Blankenburg Elementary School Focus Group Meeting

Blankenburg Elementary School

Click here for the November 3rd APPS report for the initial Blankenburg Elementary Priority School meeting.

By Karel Kilimnik
December 22, 2016

This meeting was held in the school’s library on November 22 at 10:30 AM. Present were three parents, two staff from FACE, and I. Trevor Yates represented Cambridge Education, APPS’ Karel Kilimnik.

Mr. Yates conducted the meeting. He cited the following items they heard from stakeholders via surveys:


  • The principal is admired and respected.
  • There are partner organizations involved in the school including volunteers in the library. (There were several older computers plus a small collection of books in the library.)
  • Faculty and staff care about the students.


  • Parents are unsure how to support their children, especially when trying to help them with math homework.
  • Lack of afterschool programs.

Yates then went through his list of questions. He first asked about academic progress. Parents responded that the principal has contributed significantly because he calls parents to get them involved; supports teachers; and has volunteers coming into the school. When queried about providing for advanced students, the parents said there is a need to challenge these children. I asked what staff had been lost when Hite and the SRC Doomsday Budget was enacted. Blankenburg lost their nurse, counselor, and NTA.

Yates asked about admission and dismissal procedures. Parents said that despite the lack of staff, the principal has established safe entrance and exit procedures.

Next Yates moved onto climate and culture. How does information about your child get shared with you? Responses included: via phone calls from the teacher; interim reports; quarterly report card conferences; and the principal communicates through the school website, flyers, phone calls, and a monthly calendar.

When asked what the school is doing about absenteeism, he was told that there both personal calls and robo-calls are made. Teachers and the principal call about both absences and behavior issues; positive behavior is reinforced. Teachers have good relationships with parents.

When asked about the physical plant parents, expressed concern about the condition of the toilets and the lack of supplies like toilet paper. They felt that the custodian does a good job of cleaning the building, which is obvious when one steps into the building.

Parents also said that there is a need for more anti-bullying measures, even though there is a program in place. More social skills classes for both students and teachers would be beneficial. Blankenberg needs more tech equipment, NTAs; and the reinstatement of a Home and School Association. As this discussion continued, Yates stated that Cambridge does not make recommendations and closed his notebook. Cambridge does an overview for the district, but Dr. Hite will make the final recommendation.

by Karel Kilimnik

Feedback and Findings Meeting

This meeting was held Tuesday December 6 at 9 AM in the school’s auditorium. Present: Rashene Davis-Bowie, Network 2 District Superintendent; Trevor Yates, Cambridge Education; three Blankenberg parents; APPS members Lisa Haver, Lynda Rubin and Karel Kilimnik.

The stated purpose of this meeting was to review that information, to listen to any new ideas from the community, and to talk about the next steps in the process.

Ms. Davis-Bowie presented her overview of “why all children deserve a high-performing school in their neighborhood”, again referring to the “pockets of excellence” map of district schools.

The School Quality Review (SQR) was completed by the Cambridge Team over four weeks. They collected stakeholder feedback and conducted classroom observations. Their observers were charged with finding both factors that support student learning and those which limit student learning. They looked at the quality of teaching and learning, curriculum and assessment, school leadership, the culture of learning, and community engagement.

Yates reported that Cambridge heard via surveys that the principal has improved the school significantly, that the climate is more conducive to learning, that the staff is respected by students and parents, and that family and community engagement has improved.

Mr.Yates stated that Cambridge was there to “ID the main factors that either support or limit student learning.” Yates said more than once that their focus was on student learning and not the teacher. He listed the following factors which support learning:

  • Blankenburg has made improvements in school culture
  • Rising expectations for behavior and achievement
  • Improved parent communication from teachers
  • Increased family and community involvement

Factors which Cambridge concluded were limiting learning:

  • The condition of the facility is lacking (e.g., most classrooms have only one electrical outlet)
  • Rigor is low in most lessons
  • In some classrooms every student is working on the same worksheet
  • Grade level meetings are not happening
  • There are limited resources including up-to-date books and technology

Yates said that they asked some students in the class: What are you learning today? He said that in “too many” of the 23 classrooms they visited, students were all working on the same activity. They didn’t say why they thought that was an impediment to learning or what a better alternative would be. They quoted one unidentified student who said that “the teachers don’t teach us what we need.” On the other hand, some students said that the teachers try to teach, but don’t have the books or materials they need. Yates would not give numbers of how many surveys were distributed and collected or how many students and parents attended focus groups. (Yates did say at another school that in only two of the eleven schools did Cambridge collect enough surveys to use them in any way other than anecdotal.)

Yates did not explain how the Cambridge observers were able to assess the quality of teaching and learning after only a 15-minute visit to each classroom. The linked report indicates that the Cambridge team was scheduled to visit only 10 classrooms over the two-day site visit.

Click here for the District’s Final Report for Blankenberg Elementary.