First PA Meeting Q&A (last updated June 2019)
(The below information represents the best efforts of PA volunteers to summarize the fast-paced, information-packed Q&A sessions held at the first PA meeting in recent years. If information is out-of-date or incorrect, please be understanding and definitely please let us know.)
If you know of families not receiving Daily Announcements from school, please ask them to sign up at the school’s website: http://www.bths.edu/dailyannounce.jsp
All families, please complete your school lunch form – it’s important for school.
Even though all students now receive free lunch every school day, and even if you don’t think your family met the old requirements for free lunch, all families must still complete the school lunch form. You can opt out of providing financial information if you don't want to, though if you want to apply for fee waivers for college applications and standardized tests, you will need to provide financial information.
Why are we still filling out this form when lunch is free for all students??
1) Tech's funding is partially dependent on having ~100% of families fill out the form.
2) Applications for fee waivers for college applications and standardized tests are dependent on data from the form.
Link to fill out the form: https://www.myschoolapps.com/
PupilPath (aka Skedula) is critical
Please sign up so you can see your student’s grades in real-time. Information and instructions
This year’s Tech Freshmen have an advisory program. They will spend some time each week getting orientation to their new school.
Snacks with the Principal
Students will receive an invitation via email to sign up for snacks with Mr. Newman, the school principal. He is continuing a program from last year, where he meets weekly with ~20 students at a time for snacks and informal conversation. It’s a great way for students to meet the principal and helps Mr. Newman learn how the school can serve students better.
How do I see which day it is in the 10-day school calendar cycle?
A banner scrolls across the school website (http://www.bths.edu/), stating the 10-day cycle day:
The top of the Daily Announcements email also states the day:
Locks, Lockers, Textbooks
Please explain lockers
There are several thousand more students than lockers, so unfortunately many students don’t have lockers. Some students will share a locker with a friend, but many students will go through four years at Tech, never have a locker, and be just fine.
Lockers are in classrooms, so access to them is limited – only when there is no class being held. So having a locker is actually not that convenient.
Please explain locks
For a regular Tech locker, any lock is fine.
For a gym locker, students must use a specific lock which can only be purchased from school. These locks are only used on gym lockers during gym class.
Please explain the textbook policy
Students do not need to carry textbooks to school. Tech has purchased enough textbooks so that students can keep their textbooks at home. If a class requires a textbook during class, there are textbooks available for all students in the classrooms.
[PA hint: You may have noticed the “Freshman Backpack” phenomenon, where 9th graders carry massive backpacks loaded with heavy stuff. (Typically 10th-12th graders carry much less stuff.) Some suggestions to lighten the load:
Don’t carry textbooks.
If it works for your student and meets teacher requirements, don’t use bulky binders. Instead, use a thin notebook and a folder for each class. Six thin notebooks and six folders isn’t much to carry! Use the folders for handouts and homework. When each unit is finished, move the handouts into folders you keep at home – no need to carry tons of paper back and forth all year. Just keep it at home to study for mid-terms and finals.]
All new students should make an effort to introduce themselves to their guidance counselors in the next few weeks. Guidance counselors can help with general guidance throughout a student's time at Tech, but also will write the counselor recommendations for students' college applications. Guidance counselors also help with schedule changes.
School is really hot in early Sept and late May/earlyJune. Can anything be done?
Teachers and administrators are very aware of the heat issues in the building during the early and late parts of the school year. School currently has ACs in most rooms that can accommodate ACs. Many rooms do not have the electrical circuitry required to support ACs. To install more ACs would require significant upgrades to the wiring in classrooms and also Tech's connection to the grid.
The mayor has pledged to have ACs in all classroom within the next few years, but it is unclear how feasible that goal is. A team from the DoE came over the summer of 2018 to scope out the work that would be required at Tech to install more ACs. Their rough estimate was $3 million of work would be needed.
School is considering buying fans. Large fans might be too noisy. Small fans might not help much. The heat is an issue, especially during AP and Regents exams in the late spring, but it is unclear how to solve the problem in the near-term.
Is the water safe to drink?
Principal Newman says drinking fountains at Tech are safe. The only water sources that showed high lead content in tests are in places not used frequently (e.g. lab sinks). Lead accumulated in the water because the water sat stagnant in the pipes for a long period of time. But these are in low traffic areas not frequented by students. Any such high-lead water sources are clearly marked to be used for washing ONLY and NOT for drinking. For a more detailed description, see the letter sent to parents from the DoE, which includes a link to the full report.
How is the Tech athletic field coming along?
The complete rebuilding of the field is coming along slower than initially projected. Work began in the summer of 2018 and is expected to take about 16 months. The field should be great when it's done, but in the meantime, teams are using public parks or other schools' fields.
Tech has its own athletic field? Where?
Indeed it does. Here.
What else is happening with Tech facilities?
here are ongoing lab upgrades and a new greenhouse. Upgraded boilers are being installed in the basement (hence the temporary boilers parked outside school). The gym was completely renovated recently thanks to a generous donation from an alum. Tech is in great shape overall. An alum who is also a parent recently commented that Tech looks better than it has at any point in the decades she's known it.
How do I know if my school lunch form was received?
At the time you fill out the form, you can elect to have a confirmation email sent to you. Also, Ms. Nottingham will be emailing parents who haven’t filled out their lunch forms.
What if I had PupilPath access for my student in middle school? Can I still use that account?
You need a new PupilPath account for your student now that he or she is at Tech. Sign-up information and instructions
What if I have two students at Tech? Do I need a separate PupilPath account for each?
You need a separate account for each student.
Are all teachers on PupilPath/Skedula?
Yes. All teachers are required to post grades on PupilPath. You may not see grades for all classes yet because some teachers may not have graded any assignments so early in the year.
Why are there so many apps and websites for school?
PupilPath is mostly for reporting grades. Moodle and U. of Texas are more for assigning homework. Not all teachers use these websites. It can seem like a lot to keep track of at first, but students get used to it quickly. Parents mostly use PupilPath and Naviance.
What is Naviance and do parents get accounts?
Naviance is the website that students use throughout the college application process:
Signing up to attend college rep visits to Tech
Researching colleges (e.g. what grades and test scores have past applicants from Tech needed to be accepted at a particular college)
Sending their grades and recommendations to colleges
All 10th-12th grade students have access to Naviance. (Username=BTHS email; Password=OSIS number). 9th graders will be given access later this year.
Parents of 10-12th graders will get a Naviance account in the future. If a family has two children at Tech, each will have a separate Naviance account.
[Now a message from our sponsor, you: Thanks to parent donations, the PA pays for Tech's access to Naviance.]
I signed up to receive a text message notification when my student swipes in at school. Why am I not getting the notifications?
School has a notification system that can send parents an email or text message when their student swipes in at school. The system work OK-ish. You can sign up for arrival notifications here. See what to expect from the system here.
How do breakfast and lunch work?
Breakfast and lunch are free for all students, regardless of family income. Students are allowed both one free breakfast and one free lunch per day. Students swipe their school ID cards when they receive their meals. No other card or registration is necessary.
Students are of course permitted to bring lunch from home, and many do so.
Students are scheduled for lunch between 4th and 9th periods. Breakfast is served from 7:30 - 9:25am. The cafeteria is on the 7th floor.
Students are not permitted out of the building during lunch. The cafeteria was completely renovated in the spring of 2018. The new layout makes it a great place to gather with friends.
Students are allowed in the library during lunch or may choose to provide service for a teacher or department office during their lunch period for service credit.
How is school supporting 9th graders in physics, especially those who are taking Algebra I instead of Geometry?
Physics is a challenging class for many students. Tech physics teachers are aware that roughly half of incoming 9th graders are in Algebra I and teach the requisite math in physics class.
In addition, the physics department offers tutoring every day. Please see the tutoring schedule.
Are there other opportunities for tutoring or places for students to do homework after school?
All departments offer tutoring. After-school study hall is from 3:45-5:45pm Monday thru Thursday in one of two locations: 2N1, or, if a computer is needed, 2E20. (The PA provides the funding for the supervision for these rooms.) After-school study hall typically starts a few weeks into the school year. Until then, students can study quietly in the balcony of the auditorium.
What happened with students' schedules being changed without notification?
Changes without notification shouldn't have happened. There were some tech issues around notifying students whose schedules had been changed. That issue has been fixed and students will be properly notified in the future.
How can my student take one of the musical performance classes (e.g. orchestra or jazz band)?
Music was very heavily subscribed this year. Most 9th graders who indicated on the form included in their orientation packets that they were interested in being in a music class were placed in a music class. Students who were not placed in a music class, or who subsequently decided that they would like to take music, should see their guidance counselor immediately.
My student is advanced in an LOTE (Languages Other Than English, i.e. foreign language) that Tech offers, but he or she was placed in Level I.
There is a standard policy for language placement for students who took the SLP exam in a public middle school. For students from private, parochial, or out-of-state schools, the policy changed in 2019. See description
My student is a new 10th grader who took an LOTE at another high school in 9th grade, but which is not offered at Tech. Does her or she get credit towards the Tech requirement of 6 semesters (3 years) of LOTE?
My student’s last scheduled period is lunch. Can he or she leave school at the beginning of lunch, or does he or she have to stay through lunch?
The student does not have to stay for lunch if lunch is the last scheduled period. However, students who leave are not allowed back into the building until 3:15pm.
What if a student took advanced math in middle school, but did not take the Regents necessary to place out of, say, Algebra I or Geometry?
Please discuss with your student’s math teacher. One possibility is to take the math Regents offered in January (see schedule).
How can my students find out about clubs?
There will be a club fair in the fall, when clubs will be available to discuss their activities with students.
How does club credit work?
The faculty adviser takes attendance at club meetings and submits attendance records to students receive credit.
Club or team participation is required to earn a Tech diploma (see requirement details). (There are several levels of diplomas awarded at Tech, of which the Tech diploma is the highest: see them here.)
How can my student join an athletic team?
Tryout are announced in the Daily Announcements email and on the athletics web page. Maybe also contact the coach. Students need a medical form and parental consent form to be on a team. [PA note: Tryouts for many teams at Tech are highly competitive, but some teams, e.g. cross-country and track, typically do not make cuts if students attend all required practices.]
Should a 9th grader join a team or club?
It depends on the student. Some students need time to adjust to a rigorous Tech academic schedule, so it might make sense to wait a semester or two. Other students do better with the structured after school time that teams and clubs provide.
[PA note: At a large school like Tech, having a group of friends that you see every day can help a student feel part of the community and make school feel smaller. 10th-12th grade students can also be a good source of information about school for 9th graders. Teams and some of the more time-intensive clubs, e.g. debate and robotics, can help a new student develop a social network quickly.]
When does the PA meet?
Please see the schedule of monthly meetings, which are held at 6:30pm. The Executive Board meets at 5pm, prior to the 6:30pm general meeting.
What do 9th Grade Representatives on the Executive Board do?
9th Grade Reps represent the interests of 9th grade families at Tech. They provide a fresh perspective on the Executive Board to balance the voices of the grizzled veteran representatives.
9th Grade Reps help out on various projects and often go on to run for other positions on the PA Executive Board in future years. It’s a good training position and a great way to keep up with what is going on at the school. 9th Grade Reps, as with all members of the Executive Board, are expected to attend all monthly meetings and pitch in between meetings where help is needed.
Principal Newman shared that BTHS has risen in the US News & World Report rankings, from 96th to 68th.
Tech also placed second in the nation on the Niche rankings which recognizes public schools that are making a difference in their community. This list is limited to only schools in which at least 50% of students are identified as economically disadvantaged.
What if my student is having difficulty with a teacher?
The first thing the parent should do is contact the teacher in question. If the result of that is unsatisfactory, the parent should reach out to the AP (Assistant Principal) of the teacher’s department. Including Kelly Nottingham on the communication is also a good idea.
Mrs. Nottingham recommends that parents give students the opportunity to try resolving routine problems on their own. Learning to navigate institutions and solve problems without parent assistance is an important part of students' education. (Of course for serious issues, parents can contact Mrs. Nottingham or any other school staff.)
What if I have other questions?
Please contact Ms. Nottingham. She does her best to respond to parents within 24 hours on school days, but please understand that there are almost 6,000 families at Tech.
I actually read all of this. But I still want to learn more about Tech. Where should I go?
See the How Tech Works section of the bths.edu website.
I love Tech. How can I support it?
Please donate to the PA.