Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NOVEMBER Blog:  Today’s date [November 11th] provides a significant mark on the calendar for a number reasons . . .1)  it’s the beginning of the second (2nd) marking period . . . yup – 10 weeks of school already under our belt;  2) we focus on Veteran’s Day celebrating the commitment and heroic sacrifices made by may Americans; and, 3)  this week is also the beginning (try-out period) for Varsity and Junior Varsity Winter Sports.  For my November Blog, I want to touch on a short list of specific topics:

Re-Districting Implementation:  There has been an abundant amount of time spent on planning, organizing, and structuring the district in anticipation of the ‘new’ Liverpool Central School District Redistrict Implementation Plan.  I expect the verification process for names and addresses of all resident students will be complete by early December.  Following that task (January), all families will be notified of the school alignment, with specific street addresses (also know as the Street Code Book).  Shortly thereafter, all families will receive a letter indicating their neighborhood school - aligned with their home address.  In some specific cases, families will also be notified if one (or more) of the siblings is assigned to an alternate location due to ‘other’ circumstances.  The Board of Education has approved this realignment/restructuring plan . . . all designed to place students at the elementary and middle school building that is located nearest their home.  Obviously, this is not always possible . . . further, as decisions are made – the desire is to impact the fewest families as possible.  Often the disruption affects adults much more than the children will experience.  We appreciate your cooperation and understanding as we strive to meet the redistricting goals.

Holiday “Season”:  Yup . . . it’s November and the ‘Holiday Season” creeps ever so closer.  Every month should be an opportunity to think about less fortunate families and the liberties we all experience in the United States.  There are an abundant number of ways to give back.  Volunteering at various events, donating to great causes and functions, and simply reflecting back on one’s life and identifying the gifts that we have acquired . . . knowledge, possessions, relationships, or other good fortune.

Budget Planning:  The budgeting process used by most school districts and municipalities incorporates a multi-year vision.  This helps us keep one eye on a current year perspective of collaboration, planning, and adjusting with another eye on the future year(s).  We typically conduct 5-year forecasting that continually provides data and also assists with planning for negotiations, debt service, construction and capital improvements, as well as program changes.  At the November 3rd Board of Education meeting, the 2015-2016 Budget Calendar was discussed.  We also identified the various significant milestones and date deadlines, culminating on May 19th with the statewide budget vote.  As we begin the upcoming budget conversations, I have impressed upon and challenged all of the administrative team to consider our current programming and the effectiveness of various initiatives.  Also, I have asked them to think about each individual budget request and how it may (or may not) impact students and the potential for achievement.  I have asked folks to consider whether the request meets the expectation -- specifically does the request align with the district vision, mission, and goals.  I anticipate the budget will be complete around early April.  Several Board meetings will be dedicated to budget input.

Smart Schools Bond:  On Tuesday, November 4th, a ballot proposition was included with the State Elections.  The Smart Schools Bond provided the Governor approval to bond $2 billion dollars . . . in exchange for dedicating funds to school districts specifically for technology connectivity and equipment.  The Liverpool School District was provided an estimate of $5.2 million dollars.  In order to utilize the Smart Schools grant we are required to submit an implementation plan that specifically identifies how (and when) Liverpool would disperse the funds.  The plan will be submitted to the New York State Education Department – followed by our own local technology implementation plan.  More information will follow once the plan is submitted and approved.

Strategic Planning:  During the 2013-2014 school year, we rolled out the early stages of developing a district-wide strategic plan.  A few weeks ago, a survey was posted on the district web site asking the community to consider some general questions.

Questions for a parent/community survey:
1.     What are the greatest challenges or issues this district needs to address over the next 5 years in order to provide a quality education for all students? 
2.     What are the most important skills and abilities students need to know or be able to do to be prepared for a successful future? 
3.     What evidence do you use to evaluate the quality of education in our school district? 
4.     What information or advice would you give the strategic planning team as they make decisions about long-term priorities and goals?
 Shortly, we will be reconvening the Strategic Planning Committee.  If anyone is interested in joining the committee - please contact the Superintendent's Office @ 622-7125 or email: mpotter@liverpool.k12.ny.us.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge and congratulate all of the students, coaches, advisors, and parents that have made the fall season a very successful experience for everyone!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October 2014 Blog:

The school year is off and running.  Doesn’t seem possible but we have reached the 5-week point of the 2014-2015 school year . . . time flies when you’re having fun!  At this time, parents and teachers have began talking about the interactive conferences where discussions should focus on students and their respective needs, expectations, and support necessary for reaching the academic, emotional, behavioral, and social goals.  As I get around to each of the school buildings, it is exciting to see the interactions between students and staff.  I am also very encouraged to see the implementation of many aspects of a “problem (or project)- based learning” environment.

Since August, the Athletic Department and all of the fall athletes have been working hard as student-athletes; each team practicing, competing, and sharpening and honing their skills.  Last week was especially exciting as we celebrated our Homecoming festivities.  Many Liverpool alumni returned back to see the various attractions and events scheduled throughout the week including the tailgate party, powder puff football game, pep rally, bone fire, school dance, and especially the rivalry game versus Cicero-North Syracuse.  Certainly, a learning opportunity came about as a result of the excitement and high-spirited rallying . . . following the game; a couple photos of the student attire and face paintings were shared via Syracuse.com.  At the time, the photos were presented by the media as an indication and identification of Liverpool’s school spirit and support for one another.  Since that time, many folks have weighed in regarding the issues surrounding photos and how the students and district should respond.  The Liverpool students, staff, and administration have had several conversations regarding the incident.  We fully understand the sensitivity surrounding the photos and what could be depicted from them.  We also feel that this situation presents itself as a prime learning experience and this should be utilized as an optimal opportunity to discuss cultural and ancestry respect.

When we created the school calendar for the 2014-2015 school year – an important goal for meeting the college and career readiness expectations was incorporated into the design.  Previous school calendars utilized 4 professional learning or Superintendent Conference days over the course of the school year.  With this year’s calendar – we have reduced the professional learning initiatives from 4 full days to 2 full days and 4 half days, essentially equaling the same time commitment.  But, by making better use of time and keeping the students the essential focus for our instructional and academic expectations, I believe we are better equipped to support and guide all students.  The various building-level and district-level professional development initiatives are designed to assist in delivering instruction that is aligned with the Common Core.

Speaking of the school calendar, last school year . . . we used an abundant number of emergency days unexpectedly.  Given the fact that weather conditions in Onondaga County are fairly unpredictable and the upmost concern for the safety and security of our students and staff guides our logical and common sense thinking for decisions regarding school delays and closure, the following information identifies our intent for emergency/snow closing scheduled use.  Hopefully this is an opportunity to fully communicate the plan for meeting the 180 days of school (SED) requirement.  The Commissioner’s Regulations allow public school districts to convert “up to” four (4) professional development days into days of instruction for the purposes of meeting the 180-day obligation.  If we close, each of the first five (5) can be converted as follows:

EMERGENCY DAY #1: Utilizes the first Sup’t Conference Day (September 2nd)

EMERGENCY DAY #2: Utilizes the first Sup’t Conference Day (September 3rd)

EMERGENCY DAY #3: Utilizes the first Sup’t Conference Day (October 24th)

EMERGENCY DAY #4: Utilizes the first Sup’t Conference Day (March 20th)

EMERGENCY DAY #5: June 25th (Rating Day) provides for the 181 student days; this day makes up the 5th and final day with no giveback requirement.

Any further emergency days will require the following:

EMERGENCY DAY #6: Thursday, June 25th (Rating Day):  Student and Staff will be required to attend school;

Thanks, Mark F. Potter

Superintendent of Schools

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

     Another summer seems to have slipped away and before we know it, the Great New York State Fair is upon us.  For many, this marks the beginning of the end of summer . . . for others, this identifies the opening of school following the Labor Day weekend.  In 2 short weeks, our staff will attend their various training and orientation sessions - followed a couple days later with the return of our students and back into the routine and regiment of "school."

     This summer has been a very busy one - signified by the ambitious schedule of capital improvements throughout the school district.  We are currently finishing up the paving and parking lot improvements at the Chestnut Hill Campus, as well as the Soule Road Campus.  Both locations have had significant modifications to the traffic flow for bus alignment, staff parking, and parent drop off.  Chestnut Hill Elementary and Middle School will continue capital work with building envelope improvements throughout the fall and spring.  Already this summer, the main entrances for both sites have been upgraded with security and safety changes.  We anticipate the window replacement project will get underway in October and likely be finished by late spring.  Other work around the district has included the new main office/entrance renovations for Elmcrest Elementary School; Willowfield Elementary has also undergone a "face-lift" as their main office has been relocated to the front of the building; and the Morgan Road Campus (Elementary and Annex) have recently experienced several major renovations both inside and outside of the building (including window and door replacement, roof replacement, and other minor interior upgrades).

     A major undertaking this summer has been the Liverpool High School Roof Replacement Project (Part 1).  Titan Roofing has focused on the sections of the building deemed to be in worst condition based on actual water leaks.  These areas include: pool, gymnasium, auditorium, and science wing.  As summer ends and fall approaches - the contractors will be finishing up the metal work around the perimeter of the building roof, but all areas of the building will be occupied by the time fall sports kicks off.  As we finish up part 1 of the roof replacement project this summer . . . next summer will be equally challenging considering the steel work and remainder of the roof tear-off still needing to be addressed.  It is anticipated that we are on schedule with all of the projects and expected to be finished on-time and within the budget perimeters.

     Aside from the facility upgrades occurring throughout the district, we have also focused on the replacement of many staff members.  Specifically at the Liverpool High School - you will see three new faces in the main LHS building . . . Doug Lawrence has replaced Anthony Davis as the Executive Principal (Tony has moved into a district-level director position). Additionally, David Hunter (previous health teacher at LHS), and Kasey Dolson (acquired from Mexico CSD) all join the high school administrative team.  We have also added a new elementary principal replacing Amanda Viel (who took a position at BOCES).  Heather Silvia will be the Donlin Drive Elementary School Principal (Heather was previously at West Genesee CSD).  We have also retired a long standing face in Liverpool within the Athletic Department . . . George Mangicaro has hung up his cleats and whistle as the Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics after 50 years of service to the students and programs in Central New York.  Replacing George is Ari Liberman (leaving Henninger and Nottingham as their Athletic Director).  Ari began the transition to Liverpool in late June and is now fully on-board at the helm of our athletic programs.  We are very excited with the entire slate of new staff members . . . all focusing on the improvement and achievement of our students and the educational programs.

     Another change new for the district is the roll-out of a new web page.  The web page will offer many new and exciting features.  We have grappled with the "appropriate and least disruptive" time for the cut-over from our current web presence to the new site . . . I'm not sure there is a really good time - but we are anticipating the shift from the 'old to the new' will begin on Friday, August 22nd and be completed by Sunday evening, August 24th.  Please visit the new site; what you will notice (hopefully) is a dedication to finding resources and navigating the site in a more logical manner.  There is an on-line request for your input based on the experience you have when visiting our new web page . . .

     Thank You and I look forward to an exiting and successful new school year!

     Mark F. Potter, Superintendent of Schools

Monday, February 24, 2014

Budget Season is upon us . . . 

       As we sit and listen to the Governor and our political spokespeople who represents us in Albany, it amazes me how the lack of communication and collaboration actually leads to real decisions.  Anyways, considering the Governor has produced an on-time April 1st budget over the past several years, it is my expectation that trend will continue.

     Our timeline and practical layout for producing our Liverpool Central School budget began back in November when the Board of Education approved the budget calendar.   Since that time, we have established a Budget Advisory Team (BAT) that has spent many hours together developing and designing a multi-year plan for aligning and supporting both the needs and the resources necessary for meeting the prioritized components.  The budget presentation will be delivered to the Board of Education tonight (Monday, February 24th @ 7:00pm).  The intent of this presentation is to simply inform the Board of our (BAT) progress towards meeting the expectations of providing a balanced budget that is fiscally responsible and meets the programming needs of our students. Next steps include working with our fiscal advisors in awaiting further information from Albany (Assemblymen Stirpe, Assemblymen Roberts, Senator Valesky, and Senator DeFrancisco) assuming the Legislature will be modifying the Governor's original proposed budget; we will also be working with the Board to shore our multi-year development process.  The final steps in building our 2014-2015 operating budget include Board approval on April 7th, presenting the budget components to the community at the Public Hearing held on Thursday, May 8th . . . followed by the budget vote on Tuesday, May 20th.

     Here's to hoping our 'polar vortex' has seen the last of central New York! yup, like many others, I too am tired of the snow, wind, cold, and just plain winter weather.  Spring sports are shortly upon us.  Varsity and junior varsity practices will begin on Monday, March 10th . . . followed up by the Modified or Junior High team try-outs and practices.  Speaking of winter (and the winter sports seasons - Good Luck to the remaining athletes representing Liverpool -- these include several indoor boys and girls track athletes and the several boys swimmers.  Congratulations to the teams/athletes that have concluded their 2013-2014 sports seasons).

     Lastly, Just a reminder of the upcoming Capital Project Referendum Vote scheduled for Thursday, March 20th from 6am - 9pm at the Liverpool High School Gymnasium.  We will be conducting many presentations at several locations/functions.  Our web page lists the various dates, times, and locations.  The public is certainly invited to attend any of the scheduled informational sessions.  Also, if your group would like to have the presentation provided - please contact our Office for Administrative Services at 622-7147.

Thank You and "Think Spring"

Mark F. Potter

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Happy New Year . . .

       As we begin the rollout of a new and exciting 2014, I think we all find it appropriate to think about and adopt our own resolution(s) for planned personal or professional changes.  Much of the same mindset is considered for our school community.  The first part of the 2013-2014 school year brought some initial changes - generally in the form of consolidating efforts to meet reform mandates as well as solidify of mission, vision, beliefs, and goals to meet the needs of our students and their respective challenges preparing them for college and/or career.  I anticipated 2014 to be even more exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling for us all . . .

       One of the real challenges I have faced during the first few days of the New Year is the foresight and responsive decision-making for anticipated winter weather conditions.  One of the unique questions that a Superintendent of Schools gets asked (both during the interview process and as families face the reality of upstate New York winter conditions) is, "How many snow days are we going to get?" or, as several media/news folks have inquired, "Under what conditions will Liverpool CSD need to delay school or close for the day?"  As we all know and are aware, winter weather in Onondaga County CAN be tough at times, and occasionally even dangerous.  Deciding on when to close school based on temperature (and wind chill) is never easy.  At Liverpool, we use the availability of resources from the National Weather Service, local news outlets, NYS Health Department, and our own logic and common sense - based on the safety and security of our students and staff.

       The question of "how cold does it need to be for Liverpool to close" is not an easy answer based on a singular number or condition.  The New York State Education Department does not issue any such guidance, so communities are on their own to make this important decision.  Temperatures in Onondaga County can vary and therefore fluctuate in various school districts, as well.  We do know that frostbite can occur on exposed skin in about 30 minutes at wind chills of -25 degrees F.  At wind chills of -40 F, frostbite can affect exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.    Wind chills this low can be dangerous depending on how children are dressed, whether students have to walk long distances to school, if children have long waits for the bus, etc.  Taking everything into consideration, to lessen the risk of cold injury to students, we use a wind chill of about -25 degrees F to consider closing school.

       Building Support Meetings:  During the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, building leaders were asked to share their respective data analyses with students, staff, parents, and community members.  The intent is to explain the goals established during the previous school year (2012-2013), identify the assessment results based on student performance, and describe the action steps/plan anticipated for meeting the strategic focus - and ultimately determine the success for meeting the goals.  School Excellence Teams (at each building) have established their updated goals and action plans for this [2013-2014] school year; at the mid-year point, Principals have already meet with their staff to share and plan out professional development, curricular initiatives, instructional strategies, and other building activities focused on student improvement.  I anticipate another round of community forums held at each building/community site prior to the assessment dates in April/May/June 2014.

       As I have described in earlier blogs, it is important to keep the Common Core Learning Standards and the associated assessment program in its appropriate perspective.  The Common Core Assessments (especially for ELA & Mathematics) are program evaluations, student performance summative assessments, and staff composite score calculations.  Each plays a significant role in the overall performance of the Liverpool School District, but the "moment in time" tests measure only what a child can display or describe at the time, on that day!  We have 180 days of instruction - and these assessments are only a fraction of that total.

     Enjoy each day to it's fullest!  Thanks for listening.

Mark F. Potter