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