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.
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