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Another School Year Begins

Offering an academic experience that challenges and supports every student

Some in Albany would have us believe that the only school days that mattered last year and that will matter this year are those involving students taking state-developed and state-created tests. 

Last year, I found that there were many days that were more important, more significant, and more indicative of the quality experience that our students enjoyed. They serve as harbingers of the year ahead. I’d like to share a few.

 

April 8, 2013. In a district with almost a 200-year history, there are few opportunities to see “firsts,” but one occurred when the North High School track team hosted a home meet at our new North Middle School track. The performance of the student athletes was heightened by their excitement at having a track that they could call their own. Several members of the team thanked me for this addition and I quickly reminded them that this new facility was a gift from (and to) the community.

 

May 7, 2013. Full-scale musicals are predictable at the secondary level; however, on this date, Seusical the Musical took form at the E.M. Baker School brought to us by teachers Tara Georges, Tina Tomasello, Michelle Furrey, Cynthia Gorney, and dozens of extremely talented, dedicated, and enthused elementary students. Their ability and their passion were palpable to every member of the packed audience.

 

June 4, 2013. When it comes to musical productions there are few that can compare to North High School’s annual STAGES event. The year begins with four teachers (Roger Ames, Susan Babkes, Jeff Gilden, and Neil Saggerson), 30 students, and a blank tablet of paper. By year’s end, they offer a fully staged, college-level musical comedy, conceived, written, scored, and performed by this talented group. The return of the many STAGES alumni each year speaks to the impact this academic event has on the lives of our students.

 

May 16, 2013. The book, Because of Winn Dixie, is one that many elementary school students enjoy; but the students of Michelle Puleio at the Saddle Rock School learn to experience the book in a very different way. These students, by way of a multi-disciplinary lesson that calls upon literacy, computation, design, and construction skills, build the doghouse that features so prominently in the story. The classroom takes on the feeling of a workshop as students plan, purchase, and produce, with the culminating activity being the completion of this artifact from the story. Students wait all year for this creative learning experience.

 

June 21, 2013. If the only occasion witnessed at South Middle School last year was its graduation, you’d know that it is a school that combines rigor with respect and even sneaks in that oft-ignored commodity—love. The ceremony was joyous, but when Principal Dr. James Welsch sings his farewell, you know that you’ve come upon a very special school. On that same day, I was also witness to the North Middle School graduation and it was evident by the combination of enthusiasm and exuberance that the administrative team there has established its own new traditions. Theirs was an equally supportive and affirming event.

 

September 4, 2012. On this date, the members of the Class of 2025 entered our elementary schools. Children enter, some with little experience of what it means to go to school, to cooperate, and to learn together. They meet individuals

with whom they will “travel” for the next dozen or so years. At the Parkville School, it was remarkable to witness this, and to witness how quickly Principal Debra Shalom and her staff acculturate these children into their new role as students. This process is part of the foundation upon which we build our success.

 

May 30, 2013. The basement of the Lakeville School was transformed into a recreation of the Lascaux Caves, with Paleolithic-like drawings and an eerily recreated geologic setting. Art teachers Monica Casazza and Cliff Broffman initiated this project for that evening’s Spring Walk Through event. Parents and students flocked here for the experience, and left knowing a bit more about the topic and a lot more about the considerable talent of our students and staff.

 

April 12, 2013. On this date, our South High School Robotics Team competed and qualified for the National Championship that was held in St. Louis, Missouri, later in the spring. Business/Technology Head John Motchkavitz and

Technology Teacher Matthew Corrigan were faculty advisors. In St. Louis, our students interacted with teams from around the world and everyone who met them left with a sense that our team is a leader in this burgeoning field.

 

February 11, 2013. Dr. Mary Ehrenworth of Columbia University visited the John F. Kennedy School to speak to parents interested in learning more about assisting their children in developing independent reading skills. It was a credit to the school community that the midday auditorium was full and that parents wanted to be active partners in this process, our students are the ultimate beneficiaries of this partnership.

 

June 20, 2013. The symbolic culminating event of any school district is high school graduation, and our three ceremonies last June serve as a representation of what we value. Talented student musicians feted their accomplished classmates. Thoughtful representative speakers were reflective, amusing, and thankful for their time in Great Neck. Finally, parents enjoyed this opportunity to pause and consider all that had gone on in the last decade of their children’s educational experience knowing that they had been well prepared to succeed in college and career. 

 

It is that last phrase, that our students have been “well prepared to succeed in college and career,” that prompted me to offer this retrospective. We have been told by the state that our children are not as college- and career-ready now as they were last June. I do not know how this retrograde academic achievement can occur, unless it is done by manipulating numbers that are within the state’s control. Our students continue to be the greatest resource upon which we can rely. Their needs are being met and staff is committed to continuing to do so.

 

Towards this end, a presentation on the district results on state testing will be 8 p.m., at South High School, Sept. 16, at the Board of Education meeting. We will share our district results, offer comparisons to previous years, discuss these results within the context of our highly competitive region, and answer questions. The data will be exactly that which we have received from the state, along with the state’s assessment of the progress we are making. 

 

Events like those I described from last year have occurred in previous years in Great Neck and will occur in future years. 2013–14 will be another exciting year for students, one that offers learning experiences beyond what is proscribed, and limited only by the imagination of our students and staff. 

 

The Board of Education and school administration are entirely supportive of an academic experience that not only challenges every student and prepares him/her for the world beyond school, but also one that offers the kind of experiences that will be long remembered, and remembered with great emotion.

 

I thank the Great Neck community for your continued support of our schools and I invite your involvement and participation.