Written by Superintendent East Williston School District t DR. Elaine KANAS Thursday, 02 January 2014 00:00
I had the wonderful experience of seeing the second Wheatley Winter Concert of this season. The chorale, honors string ensemble, symphonic orchestra, symphonic band and jazz band all sang and played expertly. Thank you to the amazing students who participated and to their outstanding teachers who prepared them and conducted the program, Angela Luftig, Stan Orlovsky, Peggy Ho and Steve Fitzko. It was a beautiful evening of music. In keeping with our “All In” theme for the year, the program focused on one common subject, Americana. In this way, students studying American history in their classrooms would be exposed to many periods of American history through a musical lens.
The student-musicians researched their pieces, composers and the time frame in which they were written. For example, a sampling of our student performances follows: a choral selection “The Bells,” based on an 1849 poem by American poet Edgar Allan Poe and arranged by John Leavitt; the song, “Brother, My Brother,” by Jack Murphy and Frank Wildhorn, was inspired by the tensions between the southern and northern states that escalated into the Civil War; “Americans We” was written in 1929, at the beginning of the Great Depression, when the composer Henry Fillmore wanted to bring music to the country and ignite spirit and pride in Americans. As noted in the Concert program, “Music usually reflects the environment and time of its creation. We increase our appreciation of music when we understand its historical context.” The thematic selections of the evening supported this type of connection to academic learning, while at the same time created an emotional experience that only the arts can provide.
At the December board of education monthly meeting, Dave Casamento, director of science and technology, Brian McConaghy, secondary chair of social studies and Joan Anderson, foreign language department chair made presentations on the Common Core and Literacy in the Content Areas. The presentations can be found on our website at www.ewsdonline.org > left side navigation to Common Core Curriculum Info > CCC Info. Once again following this year’s theme “All In” where we believe students learn best integrating ideas and skills across all content areas, the presentations conveyed the many parallels found in the three content areas above and the ELA and Math Common Core Standards. (Audio of the presentations will be available online when we return from the December break.) In just one example, foreign language students now practice reading and speaking skills by gathering evidence from several sources to support a persuasive argument, similar to the ELA research paper.
Each year, Wheatley’s Inter-Cultural Unity Club (ICU) holds its annual assembly and luncheon, an all-day cultural festival filled with live performances and foods from around the world. Over the many years, the luncheon has become a great tradition at Wheatley. Through music and dance performances by students, we celebrated the diverse cultures within our community as a way of bringing us closer together. Special invited guests are students from the UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) Children’s Learning Center. I was excited to be able to participate, as did several of our faculty in the end of program fashion show where native clothing from various countries was modeled.
Following the assembly, our luncheon replaces the normal cafeteria fare with diverse sampling of food from all cultures. As students enjoy the wonderful food, they are entertained in our transformed cafeteria by a diverse program of student and faculty performers. We are thankful for the food and other donations from our Wheatley families. All leftover food is brought to the Interfaith Nutrition Network – The Inn.
The East Williston/Roslyn Community Coalition for Healthy Youth (EWRCC) has as its goal, emotionally and physically healthy youth. The coalition’s objective is to educate families as they face today’s many parenting challenges by means of parent education workshops, public service ads, community website and a communications network. Coalition members include parents, school officials, religious leaders and other concerned residents and community leaders in the East Williston and Roslyn school communities.