Friday, 15 February 2013 00:00
I had the incredible pleasure of attending my first Willets Road Winter Concert last week. It was really quite extraordinary to think that our 11 and 12-year-old students gave such beautiful and disciplined performances. Congratulations to all the students who worked so hard to provide such a special evening. Congratulations must also be given to the Willets Road music teachers, Denise Giuliano, Scott Hoefling and Karen Brandine, whose instructional skill and commitment laid the cornerstone for our students’ achievement. Thank you, of course, to the Willets Road administration, Steve Kimmel and Danielle Gately, all the Willets Road teachers and the parents who continue to support and encourage our students in finding and developing new talents and interests. And while we are talking about music, last week’s fourth-grade chorus concert was similarly spectacular. Congratulations to music teacher Ed Lattari and his students for a wonderful experience. Again, thanks to Jim Bloomgarden, James Foy, North Side’s staff and all the parents who encourage our students’ artistic passions.
Like all school districts, East Williston faces the challenge of continuing to provide an excellent educational program and grow it even further in the context of ever more limited resources. As you know, in order to meet this challenge, our school district is proactively embarking on a Five Year Strategic Plan. The plan will identify district priorities, thereby helping us plan and make choices over the next five years.
The Strategic Planning Committee met for the first time on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. The committee reviewed the Strategic Planning Process Outline shared at the Jan. 9 Work Session. Members of the committee provided input on various aspects of the plan. (The complete outline is available on our website > District homepage www.ewsdonline.org > click on District tab > click on About Our District > click on Strategic Planning Initiative in the red navigation bar on the left > find the January 9, 2013 Work Session box and click on the outline.)
Phase 1 (November 2012, December 2012, January 2013 and February 2013) General open-ended community input. This phase is used for the community to provide feedback and ideas regarding current program, as well as ideas for new programs or changes. The ideas generated here will help determine which topics go into the hugely important Strategic Planning Priority Survey.
Phase 2 (March, 2013) Strategic Planning Priority Survey. All community members will be invited to participate in a key survey that will specifically list present and possible programs and activities. At this point you will get the chance to tell us your priorities with simple clicks of the mouse or pencil point.
Phase 3 (April 2013, May 2013 and part of June 2013) The educational team, made up of administrators and teachers, will review the priorities gleaned from the survey. The team will synthesize the results and create a draft five-year goals plan, taking New York State and district requirements into consideration. The draft plan will be shared with the Strategic Planning Committee. The Committee provides input and comments and a final draft is completed.
Phase 4 (June 2013, July 2013 and August 2013) The Board of Education reviews draft strategic plan and recommends any revisions.
Phase 5 (September 2013) The Board of Education votes on the adoption of the East Williston School District’s Five Year Strategic Plan!
The questions are: What East Williston programs do you find important and want to be sure the District continues? Are there programs East Williston does not presently have, that you would like to see us offer?
I have heard from some people that the open-ended questions are a challenge to complete and that it would be helpful to have some topics listed that people could check off or comment specifically on. Please rest assured that the goal of Phase 1 is simply to give everyone the opportunity to present ideas, which can help us decide on the topics to include in the Strategic Planning Priority Survey.
The Strategic Planning Priority Survey will be organized with listed topics and categories that you can select from. In addition to ideas garnered from the public, the District will of course include current programs and new educational ideas so that you have a full range of choices.
As explained above, the Strategic Planning Process will be complete when the final Five Year Strategic Plan is presented to the Board of Education for approval and adoption at its September 2013 meeting. Upon its approval, the Five Year Strategic Plan will provide guidance for budgetary decision-making for the 2014-15 school year and beyond.
In the meantime, public involvement and comment during the development of the 2013-14 Budget is still very important. Due to the second year of the tax levy cap and financial mandates over which we have no control, the present year’s fiscal restraints will require us to be flexible and creative in our thinking. The ideas and priorities being garnered through our Strategic Planning Process, though not yet definitive, may help us all examine and articulate budget priorities, even for this year.
As we all know, the challenging economic climate makes it imperative that we continue to try to be as creative and efficient in delivering our school programs so that we can maximize every dollar. In order to do this, the District consistently takes advantage of many opportunities to save money.
These include shared transportation with neighboring school districts, cooperative purchasing ventures and other shared services through BOCES and varying consortiums. We are continually looking at new ways to expand upon these efforts.
For example, in March, our elementary reading teachers and some of our special education co-teachers will be receiving training in a highly regarded, research-based intervention called Leveled Literacy Intervention. The program is designed to make a real difference for our struggling readers. We have invited other districts to participate in this training and share in the fees for the training, significantly reducing our own district costs.
East Williston Superintendent