Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New beginnings: pivotal transitions and the new school year

Summer 2013 has been a busy time marked by physical transformation in our schools, as well as administrative changes to begin the new school year.

I am eager to welcome back students and staff to school next week and am excited about new developments that have taken place in recent weeks that will strengthen our ability to provide every student the high-quality education they need and deserve.

Aside from the many visible renovations in our buildings and construction of a new athletic field, the most significant change students, staff and parents will notice as the new school year begins on Wednesday, Sept. 4 is the administrative changes occurring at both buildings.

With the release of the New York State assessment results in August, we now have the baseline data needed to hit the reset button and begin again to move the district forward, implement best practices and demonstrate continued student growth.

In the weeks since, it became clear that to accomplish our goals and meet our top priority—preparing students from pre-K through grade 12 for college and careers in a global economy—we would need to be proactive in our effort to maximize the strengths of all administrators, teachers and staff across the district.

With that in mind, longtime WJSHS high school assistant principal David Wareing will serve this year as the assistant principal and UPK director at WES. Literacy coordinator Suzanne Guntlow will assume the role of assistant principal at WJSHS, and will continue to facilitate professional development for teachers that focuses on strengthening students’ literacy skills and improving performance at the junior high school level.

Reading, writing, listening and speaking skills are the foundation for student success in all subject areas, which is why I firmly believe this shift in administrators, particularly, having Suzanne on site at WJSHS as a member of the administrative team and as a resource for her peers, is in the best interests of our students.

Principals Ryan Groat and Terri O’Brien will continue to lead WJSHS and WES, respectively, while Michael Foust will remain as the district’s athletics coordinator and serve in the new title of Dean of Students.

Our district welcomes a new School Resource Officer (SRO) this year, Watervliet Police Officer Josh Spratt. He takes over for Sgt. Mark Spain whose dedicated service over the past six years made a significant and positive impact on the lives of students and staff. School administrators and I look forward to working with Officer Spratt and continuing a strong, collaborative partnership that enhances student safety and promotes smart choices and positive behaviors in our school

Deeds and expectations
I recently attended a conference during which New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King Jr. spoke at length about making sure our “daily deeds match our expectations.”  I encourage all teachers and staff to make every effort possible this year to make sure that our daily deeds align with and achieve our mission to educate, inspire and challenge every student, every day.

I invite parents to become more involved with your child’s schools and encourage the community to become our partner in education. We must all work together to support our community’s young people and increase their opportunities for success. 

In preparing to begin my third year as superintendent of schools, it continues to be an honor working with such talented and committed administrators, educators and support staff, and serving this community and its children.

I also want to recognize and thank our maintenance staff for the enormous amount of time and energy they put in these last few weeks to get our buildings and classrooms ready for the return of students and staff. Your teamwork has been nothing short of amazing!

I look forward to the beginning of a productive and successful school year—until then enjoy these last few lazy, hazy days of summer!

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