Thursday, August 21, 2014

Welcoming the 2014-15 school year

As the summer quickly draws to a close, it is with pride and excitement that I welcome back faculty, students, staff and parents for the 2014-15 school year. I hope that over the summer everyone found time to enjoy time with family and friends and re-energize for the start of the new school year, which begins on Wednesday, September 3. 

Building project winding down, district goals set

Over the summer, the transformation of our facilities continued in earnest at both buildings. From the installation of new floors and more energy efficient windows at the elementary school to a completely rehabbed auditorium at the junior-senior high school with new ceiling lights, seats, and stage lights and rigging. Our football, soccer and track teams have already been out practicing on the new all-weather field and track that stand ready to host home games and meets this year.

I commend our maintenance staff for their hard work over these past few weeks preparing classrooms, offices and hallways ensuring a safe and clean learning environment for students and staff alike. 

District goals developed in collaboration with the Board of Education have been established for the betterment of all students and stakeholders. These student-centered goals outline opportunities, expectations and supports for our students. Building leaders will discuss the goals in depth with staff during the opening days of school and will reinforce the goals throughout the year. The district goals and other information about building policies and procedures, as well as contact information and much more may be found online at

Communication is key

In addition to our website, the district employs several communications tools for parents and the community to stay connected to our schools. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for School News Notifier (SNN) to receive school news and information via email. I encourage parents to register for Parent Portal, an online student information system that offers parents secure access to information about their child's academic program and progress, and provides another way to communicate with their child's teachers.

The past few years have been challenging with the rapid and radical changes in education at the state and federal levels. I thank our teachers, instructional support staff and administrators for continually working to meet the demands of these changes and for bringing their “A-game” to the learning environment for every student…every day. Education is the noblest profession and there is no more dedicated teachers and staff than in Watervliet schools! 

Welcome new staff

With that in mind, I am pleased to announce that approximately 20 outstanding educators will join the district in September taking the place of retirees or others who have left the district seeking other opportunities. The group includes both new and familiar faces—all with an abundance of experience and positive energy to bring to the classroom and share with our students! I hope you will join me in welcoming them—in some cases welcoming them back—to the Watervliet school community.

New staff members includes: Jennifer Donovan has stepped down from the Board of Education to accept a position as a speech teacher at the elementary school. She joins Kaleigh McGrouty, also a speech teacher. Denise Cusack will teach 3rd-4th grade special education as well as Annie Amaya working as a teacher’s assistant. Through grant funding, Geraldine Ferris—a familiar face to our UPK families—has become a district employee working in her same capacity in the UPK program.                                                           

At the junior-senior high school, Loida Lewinter, who once was our BOCES math coach, and later worked at the State Education Department—will serve as an assistant principal. Michael Foust becomes an assistant principal and athletic director. Jaclynne Lewis joins our science department; Rebecca Young is the new ELL teacher; Noreen Gill is our new social worker, Lisa Dubrule will be the library aide, Carol Connelly, Evan Thorpe and Robina Hussein will serve as teaching assistants. Giovanna Parente is a new hall monitor. Theresa O’Connor will be a part-time reading teacher. I welcome back John Grill to our social studies department and Corrina Pelkey to our English department.

Former board member Chris Daus was appointed during the August 21 Board of Education meeting to complete the remainder of Mrs. Donovan’s term.

I begin this school year with great enthusiasm and high expectations, and am grateful for the continued support our parents and the community have shown our schools over the years.

Best wishes for a productive and successful year!