October was a busy month of learning and growing for all of us. For example, this month the muralist, Pedro Ospina, and the students in first through eighth grade painted a gorgeous mural depicting our Pocantico Hills school community. It is proudly displayed in the school cafeteria for our students, teachers and families to admire. The student’s art work is phenomenal and inspiring. As one of our Board members said to me, “when the students return to visit our school after they graduate, many of them will stop and point out the portion of the mural that they painted, and it will be a good memory!” I have attached a picture of the mural for you to see.
In addition, the Pre-Kindergarten students created their own mural in the Kindergarten hallway – it is precious.
We also had our first annual Family Math Night. Mr. Brown developed a very informative PowerPoint about the District's Primary Math (Singapore Math) program. I visited many classrooms over the course of the evening and it was great fun to see students teaching parents, as well as families playing various math games together. The Power Point from Mr. Brown’s presentation is on our website for those of you who were not able to attend that math night. Please take a moment to view it.
I want to thank Mr. Brown and all of our primary and intermediate grade teachers and, of course, our students for helping to make the math night so much fun and so informative for our families.
In October we also had our fifth annual PTA-sponsored Book Fair; the book fair was a great success. Students, parents and teachers all bought books. I'm sure many students added to their personal home libraries. I want to thank the PTA for organizing and running this wonderful annual event.
The Pocantico Hills School Foundation hosted the annual Swan Lake Walk to fundraise for the pre-k Cooks and Gardeners Program that we are doing in partnership with Stone Barns.
On the last day in October we had our annual Halloween Parade. Our students’ costumes were inventive and funny, and many members of our parent community came to watch this yearly event.
We also hosted a delegation of educators from China visiting our school. They came to observe our teachers and to see how American educators teach. They are working to move from a “teacher- centered” learning experience for their students to a “student-centered” learning experience. They were very interested in understanding how we use our various teaching materials, as well as our teaching strategies.
On Thursday, October 30th, the sixth through eighth graders voted in their new government. The election was extremely close for all candidates. Every ballot counted! There were several broad topics among the speeches, including anti-bullying, and pursuing community service, and creative dance themes. One candidate suggested recognizing soldiers defending our country by sending supplies to their training camps. Another candidate asserted the importance of peer mediation and encouraged classmates to be inclusive, and still another suggested creating reading buddies and book groups for the elementary students. Most candidates expressed the importance of school spirit and open lines of communication.
The middle school hallways were covered with colorful campaign posters. Many with catchy slogans:
"Fabi is cool, vote for a better school"
"Vote for Cole if you have a soul"
"Vote for Max and Avery, the new energetic, go-getter treasurers"
"Vote Damar and go down the right Lane”
These are just some of the many activities that the Pocantico Hills School District and the PTA sponsored during the month of October.
The month of November also promises to be a very active month.
CURRICULUM UPDATE: GUIDING PRINCIPLE #1 THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS ARE ONLY THE FIRST STEP TOWARD ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT AND STUDENT GROWTH.
STEM UPDATE: GUIDING PRINCIPLE # 2 TECHNOLOGY SHOULD BE A TOOL THAT SUPPORTS THE GROWTH OF REASONING SKILLS AND CRITICAL THINKING.
Last spring I wrote to explain that we were completely revising our STEM program to ensure that we were truly preparing our students for the technological world of their future.
I am pleased to give you an overview of our progress toward this goal:
First, I really want to compliment Mr. Cook. He has taken the lead in developing and defining the elementary STEM program at the primary grades. Working with Mr. Brown, he spent time over the summer choosing appropriate programs for the grade levels, and he directly teaches students the concepts represented in the various “LEGO” STEM activities. He also coaches the teachers to improve their skills.
The kindergarten curriculum is Early Simple Machines and Technology. This was not part of our original plan but with the support of Mr. Cook and Ms. DiStefano we extended the STEM program into the kindergarten.
The 1st grade curriculum is Simple Machines and Technology.
The 2nd grade curriculum is WeDo Basic Robotics and Programming.
Mr. Suarez will be working with students in the 3rd and 4th grade STEM Program on the LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robots.
Additionally, The STEM changes at the middle school are really going very well. I want to compliment Adam Brown, Vince Cook, Anne Gordon, Jim McVeigh and Dan Linehan. They have done a stellar job of implementing the changes to the STEM that they developed with Adam over the summer. The first group of 8th graders in the Innovation and Design course that Mr. McVeigh and Mr. Linehan developed have already presented their prototype inventions to our consultant, Mr. Remy, who took their sketches of their inventions and animated them using a professional 3D design software; this is what a sound and well developed STEM program is supposed to be for our students.
Additionally, Anne Gordon has been working with the 5th grade students to develop their coding skills, which will support the students’ skills as they program their robots in science later on. She is also in contact with the Tappan Zee Bridge Development Corporation; they sponsor school visits to various sites pertaining to the bridge that is being built. She is currently arranging for students to visit the bridge itself to see “up close” what is happening.
Mr. Cook, as our new Robotics Club Advisor, has also begun developing an after-school middle school competitive FIRST LEGO League team. While we will not be able to compete this year in the Regional FIRST LEGO League competition, we have joined the league and we will attend some competitions so the students can become acquainted with the experience. Mr. Cook’s students will be using the updated version of the Mindstorms that use the newer EV3 software.
We also plan to have the students exhibit their inventions and their robot at the science fair in the spring. So please mark your calendars and plan to come to the Spring Science Fair and see our all aspects of our STEM program in action.
The Pocantico Hills Teachers Association will host their annual Geography Night on November 19th from 7:00-8:30 for grades three through eight. This is a great family experience where the students, teachers, parents and family members answer geography questions and play geography games.
Report cards have been issued and we will have report card conferences on November 13th and 14th. Please make sure to schedule your meeting time with Ryan Nastasi at ext. 153 if your child is in middle school) or with your child’s classroom teacher (Pre-K – 4). If you are unable to schedule an appointment, make sure that you contact your child's teacher(s) and schedule a time to either meet or have a phone conference.
GUIDING PRINCIPAL # 6 COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES TO PROMOTE COMMUNICATION AND GLOBAL AWARENESS.
As you recall from my September newsletter, one of our District-wide goals is to increase communication here at Pocantico Hills and based on your feedback, one of our major tools for communication is the District’s web site. Consequently, it is important that parents and visitors are able to successfully navigate the site. In order to support our families to do that, I have asked our technology integration specialist, Mr. John Resanovich to give us the following little tutorial.
Making the Most of the Pocantico Web Site:
The Pocantico Hills School District web site is full of useful resources and information for all members of our community. The information on our site is constantly being updated and added to. There is so much information that it can sometimes be hard to find. To help you navigate your way around, here is a quick guide to where things are located and how to find them.
Our home page is www.pocanticohills.org. On the home page you will find several sections.
The Important Announcements section features up to date information from the Superintendent on important topics and what is happening in our district. The monthly newsletter is placed there.
The Bulletin Board section features information and links about items such as upcoming Board of Education meetings, emergency closing information, school fundraisers, dances, club meetings and other information.
The Upcoming Events section is where the district online calendar, at the bottom right corner of the Pocantico home page. As you review this section you will immediately observe a listing of the next few days’ events. Underneath that listing is a link that says “View Monthly Calendar”. This link will take you to the online calendar where you can see important dates and events for the entire school year.
On the left hand side of the web page you will find quick links to important information such as class pages, homework calendars, important forms and requests, and more. Here are some of the helpful items you will find:
The Class Pages will allow you to see what is happening in different grade levels, including important dates, messages, and resources from your child’s teacher.
The Teacher Directory will allow you to contact teachers by email. Just click on the small envelope next to the teacher’s name and you will be able to write to the teacher.
The Middle School Homework Calendars are updated by teachers and will allow students and parents to see what homework assignments and projects have been assigned and when they are due.
The School Nurse page is filled with information about sports participation, health forms, immunization requirements, and contact information.
The Parent Corner contains topical information for parents regarding current education legislation, Common Core Standards, APPR and more.
Important Forms and Requests is where to turn for transportation requests, health forms, field trip permission forms and facilities use forms.
To help you become accustomed to each section, please take a moment and review this information. There is much more to explore on our web site and we will look at some of those in future newsletters.
As you may know, the legislature recently placed a limit on the amount of time students are supposed to be made to site for tests. On our web site is an analysis from the State of the number of tests we give that indicates there are areas the State believes we can reduce. We have reviewed their assessment and we have identified areas that we will reduce/end testing. For example, we no longer test all middle school students using AIMsweb.
However, we are not going to change our current testing practice using the NWEA MAP assessments for the following reason. We use this computer–based test three times a year. In the fall, we analyze our students’ strengths and challenges. We refine our curriculum and teaching support to meet the needs these tests have identified. We test once in the winter to understand if our support is helping and to make further adjustments if needed. And, finally, we test in the spring to determine final growth and to help us plan for next year. I believe this information is vitally important and helps us to make good decisions for students. These tests are not used to determine a grade or to determine it a student passes or fails. If you would like further information about this issue please, go the Parent Corner on our web site.
COFFEE AND TEA WITH DR. DOUGLAS
We have had two meetings, one at the condominiums and one at school library. Parents and the community asked questions about curriculum and the bond. The last meeting with be at the firehouse in Pocantico Hills on Monday, November 17th from 7:00-8:00. Please come to the meeting; the purpose of the meeting is to answer any questions from the community - there is no agenda. We will post all of the questions with my short answers on the District’s web site in December.
Finally, the District will be closed for Thanksgiving beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 26th. May I be the first to say Happy Thanksgiving! This is certainly a time to reflect and be thankful to live and work in a community that is so supportive of its children and school.