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Superintendent's Update September 18, 2017


Massena Central School Board of Education Update

September 15, 2017


The Board of Education Meeting scheduled for Thursday, September 21, 2017 will begin at 6:30 pm in Room 314 of Massena High School. It is anticipated that the Board will go into executive session at 6:30 pm to discuss such topics as personnel on the agenda prior to the regular meeting.


New Staff Introductions


This year, we once again had a significant number of new staff given retirements, additional special education teachers, and some leaving for opportunities elsewhere. We also added a Community Schools Site Coordinator using state funding set aside for this purpose. On Opening Day, I introduced 21 new staff and there are a few more non-instructional positions left to fill. As part of our orientation process, I have invited them to the Board meeting for introductions by the building principals. A PowerPoint presentation which includes pictures and information on our new hires is attached to the Board agenda.


Facility and Grade Organization Study Advisory Committee Update


The Facility and Grade Organization Study Advisory Committee will hold its first of seven meetings on 9/20 at 6:30 pm in HS Room 314. I will introduce the consultants Alan Pole and Jessica Cohen who will lead the meetings. Their presentation is attached to the Board agenda. A key piece of this meeting will be a review of enrollment projections. This data is included in the presentation.


As a reminder, the key questions to answer in this study are:


In considering 2-3 prioritized options, is there a better way educationally and fiscally to

reconfigure the grades and facilities to provide a sound instructional program now and in the

future?; and


If so, how should the grades and facilities be arranged?


We appreciate all who have chosen to serve on the Advisory Committee. We look forward to working together on this important project. The meetings are open to the public and all are encouraged to attend.


NYS Grade 3-8 Exam Results -- Stephanie Allen


The NYS Grade 3-8 Exam results for 2016-17 have been released by the State Education Department. According to the SED, for English Language Arts, the percentage of students in grades 3-8 who scored at the proficient level (Levels 3 and 4) increased by 2 percentage points to 40, up from 38 in 2016. In math, the percentage of students who scored at the proficient level increased this year to 40, up one percentage point from 39 in 2016.


% of Students Proficient in Grades 3-8 NYS




Percentage Point Change

Statewide Combined Grades ELA




Statewide Combined Grades Math





For Massena, ELA scores rose from 29% proficiency in 2016 to 33% in 2017 while Math increased from 31% to 33% proficiency. Attached to the BOE agenda will be a grade level comparisons at the state and BOCES levels. Director of Curriculum Stephanie Allen will attend the BOE meeting on Thursday night to discuss the results of the state assessments.


English as Second Language (ESL) Services


This year, we have seen an influx of students at the elementary level whose spoken language at home is not English. Using the services of an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher from Lisbon, the students were administered an exam to assess their English language skills. Three students qualified for services at the kindergarten and first grade levels. These students speak, Hindi, Punjabi, and Chinese.


NYS Commissioner’s Regulations 154.2 requires that ESL services be provided by a certified ESL teacher. Given that Massena does not employ an ESL teacher, we initially considered the option of tuitioning these students to either Potsdam or Lisbon, the only two St. Lawrence County schools with an ESL teacher. When I was superintendent in Potsdam, I accepted many students from surrounding districts for these services. However, Potsdam does not have openings in their program at this time and Lisbon is a lengthy bus ride for these early primary students. Subsequently, Director of Curriculum Stephanie Allen was able to secure the services of a part-time ESL teacher who resides in Canton. The support will involve both in-district and distance learning by this instructor. One of our current foreign language teachers will also provide instruction on days when the ESL teacher cannot be available for services. We will discuss further at the BOE meeting on Thursday.


Donations to the District


We are pleased to announce that the District has received several generous donations over the last month. The list of donations for your review and acceptance are attached to the Board agenda and presented below:


  • JC Penney Donation - 100 Backpacks
  • SeaComm Donation to JW Leary WEB Program - $500
  • Friends of Jefferson Donation  - $807 - Carpets for Classrooms

We appreciate the generosity of our community in presenting these donations. They will be of great use for supporting our students and teachers.



Other News


Albany Update


The following are important developments from the NYSED in regard to key educational issues.


Board of Regents Approves New Learning Standards


On Monday, the New York State Board of Regents approved new learning standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, replacing the controversial “Common Core” standards.  name. The new standards, called the “Next Generation Learning Standards,” dictate what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade, while providing flexibility in terms of measuring students of different abilities and languages. They are the result of a two-year public process which involved consultation with educators, parents and other stakeholders.


Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said:


“The standards we adopted today continue to be rigorous, to challenge New York’s students to do more and to prepare them for life in the 21st century.  Throughout the entire process, we worked collaboratively and transparently, receiving valuable input from educators and parents, as well as experts in teaching English language learners, students with disabilities and our youngest learners.”


Teachers will have three full school years to be trained in the new standards and to develop local curricula before having to use them in the classroom. Teachers will begin teaching the new standards in September 2020; the first state tests based on the standards will be administered in the spring of 2021.


Here is a Courier Observer article with local reactions to the new standards.


Guidance on Protecting Immigrant Students

  • On February 27, 2017, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent a letter to school districts with guidance on how to ensure schools are safe havens where students are free to learn without fear of discrimination, harassment or intimidation directed toward students and employees as a result of their race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis.
  • Undocumented children, like U.S. citizen children, have the right to attend school full time as long as they meet the age and residency requirements established by state law.
  • Guidance is available regarding the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) in light of reports involving incidents of harassment in schools across the country.


Supporting Mental Health Education in Schools Brief Survey

  • New York State Education Department (NYSED), and the Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc. (MHANYS) are seeking input from school personnel across the State for the purpose of providing resources for schools to continue supporting positive mental health education.  
  • Although NYSED Commissioner’s regulation §135.1 for health education currently includes mental health instruction, recent amendments to Education Law require schools by July 1, 2018 to recognize multiple dimensions of health by including mental health, and the relation of physical health and mental health to enhance student understanding, attitudes and behaviors to promote health, well-being and human dignity.
  • Therefore, NYSED and MHANYS are requesting Health Educators and Coordinators, School Social Workers, School Counselors, School Psychologists and School Nurses complete a brief survey by Wednesday, September 20th at this link.
  • The joint memorandum from the Office of Student Support Services (SSS) , and the Office of Curriculum and Instruction (OCI) is available on the SSS website: and the OCI website:

Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs in Schools

  • Opioid and heroin abuse and deaths continue to grow at alarming rates across our State and Nation.
  • A new educational resource for schools will be released this fall, as a joint effort of the NYS Education Department (NYSED), NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH) Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, and the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (NYS OASAS).
  • Resources for schools include:
    • Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit, Training, and Resources at our NYS Center for School Health website.
    • Panel presentation on opioid overdose was provided by experts in the field at the NYSED’s January Board of Regents Meeting.

 Improve Student Attendance and Outcomes by Increasing Awareness of Chronic Absenteeism/September is Attendance Awareness Month!

  • Did you know that chronic absence in 9th grade is a better predictor than 8th grade test scores that a student may drop out of high school, and students who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read proficiently by the time they finish third grade then students who are not chronically absent?
  • As you welcome staff and students back to school this fall, be sure to include dialogue about the importance of good attendance.  
  • There are resources available to help schools raise awareness about the importance of good attendance, and to help address obstacles to good attendance:

Attendance Works (

    • Every Student, Every Day/USDOE Community Toolkit to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism
  • Attendance Works is sponsoring a Superintendents Call to Action during Attendance Awareness Month (September); by participating in this initiative, superintendents are pledging to call attention to the importance of attendance on performance and achievement, and to take steps to reduce chronic absence.  

Academic Intervention Services for the 2017-18 School Year Based on 2016-17 School Year 3-8 English Language Arts and Mathematics Assessment Scores

  • For the 2017-18 school year, districts shall continue to use a two-step process to identify students in grades 3-8 to receive Academic Intervention Services (AIS) in ELA and mathematics.
  • First, all students performing below the median scale score between a level 2/partially proficient and a Level 3/proficient on a grade 3-8 English language arts (ELA) or mathematics state assessment shall be considered for AIS.
  • Upon identification of a student for consideration for AIS, districts shall then use a district-developed procedure, to be applied uniformly at each grade level, for determining which students shall receive AIS. After the district considers a student’s scores on multiple measures of student performance, the district determines whether the student is required to receive AIS.
  • The attached includes the scale score ranges and median scale score between levels 2 and 3 for the 2016-17 ELA in grades 3-8 for use in making AIS determinations.
  • Questions should be directed to the Office of Student Support Services at [email protected] .

JC Penny Donates Backpacks


This week, JC Penny donated 100 backpacks to support our students. The backpacks were distributed among our three elementary schools. Below is Superintendent Patrick Brady accepting the backpacks from Joni Bigness, JC Penney Supervisor. The District appreciates this generous donation.



NYSUT United Article Focuses on Local People Project


In the recent NYSUT United publication, there was an article which highlighted The People Project, a local initiative to revive opportunity in St. Lawrence County. MFT President Erin Covell is featured and there is some interesting information about the challenges facing the region and efforts to reverse the trend.


Here is a link to the article.




The following is information from NYSCOSS Deputy Director Bob Lowry in regard to some important issues impacting public education in NYS.


Rising Concern About Student Mental Health -- Why Now?

The most striking result in the annual school finance survey that we concluded last month is the increasing priority that responding superintendents gave this year to improving mental health, social work, counseling or related services for students.


In an effort to conclude each of our now seven annual finance surveys on a positive note, one of our last questions each year has been, “What would be your top 3 priorities for funding if your district were to receive an increase in revenue beyond what would be needed to comply with mandates and maintain current services, or realize a reduction in costs with similar impact (for example, a reduction in pension costs)?”


In each of the six prior yearly surveys, “Increase extra academic help for struggling students” came out on top. This year, however, improving student mental health-related services led all other options, and the percentage of superintendents selecting it as one of their three top priorities surged from 35 percent to 52 percent over the past year.


Three possible explanations, not mutually exclusive: Are student mental health needs increasing? (If so, that begs asking, why now?). Have available services have been reduced? Or, have some districts made progress in improving other services, allowing other priorities to rise, including mental services?


The rising priority given to mental health services in the survey question is consistent with our anecdotal conversations with superintendents around the state and with other results from the survey:

  • “Capacity to help students with non-academic needs (including health and mental health)” was more widely cited by superintendents as a “significant problem” than any other choice listed.
  • When we asked superintendents to identify their greatest concern in thinking about their districts’ financial prospects, the possibility of inadequate state aid was chosen by more than half of superintendents, but “Increasing needs of students” drew a larger increase over the last year than any other factor in the number of superintendents picking it as the greatest concern for their district (from 10 percent to 15 percent).
  • Finally, mental health-related services has seen a greater increase than any other student service in the percentage of superintendents reporting that their annual district budget would have a positive impact, both over last year and since 2013.


Board of Regents Actions

The Board of Regents met on Monday and Tuesday this week. In the words of one of the District Superintendents present, the Regents “delivered a trifecta,” giving final approval to changes to the Next Generation Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, the state’s proposed plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and changes in middle level requirements. The last item had been approved on an emergency basis in May, requiring the Regents to act a second time, after allowing 45 days for public comment.


Thank you to everyone who contacted Regents in support of the middle level changes. Here is the letter the Council sent to Regents supporting approval. I wish the new policy had been in place when my children passed through middle school.


As part of the ESSA plan, the state is seeking three waivers relating to testing requirements. Here is our letter in support of the waiver requests.


Here is the State Education Department’s news release on the ESSA plan. It includes links to the plan itself and the assessment waiver requests.


The ESSA plan is unchanged from the draft the Regents approved in July. Under the federal statute, state education agencies are required to give their governors at least 30 days to comment on the plan. Governor Andrew Cuomo did not seek any changes from the July draft. SED expects to receive reactions to the proposal from U.S. Education Department counterparts by December.


Here is the Department’s news release on approval of the ELA and math standards. The release summarizes plans for implementation. Full implementation would come with the 2020-21 school year, with the first state assessments based on the news standards to be conducted that spring.


The Regents also approved new standards for the arts.


Development of the ESSA plan and new ELA and math standards have been huge demands on SED’s capacity. With those now mostly finished, the Department should be better able to address other issues, such as what is to become of Annual Professional Performance Reviews with the planned expiration of the growth score moratorium before the 2019-20 school year or how would the state construct an application to become one of seven states chosen to participate in ESSA’s Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority.


Column: “New York’s public schools excel in many different ways”

Finally, retired Western New York superintendent Jeffrey Bowen had a column in the Buffalo news to start the school year on a positive note, explaining the many ways New York’s public schools surpass counterparts in other states.

You can read Jeff’s column here.


Rural Schools Association Newsletter


Here is the Rural Schools Association newsletter for September, 2017. It contains information about the Community Schools model which our district is currently beginning implementation.


JW Leary Junior High School

News & Notes



JW Leary is Back in Session!!!


Our staff and students have been back in session for 2 weeks now and it has been an incredible opening of school.  The groups of students here this year have been awesome and have done a wonderful job transitioning into this new school year.  Our WEB Leaders worked hard to make connections with our new 7th graders and our staff.  Overall, these are some of the nicest and most respectful students we’ve had.  We are looking forward to a great year


Attendance will be a focus this year


There are few factors that impact a student's success in school as much as attendance does.  Students who miss 10% of school days in a year, for any reason, are more prone to academic difficulty and at higher risk for dropping out.  We will be focusing on attendance this year and you can expect to be contacted by us once your child misses 3 days of school in any quarter of the year.  Missing 5 days in a quarter means a student misses 20 days (an entire month of school!!!!!) in a year.  Please make sure if your student is not sick, they are in school.


New Student Supports at JW Leary


With the support of our Board of Education we have been able to add two new teaching assistants to our intervention  staff at JW Leary.  With the addition of Amy Perry (Math TA) and Karen LeCuyer (Reading) we will now be able to offer more assistance to our students who are struggling meeting the rigorous standards that students at the Junior High face.  We will now be able to offer Tier I Monitoring services through reading and math labs, Tier II services with our assistants and Tier III services (a period of intervention daily) with our reading and math specialists.  These services will be fluid and will change with needs of our student population.  Be on the lookout for a mailing next week which will more fully explain these services.




To support our new intervention system we will be administering a new assessment starting next week.  The iReady assessment will be given in both ELA and Math and will provide us with a baseline for student performance in each area.  Using this information we will be able to diagnose areas of strength for each student as well as areas that require more support.  Along with the assessment iReady provides online curriculum for each student that is tailored to their unique needs.  Both classroom teachers and interventionists will be able to use this program as a means to provide individual support and remediation to our students.  Since iReady is a web-based program it means that our students will be able to use this program at home to support their learning in Math and ELA as well.  We will be administering the Math assessment on Monday and Tuesday next week and the ELA on Wednesday and Thursday.

Math on the Move


7th Grade Math Students in both Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. Witkop’s classes participated in a scavenger hunt around the school last week as a means to practice.  Rather than sitting in class, this activity was designed to get students up and moving while learning.  The students loved the activity and it was awesome to see them up and moving around, smiling and having fun while doing challenging work.  


Important Upcoming Dates


Yankee Candle Fundraiser


iReady Testing


Primary Election for Student Council


5-week marking period closes


Boston Trip Parent Meeting (Time TBD)


Indian River Fruit Fundraiser Begins


Early Dismissal (Staff Development)


Jefferson Elementary School

News & Notes


Welcome New Jefferson Teachers


Ester Tupper             Katherine                  Rachael Mott    Christine Millhausen

Music                         Lomanto Gr. 2           Teacher Aide    Special Education


Anthony                     Meghan Brennan     Kristin Kellogg         Siera Thomas

Diagostino P.E.         Literacy Intern          Grade 4                      Title VI Reading


Dental Sealant Program

The Dental Sealant Program is ready to begin in the school district. This is a school-based dental sealant program that provides an educational presentation, screenings, sealant placements and follow-ups for 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders who have received permission from a parent or guardian. The program will travel to 21 schools in 17 districts, including 3 parochial schools.


The Community Health Center of the North Country staff, Dani Poste a Registered Dental Hygienist, will be using mobile dental equipment to provide onsite services. A parental consent form providing information about the program and date is sent home with students at each school before the program's scheduled arrival.

Dental sealants provide many oral health benefits in young children, including the prevention of tooth decay and preservation of the molars. If you would like more information about the program, contact Dani at (315) 386-8191 or e-mail her at [email protected].


The tentative schedule for the Massena Schools: Madison 9/12/17-9/21/17, Nightengale 9/22/17-10/2/17, Jefferson 10/3/17-10/12/17.   These dates may vary by a day or so depending on how many students are seen at each school.


Grade 6 Writer’s Workshop

Jefferson sixth grade students have begun their daily writer’s workshop. This past week the students explored strategies to generate writing ideas as well as determining the difference between summarizing and storytelling. This coming week students will be revising their stories by including descriptive details. This is the first year the sixth grade is using the new writing series which will include writing activities in Narrative, Informational, and opinion. They are currently working on narrative pieces.


Mr. Hayes’ Fifth Grade Team Building

Solo Cup Challenge


     This STEM challenge is an excellent team building exercise and promotes students to work together to be successful. Students needed to work together using a rubber band and string to lift cups and put them into formations. The formations became increasingly more difficult.  It seemed impossible at first, but soon students mastered it. To begin, each group (I had five groups of four) tie four strings to a rubber band. Then, students had to practice lifting and changing the direction of a cup to complete the challenge, such as building a pyramid.  It was so rewarding to hear the kids talking to each other and forming a plan on how to accomplish the challenges. The debrief of the lesson was equally important. Students were asked the following questions: What happened during the game? What was easy or hard? How did your group work together? Were there conflicts? How did conflicts impact your success? How did you resolve the conflicts that came up?


From The Music Room: Mrs. Tupper

Mrs. Barney's 4th grade class learned choreography to a new song they have learned; "A Pirate Adventure" by Mark Burrows. Today was only their second class learning the song, and they were able to sing without looking at the music and follow along with the movements. I am very excited for them!


Also, all of the Kindergarten and JK classes are doing really great in music! We are having a lot of fun singing, moving, and playing musical games together!


Madison Elementary School

News & Notes


First Day of the 2017-2018 School Year

Students at Madison were greeted with loud, fun music brought to them by their friendly school counselor Mrs. Burke. The music brought smiles to the student’s faces and many showed us great dance moves as they entered the building for the first time this school year! Mrs. Burke has met with each grade level during lunch to review cafeteria behavior and she has also visited each class to discuss DASA and how to be a “bucket filler”.

Madison Curriculum Night/Ice Cream Social- September 20th

This year at Madison we would like to invite all of the students and their parents/guardians to join us for curriculum night on September 20th. The parents and students are invited to visit their classrooms at the times provided below to participate in an activity and to learn about the curriculum that will be taught to their child this year. When the activity is completed the student will receive a ticket to the ice cream social with their family members. The Madison gym will have many booths for students and parents to visit, too! Each student will also be entered into a drawing for various gift certificates and a mini iPad. We are looking forward to meeting everyone on Wednesday, September 20th.

PreK- Grade 3: 5:00pm-5:45pm

Grades 4-6: 6:00pm-6:45pm

Only One You

Madison Elementary combined creativity and literature to create a beautiful piece of art that will encourage students for years to come to be true to themselves. Every student at Madison painted a rock inspired by the book Only One You, by Linda Kranz to create a colorful rock garden in the courtyard. Darcie Fregoe, a sixth grade science and social studies teacher at Madison used funding from the National Wildlife Federation to purchase the supplies needed for the rock garden. Each classroom received the book to share with their class. Only One You is an inspirational children’s book about Adri, a little fish who is about to go explore the ocean on his own. His mother and father tell him some of the important lessons they’ve learned throughout their lives in hopes that it will help him on his journey. They remind him, “Always be on the lookout for a new friend,” and “Find your own way. You don’t have to follow the crowd.” The book stresses how everyone is unique, and that each of us has something to contribute to the world. “There’s only one you in this great big world. Make it a better place.”


Attendance at Madison

At all Massena Elementary Schools this year we are making a special effort to ensure that all students fully benefit from their education by attending school regularly.  Attending school regularly helps children feel better about school—and themselves. Your student can start building this habit on the very first day so they learn right away that going to school on time, every day is important. Consistent attendance will help children do well in school.


We know that there are a wide variety of reasons that students are absent from school, from health concerns to transportation challenges. There are many people in our building prepared to help you if you or your student face challenges in getting to school regularly or on time. We promise to:

  1. Celebrate good student attendance with a variety of incentives.
  2. Track attendance daily to notice when your student is missing from school.
  3. Communicate with you through:
  • a phone call and letter when a child is absent 3 times in a trimester (approx. 13 weeks).
  • a letter and/or parent conference to discuss attendance strategies when a child is absent 5 times in a trimester.
  • a letter, conference, and intensive intervention plan when a child is absent 7 times in a trimester.


Upcoming Events

  1. 9/25- Arts in Education Performance @ Madison- Bubble Trouble: Grades K-4
  2. 9/27- Hovercraft Project @ Madison- Grades 5 & 6
  3. 10/5- Performance @ Massena HS- From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler- Grades 3-6
  4. 10/5- Early Dismissal: Professional Development
  5. 10/6- Owl-standing Character Recognition Assembly: in the Cafeteria during lunch periods
  6. 10/10- Massena Fire Department Presentations@ 1:15pm
  7. 10/12- Pre-K Massena Fire Department Presentation @ 9:30am


Nightengale Elementary School

News & Notes


Opening Day

Our opening week went well. I was so excited to see our students and to hear all the stories from their vacations. Nightengale opened with approximately 430 students from PK-grade 6. Thank you for all your support as we enter the 2017-2018 school year.

Research shows that family involvement promotes student success. When families, schools, and communities work together, student achievement improves, communication increases, and community connections multiply.


Nightengale Neighbors

Come check out our bulletin board! If you are at school and need to know when our next meeting is or for any upcoming events, check the board! It will be updated monthly!

Nightengale Neighbors helped to welcome PK, JK and Kindergarten students to our school for orientation.

Price Chopper

If you get a chance, please sign up with Price Chopper Tools for Schools program. We can earn points on your purchases for equipment/supplies for Nightengale. NIGHTENGALE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Code: 49803


This year Nightengale is focusing much of our attention on student attendance. Many of our youngest students miss 10 percent of the school year—about 18 days a year or just two days every month. Chronic absenteeism in kindergarten, and even preK, can predict lower test scores, poor attendance and retention in later grades, especially if the problem persists for more than a year.



We are very excited to share that our schools will begin implementing a program called i-Ready® Diagnostic & Instruction, an innovative adaptive assessment and engaging personalized instruction program for reading and math.  i-Ready will help teachers assess the needs of each and every student in their class while monitoring progress throughout the school year. It will also provide differentiated, individualized online and classroom instruction based on the skills that each student needs. More information will be sent home shortly about how i-Ready can be used at home with your children.


Mr. Downs, Grade 1

Enjoying the beautiful fall weather with his class.

Next Week

Curriculum Night

  • 5-5:45 PreK-Grade 3
  • 6:15-7:00 Grades 4-6



District Upcoming Events


9/20—Consolidation Study Advisory Committee Meeting—6:30 pm—HS Room 314

9/21—BOE Meeting—6:30—HS Room 314

9/27—Policy Committee Meeting—6:30 pm—CAB