Monday, May 6, 2013

Creative Problem Solving

I hope that all of you had a chance to enjoy the fantastic weather over the weekend. It was a beautiful day for the Mountain Goat Run downtown, and I got to see so many of our community members that we probably could have had the run right in Camillus! Thanks to all who organized the event and also a special thanks to all of the emergency personnel who kept us safe. Very much appreciated.

Sporting Event Update: I had the opportunity to get to all of our sporting events last week including a stint in the varsity baseball dugout that caused my suit pants to go to the dry cleaner. Well worth it. I love baseball chatter, softball chants, and was happy I got to watch both my boys score in a track meet. Lacrosse is nearing the peak of the season, so if you want to see some of the best male and female players in New York State, check out the schedule from the link on the athletics page and get yourself to a game!

Students Excel: We also had an awesome Art Show at the high school for junior and senior artists. Much of the art was showroom quality and several parents want to purchase pieces from the students even though I don't believe they are for sale. Outstanding work!

Congratulations to Amelia Ryan from CMS who placed first to win the New York/New England District Optimist Oratorical Contest! Mark Kopp from WGMS also competed at that level and was a runner up. Both speeches were outstanding in a very tough competition. Great job to both of them.... They are pictured at left with their teachers, Erin Stepowany and Susan Marshall who coached them throughout the process.

Questions: Since I arrived in 2008 there have been two questions that I consistently receive from parents and staff:
  1. Why do our buses have so few students on them?
  2. How can additional time be created for middle school students who need extra help? 
These are both great questions and they have been taking up space in my brain for five years. I think we have found a great solution for both.
Transportation: First the transportation piece. We have 87 school buses covering about 90 square miles of the District each day. Our buses travel about 1,000,000 miles per year. We are required to transport students to private, charter, and parochial schools in the surrounding area, but for students traveling in-district, we try to keep the bus ride to 50 minutes or less.  Our elementary buses are generally full each day, but our middle school and high school buses have not been. If we try to consolidate bus runs, the travel time increases in-district to over an hour and in some cases up to an hour and a half.  This is not acceptable.

Interaction Time: Students in our high school have been able to receive extra help from teachers on an as needed basis for many years. This extra time has been very beneficial for the high school students and is officially called "Interaction Time".  We have been looking at a way to provide this exact same model at the middle schools.  Thanks to some very crafty work by our Director of Transportation Jerry Williams, we will be able to bring middle school and high school students to school and back home on the same buses each day.

This allows us to schedule an "Interaction Time" for our middle school students. A true win/win. Our buses will be full, and our middle school students will be able to receive additional help if they need it. As a bonus, middle school students will also have access to our computer labs, library, and Learning Centers if they need to use those resources as well.

Because middle school and high school students will be riding together, we are also able to adjust the start time for middle schools for next year.  Middle schools next year will begin at 7:30 a.m. and the regular day will end at 2:10 p.m..  "Interaction Time" will begin at 2:15 and will end at 2:50 p.m.. 

The high school and elementary school start times will remain unchanged for the 2013-2014 school year. We will evaluate this new initiative throughout the year and decide if we can make any changes to the elementary day for 2015. It will depend on exactly how long it takes each day to transport our middle school and high school students home.

We are very excited to accomplish these goals. Thanks to everyone in transportation, our administrators, our Shared Decision Making groups, and Parent/Teacher Organizations/Associations at the middle schools for helping us to work through these concepts. Middle school parents will be receiving more information from their building principals in the coming weeks.

A very busy but exciting week ahead. I hope to see you at the many upcoming events.

Take care-