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SCHOOL SCENE A Special Supplement to the Sullivan County Democrat

A look at activities in the Liberty C e n t ra l S c h o o l District

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Where pride is prime: District looks to raise smart, caring citizens

STORY AND PHOTO BY KATHY DALEY

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iberty Pride isn't simply a great motto on crimson t-shirts around the Liberty Central School District. It's about a school district launching a program that encourages smart, economically disadvantaged students to realize their dream of teaching. It's about a learning tool introduced at the elementary school that has exceeded expected growth. It's about witnessing a steady climb in state test scores. And for the school district's 1,700 kids and their teachers, administrators and families, Liberty Pride is also about appreciating there's work yet to be done. “Our job is to raise the next generation of citizens with the aptitudes and habits of mind to keep our community great,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Silver at the opening of school in September. In his four years at the helm of the District, Silver has heartily stressed the essential role of family and community in the success of schools. Most recently, the school district has worked closely in the planned expansion of the Liberty Public Library, which is legally a “school district library,” serving the same residents as Liberty Central but with its own separate budget. Community businesses and nonprofits were much in evidence at welcome-back celebrations at the start of the school year. At Liberty Elementary, for example, a familyattracting event featured not only food and music but displays by businesses and a K-9 (canine) demonstration on the part of the Liberty Police Department, as well a clothing boutique that offered free bags of school clothes. “Liberty Pride” was front and center at a barbecue for incoming fifth graders at the middle school, and in a stunning new student-designed mural at the high school whose progress was noted by cars passing by, honking approval.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Silver (seated) and Assistant Superintendent Sandy Wagner note they are proud of their hard-working students, for many of whom English is a second language.

ACHIEVEMENTS, CHALLENGES Still, on campus is where the district experiences real life and true success. At the end of last school year, the District delightedly acknowledged a 55 percent increase in the number of students taking college-level courses. There were leaps in the high school graduation rate and in the number of students going on to college, as well as significant Regents exam successes. A project introduced last year called eSpark is drawing raves from teachers and parents. Using iPads, students boost their skills by learning programs tailored to each individual child at his or her unique learning level. The project has exceeded expectations, said Silver. This year, the district will unveil a chapter of Today's Students Tomorrow's Teachers, which offers academic and financial support for economically disadvantaged students

who would eventually like to teach. At the middle school, seventh and eighth grade students may participate in WeConnect, a new 4-H Club designed to help them learn about new cultures and understand the importance of global citizenship in helping to change the world. Despite continued growth in the District's ELA and math scores on state tests, however, the District announced in August that its scores from 2014-15 put Liberty into a New York State “Focus District” category. “Focus” is a middle designation between “Good Standing,” the highest, and “Priority” the lowest. As a Focus District, Liberty will receive $100,000 to provide extra support and services. In response, said Silver, administrators and teachers have developed a District Comprehensive Improvement and School Comprehensive Education Plan with the goal to

improving the achievement of four state-identified groups: “Black,” “Hispanic,” “Economically Disadvantaged,” and “Students with Disabilities.” Liberty already has a number of interventions in place to assist students who are struggling academically. In math at the middle school and high school, for example, software called Right Path assesses student skill levels and presents work for them to do on iPads to bring them up to speed. The results are so good that the Social Studies Department is seeking similar software. “Over the past year, we have done a lot of new things,” said Dr. Silver. Those include teacher use of modules, that is, instructional units focused on a particular topic; and various new teaching styles and uses of technology to encourage independent and challenging work on the part of students. “We have been making improvements over the past two years, and we want to continue that,” echoed Sandy Wagner, the District's new Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and former technology director. The two pointed to such victories as a 94 percent passing rate on last year's Regents ELA exam. “We're encouraged by that,” the Superintendent said. “It's more of where we're leading in general.”


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iPads teach independence and collaboration in third and fourth grades C STORY AND PHOTOS BY KATHY DALEY

heyenne Graham thinks it's cool to operate her “own” iPad throughout the school day. “At home, we don't have good wi-fi,” said the third grader. “It's actually great to use the iPad to learn about things like what people are doing in another part of the state or on another continent.” This year, Liberty's third and fourth graders all employ school-based iPads in the one-on-one initiative: one iPad to one student. “iPads allow for a lot of projectbased instruction and collaborative

work,” explained teacher Alice Houghtaling. Last year, Houghtaling piloted the use of one-on-one iPads in her classroom, and she described the rich work into which her third graders delved. “The students had to do a PSA (public service announcement) on water and keeping water clean,” she recounted. “They made an i-movie, selected sound effects, did a voiceover. We also 'skyped' with a fourth grade class in England. And our students did blogging.” This year, “We are looking at chil-

Cheyenne Graham learns to research the lives of children elsewhere on the earth by using headphones and iPad in her third grade class.

dren's rights, and the students watched a video on child labor in the mines of Africa,” said Houghtaling. Teacher Christy Green pointed out

that iPads “allow us to differentiate instruction – each child can have something different on the screen. For kids who have trouble with writing, they are able to speak into the iPad and it recognizes the speech and converts it into words. Students can also highlight a passage, and it reads it back to them.” Many students are hugely motivated to work with iPads versus with pencil and paper, Green said. “We can say, finish this written task and then we can go onto the next task, which is on the iPad,” she explained. The technology and its accompanying bells and whistles prepares the students for the skills they will need throughout their lives – from creativity to critical thinking. Furthermore, being able to fly solo in their iPad learning – researching on the touch screens with the rich graphics and lightning-fast processing speed – serves them well in their future at Liberty Central School District. Says Green: “It definitely increases their independence.”

LIBERTY CONCRETE & CONSTRUCTION

Third grade teachers Alice Houghtaling and Christy Green describe how ipads offer students 21st century skills.

School Scene

A look at activities in the Liberty Central School District Published by

Catskill-Delaware Publications, Inc. Publishers of the

(845) 887-5200 Callicoon, NY 12723 November 1, 2016 • Vol. CXXVI, No. 40

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He’s all ‘Hart’ as he makes it his business to ensure kids succeed STORY AND PHOTO BY KATHY DALEY

SUNY Sullivan college credits right in their own classroom. In February, he'll teach another college level course in Business Computer Applications, and in the fall, will offer College Accounting. Then, with help from Tri-Valley Central School District business teacher Nancy Peters, Hart will launch a Future Business Leaders of America Club (FBLA), which has operated for years in Tri-Valley. FBLA prepares students for careers in business and for entry into business-related jobs, and helps them develop leadership abilities. But Hart's grand slam might be his work on a new career exploration program that will link students with local employers. The program,

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which is a Work-Based Learning project, required that Hart get special certification from New York State and that he take several online courses this past summer with SUNY Oswego. Work-based learning is an educational strategy that provides students with real-life work experiences where they can apply academic and technical skills and develop their employability, Hart explained. Students will earn high school credit from their jobs with community businesses in positions that will either be unpaid internships or paid part-time work. Jobs might take place after school, on weekends, or even during the school day if the

student already has all the coursework he or she needs to graduate. Planned for next September, the program will require serious commitment on the part of participating students. Not only will they work and go to school, but they will meet frequently in groups to go over topics like employment skills and what might be happening at their particular workplace. Hart will also serve as contact person for their job supervisors. “The neat thing about the program is that it bridges the gap between high school and work, and between high school and college,” said Hart. A special outreach will go towards students who don't yet see the value of education or a high school diplo-

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usiness teacher Dan Hart worked at the Sullivan West school district for 13 years and then at the Ellenville school district for a decade. “Then we poached him from Ellenville,” said Liberty Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Silver. Hart, who signed on with the district last year, recalls that Liberty High School Principal Jack Strassman emphasized during the job interview: “I want you to build a business program.” So the delighted Hart is doing just that. New this year is a college credit course that Hart teaches in Business Math, whereby 29 students earn

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ma and who don't realize the financial difference, across one's lifetime, of having an education. The program will serve as a valuable vehicle for both students and employers, Hart said.

“Students will graduate high school with work-based experience,� said the teacher. “And the community businesses will get to connect personally with our kids and with our school district.�

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“Mr. Hart is passionate about what he does – he teaches to everybody, and he's great oneon-one,� says student Austin Hendrickson, above with business teacher Dan Hart. “He's the best for business.�


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SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

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Liberty High School Director of Guidance Molly Messina left, and English teacher Lisa AdrianDavies will launch a mentoring and training program to encourage African-American and Hispanic students to become teachers.

Helping to grow the next generation of caring schoolteachers STORY AND PHOTO BY KATHY DALEY

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s the percentage of minority teachers continues to lag behind the growing numbers of African-American and Hispanic students in schools, more districts are looking for ways to attract good teachers who actually look like the kids in their classrooms. This year, Liberty Central School

District will launch Today's Students Tomorrow's Teachers (TSTT), a 22year-old respected program that encourages and supports high school students who might consider the teaching profession, but whose families can't afford to fund a college education. “The program encourages, recruits

and maintains students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds in the teaching profession,� said Lisa Adrian-Davies, Liberty High School English teacher. Adrian-Davies and High School Guidance Department Director Molly Messina are spearheading TSTT at Liberty High. They join

Fallsburg, Ellenville and Monticello high schools, which are at various stages of implementing the program. TSTT, based in White Plains, operates in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Virginia high schools. The program features SAT training; academic, college admissions and financial aid guidance; and


SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

NOVEMBER, 2016

‘We are looking for 10 kids who have averages of 85 or above, an interest in teaching, and who are economically deprived.’

LIBERTY SCHOOL SCENE

ENL teacher helps initiate students to the language of the U.S. KATHY DALEY/DEMOCRAT

What do they do – students who enter the U.S. as middle school kids but who don't speak the language? Enter, at Liberty Middle School, teacher Jeff Hall, above, with students Juan Ascencio Moreno and Frannely De LaCruz. As English as a New Language teacher (ENL), Hall invites the frightened students to compile their own stories, including tidbits about themselves, their family and their country. He uses technology to teach easy lessons in English, and he teaches the students' other teachers how to work with these new kids. Hall, who won Outstanding Educator of the Year award in May from the Sullivan County School Boards Association’s, also pre-teaches and re-teaches the students' lessons taught by other teachers, such as math and science, which strengthens the students' learning.

Molly Messina Director of Guidance| coaching on what college preparatory exams expect. TSTT students will receive help in identifying scholarships, grants or federal aid that may assist them through their college careers. Field trips to colleges are part of the program as well. Guest speakers and teachers lead monthly meetings and workshops with the students. After graduation, TSTT support follows students in college and helps them later with job placement. At the Liberty High School, TSTT students will also observe in classrooms and will tutor younger students. “The tutoring is most important,” said Adrian-Davies. “Students will tutor two hours each week during the school year and devote 20 hours to a summer internship in teaching.” Recruitment will begin soon, and eventually the expectation is that 10 students each year will form the program. “We are looking for 10 kids who have averages of 85 or above, an interest in teaching, and who are economically deprived,” said Messina. Teacher and guidance counselor recommendations will help with recruiting appropriate students. Kids who choose to go to a college that partners with TSTT will be eligible for a 50 percent tuition scholarship. Those colleges include Fordham University, Syracuse University, Pace University, Marist College, Iona College and SUNY Geneseo and New Paltz, to name just a few. “The goal is to get kids to come back and teach in their own districts,” said Adrian-Davies.

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Signs and symptoms of ADHD

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ttention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a behavioral condition marked by difficulty sitting still, paying attention and controlling impulsive behavior, is a prevalent problem across the globe. According to the organization Children and Adults with AttentionDeficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, a metaanalysis of 175 studies conducted worldwide estimates that 129 million children have ADHD. Parents of children who are exhibiting difficulty concentrating in school or controlling their impulsive behavior should not immediately assume their youngsters have ADHD. Nearly everyone, adults and children included, struggles to concentrate from time to time. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the classification and diagnostic tool used by the American Psychiatric Association for psychiatric diagnosis, several symptoms must be present before a child turns 12 for that child to be diagnosed with ADHD. Part of the difficulty in diagnosing ADHD can be traced to the impulsivity and inattentiveness typical of children under the age of four. Because of that potential for misdiagnosis, parents should resist the urge to diagnose children without having their youngsters examined by a licensed psychiatrist. Parents who are concerned their child might have ADHD can look for certain symptoms, which can fall under

three main categories: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Inattention It can be difficult to notice signs that a child is inattentive until he or she enters school, where kids must focus on classroom lessons and homework. But symptoms of inattention may include: • Careless mistakes when performing certain tasks, including schoolwork and chores

• Excessive fidgeting • Squirming in seats • Leaving seat when remaining seated is required, such as in classroom settings • Difficulty playing quietly • Running or climbing at inappropriate times • Talking excessively

• Failure to follow instructions

Impulsivity Youngsters who act impulsively may do things without thinking about their actions or words beforehand. While this is common in young children and may not indicate ADHD, frequent impulsive behavior should be discussed with a pyschiatrist.

• Failure to finish certain tasks, including chores and schoolwork

• Frequently provides answers before questions have been completed

• Difficulty organizing

• Difficulty waiting his or her turn

• Unwillingness to engage in activities that require prolonged mental effort

• Frequently interrupts others

• Difficulty sustaining attention when playing or performing certain tasks • Difficulty listening when being spoken to directly

Hyperactivity Kids can be easily excited, and parents may mistake that excitement for symptoms of hyperactivity. And while children under the age of four tend to curious and inattentive, some kids begin to exhibit symptoms of hyperactivity as early as preschool.

• Intrudes on others by butting into conversations or games ADHD affects more than 120 million children across the globe. Parents who suspect their children are exhibiting symptoms of ADHD can visit www.chadd.org for more information. TF169412


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LIBERTY SCHOOL SCENE

SULLIVAN COUNTY DEMOCRAT

NOVEMBER, 2016

Liberty Elementary School instrumental music teacher Roothland Medina takes music to the outdoors with from left, students Ariel Baum, Jonathan Diaz, Rita Zheng, Rachel Yaun and Aaliyah Williams.

Fourth grade goes instrumental at Liberty Elementary STORY AND PHOTOS BY KATHY DALEY

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hen Roothland Medina returned to his own elementary school last year to teach instrumental music, some 70 fourth graders played in either band or string orchestra at the pre-k-4 Liberty school. By the end of the year, that number had leapt to 85. This year opened with a whopping 100 kids (out of a total of 140 in fourth grade) learning and playing instrumental music. “Music can have so much impact,” said Medina. “And it bridges (the subjects) of English, math and science, and does it simultaneously as the students play. As they read the music

and are counting and sliding the trombone, they engage in higher order skills.” Medina, who also coaches Liberty's Jayvee girls soccer and the varsity tennis team, has boosted the instrumental music program in a number of ways. He embraces the spring concert as a recruiting tool for next year's fourth graders. As the assembled crowd of parents and kids enjoy the band and orchestra performances, they are treated to Medina's explanations of how, for example, the saxophone makes its own particular sound, as a member of the band plays a few notes. “I can see the kids in the audience visualizing themselves up there, say-

ing 'that will be me,'” he says. In addition, he asks teachers if he may visit their classrooms accompanied by a couple of fourth graders who perform for the younger students as Medina discusses band and orchestra. Medina, who arrived in Liberty from Guatemala when he was nine years old, has also started a mentoring program that links Liberty High School musicians with fourth graders. The sessions take place from 3 to 4 p.m. “It's phenomenal,” said Medina. “Each kid benefits, including the older students who may have played their whole lives but who learn new skills as they teach.” The teacher recalls that in his own senior year at Liberty High, he con-

sidered entering medicine as a profession. Then, one day as he performed with the school band in a local hospital setting, they played, among other pieces, a Russian tune. “One of the patients recognized the song and she sat right up, she changed,” he said. “That was very neat to me. I realized that with music, I could be curing something deeper that medicine cannot touch.” He's also delighted that, in Liberty, musical instruments are free for students who are economically disadvantaged. “It's to ensure that all the kids have the chance,” said Medina. Referring to the famous cellist, he said, “You never know when you're going to find that Yo-Yo Ma among our kids.”


NOVEMBER, 2016

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LIBERTY SCHOOL SCENE

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Liberty School Scene 2016  

Liberty Central School's got a lot to be proud about, and our 12-page School Scene gives you the highlights!

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