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Deputy Commissioner Visits Levittown

Who could have predicted that a chance encounter at a PTA convention in upstate New York would be all it would take to get the state Deputy Commissioner of Education Ken Slentz to appear for a parent-teacher forum in Levittown? 

 

“We have a lot of people in our community who are concerned about the [state] curriculum,” said Levittown PTA Council President Patricia Genco. “Hopefully [Ken] will put their concerns to rest.” 

 

On Jan. 29, Slentz came to dispel myths surrounding the learning standards adopted by New York and 45 other states in the nation. 

 

“Its not called Common Core because every kid has to be the same,” Slentz said. “It means that no matter which of these 45 states you’re in, you will be held to the same standards.” Following the state’s implementation of the Common Core-based English

Language Arts and Mathematics exams, many parents, teachers, students, staff and administrators had several concerns and questions about the curriculum and its impact on students in the district. 

 

At the forum, one PTA Council parent asked about the necessary procedure for a parent to have their child opt out of the state exams. While not reciting the protocol needed to opt out, Slentz reminded the audience that the common core exams are a balance of information from districts and state assessments, which will help them determine what is working and what is not. 

 

“It is the choice of moms and dads to decide if they do not want their child to take the exam,” Slentz said. “But we have to be thoughtful about what they’re giving up instead of the 60 minutes [required to take the test].”

 

Among the questions, a vast majority of people asked the Deputy Commissioner about the levels of stress placed on the students taking these high-rigor examinations. Slentz acknowledged the concern, attributing the increased levels of stress to “growing pains” that come with putting in place a new curriculum for 696 school districts in the state. 

 

Wisdom Lane Middle School Teacher John Lipani disagreed with Slentz’s sentiment, informing him that students’ discomfort with the new curriculum goes far beyond the initial “growing pains” that Slentz had described. 

 

“It’s every day,” Lipani said. “Whatever the lesson we are teaching, I’ve never seen the kids so miserable.”

 

An educator in the district for 17 years, Lipani said that he constantly wants to challenge his students, but doesn’t see what the new wave of state testing is doing for the kids. 

 

And he was not alone. 

 

“As a teacher and a parent I think we are failing them emotionally,” said one of the parents in the audience. “We’re not comparing one or two children... It’s affecting all the children.” 

 

Slentz explained that in order for parents to see the difference in the outcome of their children, it is going to take some time. 

 

With many moving pieces involved in keeping up with the Common Core, Slentz would also address concerns facing school administrators and teachers. Educators and administrators have encountered an added amount of pressure to engage with collective bargaining units to submit an Annual Professional Performance Review—a means of teacher and principal evaluation that must be negotiated with union leaders—by the state’s deadline.

 

“We are well on the way to making changes by next year,” said Levittown Schools Superintendent Dr. James Grossane on the status of the district’s APPR. 

 

Slentz went on to debrief the audience on plans to phase in the curriculum for high school students. According to Slentz, the state plans to adjust how it will be introduced this year by providing high school students taking new Algebra regents examinations, with the option of taking the older assessments. The higher of the two scores will count towards their grade. 

 

Among a crowd of disgruntled parents, one mother, who said she was in favor of the new curriculum because it had elevated her expectations of her son, asked that if students are required to take two tests, with the higher of the two counting towards their grade, wouldn’t that only cause a gap between the common core and the older curriculum?

 

“Our hope is to close that gap over the next three years,” Slentz replied. 

 

He added that the graduating class of 2017 will be the first group of students to be required to pass Regents based on the common core standards.

News

A clown named Renaldo performed magic tricks for an enthusiastic audience as part of the National Circus Project, which visited Levittown Public Library on Wednesday, July 16.

 

All 150 tickets available for the performance were sold out in this interactive magic show for children. Throughout the entire circus act, children laughed and raised their hands as high as they could to be chosen as one of Renaldo’s helpers.

 

Raising her hand to participate was three-year-old Kirsten Cantwell from Seaford. “She was upset that she didn’t get picked,” said her mother Melissa Cantwell.

 

Kirsten Cantwell goes to any activity offered at the library, and is starting to enjoy watching magic shows. According to her mother, she really enjoyed the performance.

 

In the circus show, National Circus Project performer, Al Calienes, acted as Renaldo the clown.

 

“The show has different components of acts in the circus,” explained Calienes. “We teach children circus moves.”

 

With the National Circus Project, children get to see magic tricks performed live. “We infuse enthusiasm by showing them, and they in turn will be able to repeat the process,” said Calienes.

Renaldo performed plate spinning, where he spun a plate on a stick and passed it along to the stick of one of his helpers from the audience, who then passed the plate down a line of three more helpers. This interactive way of teaching the children magic tricks really allows them to absorb what they are learning.

 

The National Circus Project travels and performs for elementary schools, as well as middle and high schools. When the National Circus Project is not going to schools, they perform at library shows, summer camps, and other types of events.

 

The performance entertains the adults as well as the children. “We involve everybody,” said Calienes. “Everybody’s engaged on some level or another. “

 

At every library performance, Calienes donates the children’s book he wrote and illustrated Renaldo Joins the Circus to the library. He feels that he owes a lot to the library system. “Anything that ever meant anything to me I learned in the library,” said Calienes.

 

Calienes learned how to draw from the library, which is how he became a commercial artist. One of the main characters he would always draw would be Renaldo the clown. “I wanted to make him real so I joined the circus,” he said.

 

Calienes has been performing with the National Circus Project for seven years and has been in the circus business going on 26 years.

 

The National Circus Project brings magic to children at any school, camp or library all over Long Island as well as across the country.

 

Last June, Nassau County passed legislation that allows for the deployment of a speed enforcement camera system in school zones for each of the 56 public school districts in the county. 

 

The new systems will be implemented throughout the county on July 25, and will be operational on scheduled school days throughout the year. 


Sports

Levittown’s Division Avenue High School varsity baseball team, under the direction of coach Tom Tuttle, won the Class A County Championship, garnering a third-place ranking in New York State. This is the team’s 13th county championship win and the second county championship for the school in the past four years.

 

In addition, senior Chris Reilly was named Championship MVP for throwing a complete game shutout in game two and going three for four with two RBIs. 

Taylor Traenkle, a junior at Division Avenue High School recently received the MVP award for the Nassau County Varsity Hockey League Association.

 

Traenkle, who plays no. 9 for the Levittown Ice Falcons, led the way averaging 2.8 points a game with a total of 25 goals and 23 assists in just 17 games. 


Calendar

Lazy Days Of Summer - July 26

Flea Market - July 27

Darlene Prince and the Bragg Hollow Band - July 28


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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