Sunday, June 26, 2011

KIPP School Jacksonville

This morning, I was cruising through the Florida Times-Union with my morning cup of coffee and opened the opinion page to find a rather interesting article on one of Jacksonville's newest charter schools...the KIPP school on Jacksonville's northside.  If you've lived in Duval County for any length of time, you are aware of the numerous disparities among its citizens.  There are sections of town that are under-served in many areas; education, notwithstanding. 

KIPP stands for "Knowledge is Power Program."  If you "google" KIPP, you will find information regarding the program, its tenets, its structure, its mission, etc.  KIPP is a college preparatory school.  A normal school day for "KIPPers" begins at 7:20 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m.  Arts instruction is mandatory for every student.  The article states that "these students have about 700 more hours of instruction during the school year than their public school peers.  It's a hothouse of academic expectations."  This is a public school.  Neighborhood kids were recruited to attend this school.

My eye was drawn to the photograph that was included with the article.  It showed a group of students sitting upright in their chairs with music stands in front of them, an open score on each stand and an instrument in every student's hand.  Band is required at this KIPP school.  "Every student is expected to participate.  Principal Robert Hawke said it not only establishes a common theme for the students, but the process of learning a musical instrument produces the character traits of discipline, hard work and a beautiful outcome in the end."  Thank you, Mr. Hawke, for affirming the importance of Arts education in your students' lives.  You are to be commended.

With so much uncertainty swirling around those of us who have dedicated our lives to Arts education, it is  most gratifying to see the value placed on this particular area of study in this particular learning environment.  Kudos to the folks at KIPP!!

If you would like to enjoy the article for yourself, it can be found at  The title of the article is "KIPP School Offers Hope in Northwest."  Sunday, June 26, 2011.

Until next time...

Friday, June 24, 2011


As a kid, I spent three summers of my life swimming on the Ponte Vedra Swim Team.  I rode my bike to the pool every day (3 miles roundtrip), swam laps for 1.5 hours and then pedaled back home.  Practice started at 7:00 a.m. and this was a daily occurance throughout the course of the summer.  I learned to swim all four competitive strokes (front crawl, back crawl, breast stroke and butterfly) plus two recovery strokes (sidestroke and elementary backstroke) and I won numerous ribbons, medals and trophies along the way.

Fast-forward 38 years.....

I am now a certified Red Cross Water Safety Instructor and am spending my days in the pool teaching swimming lessons.  I currently have students ranging from 3 years of age to adult. 

Working on the "flutter kick"

Learning the "back float"

Swimming through a hula-hoop

The sound of water splashing and the smell of chlorine excite me. I'm sporting my new summer "do" (short and sassy) and enjoying the privilege of working with kids in a completely different way.

Living the dream...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Korea's Got Talent 2011

Meet Choi Sung-bong and listen with your heart.

"Beauty from ashes..."  Isaiah 61:3

Until next time...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Field Days 2011

You know it's getting close to the end of the year when folks start talking about "field days."  When you've got six grade levels to cover and 1352 students, it truly takes "days" to git-r-done!

This year's field day experience was by far, one of the best ever!  Coach Estrella Bailey and her team did a fantastic job of planning, organizing and delivering one of the most fun-filled events of the year.  We are extremely grateful for the folks from the Mayport Naval Base who came out every day to assist.  They were a huge help to us and we wouldn't have survived the experience without them.

On a personal note, I headed up the line-dancing station under the pavillion.  Over a three-day period  in 98-degree weather, we did the "Cha Cha Slide," the "Limbo," the "Macarena," the "Chicken Dance" and the "Hokey Pokey" forty-nine times!

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Flag Retirement 2011

Memorial Day is a day we honor those who have fallen in battle while protecting our freedom.  It is a day of sadness for many and a day of hope for many others.  I will never again be able to listen to the "Navy Hymn" without tearing up.  My father was a Navy veteran who served in WWII.  He passed away 11 years ago and his memory lives on in my mind and heart, especially while standing at attention and honoring our country's flag.

At Chets Creek, we retire the flags that have flown over our school in a ceremony prior to Memorial Day.  With 200 patrols, honored guests, our entire learning community and parents lining the bus loop, it is a sight to behold.  It is heart-warming and educational for our students.  It is handled with dignity and honor by my principal.  It provides us with a "moment of silence" in our hurried lives to reflect on the flag and the people it represents.

This year, I invited a trumpet player from the Fletcher High School Band to perform "TAPS" and one of my fourth graders to sing the "Star Spangled Banner."  Both students performed exceptionally well and it was an honor to have them take part in the ceremony.

Jacob playing "TAPS"

"TAPS" is a bugle call that beckons us to remember patriots who served our country with honor and valor.  Most people do not know that there is an actual lyric to this song, because it is always played by a brass player.
The lyrics are as follows:

"Day is done, gone the sun
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh"

Katie sang the "Star Spangled Banner"

Katie represented Chets Creek Elementary at the Florida Elementary Music Educators' Association conference in Tampa last January.  She was part of a 114-voice choir that performed during our clinic and it was a pleasure to welcome her back to the podium to perform for us.

May they never be forgotten...

Until next time...