STARS & COMETS STAFF WELCOME LETTER AND IMPORTANT INFO

FOR THE 2022 - 2023 SCHOOL YEAR

Check out this short promotional video for a brief look at what Stars & Comets @ Palm Harbor UMC is all about.

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Hi Stars & Comets Team,

I am thrilled you will be joining us for the 2022 - 2023 school year.  Here are a few important things to note for the upcoming year, including setup, scheduling info and more.  I know this is a lot of information, and I thank you in advance for reading all of it and being prepared for the upcoming year!

 

  • Transition / Start of School Year Schedule / Full Days -

    • Camp CUBBER officially ends on Friday, July 29.  We will have a camp team working on Saturday, July 30 to get as much as possible from camp taken back to storage so that we can start as fresh as possible for Stars & Comets.

    • All Stars & Comets staff will have workdays on Monday, August 1 and Tuesday, August 2 from 9:30 AM - 5:30 PM to finish some final camp close down stuff, clean and setup rooms for Stars & Comets, and do other Stars & Comets school year prep work.  Stars & Comets staff are expected to be present unless you have specifically requested those days off in advance.  If you cannot be present or have limitations to your availability those days, please let me know immediately (if you have not already done so).

    • We will then be closed on Wednesday, August 3 - Friday, August 5.  Those closed days are not paid unless you choose to use sick / personal days to cover them.

    • Stars & Comets will officially open to students on Monday, August 8.  We will provide full day care for students of all schools on both Monday, August 8 and Tuesday, August 9.  On full days, we are open from 7:00 AM - 6:00 PM and need coverage for all of that time.  As with all full days, staff are expected to work on those days (unless you have specifically requested time off) to help provide full day care for the families in our program.  Staff should plan to work additional hours on full days to help provide the needed coverage.  If another job, a college class, or child care / parenting obligation prohibits you from doing so, it is an expectation that staff work at least their regular shift, or an equivalent to their regular shift on those days.  Again, if you need time off, please be sure to put in a request for that in advance.

    • On Tuesday, August 9 (during the full day), there will be an Active Assailant Training at 11:00 AM for new staff and those that are not covering a Stars & Comets group of students at that time.  That training will be immediately followed by a luncheon for all staff and we will make sure even those who currently have a group will still be able to go down and pick up food.

    • Public school begins on Wednesday, August 10 and regular hours will start that day for most staff.  That said, Westlake Christian School does not begin until Wednesday, August 17.  So we will have additional hours available to provide full day care for those students for 5 additional days: Wednesday, August 10 - Friday, August 12 and Monday, August 15 - Tuesday, August 16.

  • Scheduling - To help me schedule for August 8 and 9 (as well as the WCS only full days), I will have an availability form that will be sent around on or before August 1.  Any time we have full days, this is how I will plan and you will see a similar form circulating, usually a few weeks in advance.  The availability form is for you to list any hours you are unavailable (due to things like another job, a college class, or child care / parenting obligation) as well as shift preferences if desired.  Please note that shift preferences should be just that - a preference.  We are open from 7:00 AM - 6:00 PM, so not all staff can work the early shift (or the late shift).  I do my best to be fair and spread the love around for shift preferences.  Typical full day shifts could be things like 7:00 AM - 12:30 PM, 8:45 AM - 4:45 PM, and 12:15 PM - 6:00 PM.  That said, hours will likely vary depending on staffing and the field trip / special activity.

  • First Aid / CPR - If your First Aid / CPR is scheduled to be renewed, or you have not yet taken First Aid / CPR, that will need to be completed (via ZOOM class) before school starts on August 10.   I emailed those who needed this with date options, but please see me (or reply to the text) to schedule.

  • Additional Training - As a reminder, in addition to First Aid / CPR, all new staff must have completed the Transportation Safety module on the DCF training website prior to August 10.  Also, new staff must complete the Achieving and Maintaining Quality in Afterschool Practices (AMAP)  training module by October 30.  Please see Ms. Amanda or Mr. Chris for help getting signed up for those classes.  All other staff have their 40 clock hours to finish (if last school year was their first year with Stars & Comets) and / or 10 annual in-service hours of training to complete by May.

  • Stars & Comets School Year Schedule -

    • August 1 - 2:  Staff Work Days

    • August 3 - 5:  Closed

    • August 8 - 9:  Full Day Care

    • August 10:  Public School Starts (regular schedules start for most staff)

    • August 17:  Westlake Starts

    • September 8:  Labor Day - Stars & Comets Closed

    • October 17:  Full Day Care

    • November 21 - 23:  Full Day Care

    • November 24 - 25:  Thanksgiving Holiday - Stars & Comets Closed

    • December 22:  Westlake Early Release Day

    • December 23:  Christmas Eve Observance - Stars & Comets Closed

    • December 26:  Christmas Day Observance - Stars & Comets Closed

    • December 27 - 30:  Full Day Care

    • January 2:  New Year’s Day Observance - Stars & Comets Closed

    • January 3 - 6:  Full Day Care

    • January 16:  Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday - Stars & Comets Closed

    • February 20:  Full Day Care

    • March 13 - 17:  Full Day Care

    • March 20:  Full Day Care

    • April 7:  Good Friday Holiday - Stars & Comets Closed

    • May 26:  Full Day Care

    • May 29:  Memorial Day Holiday - Stars & Comets Closed

    • May 30 - June 1:  Full Day Care / Camp CUBBER 2023 Setup

    • June 2:  Camp CUBBER 2023 Orientation

  • Holiday Pay - After 90 days of employment, holidays are paid (even for part time staff).  Staff returning for their second (or third, fourth, or seventeenth) year do not have a 90 day wait for holiday pay.  Staff will receive the hours normally worked on a regular Stars & Comets day on that specific day of the week, which is 3.5 hours for most staff.  If you are not regularly scheduled to work 5 days a week and a holiday occurs on a day you do not normally work, you will not be paid for said holiday.

  • Paid Time Off - After 90 days of employment, all staff (even part time staff) qualify for personal / sick days.  Staff returning for their second (or third, fourth, or seventeenth) year do not have a 90 day wait for paid time off.  The number of days provided is based on several factors including whether you are full or part time, whether you work mornings and afternoons (or just one or the other), how long you have been working at Stars & Comets, and more.  Sick / personal days will be discussed when going over staff contracts, which we will do within the first few weeks of the school year.

  • Time-Off Requests - For time-off needs, time-off request forms (purple form) can be found in the staff mailbox in the kitchenette area.  Those should be turned in to my office as soon as possible (once known) and at least 2 weeks in advance for regular days and at least 4 weeks in advance for full days.  Like camp, time-off is offered on a first come, first served basis.  As much as I would love to approve all requests, we cannot operate as a program without enough staff.  So, please remember to get needed time-off requests in as soon as you know the dates you need.  Also, please remember that time-off is a shared resource.  As such, staff should not be requesting to be off for every full day or for week long vacations surrounding multiple holidays.  So if you are hoping to take a long vacation at Thanksgiving… great!  Just know that it would be unfair to the rest of the team to ask for another long vacation at Christmas or at New Years.  If you have questions about the holiday schedule and expectations please feel free to let me know!

  • Church Service Attendance - Stars & Comets staff are expected to attend at least one church service at Palm Harbor UMC annually - the Blessing of the Staff / Board of Education Recognition Sunday, which will be on August 28.  Because it is a requirement, I do pay staff for attendance.  If you attended the Camp CUBBER 30th Anniversary service, doing so met the requirement for your service attendance for the year for Stars & Comets and you will not be required to attend on August 28 (unless you desire to do so).  Please note, that only applies to staff who only work for Stars & Comets (and not Robin’s Nest or Westlake) during the school year.  Staff who also work for Robin’s Nest or Westlake will likely still be expected to attend on August 28.

  • Staff Meetings - Stars & Comets staff are expected to attend a once a month staff meeting, typically on the first Friday of each month @ 1:30 PM.  If you are not regularly scheduled on Friday afternoons you are not expected to be present UNLESS specifically asked to be present.  If a shift at another job (i.e. - Robin’s Nest) prevents you from being there, please let Mr. Chris or Ms. Pamela know prior to the meeting.  Typically a meeting notes / minutes will be available after each staff meeting.

  • Dress Code - Please note that staff are not required to wear Stars & Comets shirts during the school year EXCEPT on full days with a field trip (when kids will wear them as well).  That said, if you have staff shirts, it might be a good idea to wear them for a few days as we kick off the school year, perhaps August 8 - 10.  We will be ordering additional staff shirts prior to the first field trip in October.  Dress code is similar to summer.  Dress in a manner that makes both children and parents feel that you care about your appearance, in a manner that is both appropriate and professional:  Pants, jeans, and reasonable length shorts are appropriate.  Jeans may have rips / holes, but please no rips or holes above the knee.  Shorts must go to the MID THIGH or longer.  Basketball shorts, sweat pants, “Soffe” style shorts, and gym shorts are not acceptable.   If you choose to wear leggings / yoga pants, please be sure your shirt / top goes to your mid thigh and completely covers your back side.  When you are not wearing a staff shirt, please make sure you are still wearing something appropriate for working at a church program.  T-shirts are ok, but should not have things like band names, movies titles or quotes from movies above a PG rating, crude memes or graphics, or questionable brand labels (alcohol brands, cigarette brands, etc.).  And nothing political!  In addition, no tank tops, or anything that would be considered revealing or immodest.  I would suggest, if in doubt that you wear something else.  Remember that you are working with children, be prepared for messy crafts and active games.  Closed toed shoes are required for all non-water days, except Fridays. Fridays is the one sandal / open toe shoe day exception, since it is often movie day for most groups.  Our program, by its nature, is full of activities that require movement where sandals or other open toed shoes are not appropriate.  Sandals or flip flops may be worn on water days only.  Please note that any staff that arrives to work in inappropriate attire (including inappropriate foot wear) may be sent home without pay to change into acceptable attire before returning to work.

  • Phones - Please remember that our phones can be a valuable tool, but we need to treat them as such…  a tool and not an addiction.  As a tool, we will have a group iMessage (for all staff with iPhones) and a group text (for our few Android folks) that we will send updates, and reminders out on.  The office team (Ms. Pamela, Ms. Pam, Ms. Amanda, and I) will also use text as a way to communicate other important info or ask job work related questions.  In an emergency, the phones (and specifically texting) give us a great, and silent, way to communicate.  That said, as a general rule, please try to keep phone usage around our students to a minimum - especially when supervising a group.  If you need to make a call or be on the phone for an extended period of time, please call for a floater or Admin to cover your class so you can do so.

  • Chapel - We are bringing back chapel for the 2022 - 2023 school year, but we are doing so slowly.  We will be doing a chapel experience once a month this school year, typically on the second Wednesday of the month, starting in September and ending in May.  Chapel will go from 3:45 PM - 4:15 PM.

  • Group Leaders Responsibilities -

    • As a group leader, you are the first line of supervision and care for our students.  This is your single most important responsibility.  This includes having an accurate attendance and knowing how many students are in your care AT ALL TIMES and ensuring they are safe while in our care.  Classroom attendance is done on paper during the school year.  That attendance requires students to be “slashed in”, “slashed out”, and put the time in and time out.

    • Group leaders are also the expected to appropriately interact with parents at pickup (and ensure that the person picking up is eligible to do so by being listed on the student’s appropriate pickup list).  Remember to be cordial.  Building a rapport with parents (where you ask about their day, tell them good things about their child’s day) will make it significantly easier when there are times when you need to discuss behavior issues with them.  If there is a behavior situation (or anything else) you do not feel comfortable speaking to a parent about, please do not leave it unsaid.  Let an Admin staff know and we will help with that conversation.

    • Group leaders should be planning activities for their groups on a regular basis.  Those can include group games, crafts, science projects, team building / creative thinking activities and more.  While those activities will depend on your group’s interests, there are certain general expectations.  There should be at least one “take-home” activity every two weeks.  Something that they make here at Stars & Comets that goes home.  It is also important that we have things going home at key times during the school year.  Please plan to make a Christmas themed craft that your students can give to a parent as a Christmas gift.  Please plan to do the same for Mother’s Day.  There will also be occasional special craft activities requested to support things like Honor Flight / Veterans, Metropolitan Ministries, and more.

    • As part of being a group leader, we will celebrate certain holidays with the kids, typically with a class party (ie - Halloween Party, Christmas Party, Easter Party, etc.)  Typically, the more you put into those celebrations, the more they will enjoy it.  And while we are not looking for anyone to go overboard, be sure to plan appropriate activities and purchase needed supplies.  We will discuss any upcoming holiday celebrations at the prior month’s staff meeting.  

  • Floaters Responsibilities - Please rotate among all rooms and assist with homework time, crafts or projects, staff bathroom breaks, making sure snack is put away, and other needed errands / duties as they arise.  Floaters should be sure to “spread the love” around and make sure their time is divided between all groups in your assigned area (not just one or two).  Unless specifically helping with homework time or a project, floaters should not be spending more than 10 minutes in any given room at a time.  Floaters should also not use the office as their “home base” when not assigned to do something.  If the office needs you, they will radio for your help.

  • Drivers Responsibilities -

    • Please make sure you are driving carefully and never using your cell phone while driving.  If you need to call the office (or answer a call from the office) while driving, please be sure to do so with speaker / hands free.  Even holding a phone while in a school zone is a citation in Florida.

    • Please make sure your vehicle is kept clean and is swept out regularly, preferably once a week or every couple of weeks.  A great time to do this is after your morning run (if you drive in the morning).  If you only drive in the afternoon and need help finding time to do this, please see Mr. Chris or Ms. Pamela.

    • Please make sure your vehicle is kept fueled.  We have multiple gas cards, so we do not have to assign specific fueling days, but as a general expectation please plan to fill your vehicle when it is at half a tank and definitely before it gets under 1/4 of a tank.  Fueling after one of your morning runs each week (if you drive in the morning) is also recommended.  If you only drive in the afternoon and you need to come in a few minutes before your assigned shift to fuel your vehicle, please feel free to come in, clock in, and go do so.

Again, thank you for being a part of the Stars & Comets Team for the 2022 - 2023 school year.  I know this is going to be an amazing year and I am very happy to have you be a part of it!  If you have any questions about any of the above referenced material (or anything else for that matter), please feel free to stop by and see me, email me, or text me.  My cell is (727) 415 - 0212.  Thank you for taking the time to read all of this information.  Please reply to the text with the word "complete" once you have finished reading this staff information.  Thanks!

 

Chris Steurnagel

Director, Stars & Comets / Camp CUBBER

(727) 781 - 6343    starsandcomets@phumc.net

1551 Belcher Rd. Palm harbor, FL 34683