Thursday, April 15, 2010

Some Thoughts Before Break

I wanted to send you into the break week with a few deep thoughts and maybe a few shallow ones as well. This post is lengthy, so don't tell my former English Teachers at Westhill or St. Ann's that I can actually write. Thank you.

1. DWI Simulated Crash: On May 14 at 7:30 a.m., we will be holding a DWI simulated crash in the grass stadium at the high school. This will be similar to what we did last year with the seniors, except we are going to add the juniors so that we can do this exercise every other year instead of every year. More details will follow but this important exercise was beneficial last year, and I expect much of the same for this year. Anything we can do to remind our students not to drink and drive is time well spent in my book. We will have a section for parents and community members if you would like to see our community volunteers and school officials at work.

2. Anti-Bullying Task Force: Recently a girl in Massachusetts was "Facebook-ed" to death by her peers. When Channel 3 asked me what we do as far as anti-bullying efforts, I was quite embarrassed to tell them that we have over 30 programs K-12 but yet bullying remains. I have always believed, and still believe, that teaching kids not to bully starts at the dinner table and ends at their school desk. 

When I sat back and looked at all of the programs that we have (many at substantial cost), it got me thinking that we need to assemble a group of people to review what we do have and refocus the message with one strong program and one strong message that we can use K-12 and in the community. I am assembling a "task force" consisting of Board members, administrators, teachers, support staff, students, and parents to help evaluate what we currently have as tools, which tools are best, and how to shape policy to reflect our changing times and our desire to curb bullying. I hope to have something to bring to the Board by the early Fall.

As a kick off to this task force, Stan Davis and recognized name in Anti-Bullying practices will be holding workshops for administrators, staff, students, and the community on May 24-25. I encourage you to participate if you can. More information will follow on our web site

3. The Big Picture: As many of you know I was able to have a closed door meeting with the Commissioner of Education. This meeting was held with only a small handful other Superintendent's present. Media and photos were not allowed. We spent about an hour and twenty minutes just talking about education. I listened intently, asked a few questions but walked away figuring that much of what was said was going nowhere.

Shortly after the meeting I received a "field-memo" from the Board of Regents explaining proposed changes to the New York State Education system. Most of these changes were things that the Commissioner discussed at the meeting. In my experience if something makes it to a field memo it pretty much is going to happen in some way, shape, or form.

Essentially he told us to prepare to accommodate "nontraditional methods for program completion." These methods include credit recovery (NovaNet), independent study for up to 3 elective credits, credit accrual (no seat time necessary to complete a course but some type of test, etc...), shorter assessments, more computer based assessments, allowing students to graduate as soon as they have completed 22 units of study, virtual schools, and flexibility of certifications (especially in Special Education and Middle Schools). He gave no time line for any of the items but the English 11 Regents exam scheduled for January 2011 will be a day shorter, so I think they mean business.

Should all of these ideas actually be implemented, it is going to change education in New York State in an exciting way. In the hands of irresponsible leaders these changes are dangerous tools to lower standards and push students through the system. I intend to use these tools to help those learners who struggle or who need a different way to complete without sacrificing the high standards that we have for student success.

The high school is experiencing this challenge already with the use of NovaNet. Fortunately they had a good plan when implementation began and they are now making changes as new situations arise. My suggestion to all of us is to be think proactively on the other items that the Commissioner would like to implement, and to create practices, policies, and programs before we are directed to do so. It never hurts to be a PILOT school.

4.  If you are one of the 400,000 million people on Facebook, we have a new Facebook fan page.  It is a pass through for information about the school and events, and it is another great way to stay connected to the school. You can reach the page by going to!/pages/Camillus-NY/West-Genesee-Central-School-District/358918496938?ref=mf .

5.  The fight continues to keep our portion of the sales tax from the county.  Right now the two proposals call for a 75/25 split between the county and city (nothing to the schools) or a three year phase out to schools.  I hope that they choose the phase out if they only have the two choices. Enough said.

Thanks and have a safe and enjoyable break.