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Principally Speaking Setting Sights On Success
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Principal, El Portal Middle School

As the first trimester of the 2008-09 school year draws to a close, a single word could be used to summarize the El Portal school year to this point: outstanding. The El Portal students and staff have been the reasons for this outstanding start to the school year.

Our students have represented the school well through their athletic endeavors. They have completed successful seasons in soccer, cross country and volleyball. All teams were consistently competitive, usually victorious and always good representatives of our school. With the completion of these sports, our student athletes are now taking to the courts and the mats by participating in basketball and wrestling.

Friday, October 24, the sixth graders returned from their week at Science Camp near Half Moon Bay. Observing the happy reunion of parents and students was enjoyable, as you could see the relief of both parent and student as they shared stories and adventures. It has been great hearing about these adventures from the "campers." One sixth grade teacher gushed, "This was the best camp I've attended." Thanks to the El Portal community, staff and dedicated parents, these memories are items they will keep for a lifetime.

The El Portal Band is once again keeping itself very busy. Having marched in the Homecoming parade and having participated in a successful Santa Cruz Band Review, they look forward to another Review on November 7 and 8 in Pismo Beach. The return plans include a stop at Hearst Castle for a tour of the Pismo area landmark.

The After School Program at El Portal is off to an exciting start. Provided by "Give Every Child a Chance," the program runs every day after school until 6 p.m. and meets in the El Portal multipurpose room. Students are offered homework assistance on their assignments and also engage in a variety of exciting athletic and academic activities. The program is free and available to all El Portal students. Those interested can pick up an application in the El Portal office or call (209) 825-7003 for additional information.

Campus life at El Portal has received a boost through the new Leadership class that meets during fourth period. These students make up our "student government" and are very active in many of the activities at El Portal. They are currently promoting the ETAB program that collects pull-tabs from aluminum cans to raise money for Escalon Community Ambulance. Leadership chose this program as a way to say thanks for the free emergency service provided by Escalon Community Ambulance to EUSD during the school day. Leadership also provided input and helped with "Red Ribbon" week. They put together a week full of activities. Each day of red ribbon week had a different theme aimed at promoting drug awareness and appropriate decision making. A coat and blanket drive is being planned for the winter months. All these activities are centered on the leadership theme for the year which aims to develop individual participation, school participation and community involvement. Through their leadership and modeling, they are making a difference at El Portal.

El Portal has experienced tremendous change from a year ago. Probably the most obvious change has to deal with all the new staff around campus. El Portal has welcomed a brand new administrative team by making them feel as if this campus has been their home for quite some time. El Portal's teaching veterans have joined together with the 12 new teachers to give our students a staff that places the needs of students first. In addition to the 12 new classroom teachers, there are three new classroom aides. That brings the total to 17 new staff working directly with the students of El Portal. This blend of new and veteran staff has created a balance that has proved to be beneficial to the staff members as well as the students. Ten staff members are enjoying another of the changes at El Portal; Smartboards. El Portal has been technologically updated through the additions of Smartboards in the classroom. A Smartboard is a piece of integrated technology that allows a student greater access to the curriculum. It allows the teacher to change PowerPoint type presentations into interactive activities. Student and teacher can write, modify, and manipulate material on a surface that is similar to a white board but actually a type of computer touch screen. A third change making a difference at El Portal is the return of PIT. The PIT (Peer Interaction Team) is a class at EHS that provides student mentors to their student counterparts at El Portal.

As you can see, El Portal is off to an exciting start with many changes and additions. Some upcoming reminders include Parent/Teacher conferences November 17-20 and no school on November 10 and 11 in observance of the Veterans Day holiday.

Principally Speaking is a monthly article, contributed by principals from Escalon Unified School District sites, throughout the school year. It is designed to update the community on school events and activities.