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Dear Putnam Valley Community:

Our mission for 2018-19: Putnam Valley Schools are creating a welcoming learning environment where relationships are nurtured, accomplishments are celebrated and all are empowered to learn and grow.

The life cycle of American schools is about to begin once again in Putnam Valley, as Labor Day weekend provides the last summer respite with final trips for school supplies. There is always deep nostalgia for those of us who have been involved in schools forever, and we have to purchase at least one standard black and white “marble” notebook, “just because.”  This annual school habit sets the course and purpose for families and educators, easing uncertainty with the dependability of the seasonal activities.

The 2018 school year begins poignantly, as the flag at the school unfurls at half-staff, and we are reminded of the loss of a passionate patriot, Senator John McCain, whose American life reflected the honor and duty that needs to be recalled by those of us who are the beneficiaries of the suffering and selfless dedication of those who serve. John McCain shared his conscience and his disappointment; acknowledged his flaws, and fulfilled his responsibility for sharing his perspective on history. A quote from Coach Taylor of Friday Night Lights that I recently read speaks to me at this time as we say farewell to a giant spirit who believed so deeply in the beautiful idea that is America: “Life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives…fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts…that what we have is special, that it can be taken from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.”

As we welcome our students, we recall that we are teaching the next generation of American heroes and fostering those ideals that we recite each day in the Pledge of Allegiance.

We are eagerly waiting for our students to fill the halls and dispel all anxieties that accompany our openings, particularly this year, with our new Later Start initiative in the implementation phase. A great deal of effort has been made to plan for the traffic and confusion of a new arrival process. You will see new signage and there will be many helpers on the first day. While there are certain to be some “oops” moments, we hope that our community will be patient as we revise where necessary. The bus trips will be much shorter and that should help to smooth the waters.

There have been many refurbishings to the schools, and at the Middle School, a major change will be the recess location at the back of the school. No longer will recess be held in the parking lot!  We found a way to make a safe, attractive play space in the rear of the school adjacent to the fields.

Safety consultant report at September 6th Board meeting

Major safety initiatives have been implemented which include moving the visitor kiosk at the Middle School and High School between the two entry doors as recommended by our safety consultants. Thus, visitors will be held outside of the school hallways until the security process is complete. More rigor in all aspects of our safety protocols have been initiated. Less noticeable and hopefully, never to be used, are buckets of supplies for each classroom for use in a prolonged lock-down drill. A report from our school safety consultant, Altaris, will be presented at our next Board meeting.

Facilities and Energy Performance Work at the Schools

Look for some other upgrades in the Middle School art room, and in the construction tools now available in our maker lab at the high school. The Energy Performance Project has been a focus of substantive efforts at the schools, including the geothermal project at the Elementary Schools, new LED lighting at all schools, solar panels now installed at our Middle and High schools and our bus garage. These projects reduce energy costs over time and add to the geothermal energy savings at the High School-Middle School campus, where no oil is used. It is anticipated that the Elementary School will now use approximately 30,000 fewer gallons of oil a year!

You will be hearing a great deal about the outcome of the work of the facilities planning committee that met last year and a proposed project to support our educational goals with no tax impact that will be discussed throughout the District.

With the new school year, we are embracing a vision that takes into consideration academic and social-emotional well-being: creating a welcoming learning environment where relationships are nurtured, accomplishments are celebrated and all are empowered to learn and grow. Our overarching goal is to continue to transform the student experience in harmony with what we know about the career and college environment that awaits our students. The International Baccalaureate (IB) initiative and our Science Research Program exemplify educational models that focus on student passions, voices and personal learning goals. Information about our IB implementation process will be provided at the High School and at our Board meetings.

Wishing all a very enjoyable Labor Day weekend and a happy, exuberant 2018 back-to-school experience!

Dr. Frances Wills
Superintendent of Schools

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