This fundraiser is just $5 per kid and free for adults.  Show up hungry – we have a lineup of Food Trucks coming to fill our tummies: Food Freaks, Taqueria Luciano, Karim’s Hotdog Kart, Spice Delight, and Mike and Mike’s Italian Ice are already confirmed!  Each grade is hosting a “festival booth” and the book fair will be open so you can get “Hooked on a Book!”  RetroArtWare will be on hand to offer a unique tie dye experience (small additional fee), as well!  Please check with your room reps to see how you can help with your grade’s booth!  If you have questions or are available to help with the event – please contact Emily Ball at emilynball@gmail.com.


Picture Day-Oct 4

Smile!  October 4 is Picture Day!  All students will be photographed to be included in the school’s yearbook.  Proofs will be sent home along with information if you would like to order.


Don’t Be Late!

School begins at 8:15am.  Students should arrive at school between 7:45 and 8:10.    Students are counted tardy if they’re not in their classroom at 8:15am. The student entrance is locked at 8:15 a.m. After 8:15 a.m., parents must park and escort their child(ren) to the front office entrance and sign in.


Flu Season

As you know, flu can be easily spread from person to person.  We are asking for your help in reducing the spread of flu at ABS.  The symptoms for the seasonal flu and H1N1 are the same: fever of 100 degrees or more, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, and feeling very tired.  Students with these symptoms will be sent home.

You can help us by taking these simple steps:

  • Teach children to wash their hands often.
  • Teach your children not to share food or drink.
  • Teach children to cough or sneeze into their elbows to avoid spreading germs.
  • Keep sick children home.
  • Children must be fever-free for 24 hrs before returning to school.
  • Get the flu vaccine for you and your children.


Around Town…

Sowing Seeds Children’s Festival and Food Drive

Sunday, September 25th, 1-4pm at Bailey Park

The event is FREE!

All are encouraged to bring items to donate to the WSFCS Food Pantry.  There will be some fun-for-the-whole-family performances, including my own!


Art in the Afternoon Open House coming up on Saturday, October 1. At Sawtooth School of Visual Arts.  See flyer for more information.


Soloist and chorus auditions for Phantom of the Organ at Centenary Methodist Church on Sunday, September 25th from 5:00 – 8:00.