Superintendent's Blog

It’s the beginning of June, and I’m in my office signing diplomas for our graduating seniors.  This activity, along with all of the other tasks associated with end-of-year activities, puts me in a reflective mood.  On that note, the Board of Education and the governance team will present our “performance indicators” at the June 14 Board of Education meeting.  We do this as part of a cycle of continuous improvement that is expressly stated in our Strategic Plan.  This is the part of the cycle when we ask ourselves, “How are we doing?”  The honest answer to that question is: The things that we do best are those things that are the most difficult to measure.  For example, preparing students to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted, and productive members of society.  That said, it is important to analyze and review those areas of greatest importance to us as a community of learners.

All are welcome to attend our June 14 Board of Education meeting when we will present our annual review of performance data as it relates to the “Five Focus Areas” of the Strategic Plan.  However, we know that many families and working parents lead busy lives, so here is a quick summary of the Board of Education’s priorities:

Our Focus Areas

Focus Area A – Promoting Academic Success:

  • This focus area is supervised by our Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Brian Culot.  Each week, Dr. Culot presents information to the community in his blog.  Please visit Dr. Culot’s Blog for more information on all the activities that define our core competency of promoting academic success for our students.  Here, you will find videos, essays, updates, and essential curriculum materials.
  • A significant priority for the South Orangetown Central School District’s Board of Education is developing “student-focused scheduling.”  We have been working with Dr. Michael Rettig and the Tappan Zee High School “Master Schedule Committee” this year to consider how to best structure the school day for students to ensure that they are exposed to relevant content that inspires them to be passionate about learning.  We are examining alternative scheduling models to accomplish these goals and hope to implement a solution by the 2019-20 school year.  You can learn more about this work at “Master Schedule Revision Committee.
  • Every school principal develops a building-level plan and I review these plans with the principals as part of their annual evaluations.  These plans can be found at:
    1. William O. Schaefer
    2. Cottage Lane Elementary School
    3. South Orangetown Middle School
    4. Tappan Zee High School

Focus Area B – Developing Human Resources and Professional Capacity:

  • This focus area is supervised by our Director of Human Resources, Mr. Jeremy Barker.  We, as a district, have high expectations for ourselves and understand our responsibilities to our students and hold ourselves to the highest professional standards. An overview of this department may be seen on our Human Resources web page.  Specifically, we hold all of ourselves accountable through rigorous evaluation and professional development processes.
  • We recruit and retain highly qualified faculty and staff and ensure that each employee receives professional development opportunities to promote the “Instructional Core.”  All instructional and instructional support staff are required to engage in Professional Development opportunities.

Focus Area C – Improving Communication and Fostering School Community Engagement:

  • Our primary focus here is to improve stakeholder involvement.  Every parent should know what their child is expected to know or be able to do, by the end of the grade-level in which he/she is enrolled.
  • We all have a shared responsibility to ensure effective communications and an engaged community, but the administrator who is responsible to ensure that the component parts of this are functioning is Mr. George Brady, Director of Instructional Technology.
  • You can subscribe to receive electronic mailings via e-mail to stay updated on all the news around the district and at the school where your child attends.
  • We also recognize that there is often no substitute for face-to-face communications.  This past year, we have held open forums on substance use (see Focus Area D below), turf field replacement, and other events held at the school buildings such as open houses and “Meet the Teacher” events.
  • District Calendars can be easily accessed online on your computer or mobile device.  Further, each household in the district is sent a printed calendar via the U.S. Postal Service.
  • If you are reading this, you are probably aware that our school district, and each individual school, goes to great lengths to ensure that we reach our community using a variety of media to include digital and print.  Please go to our District News Web page to see all of the interesting stories around the district.  Further, each of our schools’ post daily and weekly news stories at:
    1. WOS
    2. CLE
    3. SOMS
    4. TZHS

Focus Area D – Ensuring the Health and Safety of Our School Community:

  • This focus area is currently supervised by our Athletic Director, Mr. Keith Johnson.  Beginning July 1, 2018, Dr. Karen Tesik will assume the duties of Director of Special Education and Student Services and will supervise those efforts that will positively impact the health and safety of our students.
  • The Board of Education has placed a special emphasis on addressing substance use and mental health concerns.  This year, we have taken immediate steps to increase family awareness regarding substance use in several evening workshops as well as restructuring our Family Resource Center to better coordinate resources between families, student supports, and outside agencies.
  • Another tool that has been invaluable has been the implementation of the Anonymous Alerts reporting system where students and families can report urgent student concerns quickly to school officials.  This allows students who witness or are the victim of an act of harassment, bullying, or hazing to report it directly to an adult at school. If unable to reach a school official directly, an individual may use this form to report an incident related to harassment, bullying, hazing, and discrimination. Students who report this type of incident have the right to be safe from any type of retaliation.
  • We also think that keeping kids healthy and safe is the result of keeping them engaged in a variety of co-curricular activities (interscholastic sports and music performance) and extracurricular activities (clubs).  The South Orangetown Central School District is well-regarded for our ability to provide this programming and understands the need to promote co-curricular and extracurricular activities to develop the “whole child.”  The overwhelming majority of our students participate in one or more of these programs.  We are especially proud of our competitive sports teams, performing musical ensembles and clubs such as the FIRST Robotics Club.

Focus Area E – Developing Management Systems that Emphasize Quality Control and Continuous Improvement:

  • This area of responsibility is directly supervised by the School Business Administrator.  This department includes facilities, maintenance, finance, purchasing, risk management, food service, and transportation.  This focus area is centered on the management of resources to ensure fiscal stability and operations that support our mission – the growth and development of our young learners.
  • The district maintains a detailed status of all outstanding and ongoing capital projects work in the district.
  • In order to synchronize the effort of all departments and to ensure continuous improvement of our educational services to students, the Board of Education and the governance team engage in strategic planning.  Below, please find a detailed description of the SOCSD Strategic Plan.



Focus Area A: Promoting Academic Success

SOCSD will ensure that all students have equitable access to rigorous curriculum, aligned instructional materials, and meaningful assessments to guide instruction that engages students and provides them with the knowledge and skills to succeed as effective citizens, workers, and leaders in the future.


To promote academic success, SOCSD is committed to the following:

  • Provide Students with 21st Century Learning Opportunities
  • Enhance Student Literacy
  • Address the Needs of Diverse Learners


Provide Students with 21st Century Learning Opportunities SOCSD will:

  • Conduct research, manage projects, solve real-world problems, and make informed decisions.
  • Learn, discuss, and debate human, cultural, and societal issues and practice legal and ethical behavior.
  • Utilize digital tools and technology to gather, evaluate, and use information.
  • Create “remarkable learning environments” that are an expression of a well-articulated K-12 culture by addressing the structures of TIME (duration, frequency, task determines time); SPACE (facilities, classrooms, virtual spaces 24/7, field experiences); GROUPING (personalized, field experience based on interest, based on learning progressions); PERSONNEL (see Focus Area B, Objective 2)


Enhance Student Literacy SOCSD will:

  • Implement a workshop model in all classrooms to include mini-lessons, guided, independent, and group work through authentic reading and writing.
  • Use ongoing formative assessments regularly share the information from these assessments with colleagues, administrators or grade level teams.
  • Meet regularly to discuss reading and writing units of study, mini-lessons and instructional strategies.
  • Continue to use and revise our writing rubrics and agree upon benchmark writing pieces for each unit of study.
  • Schedule ongoing opportunities for teachers to participate in peer observations and/or instructional rounds with a focus on balanced literacy.
  • Continue to develop reading and writing curriculum within the content areas.  


Address the Needs of Diverse Learners SOCSD will:

  • Continue to utilize the RTI model to provide specific targeted interventions? Intervention in reading, writing, math, counseling and other related services.
  • Provide life skills training (e.g., family, organizational and consumer skills, time management, communications etc.)
  • Teachers will differentiate instruction to meet the various needs of students.

Performance Indicators:

  • Percentage of students achieving advanced or proficient status on state and national assessments
  • Increased 4-year graduation rate
  • Upward trend in SAT composite scores
  • Upward trend in ACT composite scores
  • Enhanced student engagement as evidenced in bi-annual Student Engagement Survey
  • State and federal accountability ratings
  • Increased student attendance
  • Decreased discipline referrals, student tardiness, suspensions, expulsions, and dropouts
  • Increased development of portfolios of student work that demonstrate mastery of 21st century skills to educators and prospective employers
  • Increased evidence of portfolio of measures to assess the educational system’s effectiveness at reaching high levels of student competency in 21st century skills
  • Monitor RTI intervention strategies
  • Publish reading and writing curriculum units and assessments
  • Develop a strategy to monitor the use of digital tools and evaluate the effectiveness


FOCUS AREA B: Developing Human Resources and Professional Capacity

Recruit, support, and retain highly qualified staff.


To develop human resources and professional capacity, SOCSD is committed to the following:

  • Develop and support a highly-engaged employee community
  • Nurture a professional culture that allows employees to be actively engaged in lifelong learning


Develop and support a highly-engaged employee community SOCSD will:

  • Recruit: Identify highly-qualified pools of candidates for positions by actively recruiting through online platforms, traditional print resources, and university placement offices.
  • Hire:  Revise and implement district hiring policy and guidelines to ensure that objective processes include the investment of multiple stakeholders and identify the most qualified candidates for all vacancies.
  • Retain:  Provide outstanding service to our employees relative to benefits and support around state requirements, such as data reporting and certification for pedagogical employees.  


Nurture a professional culture that allows employees to be actively engaged in lifelong learning SOCSD will:

  • Professional Development:   Provide multiple pathways for our employees to develop their skills, for example through the range of opportunities available in our professional development catalog, mentoring and new teacher training for pedagogical employees and the utilization of other available resources, such as BOCES and the NYSUT Learning Trust, for our school-related professionals.  Provide training opportunities for instructional support staff (e.g., clerical, custodial, transportation, maintenance) to improve proficiency, safety and enhanced opportunities for professional growth. Promote a culture of professionalism for all staff – instructional and instructional support. Provide additional opportunities for instructional coaches to develop new and innovative teaching strategies.
  • Compliance Training:  To promote a safe, professional workplace, ensure that all employees complete annual training required by federal and state law and Board of Education policy through online modules, including annual orientation to the district’s most essential policies through the SOCSD Employee Handbook.
  • Observation/Evaluation: Ensure that all employees receive timely, appropriate feedback and actively participate in setting targets for their professional growth by implementing  observations and evaluations according to NY State Education law 3012-d and existing provisions of independent labor and collective bargaining agreements between our employees and the district.   

Performance Indicators:

  • Percentage of students taught by accomplished or highly-qualified teachers.
  • Evidence of increased educator proficiency as demonstrated through teacher evaluations
  • Updated recruiting practices
  • Increased percentage of employees completing compliance training
  • Increased opportunities for professional development for all employee groups
  • Evidence of strengthened employee morale through Employee Engagement survey
  • Exit survey for all employees leaving the district
  • Increased recruitment success measured by the quality of responses on OLAS
  • Increased percentage of teachers earning National Board Certification
  • Increased retention rate for all staff
  • Evidence of increased customer service outcomes
  • Increased compliance with NYS certification requirements 
  • How/what does this metric look like?


FOCUS AREA C: Improving Communication and Fostering School Community Engagement:  Effective communications through meaningful school community engagement.


To improve communication and fostering school community engagement, SOCSD is committed to the following:

  • Engage all stakeholders to improve student success
  • Improve stakeholder involvement
  • Enhance communications to involve all SOCSD stakeholders  


Engage all stakeholders to improve student success. SOCSD will:

  • Engage students (Refer to Focus Area A)
  • Engage families by keeping them informed about what students need to achieve at each grade level, hosting parent workshops to support instruction, by developing Family Resource Center as a robust resource for strengthening home-school partnership, working with PTA leaders in support of shared goals, and sharing non-PTA volunteer opportunities (similar to the community, below)
  • Engage staff by exploring the development of an intranet and/or developing Workplace @ Facebook as a platform to share best practices and resources, with Instructional Coaches as leads
  • Engage community members by sharing information regarding existing volunteer needs (committees,  coaching, PLTW STEM Pipeline, clubs, guest speakers) as identified by building and central office administrators, and developing and implementing a framework for volunteer recruitment and management


Improve stakeholder involvement. SOCSD will:

  • Improve family involvement by encouraging the use of teacher websites, expanding Family Resource Center (FRC) participation through the development of meaningful K-12 resources and programming, and supporting PTA communication efforts
  • Increase the quality and use of teacher websites to supplement “in-class” experiences and to be a meaningful resource for families outside of schools.  This includes enhanced access to online curriculum maps for all subject areas.
  • Improve community member involvement by encouraging attendance at district and school events (arts, fairs, athletics), encouraging the use of district website and social media to keep informed.
  • Celebrate the contributions of school community members through special events


Enhance communications to reach all SOCSD community members. SOCSD will:

  • Continue to build a strategic and coordinated multi-platform approach to communications (web, print, email, social media, video, robocall, media relations, etc.)
  • Increase access to information for ENL families by working through Student Support Services to: identify families that require translated information, identify what information needs to be translated, provide the timely translation of key materials, and produce and disseminate materials to identified families via email, print, robocall, etc.
  • Increase access to information by enhancing district electronic communications tools to conform with WCAG 2.0 Level A & AA guidelines
  • Work toward development and implementation of a districtwide framework, beyond electronic communications, to optimize accessibility
  • Increase access to school community members without internet access through the launch of a print newsletter to share school district news, through ongoing administrator outreach to/participation in local Rotary Clubs, piloting “Meet & Greet” events with the superintendent throughout the school year
  • Continue to develop its ongoing partnership with PTA leadership to support and inform outreach efforts

 Performance indicators:

  • Evidence of increased satisfaction with the school environment as measured by School Quality survey
  • Implementation of communication and customer services solution
  • Evidence of expanded opportunities for parent involvement/community support
  • Evidence of expanded and effective use of traditional and non-traditional approaches to reach external publics
  • Employee Engagement Survey
  • Increasing communication with parents and community about events, workshops, and volunteer opportunities
  • Increasing satisfaction with the quality of information delivered and events coordinated, as indicated by community and employee surveys
  • Increased number of volunteer hours of service to schools
  • Evidence of increased external support for the district
  • Enhanced customer service experiences
  • Development of strategic community partnerships


FOCUS AREA D: Ensuring the Health and Safety of Our School Community

The cornerstone of the South Orangetown Central School District is a culture based on high expectations for healthy and safe behaviors while promoting respect and good citizenship.


To ensure the health and safety of our school community, SOCSD is committed to the following:

  • Reduce risky and unhealthy student behaviors by integrating outside agency supports with in-house pupil support services that stress prevention, treatment, and intervention.
  • SOCSD will provide students with a well-rounded curriculum in Health/Physical Education and Athletics
  • Foster and enforce a respectful learning environment


In order to support students identified as at-risk and establish effective prevention programs to improve post-secondary outcomes SOCSD will:

  • Establish a School Quality Task Force
  • Continue to research and update bullying prevention programs and reporting protocols
  • Promote standards-based school counseling and mental health programs.
  • Better integrate social, health and other services through interagency collaboration


SOCSD will promote healthy lifestyles for students through curricular (Health/PE), co-curricular (interscholastic sports), and extracurricular (e.g., clubs, events, trips) by:

  • Evaluate existing programs to ensure more equitable access for all students
  • Promote wellness activities that encourage healthy lifestyles at-home and at-school.  This includes a review of the school lunch program and improved awareness concerning nutrition guidelines beyond the school day
  • Promote extracurricular activities, K-12, to include increased daily physical activity that is based on varied student interests
  • Ensure appropriate use of wireless devices and digital technologies to prevent unsafe online behavior.  


SOCSD will foster and enforce a respectful learning environment by:

  • Continuing monthly Character Education assemblies and school-wide events that introduce key character themes and literature.
  • Enhancing the lines of communication that promotes an empathetic dialogue between parents and teachers.
  • Ensuring continued compliance with the Dignity For All Students Act (DASA) and Code of Conduct. Accountability for student behavior is not only a function of code enforcement but of self-efficacy among the student body.
  • Ensuring continued compliance with Title IX, Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990.  Promote continuous monitoring of all compliance measures to ensure equal access to all available opportunities regardless of employee’s/student’s race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender, genetic information, age, or disability.
  • Promoting student-led peer mentoring for students requiring social supports.  

Performance Indicators:

  • Increased student attendance
  • Evidence of school Quality through School Quality Survey
  • Increased graduation rate
  • Improved VADIR metrics
  • Percentage of students who feel safe when they are at school
  • Increase number of clubs and organizations for students


FOCUS AREA E: Developing Management Systems that Emphasize Quality Control and Continuous Improvement. Develop and align instructional support infrastructure, leveraging technology, operations, and business services to build a culture of alignment and continuous improvement.


To develop management systems that emphasize quality control and continuous improvement, SOCSD is committed to the following:

  • Foster and maintain a collaborative environment for higher quality decision-making
  • Use resources to achieve district’s vision
  • Continually assess, maintain, and improve all facilities and equipment


To create a collaborative environment for higher quality decision-making, SOCSD will:

  • Fill all open seats and maintain Finance Council and Audit Committee to help vet ideas, plans and forecasts of financial data as well as help to measure performance by the business office in carrying out our mandate. Council and Committee consist of BOE members, community members and key district personnel that takes advantage of the wide range of talented financial professionals in the district to facilitate better decision making.
  • Form and maintain Facilities Committee to include BOE members, key district personnel, vendors and, when appropriate, community members to discuss and recommend courses of action related to the facilities infrastructure and capital projects (developing and updating long-term capital plans), including financing options, facilities design, priorities of projects and facilities use.
  • Include representatives from all buildings as well as all administrators in the budget development process. Present budget draft information and get feedback from Finance Council prior to the presentation of the final budget to the Board of Education for adoption.


To use resources to achieve district’s vision, SOCSD will:

  • Create and update high quality Long-Range Financial Plans (including 5 year Capital Plans) that compliment and support the District’s academic vision and allow for growth.
  • Work with pedagogical colleagues in developing a budget that supports new initiatives and maintains successful programs in a cost-effective efficient manner.
  • Periodically review vendor contracts and use the RFP process to obtain the best services for the lowest prices so that resources are freed up for reinvestment back into the District’s programs.


Assess, maintain, and improve all facilities and equipment SOCSD by:

  • Ensure effective communication among business, curriculum, athletics, technology as it pertains to completing projects
  • Conduct a regular needs assessment to help inform the five year capital project plan

Performance Indicators:

  • Increasing satisfaction with the quality of financial services as measured by annual surveys
  • Evidence of increased efficiency in school operations as measured by  realized cost savings
  • Number of annual efficiency reviews completed
  • Positive outcomes from financial audits


MONITORING PROGRESS – Major Milestones over the next five years


By June 2019, all focus area goals of the strategic plan will have been implemented.  SOCSD will publish an annual report with performance targets. Focus area goals and objectives will be reviewed to determine whether objectives and strategies should continue, be revised, or discontinued.


By June 2019, all focus area goals of the strategic plan will have been implemented. More specifically, when comparing results from the performance targets from the previous year, SOCSD will review focus area goals and objectives to determine whether objectives and strategies should continue, be revised, or discontinued.


By June 2020, all focus area goals of the strategic plan will have been implemented and SOCSD will publish an annual report with performance targets.


By June 2021, all focus area goals of the strategic plan will have been implemented and SOCSD will publish an annual report with performance targets.


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