Gazette Ceases Publication: Donates Archives to LHS

In 2010, the Larchmont Gazette ceased publication. In 2011 the publishers donated all contents to the Larchmont Historical Society, which will continue to make the Gazette archives available online.

All inquiries should be addressed to the Larchmont Historical Society.

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School Board Hears Progress Across District and in Each School

Notwithstanding the many meetings devoted to the school budget this year, school administrators have continued to work on improving teaching and learning.  That was apparent  at the June 1 school board meeting, where central administrators and building principals shared highlights of their progress toward district and building goals set at the beginning of last year.

Support for All Students

Across the district, assistant superintendents Annie Ward and Anthony Minotti are working to assure that all students receive appropriate support.  In the coming year, Dr. Minotti explained, the bulk of the district’s work on Response to Intervention (RTI) will be in general education classrooms.   The district will be exploring the concept of universal design in learning, a multi-sensory approach to learning.

Ms. Ward elaborated after the meeting, explaining that “what’s good for kids with special needs is very likely good for general education kids.”   One can argue, she noted, that “every kid has special needs.”   Thus, a device like a digital recorder can help both special education and other students with note taking.

Focus on Literacy

District wide, the elementary reading curriculum has been revised and extended through grade 5.  Previously, the curriculum used throughout the district ended at grade 3.

At Mamaroneck Avenue School (MAS), the professional staff engaged in an all-out blitz to increase reading stamina.   Studies show that an increased amount of effective reading increases growth in reading.

Part of the effort, MAS Principal Carrie Amon explained, was to get parents to realize that a child’s nightly reading was probably the most important homework, and not something to be saved for last.  Other homework was reduced to allow students time to read more each day.  Through letters, meetings and coffees, parents learned about a variety of reading goals and were given target numbers for each child’s weekly reading.

This summer, MAS students will receive reading kits so that their reading will continue to progress.    Each student will get a ten-pack of “just right” books to take home, and there will be three opportunities to exchange the books over the summer.

Ms. Amon expects the MAS reading scores to increase.  She noted that students are “1200 book points ahead of last year.”

At Central School, administrators also focused on reading.  They disaggregated data from state testing and determined that the school’s least proficient readers needed to be supported in a different way.   Although students had been receiving mandated academic intervention services (AIS), they had been pulled from their regular class during reading time in order to receive specialized instruction from a reading teacher.

Now, AIS instruction takes place in addition to regular reading class, not instead of it.  Students who need AIS reading support are grouped by area of need, rather than by class.  The groups are reassessed after a six-week cycle.

Other Elementary Initiatives

Chatsworth Principal Gail Boyle shared work on science curriculum mapping, noting that mapping curriculum is “like painting a bridge:  as soon as you finish, you have to start again.”

At Murray, faculty and administrators developed an interdisciplinary curriculum around American folk traditions.   The new curriculum touched all areas of the curriculum, including read-alouds, history and special classes such as library and art.

Secondary Schools Focus on Assessment and Students At Risk

Secondary department chairs shared their work around district assessment at a school board meeting several weeks ago.  The secondary schools also continue to focus on supporting struggling students.

At the Hommocks Middle School, faculty and administrators worked to introduce “contracts” where struggling kids would come regularly for after-school help.   Another committees worked on character education, including anti-bullying initiatives.

At the high school, efforts continued to assure that every struggling student is connected to at least one adult in the school.  Not all of the at-risk programs have been successful, acknowledged Assistant Principal Gail Kleiner, “but in ten years every one of these kids will be able to say ‘they didn’t give up on me.’ ”

Assistant Principal Steve Frasene shared some data to confirm the assertion that the at-risk programs, together with video cameras and other initiatives, have improved the climate of the high school.   Last year, 83 students had been suspended by mid-May for a variety of reasons, including fighting, substance abuse, thefts, disruptive behavior and insubordination.  This year, that number is down to 43.

Similarly, 76 thefts were reported two years ago, 43 last year and just 10 this year.

“The atmosphere has never been better,” agreed Principal Mark Orfinger.

Other District Work

By the end of the year, the school board will have a report on the district’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program.  Currently, only 4% of the district’s 5000 students meet the state criteria for being English Language Learners (ELLs).  Many “born in the USA” students who speak another language exit formal ELL services by grade 2 but still struggle.  A  meeting to discuss the report, and how to help these students transition, is planned for the fall.

The beginning of a plan to support the district’s long-term financial health is in place, said Assistant Superintendent Meryl Rubinstein, but “more work is needed to get it off the ground.”

Work continues to improve district communications, including the district website, which is being used more and more by faculty, parents and community members.

Final School Board Meeting:  Rockefeller Awards and Retirements

The school board’s final meeting of the year is scheduled for Tuesday, June 15 at 7:30 pm.

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8 comments to School Board Hears Progress Across District and in Each School

  • simpleq

    “Many “born in the USA” students who speak another language exit formal ELL services by grade 2 but still struggle”. May we know how many end up in Special Ed at great cost to the taxpayer, rather than benefiting from standard prolonged ESL classes ? And then might the community indicate its preference for one solution over another ?

  • What are we mising?

    The Progress Across School Districts again focuses on the students that struggle. Meanwhile. those students that are above average are passed over time and time again in this district. The parents of these students see AP classes being cut each year, sections of high level classes being cut, and teachers with even larger class sizes asked to differentiate between each student. It doesn’t happen.

    Meanwhile, our always resourceful parents reach into their own pockets to tutor away, send their children to classes during the summer,or frantically advocate for their own child since the district won’t.

    Is our only choice to send their child to private school or to move to another school district?

    • Scratching my head

      Agreed – but even worse than the “above average” students and their AP classes being cut are the largest and most silent group of students – the “average” ones who just muddle thru the wreckage year after year being overlooked and labeled underachievers.

      Like the middle class in America, the “average” students are the most under served and overlooked group of kids – who carry the biggest burden of all; no recognition for any of their “progress” yet with the same expectations of the higher performing students. Teachers dislike this group the most, and ironically, they are the largest segment of the population. This is where tax payer dollars are truly lost on an education that is status quo given little if any attention to the needs of this wide group of students.

      Addressing the needs of the average student; the status quo; would be a wonderful case study unto itself. Wonder when Mam’k Schools will be bold enough to recognize this hugely overlooked segment of its student body population?

  • vol

    for your “eduction” I have a child that benefits of extra help AND we also hired the service of a tutor. School can’t do everything.

  • in the dark

    It is annoying and inexplicable that the district offers a thorough update (like this one) yet has not bothered to make an announcement, or offer an explanation, concerning the teacher transfers in the elementary schools. Parents at Central School were heartbroken to learn from their children that two beloved “change-a-child’s-life” teachers,(Januari Pakrul and Karin Harris), were being moved to other schools. It is interesting that although the taxpayers fund the salaries of all those employed here, our opinions are meaningless to the administration. Central is a small school, with only 21 classes. Moving teachers who have been with us for 8 and 13 years should at least merit a letter to the parents…not a wall of silence. I wonder if this is a new strategy the district is trying out? Keep parents in the dark until it is too late to do anything. It is my understanding that these teachers did not request a transfer…so, why are they being moved?

  • noted

    “in the dark”, you may have noted that one thing that the District does not communicate on, is anything related to personnel. A combination of ill-understood data privacy constraints, contractual handcuffs and union reverence makes it so that the budget is 85% personnel expenses, yet the community hears about all and sundry EXCEPT personnel decisions rationale and strategy. Those are veiled in a shroud of secrecy that is convenient for most of those who are not the clients of those thus shielded.

  • in the dark

    Well said, but I can’t help feel that the community deserves better treatment than this. I am sure an announcement will be made in July (along with the public release of test scores [that the district currently has but is sitting on]) when it is too late and impossible to do anything.