Colonial Middle parents receive homework tips, advice at expo

PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN
Colonial MIddle language arts teacher Patricia Hervey talks to student Ayante Williams and her mother, Sharon Kuykendall, about creative arts high school options.
Colonial Middle teacher Patricia Hervey talks with student Ayante Williams and her mother, Sharon Kuykendall during Parent Expo on Thursday night.
PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/ Chalkbeat TN
Colonial Middle teacher Patricia Hervey talks with student Ayante Williams and her mother, Sharon Kuykendall during Parent Expo on Thursday night.

Yolanda Jones arrived at Colonial Middle School Thursday evening ready to gather all the information she could to help her son become a better student.

“We work on his homework every day,” Jones said.  “I have him explain it to me and show examples. I want him to take better notes and when it’s something that I don’t understand, there’s always textbooks or I can always call, text or email his teachers.”

Jones wasn’t alone.

Nearly 400 parents participated in the school’s first “Parent Expo”, where parents were given access to the school’s language arts, math, social studies and science teachers at the fine arts sixth through eighth grade school.

There were 15 educational booths for parents to visit on Thursday night.

At Patricia Hervey’s booth, students and parents received worksheets about”12 Powerful Words,” which are typically used on the annual state tests and during classroom instruction. Hervey encouraged parents and students to review the words and the definitions frequently.

Some of the words on the list were “trace”, “analyze”, “contrast” and “summarize” and are used in questions on the state test.

Other booths included demonstrations of science experiments, math games and assistance for parents of Spanish-speaking and English as a Second Language students.

Parents also had the opportunity to take a piano lesson and watch student performances in choir, piano, dance and orchestra.

Yolanda Jones and her son, Reginald, sign in at Thursday night's Parent Expo at Colonial Middle School.
PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN
Yolanda Jones and her son, Reginald, sign in at Thursday night’s Parent Expo at Colonial Middle School.

Attaining a high level of parental engagement is often the goal for classroom teachers and administrators. Research has shown that students with strong parental support at home, such as family reading and homework time – tend to perform better in school.

Colonial principal Marty Pettigrew advocates for what he calls the five areas of connectedness – students, staff, parents, community and programs.

“Our expo ties all of those things together,” he said.

It was a big undertaking to organize the event, but Pettigrew said he’d like to see it happen on an annual basis.

Parent Nevenia Hill said the most helpful information that she took away was from her daughter’s sixth grade language arts teacher and their discussion about Reading Plus, which is a computer-based program that monitors progress, teaches lessons and reviews with students.

“This was my first time meeting with her teachers and really getting an explanation about what they do in class and where she needed help,” Hill said. “Now I can go home and work with her in those areas. It’s better to meet with the teachers in person than it is to read a note.” 

Hill said her daughter, Mina, finds reading more challenging than math.

“I’m really pushing her in reading and getting her to do more of it at home,” she said. Hill met with her daughter’s math teacher, Terrica Conley, about exercises she can also do at home.

Colonial Middle sixth grade math teacher Terrica Conley gives Nevenia Hill tips on helping her daughter, Mina, who is in her class.
PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN
Colonial Middle sixth grade math teacher Terrica Conley gives Nevenia Hill tips on helping her daughter, Mina, who is in her class.

Pettigrew is counting on the work of students, teachers and Reading Plus to improve the school’s reading scores. According to the state’s report card, Colonial’s reading scores have been stagnant over the past three years.

“This year, we’ll have higher reading scores,” Pettigrew said.

Other parents at the event walked the halls of Colonial Middle hopeful that their child will receive a spot at the optional campus.

Kenneth Woods and his daughters Breanna Rosser, an eighth grader at Sherwood Middle, and Taylor Woods, a fifth grader at Sherwood Elementary, stopped at Hervey’s booth.

“We’re trying to get her (Taylor) into Colonial,” said Woods, adding that he is concerned about his daughters stressing over tests.

“I worry about them because sometimes if you’re too nervous, you can mess up,” he said. “We try to help them at home, their older sister helps out too.”

Kenneth Woods and his daughters Breanna Rosser (r) and Taylor Woods (r) reviewed 12 powerful words with sixth grade language arts teacher Patricia Hervey.
PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/ Chalkbeat TN
Kenneth Woods and his daughters Breanna Rosser (r) and Taylor Woods (r) reviewed 12 powerful words with sixth grade language arts teacher Patricia Hervey.


Many parents stayed until the two-hour event was over at 7 p.m. Thursday. Jones and her son, Reginald were among the remaining group of people still in the building.






“As a parent, you have to be involved,” Jones said. “Parental involvement varies from school to school. I want my son to do well, so I’m here.”

Yolanda  Jones and her son Reginald, a seventh grader at Colonial Middle, arrive at the Parent Expo Thursday night.
PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN
Yolanda Jones and her son Reginald, a seventh grader at Colonial Middle, arrive at the Parent Expo Thursday night.

Student count

Aurora school enrollment continues sharp decline, but budget woes not expected

A kindergarten teacher at Kenton Elementary in Aurora helps a student practice saying and writing numbers on a Thursday afternoon in February. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

The number of students enrolled in Aurora schools this fall dropped by almost twice as much as last year, part of a trend district officials have blamed in part on gentrification as housing prices in Aurora climb.

This year, as of Oct. 2, the district has enrolled 41,294 students from preschool through 12th grade. That’s 867 fewer students than last year — and almost twice the number of students lost between 2015 and 2016.

Last October, staff told the board that district enrollment had dropped by a historic amount. At the time, enrollment was 41,926, down 643 from 2015. By the end of the 2016-17 school year, the district had enrolled almost 200 more students.

But in Colorado, school districts are given money on a per-student count that’s based on the number of students enrolled on count day, which this year was Oct. 2.

The district expects to see a similar decline in students again next school year, but expects that new developments start bringing more children to the district in the future.

The good news, provided in the update given to the Aurora school board Tuesday night, is that district officials saw it coming this time.

“The magnitude of the impact is not the same as last year,” said Superintendent Rico Munn. “This kind of decline is now something we will predict and budget to.”

Because enrollment numbers are higher than what officials predicted, the budget that the board approved over the summer should not need adjustments for the current year.

Last year, Aurora Public Schools had to cut more than $3 million in the middle of the year. District officials also worked on gathering input and finding ways to shrink the 2017-18 budget by up to $31 million, but better than expected funding from the state meant the district didn’t end up cutting the full $31 million.

The district may look for ways to trim the budget again next year in anticipation of another anticipated enrollment decline.

Board members asked about other factors that may be contributing to enrollment declines, such as school reputations, and asked about how staff predict future enrollment.

Superintendent Munn told the board that the enrollment decreases are changing several conversations in the district.

“APS was not in the business of marketing our schools,” Munn said. But this year, the district launched an interactive map with school information on the district website to help feature all schools, their programs and their performance measures, and has been doing outreach to the approximately 4,000 Aurora students who leave to attend neighboring districts.

Three schools also received district-level help in creating targeted marketing.

One of those three schools was South Middle School, a low-performing school in the northwest part of the district where enrollment declines are especially drastic.

This year, after receiving some marketing assistance, South was one of few schools in the district that saw enrollment increased. The school’s Oct. 2 enrollment was 825, up from 734 last year.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”