Monday, June 12, 2017

Best year yet!

WHS seniors on Superhero Day
From the little superheroes marching in the annual WES Halloween parade to the “superhero” seniors marching into their final classes this past week, I am reminded of how exceptionally fast this year has gone by.

As I shared during the most recent Board of Education meeting, I consider this school year to be one of the best in my 12 years in the district, five as superintendent. The administrative team has been working so cohesively and consistently toward achieving our long-term goals. In particular, the work accomplished to implement Response to Intervention (RtI) at the elementary and secondary grades has been remarkable. RtI uses a tiered approach to identifying and supporting students with learning and behavioral needs through routine screening and high-quality instruction to reinforce academic and social development. The administrative team’s efforts to introduce the extended day or ExTRA program also has been extraordinary. This grant-funded initiative is helping increase academic achievement for struggling students in grades K-8 through before- and after-school support, enrichment activities and a summer learning program.

Our district completed an in-depth review and analysis this year of our special education program with assistance from CASDA, the Center for School Improvement at the University of Albany's School of Education. Much credit to Special Education Director of Programs and Pupil Services Janelle Yanni and her staff for the intense work they have done to reflect on what has been working, while also resolving to make changes that will better support learning for our special needs students.

I am especially proud of first-year administrators, UPK and Literacy Director Don Stevens and WJSHS Assistant Principal Kelly Webster, who have brought a new energy and enthusiasm to our buildings.

Board of Education transitions

Dr. Caplan with Mike Hartkern and Mark Scully
During our final Board of Education meeting of the 2016-17 school year, we recognized outgoing Board President Mark Scully and board member Mike Hartkern for their service to our schools, students and community.

Mark has served on the school board for the past 15 years and during his tenure, he has been rock solid. He has seen the district through a series of building projects that have vastly improved our buildings and facilities, and never shied away from making tough decisions when called for during challenging fiscal times. Mark is the consummate gentleman, educational supporter, advocate for children, staff and our schools. He is epitome of all a school board president should be. I, personally, will miss his leadership and his friendship.

I also wish nothing but the best to Mike Hartkern who served one term (three years) on the board. With two young sons attending WES, I am certain that he will remain highly engaged in our schools and community.

In July, I look forward to welcoming and working with two new board members, Steve Hoffman and Mary Beth Whited who won election in May, as we continue to move the district forward.

Congratulations Class of 2017

The end of the school year is such a bittersweet time. In fewer than two weeks, we will bid farewell to group of about 100 students who we have been educating, inspiring and challenging for the past 13 years of their lives. As the Class of 2017 prepares to move on from Watervliet High School, I wish them all the best in the next chapter, whether that be college, the workforce, or the military. The WHS commencement begins promptly at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 22 in the Harry Tucker gymnasium.

Speaking of our soon-to-be graduates, it is with much pride that I recognize Evan Tambolleo and Brianna Johnson for earning top honors as valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2017, respectively. Evan is graduating with a 98.9 grade point average and plans to study industrial engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) this fall. Brianna, who is graduating with a grade point average of 96.5, plans to attend Johns Hopkins University to study biomedical engineering/pre-med. Both students are National Honor Society officers and were involved in a number of extracurricular activities throughout their school careers. I have no doubt they will be highly successful in their future endeavors!

Farewell to our retiring educators, staff members

Lastly, I thank this year’s retirees for their years of service to the district and commitment to our students. Congratulations and best wishes to WHS social studies teachers Bryan Satterlee and John Grill, WHS art teacher Beverly Lavick; WES teachers Kathi Grill and Mary Sennett; and WES teaching assistants Julia King, Tess Newbury and Karen Corey.

To our students, teachers and 10-month staffers, please enjoy a relaxing, safe and fun summer! We will do this all again starting in September.

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