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Superintendent Emails and Updates - September 2022
September 30, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
I’m delighted to start with some wonderful news - we have just been notified that we have 39 “Commended Scholars” in the 2023 National Merit Scholarship program!! Congratulations to these hardworking students for this terrific accomplishment.
Speaking of good news, Niche.com just named Syosset High School the 9th best high school in New York. While we don’t invest too much in these rankings, we’re never shy about graciously accepting a compliment.
Spotlight on Instruction
Like all of our elementary schools, Baylis Elementary has been shifting to the next generation mathematics standards. As part of their process, they have implemented Mathematical Mondays. This event reinforces important math practices while fostering a sense that students are part of a community of learners. During the school-wide announcements, different grade levels are given several solutions, which may include shapes or numbers of objects. Kind of like Jeopardy, students develop their own questions that would result in these solutions. This engages them in different math practices, such as abstract and quantitative reasoning, attending to precision, and constructing viable arguments while critiquing the reasoning of others. These rich tasks give students a unique way to engage with the underlying math concepts. Once completed, the solutions are shared with the greater school community on different bulletin boards each week.
Middle School Advisories at HBT and SW are building new relationships (and muscles!) through Friday Fun activities. Students challenge each other throughout the day: “wall sit” competitions and “hallway limbo” get kids moving and creating connections. In between the laughter and cheers, students are learning to appreciate each other for all of their distinct talents.
September 23, 2022
Good Morning! Due to a small hiccup with the mail, this week's Friday Update is coming to you on Saturday morning, with the added bonus of a few pictures capturing the events from last evening under the lights!
The September 23rd Friday Update:
Hopefully by the time you read this, I’ll be making my way to the Football game (and our Varsity Girls’ Swim Meet, and our Varsity and JV boy’s volleyball games, with stops at the girls’ JV tennis and soccer matches on the way - it’s a busy night in Syosset!). Perhaps I’ll see you there!
Spotlight on Instruction
As I shared last week, our school social workers outlined their support for students’ mental wellness and how social skills and emotional regulation strategies are taught. In the second stage of a two-year pilot focusing on the connection between emotional well-being and increased learning outcomes, South Woods Middle School joined HB Thompson Middle School in the establishment of a brand-new Wellness Room. In order to better allow for the integration of all of the strategies recently highlighted by our social workers, the South Woods Mental Health Team created an oasis replete with warm lighting, bean bag chairs, puzzles and yoga mats. Now both middle schools have relaxing, inclusive spaces that provide a place for students to visit in order to refocus, recharge, and improve their overall state of well-being. Students who visit the Wellness Room will have the opportunity to work with a member of the school’s Mental Health team on short mindful exercises that allow them to rest, refocus and return to learning.
If you were at last weekend’s Syosset Street Fair, Village 5th grader Mackenzie Gidich would have been hard to miss. She designed and created sun-catchers, key chains, and earrings which she sold to support her fundraising efforts for St. Jude Children's Hospital. Don’t worry if you missed out, you can still catch some sunshine when Mackenzie continues her hard work towards this worthy cause at the Bethpage Street Fair on October 2.
As we enjoy the game tonight, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the tremendous work of our Facilities Department, led by Mr. Greg Hamilton, who overcame many obstacles to get the turf field lighting project completed before earlier sunsets started impacting afternoon soccer games. They overcame public procurement challenges, contract negotiations, supply chain issues, contractor schedules & weather-related delays, and State Education Department approval backlogs to somehow get this project approved and constructed in time. Our Facilities team is so good, it would be easy to take them for granted… but we don’t. From all of us: “Thanks, Team!”
Enjoy the weekend,
September 16, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
Our first full week of the new school year has come to a close with both instruction and fall sports in full swing. Over the summer, we refinished and redesigned the high school gymnasium to improve its use for both volleyball and badminton, and just this week we were able to test the new outdoor lighting system for the turf field.
Speaking of which…
Friday Night Lights
Syosset will soon host its first ever outdoor night home game! Last night’s test of the new light system was successful so our varsity football team will square off against Baldwin next Friday night September 23 at 6:45 pm (the game had previously been scheduled for 2:00 pm the next day). I know the boys are excited for this opportunity and would appreciate all of the community support they can get against a tough opponent. Parking will be available at South Woods and in the “Senior” lot adjacent to the tennis courts. Please note: Security will be enforcing our “no tailgating” rule, and no large bags or open containers (cups or insulated mugs) will be permitted in the stadium. Enjoy the game!
School Social Work
A quick thank you to our school social workers for their excellent presentation to the Board of Education on Monday night. Our social work program has been slowly growing over the past several years to help connect families with community supports, help students who might be struggling, conduct risk assessments, and support student mental health. The additional staffing has allowed the social work team to be more proactive both with students and with activities like training with our recess monitor staff. The Board has thoughtfully supported this increase in service and I was proud to share the progress we’ve made with this important resource. You can watch the presentation (along with an incredible rock band performance by students Luca Alexandru and Sam Levine with teacher Paul Caputo filling in) here.
Spotlight on Instruction
We have worked to ensure students learn coding, not in isolation, but as a literacy. This starts in Kindergarten with small coding tasks using Ozobots and culminates in our secondary programs. In Syosset High School, the Sy-STEM robotics program has grown tremendously since its inception 7 years ago. We now have several courses in Robotics: “Sy-STEM 1 Robotics”, “Sy-STEM 2 Drones” and “Robotics Design and Engineering” (RDE). We will be adding a new course this year, “Sy-STEM 3 Robotics” for students who wish to continue building their skills in engineering-design and coding. Many of our students compete in the regional FIRST Technology Challenge (FTC). This year, we will also compete in the FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC). The latter competition challenges students to build larger robots that perform much more complex tasks, such as simulating a defense against asteroids,on a playing field the size of a basketball court. This experience will be a culmination of all the skills students have learned in robotics from the early grades and throughout high school.
I’m so proud of the Syosset High School Crochet and Knit Group, led by President Kate Liu and VP Soomi Chung, for their support of the We Care Blankets Organization, which provides children undergoing chemotherapy with beautiful blankets handmade by volunteers. From creating 5 handmade blankets to participating in a “blanket wrap” at the Merrick Library that sent hundreds of blankets to children's hospitals across the country, they have literally been warming the hearts of these young people fighting difficult diseases and figuratively warming my heart too.
I don’t think we’ll need many blankets this weekend. Enjoy the beautiful weather, summer isn’t done with us yet!
September 9, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
We’ve had a wonderful first few days of the school year. I’ve been to each building and the mood is incredibly upbeat and positive. We’re all so glad to work in classrooms that are returning to normal, reading to young children on the rug, and resuming the extracurricular activities that enrich the academic and social experience.
We haven’t fully resolved the busing issues yet - given the bus driver shortage and all the brand new drivers hired as a result - it will take some time. However, I am pleased to report that by the end of our second week of operations, system-wide busing challenges have subsided and we’re focused on the remaining routes of concern.
Today, our secondary buildings marked the events of September 11, 2001 with moments of silence and reflection, our elementary buildings marked the day with more age-appropriate remembrances and “spirit” day displays of red, white and blue. Last year, I spent the morning at HBT; this year, I paused for Ms. Burget’s remembrances of the lives lost, the heroism of our first responders and the impact on many families in our learning community and South Woods particularly. Tomorrow, at our two athletic events – JV Football and Varsity Boys Soccer – we will observe a moment of silence before the games.
The Board of Education started the week by greeting parents at the (incredibly well-attended!) elementary PTA meetings, thanking the PTA for all their efforts, and noting that our partnership with parents is one of Syosset’s keys to success.
Another key to our success are our amazing faculty members who parents had the opportunity to meet at Open House events this week at our elementary and middle schools. The feelings of joy at being back in the buildings and in person were energizing, and I watched as middle school parents navigated the challenges of unfamiliar hallways and confusing locker combinations (and perhaps re-lived their own middle school days!).
I’ve also been watching our athletes practice and compete this week with gyms and bleachers full of fans and it truly feels like we’re having a more typical start to the school year. I’m so proud of how we managed the difficulties of the last few years, but what a sense of relief to start in such a familiar way.
Rachel (Ruiqi) Liu is a Syosset sophomore who translated her love for the water into footwear needy children can wear on dry land. Rachel gave swimming lessons over the summer and donated half her wages to the charity, Jericho Cares. Her shopping trip with the organization resulted in the purchase of 42 pairs of shoes for families in need. Every step taken in those new shoes is a result of Rachel taking the first step – having a great idea and generously following through!
Have a wonderful weekend!
September 2, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
Welcome back!!!! It’s wonderful to be back to school and to have so many of the COVID restrictions and their associated challenges receding into the distance. Over the past week, I’ve visited so many classrooms and teachers and felt the excitement at having the rooms set up in more welcoming arrangements and reintroducing rugs for our littlest learners. Not every furnishing survived two years of storage, so it’ll take some time to get the rooms all the way back, but we’ve got a huge jump start already.
We’ve had a good first two days, marred only by our usual challenges with busing that are typical in the first few days, but exacerbated this year by the driver shortage and the arrival of so many brand new drivers. Drivers do perform practice runs of all the routes prior to the start of school, and once everyone, students and drivers alike, become more familiar with the routine, these challenges tend to ease.
In what has now become a first-day ritual, we were delighted to welcome many members of the Nassau County Police Department on our campuses. On Wednesday evening, I attended a forum for school administrators with the Nassau County Police Commissioner, Patrick Ryder. He shared their PREPARE plan for dealing with an emergency, but also the proactive measures they take including having each officer visit a school during their shift for a brief “Park, Walk & Talk.” So don’t be startled if you see a police car on campus – they are there to say “hi,” and we’re delighted to host them.
Two more quick updates from the Nassau Police: they are actively recruiting crossing guards to address a shortage, and warning about a new form of Fentanyl (a narcotic) designed to target children.
While many of the protocols that carried us through the last two years have been eased, we are still required to track and report COVID cases (as we do other serious communicable diseases), and while we stopped performing contact tracing (since close contacts are no longer required to quarantine), we do notify families of potential exposure so they can monitor children closely. Lastly, we will maintain our instructional support for students with COVID.
Fall sports are underway and while the bus driver shortage hasn’t eased enough to secure drivers for earlier departure times (for us or our opponents, unfortunately), we do anticipate having our turf field light project complete by October to help with lighting those late season matches. I’m looking forward to cheering for our student athletes from the sidelines!
A note: our athletic conference is having difficulties securing referees for almost all sports (I even had to pitch in last year), so if you’re someone with the ability to officiate, or know someone who could, please contact the District or the folks at Section VIII. Just as we’re looking to increase the number of referees, please help us retain the ones we’ve got: cheer for our athletes with all the gusto you’ve got, but please don’t heckle our opponents or the referees - the former are still kids and the latter have a hard enough job already. Show our true Syosset spirit by treating our visitors the way your child deserves to be treated at an away game.
Some quick back to school reminders:
- Drones are not permitted on campus without permission from both the District and Nassau Police.
- Dogs are not permitted on campus by Board policy. (If only we could somehow ban the geese.)
- School facilities (like the track) are closed to the public during the school day, or after school when students are present for scheduled events (practices and games).
- Please be patient when driving in a school zone. I saw someone get pulled over just this afternoon.
A quick word of thanks to our employee associations representing our teachers, principals, and civil service staff who underwrote a wonderful welcome-back luncheon earlier this week for our entire staff – all together in one place for the first time in over a decade. There was a tremendous sense of pride among the staff for the extraordinary work they’ve done, welcome for the new staff who will carry on our tradition of excellence, team-building to boost morale and a reminder that every single person contributing their best is what makes Syosset so special. From my travels around the District the last two days, I know the energy from that event carried directly into the classrooms - so thank you STA, SPA, and CSEA for helping us get off to a great start!