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SCHOOL SCENE A Special Supplement to the Sullivan County Democrat

A look at activities in the Fallsburg Central SECTION F, School District JANUARY, 2018 CALLICOON, NY





Forging a new future for Fallsburg families, students STORY AND PHOTOS BY KATHY DALEY n vibrant school districts, a strong connection typically links home, school and community. That circle of meaningful support epitomizes life in Fallsburg's two school buildings, Benjamin Cosor Elementary and Fallsburg Junior/Senior High School, where some 1,400 children study each day. “It's a real team-wide effort,” said Dr. Ivan Katz, superintendent of schools. “It includes teachers, parents, community members who pay taxes for schools.” “We have a community exceptionally supportive of students and programs,” he said. “Over the years, thankfully, our budgets pass. In May, our building referendum was approved by almost a two-to-one margin.” Twelve years ago, Fallsburg struggled with a challenging 50 percent graduation rate, that is, the percentage of students who actually earned their high school diplomas equaled.


Since then, accompanied by ongoing hard work, the graduation rate has burgeoned to 80 percent, slightly higher than the New York State average. Teachers whose life careers represent a mission and a calling... the continuous quest for new knowledge... a commitment to providing the extra effort needed to ensure all kids do their very best are all part of Fallsburg's ethos. “Everything we do is geared toward the good of kids,” Katz said. “If it's good for kids, no explanation is needed. If it's not helping kids, no explanation is possible.” MONEY FOR EDUCATION Fallsburg's ability to offer one-onone after-school tutoring for students in academic need is funded for the next five years by New York State's Empire State After-School Program, which announced Fallsburg would receive $708,800 each year. Daily, 235 children at Cosor Elementary get the academic coaching and 40 to 50 high


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School Scene A Look at Activities in the Fallsburg School District Published by

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(845) 887-5200 Callicoon, NY 12723 January 9, 2018 • Vol. CXXVII, No. 60

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Teachers are concentrating this year on the all-important lesson plan. Here Scott Persten supervises a lesson in progress with his kindergarten class at Benjamin Cosor Elementary.


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school students receive tutoring at their school each day. After-school efforts this year include popular clubs in robotics and a Lego club that engages younger students with real-world engineering by challenging them to build Legobased robots. After-school connections this year with SUNY Sullivan and Hurleyville Maker's Lab will enrich kids' school lives, as will a 10week cooking program at the high school offered through Cornell Cooperative Extension.

LESSON PLAN PLANNING Taking a fresh look at the all-important lesson plan has administrators reviewing these step-by-step guides that outline a teacher's objectives for what the students will accomplish each day. Teachers are now using a common template to enhance learning for students, said Katz. District-wide, staff are also studying Suzy Pepper Rollins' book “Teaching in the Fast Lane” to create “active classrooms” where students can engage in their own exploration and take a more serious role in their own learning.

‘The work will include the long awaited reopening of the high school swimming pool, one of the few indoor swimming facilities in Sullivan County.’ Katz noted that staff are directed to plan for and implement student activities that align with the National Association of Colleges and Employers' (NACE) preferred attributes for employment: leadership, teamwork, written communication, verbal communication, problem-solving, work ethic and initiative. NACE is a nonprofit association that links its more than 3,000 college and university members to employer organizations. BUILDING ON UP Fallsburg's $15.9 million building project will take place over the next two summers. The work will include the long awaited reopening of the

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high school swimming pool, one of the few indoor swimming facilities in Sullivan County. Once completed, the pool will host student classes in swimming and water safety and will also serve as a recreation outlet for community members. Training lifeguards for the Town of Fallsburg may also be on the agenda, Katz said. At the junior/senior high school gym, the floor, bleachers and windows will be replaced. Other features of the building project include security upgrades at school entrance vestibules, improvements to the outdoor track and practice fields, bathroom renovations and upgrades, boiler replacement at the elementary school and finishing a conversion project at the junior-senior high school from steam to a money-saving hot water heating system. Fortunately, the District will get back 74 cents in state aid for each dollar spent on the project, a boon for the parents and the wider community that, together, set a high priority on public education. “We are,” said Katz, “the last bastion of opportunity for many students.”


Technology is key, so to speak, even in the younger grades. Here, first grader Adriel Canales Gonzalez studies by means of a laptop Chromebook.

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Hablo Español? ‘I do!’ say Fallsburg’s youngest students STORY AND PHOTO BY KATHY DALEY


Teacher Veronica Serrano works with two of her kindergarten students, Zhara Snead and Katie Lopez. Zhara, whose native language is English, is now learning in Spanish. Katie, whose native language is Spanish, now learns in English on alternate days with teacher Scott Persten.

fied as not proficient in the English language and in need of support, must offer a bilingual program to bring the students up to speed. And second, the District is enriching the school experience of a group of English-speaking children, whose parents opted to put them in Dual Language this year. In the kindergarten portion of the program, 14 students spoke English only in September, said Evans. In the first grade program, 12 spoke English only. Some of the native Spanish speakers knew no English at first. Others speak both Spanish and English at home. One of them, years ago, was teacher Serrano. “I was an ELL student,” said Serrano. “At home, we spoke both Spanish and English,” but that was not enough to allow her to feel secure academically. Serrano said the Fallsburg program is working well for both native English speakers and native Spanish speakers. The children's parents testify to that. “We had a parent conference and 33 out of our 37 parents showed up,” Serrano said. “We were overwhelmed. In the past, the Spanish-speaking parents felt reserved, left out. Now having a Dual Language program makes them feel more comfortable and more welcomed.” And, she said, the English-speaking parents are just as thrilled for their kids. “They are so welcoming to the language and the culture,” Serrano said. “They want to know 'what can I do at home'” to further the learning, she said.


t times, Veronica Serrano finds herself urging “En Español, por favor” to one or another of her kindergarten students. The children, who only spoke English three months ago, respond with the proper Spanish word or phrase. Serrano and three other Fallsburg school district teachers are instructing Dual Language classes as of September. Two kindergarten classes of 37 students total and two first grade classes of 40 total are participating, learning their schoolwork one day in Spanish, and the next in English. Serrano teaches the five-year-olds, as does veteran kindergarten teacher Scott Persten, who handles the English language portion of the program. In the first grade Dual Language class, Jeanne Espinoza teaches children in Spanish, and the next day, they are taught by Domenick Scanna in English. “I'm proud to be involved in something like this,” Pursten said. “The exposure the kids are getting is very valuable.” Dual Language programs first began flourishing in the U.S. about 15 years ago. Fallsburg is the first among Sullivan County school districts to offer the program. “We want our students to be bi-literate,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Matthew Evans. He pointed out that children who are fluent in two languages demonstrate more skill in concentrating and multitasking, improved memory, and better decision-making ability. They tend to score higher on tests due to advanced thinking skills. As adults, people who are bilingual tend to earn more than those with skill in one language, studies show. The work for Dual Language teachers requires a good deal of planning and coordinating, said Dr. Evans. For example, the teachers avoid giving the exact same lesson in Spanish and English to their class. Rather, “they keep the curriculum moving on,” he explained. In developing the program, Fallsburg gains in two ways. First, the District is aligned with a federal mandate that requires that a district with 20 or more ELL students, that is students identi-





Going Google happy in Fallsburg schools, one tap at a time STORY AND PHOTOS BY KATHY DALEY


Fallsburg Technology Director Keith Edwards rallies and motivates staff to give students the skills to excel in an online, collaborative world.


n Fallsburg, the program began three years ago, but some teachers had to be convinced that a technological system like Google Classroom was not intended to supplant good teaching. “The tools you use actually help you deliver great teaching,” Director of Technology Keith Edwards told the staff. “And you will have time to pay even greater attention to each kid.” Over time, “We've been able to win over those teachers who were very apprehensive,” said Edwards. “It's now deeply embedded in everything they do.” Google Classroom is a free learning management system that allows educators to create classes, distribute assignments, send feedback and view everything in one place. Teachers can deliver a lesson, “talk” to students online, and give quick quizzes to see if each student in the classroom understands what was just taught.

The feedback is immediate and powerful. Teachers and students tend to enjoy a more collaborative relationship. A teacher can customize a particular assignment to meet the student's need, for example. The use of Google Classroom also recognizes that students learn in different ways: some by seeing, some by hearing, some by a more hands-on approach. Students can work together as a group on a particular assignment, each playing a different role. “It's also great for kids who are absent,” said Edwards. “They can access all their school work from home.” Engaging teachers in Google learning and staying up to date on the program is critically important. In early December, teacher training at the high school included workshops by “teachers who are super users” leading training in Google Classroom and Google Apps for Education for beginners, Edwards said. The tech director has secured a three-year Technology Integration Grant of $150,000 that allows for

$50,000 per year for professional development and the purchase of touchscreen Chromebooks for each teacher in the district. “A few years ago, we had a Google summit all day,” with Google “guru” Alice Keeler speaking, said Edwards. Keeler arrived in Fallsburg to move teachers beyond using Google Classroom for "electronic worksheets" alone. Rather, she helped them with ways to integrate the system into day-to-day teaching. Keeler will be back in the spring to focus on math and integrating Google Classroom and Apps for Education, Edwards said. Meanwhile, the school district is awash, thankfully, in Chromebooks, the laptops that run on Google's operating system. “For the price of every PC, I can order three or four Chromebooks,” said Edwards. It wasn't that long ago that classrooms in both the elementary and junior high/high school buildings offered students only the traditional model of a cluster of four PCs. Now, “there are no longer student PC computers other than two labs in the high school which require Windows-based programs,” Edwards said. By contrast, each classroom in the elementary school has a set of 12 Chromebooks. At the junior high/high school, most classrooms have class sets of Chromebooks and carts that can be signed out for use of those who do not have permanent class sets. English Language Arts, Social Studies and Science rooms have carts as well, as well as several other subject area classrooms. Students are also able to sign out Chromebooks from the tech office for use in study halls, and Chromebooks or Chromeboxes are available at both school libraries. Today, with education stressing inquiry and project-based learning that is student researched and student presented, technology is key. “I'm excited about what we've been able to do,” Edwards said. “When kids leave here, they will have a very good handle on the Google application, and it's free to them. These are 'real world' application tools.”







For students like Fallsburg seventh grader Brenda Barahona, technology is both fun and empowering.

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A new best friend of students and parents

STORY AND PHOTO BY KATHY DALEY arents today can find themselves stressed by jobs, by money (or lack of it), by issues with their kids or spouses. Some moms and dads don't speak English well enough to be understood. Others can't afford cars and car insurance, and so they're unable to get around. Delving into their child's education, therefore, may not take the highest priority. Enter Aleta Lymon. Lymon started last May as Fallsburg Central School District's liaison with student families. She's holding meetings in housing complexes. She's making home visits. And she's linking with parents over their child's successes and struggles in the classroom. “It's so important to build a relationship with parents,” said Lymon, noting that statistics show students performing better in class when their

parents are involved in their schooling. Lymon supervises Fallsburg's Family and Community Engagement Program (FCEP), which is an initiative of the federal program entitled My Brother's Keeper, from which the local school district received a grant. “The purpose of FCEP is to engage families and the community in student learning,” Lymon said. “I work with teachers, guidance counselors, students, parents and the community.” Lymon holds a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Marist College and is working on her doctorate degree. She is a graduate of Fallsburg High School and serves now as a Monticello village trustee. Delighted with her position at her alma mater, Lymon is working toward improved student attendance and strengthened reading skills and other academic abilities for Fallsburg kids.

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performing in the classroom. Has a child missed a test or flunked an exam? Has a student walked into class late, or missed school entirely? Did homework get turned in on time or at all? Lymon stays in touch with the child's teacher by email and connects with the parent online or by phone. Fifty of the 156 children who participate in FCEP receive intensive oneon-one work on the part of Lymon and at after-school tutoring sessions in the elementary and junior/high schools. The kids also benefit from a 14-week after-school program called the CareerVisions Community Change Model. CareerVisions, based in the Bronx, offers K-12 activities that center on career exploration and community engagement. At the junior/senior high school, CareerVisions staff member Robert Natal, guides students through exploring career possibilities based upon their interests. They also learn

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“You have to meet the child where they're at and be mindful of their cultural background for them to be responsive,” she notes. So Lymon has driven out to Lake View Apartments in Loch Sheldrake and to Woodridge's Eagle Ridge Apartments, where parents gathered in the community center to hear her speak. She's given workshops and brought in experts to teach ways of helping kids do well in the classroom and how to communicate with teachers. “Parents need to stay in touch with teachers,” said Lymon. “For example, a student may be tired in school and have difficulty concentrating because of something that happened at home. The teacher needs to know about that.” One critically important workshop focused on the online parents tool called SchoolTool. Using that student information system, Lymon and parents can determine how a student is

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Fallsburg alumna Aleta Lymon serves as an advocate for student success through parental involvement. Tee shirts and sweatshirts, like this one, identify students as part of My Brother's Keeper, a federal program that focuses on achievement for students of color and others in need.

The additional 106 FCEP students join the others in special career readiness workshops and college and career visits. One memorable day in October saw students travel to SUNY Oneonta. There, kids as young as seventh graders and as old as high school seniors experienced a taste of college life and academics, along with the reality of college in their own futures. As for parents, they too are being enriched by FCEP. “One on one, they are opening up,� Lymon said. “Now they are more willing to come in for a teacher meeting. They are much more involved with their student's learning.�


to analyze and address community problems. In September, for example, three Fallsburg students, Kailie Ruiz, Natasha Fuller and Autumn Fuller, spoke before the Board of Education about the focus of their study: pollution. They researched, identified cause and effect, and created an action and intervention plan. Benjamin Cosor Elementary School teacher Veronica Serrano teaches the program there, assisted by a CareerVisions employee. Students are researching their native country and its history, famous people, geography and current problems. They will then make presentations on their work.

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After-school programs rock!

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KATHY DALEY allsburg High School juniors Jahaira Cordero and Jessica Martinez don't mind staying after school. That's when they go into high gear with after-school tutoring of younger students, or translating fliers and memos sent to parents, or teaching Spanish dances or doing community service work. As members of the Fallsburg Hispanic Americans United Club, Jahaira and Jessica say they are enriched by their after-school experiences. “It's cool to help younger kids learn about their culture and language,” said Jahaira. “I want to be a teacher,” said Jessica, “and I'm getting experience working with kids.” Their club is one of the programs being funded this year through a new state grant from the Empire State After-School Program. Fallsburg is receiving $708,000 per year for five years for after-school work that also supports the District's popular Robotics Club, the First Lego


League Club and the academic tutoring programs that take place at the elementary and junior/senior high schools. But Fallsburg's enriching after-school program has broadened its horizons even further this year.

SUNY SULLIVAN STEPS UP SUNY Sullivan's afterschool involvement at Fallsburg began this fall when the college received a Math teacher Lynn Colavito tutors Fallsburg High School student Cindy Granados in late afternoon as Liberty Partnerships grant part of the District's After-School Program at Fallsburg High School. through the New York State Education Department. Fallsburg, learning programs. Mentorship, vention. Liberty and Monticello school dis- tutoring, as well as college and career PEACEFUL SCHOOL DAYS tricts are benefiting from the pro- readiness and study skills classes are AND EATING WITH CORNELL gram that promotes college readiness incorporated, along with guest Fallsburg is also working this year and career development for students speakers and field trips. Eventually, with Peaceful Schools, an organizawho need additional assistance to the students will participate in serv- tion founded in 1997 in Syracuse to help them meet their goals. ice learning projects that will train students in peer mediation to Completing homework, preparing improve their communities. help deal with student conflict. After for tests, and getting organized are all Financial assistance for participat- the regular school day, students with part of the push, and students will ing students who seek to attend leadership qualities will train to prowatch Liberty Partnership staff mem- SUNY Sullivan while in high school vide this mediation and conflict resobers to go on to develop customized will also be provided. lution service. Partners in the program Finally, Fallsburg is working with include Sullivan County's Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Catholic Charities office, in Liberty to offer an after-school 10Sullivan Agencies Leading session cooking club in the high Together (SALT) and the school's home economics room. The Hurleyville Makers’ Lab, a two have had a long working relationnon-profit membership ship that has included collaborating organization that provides on a nature trail at Cosor Elementary affordable and collaborative School, among other things. All told this year, some 40 to 50 stuworkspace for creativity. The partners will work dents benefit daily from after-school together to evaluate stu- activities at the junior/ high school dents, refering students who and 235 students at Cosor experience serious academ- Elementary report to the after-school ic or personal/emotional activities there, said After-School crisis to agencies, including Program Director Suzanne Lendzian, Catholic Charities, that spe- who is also Director of Physical cialize in recovery and inter- Education and Athletics. “In after-school programs, students High School juniors Jahaira can explore their individual interCordero and Jessica Martinez rel- ests,” said Lendzian. “They can ish the work they do with younger receive more individual support, and students as part of the Hispanic they build relationships with teachers Americans United Club. and interact with friends.”




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Fallsburg School Scene 2018  
Fallsburg School Scene 2018  

There's a lot to be excited about at the Fallsburg Central School District. Take a look for yourself in our latest School Scene!