On behalf of the Putnam Valley Board of Education, we want to express our thanks for your support of our facilities project. We look forward to watching our students learn in facilities designed to enhance their educational experience through updated next-generation opportunities for academic growth and emotional well being. We greatly appreciate your trust in the Putnam Valley Central School District to provide a challenging and supportive education for all students that serves them well now and in the future.
Today our schools will conduct a moment of silence to participate in the National Day of Mourning for President George H.W. Bush. Our PVHS History Club has provided a message to be read to the high school students and staff and we are sharing with our community:
On Friday, November 30th, our Nation lost the 41st President of the United States.
George H.W. Bush was a World War II Veteran who served in the Navy where he completed 58 combat missions during the Japanese Campaign.
After the War, he dedicated his life to public service as a state senator, Vice President to Ronald Reagan and President of the United States.
Having lived an extraordinary life he will be most remembered for his courage, resolve, and love for America and its people.
Please take a moment to remember the life of President Bush.
Thank you to our History Club as we all remember the life and service of President Bush. At moments like this, we have an opportunity to come together to recognize our shared values and to show our gratitude and respect.
As you are aware the District bond vote is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, December 4, 2018. The proposed project would not increase the tax levy. We greatly respect the multiple perspectives that our community brings to deliberation on this matter, and our staff has been committed to responding to questions and concerns that have been raised. A great deal of information has been presented to the community in different formats and media in order to reach everyone. It is important to note that the vote that takes place now will impact our schools over the next few years. If the project is supported by the voters, there is a lengthy approval process, and the project would be completed at about the same time that our equivalent debt obligations are retired. Thus, this project has long-term implications for our District’s ability to meet future educational goals.
As part of our effort to provide as much information as possible in different ways, I wanted to provide some of the lived experience of our staff and students to offer a context for the proposal that we have asked the voters to consider.
Updating spaces at the elementary school for the performing arts and providing for active outdoor/indoor places for students
Acknowledging that the gym and stage constructed in 1935 need to be renovated, we celebrate the participation of almost every fourth grade student in our band program, the wonderful dedication of our elementary music teachers who create so many opportunities for students to perform at each grade level, and the remarkable musical that is produced every year. Creating a more comfortable, safe environment for performers and parent spectators supports the goals we have for community engagement and student involvement. The innovative grade level additions for indoor-outdoor science and project-based learning enhance our ability to serve all students.
Basic renovation of infrastructure elements at the Middle School constructed in 1972
The proposal includes replacement of windows and other infrastructure that no longer provides energy savings and have outlived their useful lives.
Engaging diverse interests and abilities of our students at the Middle School
Wherever I walk in our schools, I see teachers who are seeking a way to connect students with learning by inspiring curiosity and confidence in their skills and urging them to take on challenges. Our efforts have led to deeper understanding of how the educational environment impacts the scope of our ability to achieve these goals. For example, middle schools are places that are particularly focused on projects and activities that lead students to questioning and hands-on expressions. The Active Learning Lab at the middle school is used in this way, but is now needed as a classroom, so some of our opportunities are now limited. That means that teachers who have a project that requires more movement and engagement do not have an option other than their classrooms. The ALL room should be available for science as well as other academic programs to permit a wide range of activities that cannot exist in the regular classrooms. The proposed project offers alternative classrooms for varied learning experiences.
Promoting twenty-first-century approaches to learning through inquiry, research, integration of technology
There is a need at the middle school for a library-media center or learning commons as now conceived in modern educational institutions and that our students will access throughout college and career. A library is now conceived as a flexible space for research, reading, thinking independently or collaboratively, and even performing for small groups. Right now we have chairs and desks in the hallways that are named “independent learning stations.” Students adapt well, but there is limited opportunity for collaboration and feedback as students work on individual projects. The new model for libraries permits independent and group work and technology applications, similar to what we now see in the newly configured High School library.
Providing a comfortable, attractive and healthful space for student dining
School provides opportunities for students to learn to socialize appropriately, and to eat healthy food in an environment that respects their dignity and teaches them the manners they require for success in their future endeavors. The renovation of the kitchen and cafeteria would reflect this need and promote the ability to cook and serve more attractive, various and nutritious food choices.
Honoring the performing arts as a way to support students in expressing their passions and emotions and inner life.
Music, drama and dance offer students the platform for building their identity and confidence. The substantial participation by middle school students in the music ensembles and band as well as the annual musical suggest that this aspect of their learning process is critical to their growth and self-understanding. The expansion of the cafeteria performing and spectator space provides a safe and modern environment to support parents and students in enjoying their accomplishments. Practice areas would move from the area adjacent to the kitchen to a sound resistant space conducive to music study.
Health and Wellness Multi-Purpose Center:
During our early discussions with the facilities committee, we struggled with how to accommodate needs of our athletic, physical education and community recreation programs while creating an affordable, flexible space that would offer multiple opportunities to enhance the emotional and physical wellness of our students. Research on adolescents indicates that habits of exercise and movement create a sense of optimism and well being that is a lifelong foundation for successful navigation of the normal challenges that life presents. We envisioned an all-weather space that could accommodate practices of wrestling and cheerleading and many other teams throughout the year while providing parents with weekend and after school programs to enjoy with their children. Supporting the District goal of “building relationships,” the health and wellness center would make a positive statement about our effort to engage students in a variety of activities to enhance their educational experience. For example, many of our classes now include projects that require space for various measurement and observation tasks. Our recess time at the middle school is limited by weather, and there are many physical education activities that could be provided in the new space, offering a greater variety of life-long healthy programs. The design allows for all weather exercise, including marked lanes for running and walking, and supports our social-emotional learning initiatives.
It is important to note that this space was selected for consideration by the public because it was affordable, accessible to the Middle School and could connect with the High School utilizing the restrooms and locker rooms located there. A regulation gym would have been considerably more expensive and could not have served the varied activities that are reflected in this proposal.
Thank you for considering the District’s proposal.
The vote will take place tomorrow, Tuesday, December 4 from 6 am until 9 pm at the Elementary School.
The Thanksgiving holiday provides a moment to express appreciation to our dedicated Putnam Valley educators who are continually seeking new ways to engage students in learning and developing cognitively and emotionally. We know that in order to become active and responsible citizens, students need practice in academic attainment and empathy toward others. As we look forward to our Thanksgiving holiday, I want to convey once again special appreciation to our high school musicians and poets for conducting their fourth annual Gratitude Festival at the Tompkins Corners Cultural Center at the Tompkins Corners Cultural Center. This event has become a highlight of the year for many, as the students are performing from the heart, choosing their own work and often creating compositions for the occasion. For anyone who teaches or who works in any capacity for a school, the magnet and purpose of our calling exist in the students we serve and their natural exuberance and engagement in learning and expression. Many of us missed the festival this year because of the conflict with the Board of Education meeting that was postponed due to the snow last week, but the delight and appreciation remain.
The Gratitude Festival allows the community to experience the wonderful inner life that our youth shares with us during these student directed events. They are rare occasions granting us a window to delight in student energy and creativity, to hear their voices and share their camaraderie. The supportive environment and collaboration reflected in the student productions inspire hope for the future, and a sense of optimism. I urge us all to pause for a moment and listen to our students, their songs, their voices, and their music as they seek to connect with each other and with the adults around them, elders who are so eager to hear good news, positive and happy choruses, and count their blessings.
It is instructive to recall that it was President Abraham Lincoln who conceived of a Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday even in the throes of the suffering in 1863 during the Civil War. He wanted the nation to focus on our exceptional gifts, our democracy, our rule of law, our resources, our humanity, all that we are grateful and willing to fight for.
I wrote much of this message last year, but in reviewing the sentiments I tried to convey, I feel the need for a reprise. In fact, this year we are focusing as a District on student voice and ways to provide students with a sense of agency and instrumentality. This theme was discussed in a recent newspaper article referencing the fact that our refreshed high school library was designed with input from the students. By listening to their voices, we demonstrate our respect for them as the agents of their educational process. Another opportunity for them to share their ideas has been initiated through a “One Act Play” contest that will allow students to write a play and then produce, direct and cast the play to be presented in our high school library performance space. An additional example is the Science Research Program that provides an avenue for students to follow an inquiry and a passion through developing a three-year research project with a mentor. That same process is the core of the IB (International Baccalaureate) course of study that the high school will be implementing soon.
In each of our schools, we are finding new ways for students to share their ideas and put them to work. Once a student experiences success in a challenging endeavor, the conviction of efficacy lasts a lifetime. We have much to be thankful for during a time when there is a great deal of suffering in our own country, and in too many places in the world. In that light, we are humbled by our abundance, and grateful to all who have contributed to our happiness.
I hope you are all safe and warm during this early season storm. It was a busy day but I wanted to share a communication I sent to our Middle and High School families earlier today as I want to reassure you too that the safety of all students is our highest priority.
Based on telephone conversations with parents and the meeting I held this morning, I wanted to provide some additional information with regard to my earlier communications.
At no time was there a weapon in school, or on the bus, nor was the social media post specific in nature.
This morning, we had an additional police presence on campus and although we were assured by the Sheriff’s Department that the student would not return to school today, the Sheriff’s Department responded immediately when the student got off the bus. The Sheriff’s Department is aware of our concerns and we will follow up to review protocols.
Our connectivity through social media and other technologies can be very powerful, and I am reminded that rumors can quickly spread and that our students are aware of and can be affected by adult communications. Ms. Intrieri, High School Principal, met with all grade levels this morning to reassure students and to address any of their concerns. The Middle School Principal, Mr. McCarty, communicated with all students to assure them of their safety and met with any individual students who had concerns. Counselors were also available. Please reassure your children that their safety is our highest priority.
Anonymous Alerts* has proven to be a useful tool, and I want to acknowledge our robust channels of communication. Trust among students, staff, our School Resource Officer and administrators ensure that responses are quick and appropriate. Every report is taken seriously.
Please remember all threats can and should be reported to the police by the community.
Credible threats result in consequences as prescribed by NYS Education Department regulations. All students are entitled to due process.
As always, our Emergency Response Teams will debrief about our response, and as suggested by parents, we will include a phone message to alert parents to urgent emails.
Another outcome of this morning’s meeting is a firm belief that parents, schools, law enforcement and the community must work together to provide for the safety and well-being of all students.
Due to the weather forecast, the Putnam Valley schools will dismiss early today. The High School and Middle School will dismiss at 12:30 pm and the Elementary School at 1:30 pm. All after-school activities and events are canceled and the Parks and Rec Children’s Center will not operate their afternoon session.
In order to anticipate your bus drop off time – please note the following:
Schools will dismiss approximately two hours earlier than usual
Thank you for your patience.
Late this afternoon, High School administration was made aware by a teacher of student concerns he had overheard about threatening comments made by one of our students. We contacted the Putnam County Sheriff’s office who initiated an investigation. The parent was questioned by police at the home and it was determined that the student did not pose a threat to the district.
Later this evening, a concerning social media post, allegedly made by the same student, was brought to the attention of district administration. The post contained profanity towards “the school”. We again contacted the Putnam County Sheriff’s office who initiated an investigation into the incident, visiting the home once again, and made necessary interventions on behalf of the student and our school. The student will not be permitted to attend classes at our schools, pending further review by the district administration. As always, the Putnam County Sheriff’s office will be on hand at our buildings. An increased police presence will be provided.
The Putnam Valley School District takes the safety of all students and staff very seriously and recognizes the need to be transparent regarding incidents that may impact our school community. Thank you to parents and students who shared the social media via anonymous alerts. We will always act out of an abundance of caution to ensure all our students and staff are safe both inside and out of our buildings.
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
After an extensive search process within a limited time frame, I anticipate that the Board of Education will appoint Dr. Kern Mojica to the position of Assistant Principal at the PV Middle School on Thursday evening, November 15, 2018, at the regularly scheduled Board of Education Meeting. Although the vacancy arose during the school year, there were 110 applicants; 17 qualified candidates were screened by Mr. McCarty, Dr. Luft and I over two evenings. Four candidates were interviewed by a representative committee consisting of 30 teachers and community members. The committee was divided so that one group used a standard interview procedure with pre-vetted questions and the second group observed a presentation by the candidate on a task assigned ahead of time and then posed queries related to the presentation. Board member Barbara Parmly participated in the interviews. A writing sample was also administered after the interviews were conducted. During the debriefing session, after substantive discussion, there was a significant consensus that the candidate to bring forward to the Board is Dr. Mojica.
Dr. Mojica brings a strong mathematics background, a doctorate from Pace in Computing, 13 very successful years at Pleasantville as a teacher leader, coach, creator, teacher, director of the District’s STEM program, and administrative intern. In addition, Dr. Mojica was a well-respected athletic coach. He played Division 1 football for the University of New Hampshire, and brings his experience coaching students on and off the field to the role of assistant principal. His references revealed a teacher well-loved by students, respected by peers and principal, and highly recommended by the superintendent. I was informed by a fellow teacher that Dr. Mojica is called upon regularly by the administration to provide professional development and support to staff and that teachers invite him into their classrooms to offer ideas and suggestions for hands-on activities. He has volunteered his time to contribute in many ways to Pleasantville and will be missed by all. Dr. Mojica is viewed as a leader in the District, and his knowledge and pedagogical strength are only superseded by his personal qualities, including a great sense of humor and a warm, loving builder of relationships throughout the community. He was called a “kid magnet,” by each of his references. I strongly recommend Dr. Mojica for our next assistant principal and ask our Putnam Valley community to welcome him as a partner to our principal and staff, and a leader and role model for our students.