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Superintendent’s Column: September 20, 2011

Back With Enthusiasm

Hurricane Irene packed a great punch as it blew across the district but the spirits of our students and staff were not dampened in its aftermath.  We have all returned to open the 2011-12 school year with enthusiasm and renewed commitment to preserving excellence. Despite challenging economic times, we have an engaging program planned for our children and the community. Building on the incredible successes of the past school year, where we once again were able to graduate a class with astounding credentials and send them off to some of the most prestigious places of learning, we intend to create even more opportunities for our children to thrive and succeed.

Our schools are great places of learning because of the support we are given from our board of education and the community.  Our students and staff have been recognized for their incredible talent in award winning publications, fund-raising for various charities, drama productions, musical concerts, athletic competitions and fine academic prowess.  

The Class of 2012 is already showing signs of being one of our strongest pool of graduates. Of the 117 students identified as Advanced Placement Scholars this summer, 41 are current seniors.  We also count among our student body 8 National Merit Semifinalists and 6 All-State musicians.  Willets Road students and staff have received the highest honor awarded a school by being recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.  Willets Road Principal, Mr. Stephen Kimmel and Willets Road teacher, Mr. Joe Coladonato will be attending the award ceremony this fall, in Washington, D.C., and upon their return, we will have an appropriate recognition at the December Board of Education Meeting.  

The 2011-12 Plan for Results will continue to have Student Performance & Engagement as the cornerstone of the district’s priority areas.  You can expect to see some new and challenging course offerings as well as expanded services to support struggling students. With the impending school tax cap, we have placed Fiscal Prudence as another priority area.  We will continue to take up the challenge of preserving our uniquely successful programs that you have come to value, while staying within the financial parameters defined during our budget setting deliberations.  This is no easy task.  We will need Community Partnerships, another priority area, to problem solve our way to creative solutions.  The other focus areas include Technology Integration, Wellness, Support & Safety, Facilities Maintenance and Governance. Details of this plan are available on the district’s website at

Our facilities were once again our main focus this summer.  We received late notification of approval for our Energy Performance Contract; however, that did not deter us from beginning work to install a new boiler at Wheatley and new lighting throughout the district.  Savings from this project will come in the form of a reduced demand for energy in the future. Come and visit Wheatley and notice the new bright red student lockers that adorn our hallways.  Our students are thrilled with the expanded size of these lockers that can finally hold those bulging backpacks they used to carry around all day.  You will also be welcomed through new front doors at Willets Road.   We transitioned to a new student management system that will improve our communication about student achievement with our parents.  Many of our classrooms will have access to a wireless environment and enhanced Technology.  For the first time, Grade 6 students at Willets Road will be using an electronic Social Studies textbook, a 21st Century approach for some of our best thinkers.   

The many activities offered throughout the year provide evidence of the pride we share in watching our students excel.   The community is invited to attend each of these performances at no cost.  Mark your calendars for this Friday, September 23 when we will once again welcome you to Homecoming.  Plans are to go beyond the success of last year to include more events for our alumni and families.

The collective efforts of the Board of Education, an exemplary staff, a supportive PTO, and an actively involved community, all serve to allow us to preserve what is most valued in our schools. Continue to stay informed and to celebrate our astounding achievements with us throughout the year.