Excitement filled the Columbia High School auditorium on Tuesday morning as teachers and staff returned for Superintendent’s Conference Days and the start of a new school year.
Superintendent Jeff Simons began the program by welcoming the staff back to school and recognizing the new staff who have been hired over the summer. He also thanked the custodial, maintenance and grounds staff for getting the buildings ready for students and teachers.
Mr. Simons congratulated the staff for achieving some outstanding results last year:
- 95% Graduation Rate (4th Highest in Capital Region)
- District Ranked 8th Among 84 Capital Region Schools
- Columbia High School Received U.S. News & World Report Silver Medal
- Utica National Insurance Safety Award
- 6th NYSPHSAA Sportsmanship Award
- Times Union Top Workplace
While those successes are certainly worth celebrating, Mr. Simons also challenged the staff to continue to improve, think differently and try new things.
“We are now working to broaden our definition of student success to ensure that our graduates – whether they attend college or choose to enter the workforce or military – are better informed about and equipped with the skills they need to be ready for college and ready for careers. Not college or careers,” Mr. Simons said.
Mr. Simons also discussed the topic of meeting students’ social and emotional needs. He suggested teachers and support staff slow things down, get to know their students and build relationships of trust.
“You see more so than ever our kids struggle to process everything around them,” Mr. Simons said. “They are more connected than ever before, but yet more isolated.”
The keynote speaker Dr. Jennifer Bashant addressed that topic in more detail during her presentation “Educate the Whole Child.” The social worker and education trainer discussed how mental health, including trauma, impacts a child’s learning. She provided strategies for educators to meet the social and emotional needs of students.
Other presentations included updates on district policy, safety, technology and curriculum and professional development.
The morning program concluded with Mr. Simons giving out the district’s inaugural Turtle Awards to staff for sticking their necks out and trying something new last year. More than 100 staff members received turtle lapel pins in recognition of taking risks to improve the East Greenbush Central School District and the education we offer students.
Turtle Award Recipients
|Facilitated Geography/History Bee and used Nearpod technology||Mike Barnes|
|Organized a Scavenger Hunt for the Administrative Retreat||Stephanie Jorgensen|
|Planned a Google training for Central Office and secretaries||Peter Goodwin|
|Prepared a grant application to fund a mobile breakfast cart for Goff Middle School||Phyllis Sanford-Krug|
|Provided oversight and guidance for hurricane relief fundraising in the district||Mike Neumann|
|Coached and organized the Columbia Unified Basketball Team for students with disabilities who represented New York at the USA Special Olympics in Seattle||Audra Di Bacco|
|Collaborated with Albany Can Code to develop a coding club for students using Ozobot bit coding robots as a learning tool||Jack Alvey|
|Filled Interim Director of Facilities position and helped with a smooth transition period between directors||Jim VanBuren|
|Achieved 100% safety rating from NYS Department of Transportation Bus Inspections while also pitching in to help as substitute bus drivers||Mark Noeth|
Byron “Ed” Lewis
Joseph Reehl (retired)
|Worked with Albany Can Code to develop a unit of study utilizing Scratch Coding Software to develop a custom animation utilizing the novel Hatchet||Jennifer Adams|
|This team established a program to provide weekend meals and/or school break meals to needy students||Tiffany Rinehimer|
|Mrs. Schreck used old smartphones and tablets to give students more technology in class||Sue Schreck|
|Green Meadow Running Club participated in Hudson-Mohawk Road Runners Club “Just Run!” program||Chris Dedrick|
|Kindergarten Inclusion class team planned an initial structure building activity for Kindergarten students in our newly opened K-2 Makerspace. Their class was the first to venture into the Makerspace, where creativity and risk taking is what it is all about.||Julie Hammill|
|Put the “A” in STEAM by designing and delivering a new unit on kaleidoscopes. The end project resulted in 430 students, grades K-5, building their own working kaleidoscopes.||Lisa Letourneau|
|The dedication and enthusiasm of the Genet School Achievement Team and Makerspace Teams has made a major impact and significant shift in how our children are learning and thinking. The Genet Makerspaces are the result of their abilities as collaborative collegial teams to look to the future.||Susan Blander (retired)|
Eva Farrell (retired)
|Designed a program that will provide labs and hands-on learning opportunities directly tied to the Next Generation Science Standards. She has modified her classroom to be a working Science Lab/Makerspace. This instructional design demonstrates out of the box thinking and strong collaborative relations between colleagues that enable teachers to teach to their strengths.||Lisa Mahar|
|This group of staff members met more than a dozen times before and after school to plan, schedule and create a wide variety of hands-on activities and events to be completed at 17 different indoor and outdoor stations throughout a full day of fun for every student and staff member in our school. The reason Fun Day was created as a first time Red Mill event was for the purpose of building School Spirit, having our students directly interact with other students across the grade levels, and for the students to learn to work together as a team in a respectful and collaborative fashion to complete each station.||Tom Brownell|
|Eagerly initiated the use of Google Classroom in their 1st grade classes last year prior to the K-2 Google accounts and QR badges release. They trained the parents at open house on how to join and then utilized Google Classroom as a communication and homework tool as well as a resource for popular links.||Natalie Arket|
|Coordinators of Create and Discover, an after school program for grades 4 & 5 where students can explore, grow and socialize in different areas of interest. They also are the Project Leaders with the Therapy Dog initiative.||Jaime Gibbs|
|Coding Club Instructor Sheri Valenti learned how to use the program Scratch in order to instruct students on how to code. She also used the Ozobots with students.||Sheri Valenti|
|AIS Department has been working hard in year one of their Program Review and as a result of their diligent work this year we will be implementing universal screeners to gather consistent data on all of our students in grades K-5. This will allow us to achieve consistency in provision of services.||Nicoll Driscoll|
|Re-aligned an outdated curriculum to meet the needs of a 21st century student in the areas of 6th and 7th grade.||John Cirincione|
|Piloting Chromebooks 1:1 in 7th Grade Social Studies. These teachers took the new Social Studies C3 Framework and married it with technology while incorporating project-based learning activities for students.||Kelyn Snyder|
|Took over Operation Graduation and had 100% graduation rate||Butch Hartnagle|
|Worked with the CAP students at the horse farm||Andrea Neiman|
|Brought back the Multicultural Fair. It was her idea to promote diversity and tolerance throughout the building. She encouraged all departments to participate and empowered students to take on leadership roles in planning and executing the event. She also worked on the Social Studies Program Review K-12 Approach/Continuum.||Wendy McAlonie|
|1:1 Technology Device Implementation Project||Kelyn Snyder|
|CHS Computer Club Coding||Jessica Hladik|
|Creation of a new Guitar course||Scott Halliday|
|Created Library Digital Literacy Skill Curriculum Map||Kate Banks|
|SED-Approved Program in Business Administration||Donna Shepardson|
|Updating curriculum for Psychology for college credit||Steve LaPolla|
|CTE Department made efforts to increase career readiness and update course offerings that are aligned to college and career readiness||Steve Ford|
|Green Meadow teachers completed a pilot of computer-based testing||Dan Garab|
|Worked with IBM in statistics class||Nancy VanOort|