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.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. At our schools there was a great deal of activity, a Blood Drive at the High School, a day to wear red in all schools to honor a former teacher who died in service and to raise money for student scholarships to honor a former teacher, and a day to support public education. Last evening, our high school student performers astonished the crowd at the library performance space with their one-act productions created by student playwrights. The student writers and performers tackled themes that were challenging, moving, and humorous: the quality of relationships, pondering what makes a person “normal,” and the humor in Thanksgiving family gatherings.
However, after last year’s tragedy at Margaret Stoneman Douglas High School, Valentine’s Day has a changed meaning in schools throughout our country. It has become a day of thoughtful remembrance and reviewing our student safety planning. In Putnam Valley, we are also reflecting on the wounds that have been suffered by families in our school district in the last month. The blue heart still glows at the end of the high school driveway. Personally, I continue to learn from feelings of helplessness to find a place for hope and future resolutions. There is a universality of shared emotion in absorbing the loss of a child, a parent, a colleague. We continue to mourn with parents and friends and to construct another level of understanding. As educators and parents, we want our students to see purpose and meaning in their lives and to empower them to believe in their ability to shape their future. As we move forward, we also continue to see the importance of education in developing the minds and hearts of our students as they grow to embrace the larger world of historic and present challenges that are experienced by those who live and work with us.
During the month of February, we celebrate the birthdays of Presidents Lincoln and Washington. We also honor Black History Month. In March, our attention turns to Women’s History. Both Lincoln and Washington influenced the way we approach Black History, and given the limited roles available to women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and well into the twentieth, we can appreciate the transformation underway for both African-Americans and for women at present. We know that the origins of our nation in a compromise that included slavery has led to divisions that are unthinkable today. For those who have seen The Green Book, there is a deeper understanding of the humiliation that continued for African Americans well into the mid-twentieth century and exists all too frequently today. Those who attended the High School Music Department’s Great Works concert on Wednesday evening celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday were reminded of the tragic themes of cultural division that are reflected in West Side Story and in New York City’s history.
We teach our students about those who have made a difference, who have stood for justice with the hope that these exemplars ignite a similar passion to make the world a better place. We want our students to question, to think, to be ready to take their place as active participants in a society that recognizes the need for civic action in the voting booth and through conversations that bring people together while respecting disagreements. That awakening is more evident today, as we find our way to coming to terms with history, not just during February and March, but through our daily interactions, and our awareness of others and their lived experience. We are dedicated to providing sanctuary for students of color, of every gender or sexual orientation, those who are learning English, who have disabilities, who are vulnerable to attack for their religion or their appearance.
Our schools are essentially sanctuaries. I know that Dr. Luft, who will be our Superintendent of Schools as of 2019-20 and has been an avid collaborator with our leadership team on these goals for student success and acceptance, joins us in our commitment to ensuring that Putnam Valley schools are safe and welcoming spaces for all of our children. Schools are the commons where we practice empathy, and respect for the dignity of each member of the school community, adults and children. As we know, the power of social media has challenged our ability to sustain the infrastructure of safety that our children need. We aspire to meet the challenge and to overcome the words and deeds that threaten harm to the community we cherish. We cannot allow external forces to topple the opportunity provided by public education to build a conceptual framework to guide their life choices based on the discernment of evidence-based principles that lead to doing the right thing. We owe our children the opportunity to learn how to question and how to strengthen the principles that govern the American values we pledge to uphold each day in our schools.
Today, as if to serve as a capstone for our focus on student development as critical thinkers, we were notified of our high school’s authorization as an International Baccalaureate School. This award represents commitment by our high school principal Dr. Intrieri, administration, staff and faculty to a rigorous internationally validated curriculum assessment process and to supporting students in finding pathways to explore their highest potential in areas of strengths and interest.
The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. James Baldwin
You are invited to attend two special events at Putnam Valley High School on Wednesday and Thursday evening, February 13, 2019, and February 14, 2019.
When we discuss assessments of educational excellence, we often think about tests of cognitive ability and content knowledge. These tests are a necessary aspect of the validation of an educational program. However, the most meaningful understanding of educational goal attainment is reflected in student performance that connects learning and growth over time, integrating many disciplines and applying that knowledge to a real-world demonstration of learning and skill.
Next week, our community will have the opportunity to experience two events that represent student learning well beyond the algorithms of a standardized test.
On Wednesday evening, February 13 at 7:00 pm in our Performing Arts Center, our high school band and chorus will present a Great Works Concert honoring the 100th birthday of world-renowned composer and conductor, Leonard Bernstein. Among the many pieces you will hear, are familiar and beloved excerpts from the unforgettable West Side Story. (poster)
On Thursday evening, February 14 at 5:30 pm, in our high school library, three plays written by the students who competed and were awarded recognition for first, second and third place after judges reviewed blind copies of 16 entrants, will be performed. Fellow students have participated as the directors, actors, and tech crews for the plays:
The Automat’s Fear-Jaclyn Pedoty
A Normal Man-Bianca Garcia
To Be Thankful– Kaitlyn Carroll.
These plays are Valentine’s Day gifts to you from our remarkable students.
Please join us.
(If needed snow postponements will be advertised.)
With permission from the family, I am so sorry to tell you that one of our high school students, Elias Knapp, had a terrible accident on Friday night which resulted in a serious injury. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. All of our students will be supported by their teachers and counselors in their classes on Monday. Further, in order to provide comfort to those who need our immediate support, we invite you to the high school which will be open tomorrow, Sunday, February 3rd, from 1:00 to 3:00 PM. We will have counselors, faculty and staff. If possible, the comfort dogs will be present.
We will follow up with further information when available. We urge you to give your children the opportunity to express their feelings, as a tragic event can upset their lives. We hope that by offering opportunities for the students to gather tomorrow and during the school day on Monday, they will be better able to cope and find strength.
Due to the weather forecast for tomorrow and tomorrow evening, we are postponing Tuesday’s information session for our Facilities Advisory Committee until next Tuesday, February 5. We will meet at 6:30 pm in the High School Library.
We will be closely watching the forecast for any effect on the school day and after school activities but did not want to make a last-minute decision regarding this meeting. Thank you for understanding.
We are sending this email to make you aware of a situation that occurred on our High School/Middle School campus on Thursday evening. Upon receiving notification, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department was immediately contacted. Key staff and after-school personnel were also notified.
One of our coaches reported observing a person known to her during Thursday evening’s practice. This person had no reason to be at the practice or on school grounds. The observed individual did not interact with the coach or any students and left the campus immediately after being seen.
In consultation with the Sheriff’s Department, the district reviewed video footage and was able to track the person’s movements while on campus and identify the individual. After making contact with the individual via phone, he was asked to report to the Sheriff’s Department where he was interviewed and subsequently arrested for harassment. The individual was notified that they are prohibited from entering any school grounds.
If you have visited one of our school buildings during the day you have noticed that all visitors must enter through one main door and are required to present identification. After school hours, visitors and athletes are to only use the athletic entrances and we have a security guard on duty. We will continue to work with our security consultant and with law enforcement to review and improve our security procedures and we ask for your continued partnership in keeping our campuses safe.
The 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. We will always act out of an abundance of caution to ensure our students and staff are safe.
In thinking about what I wanted to convey to our Putnam Valley community as we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. this year, I recalled the day last spring when Dr. Intrieri and I were in Memphis at an IB (International Baccalaureate) conference. During one afternoon, we visited the Civil Rights Museum a few blocks away, contained within the structure of the original Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated by a gunman who stood at a window of an apartment across the street, still visible to visitors. The museum is alive with memories and displays that recall the kind of blatant, ruthless discrimination that King was battling in 1968. There is a bus that you can enter to hear the driver sending African Americans to the back, and a lunch counter where they couldn’t sit or be served. There are photographs of demonstrations and there is a display of the actual motel room where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his final speech. He was in Memphis to support the sanitation workers who sought a living wage and reasonable working conditions. They marched carrying signs stating, “I Am a Man,” asking to be treated with dignity after chronically dangerous working conditions and faulty machinery caused a worker to be crushed to death. King’s speech seemed to prefigure his death as he talked about having been to the “mountaintop” and having a vision of the possibilities for a truly free society, where the humanity of all was respected.
Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us of our deep flaws as a society as well as our potential for compassion and goodness. We seem to need those reminders regularly. One hundred years before King, another champion of civil rights who struggled with injustice, Frederick Douglass lived in Rochester, New York for many years. His words prefigure those of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his message resonates for educators: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Douglass advocated for education of the whole child as a critical factor in changing the culture of slavery that he experienced and sought to overturn. It is moving to note that in his final speech at the Lorraine Hotel, King referred to an incident that had occurred a decade earlier, in 1958: he had been stabbed by a woman who came out of a crowd when he was speaking. The wound was very close to his aorta; he was told that if he had sneezed, he would have died. In his final speech at the Lorraine Hotel, he mentions that when he was recovering from the stab wound he received a letter from a student at White Plains High School, who wrote: “Dear Dr. King, I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School..while it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing to you that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”
King goes on to talk about all of the efforts he had led and accomplishments that had occurred, because he had not “sneezed,” including the marches in Alabama and Washington and the subsequent Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act of 1964. The young girl who wrote that letter clearly expressed sincere empathy for King and his mission, the kind of connection that establishes our humanity.
We are still seeking to address the need for “building strong children,” and know that much is still lacking in the will and support required to provide equitable opportunities for all children. After 100 years, the champion for the “dream” was Martin Luther King, Jr. The struggle continues, as we continue to look for ways to fulfill the dream of “strong children,” with equal opportunity and “justice for all.”