Thursday, June 11, 2015

SY 2014-15: recap

Here we are again – at the end of another school year – preparing to celebrate the accomplishments and successes of our students.

Before that happens, high school students must get through Regents week and final exams, which begin next week. I remind students that these exams can often make or break your final grade, so it is especially important to remain focused on preparing for your exams, and take advantage of the remaining review classes teachers are offering during this final week of classes.

Here are some important dates to have marked on your calendar for June:

  • The Class of 2015 Commencement will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 25 in the Harry Tucker gymnasium at Watervliet High School. 
  • Our Grade 6 Graduation is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 24 in the Watervliet Jr.-Sr. High School auditorium.
  • On Tuesday, June 23, our kindergarten students will participate in Moving Up Day at the elementary school with ceremonies at 9:15 a.m. for Mrs. Minnick, Mrs. Pontore and Mrs. Shufelt’s classes, followed at 10:15 a.m. by Ms. Taylor and Mrs. Cioffi’s classes.
  • The Universal Prekindergarten program will celebrate on Monday, June 22 with two ceremonies at Watervliet Elementary School; the first at 9 a.m., and the second at 10 a.m.

2014-15 year in review

As the 2014-15 school year wraps up in a few short weeks, now is a good time to reflect on some of the highlights from these past 10 months.

In August, before the official start of the 2014-15 school year, our district as part of consortium of 12 schools and BOCES, was awarded a Teaching is the Core grant. With this state grant, a team of Watervliet educators and administrators reviewed our testing practices in an effort to identify and improve assessments. Educators participated in professional development on creating more authentic assessments and the review team worked to develop an action plan that will allow us to begin to implement improved performance-based assessments that can be used to measure student learning.

In September, we welcomed assistant principal Loida Lewinter to Watervliet Junior-Senior High School. Mrs. Lewinter hit the ground running this first year and has been an excellent addition to our leadership team. The Character Education and No Place for Hate programs have flourished under her leadership. Principal Groat handed the reins of the Kids of Character program to Mrs. Lewinter and I'm proud to say that this year, 89 students overall were recognized as Kids of Character.

One of my favorite and lasting memories of this year – and of my tenure as superintendent so far – was seeing 1,500 high school football fans, community members, invited guests, and sports media personnel gather at the Watervliet Jr.-Sr. High School campus to celebrate the grand opening of our new athletic field and track during the first home football game of the season last September. I will forever remember the excitement and the pride that event brought to our students and to our community on a very memorable Friday night under “the lights.” View pictures

Also in the fall, the elementary school hosted its first Dads Take Your Child to School Day, while high school juniors and seniors explored their post-secondary options when the College Caravan, a mobile college fair, made a stop at WJSHS.

Thanks to a Target literacy grant, the elementary school launched a successful book-reading Breakfast Club for kindergarten through grade 2 students. The Breakfast Club has helped shape an appreciation of reading and build literacy skills for our youngest learners who met once a week throughout the school year to start the day off reading books and enjoying a healthy breakfast.

The Arsenal Partnership presented our district with a $25,000 donation from its annual golf tournament. The donation helped us restore many of the extracurricular programs that had been eliminated from the budget due to fiscal limitations. I am grateful to the Arsenal Partnership for making our district the beneficiary of its golf tournament for the past two years and for the support of local businesses and individuals who sponsored the event and/or donated prizes. My hope is that these partnerships can grow in coming years so that we can continue to offer our students a high-quality and well-rounded education. Read more

The Watervliet Athletic Hall of Fame welcomed nine new members during its seventh annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in October. View video tribute

Twenty high school students were selected to be trained for and serve as members of Watervliet’s Youth Court – which wrapped up its second year a few weeks ago. Youth Court is the city’s alternative to criminal and family court for young offenders ages 10-18 who have committed first-time, low-level criminal offenses in the community.

In November, 30-plus Watervliet students joined their peers from neighboring schools for Project VOICE—a national movement that celebrates and inspires youth self-expression through Spoken Word Poetry—at the Troy Music Hall. Read more

Third-grade students received free reference books from the Watervliet Elks as part of the national Dictionary Project, a program that provides dictionaries to students to use at school and at home. Educators view third grade as the dividing line between learning to read and reading to learn, which is why the dictionaries are gifted each year to our third grade classes. Read more

During the elementary school’s annual Food Drive, students and staff collected nearly 1,400 non-perishable food items that were donated to the local food pantry in time for distribution to economically disadvantaged families in time for the holiday season.

Over the winter, SED released a report indicating that graduation rates across the state had increased. According to the data, Watervliet High School’s graduation rate was 78 percent for 2014 — a 12 percentage point increase from the 2013 graduation rate of 66 percent. Read more

Varsity wrestlers paid tribute to 20 teachers and staff members during the team’s annual Teacher Appreciation Night.

A team of students from the high school participated in the Annual STOP (Students Together Opposing Prejudice) Conference at Siena College in January and engaged in activities, discussions and action planning around issues of prejudice, tolerance and respect. Read more

In February, 25 WES fourth-graders participated in an enrichment program called the Help Yourself Academy at the Sage College campus in downtown Troy. The after-school program sponsored by the Esteves School of Education offered students an opportunity to build skills in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) through fun, hands-on projects. Read more

Speaking of science, WHS chemistry teacher Victoria Eddy-Helenek was named a New York State Master Teacher in February. She joins 550 teachers from across the state who have been selected for this program that recognizes educators for their dedication to providing the most innovative STEM education to students, their commitment to professional growth and their enthusiasm for sharing successful practices with their colleagues. Congratulations to Ms. Eddy-Helenek! Read more

In late February, Watervliet High School student Theresa DeChairo and I were invited to speak at a regional forum on public education advocating for our schools. The forum, hosted by Colonie High School, was attended by more than 1,000 stakeholders from dozens of area school districts for what has become an annual regional call to action on the fiscal and educational crisis that public schools face. Read more

In March, our school and district administrators jumped into the world of social media – specifically the ‘Twittersphere.’ Since then, they have been ‘tweeting’ out pictures and information on a daily basis about school events. If you don’t already—please follow them on Twitter! Read more

Two words made May memorable: Bubble Soccer. Nine teams comprised of students and staff competed in our first Bubble Soccer Tourney at the junior-senior high school — a fun and fierce fund-raiser presented by the Character Education/No Place for Hate programs. After a hard-fought competition, our teachers narrowly defeated our administrators. I’m already looking forward to a rematch next year. View pictures

On May 19, voters approved our 2015-16 Watervliet school budget by a margin of 66 percent. Next year’s fiscal plan preserves our academic programs and maintains staff. I thank everyone who participated in the school budget vote and Board of Education election, and I am grateful to the community for its continued support of our schools despite ongoing fiscal struggles. Read more

Our school’s National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society inducted 21 new members and 31 new members, respectively, during ceremonies in May. Congratulations to all those students for putting in the effort and their families for the support provided at home.

It is with pride that I recognize Rachel Grigg and Mary Jo DeStefano for earning top honors as valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2015, respectively. Rachel plans to attend Drexel University in Philadelphia where she will study research science, while Mary Jo will pursue a degree in criminal justice at Cazenovia College in Central New York. Read more

When 40 percent of the top students in a graduating class are siblings — like in our Class of 2015 — it deserves recognition. The Jones quadruplets – Alison, Nicholas, Elizabeth, and Rebecca Jones rank third, fifth, seventh and tenth in the class, respectively, and have a combined cumulative grade point average of 93.75 percent. Read more

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

Finally, I sincerely thank this year’s retirees for their years of service to the district and commitment to our students. Congratulations and best wishes to: WHS special education teacher Theresa Buchanan, WHS social worker Frances McKee-Decrescenzo, WHS science teacher Frank Parisi, WES custodian Charles Rorie, WES teaching assistant Deborah Shevy, and WES guidance counselor Robert Strang.

To our returning students, educators and staff, please enjoy a safe, relaxing and fun summer vacation! I look forward to welcoming you back in September.

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