Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holidays a time to reflect

The holidays are often a time to reflect on the year that has passed and look ahead to a new year. 

Recent events have cast a solemn mood over the season—the tragic accident that claimed the lives of two Shen students and seriously injured two others, and the unspeakable violence in a Newtown Connecticut school that has shattered the lives of so many families. These heartbreaking tragedies make us think about and appreciate even more the good in our own lives.

Throughout the past week, I have had the privilege of attending concerts at both the high school and the elementary school, and have been reminded of the talent and abilities of our students from the elementary level through the middle and high school grades. The performances by the Garnet and Grey Band and the Cannoneer chorus under the direction of Mrs. Terry Bradway and Mr. Joseph Bonville, as well as the elementary school band and chorus led by Mr. Jeff Roberts and Mrs. Mary Collett—were outstanding. I applaud our student musicians of all ages for their effort and dedication to learning the music and practicing the songs, and presenting thoroughly enjoyable performances for family, friends, fellow students and staff.

The wrestling team held its annual Teacher Appreciation Night on Dec. 13 to recognize educators who have encouraged and supported the wrestling program and its student athletes. Each wrestler invited a teacher, administrator or other staff member to attend the evening’s matches as the wrestler’s guest. I was honored to be among the approximately 30 educators who were recognized that evening. I thank Coach Dennis Lane and Coach Dan Mueller for taking the initiative each year to organize this event that brings together our staff and student athletes. 

Having worked in the district for several years—as the high school principal and now as the superintendent—I am grateful for all the dedicated and talented educators who work in our Watervliet schools. I know they are commited to ensuring the success of our students—academically and personally—I see it every day. So many of our teachers go above and beyond their classroom  responsibilities, investing additional hours advising extracurricular clubs, coaching our athletic teams, and providing homework and Regents review help. I celebrate our teachers and the gifts of time and talent that they give every student, every day.

I appreciate, too, the parents and community members who turn out to support our students and our schools at events throughout the school year.

Since September, our district has also had the good fortune to have been awarded two state grants that will have a direct and positive impact on education in the years to come. One of the grants will fund professional development initiatives to strengthen classroom instruction and improve student learning. The other grant will help establish new virtual Advanced Placement (AP) courses for students in Watervliet and six other area schools. This grant will also pay exam fees for low-income students enrolled in AP classes, which could help them earn college credit while in high school.

I hope you will take time this holiday season to reflect upon the positive aspects of your lives, and enjoy the most precious gift of all—time spent with family and friends. May you all enjoy a relaxing and peaceful holiday season.