Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December Update:

Six months into the 2013-2014 school year has brought much conversation, discussion, and proposed change.  I will provide some detail regarding three topics, which have been the focus of the district and community interactions.


Earlier this month, the Board of Education voted to enact a re-districting plan - slated for implementation in September 2015.  After months of discussions, collaboration, debate, and revisions (based on summaries for 12 scenarios), the decision was made to adopt (in part) the essence of the final Scenario 12 . . . with final planning to begin in the Summer of 2014 followed up with the implementation phase to be in place for the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.  By October of 2015, finalized maps, building boundaries, capping and baby sitter affidavits, bus routes, middle school feeder patterns, policy changes, and any other associated guidance documents will be available.

Capital Project Recommendation:

On Monday, December 2nd, the Facility Advisory Committee provided a very concise and informative presentation to the Liverpool Board of Education.  The project consists of approximately $37.9 million dollars worth of work at many of the district school building sites.  Much of the work is associated with safety and security at the various sites . . . in addition to some substantial renovation work proposed at both the Chestnut Hill Elementary building and at the Chestnut Hill Middle School building.  The proposed project also includes a full roof replacement plan for the Liverpool High School building.

The Board of Education will continue their discussion on Monday, December 16th; the expectation and hope is . . .  the conversations among board members will provide enough information and also by utilizing various professional services resources -- this will enable the board (as a whole) to reach consensus by January 13th.  It is expected that a decision will be made with respective to the capital project recommendation/proposal and the potential scope.  Given the essential facility needs (based on the age of the buildings, failing infrastructure, and curricular/instructional needs) -- all of the work becomes necessary . . . realistically, the question:  How much is affordable?  Given the fact that the Liverpool Central School District has 9 elementary buildings, 3 middle school buildings, 2 high school buildings, district office (CCE), swing-space building (WRE), educational communication center (ECC), transportation center, athletic stadium complex, and the Liverpool Public Library . . . there is a delicate balance between our fiduciary responsibility and the expectation to maintain safe and secure educational facilities for our students and staff.  More information will follow. . .

Budget Planning Timeline:

As we roll into December, we begin to see the Governor's Office unfold and disclose their plans and expectations for NYS budget development and support for the 700+ school districts in New York State.  I want to shed some light regarding our budget planning process and the timeline respective of Liverpool CSD.  It may seem odd to think that our budgeting vision is actually year-round . . . but, we have instituted a model where the process is realistically continuous.  As the school year begins, we will begin our conversations with buildings, staff, and community; the planned/budgeted changes enacted with the previous proposal - which have been instituted are now being evaluated.   Careful examination and data used to support these decisions will be utilized through the fall.  December provides the window to evaluate each of our budget lines and accounting for specific needs and programs.

Our timeline looks like the following:
Board of Education approves the Budget Calendar (November)
Budget Advisory Team Meetings (Weekly - December through February)
Budget Proposal presented to the Board of Education (February)
Board adopts the Budget for 2014-2015
Public Hearing on Budget (May)
Public Vote on Budget (May)

I share this information because it is vital that we display our intentions (transparency) with the community to be sure the essence of our mission, vision and beliefs are reflective in our actions.  If we believe in the expectations and desired outcomes for our students (and their success), we must also provide those resources necessary to support those academic/educational needs through our budgetary planning process.

Thank You and Have a Very Happy Holiday!

Mark Potter

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy Wednesday,

     As we begin to experience intermittent weather conditions that initiate the signs of winter, I want to be sure everyone interested has the information and awareness of our "emergency communication system -- School Messenger".  As I suggest, this communication system allows the Liverpool School District to send e-mails, text messages, and pre-recorded phone calls to your home - in the event of a building and/or district closure, delay, conditions require us to close early.  The system also can be (and is) used for sharing of pertinent information - that is time sensitive or needs to be broadcast to a wide audience (such as major building events).  If you are not currently participating in the School Messenger system and would like to - please contact the school building personnel for information regarding subscribing.

     Recently, I discussed the necessity for our school district to begin planning beyond our current school year - for several reasons.  Often schools base much of this planning on the current school budget constraints . . . unfortunately, the planning ends up focused on the limitations and constraints of what's affordable in the available dollars . . . rather than long-range thinking, forecasting, program developing.  We have rolled out three committees - which are all charged with specific tasks - as associated with their respective titles:  Strategic Planning; Facility Advisory, and Partners in Business.  Each of these committees are in varying phases of their development and contributions to the long-range thinking of the district.

     Speaking specifically about the Facility Advisory Committee -- this committee has undertaken the responsibility to evaluate and prioritize the Capital Improvements identified by the school district and other professional resources.  As we evaluate the breadth and depth of this task, we understand the complexity of balancing the fiscal responsibility, the economic constraints, the necessity for preserving and maintaining safe and secure buildings, with the accountability to students and their curricular requirements.  The committee will be looking at this equation from 2-sides:  short-term facility needs and long-term program changes necessary to allow students to be College and Career Ready . . .   It is anticipated the committee will be making a recommendation to the LCSD Board of Education recommending a Capital Project Referendum in the near future.

     Finally we have reached a point in the year-long discussions with 60+ participants regarding 3 scenario options for the Re-Districting Committee.  Prior to Dr. John's retirement from the position as Superintendent of Schools - he charged a committee (led by Consultant Ellen Kuno) to provide a recommendation to the Board of Education regarding [long-term] restructuring plans for elementary and middle school buildings - specific to geography boundaries, enrollments, program placements, and other associated constraints which have limited students from attending their neighborhood school buildings.  It is expected that Mrs. Kuno will be ready to present the data to the Board on Nov. 18th.

     Lastly, I would like to extend my congratulations to the following teachers for being named New York State "Master Teachers":  Andrew Calderwood, Wanda Padula,  Jeffry Peneston, Sara Pieklik, Rita Putnam, and Jennifer Terpening.  It certainly is a distinguished honor and each one is an inspiration to us all.

Thanks, Mark Potter

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

     We have completed our first month of school and several thoughts come to mind regarding the academic and/or educational expectations for our school district.  As I pointed out in an earlier blog – transparency, open communication, active listening, and collaboration (between stakeholders) is essential in effectively understanding the requirements for making our students college and/or career ready.

     As October 1st is upon us, please take the time to converse with your children and your child(ren)’s teacher(s), principal(s), and other human resources that make vital decisions regarding his or her academic success.  I encourage everyone to visit the school buildings during the open house, curriculum night, parent-teacher conference appointment, and other face-to-face interactions, when available.

     I identified several tenets which distinguish or gauge our success, as a school district . . . those include: 1) our ability to self-improve the morale among all adults within our organization; 2) our desire to establish/develop/foster meaningful relationships with all stakeholders; and 3) our intentional belief in utilizing on-going, unique and fruitful opportunities to celebrate success.  I continue to believe these 3 principles are the catalyst for provoking significant changes in climate, academic progress, and ultimately student achievement.

     I look forward to the parents, community members, business owners, school staff members, and other professional resources who have agreed to participating on one of the three committees formed.  It is my expectations that these committees will serve as a venue to host and discuss many of the planning conversations necessary for cultivating change.  The 3 committees:  1)  Facility Planning, 2) Strategic Planning, and 3) Partners in Education . . . will provide a platform for understanding the decisions – decisions which are often made in a vacuum by a limited number of stakeholders, and certainly reaction-based (rather than proactively).  I encourage folks to ask questions, seek information, and offer input regarding the strategic development of our district, our student programs, and our decisions supporting these changes.

     Thanks, Mark Potter

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A blog provides me an arena and/or a platform to share my thoughts regarding various subjects . . . As I ponder what are the essential items needing to be discussed - several come to mind.  I will touch on these one-by-one.

Capital Project Update:  Liverpool endeavored into a Facility Upgrade Capital Project a couple years ago; the project was divided into 3 phases (Phase 1A, Phase 1B & Phase 1C).  Some of the work at each site was strategically planned based on the school-year calendar, the availability of contractors, and when work could be completed per the weather conditions.

As of Fall 2013:  the roof replacement for Willowfield Elem. has been completed; the roof replacement at the Soule Road Complex is about 50%; the roof replacement at the Morgan Road Complex is also about 50% complete.  These components are a portion of the Phase 1A project (which began in 2012 and expected to be finished by late 2014).

Summer of 2013 - the New York State Education Department approved the Phase 1B portion of the Capital Project.  This project includes:

MRC:  HVAC Equipment & Controls Upgrades;
            Exterior Window & Door Replacement;
            Security & Telecom Upgrades;
            LHX Toilet Rooms;
            LHX Tech Room Lighting;
            MRE Point of Entrance;
            MRE Ceiling Replacement;
            MRE Toilet Rooms;
            MRE Computer Classroom;

WFE:  New Main Office & Point of Entry;
           HVAC Equipment & Controls Upgrades;
           Security & Telecom Upgrades;
EE:     New Main Office & Point of Entry;
           HVAC Equipment & Controls Upgrades;
           Security & Telecom Upgrades;

SRC:  New Configured Parking Lot;
           Main Office Point of Entry;
           Security & Telecom Upgrades;

LHS:  Security Equipment Upgrades;
           Pool Dehumidification Upgrades;
           Kitchen Air Handler Upgrades;
           Main Electric Switch Gear & Transformer Upgrades;
           Gymnasium Lighting;
           Security and Telecom Upgrades;

CHE:  New Configured Parking Lot;
           Main Office Point of Entry;

CHM:  New Configured Parking Lot;
            New Main Office Point of Entry;
            New Guidance Office;

Phase 1C (which was recently forwarded on to the NYS Education Department for review and approval - expected in January or February 2014) tentatively includes:  Chestnut Hill Elementary School and Chestnut Hill Middle School Mechanical Systems and Building Windows and Doors.  This project is expected to begin during the Summer of 2014.

3 New Committees Formed:  The Liverpool Central School District is kicking off 3 committees designed to guide future planning (but work as an integral structure).  1)  Facility Planning Committee; 2)  Strategic Planning Committee; and 3) Academic Advisory/Community Outreach Committee.  These committees incorporate district personnel, community membership, professional resources, and parent input.  The desire is for each committee to contribute to the direction, efficiency, planning, and student outcome expectations . . . in a consolidated effort with the Liverpool Central School District to ensure College & Career Ready students prepared for the next facet of their life.

New App for your smart phone, iPad, or iPod:  Earlier this summer, we released an app which is designed to connect you with the school district.  If interested - visit the app store and enter Liverpool Central School District.  The app allows you to connect with the school district's web site - for news, calendar, lunch info, sporting events, notifications, directory, driving directions, etc.  We have linked to about 1,500 smart devices to date.

Re-Districting Update:  The Re-Districting Committee continues to discuss the perimeters regarding school building boundary lines;  the committee is expected to provide the Board of Education a recommendation by mid-November.  For more specific information regarding Frequently Asked Questions, general Q & A, or other notes/minutes/details - please visit the district web page.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

       Here it is . . .First day of school . . . September 5th, 2013.  Kids are excited, parents (at least most) are excited, all of the school staff are excited.  There is a familiar buzz throughout the buildings as the social interactions pick up where they left off in June.

       Kicking off a new school year certainly brings out some thoughts . . . often more questions and than answers.  What's new for this year?  What will the school district roll out . . . What will the New York State Education Department ask of our kids, parents, teachers, and perhaps the school buildings, in general?  Will the U.S. Department of Education add anything new to the Elementary and Secondary Act or Race to the Top Mandates which will impact Liverpool locally?

       All good questions - and certainly time will tell.  As for now - our focus is on meeting the needs of our individual kids and identifying their specific growth potential and matching instructional and learning styles.  As we look back on the hot topic of High Stakes Testing (certainly a buzz word across the state), we have an obligation to help our students meet the expectations for "College and/or Career Readiness" by linking our instruction to the Common Core Learning Standards, utilizing the available and appropriate Data to guide and inform decisions (and discussions), and utilize an observation and evaluation plan to assist with guiding our staff in alignment with needed and necessary professional development.

       One of the roll-out ideas we have discussed at the district  level is to focus our data presentations for goal development and assessment on our "appropriate" audience.  We will be presenting the 2012-2013 goals, action plan and outcomes to the parents and community at the building level in late September and October.  In past years, the focused presentations were developed for the Board of Education; this year it is important to inform the stakeholders who are directly impacted by the building plans -- our kids (along with the Board of Education).  So, having said that - please expect to hear soon from the individual building Principals regarding the plan to present your building's data from the 2012-13 school year along with updates and expectations for the 2013-2014 school year to you.

       I rolled out 3 important tenets in a previous blog -- which I don't think can be understated:

     >  Improve the MORALE among all District Staff;

     >  Develop more TRUSTING and COLLABORATIVE Relationships among ALL Stakeholders;

     >  Celebrate SUCCESS across the District;

       Again, I am confident by linking these tenets with the School District / Board of Education Vision, Mission, and Goals . . . we are on a course for a very successful school year.  Thanks and best of luck with a new school year.

Mark F. Potter

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

     A major focus for my first year as Superintendent of Schools is to be able to share information with all stakeholders in a concise and logical format.  In order to provide an understanding of our accomplishments, celebrations, challenges, and shortcomings -- I must be able to speak with credibility, knowledge, and precision.  I hope to involve/indulge myself in all aspects of the district to clearly project transparency and accountability.

     One reality . . . August is here and the summer is moving along rather quickly.  News 9 indicated this morning that the NY State Fair is only 16 days away!  Staff orientation is planned for September 3rd & 4th . . . And, students will return on September 5th.  What's Happening?

     The Soule Road Complex (Middle School & Elementary buildings) is undergoing some major roof replacements; the majority of the stored materials located in the driveway should be removed by the end of next week.  They plan to be moved to the rear of the facility to complete some of the work around the gymnasium.

     The Morgan Road Complex (Elementary School and High School Annex buildings) is also experiencing major roof renovations - as a part of the Phase 1A Building Project.  These buildings are on a similar timeline [as the Soule Road Complex].

     New York State Education Department has recently approved the next phase in the $32 million dollar project, previously approved by the Liverpool residents.  The Phase 1B project will begin with work needed to be completed in many of the building entrances (primarily for safety and security reasons).  The architects are finalizing the drawings and specifications for the Phase 1C portion of the project, and anticipate submitting to SED by Fall 2013.

     All of the district facilities will have inspections completed prior to September 2013; I  will review all buildings for safety and cleanliness.

Important Points Regarding the Common Core / Assessments

  • We know that what the common core is requiring of students is necessary for them to be prepared for the future they will face. We also know that our students' future is entirely different from what we as adults experienced when we graduated high school.
  • The first year of any new standard or assessment is a baseline; this year's assessments were the baseline of this shift in standards for our students and teachers.
  • We have confidence in our teachers and support them as they continue to shift to the new expectations and standards in the common core. We have confidence in our students that, as they continue to experience the core standards, we will see a greater degree of engagement and achievement.
  • We will give our students, teachers and administrators the support they need to succeed.
  • With the support and engagement of parents and community, we will succeed in helping all our students achieve to the maximum of their potential.
  • The new standards are large step forward in expectations. In some cases, students are asked to display mastery of skills and content previously taught two or three grades later in the state curriculum.
  • The new standards were developed in partnership with higher education. These are the standards that two-year, four-year colleges are expecting kids to know and be able to do.
  • The new assessments are assessments against a college- and career-ready standard; that is the result parents and communities expect and we are going to meet them. This is the first step toward new levels of achievement. With greater expectations comes greater achievement for all of our students in all of our schools.
  • The Common Core Learning Standards are now higher, fewer and deeper than the previous standards.
  • Students did not necessarily learn less than they have in the past, and in many cases they have learned more, but this is measuring against a new and higher standard resulting in this new baseline.

Thanks, Mark Potter

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

     "Beginning of a new era" . . . "Dawning of a new day" . . .

     As I take the helm within the Liverpool Central School District, the challenges we all face: including fiscal limitations, mandates passed along by the New York State Education Department and the Department of Education, as well as our own local challenges in meeting the requirements for College and/or Ready youth . . . provide a clear focus for our work.  Work we all have a responsibility for and investment in . . .  as a school staff and community of professionals.

     Often the question is asked, "What do schools do during the summer months?"  Much of our attention is focused around professional development for our staff, as well as the summer programs provided for students (which includes summer school for high school students, extended school year for K-6 students, fine arts camps for all ages, Town of Clay sport and recreational programs, and some selective student offerings at local higher ed. facilities).

     I think a point of importance needs to be stressed . . . of the many things that school districts undertake in a given year, this year is no different (and likely perhaps even more special) . . . three things needed to occur to begin the "healing" process for Liverpool Central School to trek toward greatness and prominence.  These included:

  • Pass a Successful School Budget;
  • Ensure all Collective Bargaining Agreements were achieved;
  • Hire a New Superintendent;
     As we begin an exciting new school year, I believe we are on the right track!  My immediate entry plan includes  3 important facets:  Improve Morale, Build [Trusting] Relationships with All Stakeholders, and Celebrate the Student/District Successes.

Thanks for listening, Mark F. Potter