Year in Review Infographic
2017-2018 A Year In Review
It’s hard to believe that this is the May issue of my e-newsletter and it is even more difficult to fathom that this school year is almost over. As an individual who has always been passionate about education and as parent of two school age children, I’d want to know what has been accomplished this year and what is in store for next year, if I were receiving this communication each month. So with that in mind, here it is: the May e-newsletter: A Year In Review.
Since first setting foot in the Riverhead School District in September, I was immediately impressed by our staff’s dedication to the academic achievement of all students. It was clear that, together, they have been working tirelessly to bolster the District’s offerings of programs and services while forging a renewed family-school-community partnership. This year has been no different, and I am proud to have been part of this extraordinary team that has collectively achieved so much with plans to substantially expand on that groundwork.
Partnering with the Community
The Riverhead community has a plethora of indispensable and established resources. By successfully partnering with these enterprises, we are able to provide expanded opportunities for students that will aid them in reaching their maximum potential. We are grateful for the opportunities they are providing. I am often asked about my vision for our District. The image above is an interpretation of my vision. It includes many different components of the Whole Child Approach to education and increased academic excellence. As a District, we are building a sense of community and moving towards the “whole village to raise a child” paradigm. Every student in the Riverhead Central School District is deserving of the very best educational opportunity that we can possibly offer.
A Closer Look at Universal Pre-K
With the majority of the District’s kindergarten students having attended a Universal Pre-K program, it is imperative that we take a closer look at our current UPK learning opportunities. For the 2018-2019 school year, the District aims to strengthen ongoing communication with universal pre-kindergarten providers to maximize articulation between providers and District staff and provide professional development for UPK teachers and staff that align with the district’s literacy goals and monitor the progress of our youngest learners.
In these times, the safety and security of students and staff is paramount. That is why, over the past year, the District has been working closely with law enforcement and government agencies across the board to bolster our established security protocols. Through this network, the District has advocated for a school resource officer for the 2018-19 school year. We held several events, drills and walk-throughs in tandem with local law enforcement this year. Additionally, 300 members of our staff received active shooter training through a partnership with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. There is always more that can be done when it comes to security, and the District will continue to be vigilant in determining best practices. I’d like to thank the Board of Education, Town Supervisor Laura Jens Smith, Suffolk County Sheriff Toulon and Riverhead Chief of Police David Hegermiller for supporting my efforts to secure our schools.
Food for Thought
To ensure that our students and their families are well-nourished, we partnered with Long Island Cares this year to distribute food on a monthly basis. Long Island Cares and Dr. Jessica Rosati assisted the District by securing a $15,000 grant to provide the District’s first Mobile Food Pantry, held at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School. The pantry provides lean meats, fresh produce and nutrition education to students of the Riverhead community. They have also provided books, school supplies and coats during the winter months. With the assistance of the Principal Tom Payton and Social Worker Rafaela Vasquez, the mobile pantry serves more than 1,000 people. I am so pleased to have had an opportunity to assist in bringing in this new program so that our families have access to more healthy goods.
The new mobile pantry supplements an existing successful food pantry at Phillips Avenue Elementary School. I must commend Principal Deb Rogers and her team for all that they have done to support our students.
Social and Emotional Support
The social and emotional welfare of our students is another area where the District’s team has made significant strides this year. With a new, Whole Child Approach to education, we have teamed up with the Family Service League to offer our students access to an after-school social worker and a district social worker has been made available during the 2-4 p.m. program for students experiencing stress, anxiety and/or depression. Mindfulness programs have commenced across the district and have been introduced after school, at the high school, specifically for struggling students. Through various calming activities, these mindfulness programs help improve students’ concentration and reduce stress and anxiety. Additionally, we have advocated for the addition of a bilingual guidance counselor at the high school. Dr. Regan and his team have been influential in initiating a robust suicide prevention program for the 2018-2019 school year. Kudos!
Circulation of Services
The Riverhead Free Library is another immeasurable resource that can provide additional opportunities for our students and parents. Currently, the District is working closely with library staff to align programs that the library offers with our educational goals. This valuable new partnership has the potential to provide connections to our students that will reinforce and expand on coursework. Additionally, the District is working with the library’s Community Outreach Coordinator and the Teen Services Coordinator to further connect with students and parents regarding school-related information. Planning for after school support for our students and parents is an essential component to our collective vision for success.
Buying into Business
With a goal to increase business-related programs for our high school students interested in pursuing a business track, Dr. Regan, Mr. Gassar and district representatives have begun to collaborate with the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce. As part of this coordination, the Chamber is enlisting its members to provide our students with hands-on business learning experiences through mentorships for the 2018-2019 school year. This is just one step toward building a business program at our high school.
The Riverhead Community Awareness Program is a long-established program that through partnerships with the community and the District, provides essential evidence-based drug and alcohol prevention programs. This is a partnership that remains strong in our District, with students serving as peer leaders who educate their peers about the dangers of substance abuse, and Youth Coalition members who work on community-based strategies to thwart accessibility to drugs and alcohol.
Connecting with Parents
To further strengthen our learning institution, it is important that educators and parents foster a connection that improves student learning and increases student motivation and confidence. To that end, the District has expanded its reach this year and created programs to involve parents in the educational process.
PTO Leaders and Inter-Faith Groups
With an understanding of the strong ties Riverhead’s Parent Teacher Organizations and the community’s faith-based organizations have to the community, the District held round tables early in the year. The connections made during the round tables have resulted in improved parent and community participation across the board. PTO leaders and faith group representatives have joined us after the critical round tables to help plan and promote events that benefit our parents and students. I’d be remiss if I didn’t commend the members of the PTO. Through their extraordinary efforts, they are bringing about positive change in our community. Bravo!
During the 2017-18 school year, the District hosted several successful programs for parents. Through the district’s Parent University series, parents gained access to important information related to student life and learning. To date, the series has provided information regarding kindergarten, educating the whole child, digital education and school resources.
Additionally, we held our first “Destructive Decisions” Forum to address community concerns about vaping, alcohol abuse and other types of addictions. We partnered with Families In Support of Treatment and C.A.P. for this well received initiative.
Bilingual Family Workshop
To further connect with parents, the District hosted a Saturday morning bilingual workshop for parents. During the workshop, attendees were able to share ideas, concerns and hopes. They also learned about the district’s safety initiatives and resources available to families, as well as the rights of immigrant children. We hope to host a series of these types of gatherings, in an effort to strengthen our partnerships with families who have been reluctant to be a part of their school community in the past. Additionally, in order to strengthen police/school/community relations, the Riverhead Police Department supported this initiative to answer questions and address concerns in the community.
In Our Schools
While we continue to bolster community connections and outreach, we are also making great strides in our own buildings.
Student Voice in the District
To gain a deeper understanding of our student body, I spent time this year shadowing several students in our District. Additionally, I held a superintendent’s round table with a diverse group of high school students regarding social media. Through these interactions, I gained indispensable, firsthand knowledge that will assist the district in boosting our offerings and understanding of programs needed. I learned the most about the district by talking to our students. It has been an honor to get to know our young people on a more personal level. They are truly incredible and deserving of our united, best efforts.
Offering the Best
It is well known that STEM has become paramount in education. Without it, we are not setting our students up for success in a world that requires refined science, technology, engineering and math skills. That is why, as a District, we are consistently working to expand STEM opportunities for students through new clubs, the addition of Google Classroom, access to Chromebooks and robotics course offerings. Moreover, we are planning to create additional makerspaces that challenge students to innovate using a wide variety of technological applications.
The Riverhead Central School District has formed a new partnership with Stony Brook University, for the 2018-2019 school year to offer the HCARE/HSTEM program. Middle school students will have the opportunity to learn about medical profession, from Stony Brook doctors and staff. The importance of persistence in their academic career will be emphasized.
Supporting the Arts
In Riverhead, we recognize that there is no ‘one size fits all’ model to teaching 21st century skills, that all students are motivated differently and each have individual passions. That is why we offer a number of paths for students to attain and enhance skills that will aid them in this increasingly complex global society. One of these avenues is through the arts. As we move forward, we will continue to foster the arts and all that they offer to students, including creativity, self-discipline, initiative, innovation, commitment and decision-making.
Continuity in Our Classrooms
An important focus in our District for next year will be shared expectations. Teachers and leaders have shared their experiences and suggestions for improvement. Next year, we will continue the dialogue, in an effort to include all stakeholders in this critical process. We are working diligently to lay groundwork that will ensure all of our students have access to shared, excellent educational experiences. To accomplish this, we are enlisting teams of teachers and administrators, as part of our professional development plan, to examine best classroom practices and formulate an excellence model for our teachers, staff and building administrators to follow. We believe this paragon will serve as inspiration to enhance academic participation at all levels in our district.
I look forward to continuing and expanding upon the infrastructure that has been put in place this school year. Riverhead has extraordinary teachers and leaders at the helm. Together, our District, community, students and parents have the power to put Riverhead School District on the map. Yes! This is Riverhead! We are proud of our students, staff and community!