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.

Student Social and Emotional Well Being, Please Participate

SGI Students, Families, Faculty and Staff:

We want to hear from you on the important topic of student social and emotional well being. Attending to the needs of all of our students is important to us. We want to know, how are things going for our students? Do our schools feel like a place where all students can connect, feel supported and loved? What more could we be doing to improve? What are we doing well? Do you feel like someone listens to you and works to resolve the problem when you contact us? Here’s the link to the exchange for families, faculty and staff.

SGI Students: Do you look forward to coming to coming to school? Do you have friends? Do you feel cared about and supported by the adults in the building? By your friends? Do you know who you can go to when you have a problem or need support? Let us know what’s going well for you and also, what do you wish we knew or think could be better? Here’s the link to the exchange for students.

As with previous thought exchanges this year, we will read all of your thoughts and plan for ways to continue to work to support, connect and love all of our students. I’ll share the results of our exchange back here on the blog at kimberlymoritz.com, via email to our faculty and staff, and on our school website.

Thank you for participating!

Kimberly Moritz, Superintendent, Springville-Griffith Institute CSD

 

The “It” Factor

When I was a teacher, I had the good fortune to work for an excellent principal, Mrs. Debra Ormsby. She was energetic, bright, and dedicated to our district and its students. She was also demanding, with high expectations. I did NOT want to let her down, ever. Deb was a teacher in the district and then an assistant principal and quickly, the HS principal. She spent her entire career in public education dedicated to Pine Valley Central School District in South Dayton, NY. She was well respected in the field and could have gone anywhere she wanted but she stayed.

I loved working at Pine Valley for Deb Ormsby. She taught me the right combination of grit and compassion. Boy, she’d get ticked off if someone let her down! I remember we had a student who exited a BOCES bus and urinated on the side of the road. I think Deb would have decked the kid if she could have. She had so much pride in the district that his behavior definitely did NOT meet her expectations. She reacted with just as much passion to help a student in need.

As teachers, she supported us. If we wanted to try something new in a lesson, we knew she’d be happy to hear we went an extra mile to engage the students in learning. We knew she had our backs if we tried a lesson that didn’t quite work out too. At the same time, she expected 100% passing on my Regents exams and if anyone failed, I needed to know why and have a plan for what would come next.

The thing Deb talked about that I’ve never forgotten was what she called the “IT” factor. She said that sometimes you saw a teacher teach and you just knew that’s exactly what that person was meant to do, from the relationships with the students to the lesson development to the content mastery. I saw that “IT” factor in classrooms I visited over the past week. Incredible teachers who have that “IT” factor and are therefore making a real difference for students. It looks easy when you see someone like this teaching and children thrive in the classroom.

I think Deb Ormsby would have loved working here, with this administrative team and the teachers we have at SGI. I think she would have made us all try just a little harder every day than we did yesterday. I’m grateful for those ten years teaching in Pine Valley and for everything that I learned from Deb, our superintendent Cindy Miner, and all of my colleagues. I still feel a sense of responsibility to be better and to make her proud, 19 years after leaving. That’s a leader!

Later Start Times: How Did Our Families and Students Respond?

On January 15, 2019, we started a two week ThoughtExchange in which we asked our students and the adult members of our school community the following question.

What are some important ideas for us to consider as we discuss the possibility of changing our school start and end times?

Here are links to the results of our student exchange and of our adult exchange. Thank you to the 504 students and 322 adults from our Springville Griffith-Institute school community who shared your thoughts on this topic and then rated the thoughts of others! I hope you’ll take the time to really read through the many pages of top thoughts. 

As indicated in the original question that I posed, the SGI Board of Education members are beginning to discuss the possibility of changing start times and your ideas will be carefully considered. The passion with which people answered the question at times, not only on the Exchange but also on social media, was really interesting to me. There were many comments which I read and thought, “why are you so angry? We’re asking for your ideas before even moving forward with a discussion so that everyone can be included. It’s far from a done deal.”

Please realize, we asked a question and invited you to weigh in. That’s a good thing–that we’re asking for and considering everyone’s ideas. If we wanted to just make the decision without caring about the ideas of our families and employees, we could have done so. BUT WE DIDN’T DO THAT and that’s not who we are as a leadership team. It’s so important, especially now with the onslaught of information from countless sources online, to read carefully and to consider what’s really being said in any article. How many people jumped right to the ThoughtExchange without even considering the introduction? In the introduction I wrote,

We need to hear from you before we move forward with these discussions. How would this change impact your learning, your schedule and your family life?

Our board is meeting in the next couple of months to discuss this topic further and the feedback you provide in this Thoughtexchange with help inform that conversation as well as our final decision. Please take a few minutes to share what is important to you and rate the thoughts of others.

SGI has an incredibly thoughtful, caring, bright and child centered Board of Education and Administrative Team. As with every decision, we’ll take our time to carefully consider every aspect of any change. 

Thank you for participating! I look forward to hearing from you again.

APPR: Include Student Performance on the Evaluation Rubrics

On January 23, 2019, Tom Precious of the Buffalo News published an article, New York lawmakers end mandate tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, that aptly summarizes the state’s next move on teacher evaluations and the tie to NYS student test scores.

I’ve been a superintendent since before the APPR requirements. In every district I’ve worked, there has been a strong evaluation system in place with regular evaluations of all teachers and administrators. Initially, I thought that the APPR law would help us to improve the quality of instruction for every student through the emphasis on test scores. I was wrong about that but there is some good that’s come out of it.

What’s worked well: requiring professional development on effective evaluation for all evaluators, the use of quality rubrics, the number of evaluations or site visits and the conversations that both precede and follow an observation. In my experience, the evaluation portion of the regulations has made a significant positive difference for our students.

What’s not worked well: The APPR law which ties employment decisions to the composite score of every teacher and principal, based on student assessments, has not improved anything. In different degrees in likely every building, the use of this composite score based on building wide or individual measures of student performance has done nothing but result in either an over emphasis on test prep, passive compliance with the regs, fear of reprisals based on the performance of the students in an educator’s class or building, intense pressure for better test scores which don’t necessarily mean enhanced learning opportunities. Composite scores, HEDI scales, state test scores and SLOs tied to teachers and principals have definitely NOT improved learning for the students we serve.

In a time when we struggle to bring young people into teaching, undue pressures from state lawmakers are not helping our profession. Our local Boards of Education and NYSED are the only governing bodies who should issue regulations on teacher and principal evaluation.

This current change in the law that ends the mandate to tie teacher and principal evaluations to test scores, before Governor Cuomo now, isn’t going far enough to fix this mess. Now we will have to negotiate with our local unions to determine what measures of student performance we will use instead of NYS tests—when many educators and families don’t believe that tests should be used as separate factors at all. How much testing do we want our students to have? In our district, many of our families and members of our school community, including BOE members, believe we’re testing students too much already.

We believe that student performance should definitely be a factor in teacher and principal evaluation. But in every district, how student success is defined may be different. Capturing the values of a community and what they most believe about learning for our children may not necessarily be quantified in a test.

In an effort to propose a proactive solution, I suggest we add a component on the evaluation rubric that assesses student performance.  The authors of our current state approved evaluation rubrics can add a domain/section to each of the evaluation rubrics that speaks to the critical importance of responsibility for student performance. Make it a part of pre and post observation discussions, include goal setting, and a rubric score that eliminates the need for student assessment as a separate score in the overall evaluation.

We’ve all been complying with a law that hasn’t done what it set out to do–improve educator practice by holding us all accountable for student performance because it did so through the testing of our students. Let’s stop this exercise in compliance that doesn’t improve education for our children. Let’s instead include student performance as a part of the evaluation rubrics.

 

Combining of Athletics with West Valley Central

By now you’ve likely read in our local newspapers about our planned combining of athletics with West Valley for the 2019-2020 school year. West Valley approached us in October to ask if we would offer opportunities to their student athletes. After meeting with the leadership team from West Valley, our BOE members asked that we connect with our Varsity coaches to determine if this is something that would work for them and for our student athletes.

SGI Athletic Director, Joe DeMartino, canvassed our coaches and learned that there was a great acceptance of the possible combining of sports. For four of our teams we will not be combining with West Valley: Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball, Baseball and Softball. Those are teams that carry relatively small rosters and so spots are competitive already. West Valley has also indicated that they may field their own teams for some sports, provided they have enough interested athletes. Additionally, West Valley has the option to combine sports with other schools for the teams which we are unwilling to combine.

We have to apply to Section VI before each season. For Fall 2019, we’re excited to offer opportunities to West Valley student athletes on all of our teams that include football, soccer, girls’ volleyball, girls’ tennis, girls’ swim and dive, boys’ golf, cross country, and cheerleading. At this point the question remains as to if there will be students from West Valley who want to try out for each team, but they are encouraged to do so for all Fall sports. West Valley Superintendent Eric Lawton has committed to sending their athletic director every day on the bus with the WV student athletes. He has offered the WV gym space, busing if needed should we ever be short of drivers, to host athletic contests at WV and to cover additional costs that we may incur from the addition of West Valley athletes.

A recent pre-annexation study showed both of our districts to be very similar on all measures. I’ve worked in small rural districts the majority of my career. When I started as the superintendent, I thought I was coming to a “big” district. What I’ve found is so much the same as the other rural districts I’ve worked in, like Randolph and Pine Valley where I spent twenty years. We have open, honest, hardworking families who expect the best FOR their children and OF their children. We very much identify as a small, rural district. Just like West Valley.

We have more students, a small, thriving business community and a great hospital. Other than that, West Valley students and families will find we’re much more alike than we are different. Our families, faculty, staff, administration, and coaches will welcome West Valley student athletes warmly, encouraging and expecting the best of them. I hope they’ll give SGI a chance!