I hope that you’ve had a wonderful summer vacation with your children. We have certainly had many beautiful days to enjoy. On behalf of our Board of Education and staff, I am pleased to welcome you back to the beginning of a new and exciting school year!
The quotation “Working collaboratively with an involved and caring parent community, we
strive to develop children who are respectful of others and themselves,” is included in the district’s Instructional Program media presentation, delivered at one of our budget meetings last March. This statement embodies the essence of our commitment to the children of North Merrick and speaks to our philosophy. None of this would be possible without a strong faculty, staff, administration, a committed Board of Education and you. Your active partnership has been critical to our ongoing success!
We are very appreciative of the support that the district has received from our parents and community as a whole. A passed budget will enable us to maintain all of our exceptional programs. As the adopted tax levy is within the “cap,” our residents will continue to be eligible for the New York State Tax rebate program. In addition, the approved $14,650,000 bond referendum will mean that the district will be able to address important infrastructure needs and facilities improvements which will benefit our children for generations to come.
The district’s architect is now in the final phase of developing the necessary plans that will be submitted to the State Education Department for approval. Once we obtain the necessary approval, we can conduct bids for all projects. It is anticipated that some of the work will begin by next summer, in 2016. We will certainly keep you posted as we move forward.
We are also excited about having two new and experienced administrators join our North Merrick family. We welcome Mrs. Kim Christ as our Director of Special Education/Pupil Personnel Services. Kim began her role on August 3 and is already getting acquainted with our programs, personnel, parents, and children. We also welcome Thomas McDaid, Esq., who will become our new Assistant Superintendent for Business on September 1.
As we look forward to a new school year, I would like to take a moment to reflect on some of our achievements during the 2014/2015 School Year. A few examples are noted below:
● Based upon outstanding student achievement data over a two-year period, as well as our exceptional programs that foster character and social development, each of our schools were designated as Reward Schools by the NY State Education Department. This brought in more than $150,000 to the district. We were proud of the fact that only 28 school districts throughout New York had schools that received this Reward Schools status, and North Merrick was the only district in which all of its schools attained this milestone!
● As a direct outgrowth of Reward School funding, the district was able to establish a Parent University program. The Parent University was offered three times during the school year and afforded the district with the opportunity to directly engage parents with new curriculum initiatives in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Parents were able to take classes taught by North Merrick’s outstanding faculty as they gained a deeper appreciation for the academic challenges that confront their children. As such, parents reported that they walked away with a deeper understanding of the curriculum and felt empowered to support their children as they worked in partnership with their teachers. Congratulations to Deputy Superintendent Beth Friedman and our Parent University co-coordinators, Maria Castle and Kimberly Goltermann for a highly successful and thoughtful initiation to our Parent University.
● In the area of school safety, under the leadership of James Saitta, Director of School Facilities we installed all of the exterior lighting around the buildings. Also added were parking lot pole lights at H. D. Fayette and Old Mill Road Schools as we removed old inefficient lighting and evenly spaced wall mounted LED lighting surrounding the buildings to emit energy efficient and uniform white light. These new lights illuminate areas of the property that were previously dark and a potential hazard for staff who worked into the night.
● Phase II of the district’s security upgrades were substantially completed and will become operational shortly after the start of the new school year. Components include enhanced lockdown and access control systems and installation of security cameras and panic alarm systems throughout the district. We have also enhanced our front door intercom systems. It should also be noted that the district’s school safety practices, especially in the area of staff training, has been cited as a model for other schools to follow during an important county-wide conference. On a county basis, Superintendent Feller continued to chair a monthly Superintendents’ School Safety Committee which includes the Nassau County Police Chief and other experts in the field – the purpose being to develop enhanced school safety and communication protocols with our important first responders.
● We are especially mindful that staff training is of utmost importance when it comes to school safety. This was certainly evident when the Camp Avenue school nurses, administration, teachers and staff took quick and decisive action to revive an employee with the school’s Automated External Defibrillator AED.
● In English Language Arts and mathematics, our work has been to continue our thoughtful and child-focused approach as we align with the Common Core Learning Standards.
● The Fundations Program was successfully integrated with our Guided Reading program in our primary grades. Also, to support good literacy habits, Superintendent Feller distributed Certificates of Recognition to all children who completed the North Merrick Library Summer Reading Program.
● To provide our students with enhanced skills in writing and reading, the district successfully implemented a K-6 strategy known as “TDEC” – Topic, Detail, Evidence and Conclusion. The use of a common language in all grades should enable our students to build upon newly acquired skills as they progress from one grade to the next. This approach will also provide our students with the requisite tools to enhance textual understanding of complex reading material as they also become more proficient writers.
● Beyond the academics, we continue to be very proud of our All County and NYSSMA participants, our Art Portfolio students, our sixth grade Theatre Arts production, and our Kiwanis Scrabble champions. To extend their independent learning, the Superintendent’s Challenge offered children the opportunity to think critically about the assigned topic. All children who participated were provided with written feedback from Mr. Feller, and a special certificate.
● The district’s music program continues to take a leadership role in the acclaimed Long Island Practice-A-Thon, with proceeds going to the Harry Chapin Food Bank.
● In recognition of the district’s commitment to its exceptional Theatre Arts Program, an educational foundation has been established to ensure a steady stream of funding into the future. Congratulations to co-founders Joyce Kelley and Gail Appel who were honored at last year’s Theatre Arts Foundation Dinner. Many thanks to the Theatre Arts Foundation for its $15,000 donation in support of the district’s program. Parents are invited to participate in the Golf Outing/Fundraiser on October 5 at the Huntington Country Club. Details can be found on our website at: http://www.nmerrickschools.org/files/news/final%20b.pdf
● The district successfully implemented new special education classes for students with intensive needs. By accepting qualified students from other districts into these programs, the district also was able to add a new source of revenue, especially meaningful given the new realities of the tax-levy cap.
● Student Council and programs such as Character Awards, the Holiday Drive for Baby Clothes, Food Drives, Toys-for-Tots, and senior citizen outreach continued to offers opportunities for students to learn about, discuss and enact positive social behaviors. Students often state that time spent with the seniors was one of the most memorable events of their elementary experience.
● In the area of technology, the district’s wireless infrastructure allowed for the purchase of additional class sets of laptops on carts, as we now have two fully functioning units per school. Funds have been included in this year’s budget to pilot a 1:1 computing initiative at a designated grade. More information will be shared as we move forward.
Our ongoing achievements give all of us reason to feel North Merrick Pride! Please regularly check the News section of our website to read about past, present and future events and accomplishments.
As we begin a new school year, priorities will include:
● Instruction – To continue to review programs, curriculum/instructional strategies and assessment tools, to be aligned with the New York State Common Core Standards, in order to evaluate and improve student achievement.
● Parent Education – To continue the successful Parent University Program, enabling parents to take classes taught by our teachers. Parental feedback through surveys and other outreach methods will be utilized to solicit special areas of interest.
● Wellness – To continue to review and implement research-based programs that foster and enhance character development, citizenship and healthy living.
● Technology – To pilot a 1:1 computer initiative in a selective grade to ensure for greater integration of technology and instruction as we foster 21st century learning skills. In addition, the district will develop an updated Technology Plan to determine how best to utilize the $660,0000, which represents North Merrick’s technology allocation from the New York State Technology Bond referendum approved by statewide voters last November.
● Special Education – To provide the necessary support to ensure the successful implementation of new programs.
● Facilities – To submit requisite plans to the State Education Department as we move forward with Capital Projects which were approved as part of the Facilities Bond. The district will develop a timetable and share with the community.
● Security – To successfully complete all security/facility related enhancements and upgrades as well as to provide ongoing training to staff and timely information to parents.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our entire summer staff (clerical, custodial, maintenance, and administration) for all their work to ensure that our schools are ready to go for your children on September 1.
On behalf of our Board of Education and staff, I extend my best wishes to all of our children for a successful and exciting school year.
Superintendent of Schools