Fruitful discussion at our first parents dinner meeting

posted Oct 19, 2010, 9:20 AM by fr.irenei@stjohnsacademysf.org
A fruitful and productive discussion was had during our first regular parents dinner meeting, to be held approximately monthly during term time. Approximately 26 families were represented by one or more parents, and present also were the Academy's Principal, Dean and Office Administrator, together with the head of the Parents Association. The purpose of such meetings is to provide a regular opportunity for parents and the school administration to come together to discuss the life and operation of the Academy.

Over a pot-luck meal provided by the families, the Principal gave a brief report on the successful start of the new school year, together with some of the elements that have presented both excitement and challenges in their launching -- for example, the new food program, together with various new elements of the curriculum.

Fr. Irenei's brief remarks were followed by a lengthy period of constructive discussion. Two main areas were discussed at length: (a) queries regarding the new meals, and (b) the usage of assignment books and the new on-line assignment calendars.

Regarding the meal program, the group discussed a number of parental questions regarding our new catered lunches and snacks. One potential concern was the nature of the meals: names such as 'cheeseburgers', 'tacos', etc., caused some parents to worry that what was being provided was unhealthy / fast-food; however, a look at the menus and nutritional charts helped to confirm that such names are used by our catering provider, ChoiceLunch.com, to appeal to young children's appetites, while what is actually provided under the guise of such popular names are healthy, locally-sourced, professionally nutritionally balanced meals (the 'American Cheeseburger' meal, for example, is a whole wheat roll with a locally sourced, baked [not fried] meat patty, and fresh vegetable sides; pasta dishes are made with whole grain pasta, etc.). All our parents and families are encouraged to visit the ChoiceLunch.com web site, where full information on all the meals is available: ingredients, nutritional data / charts, etc.

We also discussed the development of the menus for our new meal programs, which for the first time in the Academy's history allow families a degree of choice in the main entrees eaten by students. We are continuing to try various options to see what students like and do not, and use this material to plan our menus for the future. Parents are encouraged to let the school office know of preferences among their own children, which we can also use in our menu development.

The second main item of discussion was the usage of assignment books and the on-line assignment calendars to assist families in keeping track of assigned work. Fr. Irenei reiterated that the on-line system is meant to be a supplement to the physical assignment books at the high school level, not a replacement; but it was agreed that the two systems were not being used together as well as they could be, and that usage of the assignment books in particular has suffered.

As a result of that discussion, and parent input during the conversation, we have this week begun a new practice during the school day. A new bell now rings five minutes before the end of every class period, and all teachers and students have been instructed that this marks the formal transition into five minutes solely dedicated to writing assignments in assignment books, recording any relevant marks/grades there, and tidying up / organizing the classroom in preparation for the next session. We began using this system on Monday, and already we are seeing notable improvement.

Several other items were also discussed, with conversation led by the Dean and by the head of the Parents Association. Among the items noted there which will be of interest as a reminder to all families: all parent meetings (for example, this dinner meeting, all Parents Association meetings, etc.) count toward the 20 parental education hours required per year, which makes it very easy to fulfil these hours by regular attendance and participation at these constructive meetings.

Minutes were taken of the whole evening, which will be used by teachers in their regular meetings to help address areas for improvement, etc.

We are all extremely thankful for the good turnout and constructive, productive conversation, as well as the good food and spirits. May God continue to bless us all in the year ahead!
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