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