What are the best things we could do to improve our buildings and grounds?

We recently conducted a ThoughtExchange where we asked our SGI employees and students to answer the following question:

What ideas do you have about the physical improvements that you think we should make to our schools, fields, and facilities? And what do you wish or dream we could have here at Springville?

Believe it or not, it’s time for us to start planning the next capital project. It takes a couple of years to plan a project so as we begin to do so, I wanted to hear from our employees and students. The project we are concluding this year has many items that the architect and engineers identified as “need to do” items–rooftops, parking lot repaving and boilers. There isn’t a lot in this project that really touches classrooms and learning spaces.

For the next project, we want to consider all of our student spaces and what we can do to enhance our learning environment. As our school administrators work on walk throughs in our buildings and our architect considers our Building Condition Survey, the employees and students told us what they notice every day at SGI. You can read the Top Thoughts report here. 

As promised, we will carefully consider all suggestions. Given our parameters around cost–we plan for the next project to have a minimal impact on taxpayers–there are items in the Exchange that we will attempt to do in house, items that will definitely be considered in the planning of the next project, and items that are unrealistic.

Participants top thoughts (meaning they received the highest rank from other participants) included:

  • air conditioning
  • bathroom updates
  • lighting upgrades
  • locker replacement
  • kitchen equipment updates
  • flexible seating options

The first five of those items are definitely things we can analyze for the next project. I’m glad that so many teachers are thinking about ways to change up their classroom seating for more project based learning. Furniture isn’t something that’s aided within a capital project unless it’s to outfit a new space. We work hard to maximize the aidable part of a project so this means we’ll develop a line item in the budget to pay for new seating as we’re able to do so, just as Mr. Bialasik did out of the HS budget for the library at SHS.

I do care what you think–just as the many comments about the quality of the food we served last year helped us to know we should move forward with a BOE initiative to bring our food service in house, these thoughts will impact our next project. Thank you to everyone who participated.

If you’re a community member and have noticed something that needs to be improved, let me know! You may leave a comment here or email me at kmoritz@springvillegi.org.

School Safety When Alleged Threats Are Reported

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, we had two different incidents that captured the attention of our students, staff and families. Our SRO, Deputy Lundberg, our principals and I were well aware of the issues, investigated them fully and worked with the families involved. Neither issue constituted a real, credible threat to our schools. 

In the first case, a rumor was spread about a MS student “shooting up the school” that was completely untrue. Not a germ of truth to it. Still, the right thing happened and students who heard the rumor told parents and a few of the parents notified law enforcement of the alleged threat. Our middle school principal, Ms. Shanda DuClon, and SRO Lundberg investigated the claim thoroughly and directly, concluding that this was a middle school rumor.

Middle school students have engaged in this kind of mean spirited behavior forever. Hurtful gossip and rumors are never acceptable and through the course of the year we have had instances where a child has made up a claim that another student is intending school violence. This takes the concern to an entirely new level. Law enforcement and school administration investigate every single mention of a threat. This takes up a colossal amount of time while rocking the security we want our students to feel at school–all from a falsely reported incident. There must be consequences for children who falsely report by fabricating a story about school violence. Talk to your children about the damage done by making up any kind of rumor about another student, and most especially this kind which can result in law enforcement bringing consequences for falsely reporting.

But let me stress, if students hear something from anyone that constitutes a threat to oneself or others, they should immediately bring it to a teacher, parent, administrator or other trusted adult.

In the second case, high school students overheard part of a potentially concerning conversation and did the right thing and reported it to the high school principal, Mr. James Bialasik.  He and Deputy Lundberg did a thorough investigation and concluded that there is no threat, no intention by our student to do harm to others, no hit list or “shooting up the school” plan.

“See something, say something”–that’s the mantra we’re all following. People need to report to school and law enforcement authorities when they see or hear something. If it’s after school hours and you or your child have first hand knowledge of a threat, by all means, report it to law enforcement.

At the same time, please remember that rumor and conjecture can grow exponentially. Remember that old telephone game we all played in elementary school? Whatever was stated at the beginning of the row of students is never even remotely the same at the end. This happens even more on social media. We now have two students, one MS and one HS, who are faced with wondering if everyone heard the rumors and thinks they’re going to do something to harm others. A difficult pressure for young people.

Regarding communication from the school to our students, employees and families, I will share information with you when I can. You have my absolute word that we will communicate with you, as I’m doing now, as soon as possible.

Here’s my cell phone number: 716-258-8361. Report school safety concerns to law enforcement first, especially after school hours. But you can text or call me if you’re afraid for your child because of what you’re hearing or reading on social media. I’ll tell you what I can, which may simply be “we’re aware of the issue and are working on it. We’re confident that our students and staff are safe to come to school.” I won’t ever give you the details about someone else’s child, but I’ll tell you what I can. And if we’re not confident our employees and students will be safe at school, then our emergency plans will go into play and you’ll receive a parent broadcast.

School violence is by far one of the worst tragedies of my lifetime. It’s terrifying and involves those we hold most dear, our children. Let’s work together to do the very best that we can to care for all of our SGI children.

Colden Elementary School, Declining Enrollment

As one of our BOE members so aptly put it at our BOE meeting in Colden on Tuesday night, declining enrollment at Colden Elementary has been the “elephant in the room” for years. In the four years I’ve been in Springville, I’ve had several people say to me “when are you going to close Colden?” It seems that everyone has an opinion about what we should do.

However, we can’t make decisions based on people’s opinions alone and definitely not when the topic is a polarizing one. If you don’t already know, Colden Elementary is a beloved part of the Colden community. It’s a great little school with wonderful educators, a new principal and many families who are committed to keeping their K-5 children there. The building itself is an asset, one that we’ve invested in over the years. It’s also a school with declining enrollment when our other K-5 building, Springville Elementary, has increased enrollment.

Here’s a quick view of the enrollment stats:

                2015-16      2016-17      2017-18      2018-19      2019-20

Colden Elementary                 189                   194               177                 160                131

Springville Elementary          539                  538                557                555                557

As I said in this blog post from over a year ago, it’s my responsibility as the superintendent to study all areas of our school operations. We are going to develop a plan moving forward for Colden Elementary School. I don’t know yet what that plan will be but it needs to be based on a deep study of our enrollment trends, what’s best for kids, financial considerations, and the impact on the district as a whole. I want to know that our BOE members can answer the question “why don’t you close Colden Elementary?” with solid reasons of why we decided to keep the building open OR have a clear plan for if and when we reach a tipping point in enrollment where it’s in the best interest of all of our students to attend SES. 

The BOE members developed a list of questions for further consideration and study throughout the rest of this school year.

  1. What would be the reason to close Colden? Is there actually a significant cost savings?
  2. What would be done with the building upon closure and what would be our options?
  3. Can we conduct a study to help answer questions and provide clear information on costs and benefits associated with maintaining things as they are, reconfiguration options, closure?
  4. Enrollment Number—is there an enrollment number in which it is financially irresponsible to maintain two K-5 elementary schools?
  5. Educational Experience—how does it differ for a student who’s in a small group at CES for 6 years? Is there a limit when a small school is just too small to offer enough diversity and opportunity for our students?
  1. School Choice—could we allow families to choose to send children to CES or SES, using parent transportation or central pick up point(s)?
  1. Boundary lines within district-if we adjusted the boundary line, could we more evenly distribute enrollment between the two elementary schools? Consideration given to families with students at both CES and SES during transitional period.
  2. Reconfiguration of grade levels-are there any possibilities that work for all families district-wide and are good for kids?
  3. What impact does a closure have on student travel times? Costs to transportation? Should we reconsider one bus run/start and end times for all buildings?
  1. If we make changes to district lines or configuration at our elementary schools, how is the rest of the district, in particular the SMS, impacted?

As we move forward with a study at the Board of Education level, we will share information publicly and welcome community input. I know that this is an emotional topic for many people–any time we have conversations about those topics that affect our children people respond passionately. I hope that our dialogue can be respectful and show consideration for everyone involved.

A New Bike/Walk Path at Springville Elementary and Middle Schools

How does a new recreation path behind Springville Middle and Elementary Schools sound? Our PE and Health teachers developed the idea and presented it to me early this school year. Their proposed path goes around our current soccer fields, over by the Bus Garage and behind our Elementary School. I’ve seen our students running this path through the grass because my office looks out on the soccer fields. What a valuable resource for our students during the school day and our community in the afternoons and evening!

Doing any level of construction or upgrading to our buildings and grounds gets complicated quickly due to all of the rules and laws that we need to follow. But with a little creativity we found a way to include this recreation path in our current capital project and it’s going to be constructed this year.

Although all of the work being done in our current capital project is important, much of it is relatively boring. Yes, we’re saving energy with LED lighting and more efficient boilers. No one is driving through massive potholes in our parking lots or walking over crumbling sidewalks. What is great about this recreation path is that it’s something tangible that our students and taxpayers can use daily (at least when there isn’t 2 feet of snow in Western New York!).

This will be an 8 foot wide, 8 inches deep crushed stone and limestone path that will be perfect for walking and biking. The recreation path will narrow to 5 feet in a few spots as it is designed to have NO IMPACT on the existing athletic fields already located behind SMS/SES. Consider the opportunity to bring your child to this walkway to learn how to ride his or her bike! The bike/walk path will be less than one mile in circumference but will be marked to show the mile for our students in PE classes. Erie 2 BOCES has a lending locker so that our teachers can borrow equipment for students to use on the recreation path. Parents and community members can join our students, perhaps our Cross Country athletes, in using this path in the evenings.

Our teachers who initiated the idea are planning to pursue grant funding so that they can install fitness stations along the path.  Look for more information about the bike/walk path in the newsletter and on my blog at kimberlymoritz.com.

Miss Brooke Adams, New Colden Elementary Principal

I am pleased to announce that the SGI BOE approved Miss Brooke Adams as the new Principal of Colden Elementary School at last night’s BOE meeting. We had 35 applicants for the position, with seven outstanding finalists. Miss Adams will start at Colden Elementary on November 4, 2019. You may see her at CES prior to her official start date as Interim Principal Kevin Munro’s last day is November 1, 2019. We will want the two principals to have an opportunity to work together prior to Kevin’s departure.

Miss Adams comes to Springville-Griffith Institute from Southwestern Central School where she has gained valuable administrative experience as the K-12 Assistant Principal for three years.

Prior to becoming an administrator, Miss Adams was a history teacher for a number of years. She cites the tight-knit community and involved families as what makes her most excited about joining CES and the entire Springville team.

Miss Adams prioritizes relationship building to help her to be successful as an administrator. She wants to build a positive relationship with each teacher, student and family at Colden Elementary. She emphasizes the growth mindset and showing students that mistakes are okay as long as you learn from them. She brings a positive energy and wants to empower others to help make each day a good day. Miss Adams also looks forward to learning from everyone at SGI.

Miss Adams grew up in a rural community, on a dairy farm and is excited to stay in a rural community with strong values. When she isn’t at school, Miss Adams is an avid runner and loves to travel. She has combined these two passions by completing the World Marathon Majors, running in six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world in Berlin, London, Tokyo, Boston, Chicago and New York City. Maybe she’ll consider running with Coach Russell and our amazing SGI Cross Country team at the end of her day as CES Principal?

Please join me in welcoming Miss Adams to SGI!

Construction Update on P-TECH Academy

If you’ve driven down Newman Street you can’t help but notice the incredible progress on the transformation of our old district office building into the planned P-TECH Academy. This is Springville’s collaborative project with Erie 2 BOCES and Alfred State, scheduled to open in September 2020. We have students from area districts, along with our own Springville students, attending now in our high school. To read more about P-TECH go here and here, also here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re someone who’s curious about construction, following are the highlights of the capital project for the CAM P-TECH Academy.

  • The existing building is 12,000 SqFt.
  • The addition is 20,000 SqFt.
  • There are 10 classrooms:
    1. Two Computer Information Classrooms
    2. Two Electrical Classrooms
    3. One Science Classroom
    4. One Languages Other Than English
    5. One English
    6. One Math
    7. One Social Studies
    8. One Health
  • One Gymnasium/One Cafeteria, there is an operable partition between the two that can be opened and closed depending on usage needs.
  • Small kitchen with a Serving Area.
  • Locker rooms.
  • The Electrical Classrooms have taller ceilings to allow for student electrical conduit to be raised up in the air without hitting the ceiling.
  • The Entire Building is Air Conditioned for year-round use.
  • There is a Vegetative roof on the addition (except the Gymnasium roof)
    • The Vegetative roof has an irrigation system
    • The Vegetative roof has a leak detection system
  • The Gymnasium roof is reinforced as a future provision for Roof Mounted Solar Panels
  • Most of the building will have an exposed ceiling painted white.  Areas that will have a ceiling are: Bathrooms, Offices, Locker rooms, Main Office/Reception Area.
  • The corridor floors will be a polished concrete floor.
  • All lighting on/ inside the building will be L.E.D.
  • The main entrance will have a tall ceiling that is sloped.  The lights hanging from the ceiling will mimic the circular floor pattern.
  • The exterior of the building will be constructed out of a Metal Wall Panel System of which there are two contrasting types.
  • The roof on the spine is a Standing Seam roof.

Construction Work at SGI and School Tax Bills

District residents will notice the amount of construction that occurred this past summer and continues through the next school year. We’re winding down on our main capital project that was voted on in 2016. That work will be completed in the next few months and final cost reports filed with NYS by June, 2020.

At the same time, the P-TECH collaboration with Erie 2 BOCES and Alfred State continues in the old District Office on Newman. Residents may remember that this project is a P-TECH Academy which will house a full curriculum for area students in grades 9-12 to post graduate obtaining a Regents diploma and an Associates degree from Alfred State University. Read here and here for the original articles regarding this project as it was presented to our SGI voters. There is NO IMPACT to our SGI local taxpayers for the P-TECH Academy capital project. The fact that we moved the district offices out of a separate building and into a school actually helps the budget. When we have a building without students, no state aid is generated on that building as it is for capital project work in a school building.

These two capital projects have NOT affected the school tax bill that taxpayers have received recently. Our tax levy, the 20.2% portion of the budget paid for by our taxpayers, increased by 2.51%, as was the tax cap and was approved by the voters in May.

If your taxes went up in your town by more than the 2.51% that’s a combination of your equalization rate or assessment changes. Neither of which do we, as a school district, control. The equalization rates over 9 towns and 2 counties in the SGI school district range from 98% in East Otto to 14.75% in Yorkshire. I understand that Colden, as an example, has an equalization rate that dropped 3 percentage points and is at 37% of true value. Please contact your town assessor with questions about the equalization rates and assessments.

Administrative Changes at SGI

I hope that your summer is going well and that your children are finding lots of time to read, play outside and enjoy time as a family with you. We have two administrative changes for the 2019-20 school year.

Mr. Kevin Munro is now the Interim Colden Elementary Principal. Mr. Munro comes to SGI as a veteran school administrator, including a long career as an elementary principal, teacher, coach and director of special education. Beloved CES Principal Marcole Feuz has chosen to resign for reasons best known to her. We wish her all of the best in her future endeavors and are grateful for her years of love and caring for our Colden and Springville students and families.

We will now begin the process of recruiting, interviewing and hiring the new Colden Elementary Principal. Mr. Munro has been working hard on class and teacher assignments, scheduling and preparation for the new school year. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Mr. Munro, kmunro@springvillegi.org, or Ms. Gadra, jgadra@springvillegi.org, at 592-3217. Also, I’m always available to our families at 592-3230 or via email at kmoritz@springvillegi.org.

Director of Special Education Kate Werner and her family have moved to Arizona to start a new adventure! Best wishes to Kate and her family during this exciting time. We are grateful for her many years of service to SGI.

I am pleased to announce that Kathy Townsend will continue in the role of Director of Special Education beyond the interim period originally announced. As many of you know, Kathy served as the interim director for three months during the 2018-19 school year. She brings a wealth of administrative experience, a willingness to study and to learn, and an ability to ‘get the job done’ when it comes to the endless details and complexities of the Special Education realm. I’m delighted to have Kathy working with our teachers, families, and administrative team in this capacity. Please join me in welcoming her to this new role.

As always, please contact me with any questions and concerns. Enjoy these last two weeks of summer. We can’t wait to see everyone return!

Partial Roof Collapse at the Old Administration Building

On July 4, 2019, significant rainfall in the late afternoon led to the partial collapse of the roof in the future CAM P-TECH Academy building that’s currently under construction. Thank you to the local fire department volunteers who came to ensure that the site was safe and secure, including notification to me and the full shut off of the gas and electric. I’m also grateful to the network we have as local school administrators so that Pioneer principal Mark Schultz first notified me via Twitter. The best news of the event is that it occurred on the July 4th holiday and therefore no one was in the building, ensuring that we had no injuries.

I am lucky to have Director of Facilities Dave Seiflein and  School Business Administrator Maureen Lee on our leadership team. Both immediately drove to the District to attend to the problem, as I was out of town in Pennsylvania.

This morning, I met with our architect from Gordon Jones, Jeff Nunn, and our construction management firm, Campus Construction Management, to assess the damage and to begin to develop a plan moving forward. CEO Mike Shevlin of Concept Construction Corporation, our general contractor on the job, was on site last night and focused immediately on our next steps to repair the roof and keep the construction project moving forward. The roof on the old District Office building was new and repairing this roof and remediating this problem will not be done at school district or taxpayer expense. 

We have a tight timeline with a need to open the Academy for students and staff in September 2020. I am confident that our team, under the watchful eye of Campus Construction Management Group, will work hard to get us there. A special thank you to local district resident and Campus Field Manager Michael Perkins for rushing to the work site yesterday afternoon and to Campus Vice President Kevin Donaghue for joining us this morning to manage this problem. As a school superintendent, I wouldn’t consider working through a capital project without Campus Construction Management.

Student Social and Emotional Well-Being at SGI

Thank you to everyone who participated in our recent ThoughtExchange in which we asked the students and adults in our school community the following question:

What is the district doing well and what can we do to improve as we continue to support student social and emotional well-being?

Over 250 people participated by sharing their thoughts on this important topic. Please take the time to read through everything in this summary report, as our school administrators and BOE members will be doing.

When I was a high school principal, I thought a lot about how to connect every student in a positive way to our school. From asking a group of young men with a heavy metal band to play at a school assembly to supporting new clubs and classes to one on one relationships with students, I believe it’s important to find what works for every individual child. When I was in school, I wasn’t an athlete but I had other opportunities to connect and succeed, like color guard, DECA, and the school newspaper. I want that variety of opportunities for our students too.

From reading all of the thoughts people shared, I noted that we must always work hard to connect with every student. While 20 people agreed with the statement “We are building relationships with each other.”, 5 rated that comment low. Likewise, while 22 people agreed strongly that “The district is doing a great job and taking measures to make sure our students are safe at school”, 5 rated that thought low too.

I understand that not everyone will have the same thoughts, feelings and ideas about school. But those of us who come here every day, striving to make SGI the very best it can be for every student and family, must continue to go the extra mile by paying attention to every student, responding to every concern, and finding additional ways to connect.

And yes! I hear students when you offer your thoughts on our school lunch program–as many realize, we are starting our own SGI school breakfast and lunch program next year and we’re hoping to be more in line with the expectations of our students and families. Stay tuned!

After reading the summary report, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Either leave a comment here on the blog, email me at kmoritz@springvillegi.org, or call me at 716-592-3230. We’re better when we communicate often and work together to improve learning and the overall school experience by listening to our families, staff and students.