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New York State Education Department visits South Glens Falls

April 1, 2015

NYS Regent Dawson observes a writing lesson.Members of the New York State Education Department visited our schools on Monday, March 30, to see work that is being done as a result of the two Strengthening Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (STLE) grants the district has received.

The visitors, NYS Regent James Dawson and STLE Project Coordinator Courtney Jablonski, spent time in four classrooms in three different buildings. They also met with the district’s math and ELA coaches and principals to learn about the new programs, such as Writing Workshop, that the district has implemented.

“It was nice to be able to showcase the programs and projects we have been working on,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Kristine Orr. “I hope the STLE team was pleased with the work we’ve put in to improve curriculum and support our teachers.”

The district received a grant in February 2014, and a second in the fall, totaling $909,300. As a result of the grant money, the district has been able to:

  • Direct funds toward teacher and principal leadership in the areas of:
    o curriculum development and alignment,
    o professional development activities for all staff,
    o 800 hours of summer curriculum work,
    o K-6 ELA and Math coaches, and 7-12 literacy coach to support the Common Core Learning Standards in all content areas,
    o data driven instruction, and
    o supporting additional instructional teacher leaders (ITLs) at the elementary and secondary levels. (The district now has 24 instructional teacher leaders.)
  • Establish roles among its teachers and administrators with specific tasks, such as analyzing curriculum, instruction and assessments, mentoring teachers or principals, helping to improve curriculum and working to improve the students’ learning experience.
  • Expand the formal principal mentoring program of principals to include all new administrators in both South Glens Falls and Queensbury through a partnership that includes professional development. (This includes establishing three mentor principals, one professional principal and one principal leader.)
  • Purchase classroom supplies that enable the implementation of the Common Core, such as additional $11,000 of math manipulatives and $78,000 of leveled texts for every grade, and 90 document cameras.

NY State Ed representative Courtney Jablonski talks with a student.Dawson and Jablonski visited two classrooms at Ballard where they saw a first-grade Writing Workshop lesson and a third-grade math lesson. First-grade teacher Cathy Geniti modeled a Writing Workshop lesson—teachers have received professional development through writing consultant Leah Mermelstein and literacy coach Shelley Fenton on the Writing Workshop process and been able to implement more writing into their classroom curriculum. That change has in turn brought more high-level thinking, joy to the art of writing and student pride in their work.

The STLE team also visited Tina Hayes’ classroom at Tanglewood to see a kindergarten Writing Workshop lesson.
The district’s K-5 math coach, Jerilyn Hogan, modeled a mathematics lesson in Lynn Kozstrebski’s third-grade classroom at Ballard for the state visitors. After discussing math vocabulary and terminology, students worked in groups to write sentences about the words.

In the afternoon, the group visited the classroom of Robert McGough and Cathy Mularz at Oliver W. Winch Middle School to see a mathematics lesson.

At the conclusion of their visit, the state representatives met with the district’s instructional and administrative leaders, who receive stipends to help their colleagues with new curriculum that has been implemented as a result of the Common Core Learning Standards.

The teachers and administrators spoke of the new-found energy, comradery and communication between teachers and schools, that the grant funding has helped establish. They said the summer curriculum work was invaluable to their learning of the new curriculum and the coaches and leaders have provided tremendous support for teachers and instruction, as well as more conversation across the district about best practices.

“This is one of the best times as a teacher,” said second-grade teacher Mary Chris Mahoney, a 22-year veteran, who emphasized the comradery in the district that has been established through monthly meetings and improved communications among all teachers.

“The spark is back,” added AIS teacher Kristen Abrams, saying teachers are excited.

“My sense is you have a very healthy program here,” Dawson told the group.

“You are making a difference,” Jablonski told the educators, and asked them to continue sharing best practices with each other and the greater school community.

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