November 18, 2021

Message from Deputy Superintendent of Academics Dr. Marion Smith Jr 
  Kasserian Ingera?
(And How Are The Children?)

And How Are the Children?
Among the many fabled and accomplished tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have more warriors more fearsome and intelligent than the mighty Masai. It’s often surprising then, to learn the traditional greeting passed among the Masai warriors, “Kasserian Ingera,” one would always say to each other. And what it meant was, “And how are the children?”

It is still the traditional greeting of the Masai, acknowledging the high value the Masai placed on the children’s well-being. Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer, “All the children are well.” This meant that peace and safety prevail; the priorities of protecting the young and the powerless are in place; that the Masai people had not forgotten their reason for being, their proper function, and their responsibility.

“All the children are well” means life is good. It means the daily struggles of existence, even among those poor and less fortunate, include the proper care of the young and defenseless.

As I reflect on my time in SLPS, since starting as your new Deputy Superintendent of Academics in late July 2021, I wonder how it might impact our consciousness of our own children’s welfare, if we took to greeting each other with the same question daily: “And how are the children?”

I wonder if we heard that greeting passed along to each other a dozen times a day, whether it would begin to make a difference in the reality of how children are thought of and cared for. I wonder what it would be like if every adult among us—parents, caregivers, and non-parents alike—felt an equal weight of personal responsibility for the daily care and protection of all the children in our classrooms, schools and school district. I wonder whether we could truly say without hesitation, “The children are well. Yes, all the children are well.”

So, I ask you, “Kasserian Ingera?”

I look forward to our continued collaboration as we strive to disrupt and dismantle inequitable systems, policies, practices and procedures to create the conditions to ensure that all SLPS children are well!  

REMINDER: Academic Office Focus on Scholar Learning (FOSL) - Learning Walks

In addition to my individual school site visits and classroom walkthroughs with Network Superintendents and school leaders over the past few months, I, along with a small group of leaders in the Academic Office, will begin FOSL Learning Walks after the Thanksgiving holiday break. HERE is the schedule for Round 1 of these Learning Walks. All schools will be visited at least 2 times as part of this Learning Walk process.

Information about the WHAT and the WHY of these Learning Walks was shared in the Oct. 21, 2021,  Academic Office Newsletter. Check it out HERE for a reminder.

Happy National American Education Week

Those who can...DO. Those who can do more... ARE EDUCATORS!

November 15-19, 2021 is National American Education Week. This time presents us with another opportunity to celebrate public education and to recognize individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every scholar receives a high-quality, effective, responsive and culturally affirming education.

SHOUT OUT to all SLPS educators for striving to keep our business of learning, teaching and scholar growth at the center of our daily work. I appreciate you!

Whether it’s from my time as a K-12 student, teacher and administrator in my hometown of Las Vegas, NV (Clark County School District), to my time as a school principal in the School District of Philadelphia and Seattle Public Schools, or looking at my time as a superintendent of schools in Summit School District, to my current role serving as lead learner as Deputy Superintendent of Academics in SLPS, I celebrate public education and show my appreciation for all who make a difference in the lives of our scholars and families each day.

Your partner in education,

Marion Smith Jr, EdD
Deputy Superintendent of Academics 
Network Spotlight: 
Network 6
CommUNITY Fun Days at CVPA- is an annual event created to intentionally build CommUNITY among our school family (scholars, staff and community partners). It is an outward show of appreciation, gratitude, kindness and pure fun! At CVPA our desire to sustain a positive school culture is our “weapon of choice”.  Scholars enjoyed an outdoor pep rally with the bubble bus, ice-cream truck, live performances, grade-level talent and teambuilding. Our celebration ended with our grand finale, an evening celebration at the City Museum!

PerformLAB- CVPA High School presents a new staged workshop series. After time spent in the virtual classroom, the scholars at Central VPA are stepping back under the stage lights and in front of a live audience. With that transition, the collaborative team of artists and school leaders created PerformLAB--think, TEDtalks for the arts. During each PerformLAB, scholars are encouraged to take risks, overcome stage fright, and workshop collaboratively with peers. While this may be the first time on stage for many of our scholars, the audience is also considered a critical part of the room, and they are challenged with audience etiquette and showing support and kindness--after all, they might be up next week!
Culture Clubs at CVPA - This year, all scholars are enrolled in clubs during the school day. Teachers volunteer to host a variety of clubs such as gardening, knitting, theatre appreciation, video games, ceramics, spirit squad, team sports and true crime to name a few.  This is an opportunity for our scholars to grow through experiences outside of academics and to make connections with both scholars and staff. We are intentionally building a positive culture and climate through exploration and the arts, one scholar at a time.
Department Spotlight:
School Culture & Climate
Culture & Climate
The Culture and Climate Department offers support to schools through school partnerships that include staff professional development, teacher behavior management observations and coaching, school systems analysis, behavioral data support and more! 
Our Mission
The Culture and Climate Department of the Academic Office, in alignment with the SLPS mission, will effectively collaborate and review districtwide data and procedures to inform and create a more positive school culture and climate by developing a common language with best practices and interventions that impact Saint Louis Public Schools.    

Our Vision
To be the department that informs, supports and shapes change within schools across the district to promote a more positive school culture and climate for scholars and ultimately, wellness within the school-based staff and all stakeholders.

 Our Practices
We leverage Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), Social Justice and Restorative Practices, Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), Trauma-Informed Practices and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy to support schools and scholars.

Our Terms and Beliefs
  • School Climate refers to the school's effects on scholars, including teaching practices; diversity; and the relationships among administrators, teachers, parents, and scholars.
  • School Culture refers to the way teachers and other staff members work together and the set of beliefs, values, and assumptions they share. 
  • A positive school climate and school culture promote students' ability to learn.
Culture & Climate Support: 
School Leaders: If you need culture and climate support for your school, please consider signing up for a Culture & Climate School Partnership for your team, review these best practices and interventions that promote a positive and safe school and classroom culture and environment: Culture and Climate Resource Toolkit and the Culture Camp Resource Toolkit, or reach out to Casetta Brown as she can assist you or connect you with our partners from Mizzou or EducationPlus.

For more guidance please contact Casetta, School Culture & Climate Coordinator -

Curriculum & Instruction Spotlight

November is Native American Heritage Month
As we continue to create awareness and learning opportunities for Native American Heritage Month, the Curriculum and Instruction Department has curated additional resources that teachers might find useful in the classroom.  Please access the 2021 Native American Heritage Month Instructional Toolkit HERE. 
Reflect, Restore and Recenter on Learning & Teaching 
During the Thanksgiving holiday break, please allow yourself time to reflect, to restore and to refresh in preparation for recentering our efforts on the work of learning and teaching when we return to school on November 29th.  

Listed below are seven strategies to 'recenter' scholars after a break:
  1.  Send a note or newsletter home to families to share information about what’s next in your class.
  2. Ask for assistance if you need it.  If you need support accessing the learning and teaching tools, let your school leaders know and they will work with you to ensure that you get the support you need.  
  3. Check-in with scholars.  Let them know that you thought about them in a positive way during your break and continue to build relationships based on mutual respect and trust.
  4. Re-visit classroom goals and routines.
  5. Freshen up your learning and teaching space by rearranging seating and establishing a new seating chart.
  6. Give a quick formative assessment to find out what scholars already know about new topics.  Use the data to develop lesson plans to meet their needs.
  7. Share Stories. Your scholar’s adventures may still be on their minds during the first few days of class from the holiday break. Give them an opportunity to write about their adventures and find innovative ways to share their stories with their classmates.
For more guidance about Curriculum and Instruction, please contact Dr. Kimberly Moody, Director of Curriculum & Instruction -

Subject Area Spotlight:

English Language Arts

Savvas ELA Implementation Update
Scholars in grades PK-8 have been engaging with new standards-aligned resources to support the SLPS ELA Standards-Based Curriculum Plans. These programs, formally adopted by the SLPS Board of Education in the Spring of 2021 for implementation in the 2021-2022 school year, provide high-quality, research-based resources for nearly 14,000 scholars in grades PK-8.
  • Three Cheers (PK)
  • myView Literacy (K-5)
  • myPerspectives (6-8)
Savvas Parent Event
SAVE THE DATE: December 2, 2021 from 6-7 pm as we partner with Savvas to provide professional development for parents, caregivers and families. This hour will be spent engaging with scholars’ families on how to access the Savvas Realize platform and how our families can support their scholars at home. A moderator will be on hand to field questions directly from our families and provide immediate responses. This event will be held on Zoom and will be recorded. Click here to access the Zoom meeting on December 2.
Winter Break Contest  |  ELA Winter Workout
Stay tuned for information regarding an exciting opportunity for scholars to engage with the Savvas platform during the winter break. This contest, “ELA Winter Workout” will provide structured activities for scholars to complete. Prizes will be awarded to the elementary classes and middle school classes with the highest engagement over winter break. More details are forthcoming.
Upcoming ELA PD Booster Sessions
As teachers continue to work through the implementation of the new ELA curriculum resources, please be sure to make time to join the ELA Team and Savvas for these upcoming PD Booster Sessions:
  • December 7, 2021 (myPerspectives) – Diving Deep Into Performance Tasks
  • December 8, 2021 (myView) - A Closer Look into Unit 2 Project-Based Inquiry
  • December 8, 2021 (Three Cheers) - Planning for Themes 5-6
Middle School Book Shopping Event
70 middle school ELA, SpEd, and ESOL teachers participated in the return of the Annual Middle School Book Shopping Event. Over 4500 books were distributed to teachers during the event for classroom libraries! These books will serve nearly 4000 scholars in grades 6-8. All secondary ELA teachers have been provided with a Diversity and Inclusion Classroom Library Checklist to assess how robust and inclusive their classroom libraries are.  
Outside Literary Magazine Student Publication is Expanding!
Outside Literary Magazine was founded in 2016 with the mission to empower high school students as writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders through online and print publishing. Based at Central VPA, OLM was opened up to all Saint Louis Public Schools high school scholars in 2020. So far, the magazine has featured work from 79 young writers and artists across six different high schools. For the 2021-2022 school year, the full experience is expanding to include as many high schools as possible.

Outside Literary Magazine is edited by scholars who take on all the real-world responsibilities of making a magazine. Student editors gain hands-on experience in marketing, web and graphic design, bookmaking, and event planning, all while strengthening their literacy skills. Each year, student editors and issue contributors go on field trips to Central Print Studio to handprint issue covers and bind each magazine. Outside Literary Magazine is more than a publication. It is a safe space to write, create, and share. In addition to biweekly editorial workshops with staff, OLM hosts bi-weekly writing workshops for all students to attend.

High Schools that are interested in participating should contact Judine Keplar for more information.

  View past editions of Outside Literary Magazine here:    
Elementary ELA Project-Based Inquiry
At the end of each unit in myView, there is a project-based inquiry that allows our scholars to apply what they have learned throughout the unit. Here are some projects from our scholars for Quarter 1.
  • Kindergarten: Our young scholars drew a picture and wrote about their favorite place.
  • 3rd Grade: Scholars wrote letters to the mayor in order to persuade her to improve a park and/or playground.  This scholar from Gateway Elementary developed a thoughtful letter.
  • 4th Grade:  Scholars were to create a brochure to argue that a place should be made a historic landmark.  The scholars at Dewey went above a simple brochure and created a podcast.
Be the Next Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate!
The Youth Poet Laureate Program aims to identify young writers and leaders who are committed to civic and community engagement, poetry and performance, diversity and inclusion, and education across Greater St. Louis. Through December 17, submissions are being accepted from young poets, rappers, leaders and activists ages 14-18 from across Greater St. Louis who are interested in representing the metropolitan area as the inaugural Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate. After a screening process, a group of esteemed judges will choose the next Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate. The Saint Louis Youth Poet Laureate will have numerous opportunities and platforms to share their powerful voices, their leadership, and their love of Greater St. Louis at numerous events across the region. 
Visit for submission guidelines and/or to apply.
To arrange ELA support, please contact your Curriculum Specialist.

Updates Around The District

There’s only one session left of COSEBOC’s Virtual Institute: Toward a Standard of Exemplary Care for Boys and Young Men of Color, a 4-part, online series of practitioner and partner convenings focused on reopening schools more intentionally and equitably for boys and young men of color. The 4th and final part of this series is happening Thursday, December 2nd from 6:00pm-8:00pm ET. 
This special, youth-led session will continue previous conversations on TACTICS (Trust, Authenticity, Culture, Truth, Inclusivity, and Care in School) by inviting several rising leaders to discuss what has enabled them to overcome challenges and obstacles in pursuit of their own agency, empowerment, and visions for success. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn more about some of the great work our partner organizations are doing to advance the social, emotional, cultural and academic development of boys and young men of color. 
We’re so grateful for all the wonderful speakers we’ve had in previous sessions and we can’t wait for the exciting conclusion to this impactful online series. You won’t want to miss out on all the insights the institute has to offer. Register here to attend part 4 of COSEBOC’s 2021 Virtual Institute.
We hope to see you there! 
Register to Attend
Human Resources Reminder
The Board of Education recently approved the superintendent’s request to close all SLPS schools and offices starting November 22 - 26, in recognition of the Thanksgiving holiday. 
We hope the extra days off allow our SLPS staff time to relax and spend valuable, quality time with loved ones. 
Enjoy your time off and thank you for everything you do for the scholars and families of SLPS!
Employee Referral Program
SLPS is looking for talented individuals to join our team for the 2021 – 2022 school year!   Know someone?  Refer them to the Recruitment Team.  If your referral is hired for one the following positions, you will receive a referral payment: 
Instructional Care Aide, Teacher Assistant, Custodian, or Safety Officer - $100
Teacher - $250

The first 50 people to refer a candidate will get a free T-shirt, regardless of whether their referral is hired.
For more guidance about the Employee Referral Program, please click here or contact Danielle Jackson - Recruitment Associate -
Standards-Based Learning Corner
Click here to explore past topics related to Standards-Based Learning and Grading in SLPS.
For more guidance, please contact Dr. Kimberly Moody, Director of Curriculum & Instruction,
Curriculum Specialists:
  • Dr. Esther Palsenberger, Elementary ELA, 314-779-5939
  • Judine Keplar, Secondary ELA, 314-532-6427
  • Zehra Khan, Secondary Math, 314-532-3574
  • J. Carrie Launius, Elementary Science, 314-934-5258
  • Dr. Valentina Bumbu, Secondary Science, 573-544-6835
  • Dr. Glenn Barnes, Social Studies, 314-934-5267
  • John Grapperhaus, Visual Arts, 314-934-5320
  • Kaye Harrelson, Performing Arts, 314-934-5445
  • Dr. Taresa Wright-Fraser, Elementary Math, 314-943-5266
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