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SCHOOL SCENE A Special Supplement to the Sullivan County Democrat

A look at activities

in the Liberty Central School District

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LIBERTY SCHOOL SCENE

SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

NOVEMBER, 2015

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SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

NOVEMBER, 2015

LIBERTY SCHOOL SCENE

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Where the halls are alive with the sound of learning N

oise in the classroom once signaled a class out of control. Not anymore. “A lot of noise can be a great thing,” said Dr. William Silver, Liberty Central School District Superintendent of Schools. “When you have groups of five or six kids all working together, you’re going to have collegial noise.” The sounds of active learning lighten the classroom atmosphere across the District, where students team up with technology to think smarter and work cooperatively.

YOUTUBE, PADS & MORE

On LES Live!, a YouTube video series that captures what’s going on in the school, Liberty Elementary School fourth-graders excitedly line up to show what they know. In lively reporting, they tell viewers that District kindergartners are now learning to put sounds together to make words, and that third-graders are focusing on the life cycle of plants. Another technology-related innovation this year introduced elementary students to the wonders of iPads through a skills-building program named eSpark. “eSpark identifies each student’s current weaknesses and strengths and takes them forward,” said District Technology Director Sandy Wagner. “It does that through games, which are a lot of fun for the kids.” The iPad use at Liberty Elementary

is not restricted to the eSpark program, though. This year, third grade co-teachers Alicia Houghtaling and Christy Green are piloting the use of iPads to connect with other students globally via Skype and other software programs. The third grade curriculum places a special focus on communities around the world, noted officials. At the high school, the District has doled out some 350 iPads, most of them going into the classrooms of its English teachers. “We wanted a way to reach each student [with an iPad], and all students take English,” explained Assistant Superintendent Carol Napolitano. Students use the touch-screen tablets to create presentations on classic literature and films, to ask and answer questions, and to edit their work in real time along with their teachers.

DIVERSITY & DISCIPLINE The need to understand the varied home lives and cultures of its students drives the District’s participation in a new diversity training program. Linked with New York University, Liberty will train its middle school and high school staff on conference days in November, February and March. “It’s about an awareness of how our biases, which we are not even aware of, can have an effect on student learning,” said Dr. Silver.

School Scene: A Look at Activities in Liberty Central School Published by

Catskill-Delaware Publications, Inc. Publishers of the

(845) 887-5200 Callicoon, NY 12723 November 3, 2015 • Vol. CXXV, No. 40

In Liberty, the leadership of Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Silver and Assistant Superintendent Carol Napolitano focuses consistently on a few strong priorities, including the use of technology to increase student enrichment and acceleration.

The impact of misunderstanding and misreading cultural differences is particularly pertinent as Liberty’s population changes. Currently, said officials, 60 percent of the children in kindergarten and first grade are of Latino descent. Setting the tone for a classroom that’s organized and purposeful also involves discipline. In the last few years, the District has studied data and worked with BOCES’ trainer Tom Ellison, who specializes in systems of good behavior and antibullying programs like Positive Behavior Intervention Systems and Publisher: Senior Editor: Sports Editor: Editorial Assistants: Advertising Director: Advertising Coordinator: Advertising Representatives: Special Sections Coordinator: Business Manager: Business Department: Telemarketing Coordinator: Classified Manager: Production Associates: Distribution:

Olweus. Ellison has worked with staff on classroom management and on ways to encourage good behavior rather than resorting to sending kids to the principal. Suspension, adds Middle School/High School Principal Jack Strassman, isn’t the most effective strategy for classrooms and kids. “We’re trying to be more proactive with interventions earlier,” Strassman said. For instance, teachers are using conversation and conflict resolution – Continued on 4L

Fred W. Stabbert III Dan Hust Ken Cohen Willow Baum, Kaitlin Carney, Kathy Daley, Alex Rau, Richard Ross, Allison Ruef, Jeanne Sager Liz Tucker Sandy Schrader Cecilia Lamy, Barbara Matos Susan Panella Susan Owens Patricia Biedinger, Joanna Blanchard Michelle Reynolds Janet Will Nyssa Calkin, Petra Duffy, Elizabeth Finnegan, Ruth Huggler, Rosalie Mycka, Tracy Swendsen Bill Holmes


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LIBERTY SCHOOL SCENE

SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

NOVEMBER, 2015

Fourth grader Aden Serrano uses headphones and an iPad to “study” math in a new program called eSpark – and, here, learns that he scored 100.

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Liberty’s entry into a national free breakfast and lunch program for all students has kids patting their full stomachs. The Community Eligibility Provision of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 allows schools with high poverty rates to offer free meals to everyone, regardless of income, thus opening up food to students who had declined meals because they did not want to be stigmatized as poor.

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“Attendance is up, tardiness is down and students’ overall behavior has improved [on the new program ‘Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.’]” Dara Smith District Food Service Director | “We’ve seen a 30 percent increase in breakfast and lunch users, “ said Dr. Silver. In middle school, the jump was huge: from 20 percent to 80 percent. “Attendance is up, tardiness is down and students’ overall behavior has improved,” added District Food Service Director Dara Smith. Some administrators are hearing firsthand how parents feel about their kids getting the nourishment they need to last the school day. “At one of our football games,” said Superintendent Silver, “I was leaning on the fence and watching the game when a parent came up to talk about the free meals program.” The parent, a father, told Silver: “Thanks, man, You’re my hero.” A happy day for a superintendent of schools.

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with teacher and student working together to solve a problem – rather than rely on punishments. Outreach to parents has been heightened, too. For students with the most severe behavior problems, help is available through BOCES and other outside agencies. The District is also looking at the academic struggles that might spur bad behavior. “We are constantly looking at credit recovery for kids who fall behind in the credits they need to graduate,” said Strassman. Online classes help those students, he said. The result? Across the board, said Strassman, “We’re seeing less disciplinary issues with kids – fewer referrals and school suspensions.”

All photographs and stories for this special School Scene are by Sullivan County Democrat Photographer/Reporter Kathy Daley. The Democrat would also like to thank the Liberty Central School District for all its cooperation in this project.


LIBERTY SCHOOL SCENE

SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

NOVEMBER, 2015

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nsung heroes” is how Dara Smith describes cafeteria staff in school districts everywhere and Liberty in particular. “The cooks who manage the day-today activities in each kitchen have their hands full,” says Smith, “and we could never get the job done without them.” Smith, a Liberty resident and a graduate of the school district, should know. As Sullivan BOCES Cook Manager, Smith manages the food service in the three Liberty schools, as well as at St. Peter’s Regional School in Liberty, where children in universal PreKindergarten attend class. All in all, Smith’s Liberty staff numbers 19. (She also manages food service at the Fallsburg school district.) The Liberty kitchens are headed by Assistant Cook Angie Gonzalez at the elementary school, Assistant Cook Christine Klein at the middle school, and professional chef Pedro Hernandez at the high school. Hernandez, who cooked for the Grossinger’s and Concord, does much of the heavy cooking that is “satellit-

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Food Service Director Dara Smith, left, says there’s never a dull moment in the kitchen where kids and food are concerned. No problem, says professional chef Pedro Hernandez, right, who heads up the kitchen at Liberty High School and has 37 years in the restaurant business.

Something new is cooking in food service ed” out to the other Liberty school kitchens. This year, Hernandez’s high school kitchen benefits from a National

School Lunch Program Equipment Assistance Grant. “We were able to purchase a new convection steamer oven that

replaced a very antiquated steamer estimated to be about 50 years old,” said Smith. The grant also funded an automatic dishwasher at the elementary school, where staff were washing dishes by hand. “Cleaning and sanitizing cooking equipment after preparing for 700 students every day is a big job,” Smith said. “Plus [the purchase] helped us to ‘go green’ by being able to use reusable trays rather than disposable foam trays.” At the Middle School, a new walk-in freezer was a much-needed new purchase. Prior to that, the school had to rely on the High School to store food items that needed freezing. This year also ushered in the Free Continued on page 6L

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LIBERTY SCHOOL SCENE Continued from page 5L

This year also ushered in the Free Meals Program, whereby free breakfast and lunch are offered to all students, regardless of income. Making ends meet in school nutrition programs is a difficult task, Smith noted, particularly since the onset of new federal healthy food requirements. “[The Free Meals program] is designed to take a lot of the administrative paperwork out of the mix,” she said, “so that schools can concentrate

SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

on providing students the healthy meals they need to be successful in school.” New on the horizon is a campaign to help fund a salad bar grant from “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools,” a nationwide initiative to increase the healthy fruits and vegetables that children have access to in school. “The program does its own fundraising, and we move up on the list as other school districts’ salad bars are funded,” explained Smith. To speed the process along, however, anyone can donate to the cause.

NOVEMBER, 2015

This past summer, Liberty staff prepared and served close to 14,000 meals for local kids. Liberty’s page can be found at http://www.saladbars2schools.org/g rant/liberty-central-school-district/ Serving meals to many is not new to Smith, who served as cook and food service manager at Frontier Insurance Company in Rock Hill before signing on with school dis-

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NOVEMBER, 2015

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Math teacher Laurene McKenna, working with Pre-Calculus student Arthur Torrens, says technology helps students explore deeply and confront challenges that stretch them academically.

Will iPads and other technologies replace classroom teachers? As wonderful as the technology is, it is a not a replacement, and the students still look for the individualized one-on-one attention from the teacher. Still, the use of iPads gives me more

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How do you use an iPad to reinforce lessons? I create videos for each of my lessons, and students are able to view the lessons and take notes or replay a lesson when they are struggling. This is also a great benefit for when a student is absent. My goal is to turn several of the chapters we do into “flipped” lessons where they watch the videos ahead of time and we work on explorations on class. It is an important experience for our students, since many will experience an online course in their future. Are students working more diligently with the new technologies? During the lab portion of my Algebra 2 course, activities are often posted to an app called Showbie, and once I started doing this I was amazed at the improved work ethic in the classroom. Students worked more diligently and were less distracted and completed assignments quicker and more thoroughly. I was able to provide written and voice feedback, and students could make changes and seemed more willing to in the electronic version than on a traditional worksheet. What are students saying about the use of iPads? Students say, “Wow, I can't believe I was learning for a whole period... it went so fast.” Or a student will say “that app really helped and I went home and downloaded it on my phone or tablet.” Or a student will come in and say, “You need to check this app out.” Students start to take on responsibility, and that allows them to be more successful. I encourage the students to share with me. We are all learners in this environment.

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iberty High School math teacher Laurene McKenna began using iPads in her classroom last year and continues to integrate them into new and existing courses. Here, the veteran instructor speaks to our School Scene reporter on the educational benefits of the lightweight touch tablets. How are you and your students using iPads? The iPads serve as an enrichment tool, a remediation tool, an exploration tool and a reinforcement tool. For example, in my Pre-Calculus class we completed a lesson on “parent functions” (basic graphs that all other equations work off of ) and transformations, so now the students are working with an app called Desmos where they are given a function and have to transform it into another one. They are able to visually see all the changes and make adjustments as necessary. This activity allows them to work at their own pace. What I find most interesting is that I could have given them the same activity on paper, where they had to draw their changes each time, and they would have given up very quickly or only completed a few during class time. But now they are seeing it move before their eyes, and they want to make it perfect and are more willing to try different things. So now instead of completing maybe four questions before stopping, they are finishing 10 in a class period and coming back on their own time to try and tweak their answers. They feel challenged instead of frustrated.


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NOVEMBER, 2015

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LIBERTY SCHOOL SCENE

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In teacher Bill Fleck’s English class, high school students take on iPad learning. From left, Joseph Greco, Alex Jefferson, John Dotten, Kyle Rolland, Fleck, and Rob Kelly.

Shakespeare meets the 21st century

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he electronic-savvy students in teacher Bill Fleck’s English class are eager to talk about using touch tablet iPads for classroom learning. “It gives us more freedom than a handwritten paper,” said Alex Jefferson. “It’s easier for access to the Internet while writing.” “You don’t have to flip through book pages to find something,” added Rob Kelly. Student Joseph Greco pointed out that using iPads allows students to create amazing presentations through the app Keynote. Fleck has his students working on “evidence-based claims” – that is, on finding data within fiction or non-fiction that supports an argument the student is trying to make. Joseph Greco, for example, decided to go contemporary – he illustrated through a presentation an evidence-based argument that baseball’s Chase Utley, a Dodger, should have been suspended for his illegal slide into second base during a game with the New York Mets. Students studying novels like “The Crucible” used their iPads to create presentations complete with music via the app Garageband, which can create mood and tone through virtual guitar, voice and

drumming. “Using iPads makes life overall easier,” said Joseph. “I love coming to English to work on iPads,” adds Alex. Last year, English teachers Pia Caro and Colleen Mills piloted touch tablets in their classrooms. This year, all English teachers are using iPads in their classes. For her part, Caro says that the whole point of iPad use is to connect reading, writing and critical thinking in powerful ways for today’s kids. For example, in a novel they are reading on the iPads, “I embed questions throughout the text to check for comprehension, misunderstanding and critical thinking,” she said. “I can even embed quizzes and short answer responses – all within the text app. “I have also required students to respond to another classmate’s comments or questions,” the teacher continued, “which gives students an opportunity to collaborate with other classmates who are not in their group or not just their friends. It’s a great way to get students talking about books and uncovering deeper meaning together.” Caro also uses iPads to share student work on, for instance, their ideas and opinions on Shakespeare’s famous tragedy “Romeo and Juliet.”

High School English teacher Pia Caro and Principal Jack Strassman note that technology is a powerful tool which allows students to take ownership of their learning and push themselves to grow. “I have the students share their answers to questions, or their written responses – quick writes, essays, etc. – in real-time,” she said. “We then look at the work as a class and give feedback and suggestions and identify problem areas. There’s no more waiting for them to turn in a paper and then look it over. They get instant feedback.” The iPads also allow students who don’t have the best handwriting to share their work. “Many students are self-conscious

about that, and the iPads remove that barrier,” Caro said. “I also sometimes have them submit anonymously so that the student whose work is being examined doesn’t feel put on the spot and is more willing to share.” Teacher Bill Fleck says he uses iPad technology in various ways. “The iPads can be connected to the giant iTouch screen at the front of my classroom, and the students present to their peers from there,” said Fleck. In his Cinema class elective, “I’ve set up private chat-rooms so we can discuss the film as we go along. Students ask and answer questions, plus we can analyze the elements of the film, to help nail down the central idea, in real time.” In Composition classes, he’s able to edit papers in real time with his students through the Google Docs app, even on nights and weekends. “This is their home base,” the teacher added. “A lot of the time they’re teaching me. The work they do is really quality.” Students like Angel Giarrantano-Rogers agree. “With all the iPads connected, you can look and see what’s happening and get feedback,” said the ninth grader, who is one of Caro’s students. “You write with it and put in notes. Kids are enthusiastic. They like technology more than paper.”


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LIBERTY SCHOOL SCENE

The ‘spark’ that builds a love of learning

ayla Samuel happily admits she gets excited about learning on eSpark days. The fourth grader at Liberty Elementary School tapped on her iPad screen, opening up to learning videos and educational cartoons and games. “This teaches you math facts and division,” Kayla said. “It’s fun!” Kayla sat with many other students in a special eSpark learning “lab” at her school, where all are benefiting from a powerful new initiative that boosts children’s skills by tailoring learning to the individual needs and the unique learning level of each child. “Students walked into class on the first day of school and the [eSpark]

SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

apps were already tailored to their individual NWEA test results,” noted Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Silver. NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) offers a widely-used series of assessments, called MAP tests, that are given three times a year. The tests provide individualized measurements of a student’s performance in reading, math and science, helping educators to improve learning for all. Using data from those tests, said Liberty Elementary Principal Jacqueline Harris and Assistant Principal Victoria Curry, eSpark diagnoses a student’s learning needs and creates personalized learning plans using interactive and academically

Fourth-grader Kayla Samuel polishes her math skills using a program personalized to her academic needs and learning style.

rigorous apps and videos. eSpark is a separate company that teams with NWEA, explained Harris. In the learning lab, students log onto their own eSpark account on

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n high schools everywhere, a significant number of students believe that they cannot afford to attend four-year colleges or that they are incapable of success in college. For many, no one in their family has ever attended college. Liberty Central School District Guidance Director Molly Messina says that one solution in creating a culture of college and career-preparedness for all students – regardless of their background – is access to accurate information. Enter Naviance, a one-stop online resource for exploring colleges and careers that will allow students, beginning in eighth grade, to start preparing now for their futures. Messina points out that Naviance, a nationally recognized web-based program, also serves as an academic planning resource to help students connect their coursework now with their college and career plans. “It’s a new tool for all of our students,” said Messina. Naviance manages individual students through the entire college planning, application and decision-making process. Students research scholarships, explore careers, take interest inventories and review

NOVEMBER, 2015

District Guidance Director Molly Messina started at Liberty in August and is now rolling out a new online tool for exploring college and job readiness for students and their families.

academic and admission data for colleges across the U.S. They build resumés and create personalized plans that support their college and career goals.

four days out of the six-day cycle in which their school operates. They then spend from 20 to 30 minutes on Continued on next page

The program also measures student academic achievement against a variety of college-readiness milestones, letting students know if they are on track or falling off and therefore in need of intervention. There is a family component as well, said Messina, who noted that District guidance counselors are speaking about the program to students in the upper grades now. Naviance’s Family Connection portal houses application tools, scholarship databases and applications, and information regarding financial aid. Using Naviance helps increase communication with parents around the importance of family support in the future success of their children. It allows parents and students to review student course plans to make sure high school graduation is a certainty. And it guides parents through important decisions like course planning and college admissions, as well as about setting goals as the recipes for success. Schools that employ Naviance also report seeing reduced parental costs and anxiety around meeting college entrance deadlines and sending in the correct supporting documents. There are high hopes for escorting students into the world of higher learning and careers, said Messina. For the next four years, “our eighth graders will have the best of it,” she said.


LIBERTY SCHOOL SCENE

SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

Continued on next page the iPads, guided through a series of “quests,� or lessons aligned to Common Core standards. Kindergartners through fourthgraders work on eSpark math lessons, and third- and fourth-graders also work on English Language Arts lessons through eSpark. After learning the new concepts, students “play� games and interact with videos that help reinforce what they are learning. Each quest includes a pre-quiz and post-quiz to measure the student’s growth and understanding of the material. At the end of the quest, students are asked to create a video of themselves answering a specific question about the quest. Students can share with their teachers electronically how they’re feeling about a particular activity, how they’re feeling that day as it relates to learning, and they can give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down based on whether or not they like a

particular app or if it was challenging to them. For their part, teachers use eSpark educational apps as a way to supplement their lesson plans. They also monitor their students’ progress and identify areas of strength and development as well as areas that need work. Staff themselves interact closely with the Chicago-based eSpark team assigned to them. Meetings are held via phones each week with the eSpark team, and an eSpark help desk is open 24/7. It’s too new to see specific growth in standardized test scores, but in other school districts using eSpark, a leap in learning is routine. Still, the excitement about eSpark is palpable at Liberty Elementary. Harris said she was in a classroom observing the other day, when the teacher said, “Today we have eSpark.� The kids responded in unison: “YAY!� “We must be on to something,� Harris said with a grin.

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Liberty School Scene 2015  

Technology has become a key focus at Liberty Central School, but students still get personal attention and assistance from a staff dedicated...

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