Mineola Superintendent's Blog

My Graduation Speech

After last year’s graduation Mrs. Regan, the class advisor for the class of 2014 declared that I gave my best speech ever.  Mrs. Sabatini the biggest cheerleader for the class of 2015 happened to be eavesdropping.  She quickly warned me (some might say it was a threat) that this speech better be my best.  After all everything about this class is spectacular and I better make sure I didn’t mess up.  Well, every year I agonize over this speech so I really appreciated a little extra pressure more than a year in advance.

Many staff members have echoed Mrs. Sabatini’s remarks.  This class has distinguished itself academically, on the field of play, in music and drama, in extracurricular activities including a tremendous amount of community service.  More importantly I have heard many comments on the abundance of nice, thoughtful and empathic seniors.  You have set a very high mark for those that follow.  As you move onto the next chapter in your lives I wanted to share a story about a conversation I had with a friend of mine.  We were lamenting about the diminishing amount of ambition and work ethic in many of the college graduates we know.  We wondered if these were characteristics of ‘new generation’ or were we simply getting old and didn’t understand kids anymore.  After some debate we concluded that many people just aren’t passionate about work.  They work to live rather than live to work.  While I am not advocating that your job consume you, I am saying loving what you do every day makes work a lot easier.

In our discussion we grouped work into 3 categories- the first one is a JOB, We defined a job as something you do out of necessity, after all you need money to live (hopefully make enough to move out of your parent’s house)  You may or may not like your job, but it doesn’t define who you are-  it is something you do.

Our second category is more closely aligned to something you like- we called it a PROFESSION- the dictionary defines it as an occupation or vocation requiring advanced study in a specialized field.  Now- a profession requires planning and thought- most of you are about to start that journey.  A profession is more closely aligned to who you are.  Think about college- you choose a major and take most of your course work learning more about that subject, hopefully leading to a career in that field.  Of course that doesn’t always work out. I do remember I was a dance major for a period of time, but that is a different story.

Our last category is perhaps the most elusive- we referred to it as a CALLING-  that time when your profession and your life become intertwined and you find yourself not easily separating them.  When you have found your calling your work defines who you are. That is not to say you forsake one for the other- rather they happily co-exist, each getting the attention they deserve when necessary. The calling is the time when you love your work so much it doesn’t seem like work.

The best example of someone who has found his calling is the friend I had this conversation with – Ed Escobar.  Mr. Escobar is the personification of someone who loves his job and his passion for children drives his being.  For the last 10 years he has been a role model for loving the work you do.   As you move on into the next phase of your life I implore each of you to find your calling- don’t work for the sake of working- follow your heart to work that calls to you- not only you will be happy but all those you encounter will also receive a huge benefit- for those people that truly love their work can’t help but touch other people’s lives.

Congratulations and may god bless you

Posted 1 year ago at 10:01 am.

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Some thoughts on assessments, APPR and student growth-

Why is measuring the effectiveness of a teacher so elusive?  As the State education department concludes its annual testing in grades 3-8, this question is at the forefront of NYS politics. There seems to be some consensus that teacher effectiveness centers on student growth; the amount of social, emotional and academic progress a student makes over the course of a year.  How growth is measured has become the quagmire. Growth cannot be measured by a single yearly summative exam; nor can these exams capture a teacher’s influence on a student.  Standardized exams have an important place in teacher and student performance but must be more thoughtfully applied.

The ideal application of standardized exams is to benchmark student performance in September and then assess student growth in June.  While not perfect, this method seeks to isolate a teacher’s “influence” on individual students. NWEA and STAR are some examples of these types of assessments.  Both of these exams leverage technology and are capable of adjusting the difficulty level of the questions to find a student’s “zone of proximal development”. While this is a much better indicator of student growth it still is missing a key component of assessment- actual student work.

The idea of student portfolios have been around for decades, but has never been viewed as a viable assessment tool because of the labor intensive nature of collating and documenting student work. Advancements in technology and the proliferation of one to one tablet initiatives demand a reexamination of the viability of e portfolios. Ironically the common core standards provide an excellent framework to organize student work and appropriately measure student growth in the standards.

Our partnership with School 4 One has produced an app that effectively measures student growth in CCS using actual student work. Progress within the standards is easily tracked throughout the year.  Teachers can provide feedback (audio and visual) to students and parents. All of the interaction between student and teacher is readily available to administrators via electronic dashboards.

By organizing daily student work by CC standards, the influence of a teacher is readily observable.  Does the teacher provide feedback to a student that leads to student growth in that standard? Have teachers helped student identify areas of weakness? Have teachers provided each student with differentiated and appropriate work specific to them?  These questions are embedded in the many rubrics used to assess teachers, but the evidence of teacher effectiveness is usually limited to teacher observations. The application of technology provides a wealth of evidence and data previously not readily available.

But even these advancements aren’t enough.  A robust portfolio should also account for all of the “non-cognitive” traits that teachers have influence over.  How do we demonstrate a teacher’s influence on student confidence? Perseverance? Grit?  These dispositions or habits of the mind are equally important to student development and teacher accountability.  Again technology provides a unique opportunity to recognize these dispositions via electronic badges. Micro credentials for adults for is now transitioning to students. As a member of Digital Promise’s assessment group, we are hard at work in developing methods to recognize student understanding of the habits of the mind, and more importantly giving students the ability to demonstrate they can apply these habits appropriately.  The intention is to include these badges in a student portfolio to provide additional evidence of student growth that would not necessarily be reflected in student work.

Finally teachers have a responsibility to cultivate a student’s interest and passion.  Many times these passions are not covered by existing curricula.  We need to find ways of building student choice in curriculum and/or provide appropriate opportunities for students to be recognized for something they are passionate about.  Again we believe electronic badges provide a vehicle for this recognition.

An electronic portfolio should record and display all of the items mentioned; only then will we be able to capture the multitude of items that make up well rounded, fully educated child. As adults when we reflect upon our best experiences in school they are seldom test scores.  They are usually memories of having fun learning new and challenging things; teacher evaluations should account for that. We should focus on a meaningful way to define student growth as more than a yearly summative exam.  The technology is available to broaden our scope.  Let’s revisit portfolios, and capture all of the things that encompass great teaching and learning.   Not only will it provide a much more comprehensive picture of teacher effectiveness, it will also refocus public education to provide all of the attributes that make up a productive citizen in our country

Posted 1 year, 2 months ago at 7:14 am.

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“Opt-Out”

I have had a lot of inquires the past two weeks about opting out of State exams.  While there have been many questions and opinions they seem to fall into three categories:

1-     Parents of children taking the exams.  This category comprises the  largest group of children. They want to know what is being done to make sure their children are not disturbed.  I have already had complaints about children who are not taking the exams taunting and teasing those students who are taking the exams.  Parents want assurances that the District is properly mitigating disturbances during the testing periods

2-     Parents opting to refuse the exam.  Several parents liken the refusal to civil disobedience (I have read many quotes from Gandhi and Dr. MLK Jr.).  These parents want students to be given the opportunity to vocally refuse the exam

3-     Parents who support the opt out movement but do not want their children to verbally refuse the exam.

In an effort to accommodate all three groups we have put the following in place-

All students whose parents have sent in a letter for refusal will report directly to the library.  The test will be presented to them and they can refuse.  There is no intent to intimidate or make children feel uncomfortable.  Our staff knows our children and they will be treated with care and respect. Once the exams are collected students will work independently, until the testing period is over. This procedure accommodates groups 1 and 2.

For those parents in group 3 you may bring your children to school after the exam, they will be marked late and a refusal will be noted on the exam.  We will not attempt to administer a make up.

Please remember that the security and procedures surrounding State testing is an enormous task.  Administering test accommodations alone uses a majority of our staff, but we feel we can handle these procedures.

There has been a lot of pressure from various groups and social media and tension has been running high- Let’s remember that this movement is NOT waged against the District.  It is a ‘fight’ between the Governor/ State legislature and NYSUT.  We do not agree with the over emphasis on yearly summative exams.  The Board and I have been very vocal about this.  Mineola has NOT abdicated local control; in fact we have worked diligently to provide parents with alternate assessment of their children, including the creation of electronic portfolios of student work.  We have NOT test-prepped children; we believe good teaching will yield good results.  We have ADDED science, music and language immersion programs. No teacher in Mineola has been harmed by the current APPR plan and we will work to insure that no teacher will – what ever the new regulations bring.

We will continue to respect the choices parent make and seek to please everyone’s position, albeit that may not be possible.

Posted 1 year, 3 months ago at 5:42 am.

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All- County Artists

Yesterday I was thrilled to attend the annual All County Art exhibit at Adelphi University.  Mineola had 15 pieces of art work on display ranging from Grade 1 through grade 12.  here are the award recipients and his/her art work.  Congratulations to our 5 fantastic art teachers: Ms. Gallina, Ms. Manouvrier, Ms. Buongiovanni, Mrs. Antonelli and Mrs. Loughlin.  Kudos to Cristina Mirao, this year’s senior scholarship winner.  BTW- the extraordinary talent in our County is truly awe inspiring.

Lubaina Hassanalli, Ann Alves-Moreria, Dante Rafuna, Eunice Lee, Frankie Leckler, Leslyn Salgado, Tieara Roland, Theresa McCarey, Christina John, David Fernandez, Joesph Tullo, Hau Ka Chow, Brendan Cunningham, Aldrian Diaz, Cristina Mirao

Alves-Moreria grade 2Chow  grade 10Cunningham  grade 10Diaz grade 12E Lee- grade 3Fernandez  grade 9Hassanalli- grade 1John grade 7Leckler- grade 4McCarey  grade 7Mirao- senior scholarshipRafuna grade 2Roland  grade 5Salgado grade 4Tullo- grade 10

Posted 1 year, 4 months ago at 11:01 am.

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Magna Award

Today, our district was named a recipient of the American School Board Journal’s Magna Awards for 2015. Selected by a panel of judges, the award showcases programs and projects that are examples of innovation and excellence in school governance. We were chosen for our Stopping the Summer Slide program, which received an honorable mention by the publication.

Stopping the Summer Slide is a summer iPad extension program that is instrumental in advancing student learning during the months students are off from school and emphasizing the need to provide equitable programs for all students while respecting and enhancing the unique gifts of every child. Through the use of the district’s one-to-one iPad initiative, teachers were able to leverage various applications to create a low-cost, high-interest, interactive “virtual summer school” for all students.

I’m extremely proud of everyone who has contributed to the success of this program and would especially like to thank the Board for its continued support of such instrumental programs.

Posted 1 year, 4 months ago at 10:01 am.

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Recognizing a War Hero

History was really brought to life for a social studies project at the middle school thanks to Ray Vaz, the father of Caryl Salesi. Our students created a full 20-minute video interview on his experiences in the war and presented him with a Certificate of Recognition in honor of the many hours he spends each year speaking with our social studies classes. More than 20 years ago, the district presented him with an honorary diploma, as he enlisted in the Army before actually graduating from the school. He’s a great man, with a great family and we are proud to have him as a member of our Mineola family.Vaz

Posted 1 year, 4 months ago at 4:06 pm.

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KJOY Teacher of the Month

Missy Uryevick, second-grade teacher at Meadow, was selected as the KJOY Teacher of the Month for January. Voted for online by the community, she was honored by KJOY in her classroom just prior to the break. A representative gave each of the students in her class  a coupon to Noodles & Company in Garden City, and Ms. Uryevick received a coupon for a year’s worth of noodles. Well deserved designation for one of our many great teachers.DSC_0044

Posted 1 year, 4 months ago at 9:14 am.

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All-State Bowler

Sophomore Tony Macchietto finished second in the Nassau County Qualifying Tournament for bowling and earned himself a spot on the All-State team. He is only the second male bowler from Mineola in the last fifteen years to make it to the states. The state tournament will be held the first weekend in March in Syracuse. A long-time bowler, we wish him the best of luck at the state level.

Tony-Bowling

Posted 1 year, 5 months ago at 10:02 am.

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Silver Key Award

Junior Sanskriti Bimal has been named a winner of the 2015 Regional Scholastic Art and Writing Award. She won two Silver Key distinctions in the Northeast Region in the journalism categories for her articles “Amplifying Voices to Educate the Girl Child” and “What Thanksgiving Means in Mineola.” Her writing can also been seen in the school newspaper and in local Mineola newspapers. Congratulations to her on this well-deserved recognition.Sanskriti

Posted 1 year, 5 months ago at 2:53 pm.

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Mineola Motors

The district hosted the FIRST Lego League competition yesterday for approx. fifty middle school-aged teams.  It’s the first time Mineola has hosted the event and the third year we have had a Lego League at the middle school. The event challenges students to focus on engineering techniques, teamwork and problem-solving skills in order to complete simple tasks with a robot. These kids are highly motivated and dedicated – meeting three times a week since September in order to get their robot competition-ready. They did great and made Mineola proud, as always.DSC_0082

Posted 1 year, 5 months ago at 8:11 am.

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