Superintendent's Blog

2020 Year-End Celebrations

Despite the school closure, this June has been as busy as any other. Navigating this unprecedented health crisis amid shifting and sometimes conflicting guidance while ensuring that all our students have access to the nutrition, technology, instruction and support they need has been challenging. We are grateful to our families, staff and community for their flexibility and understanding.

Over the past several weeks, our school administrators and staff have worked hard to develop plans to recognize our students for their accomplishments, distribute belongings and close out the academic year safely and in compliance with executive orders, New York State Education Department guidance and health department guidelines.

In addition to virtual field days, field trips and performances, here are a few ways our schools have adapted their year-end activities:

Our school leaders at William O. Schaefer Elementary School, Cottage Lane Elementary School and South Orangetown Middle School have filmed orientation videos to welcome incoming kindergarten, third grade and sixth grade students and provide them with a peek inside their new schools;

  • Tappan Zee High School hosted its first-ever, virtual Senior Awards Ceremony on the new TZHS Counseling Facebook page this week, with video presentations by teachers and community scholarship sponsors, to publicly recognize the accomplishments of our seniors;
  • Tappan Zee Athletics has been a part of and is producing a number of virtual ceremonies and social media projects to recognize student-athletes, including:
    • Rockland County Athletes of the Season Ceremony, which aired on Local Live on June 10;
    • Tappan Zee Athletics Virtual College Signing Day, which will air on Local Live this Sunday, June 14 at 7PM; and,
    • Tappan Zee Athletics Sports Awards Banquet, which will air on Instagram Live on Wednesday, June 17 at 3PM
  • WOS, CLE and TZHS have completed their processes for socially distanced retrieval of student belongings; SOMS begins next week.
  • SOMS will present its virtual Eighth Grade Moving Up Ceremony on the evening of June 21, followed by a contactless, drive-through pick up of certificates and locker contents on June 22.

Special thanks to SOCES PTA, SOMS PTA, TZHS PTSA and the TZ Red & White Booster Club, who have been extraordinary partners in terms of supporting these efforts and creating new ways to celebrate our rising fifth- and eighth-graders and our graduating seniors.

Last Sunday, Governor Cuomo announced that he would “allow socially distanced graduations outdoors with up to 150 people total beginning June 26, subject to any outbreaks or significant changes.” Based on this announcement, TZHS has surveyed seniors and parents to determine the size, date and conditions for its outdoor graduation ceremonies. Principal Rudy Arietta will communicate details directly to the Class of 2020 and their families by early next week. Year-end plans previously communicated by WOS, CLE and SOMS will remain in place as scheduled; no additional K-8 events will be held.

While it is good news that our region has entered Phase 2 of reopening, I urge you to continue practicing social distancing, hand washing, wearing of face coverings and other CDC-recommended health measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission and protect our community from a resurgence.

Regardless of the unusual circumstances, June is a time for celebration–virtual or otherwise. Congratulations to the Class of 2020 and to all of our students on a successful end to the school year!

Welcome to the 2019-20 School Year!

Dear South Orangetown Community,

Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year! I hope that the past two months have been filled with well-earned rest and relaxation for our families and faculty. In our district offices, this was an action-packed summer and I’m excited to share what we’ve been doing to make SOCSD even better!

  • In the year ahead, our community will see evidence of our continued emphasis on social emotional learning (SEL) across grades K-12 with the expansion of student supports. This includes the addition of Elementary School Counselor Stephanie Mueller to serve students at both William O. Schaefer Elementary School and Cottage Lane Elementary School, and dedicated School Prevention Counselors Bobbie-Angela Wong and Ponnu Varghese-John at South Orangetown Middle School and Tappan Zee High School, respectively. These staff enhancements have been made as our school district shifts from a reactive disciplinary posture to a more proactive, therapeutic approach to assist students who may be struggling or at-risk to better access their education.
  • We’re also taking a hard look at accountability and will be reviewing data including and beyond state assessments to determine how we can do better to prepare our students for college and careers. Since July 1, we’ve hired an astounding 37 employees (view our new teacher slideshow), thanks to the collective efforts of Director of Staff Relations Dr. Joseph Lloyd and our Administrative Team. As vacancies and new opportunities arise, we’re staffing our schools with the best student-focused educators and providing them with targeted, effective professional development. One way we’re doing this is by leveraging our instructional coaches to use data analysis to develop embedded, on-the-job professional development in our classrooms. Coordinator of Data, Assessment and Accountability Jeanne Corcoran will play a pivotal role in this work.
  • Keeping students and staff safe remains a top priority. Our Director of Safety, Security and Compliance John Gulino has begun a comprehensive review of facilities and protocols to determine steps we may take to further strengthen district safety, including security protocols and logistics for athletic events. Our District-Wide Safety Plan has been updated, all building-level plan updates are near completion and drill scheduling is in progress.
  • As our school district community changes, we’re responding to new demands and opportunities. Our Family Engagement Center, which launched last fall, will be offering parent workshops throughout the year and is partnering with Rockland 21C to offer ParentChild+, a research-based, early childhood literacy and parent support program for families who may not have access to preschool or face other challenges. And as the numbers of incoming students who are English Language Learners grow, we are expanding world language enrichment programs at William O. Schaefer Elementary School and preparing to open a dual language kindergarten program in September 2020. To better meet the needs of our high school students and ensure access to the high-quality education we offer, Tappan Zee High School is introducing GradPoint, an online platform that enables nontraditional learners to recover or accrue credits at their own pace, with active, on-site teacher supervision.
  • More than ever, we are focusing our resources to directly support student achievement and success, while managing finances to minimize fiscal stress. Director of Facilities Jack Rallo has overseen more than a dozen voter-approved improvement projects funded through capital reserves this summer, including the construction of ADA-accessible bathrooms at William O. Schaefer Elementary School, the installation of a modular library at Cottage Lane Elementary School, the auditorium renovation at South Orangetown Middle School, and the turf field replacement at Tappan Zee High School.

Our Administrative Team is also planning for the future by looking at how long-term investments over the next 20 years can ensure that SOCSD continues to provide all students with the exceptional educational experiences our community expects from its schools.

In the meantime, please make sure to listen to our students share personal points of pride and goals in our 2019-20 Welcome Back video. I look forward to working with you in our schools, on our fields, and in our community, to support our students in achieving to their fullest potential.


Robert R. Pritchard, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Welcome to the 2016-17 Academic Year!

All of us at the South Orangetown Central School District are excited to begin the new school year and we look forward to being part of your child’s educational journey.

As a community, we are driven to ensure that each of our students reaches his or her full potential by adhering to the motto of the South Orangetown Central School District, “Together we can.” To this end, we are committed to:

  • Promoting academic success for all students by ensuring equitable access to rigorous curriculum, aligned instructional materials, and meaningful assessments that guide instructional practice.
  • Developing and retaining a team of highly-qualified staff through recruitment and professional development.
  • Improving communications by building partnerships, implementing a variety of media tools, and developing meaningful family and community engagement strategies.
  • Ensuring the health and welfare of our students and staff by strengthening the foundation of a district culture that is responsive to the social, emotional, and physical safety needs of every person.
  • Developing the instructional support infrastructure that leverages technology, operations, and business services while being mindful of financial constraints.

It is important that all parents and community members get involved and stay involved throughout the school year. As a family or community member with children at home, you can help your student(s) by learning more about what each should know and be able to do by the end of the grade-level in which he or she is currently enrolled. This can be accomplished by asking open-ended questions about what your child learned in school that day, reviewing their homework, and attending school events to learn more about what their teachers expect.

The SOCSD team is available to address any questions you may have about our school district and/or how we may better serve our students. Our collaborative efforts and partnerships will ensure that our children grow and succeed. Have a great year and, as always, contact me if I can be of any assistance.

View Dr. Pritchard’s video welcome message.

Back to Top
Skip to toolbar