Thursday, December 15, 2016

Holiday message

Students, teachers and staff are likely counting down the days as the holiday recess nears, anxious to leave the classrooms, hallways, lockers, lesson plans, books and binders behind and spend time at home (or away) with family and friends. Our teachers, staff and students have been working hard throughout this first semester and deserve a welcome break.

Although it is easy to be swept up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I encourage everyone to find some time to reflect on the many reasons to be thankful and to remember the most important gifts of all: family and friends, food and shelter, and good health.

This time of year can be especially difficult for children in our community whose families struggle to provide the essentials that many of us take for granted, like a hot meal and a warm bed. I understand the emotional toll this can take on educators as they strive to balance the needs of their own families with the needs of their school “families.” I thank you for your efforts each and every day to support our students; in particular, these past few weeks sharing the holiday spirit while continuing to challenge students academically.

The support our educators provide to students is clearly demonstrated in new initiatives implemented at the elementary school this year. These programs provide support for the minds, bodies and souls of our youngest students. WES Principal Loida Lewinter and her staff in partnership with the Watervliet Civic Center launched Food is Fuel in October. This program provides bags of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare, healthy foods for up to 60 students to take home on weekends. The Cannoneer Closet offers gently used or new clothing, like warm coats and mittens, for any student who needs it. Students look forward to the morning exercise program each day. After morning announcements, physical education teachers lead students in a short exercise and stretching routine done in the classroom that allows them to prepare their minds and bodies for learning. The ExTRA Breakfast Club provides additional reading and math interventions for struggling kindergarten through grade 2 learners before the official start of school three days per week.

Season for giving

I express my sincere appreciation to everyone who generously donated to the Watervliet Housing Authority’s Adopt-A-Family program. Many, many children in our community will experience joy this holiday season thanks to your generosity. Thank you everyone who purchased and wrapped gifts or offered a monetary donation. Your support is helping to make the holidays brighter and happier for struggling families in our community.

I also applaud second grade teacher Kim Tallmadge and her colleagues for organizing a highly successful Pajama Day fundraiser and Pajama Drive. In a short three days, the elementary school collected 126 pairs of pajamas and raised nearly $600 to purchase additional pajamas to donate to the Scholastic Great Bedtime Story Pajama Drive. (Impressive!) This national program pairs the PJs with a book, which is then delivered to local children in homeless shelters and other facilities in time for the holidays.

Arsenal Partnership plays Santa

A quick shout out to our friends at the Arsenal Business & Technology Partnership for their generosity to our schools this year. Peter Gannon presented a check for $10,000 to the district during the December Board of Education meeting that will help support more learning opportunities for Watervliet students. I am grateful for the continued support of the Arsenal Partnership and I extend my thanks to the event volunteers for their time and efforts, as well as to the many local businesses and community members who donated to support our student programs.

In the spirit of the holidays, I wish everyone good health, happiness and success in the New Year!

Happy holidays!