Thank you- By now, most of you know that June 30, 2019 will be my last day as Superintendent of Schools at Marcus Whitman. As this will be my last newsletter, I want to formally thank all of you for what will soon be six amazing years. The relationships I have been able to develop over these years will forever be a part of me and the experiences we have shared helped shape who I am today.
As a district, I believe we have worked hard over these past six years to expand on a culture where establishing positive relationships is the foundation of what we do and who we are. We set a standard of excellence where we empower each other to be our best and hold each other accountable to do just that. There is great PRIDE among the staff to continue their growth as learners so they can provide students with the support and experiences needed for them to grow as individuals as well. I have been fortunate to be part of such an amazing culture and I thank all of you for this opportunity.
Thank you to the School Board who initially took a chance on me. To the current School Board, thank you for your continued support, not only for me but for everyone in the District.
The next few months will offer us many opportunities for change and growth. I look forward to working together to continue the important work we do here.
2019-20 Budget- One of the major changes we will see is the reduction in debt service and state aid. The debt from financing the construction of the middle school will be paid off prior to June 30, 2019, which will reduce our overall expenditures. This also means we will not receive the same level of revenue through building aid. While a reduction in expenditures is always seen as a positive, we are simultaneously losing revenue.
The Governor has released his proposed budget, including the level of state aid for school districts. Once again, the headlines are deceiving as to the actual increases. The Governor continues to increase his control over funding and how districts use the money they receive from the State. Most of his new funding/spending mandates are due to the inequity in spending among schools within the State’s largest school systems. Due to the inequity among those specific districts, the Governor finds it necessary to punish all of us and create more mandates, which require more resources, including time, thus taking away from more important work and resources that could be used more wisely to benefit students and staff.
We must wait for the Governor and the Legislators to do their budget negotiating dance to see what funding we will actually receive. Presently, it appears there will be an increase overall, but what that actual increase will be is still unknown. The Governor continues to increase funding in areas important to him and his political gain, rather than allowing for greater increases in Foundation Aid, which local School Boards and districts have greater control over to assign funding to areas where it is needed most. Each districts’ needs can vary greatly.
There will be budget updates as we continue our budget development process through our monthly budget workshops and await the State’s final budget, which is typically the very end of March.
Capital Project Update- In just a couple of months, we should see work begin across the district as part of phase one of our $28,994,000 Capital Improvement Project. Phase one should be completed in late fall of 2019. Phase two, if everything stays on schedule, should begin in April of 2020. We know that this project will create many inconveniences for students, staff and parents, but the end result will provide great benefits to all.
Again, phase one will include some of the following work:
· Gorham- Roof, paving and classroom upgrades
· Valley- Roof, paving, classroom, bathrooms, kitchen and playground upgrades
· HS- Roof and window upgrades, complete renovation of the art, technology and music wing. New outdoor concession, bathroom and storage facility, new parking lot adjacent to this facility and a new soccer/lacrosse field near this facility (located between the football field and transportation center)
Trauma- All employees in the district have received trauma sensitive training, which was led most recently by our middle school social worker, Kay Muscato. We have been afforded this training over the past three years through a grant. Why is it important for all of us in education to better understand what trauma is, the impact trauma has on our children, and how best to support children who have experienced trauma?
The information below from the CDC ACE (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) study gives us a brief response to these questions:
If you are a teacher, you WILL teach children who have been traumatized. The CDC ACE study tells us that more than 50% of students in the classroom have experienced one or more adverse childhood events (ACE). The time in life when the brain is the most sensitive to experience is infancy and childhood.
In the CDC’s ACE Study, the ten types of childhood adversity measured were:
· physical, sexual, verbal abuse
· physical and emotional neglect
· a parent who’s an alcoholic (or addicted to other drugs) or diagnosed with a mental illness
· witnessing a mother who experiences abuse
· losing a parent to abandonment or divorce
· a family member in jail
Trauma Changes the Brain
Studies show chronic stress or unaddressed ACEs can change the chemical and physical structures of the brain. In the classroom, children can display traumatic stress through aggression, anxiety, defiance, perfectionism, and withdrawal. And here’s the biggie, signs of trauma often times look very similar to ADD, ADHD, ODD and autism spectrum disorder. Schwartz, Katrina (2018, Sept.) What’s Going on in the Brain of a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma?Mind/Shift, Retrieved fromhttps://www.kqed.org/mindshift/51589/whats-going-on-in-the-brain-of-a-child-who-has-experienced-trauma
It is the impact of trauma for many of our youngest learners that has increased the need for additional support at the UPK-5 level. There are other student and staff needs and mandates as well that require additional support. When students are struggling socially and emotionally, it impacts an entire classroom and sometimes an entire building. The faculty, staff and administration in both Valley and Gorham are doing their best to support the growing needs of our students and in doing so, other roles/responsibilities are being neglected. It’s the combination of all these needs and mandates that has led us to hiring an assistant principal at the UPK-5 level. Eric Pasho is starting February 11th. Eric comes to us from Victor where he has spent most of his time as a special education teacher. He has 12 years of teaching experience and also has training as a CSE chairperson and Therapeutic Crisis Intervention in Schools (TCIS) trainer. Please welcome Eric to our school when you see him.
Vaping, e-cigarettes and JUUL Community Forum- You likely have heard a lot about e-cigarettes in the news, but they are not just the latest teen fad. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared youth e-cigarette use an epidemic. In just two years, e-cigarette use by high schoolers in our state has doubled.
E- Cigarettes and similar vapor products are the most commonly-used form of tobacco among NYS youth and, like all tobacco products, they are unsafe for youth.
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid (“e-liquid”) to produce an aerosol that users inhale and exhale, colloquially referred to as “vaping.” E-cigarettes and similar vapor products come in many shapes and sizes, and are known by different names, including “e-cigs,” “vape pens,” “mods,” and “tank systems.” The most popular e-cigarette brand among youth is JUUL, whose products closely resemble a common USB flash drive. JUULs emit an almost odorless aerosol, are small, and can be used discretely virtually anywhere, including in classrooms and school bathrooms. JUUL e-liquid is contained in small pods, with each pod containing the nicotine equivalent of a pack of 20 cigarettes. JUUL e-cigarettes are so ubiquitous that “JUULing” has become synonymous with vaping.
(Taken from NYS Department of Health December 2019 Newsletter)
To better understand this epidemic among teenagers, we invite you to a community forum on Tuesday, February, 26th at 6:30PM in the high school Library.
Thank you for your continued support. The partnership we share provides our students with the best educational experiences possible, including academics, social-emotional learning and the development of healthy habits for life.