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Superintendent Updates - November 2022
See the most recent Superintendent's Updates listed below.
Click the links on the left to access past updates that have been sent to the Syosset community.
November 18, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
It’s hard to believe it’s almost the end of November! A reminder: we will be closed next Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving recess.
It’s been a busy week for our theater department. Students and faculty at SHS and South Woods Middle have been preparing all week for their fall performances. The High School debuted its fall show last night: “PUFFS, Or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic.” In short, a hysterical Harry Potter spinoff. You can still catch it at 7:30pm tonight and tomorrow night. South Woods Middle School students have a performance at 7:30pm tonight and Noon tomorrow of their fall production: “Just Another High School Play.” It’s an original play by the Drama Club–a must see!
On Wednesday, Syosset High School held its athletics commitment ceremony, where we recognize our athletes who have committed to play NCAA sports in College. We’re so proud of: Ansh Chadha (Tennis, Bentley University), Samantha Mayer (Cross Country, Tufts University), Madison So (Swimming, U.S. Naval Academy), Dylan Stadler (Lacrosse, Marist College), Alexis Stragalas (Volleyball, SUNY New Paltz), AJ Zuleta (Lacrosse, Williams College), and Maddy Camp (Softball, Johnson & Wales University).
Spotlight on Instruction Tripleheader!
Today, Syosset High School’s Women’s Studies students took part in a virtual tour of the Morgan Library and Museum. Specifically, they visited the exhibit titled: She Who Wrote: Enheduanna and Women of Mesopotamia, ca. 3400-2000 B.C.. This exhibit brings together a selection of artworks that capture shifting expressions of women in ancient Mesopotamia during the 3rd millennium B.C., exploring their roles in religious, social, economic, and political contexts, and illustrating the essential and varied roles women have played, and continue to play, throughout history. This exhibit provides both an historical and cross-cultural lens the students can focus on other cultural contexts closer in both time and geography. The visit not only increased students’ knowledge, but also their capacity to think, developing both content and cultural literacies.
As we work to support our students’ mental wellness as we exit the pandemic, our elementary school teachers have been working with our social workers to improve students’ ability to reflect and steer their reactions to the events in their lives. In the Berry Hill 4th grade “Shark Tank,” I was a guest investor beta-testing student-made games whose players advanced by articulating positive reactions to stressful situations like: “A friend stops talking to you, what do you do?” Each team made a promotional video, an actual working game, and an entrepreneurship plan for the guest “Sharks” (me and Elementary Coordinator Jeanette Wojcik) to review. My favorite game title? “Rollercoaster of Emotions” (appropriate for all ages!).
Willits’ 2nd graders took a different approach. As young scientists, they (and I) put on lab coats for “Matter Matters,” experiments comparing matter and emotions. We rescued animals frozen in blocks of ice using only our bare hands, described atomic structure with realistic models, melted glue to solve a problem, and exercised our way out of Twister pretzel positions. The takeaway? Matter can change and be changed (from solid to liquid to gas), just like emotions. But the best unscripted moment was when their teacher, Ms. Goebel, asked students to react to the idea that sometimes we describe emotions, like matter, as ranging from hot to cold. Second grader Hafsah Zaman replied, “it’s an idiom.” I promoted her to 4th grade on the spot!
The State Education Department governs the operation of the schools in the State and there have been two important developments to share with the community.
The Department has restarted its efforts to review and revise the graduation requirements for attaining a high school diploma. This effort, placed on hold during the pandemic, appears headed in a direction that de-emphasizes the role of exit tests like the Regents exams, and adds additional academic skills in the areas of statistics and financial literacy among other things. The State Board of Regents is reviewing an extensive report on the public feedback and international research body as they formulate their new recommendations.
As you may already be aware, the State Education Department yesterday issued a guidance memorandum to school districts regarding a recent court decision involving a school district upstate, noting: “... the court’s decision establishes that public school districts are prohibited from utilizing Native American mascots.” Accordingly, the Department directed that school districts must eliminate the use of such imagery no later than June 30, 2023. The memorandum indicates that the Department will release detailed regulations on the topic which we are awaiting the opportunity to review.
Bright Spot Doubleheader!
While walking back from the NCAA Commitment ceremony to my office at South Woods Middle school, I saw box after box being loaded into two vehicles. Intrigued, I walked over to see what the fuss was about. South Woods Middle School students collected over 800 non-perishable food items to be donated to RockCanRoll, a foundation that collects and distributes food to local pantries to help families in need. Peer Leaders created and ran workshops to educate their peers about food insecurity and ways that students can make a positive impact. In addition to the food collection, students raised close to $900 to donate to RockCanRoll.
And... earlier this week, members of Syosset High School’s Boys and Girls Cross Country teams, along with student government class officers, volunteered to rake leaves for the Harvest House in Syosset, an independent senior citizen home. Over two days, our students raked over 270 bags of leaves… and it looked like fun!
There’ll be no update next week as I take some time to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones. I’m fond of this quote by America’s 26th President, Teddy Roosevelt: “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” I’ve had many opportunities – as both vocation and avocation – to do worthwhile work making young peoples’ lives better and I’m particularly grateful for the opportunity to work hard for this community. I hope you too have much to be thankful for this year.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
November 11, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
Monday’s School Board meeting started with a beautiful performance by our NYSSMA All-State and All-National strings musicians. The performance (and the large number of recognized students) underscored our pride in our Fine and Performing Arts program. Dr. Christopher Hale, the new Coordinator of the department, shared with the Board not just our deep commitment to the Arts, but explained how the Arts create habits of mind and build creative muscle which prepares students for their futures - even if that future might not be in the Arts. That instruction builds on strong elementary and middle school foundations, reaching its peak with our high school offerings. Dr. Hale also took a moment to highlight our students’ accomplishments this year.
Closing the loop on last week’s sports recap: both boys and girls volleyball teams had thrilling semi-final matches to qualify for the County Championship (both finishing second in the County), and I’m delighted to report that our girls Varsity Swimming and Diving team became County Champions for the first time in our school history. Congrats girls! We are so proud! Seven members of the team will be representing both Syosset and Nassau County in the New York State meet starting on Wednesday.
Good luck to the Nassau County Boys Individual Champion Jordan Altman, and our Girls Cross Country State Qualifier Morgan Engel, who will be competing this weekend in Verona, NY in the New York State Cross Country tournament. And still in the playoffs, our Varsity Football Team will face a tough semi-final opponent in Farmingdale this Saturday. Go Syo!
Spotlight on Instruction
Breaking News… Syosset is training future journalists! Our 5th grade students across the District are applying what they have learned in their non-fiction reading and writing units by assuming the role of young journalists. They created press passes with their own headshots, and are writing stories about their schools. Some headlines include “Mystery Money,” “Traveling Tiny,” and “Bird Apocalypse.” Newsday may soon come knocking to hire our 5th grade reporters! The students at South Grove enjoyed their classwork as Journalists so much, they decided to create a club called “Extra Extra” where they create highlight reels for the week to be displayed in the lobby of their school. This lesson is a great example of how our students make learning an active (not passive) activity with opportunities to apply their skills in a context that they personally find meaningful.
Today is Veterans Day. On behalf of the District, I would like to thank all current and retired members of the armed forces in our community and across the country for their dedication and service. Their service is an example we hope students emulate as they dedicate themselves to various causes and campaigns to make their community a better place.
Ahead of Veterans Day, our schools conducted special activities, lessons, fundraisers, and color days to honor our heroes. The VFW Youth Scholarship Program saw entries from several of our Middle School students. This year’s prompt was “My Pledge to Our Veterans.” The contest’s top prize is $5,000! Fingers crossed for our writers. At Robbins Lane Thursday, students spent their last period before the holiday with four Veterans from the local VFW. The Veterans generously answered questions from our 3rd through 5th graders, and listened to patriotic music sung by our Kindergarten through 2nd graders. The students gave the veterans cards as thanks. There were so many cards, a grocery shopping bag was overflowing - just like our appreciation for our veterans’ service and sacrifice!
Happy Veterans Day!
Speaking of service to the community: with Thanksgiving approaching, our students’ attention has been on those less fortunate, particularly by volunteering their time to help ensure others have meals. The Island Harvest Food Bank had visits from two groups of Syosset volunteers. The local Girl Scout troop, comprised of 16 sixth grade girls from South Woods and HBT middle schools, packed 448 boxes of food for seniors: that is 14,784 pounds (no need to go to the gym this week)! Along with the Scouts, a group of students from South Woods also volunteered at the food bank, with donations from across their school. Island Harvest’s mission is to end hunger and reduce food waste on Long Island and our students’ help makes a big difference during this upcoming holiday season.
Have a great long weekend!
November 4, 2022
Dear Syosset Community,
It’s hard to believe we are already in November – and winter sports are soon beginning. I’m so proud to report that every varsity team at Syosset High School qualified for the Nassau County playoffs.
If we were on a sports TV show, this would be the 11 o'clock newsreel: The girls cross country team won both the Conference 1 championship – and Nassau County champion title! The boys cross country team are also Nassau County champions. Girls swimming and diving, and girls tennis both closed out their season as Nassau County Conference 1 champions.
The girls soccer team made it to the County finals, finishing as the #2, and the boys soccer team finished 4th best in the County. Boys badminton earned the third best seed in the county.
There are still a few fall sporting events remaining – fingers crossed!! The girls volleyball team defeated Long Beach High School in the semifinals last night and is headed to the County finals on Monday! The boys volleyball team plays their semifinal tonight (right now). Tomorrow afternoon, the girls swimming and diving team and the cross country runners will be competing in state qualifying meets, while football plays in a quarterfinal matchup against Hempstead High School.
Closer to home, today was (another) special day here in Syosset. I began my morning with the South Grove 3rd grade - excuse me, I mean the Grover Game Company. The students were designing board game prototypes which were then beta-tested by 5th graders who offered constructive feedback. Each game had to incorporate a mystery (their current literature unit), a mathematical concept, and directionality (maps are a current social studies topic). Their ideas were so creative – in one game, instead of using dice to roll to move spaces, it was used to give you a time limit to solve a mystery to move on (kind of like an escape room challenge). Another team created a pirate-themed game with a cool treasure chest made from popsicle sticks, sharks circling, and Jolly Roger (skull and crossbones) game pieces. These “cross-cutting” exercises weave together concepts across disciplines making them more memorable than repetitive drill homework ever could – and they’re fun besides!!
Then, proudly wearing my Grover Game Company t-shirt (thanks 3rd grade!), I went to one of my favorite events on the Syosset calendar – the High School PTSA’s epic Multicultural Festival returning from its pandemic hiatus bigger and better than before. As someone with a food allergy, I was so appreciative of how thoughtfully the PTA made this an allergy-friendly event. It was such a hit with so many students participating that even though we doubled the gym space from previous years, it was still crowded – so next year, it’s moving to the big gym! Students (and I!) piled plates high with cuisine from 21 different countries all represented in our wonderfully diverse community here in Syosset. I ate my way both around the gym and around the world while chatting with students, parents, and staff alike. Thank you to the PTSA for hosting the best event yet!
Reminders for next week
- This Sunday ends Daylight Savings Time. This weekend is one hour longer!
- There is a Board of Education meeting on Monday beginning at 8pm at South Woods Middle School.
- School will be closed on Tuesday for students – but open for parent teacher conferences across the district.
- We will be closed Friday in observance of Veterans Day, those whose service and sacrifice we celebrate and honor in gratitude.
Spotlight on Instruction
The 8th grade bands from Southwoods and HBT Middle Schools traveled to Syosset High School for a special workshop and performance by a faculty Brass quintet from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. A member of the Potsdam Brass Quintet reached out to Syosset through HBT band director Matt Wurtzel to let them know their group was touring LI to do outreach concerts at schools. Of course we were happy to host the Crane School of Music, which is one of the most highly-regarded music schools in the country.
The band faculty is working to collaborate vertically to promote continuity between the middle schools and high school. This was a great opportunity to expose the 8-12 students to an outstanding performance, and also to build a sense of community across the band programs.
After the private concert, the middle and high school bands performed Pep Band music together, led by high school band director Paul Caputo. It was a great opportunity to show the 8th grade bands the great experience waiting for them when they arrive at the high school as freshman next year. On Monday night, we’ll hear more about that amazing high school program during the Board of Education meeting.
The seventh grade science classes at HBT Middle School built tetrahedral kites to explore the concepts of volume and density. Students worked cooperatively in groups and used their skills of metric measurement to calculate the volume and density of each individual wing and compare that to the volume and density of their fully constructed kite. Students discovered that by combining the smaller wings to make one kite, they increased the volume at a greater rate than the mass, lowering the density. As a part of their discussions, students explored the ideas of Alexander Graham Bell and his work with tetrahedra. When their projects are complete, the students will be able to fly their creations as a celebration of their hard work.
“This is what kindness does... Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.” ~Jacqueline Woodson, Each Kindness
While joining the Berry Hill staff to greet students at arrival, I overheard Sam Levy, a fifth grader at Berry Hill, thanking his bus driver as he was dropped off Tuesday morning. I shared a quick glance with a staff member next to me and our faces both said the same thing – what a nice, thoughtful, kind gesture! His kindness rippled out to touch us both, and through this note will find everyone reading it!! Feel free to keep passing along the kindness Sam started!
Have a great weekend!