Planning for the Block Schedule

Currently, our high school is moving to a modified block schedule with a six-day cycle of 2 days 40 minutes and 4 days of 80-minute classes split between odd and even days. This is a big shift for any school or teacher and I anticipate that many of my faculty will have anxious feelings about this transition. My goal is to provide them with as much support necessary to feel comfortable in the new schedule. I was very fortunate when I began teaching in a block schedule that I was given training in a number of popular models of the 90’s ( Johnson and Johnson’s Cooperative Learning, Glasser’s Reality Theory etc.) I want my teachers to have the same opportunities that I had to be well prepared to teach in a block period.  Although some faculty will be trained in the popular LATIC model (Learner Active Technology Infused Classroom) before school begins, I thought it was important to outline some “big picture” thoughts on planning for 80 minutes to give all of my staff some guidance.

To begin, If you are in the routine of delivering or lecturing information for 40 minutes, this will not work in an 80-minute block! This quote from an anonymous student truly summarizes why lecturing in a block will not work with teenagers, “If I die, I hope it’s during a lecture; the difference between life and death will be so small, I will not notice a difference.” (M. Rettig, Professor at James Madison University.)  Regardless of how entertaining you are, students will lose interest within 10 minutes. Plus, research tells us that students and adults retain less than 10% of what they have been told. How can you plan to gradually turn the learning over to the students? How can technology provide you with the tools to do this?

Teaching in a block period should not look like two 40 minute periods strung together. Each lesson should reflect a unique objective of what students should know, should understand and should be able to do by the end of the period. This will enable you to organize class time more effectively. One of the focal points when planning is thinking about how students will APPLY the new found information and how they will demonstrate what they know or are able to do. Identifying the application will help you to think more closely about the activities and the time needed for the lesson.

Generally, it’s a good rule of thumb to have students change tasks/activities approximately every twenty minutes. As we know, it’s not healthy for anyone to sit for a time span greater than 20 minutes without stretching. This means kids, too!

Routines for classroom management are necessary. However,  the same lesson plan every day leads to a rut for you and for your students. Think about how to add variety to your lesson planning. Consider developing authentic inquiry based activities, Socratic seminars scored discussions, simulations, writing activities that engage the students in real world problems.

Facing History- Socratic Seminars

BrainPop- Teaching With Simulations

Letting students start homework where you can check for understanding is acceptable. However, the purpose of longer classes is to deepen student understanding of the material.Instead of homework completed in class think about…

  • Putting more time into closure activities that formatively assess student understanding

Beyond the Exit Slip:

Powerful Closure Activities:

  • Helping students plan out long term inquiry based assignments

Inquiry Based Lesson Ideas

Inquiry Based Fiction Texts

Cornell Science High School Inquiry

Use Inquiry to Teach Math

  • Giving students a voice in learning

What Students Can do

The links included are not meant to be a comprehensive list of resources, but a starting point of quality sites & organizations that can assist you in thinking about your lessons. I am not an expert in teaching in a block schedule. But, I am happy to partner with any faculty member to plan out the year, work on some individual lessons or just banter ideas about. Many of you will soon be trained in IDE and be another excellent resource. As we move through the year, we will use our time to learn from each other. I encourage you to be creative, take risks and explore new ideas and lessons. I look forward to documenting our journey together.


Giving Students A Voice: Peer Mediation Comes to PVHS!

      With the dramatic increase in social media use by teenagers, school administration and counselors sometimes fill their days resolving student issues that can quickly escalate. During my first year as Principal of Putnam Valley High School, the  Assistant Principal and I discussed the benefits of implementing a peer mediation program to reduce discipline issues and decrease severe consequences such as suspensions. As a former teacher, who was trained in peer mediation, I knew that the program did an outstanding job of training students in how to resolve their conflicts while giving students a better understanding of themselves and others. Mediation sessions can bring great insight to the mediator and students in conflict. It gives each person the opportunity to learn valuable lessons in tolerance, patience, and empathy. Mediation sessions also help students to understand the results of their actions because they can hear directly from the person they have harmed. The program also teaches mediators lifelong communication and leadership skills that they can transfer to their everyday lives.

        To begin a program at PVHS, we needed some guidance and contacted Mark Weiss of Operation Respect. Once we did some initial planning, we gathered a team of enthusiastic teachers who were passionate about restorative justice and Mark trained them in the protocols of peer mediation. Teachers nominated students who they felt would be good mediators for the program. Teachers chose a wide variety of students who represented all peer groups and age levels. During the winter, we held two days of training. Mark and trainers worked with over 30 students and adults in the strategies of mediation. They practiced the art of good communication i.e. listening attentively, paraphrasing skills, as well as effective questioning techniques. As a result, this spring students participated in two successful mediations that were favorably resolved.

       We renewed our commitment to the program with a “Peer Mediation Pizza Kick-Off” in April. Mark reminded students of the mediation process, the importance of empathy, fairness and using good listening and effective questioning to get at the root of the problem. As part of the excitement, we also devoted and designed a unique peer mediation room for the sessions with colorful posters and artwork.

The teachers and students are very enthusiastic about the program and have high hopes for its increased utilization to decrease conflict in our school community. We look forward to training additional students and our incoming freshman next fall.  At PVHS we believe giving students a voice in their school helps to create active citizens who take a role in solving problems in their peer group, in their community, and in their country.

You can listen to an interview with Peer Mediators at Inside Putnam Valley:


NHS Remarks: Strive towards your BEST self; not a perfect self

Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to recognize Mrs. Cefaloni who is retiring this year and has been a true model of what it means to be a part of the National Honor Society organization. She exemplifies exceptional good character, service, scholarship, and leadership. Can we please give her a moment of recognition and gratitude for all that she has done for the Putnam Valley Chapter of NHS?`

Now let me start with congratulations to all of the NHS inductees on this remarkable achievement! Each of you has excelled in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service and character and we are all incredibly proud of you, especially your parents who I know are beaming with pride to see you recognized for all that you have accomplished.

As I scrolled through the requirements for National Honor Society, I saw phrases such as:

Students who have a desire to do the right thing,

Students who have no disciplinary infractions…

Students who have morality and ethics.

Students with an outstanding grade point average.

These are certainly weighty requirements!

These standards were set back in 1921 during a time when all students did not even receive a High School education and high school principals wanted to promote “higher education” which in those days was high school.

Tonight, we are all very impressed that you have met these standards.But, let’s not forget that life has changed a lot in the past one hundred years since these requirements were written. Teenagers face vastly different pressures today than one hundred years ago. Life is definitely faster and more competitive.

As a National Honor Society member there are considerable expectations for you to maintain your credibility academically and behaviorally. However, I am here to remind you that you are HUMAN and you are at the beginning of a life-long journey of self-discovery. Mistakes will happen, missteps will be made. That is the nature of life. That is how you truly learn. Not one of you should be expected to be perfect just because you are a member of the National Honor Society.

Sometimes accolades like tonight lead us to believe that failure is not an option. I am here to tell you that is not the case! Let this significant accolade help you to stay grounded and remind you of the hard work and efforts that it took to get here.  Let it be a reminder of the great things that you can do. However, please don’t let the National Honor Society standards cause you to believe that blunders are not an option. No one is perfect, not myself, not Dr. Wills, your teachers or your parents. What’s important is that you keep trying to do your best, help others to do their best and reach out for support when challenges seem too great.

As you move forward from tonight’s celebration, keep striving toward your best self, but not a perfect self. Allow yourself the room to grow and learn and feel confident that along the way we will all be here to support you, to applaud you and to help you make the difference in the world that you want to make.

Congratulations again on this wonderful recognition!

New Teachers…. What do you REALLY need to know?

The School of Education at Manhattanville College is holding a special seminar for new teachers. As one of several administrators who will be giving advice, I have outlined a few key points worth noting for new teachers. As we know, the art of teaching is something that one learns over time with experience. However, there are a few ground rules that lead to success

You are a professional. Dress like one! Google and Facebook may have a climate that allows for casual Fridays with t-shirts and shorts, but your school does not! Unless it is a field day, showing up to school in flip flops, a tank top or shorts is not acceptable. Regardless of how other teachers dress, you need to remind yourself that how you dress sends a message to students, your peers and your administrators about how you see yourself and your role. You need to communicate through your dress that you care about yourself and your job.Your administrator should never have the passing thought, “is that appropriate?”

Be value added and be authentic!  1) Come prepared to all meetings showing interest and enthusiasm. Be prepared with documentation such as grades, sample work, attendance, or any other pertinent data. 2) And… don’t be that teacher who asks a question or speaks at every faculty meeting. It won’t bother your administrator, but it will your peers! If you have an important question email your principal or ask your mentor! 3) And finally, you don’t need to “kiss up” to the principal or Superintendent. Be passionate about what you do and do your job to the best of your ability. That is enough.

Use Good Judgment. The students are not your friends or your own children. Love what you do,  love them, support them, learn from them, but keep a professional boundary. Here are some simple examples: 1) You purchase wine to give out as gifts at the holidays. Don’t let students deliver the wine!  2) Communicate! Don’t leave Back to School Night because you think your conferences are finished. Parents can show up at any time, and if you haven’t told your principal, there’s a good chance that sneaking out for the day or night, will come back to bite you! Also, don’t leave your classroom at any time without another adult being present. You would be amazed at what can happen when you are gone… A good example, in one school, when a teacher left the room unattended, two boys started roughhousing, and one put his hand through the window! Don’t ever forget that those children are YOUR responsibility!

Use Social Media! This may sound contrary to what you have been told. No, you should not post pictures of you drinking wine at Happy Hour. But, you should Join Twitter,  Instagram, etc. as a professional to connect with fellow teachers from across the country and across the world who are sharing new ideas. Social media is also a great way to communicate the good things going on in your classroom and get new ideas to keep you fresh and current!

Hard days happen! There are going to be hard days. Days in which you feel like you entered into the wrong profession. That’s okay. Working with children can be unpredictable at times. What works with one student, doesn’t always work with another. Just take it day by day, take care of yourself and do one other thing… Make sure that every card, every kind note, and letter that you receive from a student, a parent or a peer is tucked away in a special folder for safe keeping.  On those hard days, go back and read them. This should give you the motivation to keep going when things get rough.

Teaching is the best profession in the world. Savor every moment of fun and hard work. You are making a difference, even when you think you are not!

A Long Lasting Spirit of Reform

As my school building examines the idea of changing its nine-period schedule, it reminds me of my experience as a young teacher at Dover Jr/Sr High School in the 1990’s. I was fortunate to experience something unique during that time. The administration and faculty undertook the process of becoming the first high school in New York State to adopt a block schedule! The initiative was incredibly exciting and made a lasting impression on myself and our young faculty, especially when the Commissioner of Education visited our school for a special news conference on the initiative. We were cutting edge, and we were proud!

With daunting poverty, Dover was a high school that faced many challenges in the1990’s, and our administration was searching for innovative ways to deal with the issues that many poor schools face. Over twenty years later, I am still impressed with the process the principal took to make a significant change to restructure our high school.

How did the principal do it?

She listened. When teachers came to the principal about their ideas on the Copernican Plan and how to restructure our high school, she heard them. She did more research and enthusiastically pushed forward the idea of changing the schedule, knowing that a good schedule has the greatest impact on a school building.

She embraced all faculty. Administrators are used to naysayers, but this principal turned skeptics into allies. Instead of ignoring feedback from people who were critical, she put them into key positions of leadership that helped to turn their perspectives into positive ones.

She took time for the school community to reflect. This is a critical factor that is often overlooked. As a faculty, we spent considerable time identifying building strengths and areas of weaknesses. However, instead of looking at these challenges as obstacles, she taught us to see our problems as an opportunity to initiate change.

She supported all teachers. With the recent adoption of the Common Core, teachers can feel as though they do not have sufficient support to implement the changes correctly. However, our Administration made sure that the faculty was given all that they needed to be successful and feel comfortable with the restructuring. First and foremost, the administration unified the faculty and gave that new team what it needed most… valuable time. We were given, time to go on school visits and observe, time to give feedback in the process, and time to properly prepare curriculum for teaching in a block schedule. Every faculty member took extensive professional development in cooperative learning, authentic assessment, and behavioral management to have the skills needed to teach in a 90 minute block period. The planning time and professional development were invaluable in helping teachers feel secure and confident moving into the new adventure.

At a first look, the move to a block schedule seems so simple. However, this was an extensive process that took patience, careful planning, and passionate educators who committed themselves to educating all stakeholders on why the status quo did not serve our students.

As a young teacher observing this process, I learned so much about how to work with faculty, and how to create an enthusiastic spirit for remodeling and restructuring a school. Our principal showed us that positive change could happen in schools and that we could make a significant difference in how we educated our students! Our principal instilled within her faculty a passion for learning and for growing that has never left us. Today, we continue in our roles as teachers and as administrators to strive for school improvement knowing that with a thoughtful approach and process, we can make schools better for our kids! I hope that I can instill within my faculty the same passion for progress that I was fortunate enough to experience. School reform can happen with an open-minded, forward thinking team led by committed administrators.

It’s Not Always About STEM

Imagine being the new student to a small suburban school where everyone has known each other since Kindergarten. It can be difficult for new students to fit in and even more challenging to find their way. To help our new students adjust, we have started a new tradition, the “NewComers Breakfast”. All new students are invited to a special breakfast at the beginning of the year of eggs, bacon, and sausage, hash browns, and crumb cake, all cooked by students in our self-contained special education program.

In our second year of the breakfast, everyone left feeling incredibly upbeat about the experience. New students were introduced to several key adults in the building and learned valuable information about their new school community. The administrators gave a welcome, and teachers gave overviews of school programs while students ate their meal. The adults mingled and ate with students to build meaningful student-teacher connections. The event was a heartwarming way to build a positive and supportive school climate.

For our special education students who cooked the meal, this was an authentic learning experience that engaged students in real life problem-based learning. Students experienced the entire process of cooking for a large group. Initially, students met with me to decide on a menu and food costs. We collaborated together on all aspects of the breakfast such as, the cost of store bought vs. bakery bagels, as well as other authentic issues that might arise when cooking for a large group. Teachers in the program worked with students on sorting out all details from napkins to condiments to ensure that all aspects of the meal were prepared and completed with quality. Students received an abundance of compliments on their cooking, which increased their confidence and enthusiasm for school and learning. These students learned necessary job skills that can guide them into future careers.

But, most of all, this event was a success because it was focused on building a sense of community within our school. All students need personal attention, and this event enabled new students to feel special and make connections with students and adults alike. These new students now have names to go with faces, and people in the school that they can seek out in case they need support. Everything is less overwhelming than it was before the breakfast. Furthermore, both groups of students feel more comfortable and more confident about their school experience, which is our ultimate goal recognized.

In the past ten years, STEM has become the avenue for success in 21st-century schools. However, educators cannot diminish the role of community building in schools or the role that authentic hand on experiences such as, cooking and catering, can do to prepare our students for the future.  We need to spend more time training students who are challenged by advanced science and math, to have the interpersonal and job skills necessary to find careers in a very technology focused culture.  Our NewComers Breakfast was a model activity to do just that! Our students created a useful and appreciated product that was valued by our entire school community. There is no better authentic learning!  Our schools are full of creative opportunities where students can gain satisfaction and learn real life skills without having to take a paper and pencil test or design a STEM project. Most importantly, these experiences can leave everyone feeling more gratified and uplifted about their school community.

Ask the Teachers!

Every year students graduate and move on. Teachers remain. Teachers are the one steady, and the one constant over time in a school building. Teachers are the school as much as the brick, mortar, books and pencil sharpeners. The key to bringing positive change to any building is to listen to the teachers and get their input.

1. Teachers KNOW the history of the building. They have survived administrations, programs, and students. They know what programs worked and why. They know what programs failed and why. Administrators should not be shy about asking teachers to talk about the past to gain insight into how to move forward.
2. Teachers KNOW the students. Teachers are the closest contact with students. They know what is “in” and they know what is “out.” They know how to relate to students. Administrators need to keep an open door with teachers to hear what is happening on “the ground” and to understand how to proceed on important issues.
3. Teachers KNOW how to make initiatives work effectively. Teachers often tire of not being consulted and often become frustrated with changes where there is no follow through or forethought into the outcome. Administrators need to communicate their ideas and gain teacher input that will foster success.

I am fortunate enough to work in a building where the teachers are 100% supportive. Over the past year, there were many situations involving students that required me to respond in a firm manner. As any new principal knows, it can be a challenge to win over a new student body, in particular, the senior class. Thankfully, teachers at PVHS worked behind the scenes to help students understand the reasons behind each action and to make sense of each event. Without the teacher’s support, students would have been much more reticent to accept how we were moving forward as a school community.

The teachers also helped me to understand the “why” behind programs that existed and structures that had been in place. As a former history teacher, it’s important for me to understand the historical context of a building. Through listening to teachers, I gained a better understanding of the moods and conditions that existed and the significance of previous events. This knowledge helped to guide me in all areas from creating a duty schedule, to planning professional development.

In summary, the old cliché is true.. “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.” Regardless of administrative experience, principals need to learn about their building, the history of their faculty and all of the “ins and outs” that came before. This work can be accomplished through building the best relationships with teachers. Teachers are a valuable resource that can provide the keys for moving the whole building forward. Their historical knowledge and professional insights can lead everyone to success.

PVHS First Year Highlights and Hurdles

It was a whirlwind first year at PVHS! The building, with its pristine corridors and classrooms, was bustling from day one. Teachers, staff, and students were generous and warm in welcoming me to my new school, and I am proud to be returning for another year as the principal. With so much to do, there was barely a moment to reflect on all that was done over the past year and I think it’s valuable to take a moment to sit back and recall many of the moments that encapsulated this past year. As a “historian” it also gives me the opportunity to put the year in context and record the highlights and observations from  the year for my personal reflection.

1. Freshman Foundations: The year began with a successful initiative set forth by the PVHS 9th grade teachers to set the social, emotional and academic foundation for our new members of the high school. With a focus on Habits of Effective Teens, by Stephen Covey, teachers gave individual workshops to our students to get them off on the right foot in high school. It was a group effort with all teachers’ grades 9-12 pitching in! Teachers gave presentations on getting organized, having gratitude and acquiring study skills. Freshman Foundations was the start of a new program that we will build on each year.  It was also an excellent day that demonstrated what teachers could accomplish as a team.
2. Color Wars: Spirit at PVHS is unprecedented!  Every student was fully decked out in his or her class color to support the event. Students participated in a variety of extremely well-organized events from wheelbarrow races, pie-eating and Sumo wrestling,  with each teacher jumping into help. It was a group effort! However, what was most impressive was how quickly everything was cleaned up. Within the hour, streamers, balloons and brightly colored red, blue, green and orange decorations were driven off in the pickup truck as another Color Wars came to a close.
3. Athletics: The Tigers had a tremendous year in athletics. Advancing in the football playoffs was no small feat while the Boys’ Soccer team proudly took the league this fall. The winter season was incredible with playoffs at the County Center for both boys and girls’ teams, and New York State appearances by Cheerleading and Wrestling. We celebrated with our new “Breakfast of Champions” for our athletes, and we congratulated our Super Fans in the spring for winning the Hudson Valley Sports Report Fan Base Challenge. Our Super Fans rock the PV House!
4. Theater Works: The spring musical felt as if I was sitting on Broadway. Me and My Girl showcased such phenomenal dancing. It was mesmerizing to watch the entire cast tap away with many students who had never danced before this musical. This show demonstrated what our students’ could attain with a high level of commitment and dedication to their activities.
5. Journey Program: The Journey Program kicked off this year with approximately 33 students in the program. These students embraced such exciting fields of study from real estate, filmmaking and the creation of barbecues! The students were led on a journey of self-discovery and it is a program that I would like more students to experience.
6. Student Recognitions: As an outcome of our PBIS program, one of our goals at the high school is to do more to recognize students in a variety of ways. The Student Spotlight was an excellent addition to our year that touched everyone’s hearts. Teachers recognized students of all grades and abilities for their kindness, hard work and positive attitudes and helpfulness at school. It was a well-attended ceremony that left everyone uplifted. We also added academic awards in grades 9-11 to acknowledge those students who worked so hard in their classes to achieve academic success.
7. Senior Week: Senior year is a significant milestone and to recognize this important transition, PVHS instituted its first Senior Week, where seniors were released from classes one week early to participate in a variety of activities. This week acknowledged the important rite of passage from high school to beyond, while also enabling students to have time to bond and savor their last moments together. A highlight was the Junior-Senior Ice Cream Social where the junior class provided the ice-cream, and the twelfth graders came in to get their yearbooks signed. It’s another new tradition that demonstrated the strong bonds in our school community.
8. Chemistry Forum: We are always reflecting on ways to help all children succeed and help all students access higher level, rigorous classes. Through working with our Chemistry teachers, we moved forward with the initiative to implement an Honors Option for all students in Chemistry next year. This change meant the elimination of the traditional Honors track. Although this led to some initial questions, we held a Chemistry Forum to give all parents, students and teachers the opportunity to discuss the critical issues of tracking, and pushing all students to excel.
9. Creating a Community: Upon arrival at PVHS, many teachers were frustrated with the restrictions that existed on the Internet. The filtering system prevented teachers from accessing valuable resources and videos. I couldn’t wait to surprise the teachers at one of our first faculty meetings with the news that the filtering restrictions were lifted. Teachers would now be able to responsibly access Youtube, social media and other sites to improve teaching and learning.  We also relaxed many outdated rules, such as “no book bags” for students to create a warmer climate where students and teachers feel respected and part of a larger learning community.
10. Let’s hear it for Mr.O! I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our two Assistant Principals! I was lucky enough to have veteran Assistant Principal, Mr. Oliverio begin the school year with me and get the school building ready for day one. After his retirement, I had the privilege of working with Mr. Odell as my partner for the winter and spring. We made many positive changes that will benefit the quality of life at PVHS. From the change in the traffic pattern to the addition of the Volunteer Access Program to record Community Service, we strengthened the infrastructure moving forward. I look forward to bringing our third, “Mr. O” (Mr. O’Connor) on board as we continue our important work.

With all of these changes and new events, the question remains, what is the most important thing I learned from this past year?

For one, it’s impossible to plan for everything. Being a leader means balancing these happy events while dealing with many of the issues and crisis that arise in any school building. The most important thing to remember is to face every issue head on and don’t be afraid to make decisions that are in the best interest of the school, even if met with resistance. I am relieved that the first year hurdles are behind me, and I can look forward to the consistency of a second year!

PVHS Graduation Remarks 2016

Honored Guests, Board Members, Fellow Administrators, Parents, Teachers and Our Class of 2016!

In 1939, a movie was released that has since become an icon of American popular culture. Written as a musical comedy-drama with much of it based in fantasy through its use of a dream sequence, it became known for the many basic life lessons that were woven through its storyline. The biggest lesson was learned by a little girl named Dorothy. That film, as you know, was T he Wizard of Oz, and the lesson Dorothy learned was, “There’s no place like Home.”

Putnam Valley Seniors, you will leave your home here today with your diploma in hand and your dreams ready to become realities. Every one of you can’t wait to meet the next experience that life holds for you! Each of you is eager and ready to set out on your own adventure, your own journey to Oz, and the path you will follow is your Yellow Brick Road.

But, before you open the door, take your first steps and leave, take a moment and look around you. Look at your classmates sitting next to you. Who has been the devoted Scarecrow, the beloved Tin Man or Cowardly Lion for you? Who has been with you through thick and thin? Now, look at your family and friends sitting in the stands. Who has provided you with that same sense of security that Dorothy felt in her own home.  Look at the school that was your educational home. Many of you have told me how much this school has meant to you. Savor this moment, savor the familiar, savor the KNOWN. You were truly blessed here, weren’t you? You had phenomenal, caring teachers here at Putnam Valley High School. I saw many of them at the prom last night celebrating with you. (Coach Elsasser, Ms. Nater and Mrs. Tarkington to name a few..)  You had extraordinary facilities here, and you had a tremendously supportive community here where parents took joy in participating in activities to help you. Whether it was fundraising for the Touchdown Club, or cooking for Making A Difference Day or preparing for the Senior Breakfast, your parents and community have shown their love and support to you.  Will it be easy to find that elsewhere? Pause carefully before you leap into the adventure that is your life and appreciate what you have been fortunate enough to have.

And as you travel down your own yellow brick road, know that like Dorothy, challenges lie ahead. But, know that like Dorothy who had her loyal group of supporters. So, do you! Know that whatever lies ahead your friends, your teachers, your school and your community will always be here for you!

But, before you begin that next big adventure, let’s reminisce for a moment, though, and look back on some of the big events from this past school year:

  • This was the first year that Putnam Valley had not one, but TWO, Assistant Principals. (Weren’t YOU lucky?)
  • For the first time, students went on internships through the Journey Program.
  • We had two amazing student performances: the fall drama and the spring musical, Death of A Salesman and Me and My Girl
  • We had a NYS NYSMMA trumpeter!
  • This year also saw the addition of the Senior Week celebration
  • As far as athletic accomplishments, let’s list a few:
  1. The Varsity  Soccer team won its league championship
  2. the Varsity  Football team made it farther in the playoffs than ever previously in school history ..
  3. Both the Boys’ and Girls’ Varsity Basketball teams won their league championships and got to go to the County Center
  4. The Cheerleading squad went to States
  5. The Wrestling team went to States
  6. Both Softball and Lacrosse did amazing in their respective playoffs
  7. And, of course, the Make-a-Difference club won the Optonline 5K charity championship!
  • Lastly, and perhaps MOST IMPORTANTLY, this year the Seniors recaptured the Color Wars Championship!!!!!!

Today, each of you is Dorothy. Your adventure down your Yellow Brick Road begins now. Follow it carefully – make it special, make it fantastical, make it memorable. You’ll encounter many unusual characters along the way, no doubt. Some will be kind and some will be mean, but I ask you now to look for the valuable lessons and life truths that each will teach you. Every experience that you have will have value, if you stop and examine it.

Do remember, though, that if, like Dorothy, life carries you far in both distance and time, you can return here, to your roots, to your Home, True happiness can always be found in your own back yard, because there’s no place like Home.


A High Five for the Athletic Director

“Coach of the year,” “all-star” and “MVP” are standard acknowledgments that are bestowed on deserving athletes and teams. In fact, star athletes and coaches receive a host of recognitions for their accomplishments. However, far too often the role of the Athletic Director is overlooked when reviewing the components of a winning season. And it is the Athletic Director who is the keystone behind the scenes ensuring that every team is ready to take the field, or the court with solid coaching, supplies and equipment.

Many people don’t realize that the Athletic Director is consistently in the role of “urgent care,” listening to coach’s issues, dealing with parental complaints, and all while running the day-to-day operations of athletics; balancing it all to do what is best for students. Besides all of that, he/she must also collaborate with community organizations to maintain strong partnerships that will benefit the students and the community. Additionally, he/she needs to work with the district administration to develop a cohesive vision of athletics K-12 that is fiscally responsible. And planning an athletic budget without any cuts is never easy. There are always parents; alumni or community members who want to share their point of view on the matter. Add in the fact that the Athletic Director has an incredibly demanding schedule, with attendance at every game, and this job becomes extra taxing.

The position of Athletic Director is a big job for anyone. Indeed, I have worked closely with many Athletic Directors throughout my career who I greatly respect and value. However, the person who “carries the ball” for PVHS, Mr. Brian Burrow, excels at the job he is doing for our school. Patient, hard working and ethical, he has one of the most challenging jobs in the district. He multitasks his responsibilities with skill and is extremely organized when scheduling a myriad of items from transportation to referees and facilities. He oversees field maintenance, coaches, athletes and so much more!

However, what makes Mr. Burrow (PVathletics1) a stand out is his strong core values and mission to run the PVHS athletic department with integrity. He embodies good sportsmanship and a positive competitive spirit, regardless of a win or lose situation. He is often called upon to enforce rules and policies that are unpopular. However, Mr. Burrow does not waiver and stands firm always doing what is right, even though it may not be the easiest thing to do. He regularly promotes school spirit and celebrates each and every team with pride. Mr. Burrow takes the extra time to tweet out results from every game/match to get the word out to the community, and always makes sure that teams are recognized as they leave for the big sectional and state contests. He acknowledges the importance of building strong relationships with students and regularly goes out of his way to attend meetings where he can offer them needed support. He works closely with the administration to push each athlete to achieve his/her best potential on the field/the sidelines or in the classroom.

Mr. Burrow is a proven leader who is committed to creating an environment where trust and teamwork are non-negotiable. He models the daily fundamentals of discipline and hard work, which result in consistent excellence for the PVHS athletic program. His team of coaches knows that what he says is exactly what he will do, and this engenders a feeling of confidence and trust among his colleagues. He teaches us that success is what happens every day on and off the field and not just in the big games.

As Dwight D. Eisenhower stated, “the supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it no real success is possible no matter if it is on the football field, in an army or in an office.” And for that, I look forward to many years of cheering on the PVHS teams with Mr. Burrow leading the helm of athletics.

So, the next time a team wins, take time to give the Athletic Director a “high five” to acknowledge all that he/she has been done to make that win a possibility!

The AP Is My Co-Pilot

Being a principal is often like flying a jetliner. Sometimes you hit some turbulence and sometimes there are blue skies. Regardless of what lies ahead, every flight takes both a pilot and a copilot to make the trip successful. The same holds true for schools. A principal’s job is much more challenging without the help of an excellent assistant principal. In fact, the assistant principal plays a vital role that is often overlooked but is a role that fulfills many duties and responsibilities. The job of the assistant principal is one that focuses on everything from parking, discipline, and testing to ensuring that the entire building is running smoothly. It’s a demanding job and one that not everyone can handle.

This year, I have been fortunate enough to work with two excellent Assistant Principals at Putnam Valley High School. When I arrived at Putnam Valley in August, the first day of school was around the corner. Thankfully, there was an established Assistant Principal, Mr. Oliverio, who knew all the ‘ins and outs” of Putnam Valley High School. He was the perfect person to help me get on my feet, and get the school open for September. I never needed to worry because he had everything well under control. Although we only worked for a short time together, I am grateful for all of the help and guidance that he provided me.

Most recently, Mr. Ryan Odell, a veteran teacher, has moved into the position of Putnam Valley, Assistant Principal, and I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to work with him! He is a dedicated educator who is committed to serving others and improving our school with me. During his interview, he was asked, “what tool would he describe himself as” and without hesitation, he stated, “a table saw because it can do everything.” And.. was he right! There is no doubt in my mind, that indeed, he can do everything!

In a short amount of time, he has shown himself to be exceptional at everything thrown before him. With the ability to see the “big picture,” he has helped me to improve many systems and programs within the school that needed polishing. He has exceptional attention to detail and completes his duties thoroughly and efficiently. As a drummer and artisan, he has the tremendous creativity that he uses to redesign documents, presentations and classrooms to make everything he touches more pleasing to the eye. He loves students as much as I do and sees himself as someone who can help students navigate through those challenging adolescent times. He is compassionate, caring and friendly. Characteristics that make it easy for students and teachers to seek him out for guidance and share their voice on important issues. Most importantly, he has a great sense of humor, a critical ingredient for making the workplace fun and satisfying. He is an excellent sounding board and has great wisdom that helps ensure we always make the best possible decisions for our school.

Principals face many pressures. However, a skilled assistant principal relieves those stresses with ease by knowing just what to do and say. As Nelson Mandela said, “ A good head and a good heart make a formidable combination” and that is exactly why I couldn’t be luckier to have Mr. Odell (@rodellvp) as my copilot!

The Art of Good Teaching is the Art of Connection

There is no shortage of reading on “how to be a great teacher.” The science of good teaching has been outlined by a number of now famous educational specialists such as, Madeline Hunter, Jonathan Saphier, Robert Marzano and Charlotte Danielson. Their work has become synonymous with effective teaching and their frameworks are frequently used as tools to help develop teachers.  Additionally, with  the prevalence of social media, there is now an abundance of resources available to educators on how to improve their craft. New teachers can read about the science of classroom management, creating rubrics, grading, parent communication and more. However, all teachers know that good teaching is not an easy task regardless of how clearly the elements are outlined in a book or blog post.  Persuading a group of students to do quality work is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.  Teachers need to be psychologists, social workers and nurses in order to figure out how to motivate each child. I keep this closely in mind when I walk into a classroom. In fact, the first question I ask myself when conducting an observation is, “what is the relationship between the students and the teacher? ” And secondly, “how much does this teacher focus on motivating the students?” I am looking to see if the  teacher is  just delivering content or whether he/she has considered the  learning needs of each student and planned accordingly.

The relationship between the teacher and student is primary. A positive relationship between the two helps to give the teacher insight into the child’s needs and in turn, motivates the child to learn.   Many administrators put a heavier emphasis for the teacher’s evaluation on whether a teacher is lecturing or planning a cooperative activity.  I think the greater focus should be on the student-teacher connection.  In fact, research shows that students achieve when they feel inspired and motivated to excel despite the delivery method of the content.  Achievement comes through a meaningful connection with the teacher. Students want to know that they are cared about and that they matter. Students, like all human beings, want their basic needs met.  It matters very little  whether the teacher is demanding, a hard grader, or chooses to lecture. Students will respond if they feel valued and included in the learning process. Contrary to popular belief, “think-pair-shares” are not the panacea for student achievement. The panacea is making the student feel a connection to the teacher, to the class and to their own learning. This is also what makes teaching a challenge.  Good instruction is complex because it involves emotions and human behavior. Some teachers put a great deal of time focusing on content delivery and compliance in the classroom. Truly great teachers spend a much greater percentage of time thinking about how to motivate every student and make the learning purposeful. This will lead to productive learning and a positive classroom with few issues.

Once the student-teacher relationship is well established, the next element of effective teaching is explicit instruction.  Does the teacher have an organized plan where the information presented is scaffolded and explained clearly? Whether the lesson is based on direct instruction or the inquiry method, students need to be clear about what they are expected to do.  Often, teachers don’t realize how unclear they are until students begin to ask questions about the next step. Teachers need to consistently reflect for every lesson on, “What do students need to understand and be able to do by the end of the activity?” Plus, “how I can organize the material in a clear and thoughtful way that will engage all students?”  Given that, the teacher needs to constantly check for understanding and assess if the students are grasping the task, concept, skill. Formatively assessing students is integral to student achievement and something that can often be neglected in favor of summative exams that are far less informative for the teacher.

It takes a tremendous amount of effort, planning, and reflection to be an extraordinary teacher. Even if a teacher carefully plans every lesson and follows all of the models for effective instruction, getting all students to achieve is not a guarantee. If that were the case, it would be easy to identify who will be a great teacher.   The truly wonderful teachers have a “je ne sais quoi” characteristic that is hard to explain. In fact, Malcom Gladwell wrote an article in the New Yorker, 2008 about how difficult it is to identify the right abilities for the teaching profession. Gladwell compares picking the right teacher to trying to identify who will be the next Heisman Trophy winner. It’s very difficult to predict. However, he does explain that quality teachers have a “with it” vibe. They have skills to manage the classroom seamlessly with abilities such as,  talking to one child while giving a cue to another that his/her behavior is inappropriate.  These are teachers who know their students so well, they really can see behind their head! Teachers who are “with it” relate easily to kids. They feel comfortable in the classroom and present the information in such a manner that makes students riveted to the teacher and excited about learning. This is what makes for great teaching!

In summary, there are many elements that contribute to quality instruction. However, the most critical component is building  student relationships and identifying student needs. Once that is clear, teachers can focus on the lesson design, and how to ensure students are grasping the material. In this day and age with increased technology, students need more human connection than ever. Teachers are invaluable to helping students cope with many of the new daily stressors that face them each day.  We should be providing more professional development for teachers on how to truly motivate students and diminish the focus on compliance.  The teachers who are the “Heisman Trophy” winners of the classroom are those teachers who inspire through caring connections, high expectations and well-prepared instruction that  focuses on the student’s needs before content delivery.

A Spirit of Innovation: Get your stomp rocket ready!

One of the questions that we consistently reflect on at MHS is how to motivate students who feel disconnected from school and learning. This year, one group of teachers expressed the idea that our school needs a place for students to experiment and create with their own hands. We have many students who are eager for this type of learning, but with increased academic requirements and limited budgets, our wood shops and consumer arts courses disappeared a long time ago. Other than Project Lead the Way, which is not available for everyone, there is very little opportunity for students to have the “hands-on” learning experiences that they are craving.

After great consideration, I hit upon the idea of a “MakersSpace.” MakersSpaces have become wildly popular in the past few years. According to MakersSpaces.Com, a Makers Space is a “community center of tools” and is a wonderful way to democratize engineering education. ( Makers Spaces can encompass all sorts of materials, from computers, sewing machines, hammers, etc. The design is up to the creator. Through the task of plain old tinkering, MakerSpaces help to build student confidence, foster deeper student understanding and teach collaboration.

Fortunately for our school, I was given the opportunity to write a grant through our local BOCES to help provide students with the chance to create, design and build. Under the leadership of my Earth Science teacher, Trace Keller, we decided to incorporate the idea of a Maker Space through a new club next year entitled “Robot Wars.” The club will be a place where we can encourage playfulness and inspire curiosity among students. Students will have the chance to create robots, small machines or just “tinker” if they choose. The club will be our “laboratory of inquiry” where students can work with the questions in mind, “how do things work? And why do things work that way?”

The teacher ran an introductory activity to attract students to the club, and it was a huge hit. From just a soda bottle, some tubing and a marshmallow, students were able to create stomp rockets that flew thirty feet off the ground. It was so much fun and drew the attraction of students who don’t normally stay after school. The success of the activity solidified our thinking, and we enthusiastically moved forward to create our MakersSpace Club.

To get started, we ordered $5,000 worth of materials, including everything from glue guns, and goggles to Lego robot kits. Although we were fortunate to receive our funding from a state grant, Edutopia wrote a very helpful post that lists several other possibilities for schools to get needed resources.

At MHS, we hope to create an inspirational and innovative lab where through inquiry, play, and collaboration, students’ curiosity and understanding deepens. Although we are starting small with an after-school club, the possibilities for further growth are endless. Hopefully, one day we can find space for a full-time playroom where students can just stop by to experiment.

Information on this topic is readily available for anyone who wants to start their own MakerSpace. The following link is a helpful place to begin.


Stomp Rocket!
Stomp Rocket!





Snowshoeing for Fun and Fitness

This winter Millbrook High School was fortunate enough to receive a grant from the local Millbrook Schools Foundation to purchase snowshoes for our physical education classes. Observing the students during their first time on snowshoes was an uplifting experience that has led me to see the true value of physical education in schools. Physical education is integral to developing the whole student through fun activities that build a child’s self-esteem, good character and leadership skills.

Snowshoeing is the perfect example of how a fun activity in physical education class can lead to healthier and happier students. When the weather finally relented last month to allow for some outside activity, students were beyond excited to try out a new activity. The snowshoes enabled students to be outside during a long cold winter, and they were squealing with delight. The excitement was palpable and contagious. Kids who typically show no enthusiasm for schooling were the first ones ready to go!

Most students had not been on snowshoes before. This led to some new challenges such as getting on their snowshoes for the first time and then getting over some clumsy first steps. However, that didn’t stop any of them! In fact, every student who fell, got back up with a smile on their face and was laughing and having a good time. Even though snowshoeing is an individual sport, students were reaching out to each other for help and support. The high level of cooperation and caring that I witnessed between students was impressive. They proved to themselves that with a little perseverance, and a little teamwork they could each enjoy the activity. It was rewarding to watch students who are typically unhappy in traditional classes trek ahead and exclaim, “What a great day of school it was.”

Charlotte Kelso in the Importance of Physical Education, discusses the psychological benefits of a quality physical education program, and I couldn’t agree more. With unique units like snowshoeing, the physical education teachers at Millbrook High School (@stolly23 and @dannyfunk23) have created a dynamic program that teaches students how to master their fears, develop self-confidence and set goals for their future.

What fun and unique activities happen in your school?





January Regents-It’s Time for a Change!

Three times a year, the office door opens and the courier brings in several locked steel boxes filled with Regents test materials that are then kept under lock and key until the morning of the exams. This protocol has been strictly enforced in all New York State schools since the early 20th century. In fact, at one time, The New York State Education Department gave as many as 67 various Regents exams to measure if a high school student was qualified enough to graduate from high school!  Presently, a student must take at least 5 exams over three years in order to graduate. Testing sessions are scheduled in June, August and January. However, with the constant threat of bad weather and school closures in January, The New York State Education Department should consider moving the January session to November or March.

Seniors who have yet to pass one of the critical five exams needed for graduation rely heavily on the January test period. Traditionally, when school has been closed, the Regents exams are also canceled and students must wait until the June session to take the test. This adds additional pressure to students who are already under great stress to pass these high stakes exams in order to leave high school. By moving the exam session to November or March, the threat of an exam cancellation would be much less and alleviate much of the duress that the students are under.

Thankfully, this year, NYSED made a historic decision and allowed schools that were impacted by the “Blizzard of 2015” to reschedule any of the missed Regents exams during the course of the week. This was extremely beneficial to those seniors who had graduation hanging in the balance. However, the wintry weather made rescheduling complicated and also raised questions about security of the tests around the state.

With high schools around the nation focused on reform, a January Regents session makes it virtually impossible for schools that want to move to a Copernican block schedule. If the Regents exam for a course is canceled due to weather, the students face the possibility of taking the test in June after not having direct instruction in the subject area since January. On occasions when this has happened, New York State has given students credit for the canceled exam, but NYSED  is unpredictable in these situations and schools can not guarantee that this would be the outcome. Therefore, most schools avoid any type of creative scheduling in order to comply with the testing schedule and delay needed reform.

Besides the additional stress that the weather can bring to January Regents testing, this testing week causes a complete disruption to learning. Many high schools stop all instruction to give the Regents tests and combine it with a Mid-Term Testing Week. In the era of increased testing, a week of summative testing is not the best use of time. Either students are immersed in long exams all week or they are home with very little to do. Furthermore, the reality is that students who are weak academically are further penalized with a long, arduous week of testing that sometimes can turn into even longer if there are weather related cancellations.

At Millbrook HIgh School, we are brainstorming new and innovative ways to maintain the January testing session without stopping instruction for the entire week. However, if the state continues with the January testing session, it will continue to be difficult for those struggling students who are removed from classes in order to retake their Regents exams. 

IB Impressed!

School apathy vs. an “Ivy League college or bust!” attitude exemplifies one of the great issues plaguing our high schools today. How do we balance the needs of high achieving students who are driven to go to an Ivy League school, with the needs of students who struggle with the rules and routines of a traditional high school? At Millbrook High School, our answer is to implement the International Baccalaureate Program, a program that is for ALL students.  As a former IB educator, I have always strongly believed in the IB philosophy, however, now through my exploration of the program in a new school setting, I am “IB impressed.” In fact, regardless of the subject area or level, all of the teachers investigating the program at Millbrook, have expressed their excitement and enthusiasm for IB implementation at our school. Why are we so impressed at Millbrook with the IB program?

It’s a program that was developed to create a more peaceful and better world. No one could argue with the fact that we live in a complex world filled with intolerance and conflict. The IB program strives to shape global citizens who have the critical thinking skills and knowledge necessary to grapple with these challenging  21st century issues. Most importantly, the IB program fosters a culture of tolerance to create caring and compassionate students who can contribute positively to their schools, their communities and the larger global society.

Unlike, the Advanced Placement Program, the IB program is for ALL children. It is designed so that every student, regardless of GPA or class ranking, can participate. In fact, the IB Organization emphasizes creating an “IB for ALL” program where all students are given the opportunity to attempt the IB diploma. The focus for IB is not on the final test scores, but on the learning process and habits of mind that students acquire through taking an IB course. The IB program develops the whole child and gives every student the chance to have an IB experience through a well-designed curriculum, a CAS project or Theory of Knowledge course. Furthermore, students are assessed in multiple ways through essays, projects and performances, giving them more than one opportunity to demonstrate what they know and are able to do.

The CORE of the IB program is what gives the program its heart and focus.The Extended Essay, the CAS activities and the Theory of Knowledge course are the core three components that connect all subject areas in the program and gives the curriculum even greater meaning. The Extended Essay, a 4000 word research essay, gives students an opportunity to delve into a topic of interest for a rich research experience that more than prepares students for a college research paper. The Theory of Knowledge course gets at the heart of teaching students how to think about what they are learning.  It examines “ways of knowing” and helps students to balance their beliefs and think critically about how to approach knowledge in each subject area. The CAS component helps to teach students goal setting while also encouraging intellectual risk-taking and sharing new information with others in the community. The core of the IB program creates students who are self-assured, well-balanced and ready to explore the world around them.

Beyond all of the benefits of the IB program for students, it also strives to create educators who are life-long learners with strong pedagogical skills. Trainings, roundtables and conferences give IB teachers a support system to stay current, share information and strengthen their skills while the IB Curriculum Center provides a wealth of resources to give teachers the answers to their pressing curriculum questions. The spirit of collaboration among IB schools is unmatched and a testament to the IB mission and philosophy that all IB schools share.

The reasons to be IB impressed could go on and on, but to conclude the  IB Organization is a model organization that continues to reflect on how to best meet the needs of its IB schools. With a new hub in Bethesda, Maryland and a redesigned web page, the IB program is consistently working to improve its efficiency and communication so that a global organization feels more like a small community that is always there for support.

At Millbrook, we are excited about the new possibilities that IB will bring for our school and look forward to becoming a part of this prestigious and high quality organization.

Why are you IB impressed?

Through New School Doors

Even in the age of the “connected educator” there are still far too many schools and teachers that remain in a state of isolation. Everyday there are tweet chats with questions about how to get other educators “on board” to embrace change. From my experience, the best answer to that question is for teachers to make an old fashioned visit to another school. Getting out of the daily routine to visit another school can do more to empower a teacher than any login to a Facebook or Twitter account. Although these social media tools have made wonderful strides to transform educators, there is nothing better than person-person collaboration to reform schools. As one of my faculty members stated, “Teachers listen to other teachers to see what works.” It’s no surprise that when teachers visit other teachers, they return to their own classrooms with a renewed sense of purpose and inspiration.

Just like a student entering a classroom, the learning on a school visit begins right at the new school doors. Taking the time to observe the architecture and design of the building can offer many insights into what the school community values and how it was influenced by the social forces at the time it was built. For instance, some schools have very open spaces that were popular in the 1950’s through 1970’s while others have a more Gothic feel that was popular with schools that were built in the 1930’s. Every school holds fascinating secrets within their design that show how education was impacted by the political and social events over the past one hundred years. As an example, Croton-Harmon High School, in Croton-on-Hudson, New York is home to beautiful murals in its auditorium that were painted by New Deal artists during The Great Depression. Some schools have murals on their walls or doors painted by students that give a valuable school history. Whether the school is modern, minimalist or filled with old plaques, the school design and the relics within it, give a visitor a lens into how other communities interpreted the best way to educate their students.

Beyond the exterior, each school has its own programs that can provide new ideas for visiting educators. For instance, some rural schools in northern New York, like Gilbertsville, have a very unique recycling program where the compost helps to feed the animals of local small farmers. Some schools have very distinctive schedules or renowned programs, like the International Baccalaureate Program, that are worth exploring. Whatever the focus may be, there is always a great deal to be gained by observing students, rituals and creative programs in another school that can be tweaked and applied to ones own school setting.

Most importantly, the best reason to go on a school visit is to meet new people and build new connections. There is nothing more invigorating than meeting with another teacher who teaches the same subject matter face-to-face. Social media has helped to bridge this gap for educators, but building relationships with school teachers outside of the building helps to provide the support necessary for a teacher to stay fresh and excited about teaching and learning. It’s another resource and another critical friend to share ideas with.

I can recall in 1993, when as a new teacher, we were asked to visit a school in Massachusetts that had Copernican scheduling; we returned from the visit enthusiastic and ready to move forward with our own scheduling initiative. My faculty, at Millbrook High School, has visited several other schools to bring back ideas for our Senior Internship Program, insights on scheduling, as well as the chance to explore the International Baccalaureate Program. Each time teachers have returned excited and ready for new possibilities. School visits provide motivation and inspiration while also shedding light on the positives in ones own school.

On the flip side, it takes time and energy to host another school and I am very grateful to the following schools and people who have opened their school doors to us: Croton-Harmon High School, Red Hook High School and Dobbs Ferry High School. MHS has gained invaluable insights into programs and school life that otherwise we would not have had. Special thanks to @RoyPaisley @Meghalberg @Careim2 @johnfalino1 for their hospitality.

Every administrator should have the goal to get some of their faculty out to a different school in 2015 for new learning. Use Twitter for more than a tweet chat and take advantage of those relationships to get out of the building and walk through new school doors!  Just one visit can be the fuel to begin school improvement.




Commencement Remarks 2017

Honored Guests, Board Members, Fellow Administrators, Teachers, Parents and our Class of 2017!

As I watched you each at the prom this week, I couldn’t help but think back to 5:30 am on Friday, October 6th. As I walked into the school and saw the iced Macchiatos and coffee coolattas lining the kiosk, I was amazed at how the entire lobby was decorated with stained glass windows in shades of purple. The 2nd floor was transformed- only one example of how your class alone made everything in our school better and different. Your class changed the entire tone in the building to one of community, one of respect and one of excellence.

Whether you were presenting your Calculus final in Mrs. Thompson’s class, planning the Science Research Symposium, or a Journey’s presentation, your class set the standard and did it with style, with heart, and with grace.

Who could ever forget the pinnacle moments your class made so memorable at our school…

  • Wrestling, Cheerleading, and Track send offs to the NY State Championships… I know one thing you will miss is that Tiger Roar before “We Are The Champions” plays
  • You led Theaterworks in a professional level production of Billy Elliot
  • Your strength in music led to a sensational performance of Carmina Burana
  • You laid the foundation for Science Research by inspiring others to join the program
  • You Volleyed for the Valley for another Charity Champions win.
  • And you had an amazing prom – and an amazing year led by your senior class officers and advisors, Mrs. DeMaine and Mr. Zupan. Can we have a round of applause for their creativity and hard work to make things extra special.

Whether in a social setting, the athletic fields or the classroom, your class has always set themselves apart by making a difference, acts that make Mrs. Cefaloni and the rest of us proud.

Often we don’t realize that we all make a difference in each other’s lives. But, how did your class really define what “making a difference” means…

  • You smiled in the hallway and greeted teachers and administration with kindness
  • You were cooperative when big changes were made
  • You were humble about your talents and achievements
  • You were enthusiastic about learning and strived to meet your potential
  • You responded to behavioral correction with maturity and understanding. Well… most of the time..;)
  • You gave others the benefit of the doubt and did not quickly pass judgment on your peers.
  • You were models of civil discourse in a society that could take a few lessons from young people like yourselves.
  • You contributed positively and generously to the school communities that you are a part of.
  • You created warm environments by singing Piano Man during lunch in the Band Room
  • You always had my back, especially when I attempted to stop on a hoverboard.

There is no doubt in my mind that you will continue to make a difference in the lives of others and the communities that you become a part of. What makes you different is what the world needs. What makes you different is what’s worth celebrating today!

As Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist and speaker, once stated, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

I hope that you will always remember that you are valued and loved at Putnam Valley High School and that you will always make a difference.