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Vol. 24 No. 3

Lego program sparks interest in engineering


process. When students were asked what they liked about the Lego program, one student shared, "because you get to build with your imagination." Lessons have included building alligators, kickers and soccer goals, as well as designing a strong toilet. In one lesson, students began by individually drawing what their designs would look like. Next, they shared ideas in small groups to come up with a consolidated drawing. Finally, the students began to build a design together. A focus of this lesson was to build based on strength and functionality and not on appearance.

Maple/Skidmore Science Night Geyser Road Elementary School fourth graders Kira Taber, Karina Morey and Logan Reynolds work with Lego robotics kits.


ourth graders at Geyser Road Elementary School are learning many new skills with the help of Lego kits. Each Wednesday morning, with instruction from student Sara Willner-Giwerc and teachers Rina Bell and Albert Pickens, Marc Baldwin's fourth grade class participates in a Lego instructional pilot program The instructional pilot program was implemented by Educating Young Engineers (EYE), with a donation from the Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach. Using the LEGO WeDo elementary robotics kits, students learn about engineering concepts such as robotics, teamwork, problem solving and critical thinking. The program pilots new Lego activities and provides feedback to Tufts University and Lego to help with the creation of better products and programs. It's easy to see that the students love the lessons with Lego kits. Using the kits has created a fun way for students to learn engineering concepts, while bringing creativity into the design and construction


n February 25, students in grades 6-8 were invited to attend the Maple/Skidmore Science Night presented by Parent University. The event was organized by John Scrivo with the help of the Skidmore College Honors Forum and the Maple Avenue Science Club. Activities such as exploring the back of an ambulance with Wilton EMT, “Color Changing Chemistry” and “Physics Frenzy” were just a few of the 12 interactive exhibits.

Maddie Breen, a sixth grade student, participates in “Physics Frenzy” with instruction from Porter Hall, a Skidmore College sophomore.


Saratoga students work with Philips Healthcare



Cultural Fair at Division Street


dvanced Manufacturing, 21st Century Academy and Biotechnology students are working with Philips Healthcare in a "Heat Exchanger Challenge" to improve upon Philips Healthcare existing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. During this challenge, 21st Century Academy and Biotechnology students at the high school will compete against SUNY Adirondack Advanced Manufacturing students with both groups benefiting from the mentorship of Phil Jonas, lead engineer at Philips Healthcare. An MRI machine is a diagnostic tool for practitioners and a safe way to determine the best course of treatment for many ailments and injuries. Currently, an MRI machine requires approximately 2,000 liters of liquid helium to operate at 4 degrees Kelvin, or -452 degrees Fahrenheit. The challenge will focus on improving the internal design of the MRI machine to reduce the amount of liquid helium required for operation. High school students in the 21st Century Academy are also working with Philips Healthcare to help design a public service announcement (PSA) about MRI machines. The PSA will help educate people to advocate for themselves if they feel they might benefit from having an MRI.

Phil Jonas of Philips Healthcare presents to students in Biotechnology about the “Heat Exchanger Challenge.”

On February 28, Division Street Elementary School held a Cultural Fair. The night included performances from each grade, dancing by the Wild Irish Acres and international projects on display that represented countries from all over the world. The photo above shows the booth with German cultural information.

The Case of the Missing Part of Speech


he Caroline Street Elementary School fourth grade drama club combined drama and grammar lessons in their recent show. The newly formed drama club consists of 29 fourth grade students who have rehearsed once a week since January. The show is titled “The Case of the Missing Part of Speech” and was held at the Caroline Street Elementary School on March 18. The drama tells the story of a group of investigators who are trying to find a professor’s lost word so that she can finish an important speech. The one-act show introduces students to the different parts of speech in a fun and entertaining way, including songs like “Would You Recognize a Pronoun?” and “Conjunctions Connect.” Music teacher and drama club adviser Heidi Levin says, "The students have enjoyed learning the content of the show, which revolves around grammar and parts of speech, using music and movement to make it more interesting and memorable. Many adults may not know what an interjection is or how it is used, but these students can give you several examples and sing a song about it!"



Superintendent’s Column By Michael Piccirillo Superintendent of Schools

Innovation and Creativity


eginning with the 2009 revision of the district Power Standards to include innovation and creativity as the 10th power standard, we have increased our focus on providing opportunities for students to be creative and innovative in their learning. Though the Power Standards were formidable as originally designed, we felt a critical element was missing, which if included would better prepare our students to make a positive impact on their world.

In this edition of FOCUS on Education we take a close look at the Vision 2018 goal of Innovation and Creativity. The specific goal, Innovation and Creativity reads: All SSCSD students will have the opportunity to engage in meaningful, authentic and rigorous work through the use of innovative instructional practices that will motivate students to be self-directed, creative and inquisitive learners. To this end, professional development for teachers throughout this year has focused on repackaging curriculum and instruction to meet this goal. You can find out more about the district plan for professional development in the article, “What happens on a Superintendent’s Conference Day?” Are you aware of some of the innovative and creative programs already being implemented in our school district? The 21st Century Academy originally for high school seniors, was recently expanded to students in grades 11 and 12. It is a project-based, subject area integrated course of study, providing students with 1:1 technology to grapple collaboratively with real world problems. Students in this program meet every day for two blocks of instruction (160 minutes) using knowledge and skills from science, social studies, English Language Arts and mathematics to tackle problems posed by business partners like Philips Healthcare.


The article on our partnership with Philips Healthcare will provide more details on the positive impact it is having on student learning. A fantastic Lego pilot program was started this year at Geyser Road Elementary School through the hard work of the Educating Young Engineers (EYE) Team. The program is led by high school seniors Sara Willner-Giwerc and Kayleah Griffen with the support of teachers and building administration. Be sure to read about this exciting development and keep an eye out for EYE’s work with the Dorothy Nolan Elementary School Lego club and the Lake Avenue Elementary School Project Lead the Way (PLTW) pilot. Did you know an educational foundation called the Saratoga Foundation for Innovative Learning was established this school year? The foundation issued three grants in December to teachers in support of innovative and creative projects. In this edition of FOCUS, the winners of a second round of grants are announced. These grants are the seed money needed to implement ideas to support student learning in STEM, the arts, the humanities and the all-important development of lifetime skills. Is innovation and creativity limited to STEM? No! You can read about many arts and humanitiesrelated programs throughout this edition of FOCUS, which demonstrate innovation and creativity. The Cultural Fair at Division Street Elementary School, the drama club at Caroline Street Elementary and the Oscars Celebration at the high school are all examples of innovation and creativity. As you can see from the small sampling of programs we have highlighted, innovation and creativity is not only a goal in our district, it is a reality. Why do we place so much emphasis on innovative and creative thinking? We believe our community, country and world will ultimately be a better place to live for our children and future generations. Isn’t that what education is all about?

Enhancing LEarning Through FaciLiTy improvEmEnTs

PreservIng the CommunIty’s Investment In our sChools Saratoga Springs City School District


he proposed $6.4 million improvement project – funded almost entirely through a combination of regular state building aid and the school district’s Capital Reserve Fund – will be on the ballot on May 20. District residents will also vote that day on the proposed 2014-15 school district budget and a school bus proposition, as well as elect three members to the Board of Education. The project is the second in a series of annual propositions to be voted on by district residents that would provide funding to maintain the infrastructure of the district’s buildings, resolve health and safety issues and address identified instructional needs. Voter approval will be required annually to authorize each proposal. Examples of projects included in the proposition to be voted on this May are building upgrades to security systems and wireless networks; roof repair at Dorothy Nolan Elementary School and Lake Avenue Elementary School; addition of a generator system at Greenfield Elementary School; conversion of the heating systems from steam to hot water at Caroline Elementary School and Division Street Elementary School; replacement of the high school track and resurfacing of the tennis courts; and enhancements to 21st century learning instructional space.

Spring 2014

The majority of work would be done during the summer of 2015 to allow time for state Education Department review and approval.

projEcT Funding

The project would be funded through state aid and the school district’s existing capital reserve Fund.

Preventing More exPensive rePAirs Many of the projects proposed involve upkeep of existing facilities. Investing in our facilities on a regular basis is essential to keeping up with infrastructure and security demands. Also it’s more cost-effective to repair or replace aging infrastructure such as roofs and heating systems than it is to wait until they fail, possibly incurring additional damage and a steeper price tag. Timely repairs also prevent disruption of the educational process. The district’s eight schools range in age from 21 years (Maple Avenue Middle School) to 90 years (Lake Avenue Elementary School), with an average age of 52 years. The schools, plus the 11-year-old Transportation and Maintenance Facility, total approximately 1,350,000 square feet.

Frequently Asked Questions


Will there be a cost to local taxpayers?


Isn’t state aid my tax dollars too?

State building aid is expected to cover most of the cost of the $6.4 million project. The local share of approximately $2 million would be financed almost entirely through an existing Capital Reserve Fund. We anticipate any impact on the tax payer to be minimal.

Yes, but state aid dollars are collected from all New York state taxpayers. If the Saratoga proposal is not approved by voters, state taxes paid by local residents will subsidize projects elsewhere without any benefit for their own school district. (Please see next page for more)

enhanCIng learnIng through FaCIlIty ImProvements Q A Q A Q A

Why is it necessary to modify existing learning environments?

The enhancements to the 21st century learning environment would include a student-centered design and provide access to a variety of technologies. The learning environment would also be adaptable for small and large group instruction and could be changed based on student and curriculum needs.

Why will it be necessary to do these projects on an ongoing basis?

The school district has approximately 1,350,000 square feet to maintain in eight schools and the Transportation and Maintenance Facility. The schools have an average age of 52 years. To keep them in good operating order, regular repairs and renovations are required. Health and safety issues and instructional needs will also be addressed.

What are the components of the project to be voted on this year? ProjECT

$2,596,000 $478,000 $437,000 $18,500

Dorothy Nolan Elementary School roof refurbish Wireless network at Maple avenue Middle School

$200,400 $330,000

High School 21st century learning environment


Contingency (funds set aside for unexpected expenses-if not needed it would reduce the total cost of the project)





Building security system enhancements Greenfield Elementary School generator system Division Street Elementary School and Caroline Street Elementary School boiler conversion Phone system upgrade in the high school Track replacement and tennis court resurfacing lake avenue Elementary School roof refurbish

architectural, engineering, legal, insurance and administrative fees



$194,500 $245,000

$1,049,600 $6,400,000

how will this project improve safety for students, staff and visitors?

Building security enhancements included in the project for all buildings would include: 4A security management system district wide. 4Access control systems and security cameras district wide.

What is the timetable? If the project is approved by district voters in May, the majority of work outlined in the table above would be done during the summer of 2015, which allows time for the state Education Department to review and approve the work.

What other projects are planned for the future? Priorities for projects to be voted on in future years include energy control systems upgrades in all buildings, security enhancements, district wide lighting upgrades, further enhancements to the 21st century learning environment and water supply, storm water and sanitary sewer enhancements.

If I have more questions, where can I find the answers? For additional information, please visit our website at or contact Maura Manny, Director of Community Outreach and Communications, at

Please remember to vote on May 20 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.



High school students celebrate the Academy Awards

High school seniors in Literature in Film celebrate the Academy Awards by presenting on a film of their choice.


tudents in Literature and Film, taught by Johanna Friedman, had the chance to walk the red carpet. The senior students celebrated the 86th Academy Awards with their own Oscars presentations. Students could choose to watch any film that had been nominated for or had won an Academy Award for Best Picture since the first awards’ presentation in 1929. A few of the films chosen were The Sound of Music, The Godfather, Lord of the Rings, and Oliver. Students presented on many aspects of the films ranging from musical composition and special effects to why they felt the film deserved the nomination or award. Each senior even had the chance to walk down a red carpet, donated by Joseph Gagne, owner of Ballston Carpet & Tile. All students received an Oscar award for their hard work and outstanding presentations.

Ever wonder what happens on a Superintendent’s Conference Day?


n a Superintendent’s Conference Day the entire staff is still working diligently to improve upon the core of our education programming: curriculum. On March 14, the theme of the conference day was “Understanding By Design” (UbD) and focused on curriculum mapping.

SPRING 2014 A series of two-hour delays, where teachers had an overview of many topics related to curriculum mapping, led up to the Superintendent’s Conference Day. The two-hour delays included an overview of the following topics: in October 2013, an overview of the Common Core State Standards; in December 2013, an overview of Curriculum Mapping; in January 2014, an overview of UbD curriculum template; and in February 2014, an overview of Cornerstone Assessments. On March 14, teachers spent the day focusing on the essential question of “how will the use of the Understanding by Design process change the way I design and deliver instruction?” The day of curriculum mapping included developing content, skills, and learning activities broken out by day, as well as assessments to match activities. How will this impact my child? The process of curriculum mapping allows educators to collaborate and share their insights to create an effective, studentcentered learning environment. As our staff members work through curriculum mapping, they improve their understanding of the interrelationships among courses and their impact on students' learning, ultimately leading to higher student achievement. The process also creates a curriculum that is academically rigorous, creative and dynamic. The ultimate goal for the Saratoga Springs City School District is that each grade level and/or department will have a complete unit mapped by June.

Internet safety event on April 10


arent University will host an Internet safety event titled “What’s Your Child Doing Online” on April 10. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at the Maple Avenue Middle School Auditorium. John Kelly, a community educator for the National Center for Exploited Children, and David Fallon, an FBI special agent, will present on the dangers of today’s cyber world. Parents, teachers and community members are invited to attend. Find out more about Parent University at www.saratogaschools/ParentUniversity.



haTs oFF...


Boys ski team wins alpine championship.

To aLL our achiEvErs!

Student wins “Kids Safe Online” NYS poster contest. Congratulations to Katie McLain, a fifth grader at Division Street Elementary School. Katie was the winner of the 2013-2014 "Kids Safe Online" New York State poster contest. Katie’s poster depicted the big bad wolf sending mean messages to the three little pigs. The pig knew to print out the messages and show them to his mother. Sarah E. Seniw, a Library Media Specialist at Division Street Elementary School said, “she did a wonderful job demonstrating one of the many strategies for staying safe online - tell an adult if someone is making you feel uncomfortable.” Teacher of the Week. Congratulations to Kristin Kuznia who was chosen as the Channel 13 “Teacher of the Week”. Ms. Kuznia is a sixth grade English Language Arts teacher at the Maple Avenue Middle School and was previously a third grade teacher at Division Street Elementary School. Ms. Kuznia enjoys having indepth discussions with her students about literature and real-life issues. Dr Greer Miller awarded SFIL grant. The Saratoga Foundation for Innovative Learning awarded a grant to Dr. Greer Miller. The foundation provides grants to implement original and creative programming for our students. Dr. Greer Miller was awarded the grant to fund materials and supplies for the STEM Lab at Division Street Elementary School. The STEM Lab will provide hands-on activities and materials that will benefit all students at the school.

Alpine ski team members Tom Possidente, Kieran Mottau and Ian Hauser stand with their coaches Megan Beck and Glyn Chilton.

Congratulations to the boys' Alpine Ski Team coached by Glyn Chilton and Megan Beck. The team won the New York State alpine ski team championship on February 25, concluding two days of competition at Bristol Mountain. Kieran Mottau, Ian Hauser and Thomas Possidente competed in the slalom and giant slalom events.

Advocate for your school district!


he Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) has reduced school aid to the Saratoga Springs City School District by nearly $18 million since it began in 2010. The GEA has challenged our district to continue to provide high-quality education with fewer resources. As a result, the district has been pressured to make devastating cuts to educational programs as they adjust to rising costs that are outpacing revenue. Advocacy makes a difference! Advocating means speaking up for the people and ideas that matter to you most. Your feedback is essential to legislators, who need to know what you think before they act on your behalf. We encourage you to write to your legislators or meet with them in-person for the repeal of the Gap Elimination Act. Find the SSCSD advocacy tool kit online at to learn how to advocate for your school district.




IN ThIS ISSUE 3 Blue Streak Boulevard Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866


Ernest J. Gailor, President Chip Locke, Vice President Russell E. Danforth Regina M. Gapczynski Steve Grandin JoAnne Kiernan Michael Ladd Francis G. Palumbo Mia Pfitzer

lego program; Maple/Skidmore Science Night Students work with Philips healthcare; Cultural fair Superintendent Michael Piccirillo’s column Capital improvement project brochure Capital improvment project brochure Academy Awards; Superintendent’s Conference Day “hats off” to achievers 2014-2015 Key Dates, Reminder to vote

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Visit our website at Non-Profit org. U.S. Postage PaID albany, NY Permit #370



Maura Manny

2014-2015 Key dates If you’re planning your schedule already for the next school year, you may want to check out the key dates below. A complete 2014-2015 school calendar will be mailed to parents of school district students in late August. A one-page calendar is online at

Sept. 3 Sept. 25 Oct. 13 Nov. 10-11 Nov. 26-28 Dec. 24-Jan. 2 Jan. 19 Jan. 26-29 Feb. 16-20 March 20 April 2-10 May 25 June 16-24

Classes begin Rosh Hashanah, no classes Columbus Day, no classes Veterans Day recess, no classes Thanksgiving recess Holiday recess Martin Luther King Jr. Day, no classes Regents testing days Mid-winter recess Superintendent’s Conference Day, no classes Spring recess Memorial Day, no classes Regents testing days

please remember to vote!

Tuesday, may 20, 7 am–9 pm 42014-15 Budget 4Board of Education Election 4school Bus proposition 4Facilities improvement proposition Watch for a budget edition of the “Focus on Education” in may and visit the website at for information about the budget development process.

FOCUS on Education Spring 2014  

Saratoga Springs City School District Newsletter

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