Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Another school year comes to an end

The end of the school year presents a time to celebrate the accomplishments of our students and to thank teachers, staff and administrators, as well as the school community for their commitment and their support.

As classes and exams quickly wind down, I look forward to attending the celebrations that mark milestones for our youngest and oldest students alike.

This week, our UPK and kindergarten students will celebrate their Moving Up ceremonies on June 19 and 20, respectively; our sixth-grade students will graduate from the elementary school on June 21, and later that evening our Class of 2013 will receive their diplomas beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Harry Tucker Gymnasium at the high school.    

It is with pride that I recognize Cassie Bryant and Lea Liburdi for earning the top honors as valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2013, respectively. Cassie plans to attend Hofstra University in the fall and enroll in the physician’s assistant program, while Lea will study biology and plans to participate in the drama program at SUNY Albany. Both young women are members of the National Honor Society and were involved in many extracurricular activities throughout their school careers.

I speak on behalf of the faculty, staff and administrators when I congratulate all of our graduates as each moves on to the next stage of their lives, whether that means first grade, the junior high school or pursuing college and careers!

This year was especially challenging for teachers and building principals in light of significant changes in education, specifically the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards and the rollout of a new, more extensive teacher and principal evaluation systems—or Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR).

I applaud our administrators for making sure that teachers had weekly opportunities for professional development and the support necessary to align curriculum and adjust instructional strategies to the Common Core. I am proud of the work our teachers accomplished in implementing the new more rigorous learning standards, and the teamwork, collaboration and professional growth that has occurred throughout the year as a result. I am especially proud of a small group of elementary teachers who volunteered to be among the first educators in the state to be featured in a new series of videos produced by the State Education Department that illustrate instructional strategies for teaching the Common Core.

My sincere thanks to teachers, staff and administrators for going above and beyond to maintain a positive learning environment for students despite the pressures brought about during this first year of state testing on the new standards.

Speaking of pressures, principals and administrators did an amazing job preparing for and completing a much more intensive teacher evaluation system this year. The new APPR—yet another example of an unfunded mandate from the state—demands a significant investment of time and effort that school leaders must carry out in addition to their daily responsibilities of managing buildings with 650-700 students each and 150-200 faculty and staff members.

During this time of considerable transition, I commend our teachers and our administrators for never losing sight of our mission to educate every student, every day.

Finally, I wish all the best to our retiring teachers and staff, and hope that our returning students and educators enjoy a safe, relaxing and fun summer vacation! I look forward to welcoming you back in September.