News and Notes from Dr. Palmer

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Notes from Dr. Palmer: 

9-11-17

I have to compliment our students on a great beginning to the school year! The 8th graders are being awesome leaders, and our new 6th graders are getting the hang of middle school in no time! We are really proud of all of our kids.

After-school activities begin on Monday, Sept 25th this year, with auditions for our fall play, "Into the Woods" happening that week! Soccer try-outs are happening this week because our first game is coming up on the 20th!

Please contact me with any questions, concerns, ideas or kudos - I'd love to hear from you! emily.palmer@mpls.k12.mn.us or 612-668-4901. Thank you!

9-5-17

What a great first week at Sanford! We had so much fun welcoming new students & seeing the smiles of our returning Hawks! My favorite moment was seeing a whole bunch of our students at Target the Saturday before school started, and having them excited to show me the supplies they were buying. So much great energy!  A couple reflections I heard from teachers about last week:

Mr, Morgan: Something that made me smile was on Wednesday when a couple of my 8th grade advisory students were helping a couple of my 6th grade advisory students figure out how to read their class schedule. These kids really do care about one another.

Mr. Felder: Two years ago I student taught at Dowling, so many of the 5th graders I had then are in my class again - and it's been nice to see how far some of them have come (or grown!) in only a couple years.

Ms. Melton: What made me smile last week was that students were already excited to be checking out books from the library.  If students are readers you just can't squash that need to read. :)

Ms. G-K: A great moment I had was seeing some now 8th graders in the halls and their faces lighting up when they saw me.  We, both students and teachers, do genuinely miss each other over the summer break.  It was nice to see their faces so excited to see me too!

 

Morning Program starts this week on 9/5, and after-school program starts on Sept 25th. All programs are free, but students must return the parent permission form from the packet you received the first day of school.

We are over-full (30 kids more than we were projected & budgeted for) so we're still balancing class sizes, but teachers are doing a great job despite the large class sizes. Thank you to everyone for your patience!

 

8-8-17

We had a great time with summer school this year - which was a pleasant surprise because we didn't really know what to expect. :)  The kids & teachers were all fantastic. 

Now we're into preparations for the new school year! This week, a team of 9 from Sanford is attending the district Equity Leadership Institute, increasing our learning and preparing our School Improvement Plan (SIP) for the coming year. We are wrking on how to use our authentic MYP rubric assessments as measurement tools for our SIP goals. 

Calls went out last week to all families with information about team assignments and team meetings coming up before school starts. We look forward to meeting many new students & seeing returning students at these meetings. Our Open House will be on Thursday, Sept. 14th for all families. 

School starts on Monday, August 28th - we look forward to a wonderful year! 

6-27-17

Summer school is off to a GREAT start! Students are taking classes like:  Photography & Journalism, Electronic Music Composition, Future City, Business by Design, and more! We're having a lot of fun already, with support from the Community Ed and Beacons programs. I am so grateful that having air conditioning is allowing us to host summer programs at Sanford. 

There is no summer program the week of July 4th, then we're back on 7/10 through 8/3. Happy Independence Day!

 

6-9-17

We are gearing up for next year & excited to welcome some new staff members who will be joining us in the fall: 

Brie Morris - Social Studies 6 Teacher

Jodie Rose-Harkness - Math 8 Teacher

Katie Cruz - Special Ed SPAN Teacher

Annie Kennedy - Special Ed DCD Teacher

Steve Lish - Social Worker

Larry Burgess - 7th grade Dean

Shemi Price - 6th grade Dean

Ahmed Amin - Assistant Principal

 

We are also saying goodbye to some of our staff members as well, as they move on to other adventures: 

Jerri Henderson, ASD teacher - retiring

Laura Lee, AVID teacher - maternity leave

Josh Pauly, AVID teacher  - leaving teaching to start a non-profit organization

Matt Hentges, DCD teacher - moving to Transition Plus program

Tony Daza, 6th grade Dean - entering a teacher prep program

 

While we embrace the constant change that is a part of life, we stay committed to Sanford's foundation: EVERYONE BELONGS. TOGETHER WE SUCCEED. 

Have a wonderful summer!

 

4-10-17

We are excited to host summer school at Sanford this year! The program will be open to students who are entering grades 6-8 for next year. This is not a boring summer school!  Students get to choose their classes, and options include Business Design, Computer Music Composition, Journalism & Photography, even Yoga! Applications will be going out to students this week, and are due back by May 5th.

 

4-7-17

I hope everyone is enjoying spring break! It's nice to actually have good spring weather for it. Sanford finished budget tie-out the week before break. Here are some highlights:

All schools were given a 2.5% funding cut from general operating funds. Luckily, Sanford's growth offset that cut to an extent. Last year we were funded for 877 students (though we've had 910 all year) and next year we'll be funded for 942. So the revenue generated by the additional students helps.

We are adding three new student support positions: an additional dean; a part-time social worker, and taking over the funding of the check & connect program that supports attendance. These are priorities identified by the Site Council as worth investment despite being in a year of budget cuts.

We will be hiring for the following full-time teaching positions: Math teacher, Social Studies teacher, Science teacher, Drama teacher, and two Special Ed teachers.  Ms. Mantila is moving to teach just Ojibwe next year, and Ms. Lund & Ms. Davitt are scaling back to part time. We will also be posting for an AE position for our dean and 4 SEA positions for Special Ed.

Please contact me with any questions about budget or staffing for next year - emily.palmer@mpls.k12.mn.us or 612-668-4901. I believe we have the best budget we can for the coming year!

3-19-17

We are in the midst of budget planning for next year, but I wanted to take a moment to share a great note I received from a parent today:

I want to tell you that we came to the Friday night performance of Xanadu and were so impressed and pleased!  There are so many good things to say! The staging, the singing, the acting, the lighting, the fact that so many children were involved in so many ways... I could go on...everything worked so well together and everyone looked like they were having the time of their lives.

I want to thank you all for making this happen. I know first hand how challenging it is to bring things like this into existence. It takes supportive Admin. It takes a dedicated and creative Drama teacher. And it takes an awesome Choir teacher. My son had a great experience being a part of Xanadu at Sanford.

2-24-17

Our students are concerned that the news seems to be telling them that the rights of our trans students are in danger. What is happening in Washington, DC might give states permission to discriminate, but Minnesota is not going in that direction. Our students at Sanford use the bathroom of the gender they identify as - and we respect their choice. Also, we have a single-stall "All Genders Restroom" at Sanford for students who don't want to be forced to idenify as either gender.

That's not changing, no matter what happens in Washington.

2-23-17

Thank you to everyone who came out to conferences last week! We had a good turn out and teachers reported lots of great conversations with families. We are so grateful to partner with our families to ensure the success of all of our students!

We had a "code yellow drill" today that was announced as a drill. The state requires us to conduct 5 lockdown drills each year in code red and/or code yellow (as well as 5 fire drills and one tornado drill.)  Schools use code yellow when lessons can continue, but we want everyone to stay in classrooms. Teachers lock the door and continue teaching. Schools use code red when there is an immediate threat, and we want all students silent and out of sight of an intruder.

Next week, parents are invited to join us on Tuesday morning for a Black History Month celebration assembly. The 6th & 7th grades will be at 10:00am and the 8th grade at 11:00am. The assembly will be the same for both groups, so you can come at the time that is most convenient for you. (Students will be sitting with their classes, but we will have some rows reserved for parents toward the front.)

As always, please contact me to share how your student's experience is going at Sanford! You can email emily.palmer@mpls.k12.mn.us or call 612-668-4901. Thank you!

2-7-17

I am pleased to share that I just learned this morning that the superintendent has approved a plan for Anishinabe to move from K-8 to K-5 next year. The middle school age students who live in our attendance area will be invited to Sanford.

We have made great strides in recent years in creating a welcoming and respectful environment at Sanford for our Native students. We offer Ojibwe as one of our three World Langagues, we have CDF Native Freedom School after school & summer school programs, and we have worked to add Native perspectives to our curriculum for all students as well.

I am a strong proponent of the 6-8 model over the K-8 model, because with critical mass (900+ students!) we can offer so much more than the smaller K-8 schools can. I look forward to welcoming Anishinabe students to Sanford next fall!

2-1-17

When I think about national news, I am reminded of the old curse: "May you live in interesting times." We are absolutely living history right now! And our middle school students are old enough to follow and understand much of what's happening in America.

I appreciate parents who have reached out to ask what they can do to support our Muslim students here at Sanford. There are two things to think about that apply to our Latino and LGBTQ students as well:

1. The safest thing at school is normal routine - not reminding kids about external pressures. We want kids to have a normal day every day. To that end, we prefer not to have people holding signs outside - even if the signs are meant to convey love and support.

2. The best way to support students from any marginalized group is to be friends with them. Encourage your kids to include them in activities, etc. Again, normal kid stuff.

Please give me a call or email with any questions, concerns or ideas - we welcome conversations! You can reach me at emily.palmer@mpls.k12.mn.us or 612-668-4901. Gracias y Mahadsanid!

 

1-10-17

I had a great time talking with parents at Howe/Hiawatha Elementary this evening! There is never enough time to answer all the questions, but it's fun to connect and help get folks excited for middle school.

If you are a prospective parent, please schedule a tour and come see us in action! (Call Mara Bernick - 612-668-4914.) Transition to middle school is always scary, but seeing the real school day helps dispel worry.

We are still working with students on cooperative behaviors and developing global citizenship skills. Sometimes it feels like a never-ending process, but then our former students come back to visit, and tell us how they are using what they learned at Sanford to be successful in high school and college. Today, Mr. Sparks had some former students visit who are now in graduate school! :)

We can't always see the forest for the trees. Some of the trees are really irritating, but the forest is fabulous!

 

12-30-16

Happy new year, everyone! One of the great joys of winter break is having time to reflect. Sanford is truly a special place. There is so much learning happening - both content and character, curriculum and social-emotional learning. It's all important. :)

In the new year, I invite families to talk with kids about how students are treating each other at school - are we all being as kind and respectful as we know how to be? The national culture surely isn't doing us any favors in this regard right now. I do worry that animosity is being normalized in ways that are really not good for our kids. They are too young to be very good critical consumers of media yet - they need our help.

I wish everyone an absolutely fabulous 2017 - we'll do our best to make it so at Sanford! Happy new year!

11-27-16

I am thankful for so much at Sanford!

I am thankful for our staff - the teachers who give their all every day; the support staff who nurture our kids so they can go to class ready to learn; all the staff who keep the building running & keep everything flowing smoothly!

I am thankful for our students - the way they embrace and support each other and respect everyone's differences.

I am thankful for our families and community, and the great support they give to Sanford!  We are so grateful for the $4,410 already raised toward our indoor recess project, and for everyone who voted to pass the referendum! Thank you!

11-9-16

Below is the message about the election that I shared with our staff & students over the PA this morning during advisory. Please give me a call or email with any thoughts or suggestions. 612-668-4901 or emily.palmer@mpls.k12.mn.us - thank you!

Good morning, Hawks. Please excuse this interruption of your advisory activities. I would like to have everyone’s attention for just a moment.  

First, we are happy to share that the voters of the city of Minneapolis overwhelmingly choose to continue to support our schools with extra tax money, and the referendum passed. This is very good news for our schools.  Also, we celebrate the election of America’s first Somali-American legislator, Ilhan Omar, who represents Minneapolis. It’s great that our city has this historic honor!  Congratulations to Ms. Omar.

And we will have a new President.  It was a tough and sometimes ugly campaign.  But it is important to remember that just because a candidate says some ugly things, that doesn’t mean everyone who voted for that person believes all that stuff. Many people voted just because of the economy, or out of fear for the future.  We also know that the president has limited power. Candidates often say they will do things that they can’t actually do.

For us at Sanford, lets try hard to have understanding for each other, no matter what we think about the new president. We do not have to agree with someone to show them respect. At Sanford, we believe in showing respect and kindness to ALL people, all of the time.

What makes America great is our diversity and differences, and the fact that we can live together with people who disagree with us and are different from us.  Difference is good – it’s what makes us strong, and one thing Americans are is strong.

We may not know what will happen next, but we will be OK.  We are OK, Hawks. Let’s have a good day and be good to each other.

 

11-4-16

Monday is the start of Quarter 2 already! We have lots to be proud of with our Sanford students this year. Over 80 students are participating in the fall play, "High School Musical" (showing 12/2-3) and over 100 more are staying after school for a wide variety of other activities every day. Our soccer team won the Minneapolis city championship, and our valleyball team was pretty awesome too.

Teachers will turn in grades next week and it will take about a week to process and get them mailed home - look for them the week of 11/14. As you look at your student's grades, remember that we are committed to ensuring that our grade scales make it possible for everyone to achieve at least a B- in every class if they work hard enough! So if your student has any grade lower than a B-, please tell them "you can do better!"

At Sanford, students earn Honor Roll awards for getting all A grades or all A & B grades - not GPA. I believe it is important to emphasize & reward consistent hard work. One C grade will mean a student does not receive an award. This is always a struggle for some students & families each year, but I have never yet met a student or seen a situation in which a student could not get that B- if they worked for it! :)

Please mark your calendars to join us for the 4th annual Native American Film Fest! Films - both professional and by Sanford students - will be shown from 10:00am to 3:30pm, with lunch provided. We would love to see you there.

Thank you for sending us your fabulous students!

10-2-16

The first month went by in a whoosh! Thank you to everyone who came out to our fabulous Open House on the 15th. I know some folks had to leave early to get over to South HS as well - we appreciate you taking the time for both events! Our doors are always open - parents are welcome to drop in to see your students in classes any time.

MPS has a referendum renewal on the ballot this year. Please visit http://www.yesformplskids.org/ for information about how schools are supported by these funds, and what the impact will be if the renewal doesn't pass. At Sanford, levy dollars are about $1 million out of our $8 million budget. That's about 12.5%, the equivalent of about 10 teachers.

Thank you for all the ways you support Sanford Middle School!

9-22-16

Below is the text of an auto-call that I sent to Sanford families last night about Sanford being referenced in the Star Tribune yesterday. We do use the Desmos app on iPads in math classes at Sanford. It's a good app. But because the high schools are using it on students' own smartphones, the article seemed to imply that we do that too, and we just wanted to clarify that our students keep their phones in lockers all day - no exceptions.

Here is the Star Tribune article link:

http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-math-teachers-trade-calculators-for-smartphone-app/394055771/

"Good afternoon, Sanford Families, this is your principal, Emily Palmer, with some news from Sanford.  Everything is good, but I just want to let you know that we were mentioned in an article in the Star Tribune today that was not accurate. The article is about high school math teachers having students use calculator apps on their cell phones in math class. Unfortunately, a math teacher at South was quoted as saying that Sanford and Ramsey middle schools are also doing this. That is not the case. Neither Sanford nor Ramsey allows students to bring cell phones to classes. Since we have asked for parent support for this policy, we want to make sure there is no confusion in the Sanford community because of the article.  Our teachers use certain apps on phones as needed instructionally, but students do not. Again, this is principal Emily Palmer. Please contact me with any questions or concerns. Thank you and have a fabulous evening."

Please contact me with any questions or concerns. You can also contact our Math Lead, Libby O'Connell, at elizabeth.oconnell@mpls.k12.mn.us to discuss our math strategies at Sanford. Thank you!

9-6-16

We have some pretty large class sizes right now, especially in 6th grade! My apologies for that. We try to staff so that no class is over 32 students (except Band or Choir which can be much larger) but we have quite a few sections in 6th grade right now that are 34 or more. We know that's not ideal! It's good to be a popular school, but not when we have all this new space and still can't get class sizes where they should be.

Our current e-count (the number of students who are physically present) as of today is:

337 in 6th (over projection by +17)

307 in 7th (over +6) 

269 in 8th (over +13)

That's a total of 904 bodies, which puts us over projection by 36 students. We also have another 47 students on rolls who have not yet attended, but who the district has assigned to Sanford & we can't turn away.

Unfortunately, unlike elementary school, we can't just hire a teacher & create a new class. We need a little bit more of everything - one more English class, one more Spanish class, etc - and there's just no practical way to do that. So please be patient with us as we adjust to larger-than-expected class sizes!

904 is a great number for a middle school - but unfortunately, that's not what we were projected or staffed for. But we have the best teachers & students anywhere, so we will do our best!

 

9-3-16

We had a great first week at Sanford! Having most of the construction done - but not quite 100% - reminded us that it's really all about the people, not the stuff. Some of our technology was delivered late, and the A/C turned out to have some kinks in the system so we had some warm classrooms on day one, but overall, students & teachers had a great week!

I received some great notes from parents about how the first few days went for their kids:

He loves it! He can't fall asleep because he can't wait for the next day! Felicidades! And a huge thank you!

Yes, it was good! I picked her up at the bus stop and she had a smile on her face....

She loved it!!!  She said it was like walking into the rich kids school!

She said she enjoyed her classes! She also was using her SAM and did her homework. She's very happy. :)

What's next? Lots of little details, of course. We have 7 hydration stations (fancy drinking fountains) yet to be installed; bus signs to be moved to the right spots (and old ones removed); and we're still tracking down furniture to get everything into the right place. But it's coming along well.

Our Open House/Community Celebration is coming up on Sept 15th and we're looking forward to welcoming families & community into the new spaces!  Please join us!

8-17-16

We're getting excited for the new school year! The construction crews are down to punch lists and cleaning; teachers and staff are attending trainings; everyone is gearing up for the new year. Exciting!

On the first day of school, (8/29) students will divide by grade and then spend a "Team Day" getting to know each other & orienting for the new year. 6th graders will gather in the auditorium, 7th graders in the cafeteria, and 8th graders in the NEW gym. Then they will break into teams for the day. At the end of the day on Monday, students will go to Advisory and get their lockers and schedules. On Tuesday, students will follow their Quarter 1 schedule.

Students schedules will only change at the quarter this year, not every 3 weeks. We found the 3-week rotation just too hard to manage. Hoepfully the quarterly rotation will be easier for everyone!

See our Facebook page for updated construction photos - there is lots to share as they are wrapping up. We still have lots of cleaning left to do, but it's coming along.  We will be ready for students on Monday, August 29th!

I received a great note from an MPS high school teacher friend today:
"A former Sanford student said to me last year while I was his 10th grade teacher, "Sanford is the best. I wish there was Sanford High School." Most students can't wait to get out of middle school, but he wanted four MORE years of SANFORD life! Kudos!"

Kudos, indeed, to our fabulous Sanford staff! :)

7-6-16

I have enjoyed spending time at Summer School at Keewaydin and at Freedom School at Anishinabe this week! Our kids are doing some great work and having fun as well. Summer programs have come a long way from the days when it was all reading & math remediation. Now it's STEM, Arts, Culture, and Community. So proud of our Hawks!

Construction is coming along and we're finally in the home stretch. Seeing the grass & trees go in outside last week was very exciting. The inside is still full of dust from the HVAC work (air conditioning is coming!!!) but cleaning is scheduled to start next week already. The construction part of project is on track to be finished by August 1st, with furniture move-in and final touches happening in August. This project started in December, 2013, so getting to the finish line is very exciting!

Because of construction we are not in the office this summer, but you can reach us by email at emily.palmer@mpls.k12.mn.us or albert.pitt@mpls.k12.mn.us - have a wonderful summer and we look forward to seeing everyone on August 29th!

6-2-16

The end of the school year always sneaks up on me! We always still have so much we want to do.  But I am finishing this year incredibly proud of our Hawks, both studens & staff. We survived construction and managed to thrive! We tried a longer school day, and although it meant we were more tired (especially us old folks! ;) it also meant we were able to bring advisory back to Sanford, which has been great.

Next year our school day will shorten slightly to 8:45-3:45. Our hope is to keep what's great in the 7-period day, but give teachers a litle more collaborative time with colleagues. 15 minutes may not seem like a lot, but it's over an hour a week added back to teacher work time. All good.

Our school will be a construction zone throughout the building again this summer as they finish up the HVAC work, turn the old gym into the new band room, update science rooms, and create a great drama room as well. The good news is that the project is still on track to be finished by August 15th! We look forward to sharing the new spaces with families on Thursday, August 25th in an informal open house. Stay tuned for details.

It is always bittersweet to send our 8th graders on to high school - though they are more the ready, we will miss them! But they will do great at South and Roosevelt, and we are excited to welcome a new group of 6th graders this fall, and to see our current students continue to grow and mature.

THANK YOU for sharing the journey with us at Sanford this year.  It's always an adventure, and despite the bumps, it's always a good one.

If you need to reach me over the summer while the office is closed, my email is emily.palmer@mpls.k12.mn.us and my cell is 612-226-3166. Have a safe and restful summer! :)

Emily

 

5-18-16

I received this great note today from Carlton College about a visit to Sanford that a class of future teachers took last week:

Dear Dr. Palmer,

I wanted to thank you for opening your school to us last week! Yesterday, in class, my students and I debriefed on the field trip experience, and I can say they learned so much, especially from their student tour guides who did such a marvelous job.

We were all impressed with the relaxed, yet productive culture at Sanford. In so many cases we saw students constructing knowledge and working collaboratively on projects such as researching the Flint water crisis, making mini-speakers, and designing community photo collages.

In a moment when we are bombarded with the message that public schools are failing and charter schools are the solution, our experience at Sanford Middle School showed my students that wonderful things are happening in public schools. I knew this having taught in a Chicago public high school for eight years, but now they do too. Thank you.
Best wishes,
Kathryn


Dr. Kathryn Wegner
Visiting Assistant Professor
Carleton College

 

5-16-16

I am pleased to share that we are mostly staffed for the 2016-17 school year. We added a few positions this year as we continue to grow! We also say goodbye to two of our teachers who are going in new directions: Ms. Motarjemi is retiring, and Ms. Olugboji is moving to teach in South Korea. We will miss them both, and wish them well on their new journeys.  We are happy to welcome back Ms. Lundgren, who is returning after 2 years teaching in Vietnam! And we also welcome the following teachers who will be fantastic additions to the Sanford family:

Amanda Mohan, English - coming from Sullivan

Jenny Pilon, Social Studies - coming from Anwatin

Mandy Kauphusman, Art - coming from FAIR

Stephanie Liebhart, Spanish - coming from teaching abroad in United Arab Emirates & Korea

Kyle Felder, Health - new to MPS, coming from Blaine HS

Matt Hentges, DCD - new to MPS, coming from Sauk Rapid-Rice MS

 

5-1-16

It's May! I never count down the days to the end of a school year - I think that sends a terrible message to kids - but I admit to getting very excited the closer we get to construction completion. The "substantial completion" target date is July 15th, and the final turn-over-the-building-and-go-away finish date is August 15th. Can't wait! :)

Our MCA results are starting to come in, and we have growth across the board in Reading. Math will finish up over the coming week, and then 8th graders will take the Science test as well. We really hate all the hassle of state testing, but it is nice to be able to see our progress. I will share more results when we have them.

I was pleased to host a "Principal for a Day" guest last week, and I'm happy to share some of what he said about his visit:

I can't thank you enough for your openness yesterday and it was such a pleasure meeting you. Sanford Middle School is an amazing place and I've already started telling the story of the solar car - from construction to starring in Grease!  This is exactly what MPLS voters need to know about our schools.  This thread from mechanical design to musical theater is an example of awesome. - Donald MacFarlane

4-1-16

We are all struggling with the impact of the Jamar Clark case on our community, and the Hennepin County attorney's decision on Wednesday. No matter what our individual politics or opinions, we know that our city is learning and growing through this experience. Our students are as well. I hope all of our families are taking time to talk at home about what's happening, and trust that we will be sensitive to this learning opportunity at school as well. Parents can expect that students will discuss the situation in Social Studies classes and Advisory, but that we will keep our school day as normal as possible for our kids. Please call me with any questions, concerns or ideas. 612-668-4901. Thank you!

3-16-16

I just returned from the Environmental Learning Center at Eagle Bluff with the 7th graders from Team Wildcats - what a fabulous trip! I love seeing our students challenge & stretch themselves with new adventures like the high ropes course. (Luckily, I am not afraid of heights myself, so I always join them on the course!) I look forward to returning to Eagle Bluff next week with Team Fireworks. You can learn more about Eagle Bluff here.

Our budget for next year was submitted last week. Big thanks to the Site Council and Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) for working with the admin team to put all the puzzle pieces together! We are growing by 70 more students this fall, so will be hiring. (Good thing we'll have 14 more classrooms too!) We are posting for three full time positions: English, PE/Health, and Social Studies. We are also posting for 3 part time positions: .6 Visual Art, .6 PE/Health, and .4 Spanish. We look forward to welcoming some great new teachers in the fall!

Next year, our daily schedule is changing slightly - our school day will be 8:45-3:45 instead of 8:30-3:45. We are giving the 15 minutes toward teachers connecting and meeting in the mornings - and Site Council parents felt that 8:45 is more convenient for parents who are also dropping off elementary students at our neighboring feeder schools. The schedule will still include a 7-period day with advisory every day.

2-7-16

It's a busy time at Sanford! We had fun hosting Open House last week for our incoming 6th graders, as well as participating in the district Choice Fair on Saturday at the Convention Center. I love promoting Sanford by sharing all the great things happening here! It is truly a vibrant school.

Parent Conferences are coming up this week on Thursday & Friday - we hope to see everyone there! Although each conference is short, we love having the chance to meet you or re-connect with you, and share what's fabulous about your kids and what we hope to improve. Please join us!

1-25-16

I apologize for all the drama around the superintendent selection. Whatever the Board decides to do, rest assured that Sanford is doing well, and will continue to do so! With so many amazing teachers and students, how could we not?

We look forward to seeing parents for Parent/Teacher Conferences on Thursday, Feb 11th 5:00-8:00pm, and Friday, Feb 12th 8:00am - 4:00pm. Conferences are always walk-in, so you can come when it's convenient for you. We encourage parents to bring your student with you to be part of the conversation!

Thank you for sending us your fabulous students - they make it all worthwhile.

1-10-16

We are finally seeing some very visible progress with the new addition, now that the windows have been put in! It finally is starting to look like the artist's rendering that's been hanging in the office. Very exciting! The whole project is still on pace to be finished in time for school to start in the fall.

Good news - the emergency door on the north side is once again usable, so our Choir & Band concerts will be held at Sanford. We are grateful to Dowling for hosting our fall play in December while construction made it impossible to fill the auditorium. Please check out photos on the website and our Facebook page of the fabulous Lion King production!

As we near the end of first semester and the beginning of 2016, it is a time of reflection for all of us. I am so proud of how well everyone handled the stress this fall from both construction and scheduling drama. Teachers are stressed by sharing classrooms & having less prep time than last year, but have done a great job of keeping that stress away from the kids. We've had more respiratory issues and sick days with both kids and adults being next to a constuction site, but again, our folks are handling it with grace. I could not ask for a better staff or community!

We have learned that 800 students is not enough to run a schedule with high-school-level choices. While putting all the Specialists on the 3-week rotation solved the problem of students having access to all the classes they want/need, it created a new set of stressors for both teachers and students with having to switch classes so often. So for next year, we are looking at more options for how to "do it all". No decisions yet, but the schedule team is hard at work. Stay tuned for more info!

The budget process is happening earlier than usual this year, in an effort to be able to start & finish staffing earlier as well. This is potentially a great thing, as it could allow us to finishing hiring before school gets out. That's the goal. Our Site Council will work with the Administrative Team on the budget process in February. We will share updates with the Sanford Parent Group (SPG) as always as well.

As much as I have hated the construction process for the last year, I have come to love the Sanford community even more intensely than ever (if that's possible?!) We simply have the best people anywhere - teachers, staff, students, families - the best. There is truly no where else I would rather be.

I look forward to seeing many families at our Choir concert this coming Tuesday 1/12, 6:30pm, and at our Band concert on Tueday 1/26, also 6:30pm. We have a fabulous music department, and I am so proud of our students!

As always, please contact me with any questions, comment, kudos or concerns. You can reach me directly at 612-668-4901 or emily.palmer@mpls.k12.mn.us - or just call the office & ask for me. I appreciate all the parents who take the time to let me know what's going on, both good and bad. We know we are always improving.

11-13-15

Thank you to parents & staff who came out to our Sanford Parent Group (SPG) meeting last night for the State of the School presentation. We had a small group and a great discussion! There is a LOT going on at Sanford!

I shared some of what I see as our Strengths and Challenges. Most importantly, I appreciate the strength that our teachers bring to work every day that allows them to keep the stress of our challenges away from the kids! Our kids are having a great year, despite the construction, scheduling, and district mandates that cause a lot of stress. Our teachers are awesome!

Strengths:

  • MYP Authorization, 7-period day
  • 8 subject areas for all students
  • Addition of Choir, Ojibwe, Coding
  • Advisory every day
  • Mainstream connections with ASD/DCD and ESL students
  • Great teachers! Relationships!

Challenges:

  • Scheduling - Balancing student choices with class sizes
  • OCR Agreement - training with alternatives to suspension & removal
  • Construction stress!
    • Air quality
    • Noise
    • Displacement

 

Luckily, all that doesn't take up all my time, and I still get to spend time in classrooms.  Today, I heard a great line from a 7th grader in a classroom discussion: "The whole point of having parents is so they can guide you to get ready to be an adult." And then another student said: "My parents want me to do well, but in order to get ready for adulthood, I have to make my own choices; they’re not always going to be right by my side." I thought these two lines really captured the tension that parents - and teachers - feel with middle schoolers! On the one hand, our kids need to start doing more things independently, and making more of their own choices. But on the other hand, they still need our guidance!

I also heard kids talking very maturely about parents who try to be their kid's friend, or who don't want their kid to be mad at them. I always tell parents: in middle school, you kid is supposed to be mad at you! Teens have to push boundaries, and parents have to judge when to hold firm and when/how to negotiate. It's not easy, but it's important.

Keep the faith, parents! :)

 

11-9-15

I had several parent phone conversations today, and appreciated the chance to talk with each one! Although our Sanford staff members are all generally awesome, we are not perfect, and I welcome the chance to get involved with any situation that is not unfolding to your satisfaction.  It is always OK to ask a staff member to involve the principal, or for you to just call me directly. I also love to hear about what's going well!

Tonight we have a Board meeting about the superintendent search, which is in process. We expect to have a permanent superintendent chosen in December - either Interim Superintendent Goar, or someone new. No matter who is selected, we will do our best to ensure that Sanford is a stable, thriving school into the future!

This Thursday, our Sanford Parent Group (SPG) meeting will include our annual State of the School presentation & discussion. Please join us at 6:00pm in the media center to learn about some of what's going well at Sanford, and what we're doing to address some of our challenges. I'd love to see you there!

Please call me any time with questions, concerns, or feedback of any kind! My direct line is 612-668-4901 and it's on the front page of the website too, so you can always find it.

11-1-15

What a busy fall! Tomorrow, 11/2 begins our second B rotation. We are still adjusting to switching Spacialist classes every 3 weeks, but we'll get the hang of it. 3 weeks is the best compromise between switching every other day, which requires some teachers to have to know and grade 300 kids at the same time, and semesters, which cause us to lose concurance and risk students forgetting everything they learned waiting 6 months or a year before the next rotation! (IB does not allow this for more than 2 classes for this reason.)

We had a fabulous Professional Development day with the staff on Thursday, 10/29! I know it's a challenge for some families to have students out of school on these days, but the learning for teachers is well worth it. It is so important for the adults to have time to learn together!

Construction is moving along - always irritating, but we try hard to keep focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. The new addition is going to be fabulous next year. :)

Thank you for sending us your wonderful students - they make it all worthwhile!

 

9-9-15

UGH - construction is not fun this week. (OK, is it ever?!)  Roofing tar smells are just gross - hope that gets done this week. We did get some good news today: the venting in the cafeteria will be repaired within a few days! And the PA system & clocks will finally be repaired this week as well. They are working evenings to get things done that they can't work on during the school day.

More info to come at the Sanford Parent Meeting tomorrow night - 9/10/15, 6:00pm in the media center. Hope to see you there!

9-7-15

We're off to a good start this year, despite the heat and construction stress! The inside HVAC work did get finished in time for us to start school, but the building was not cleaned completely as we had hoped. The residual dust + the humidity & heat created a pretty icky circumstance this past week, with many students visiting the nurse's office with heat-related illness. I am so grateful that the weather is cooling this coming week!

Parent drop-off and pick up has been a challenge since we lost the sidewalk on 42nd Ave. We appreciate everone's patience. We try hard to keep cars & buses in separate areas, so that everyone stays safe, but with buses down all of 42st and 36th, there isn't much space left for cars.  In the morning, parents can drop off on 36th close to 42nd, and students can use door #13 by the rock. In the afternoon, it's best to pull in across the street, and remind students to cross at the corners for safety. Next year, buses will be on 42nd Av, and parents will be able to use 41st and the parking lot again!

We are over-projection in enrollment for the 3rd year in a row. (Maybe more - I've only been here 3 years.) This is "a great problem to have" and we are grateful that so many families are choosing Sanford! But it does create some challenges.  Because the building is quite full, we are requesting that the district close us to new students rather than give us additional staffing. Stay tuned for more info as we learn more.

Our first Sanford Parent Group meeting of the year is coming up this Thursday, 9/10, at 6:00pm in Sanford's cafeteria. We will have a mini-Open House since we were not able to do that in August.  All Sanford families are welcome, and I hope to see you there! :)

8-23-15

Below is the text of the auto-call that I sent home to all families & staff this afternoon:
 

Good afternoon, Sanford Families and Staff. This is Dr. Palmer, principal of Sanford, with a message about starting school tomorrow. 

The building is ready! I am thrilled to say that with the hard work and overtime of both contractor crews and Minneapolis custodial crews, as well as the extra help of many Sanford teachers and staff, the inside construction is finished, all our furniture is back where it belongs, and the building cleaning is finishing up today. The external construction will continue all year.

If you came into the building over the last couple of weeks, you no doubt wondered how we would possibly be ready in time. I am happy to say that we are ready, and we look forward to welcoming students and staff to a new school year tomorrow.

School starts at 8:30am this year. Breakfast will be served at 8:10am. The morning program will start next week, so for this week, please arrive between 8:00 and 8:30am. When students get to school tomorrow, 6th graders will gather in the auditorium, 7th graders in the cafeteria, and 8th graders in the gym on 2nd floor. Students should bring their school supplies if you already have them.

Please continue to check the Sanford website for updates on what’s going on with construction, academics, athletics, arts, and all the happenings at Sanford.

Have a wonderful day today and we will start a great school year tomorrow!

 

8-19-15

School starts on Monday!  After a summer of construction inside and outside, we are moving to the next phase. The crews are finishing up, the movers and cleaners are busy, and teachers are getting set up to welcome our students for the 2015-16 school year!

I am sorry that we are unable to hold an Open House before school starts this year, but we will be cleaning right through the weekend to be ready for students on Monday. We appreciate all the families who came out to our 6th grade Orientation meetings and Team meetings this summer - my hope is that everyone is feeling ready for the year!

Our first Sanford Parent Group meeting will be Thursday, September 10th at 6:00pm. I look forward to sharing more information about our academic successes and school improvement plan for the coming year, as well as construction updates and more that's going on at Sanford. Please join us - all families are welcome! This will also be an opportunity for tours of the school for any new families who didn't get that chance this summer.

Welcome to the 2015-16 school year!

 

8-10-15

It's been a busy summer at Sanford! If you've had a chance to drive by, you have seen the great progress Westin has made in building our new addition. What you can't see is what's happening inside the building as they add HVAC for air conditioning!  Half the building will have AC this year (as of Sept, of course) and the other half will get it before school starts in fall 2016.

A big thank you to Mara Bernick and all the families who attended one of our 6th grade orientation meetings or Team meetings this summer!  Being off-site at Longfellow and Howe is not ideal, but we are grateful to our neighbors for hosting us.

I posted a new note on the main webpage about Middle School Athletics changes. Bottom line is this is an ambitious change and we still have details to work out. I trust that once we figure it all out it will be good for kids! But I know there was a lot of confusion after the initial notice went out to families. My sincere apologies for that.

Teachers return to work on Monday, Aug. 17th, and then school starts on Monday Aug. 24th! Despite the challenge of reclaiming our building from the construction workers and getting rooms ready with very little turn-around time, we are confident that we will be ready for students on the first day, and very much looking forward to meeting our Hawks and getting the new year started! :)

 

7-15-15

We did it! We have achieved IB Authorization. I am so proud of our awesome faculty and students. Their hard work has really paid off and the evaluators were very impressed! Of course there is still work to do, but for now, we have a "seal of approval" from an international body affirming that our kids are getting a great education at Sanford.

 

6-7-15

"I am here and so are you. And we matter. We can change things."  ~ Ella Baker

It is fitting to end the year with a success story in the StarTribune:
http://www.startribune.com/duets-kobe-and-chontavious/306282861/

These boys have worked hard, but they have also been guided by many folks at Sanford in many different ways. This profile is a huge kudos to our whole staff for creating the school that nurtures such success in our kids.

This year has brought some significant challenges as we went under construction to add a $19M expansion! After the booming & banging there was the dust, and then not being able to use all of our facilities as planned. But we made it through, and then some. We also got everything put together for our IB Authorization visit in May, and have high hopes that we will be authorized on the first try this summer! We hope to hear before school starts in the fall.

I am thrilled to report that despite the challenges, Sanford made some good gains across the board this year - the % of proficient students went up on every test. The number of proficient students overall went up 4.5% in Math, 5% in Science, and 6% in Reading.  That's the highest of all the 6-8 middle schools in MPS!  As we work to close racial achievement gaps, we are happy that we also saw gains in proficiency on all 3 tests for our Black and our Native students - the groups that have historically scored the lowest at Sanford. In fact, our Native students gained 11% proficiency in Reading and 15% in Science! :)

So it was a challenging year, but the results are encouraging, and we have lots to be proud of. We will be vacating the building on 6/12 and handing it over to the contractors until August, so I will be reachable by email this summer, not by phone. Please contact emily.palmer@mpls.k12.mn.us with any questions or feedback.

Thank you for a wonderful year!

5-22-15

We are getting ready to welcome next year's 6th graders! The following letter will be going home with 5th graders at our 5 feeder schools (Bancroft, Dowling, Howe, Northrop & Pratt) today:

Dear 5th Grade Families:

We are looking forward to welcoming our new 6th grade class! I want to give you some information before the year is out about what’s happening this summer and next fall at Sanford. You can find updates on our website too: http://sanford.mpls.k12.mn.us

Over the summer, Sanford will offer “6th Grade Survival Workshops” designed for incoming students & families to come & learn more about middle school. It’s a chance to ask lots of questions, and get some details about how middle school is different from elementary. All workshops will be 6:00-7:30pm, and will be located at Longfellow Park, since Sanford is under construction. You can choose any one date that is convenient for you – no RSVP needed.

Tu, June 16 ~ Thu, June 18 ~ Tu, July 21 ~ Thu, July 23 ~ Tu, Aug 4 ~ Wed, Aug 5

Also, we are excited to announce that after two years of planning, our school hours have been extended and our school day for students will be 8:30am – 3:45pm next year. Our morning program will run 7:30-8:15am and our after school program will be 4:00-5:00pm. We are thrilled that MPS is making this investment in our middle schools!

We hope to have contact info soon from MPS for all the families who have chosen Sanford for next year, and we will send out more information at that time. In the meantime, please give me a call or email with any questions about Sanford, whether your student is already signed up, or you’re still looking at options. We know that the transition to middle school is a big one, and we are here to help in every way we can.

Welcome to Sanford!

 

 

5-7-15

It's Teacher Appreciation Week! We have the BEST teachers anywhere, and it's fun to spend some intentional time showing them how much they are valued here at Sanford. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to honoring our wonderful faculty! In addition to the cards & treats from administration, our students have created special cards for each teacher, parents provided lunch for teachers on Thursday, and the Blue Door restaurant across the street hosted a gathering for our teachers with free appetizers on Wednesday! What a great neighbor! :)

Right now, we are in the midst of interviews for next year. We have one retirement this year: Anne Scheible is leaving the math department. We are grateful for Anne's years of service to both Sanford and the Minneapolis Schools! We are also adding to our Music, World Language, and Special Ed departments for next year. We appreciate the extra funding we have received from the district for the 7-period day (more classes means more teachers!) and also the work being done to lengthen the school day for students. We have not heard the final word yet, but are anticipating our school day to be 8:30-3:45 next year, which adds 45 minutes for students. Stay tuned!

We got some welcome news today: the student school day next year will be 8:30am - 3:45pm. This adds 45 minutes to the school day - horray! We have been advocating for a longer school day for our kids in order to facilitate MYP implementation of all students taking classes in all 8 MYP subject areas. We are so excited to see years of planning come to fruition. :)

4-6-15

I am looking forward to meeting with Sanford families next week at our monthly Sanford Parent Group (SPG) meeting on Thurs, 4/16 at 6:00pm. On the agenda are new start times, the 2015-16 budget, new staff positions for fall, and our school's leadership profile. We will also discuss the district's new Site Council expectations for next year.  I appreciate everyone's input and look forward to meeting with many Sanford families!

I was pleased to visit our Spring Break Academy students last Friday and see the cool STEM projects they spent their spring break working on! Classes included Web Design, Lego Robotics, Architecture, and many more. Students were having a great time and very proud to show off their work. A big thank you to district leaders who shifted the Spring Break Academy focus from traditional "test prep" to a more meaningful experience for our kids. Love it!

3-5-15

I received this great note this morning from Maria Kimmes, our district K-12 Health & Phy Ed Content Lead, who came over to Sanford for 2 days to sub so that Julie Anderson could go to Eagle Bluff with the 7th graders:

I was a reserve teacher at Sanford Middle School for the past two days working in health and physical education classes. I had a fabulous experience. The students were well behaved, respectful and engaged. The staff were welcoming, helpful and genuinely happy to be there. I was impressed with how seamlessly students respond to the no-bell schedule. There were no tardy students. The culture of relationships and learning is apparent. Thank you!

Our Interim Superintendent, Michael Goar, talks about "schools as the unit of change" and how the district staff can be supporting us - I think this is an example of that philosophy in action!  Having the district content lead available to teach classes for 2 days was a gift that allowed us to have a PE teacher with us at Eagle Bluff. What a win-win for kids!

3-2-15

I am heading to Lanesboro after school to join the 7th graders at the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center!  I have the gift of not being afraid of heights, so I enjoy doing the high ropes course with the kids. It is amazing to watch kids test their limits and succeed at something they've never done before! I love being a small part of that experience with them.

A big thank you to the parents who are joining us on the trip this year: Sandy, David, Lori, Laura, and Bridget. Parents are a great help and we are grateful to each of you for your willingness to take time away from work & family to chaperone 7th graders for 3 days. :)

Sanford also sent a group of 8th graders to the Dominican Republic today for 9 days abroad! Stay tuned for updates and photos from both of these fantastic trips.

2-23-15

Life is interesting being right next to a construction site. Although we are walled off from the construction zone, the "demolition phase" can get pretty noisy sometimes! But our staff & students are handling it well. I am so proud of all of our Hawks for keeping learning at the center, despite the distractions.

If you drive by on 42nd Avenue, you get a great view of the NE wing coming down! Soon the old will be gone, and we will enjoy watching the building of the new. We have a new high-school-sized gym and three floors of new classrooms coming in. This year's 6th graders will be the lucky 8th graders who get to enjoy the new building in 2016-17!

2-6-15

We had a great time welcoming next year's 6th grade students & families on Thursday at the 2015 Sanford Information Night!  I was so impressed with the turn out - so many families taking the time to come out & learn about what middle school is like at Sanford & what we have to offer. The concert band impressed us with songs including "Let It Go", our parent group chair got teary talking about her sons' experiences at Sanford & noting that this is her last year with us, and students shared their  stories of their experiences at Sanford.  I talked with many 5th graders who are excited for middle school and looking forward to coming to Sanford next year.

Thank you all for coming! As always, please give me a call any time with questions - 612-668-4901 - even if your student is younger than 5th grade. It's never too early to start preparing for the transition to middle school.

1-12-15

It's hard to believe we are already half way through the school year! Thursday 1/15 is the last day of the first semester. No school on Friday or Monday, then the new semester begins on 1/20, the day after MLK Day.

Sanford hit a milestone just before winter break: 800 students! Our school has doubled in size in less than a decade, thanks to the hard work of our wonderful staff and the faith of our community. We will continue to strive for excellence and to go the extra mile for our kids every day.

We took one more step forward on the journey toward International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) authorization this fall.  After several years as a candidate school, our application for IB World School authorization was sent in on October 1st, and we were notified on November 4th that we passed with flying colors! A site visit has been scheduled for May 2015. KUDOS to everyone who helped make that happen.   

We have several parent events happening in February:

* Our annual Information Night for prospective students & families is coming up on Thursday, Feb 5th. Next year's 6th grade teachers will be in attendance to share information about Sanford and what to expect. 

* National African American Parent Involvement Day (NAAPID) is Monday, Feb. 9. Watch the home page of the website for info about specific events happening at Sanford that day.

* Parent/Teacher Conferences will be the evening of Feb 12 and during the day on Feb 13. All conferences are unscheduled "walk-up" so parents can come any time during the conference window.

* Our State of the School presentation for winter will be on Thursday, Feb. 19th at 6:00pm, in conjunction with our regular monthly Sanford Parent Group (SPG) meeting. All Sanford families and community members are welcome to come hear about Sanford's goals & progress. We will share updates about the construction/expansion process that night as well.

Check out the new "Construction Updates" section on our website - we will continue to post photos and information for families as construction progresses. Please contact me with any questions: 612-668-4901 or emily.palmer@mpls.k12.mn.us - Thank you!