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The upbeat opening assembly of the August 31st Newark Central School District Superintendent’s Conference Day in the Newark High School Auditorium was jam-packed with tons of important information; Years of Service staff recognition; introduction of new staff; presentation of the 2022 Friend of Education Award; and the official roll-out of the attractive, newly-configured district website.
At the start, Superintendent Susan Hasenauer reflected on enormous challenges staff, students, families and the community-at-large faced much of the last school year “entrenched” in myriad COVID-related challenges and protocols.
“To say you were resilient is an understatement – each day you consistently worked to rebuild human connections that were lost, as well as foster a sense of belonging in a culture that was plagued with staff shortages, loss, depression, anxiety, inconsistency due to absences and behavioral difficulties that were different from before,” she said. “However, you did it. You showed up and you were ready to support our children. New teachers – look around, you have joined an amazing team of educators.”
Despite great challenges, Hasenauer enumerated the District’s significant accomplishments including the development of a new Strategic Plan and Mission Statement with input from parents and community members.
• Instituting an Extended School Day Program at four different schools for grades K-12. Programs included arts, physical activity, small group and individualized academic support, as well as hands on learning activities across a range of subject areas.
Hasenauer said the program will only grow over the next five years since the District was the recipient of the 21st Century and Extended School year grants which support it. She noted Jennifer Sinsebox, Assistant Director of Innovation and Grants Services will be the project manager of the grants and after school programming to ensure their effectiveness in meeting the academic and social emotional needs of students.
• Instructional coaches in each school worked with teachers, helping them stay “fresh” and use the latest techniques and technologies.
“They have been highly-instrumental in analyzing data and providing professional development. They coordinated 97 professional development elective offerings last year alone for our staff,” she said, adding that the Instructional Coaching Teams provided the District with the first ever “Reds Summer Academy” at which teachers could learn, collaborate and reflect with their colleagues and dive into the District’s 2022-23 initiatives.”
• Revisions have been made in District and Building Emergency Response Plans and exercises will be held to test the plan. The Code of Conduct has also been revised. District, administrative and behavioral mental health teams have been trained in behavioral threat assessment. A Safe School Helpline was established for harassment, bullying and threats. Navigate 360 tool was implemented to improve safety and well-being of students and staff during an emergency.
• Julia Solan, Family Outreach and Community Schools Coordinator for UPK-12 will play a critical role in continuing the “harmonization” of the Restorative Practices Initiative “so that we are truly a district where restorative principles and practices are known, respected and used to reduce harm, restore peace, improve relationships, reduce violence, promote healing and build healthy communities.”
• The “Alternative to Suspension” ATS room was implemented at the Middle School last year. Staffed with a Special Education Teacher, a Counselor and a Teacher Assistant, the goal is to use this room before we suspend students out of school as a way to restore behavior and reset expectations where each student will be case-managed so repetitive behaviors do not continue.
• Reciprocal communication with families was a key initiative last year with the implementation of ParentSquare, a unified communications platform designed to keep parents and guardians informed while encouraging greater engagement and connection with the District.
• “Knowing we can still do better with our communication, we’ve launched our newly-configured website. We believe this will be one of the easiest places to obtain information regarding what is occurring in our District.”
• The District’s Bilingual Helpline will go live on the opening day of school. Using this extension, (315) 332-3390, Spanish speaking families can leave a question, comment or a need on an answering machine and within 24 hours receive a call back in their native language.
• “We are dedicated to providing professional development for our families aligned to our “Big Rocks” in our Strategic Plan. Last year, we offered 14 opportunities at the District level for parents and community members to come together and learn about our initiatives and priorities.”
Hasenauer then unveiled the new, three-year District Strategic Plan that builds off the original one. She said the District’s Vision remains the same, but the Mission Satement is new: “To educate and engage today to empower for tomorrow.”
Krista Lewis, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction then explained the areas the District would focus on in the District Comprehensive Improvement Plan (DCIP) during the first year of the new Strategic Plan implementation. The DCIP is closely aligned with the Strategic Plan.
Hasenauer said that with a distinctive Strategic Plan and aligned DCIP and SCEP (School Comprehensive Improvement Plan) “we now have a concrete road map.”
Then she told staff to “Be intentional, love one another. With that said, may you have a wonderful school year.”
Another highlight of the assembly was during the recognition of staff years of service Hasenauer announced Ruth Brown, a teaching assistant in the Kelley School Library, has worked a total of 40 years for the NCSD and she received a a hearty standing ovation.
Another highlight of the Assembly was the presentation of the 2022 Friend of Education Award to the Rotary Club of Newark.
Hasenauer said Newark Rotarians have long been supporters of education in our community in so many ways and appreciatively noted that on March 31st they recognized staff at five district schools, the bus garage and district office for being on the front lines during the challenging times of COVID disruptions, protocols and mandates during the past several years and refreshments and other tokens of appreciation. They also similarly recognized the Board of Education April 6th.
The Superintendent presented a plaque to Rotary President Mitch Ruffalo and called a contingent from the Club up onto the stage to be recognized as they received a standing ovation.
Then Rotarian Norma Madayag-Reilly briefly spoke saying the Rotary Club of Newark “truly appreciates all the efforts of NCSD teachers and staff. We noticed your dedication, your commitment and perseverance in giving your best service and Newark Rotary thought you should be recognized.”
Finally, Mike Newman, Director of Technology explained how Hasenauer asked him in January to reconfigure the school district’s website. He then put Audiovisual and Social Media Coordinator Kyle Bliek in charge of the project six months ago.
Bliek, who also is now Webmaster, then excitedly and officially unveiled the sleek new website design in an informative presentation, explaining many of its easy-to-access components.
He noted it is a work-in-progress and more content will continually be added.