Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thank you for your support

Thanks to the overwhelming support of the Watervliet community, our proposed $23,136,179 school budget for 2012-13 passed with a 71 percent approval rating, 234 to 95. I thank everyone who took the time to go to the polls on May 15 and vote.
You may recall that we began the budget development process earlier this year faced with a $2.3 million deficit. By the end of March, we were able to reduce the budget gap to $1 million thanks, in large part, to the collaborative efforts of teachers and staff who agreed to changes in health insurance plans that will result in significant savings over the next several years. I thank our faculty and staff for their spirit of cooperation during these tough fiscal times. It is an honor to work with such dedicated professionals every day.
We sought community feedback to help guide our decision making and while difficult cuts were made to balance the budget, with your input, the reductions we made have minimal impact on students and keep our academic program intact. I thank everyone who participated in those efforts including parents, teachers, residents, students and the PTA.
I am grateful to everyone who e-mailed, wrote or called our local representatives in the state legislature and advocated on behalf of our schools.
I also want to thank the Board of Education for its leadership throughout the budget process and recognize longtime school board member Frank McGrouty, who did not seek re-election this year, for his years of service to our school district and our students. I congratulate Jennifer Donovan on her re-election to the board and I welcome newly-elected board member Matthew Ethier. I look forward to working with you in the coming years.
We will no doubt face challenges again next year—inequitable state aid funding, increased unfunded mandates, more rigorous accountability for teachers and administrators—but right now, I am proud to be serving the students of this district and the Watervliet community.  
Thank you!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Congratulations to the top students of the class of 2012

Congratulations to Amanda Iannone-Judge and Alysa Chartrand, who, I am proud to announce, have been named the Class of 2012 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Soon after Amanda and Alysa were told of their accomplishment, I took the opportunity to sit down with both girls to personally congratulate them and to hear their reflections on what have been four extremely busy years at Watervliet High School.

In talking with these top students, a common theme ran through our conversations. While their records make it clear that they have taken advantage of many extracurricular activities, sports, employment opportunities and more, they spoke primarily about the teachers who made a difference in their lives.

Alysa credits her math teacher, Mr. Berin, for her interest in pursuing math as her college major. Although she’s eyeing a future as a math teacher, Alysa says her favorite class at Watervliet was social studies. She says Mr. Emerson brought “something to the classroom that just makes you want to go to his class.”

For Amanda, Mr. Parisi made physics enjoyable and Mr. Dievendorf taught her to think for herself. In Spanish class, she says, Ms. DiSalvo taught her more than a language.

Studies show us that good teachers matter most in a child’s education and speaking with Amanda and Alysa made it easy to understand why.

I asked the girls what advice they had to offer younger students.

Amanda, despite her impressive list of activities, said she would have gotten involved earlier in extracurricular activities.

“Don’t take it for granted. It goes a lot quicker than you might expect. And try to have a little bit of fun along the way,” she said.

Alysa agrees with Amanda in encouraging students to engage in extracurricular activities.

“I think it’s really important. It just keeps you going,” she says.

Congratulations again to Amanda and Alysa and to all the graduates of the Class of 2012. The Class of 2012 Commencement is set for Friday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the Watervliet High School Harry Tucker Gymnasium.