Sunday, April 1, 2018

Spring Has Sprung...

It's hard to believe that we are here, at the beginning of Spring and April. Most people know that the completion of March in a school setting is a major milestone. It signifies the end of the longest month in a school, and the beginning of the home stretch for our students. The next two and a half months bring many events, opportunities, and potential stresses to our students/staff. Particularly in the secondary setting, students are building schedules for next year, others are preparing for AP exams and Regents exams, the SAT and ACT administrations are coming up which could impact a student's future, some are looking for summer jobs, and that doesn't even begin to take into account athletic events, musicals, concerts, proms, balls, awards ceremonies, field days and class trips. As you can see, there is a lot going on. Generally, when people get busy, they also get tired and stressed. This is no different for our students as it is for us as adults. The next two months are a whirlwind for everyone. Some of the events that occur will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for students and parents. Moving through the final weeks of the school year, please take time to soak in the events and opportunities that our students, staff, and families have. While grades, homework, and assignments are important; I have met very few people who when asked to recall their memories of school, speak of these things. Our responsibility in education is to help people grow. Growth comes in many forms and the bottom line is that growth is growth. Our students are going to remember the humanistic things that we do to help them become better people much more than they are going to remember our best social studies lesson. If you don't believe me, sit for a moment and think about your favorite teacher from school and then the reasons why they were your favorite. Compare that to your least favorite teacher and the reasons why they were your least favorite. The exercise is easy, but it's important and telling. Almost everyone's most favorite teacher provided memorable experiences for them that were not directly related to academics and report cards. If we spend the next two months providing once in a lifetime experiences each day, we are ensured that our children will grow exponentially! 

2018 State Assessments

The 2018 New York State (NYS) assessments for grades 3-8 are quickly approaching. Each year, for the past several years, the State Education Department (SED) has been making drastic improvements to the assessments and process based on the feedback provided to the department from schools, parents, and students. Worthy of note for this year, the assessment administration has been reduced by one day from 3 to 2, for the first time ever the questions are being written by NYS teachers, the assessments continue to be untimed, and the results of the assessments have no impact on teacher evaluation and/or student academic performance in the classroom. What the assessments are aimed to do is help students understand the concept of standardized assessments (a world that they will live in as teenagers and young adults- even a driver's test is a form of this assessment) and they are there to help schools measure their curriculum to determine if there are weaknesses in the local curriculum compared to the measures that assessments are making. There are additional resources for parents, complied by SED, available online. An updated handout and FAQ with information about the 2018 assessments, including details about the reduced number of testing days, can be found here: Office of State Assessment.  The content of these documents was informed by SED's work with parents. 

Unused Contingency Day

Each year, schools are required to meet a minimum of 180 school days (5 of which can be Superintendent's conference days and the Regents Rating Day). Our current calendar allows for 185 staff days and 180 student days scheduled. Within that calendar, one day at the k-6 level was designated for parent/teacher conferences and one day at the 7-12 level was designated for additional professional development. That leaves us with a total of one less student day than desired. Due to the full day conferences and additional professional development at the secondary level, the District began the year with a total of 4 contingency days in the event that there was a need for closure due to weather or emergency. Having been through the worst of it, we still have one unused contingency day, which we are not required to use, but most places do. This year, as long as there are no more weather related closures prior to the date, we plan to use our last contingency day on Friday, April 20. Traditionally, these days may be taken in May, however there are students taking AP examinations through most of the month, so we are opting to use our day in April. A detailed letter will also be sent home this week. 

2018-2019 Health Information

Each year, New York State reviews their health screening requirements and on occasion will make changes. For the 2018-2019 school year, there are changes to the immunization requirements and health screening requirements. For a copy of the updated immunization requirements from the Department of Health, please click the link below. Other changes to health screenings include:

Health Examinations required in grades pre K or K, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11.
Vision and Hearing Screening required within 6 moths of entering school and in grades pre K or K, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11.
Scoliosis Screenings are required for females in grades 5 and 7, and for males in grade 9.

Please speak to your school nurse or family physician if you have any questions regarding these new requirements.

Utica OD Teen All-Stars

Who's your Teen All-Star?

The O-D is currently accepting nominations for its 2018 Teen All-Stars! Each year, dozens of local seniors are nominated by friends, family, school officials and members of the community.
Teen All-Stars is an annual awards program created by the Observer-Dispatch to recognize local students who excel both academically and in their extracurricular activities.
The nomination period will be open from Sunday, March 4, until Wednesday, April 4.
To nominate a local high school senior, please fill out this form in its entirety. The nomination must include:
* A letter of nomination (no longer than 500 words)
* A list from the nominee of his or her Top 10 school/community activities
* A statement from the nominee describing one accomplishment he or she is most proud of.
Additional requirements and details can be found on the form.