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A look at




A Special Supplement to the Sullivan County Democrat





APRIL 2021

Kicking it into high gear when pandemic stressed schools, students BY KATHY DALEY


n March of 2020, Maria Sommer drove to Albany for a two-day meeting with representatives of BOCES across the state and with the State Education Department. Suddenly she fielded a phone call from her boss, Sullivan BOCES Superintendent/ CEO Dr. Robert Dufour, who asked her to begin developing plans for teaching students online. COVID was closing schools across the nation. “Several other people at the meeting were also getting messages,” said Sommer, who is Sullivan BOCES' Director of Curriculum and Instructional Support Services. “The group decided to call a 7 a.m. pre-breakfast session the next morning to share ideas and strategies about moving schools online.” BOCES’ work has centered on helping schools prepare for such an eventuality. “We run workshops, we hold leadership meetings, we have instructional specialists that can go into classrooms around the county to support teachers individually,” explained Sommer. “We attend statewide meetings around content, instructional strategies, Social Emotional Wellness, and we bring that information back to the folks here that need it.”


Sullivan BOCES instructional leader Maria Sommer and her team have served at the forefront of school districts' leap into tools and practices during Covid.

Her team includes Assistant Superintendent Natasha Shea along with 6-to-8 specialists in technology, social studies, science, English Language Arts and math, all of whom work with local teachers and administrators. “Most of the tools and practices that became essential during the COVID shutdown were already being implemented across the county in various ways, but not consistently in each classroom all day, every day,” said Sommer. Covid made changing non-negotiable. Each school district asked

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for help in one way or another. “Sometimes we went into individual districts to provide support on a particular technology platform or instructional idea,” said Sommer. “If a district reached out for support around a particular topic, and we felt it was something that would be beneficial for everyone, we asked to open it up to the rest of the county. Most of the time, districts would agree. At first, the need revolved around technology.” “We offered online sessions, repeated them often, and held ‘Office Hours’ so teachers could log Publisher: Co- Editors: Editorial Assistants: Advertising Director: Assistant Advertising Director: Special Sections Coordinator: Production Manager: Editorial Design: Advertising Coordinator: Business Manager: Assistant Business Manager: Telemarketing Coordinator: Monticello Office Manager: Classified Manager: Production Associates: Circulation & Distribution:

in with particular questions,” Sommer continued. “The biggest issues teachers faced were getting used to technology some of them had only used a few times before.” How to organize routines and structures on various learning platforms and how to get students engaged came next. BOCES was already using the video conferencing tool Zoom for some of its meetings with busy educators. “We took what we were already doing and brought all of our professional learning opportunities completely online, via Zoom,” she said. Quickly, Sommer’s office began offering several 30-to-60 minute learning opportunities almost daily, covering a variety of topics. Teachers actually had time to attend, since online teaching created flexibility in their schedules. BOCES “met weekly” with school and district leaders to find out what they thought teachers needed, and sometimes teachers would reach out to BOCES directly. “We all were struggling with adults and students not having access to devices or adequate internet until we were able to get devices distributed,” Sommer recalled. After the initial burst of getting everyone up and running technology-wise, the focus turned to helping adults and kids deal with stress, anxiety and frustration. Take, for example, the shutdown of sports, music performances and clubs. “Everyone’s world was turned upside down, and all the supports and social outlets school normally PLEASE SEE HIGH GEAR, 7S

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APRIL 2021





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APRIL 2021

Hornets, asbestos, lead in the water? Schools call BOCES BY KATHY DALEY

n matters of school districts' safety and health, BOCES is the big brother everybody can rely on. “School districts are very appreciative of what we do,” said Gary Bowers, BOCES Health and Safety Coordinator. “They all understand what they have.” Now as spring warms the landscape, Bowers is preparing for the pest management part of his job. For school districts, “We now offer extermination of stinging insects – wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets,” Bowers said. Bowers first goes out to the school and checks to see what's going on at the playground or at some nest inside an empty space in a wall. “If it's during the day, I know the ‘worker’ (insects) are out foraging, so I return at 6 a.m. to remove them all,” he said.

Sometimes, he does have to call in a pest control company. Other times a school district may call BOCES when there’s a weird smell in the building. The concern is that it might be mold from a leak. “We help develop a sampling plan, collect samples, write reports,” says Bowers’ boss, BOCES Director of Facilities Jesse Morrill. Morrill notes that between now and the end of June, the department will collect water samples from each school district, looking for the possibility of lead leaching into water. Every fiveyears they are mandated by the State of New York to check and sample at every school. “It’s a massive undertaking in identifying, recording and tracking every potable source in the county,” said Morrill. Water faucets, ice machines, kitchen sinks all get the once-over.


BOCES Director of Facilities Jesse Morrill, at left, and Gary Bowers, Health and Safety Coordinator, are on the front lines of ensuring health and safety during the pandemic and beyond.



the Liberty site that once housed Sullivan's Department Store. “We consulted with every school district on the various disinfectants against Covid-19 listed as EPA-approved as well as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC),” Morrill said. Across Sullivan County, districts spent time and energy moving furniture to allow for social distancing in classrooms, hallways and offices. “It was back-breaking work,” said Bowers. “Some districts had to rent storage structures for desks and chairs, for file cabinets full of files.” Each school district had to come up with its own strategies and plan to reopen school in September. And BOCES was a partner in planning and executing those game plans, offering training for educational staff across the county. BOCES was also fortunate in that once its own programs reopened, they stayed reopened. The coronavirus stayed away. “We are awfully proud we have not had to close,” said Bowers.


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Sometimes school districts are in the process of remodeling and come upon a questionable material they think might be cancercausing asbestos. BOCES arrives to collect samples and submit them to the New York State lab. Of course, the recent focus was on COVID. “We were extremely busy the whole year,” said Morrill. When the pandemic shut down schools in March 2020, BOCES had to make sure their own buildings were set up to avoid freezing. BOCES teaches students at the Rubin Pollack Center on Ferndale Road and at the White Sulphur Springs School. At each building, “We had to protect employees and workers who came in to perform tasks during the pandemic's early stages,” said Morrill. “We were establishing cleaning and disinfection protocols, keeping track in records, finding PPE (personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, shields, safety glasses, etc.)” Another building, the BOCES office and conference center, is located at 15 Sullivan Avenue on



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APRIL 2021





APRIL 2021

Where students learn broadcasting and all that jazz Maopolski’s students learn the history of music and broadcasting and learn harmony and melody. The course offers experience in the basics of radio, commercial projects and live musical recording. They operate audio equipment as they work on Pro Tools, which is the industry standard in digital audio workstations. Students have their own software and work station, along with studio monitor and mini-keyboard. They learn to record, edit and mix. They become acquainted with EQ, or equalization, which in sound recording is used to modify an instrument's sound or make certain instruments and sounds more prominent. Recently, they began a learning module on the use of microphones. The course opens a host of career opportunities. “You might have a student come because they want to be on the creative end as producer, recording engineer, production assistant, maintenance engineer,


A BOCES teacher for more than 25 years, teacher Paul Maopolski is particularly passionate about his new course in broadcasting and music production available to students from all school districts in Sullivan County.

radio technician,” said Maopolski. Maopolski himself has played bass and guitar most of his life and taught his sons, Bryce and Reece to play. The duo, along with Liam



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arl Allen wants to make his own beats. It’s the sound without the words,” explains the senior at Monticello High School. “I love music. Now I'm learning about the musical scale and about sharps and flats.” Colleague Hunter Russo, a junior at Monticello High School, wants to go into sports broadcasting, perhaps eventually studying at one of the numerous schools in Connecticut that offer degrees in that field. “I'm from a sports family,” said Russo, “I'd like to go into it as a career.” Russo and Allen are among the eight students keeping the beat in a new program at BOCES entitled the Broadcasting/Music Production Program. Taught by veteran BOCES teacher Paul Maopolski, the course offers hands-on training in the industry basics.

This first year is focused on music production, which is fine with Russo. “It’s really fun,” said Russo. “You get to work with Pro Tools (music software). You learn how to master the beat in music. You learn music theory.” And, notes Carl Allen, the teacher is awesome. “Mister M is very understanding,” said the student. “He makes you feel like he really cares.” Actually, the teacher does care. Narrowsburg resident Maopolski has taught at BOCES for over 25 years and he’s still very enthusiastic. “We just got our studio monitors!” the teacher said with delight. He explained that Covid held things up because people stuck at home started scarfing up music equipment to amuse themselves with. Studio monitors, he said, are loudspeakers specifically designed for accurate audio reproduction. Socially distanced and masked,



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APRIL 2021



Student Carl Allen from Monticello High School travels to BOCES' Rubin Pollack Educational Center on Ferndale Road to study a field he loves: music. He's learning theory along with mastering state-of-the-art music equipment.

Fenton, now have their own metal band called Brotality. “With local radio station WJFF serving on the BOCES program's advisory committee, students will benefit from internships at the station,” said Maopolski. And Sullivan BOCES students in its Construction Tech program will work on JFF's planned new facility on Route 52 in Liberty, a site that had held gourmet food market Catskill Harvest. The teacher marvels at the suc-

cess of the BOCES music and broadcasting initiative, all things considered. “We launched this right in the the midst of a pandemic, and we're not missing a beat,” Maopolski said. “For kids, and for people in general, it's so important to have a creative outlet, a message they want to put out, whether they are creators or just have something to say. When people are heard, they're happier.”

HIGH GEAR: Covid practices



provides were not there,” she said. “The sudden changes in routine and structure, lack of social interaction, economic and health worries, and an unpredictable future were very difficult for everyone.” Educators continute to work on the “soft skills” so necessary to student achievement at the same time

as they reflect on the pandemic’s silver linings. “Some students who have thrived in the remote environment would like virtual learning to remain an option,” Sommer noted. “And there's been much collaboration between teachers. We’ve all learned so much through this experience, in large part from one another.”




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APRIL 2021

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BOCES School Scene 2021  

Take a look at the activities and initiatives occurring at Sullivan County BOCES.

BOCES School Scene 2021  

Take a look at the activities and initiatives occurring at Sullivan County BOCES.