On Friday, June 14, Putnam County and our school district lost a great friend and supporter of youth and education with the sudden death of Judge James Reitz. For many years, Judge Reitz addressed our families and our students on safety issues and the devastating consequence of drug and alcohol abuse. He had established a Drug Court that was a model for moving from a strictly punitive approach to drug related legal matters to an avenue for responsible rehabilitation. There is no question that Judge Reitz cared about the children and families of Putnam County and was willing to actively move from the bench to the public arena to persuade us that safety and health were priorities for the well-being of the community. We want to acknowledge and express sorrow at this loss of a community leader.
Services have been announced as follows:
Visitation will take place on Monday, June 17 from 2-8 PM at the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services, Old Route 6, Carmel. Mass will be held on Tuesday, June 18 at 10:30 AM at St. James the Apostle Church.
Our deepest condolences are shared with his family and friends throughout the County.
Dr. Frances G. Wills
Superintendent of Schools
There is a power outage at the high school/midddle school campus due to a one car accident that damaged a utility pole. NYSEG is expected shortly. Both schools are currently under a shelter in place protocol. Students will stay in current classrooms until we get additional information.
We are assessing the need to alter our dismissal schedule. Updates will be sent as soon as possible.
The elementary school is not affected by this outage.
Thank you for your patience.
Superintendent of Schools
UPDATE 1:19 PM
We are in the process of mobilizing an early dismissal. Due to the road closure right outside the entrance to the High School/Middle School campus, buses will be delayed arriving on campus. The plan is to dismiss as soon as possible. Until that point, and in an effort to manage dismissal safely and effectively we are continuing a shelter in place protocol and ask that parents be patient. We will let you know as soon as we are able to dismiss students. Everyone is safe and comfortable.
The early dismissal is not impacting the Elementary School.
Superintendent of Schools
UPDATE 1:55 PM
The Middle School and High School will dismiss at approximately 2:00 pm. Due to the traffic issues on Peekskill Hollow Road, if possible, please avoid picking up your child. Thank you for your patience.
All after school activities at the High School and Middle School are canceled.
PV Children’s Center is canceled today at the MS only due to the power outage. All students will be sent home on the bus.
Each year, around this time, we find ourselves reflecting on the school year that is ending while also taking time to plan for the next school year. As most of you know, Dr. Frances Wills is retiring at the end of this school year, and I am privileged to have been named the Superintendent of Schools effective July 1. As we begin this next phase of education in Putnam Valley, I am looking forward to continuing all of the great work that is already happening here in our schools. Dr. Wills’ legacy is certainly visible across all three buildings, and it has been a privilege to work and learn beside her since arriving back in Putnam Valley. As Superintendent of Schools, I hope to be able to expand the work that Dr. Wills has already started within the schools while cultivating the district’s relationship with the community, empowerment of our staff, and engagement of our students.
I grew up in Putnam Valley, and I still remember what it felt like to walk into Putnam Valley Elementary School as a Kindergartner on the first day of school; the feeling of excitement, nervousness, and wonder raced through my body. I remember entering Putnam Valley Middle School for the first time and feeling a little overwhelmed and lost, not sure how to transfer between classes in this new building. I remember the sadness of having to leave Putnam Valley to attend a high school at a neighboring district. I remember how envious I was walking into Putnam Valley High School for the first time as a professional. I remember the struggles of substitute teaching, the excitement of my first professional job as a technology assistant in the High School, and I will forever remember my emotions on 9/11/2001. That day, at Putnam Valley High School, I truly learned what it meant to be an educator, everyone putting aside their own emotions to support the students in front of them. I share this walk down memory lane as I believe it speaks to who I am as an educator and a learner and just a little bit about what this community has meant to me. I hope this also provides some insight into my core values as an educator and explains why I hope to spend many years serving this community as the Superintendent of Schools.
Seventeen years removed from the beginning of my educational career in Putnam Valley, I have served in many educational roles, including a physics teacher, technology director, and a director of curriculum and instruction. Each of these experiences has helped shape who I am as an educator and a leader. I am excited to offer what I have learned throughout my career while embracing all that Putnam Valley already has to offer.
A couple of years ago, we coined the phrase #PVRising and I truly believe that we are a school district on the rise. Putnam Valley has an amazing group of administrators, teachers, and professional staff that are dedicated to the success of all students. As Superintendent of Schools, it will be a priority of mine to ensure that all students are provided a safe and secure learning environment, are socially and emotionally well, have opportunities to be artistically and athletically enriched, and academically challenged.
During a recent Superintendent Conference Day, I challenged everyone in the room to reflect on why they became an educator, why they do what they do on behalf of students every day, and why is what we do in our schools and classrooms so important to the students, families, and the community we serve. Later in the day, our professional staff met in small workgroups to share their personal responses to those “why” questions and ultimately reach a consensus of their top five answers. Each group’s answers were displayed in the auditorium to be viewed by the other workgroups and eventually synthesized into the graphic representation below. The larger the word, the more often it was reported by our workshops.
The next phase of this work is to collect these same core values from our community and, where appropriate, from our students. Please take a moment to complete the survey (linked below) and let us know what you value within our educational institution.
Today, as we memorialize the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944, I want to thank the Putnam Valley History Club and advisor Vin DeGregorio for making sure that Putnam Valley schools demonstrate reverence and gratitude on this very special day for America and the world. I was fortunate last summer to visit Normandy Beach with my sister to see the place of great devastation and remarkable valor. I heard a narration of liberation from the French guide and saw the tank and artillery emplacements still in place. Normandy is a sacred place where thousands of young sons and fathers perished, and I walked the beach in awe and appreciation of so many lives lost to ensure our freedom and safety.
There are photos attached to this message from the high school display and my trip last summer. More recently, I met a very special survivor of World War II. His name is Ed Malberg and he lives in Ossining. Recently he celebrated his 100th birthday at a retrospective art show. Ed is a wonderful gentleman, humorous and a great conversationalist. He was well known as an illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post, and he served in WWII as a cartographer. Ed drew the maps for the battlefields and the movements of troops associated with D-Day and throughout the invasion of Europe. He worked closely with General Eisenhower, drawing in a large tent that was regularly under bombardment. Today he reminds us that the survivors of that war have much to teach us about how to live wisely and well.
This morning at our Elementary School, a bear cub was spotted near one of the garbage dumpsters. The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation have been notified and we are all monitoring the area very closely. Sheriff Deputies are currently on site. The Elementary School will remain in Lock Out for the remainder of the day. Lock Out means that normal activities continue indoors and all outdoor activities are canceled.
The perimeter of the property will be monitored throughout the day and we will have extra staff and members of the Sheriff’s Department on site for dismissal.
Last week, 50 of our eighth-grade students visited Washington DC. The trip had been a tradition in Putnam Valley but had not been undertaken since the terror attacks in 2001. Everyone involved agreed that the trip was a memorable learning experience that needed to be repeated and become a tradition again. The principal, Mr. McCarty, recounted a particular incident at the Vietnam Memorial in the evening. He and another student assisted an eighth grader as she looked for her uncle’s name on the wall. When the name was found, all were moved by the discovery and the appreciation of what it meant to connect with one who had indeed given his life for his country. This experience made the trip particularly meaningful.
As we remember those who have given their lives so that we can continue to enjoy the gifts of living as Americans, we can reflect on what it means to live up to the ideals that our servicemen and women died to protect. In reading General Colin Powell’s autobiography, My American Journey, I have found myself attracted to his candid and balanced approach to his life and career in the military and in government. Powell was a four-star general, National Security Advisor in the Reagan administration, and Secretary of State from 2001-2005. His background was very relatable to many of us; Powell was raised by a very strong and loving family in the Bronx and attended Morris High School. His neighborhood was very diverse and he had friends from many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Powell acknowledged that he was an average student without great ambitions until he entered City College when he was attracted to ROTC where he found a community that nurtured his leadership skills and a desire to succeed and excel. His experience in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War deepened his understanding of leadership and human frailty and his sensitivity to the consequences of poorly conceived decisions that sometimes led to the death of his troops. Powell was revered for his authenticity, compassion and support for the soldiers he commanded. He continues to live according to principles that have guided his life of service to his country. But Powell also acknowledges his mistakes and missteps. Powell’s thoughtful reflection on loyalty to our country and his compassionate description of the loss of soldiers in his battalion seem to embody the respectful expression of Memorial Day. We are reminded that we are indebted to those who sacrificed to preserve our Democracy and the freedoms we often take for granted; we are also uplifted by the character of leaders like Colin Powell who never left decency and dignity behind.
On behalf of the Putnam Valley Board of Education, we want to express our thanks for your support of our budget and your participation in the school board election. We appreciate your trust in the Putnam Valley Central School District to provide a challenging and supportive education for all students.
Dr. Frances Wills
Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Jeremy Luft
The PVCSD, in partnership with our families and community, will ensure that all students are engaged in a challenging, student-focused educational program, understand and assume their responsibility for life-long learning, work to achieve their personal best and become productive citizens in a diverse global society.
All parents and guardians are invited to a workshop on “brain-based approaches for raising resilient children” on May 29th, 6:00-7:00 pm in the Putnam Valley Elementary School.
On May 29th and 30th, the District will host Dr. Cassie Yackley, who is the Director of the Center for Behavioral Health Innovation at Antioch College. She will be working with our staff to discuss ways to educate students who have been “exposed to adverse experiences.” Dr. Yackley has developed effective strategies to cultivate “safe and supportive schools using the trauma-responsive framework.” Her background in interpersonal neurobiology shapes the practices she introduces in her workshops.
“A remarkable amount has been learned about the developing brain, especially how it responds to relationships and adversity. Adopting a “brain-based” approach to parenting your child can result in less conflict and can aid in the development of self-control and empathy. Learn simple strategies for building a strong relationship and resiliency in your child.”
Please let us know if you can attend Dr. Yackley’s presentation on this important topic that can support your effective parenting strategies and family dynamics. We hope you can attend.
Last Friday night, I attended the TempoMental concert at the HighSchool. I heard the sweet and touching voices of students who love the harmonies they create and sing the soul of Putnam Valley. They expressed their love of their teachers and their world in the music room and in their school “for the longest time.” This week is set aside to remind us to say thank you to our teachers, to appreciate the gifts of hope and life they bring every day to millions of children throughout our nation and the world. In our schools, all who participate in the school community are teachers of subjects that extend beyond content areas to ways of being, ways of knowing, ways of caring for each child we see each day. Our teachers are masters of content and connection. We know more now about how students learn than when I began teaching in 1968. We know that one word of encouragement can lead to the desire to achieve and to dream of their future and that a hint of disapproval or disbelief or humiliation can be so difficult to overcome. We know that our own emotion impacts our communication and establishes a unique environment. We are aware that engaging students minds and hearts creates the catalyst for change, for learning. The work of teaching and learning is challenging, complex and sometimes overwhelming. How to connect with our students so that they care and are moved to want to know more is the moment to moment journey of the classroom experience. It is also the source of joy and wonder at the insights that arise from sparks emerging from that connection.
This week, after many years, a group of our middle school students are traveling with teachers and administrators to Washington, D.C. We know that this trip requires trust and commitment of dedicated colleagues who believe in opening doors for our students and want them to experience the history and meaning that resides in our capital. For many, this will be a life-changing experience remembered forever, not just the monuments, but a special time to learn and live together. We will be cheering them on as they pave the way for others to follow in opening our students to deeper understanding of who we are as a nation. Without the passion of our teachers to guide our students’ journey, we could not take on the new initiatives that are building stronger learning communities. The International Baccalaureate relies upon teachers who are willing to pioneer new ways of deepening the learning community; our challenge program at the elementary school asks teachers to think differently about growing minds. Our middle school journey moves our students and teachers out of their comfort zones to a shared public arena.
Schools are the one shared and hopeful constant in the lives of so many children in our country and throughout the world. We believe that the work of educators in our public schools is the critical link to sustaining our democracy and our unity of purpose as Americans.
To express our gratitude, inspire our vision and recognize the power of our profession and the work of all in our schools who contribute to the learning community, I am including a link to a Brené Brown video, the “Daring Classrooms” shared by one of our colleagues. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVD8YRgA-ck&feature=youtu.be
Last week, a group of 26 members of the Putnam Valley community, Board of Education, district staff, administrators, parents, and students, had the opportunity to interview the four finalists for the position of Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Each of the candidates brought some unique strengths, presentation skills, sophisticated models of thinking, and overarching theories and practices that guided their approach to leadership and administration. The committee articulated and appreciated the strengths that each candidate brought and could share with Putnam Valley.
At the conclusion of the dialogue, it was clear that there was a consensus about the preferred candidate for the position, Jenette Mistretta, our elementary school assistant principal. Most remarkable about the discussion was the diverse representation contributing to the consensus. There were teachers from all schools, parents, and administrators who would be working for and with Jenette. There was appreciation for her authenticity, her incredible work ethic, her ability to build trusting relationships, her focus on student achievement, her willingness to share what she had learned about IB and how to support the high school in this endeavor, and her effectiveness as a teacher who was able to take all students to high levels of achievement. To hear the high school, middle school, and elementary school teachers talk about the elementary administrator with such respect and trust was inspiring and powerful. Jenette’s candidacy was recommended to the Board of Education, and a Board interview was conducted last evening.
It is with gratitude and appreciation for all involved in this process, that we announce to the staff and community that at the next Board of Education meeting to be held on May 7, 2019, it is anticipated that Jenette Mistretta will be appointed as Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Putnam Valley Central School District. Jenette has been in the District for 14 years, nine years as an elementary teacher and five years as an assistant principal. Prior to coming to Putnam Valley, Jenette was a teacher in New York City for five years. Whoever has worked with her knows that she is dedicated to the wellbeing of Putnam Valley students. We will immediately begin our search for a new elementary school assistant principal who will build on Jenette’s good work at PVES.
A screening committee had determined that four candidates should go forward following the screening interviews of 12 candidates identified after a review of over 100 resumes submitted to the District. The process for the four finalists included a formal committee interview and a presentation to committee members. In addition, each candidate prepared a writing sample that was submitted to administration. The assigned topic for the presentation was an introduction to a new teacher orientation. The four presentations were impressive, reflecting strong and varied backgrounds, and demonstrating the wide ranging skills and experiences of the candidates. The process allowed one group of interviewers facilitated by Dr. Luft to see a presentation provided by the candidate and ask three or four questions, while the second group facilitated by Dr. Doherty conducted the in-depth interviews. Dr. Luft facilitated the summary discussion by committee members of the candidates’ strengths and areas of growth. The discussion resulted in an exhaustive, probing and thoughtful dialogue that reflected the depth of consideration by the committee characterized by true civic participation and a common vision for our schools. The students on the committee inspired awe with their insightful perspective of the candidates’ attributes and their willingness to go well beyond the comfort zone in Putnam Valley to learn and grow.