The Putnam Valley Board of Education will hold a special business meeting, tomorrow, Tuesday, April 23, beginning at 7PM in the High School library. The purpose of this meeting is to approve the BOCES 2019-2020 budget and to vote on the BOCES Board of Education candidates.
The Board will also acknowledge the 2019 retirees of the district: Ann Marie Bari, Sandra Burstell, Joanne Byrnes, Gerry Carlin, Marie Gabari, Raymond Gardner, Caroline Heller, Christine Medina, Fanny Mondelli, Concetta Najda, Rosemarie Paese, Mercedes Perez, Cynthia Plescia, Flora Racanelli, Lynn Sharp, Ray Stillson. In addition, it is anticipated that the Board will confer tenure on the following staff member: Christina Casey.
Please join us to celebrate these staff members.
Immediately following these recognitions, the District Treasurer, Jill Figarella, will provide information on the 2019-2020 budget that will be presented to the voters on Tuesday, May 21. Budget information is available on the website. Click here.
Board of Education meetings are open to the public and are also available LIVE via our www.pvcsd.org website.
As the District begins a long-awaited spring break, the change of season warms the physical and emotional self. For students and instructional staff, there is time for renewal and recreation and, for many students, family holidays and ceremonies that strengthen bonds and are sources of resilience. In an article I recently read, the author talked about how we heal divisions by creating “microclimates” in our homes or with friends to heal and help. An example of that kind of unity occurred at a meeting that took place on Monday in the Putnam Valley Library to plan a second “community read” experience to take place over the course of a month this summer in different locations throughout Putnam Valley. You will be hearing more about this project, now in its second year. The group of community members and leaders had met a few times before to recommend books that could possibly serve as the focus of this year’s “read.” There were several suggestions and the group members set out to read as many as possible to come up with a recommendation. The discussion of the books brought the committee together and led to provocative discussions about which of the books would attract readers who would join the gatherings. The committee members had different opinions about the books, but enjoyed the different perspectives and ultimately came up with a book of choice: Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea. Every suggested book had proponents and there were pros and cons, yet a happy consensus was reached based on criteria that had been determined, including accessibility, meaningful, universal, engaging theme. The “microclimate” created by the diverse group was collaborative and hopeful. The conversation provided room for many lenses and insights.
Schools create their own “microclimates” reflected by the respect, caring and compassion of those who inhabit them. We know that it is up to the adults to “make the weather” in the classrooms and demonstrate the best selves that we ask of students. I recently sat in at a grade level meeting at the Middle School. The teachers, the assistant principal and the principal were discussing how to support individual students, whose conduct had been challenging. What was beautiful about the “microclimate” created in that space was the effort made by teachers to find ways to encourage student success. There was respect and honor for individual students without rancor or sarcasm or even irony. Instead, there was a search for solutions, for allies, for ways to turn things around. That effort was inspiring and demonstrated what is possible in a world that is often harsh both in the real and virtual spaces that are created.
At the elementary school this week I viewed striking posters made by students celebrating their diverse cultures. While students described their country of origin, the food and customs, there was a common theme about how to represent their culture or cultures. It is instructive to learn how many of our students experience the richness of multiple cultures in their homes. Frequently, their representation of their culture included a lovely drawing of their family.
And at the High School, those who saw the remarkable musical, A Chorus Line, found the perfect collaborative and vibrant environment expressed by 30 students on stage and many members of the pit with 50+ involved in some way, doing sets and tech. During the musical, each of those auditioning for the “chorus line” has a story, an individual narrative of struggle, obstacles, and desire for success. These are touching and arouse our empathy. In the playbill, one of the students in the play serves as dramaturg, writing notes on the production. What she says calls out to this concept of creating special spaces and micro-communities that support our humanity:
Here are high school junior, Jasmine Gelfer’s words about her experience in A Chorus Line:
“This production also allowed me to develop friendships with people that I never would have been friends with if we weren’t in the show together. Theater brings people of different personalities and ways of life together, since we all share this common interest. Working with this cast and crew has been nothing but positive. Everyone has their own strengths that, when brought together form a successful performance. Every single person involved with this production was necessary in making this show a success.”
We need each other’s unique contributions to make our schools and community a success on behalf of all of our students. There are ways we can be particularly supportive of all of our school communities. We can insist upon respectful communication unsullied by the use of racial, gender-based or ethnic slurs. There are instances when we hear about students who suffer the hurt of ugly words that tear down self-worth and deny the right to dignity and confidence. Often, students do not come forward with the name of perpetrators. When we know, we respond with the goal of ending the behavior and teaching students why this behavior is not tolerated. We teach the history of these words and their impact, and we expect our students to be upstanders. We want to educate those who give pain to others. This is a good week for reflection on these matters and to establish a community consensus on the right of every child to be free of the careless use of hate speech in person or online.
I want to wish you all a safe and enjoyable week to make beautiful weather inside and out!
We have received a few phone calls in response to the media reports about measles exposures. Our nurses have been in contact with the Putnam County Health Department and there are no reported cases of measles in our county. We will continue to follow the guidance of the health department and wanted to provide some relevant information.
This information will be posted on our website under Community Notice.
Dr. Frances Wills
Superintendent of Schools
As you may know, the District has been in the process of preparing a Request For Proposal for transportation services. Our goal was to bring in a new transportation contractor in response to performance issues with our current provider. We documented all incidents and complaints and we were prepared to challenge the contract. It was our intent to retain the services of a new provider beginning September 2019. However, the District was recently informed by our attorneys that based on court filings by our current contractor, we had to withdraw our Request For Proposal. Please trust that we will continue to monitor our transportation services very closely for the remaining year of the contract. We will continue to meet with the owner of the contracted bus company every week to review any issues, proactively approach problems, and to maintain accountability. Our current provider has pledged to provide consistent, safe, and effective transportation service for the remainder of the contract. Due in part to our weekly meetings, the contractor has been responsive to our concerns and we have seen an improvement in performance. We pledge to ensure that our buses are safe and our students’ wellbeing is our priority.
In addition, we are very fortunate to have District employees who oversee and support the daily schedule of our 20 contracted buses and our own fleet of district-owned buses that each day transport our students to out of district locations in addition to covering our sports runs and late activity buses that serve the middle school and high school. Thank you Mike Koenig and Lori Carra and your entire department! I’d also like to thank each and every driver, contracted and district-employed, who provide careful transportation of our most precious cargo.
We will be issuing a Request For Proposal for the 2021-2022 school year and we hope that you understand that the District must abide by the advice of legal counsel.
Please forward any transportation concerns to our Director of Operations and Transportation at DSpittal@pvcsd.org or (845) 528-8900 x1111. We will continue to work together to best serve our students.
Invitation to Participate In Important Hiring Process Director of Curriculum & Instruction
During the week of April 1, we will begin our interview process for the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. This is the position being vacated by Dr. Luft on July 1 when he begins as Superintendent of School. The position has been posted and advertised widely for several weeks. The Director of Curriculum and Instruction position will be critical in continuing our district initiatives, enhancing our instructional practices, and shaping our District’s future on behalf of our students.
In order to provide an opportunity for participation in the hiring process, we are asking for volunteers to serve on an interview committee.
Screening interviews for the Director of Curriculum and Instruction will be conducted over the next two weeks.
Finalist interviews will be held on Wednesday, April 24 at Putnam Valley High School.
If you are interested in serving on the committee on Wednesday, April 24, please complete the following form:
Coming together to support our neighbors: Sunday, March 24, 3-5 pm at the Hudson Valley Islamic Community Center
Dear Putnam Valley Community:
The terrorist attack at the Mosque in New Zealand has created a new awareness of the heightened frequency and horror of targeted hate attacks of innocent victims. There is something particularly terrible about murders in places of worship and schools, sanctuaries from the fears and troubles of daily life. We do know that there has been a surge of such violence throughout our nation and the world. Our schools have been urgently training our staff, adding security personnel, and developing infrastructure to do everything possible to create a safe environment. Yet, it is clear that there are those whose purpose is to destroy hopes and erode confidence. Sometimes the violence is reflected in words of hate; too often the violence is expressed as deadly force. There is no place in the world to hide quietly from the fear and rage that strikes out without reason. For students who see their families in the faces of victims, their home and community may be distant from the terrible incident, but in their spirits and emotions, they are completely vulnerable. They have reason to be afraid as social media portrays so much of the violence undisguised and in real time. It is almost unfathomable that we are assaulted in this way through our phones, and that this has become commonplace.
I remember the horror when the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed in 1963, and four young girls were killed. It was a terrible moment that galvanized the civil rights movement. How do we help our students make sense of this world? That is our role as educators. Yet schools are reminded daily that we are potential targets of hate. Sometimes the assaults are with words that have become weapons that poison our children’s comfort and well-being, words that we are seeking to eliminate from our school environments to promote respect and dignity. We have seen that terror again and again just this year, and there does not seem to be a way out of this cycle, except for the acts of unity, as people gather to show their support for victims, and pray for peace.
For Putnam Valley, the act of coming together to show caring and support is a natural response to terrible incidents, unspeakable losses of children, and acts that destroy the peace of worship and families. When the attack in Christ Church was broadcast, our Muslim friends and neighbors knew that they would have the prayers of their community with them, just as the Jewish community members experienced the closeness of their neighbors during the Pittsburgh massacre. Somehow we must find ways to empower our children and our families to express our caring for one another. We can have the most impact in our own sphere of action. There is a power in coming together as a community that salvages our civility, our humanity. It is with this hope for unity and compassion, that there will be a special gathering at the Hudson Valley Islamic Community Center on Sunday, March 24 from 3-5 PM to join together in solidarity with healing conversations at this time of mourning and unity.
We wanted to touch base with everyone to make you aware of a disturbing trend that has developed on social media and internet platforms, that some of your children may have experienced or heard about. It is not uncommon that inappropriate content may be hidden or embedded into videos on the internet. While adults are often easily able to navigate such disturbances, it is difficult for children to do so without oversight and/or guidance from a parent or another trusted adult.
Please click here to watch a video regarding the disturbing trend that has resurfaced and that I encourage you to speak with your children about. Click here for another link to a recent article that you may find helpful and interesting.
Let’s use this as a reminder to be vigilant and consistently supervise the games children play, videos they watch, and their activity on social media platforms. Here are resources that you may find helpful:
On Thursday evening, it is expected that the Board Of Education will appoint Dr. Jeremy Luft as the next Superintendent of the Putnam Valley School District. As explained in the letter from your Board of Education on 2/14/19, the Board thought it prudent to seek the consultation services of the Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES’ Superintendent who regularly facilitates the recruiting, interviewing and hiring of superintendents for local districts. Dr. Ryan and his team know this district well, appreciate the unique qualities of this community and support the success of our students and staff.
As I complete my sixth year as your Superintendent I too, know, appreciate and value this community and remain committed to the future success of the district.
In bringing Dr. Luft to the district two years ago, I had already formed an appreciation for his abilities as demonstrated in his astute contributions to the Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES Regional Curriculum Council which consists of district leaders from across the region. He is well respected and seen as an expert in many areas by his peers. At the time I met Dr. Luft, I did not realize he had attended the Putnam Valley schools. It was only after he applied for the position of Director of Curriculum that I learned about his connection to Putnam Valley. Dr. Luft’s well regarded experience as a teacher and District leader in other districts, his ability to collaborate productively with colleagues, along with his special gifts in the area of science and STEM made him a great fit for this district. In our District office, we have found Dr. Luft to be alert to fiscal accountability, approachable, supportive, and responsive to challenges. His empathy, warmth and sense of humor are critical to success in an educational setting. In fact, Dr. Luft’s first focus when he came to Putnam Valley was to build relationships and foster innovative thinking about curriculum and instruction. These qualities and his deep-rooted commitment to the community are precious gifts to grant to the District, and I am excited for the future of Putnam Valley.
Thank you to everyone who provided feedback and participated in the BOCES focus groups. The themes identified during the meetings helped the Board confirm the strengths and challenges of our district. The hiring process verified for me and the Putnam Valley Board of Education that Dr. Luft and I share a vision for the district’s future that includes high expectations and advancing opportunities for our students.
Please join us this Thursday for a meet and greet reception beginning at 6:00 pm in the High School Library. Next Thursday, March 7, Dr. Luft will host a Listening Hour just prior to our next Board of Education Meeting, 5:45 to 6:45 pm, in our High School Library.
The Putnam Valley Business Network has arranged a Drug Awareness and Free Overdose Prevention Training at the Putnam Valley Ambulance Corps on Thursday, February 21, 2019 from 6:00pm-7:30pm. We would like to encourage you to attend this training, and to learn more about the role we can play in saving a life. The training will be presented by Arms Acres, Putnam Communities That Care Coalition, and Drug Crisis in our Backyard. Please see attached flyer.
We are all aware of the terrible scourge of opioid addiction that is affecting so many in our nation and community. So many have died, and, unfortunately, Putnam County has a significantly higher rate of death and addiction than other areas in the region. We know that Narcan is a powerful antidote to the overdose that kills. Our nurses and athletic trainer have been trained to administer Narcan, and as a precaution, Narcan is available at our schools. If we have more members of the community with knowledge and training, we can increase our opportunity to protect our children and community.
Knowing how to use Narcan, and maintaining a dose for use, can save the life of someone you love, a neighbor, or someone who may cross your path. Overdoses can happen anywhere and anytime.