Written by Dr. Dan Brenner Friday, 27 November 2009 00:00As the first set of report cards is being readied by the teachers to be sent home, I thought it might be useful for my administration to follow a similar pattern of reporting. Every few months I intend to review what’s happening in the School District and to provide residents with an update on programs and initiatives that we’re working on. The following is my first “progress report” from the beginning of the school year.
First and foremost, we are focusing on a number of important items in the area of curriculum and instruction. We continue our commitment to the Columbia Writing Project, a widely used and highly effective literacy program introduced into Roslyn’s elementary schools last year. Comprehensive professional development for teachers is an integral part of this program. Teachers receive on-site training on a regular basis to support their efforts in the classroom. Recently, a group of about 40 parents had an opportunity to pay a visit to Teachers College for a special program to demonstrate how this program works to benefit our students. A feature article about the program from earlier in 2009 is posted on the district website and provides a good overview.
Professional development was the agenda on Election Day. While schools were closed for students, the entire faculty and staff attended a range of workshops and special programs. More than 30 activities were scheduled, both in-district and at other locations. Dr. Frank Banta, assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, coordinated the event and wrote a description of the day’s programs on the “Curriculum Corner” section of the district website.
One of the featured presentations was on the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) of students, which is an ongoing district initiative. The entire faculty and staff of the Roslyn Middle School, as well as parents, participated in this in-depth program, which focused our awareness on the link between mutual respect, self-respect and social well-being, and consequently on students’ overall performance in our classrooms.
Also at the middle school this fall, we have implemented changes in both math and foreign language curricula. The changes in math reflect our commitment to bringing a higher level of math learning to all middle school students. In foreign language, we have expanded offerings, including affording students an opportunity for the first time to begin a full Regents sequence in Italian.
We have also created a new web page for our Elementary Science program. The site is both instructive and fun, providing useful information for parents about the science curriculum and activities for students to try at home. It also highlights the first elementary science fair that will take place in the spring. Look for the link on the home pages of the elementary schools.
In the area of capital projects, we continue to implement a wide-ranging, multiyear program of improvements to our buildings and grounds. The renovation of the middle school auditorium is now complete. Anyone driving by the middle school can see that work continues on the restoration of the playing fields. The fields will be seeded in early spring and we anticipate that they will be available for use, as planned, in the fall of 2010. A new asphalt track was completed in the last couple of weeks. New tennis courts and an expanded parking field with a new exit onto Locust Lane were built earlier this summer and fall. Photographs of our progress are periodically posted on the capital improvements section of the district website.
We have been fortunate to have been awarded grants for future capital projects through the office of state Senator Craig Johnson. Several grants totaling $350,000 have been targeted for the renovation of the high school cafeteria. An additional $100,000 grant was awarded to the Roslyn Bulldog Booster Club, which will be working with the school district to build a new field house at the high school. We are beginning now to discuss the scope of these projects, and I anticipate they will comprise the major part of next year’s capital plan. I also expect that funding for these projects, in addition to the grants, will rely heavily on the existing Capital Reserve Fund, which is money that must first be approved by the residents to spend, but has already been reserved and as a result will have zero additional impact on homeowner’s tax rates.
An exciting development in the area of facilities management is an intermunicipal agreement entered into by the school district and the Town of North Hempstead. This agreement has already borne fruit, as the town was able to resurface the paved playground area at the Harbor Hill School last summer at a great savings for the district. There are a number of shared services currently under discussion, which will potentially benefit both the town and the schools. I will provide additional information on this in my next progress report.
Technology also continues to be a major focus of our attention. One of the most exciting new developments is the introduction of ScholarChip, spearheaded by Assistant Superintendent for Administration Dr. Ed Salina. ScholarChip is a comprehensive system that creates a college campus-like environment at Roslyn High School while enhancing both security and efficiency districtwide. For example, every faculty member and Roslyn High School student now has an electronic photo identification, which serves as a means of entry into the high school building. It is also the students’ library card and a “point of service” card in the cafeteria. Parents can now put funds into an account for their children to use when purchasing meals and snacks, reducing the amount of cash that has to be handled in school. For faculty throughout the district, the ID card also provides access to photocopiers. Large copying jobs are automatically forwarded to the district’s digital copier center. Completed copies are quickly returned to the teachers in their buildings and departments. The result is that teachers no longer have to waste time waiting for copies as they stand in front of copy machines. That time can now be spent more productively with their students.
I hope this report has at least provided an overview of the projects we’re working on and where we are hoping to go in the future. I also hope it demonstrates our focus on creating the best possible learning environment for all of our students.