From Dr. Charles T. Wilson, Interim Superintendent
It is a great pleasure for me to join the faculty and staff of the Hastings-on-Hudson School District in its service as an Interim Superintendent for the coming school year. This is a role I take on with the goal to help Hastings, which is already rated as an excellent school district, to improve even more while continuing its high standards. I have previously served as a successful superintendent of the Pelham School District for 13 years, North Salem School District for four years and, most recently, for a year as interim at the Tuckahoe Public Schools. I began my administrative career in special education, as a curriculum director and as a high school principal.
The Hastings School District plans to advance teaching and learning in a variety of ways on all levels this year.
At Hillside Elementary School, our team of educators continues to build our balanced literacy model. After the successful rollout of Reader’s Workshop in the 2017-2018 school year, our English Language Arts (ELA) teacher leaders came together this summer to reflect upon our reading units of study and make further enhancements. One such improvement is incorporating more diverse texts into our core instruction. Teachers and parents worked together to select books for classroom lessons that reflect race/culture, gender and learning differences. Additionally, teachers have enhanced their classroom libraries and our school library by ordering a myriad of diverse texts representing race/culture, gender, learning differences, families, socioeconomics, health, religion, sexual orientation and identity topics. We are committed to ensuring that our libraries provide our students with both windows and mirrors to make stronger connections with others.
Additionally, our ELA professional learning for the 2018-2019 school year will focus on the interactive read aloud, shared reading and small group instruction. Teachers will skillfully model reading and thinking work in the interactive read aloud and then scaffold the skills through a shared read with a shared text. Ultimately, through the gradual release model, our teachers will support our learners as they practice each new strategy in small groups and with independence. Our differentiated instructional model allows us to provide an individualized learning experience for each student.
Finally, we will be continuing the important work of social-emotional learning at Hillside. With our new full-time school counselor, we will be able to provide Tiers of Intervention to our students through classroom instruction, small group and individual counseling sessions. We will also be utilizing our Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework to enhance the systems at Hillside making our learning environment both safer and more effective. We look forward to providing our students with leadership opportunities as a part of our PBIS initiative.
Our Farragut Middle School staff is excited to continue its work on multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS). Added systems of academic support include newly hired literacy and math coaches. These two professionals will work closely with the MTSS team to implement student supports both academically and behaviorally. Our teachers have busied themselves this summer with refining our forms and systems to help target supports and interventions.
As MTSS also focuses on supporting our students socially and emotionally, Farragut Middle School will continue its work with The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. This is the second year that FMS has collaborated with Yale on the RULER program, which supports student and staff in recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotions. Last year, administration introduced the tenets of RULER and began training with staff. This coming school year, teachers will begin incorporating anchors of the RULER program in their classrooms. The Building Leadership Team, comprised of administrators, support staff, and parents, brainstormed ways to incorporate the various aspects of the program with parents. As an additional support for students, our mindfulness curriculum was expanded this summer to aid students looking to manage stress and improve their focus.
Summer has also been busy with our staff reflecting on our Courageous Conversations curriculum and furthering its development. Staff has been reading different texts inspired by our second annual Multicultural Book Fair including Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Blind Spot by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald. There has also been focused curriculum work in the areas of Language Arts, Health, Home and Careers, and Media Literacy. Fifth grade teachers are unpacking the Next Generation Science Center and designing innovative, hands-on lessons. Those working in integrated co-taught classrooms are meeting to craft meaningful learning experiences for all our children. We also eagerly await the newest addition to our Makerspace, the GlowForge Laser Cutter, courtesy of the Hastings Education Foundation.
Lastly, our Farragut halls will look a little different when the doors open in September. Our masterful Facilities Department has carved out a space for a fully integrated Student Support Suite that will house our counseling staff, social worker, and school psychologist. We are looking forward to the new space being an area for increased collaboration and comprehensive support for our students.
Hastings High School is partnering with Challenge Success in an effort to reduce stress and further develop a more balanced approach to learning. Challenge Success is an expansion of the highly successful SOS (Stressed-Out Students) Project at Stanford University. Utilizing the resources of a prominent advisory board of interdisciplinary experts, the co-founders created a research-based organization that develops practical curriculum, conferences, and programs for parents, schools, and students looking for a healthier and more effective path to success in the 21st century. Challenge Success provides schools and families with the information and strategies they need to create a more balanced and academically fulfilling life for their children. They believe that effective change happens when all stakeholders— administrators, faculty, parents, counselors, and students—come together to identify problems and work on solutions. Schools involved in this program send full teams to attend intensive conferences where they work with a coach to design action plans to implement best practices in areas such as curriculum, assessment, homework, school schedule, and a healthy school climate. Each school is unique, so each team designs an individualized plan for change. HHS will be sending a team of six educators to Stanford University in September. This work is funded through a grant awarded from the Hastings Education Foundation.
Hastings High School remains one of the most highly competitive and achieving high schools in the country and was once again named a National Blue Ribbon School this year. In addition to supporting our highly achieving students academically, our goal is to provide our students with the support needed to effectively cope with the stress they face in today’s highly competitive environment. Also, the high school has undertaken construction of four new classrooms to provide needed space.
This summer our facilities staff has been busy preparing for the upcoming school year. At Hillside, new instructional spaces have been prepared for our incoming students as well as painting classrooms and making repairs. The back playground at Hillside is receiving a much-needed facelift this summer. The board authorized new equipment to be purchased to replace outdated and nonfunctioning equipment. The redesigned space includes a separate area for swings. We would like to thank our parent and student volunteers for their help in creating a vision for the space. In addition to the new playground equipment the blacktop area is being replaced due to age and condition.
At the Farragut complex, our staff has been renovating the lower middle school area to create much needed additional classroom space as well as a new student bathroom. In addition to the classrooms, as mentioned, a new guidance suite has been created that includes offices for the middle school guidance counselors, the schools’ social worker and psychologist.
As part of our continued focus on school safety and security, over 70 new classroom doors are being installed at the Farragut complex over the summer as recommended in our security audit. We will also create security vestibules at both the high school and middle school entrances that will enhance our security protocols for visitors.
At the high school, classrooms are being renovated and office space created for our teaching staff and departments.
The District is in the process of developing a scope of work for a facilities bond that the Board of Education will consider for a public vote later this year. Some of the recommended items are roof replacements, new windows, upgraded energy efficient boilers and upgrades to our PA systems. Also being contemplated is a renovation to the middle school auditorium as well as construction at Hillside to create additional classroom space. There will be public meetings held to provide greater details and to gather community input.
Additional priorities for the Board include strategic planning, special education audit consideration, emphasis on diversity and inclusion initiatives, updating a five-year budget plan, selecting a new long-term superintendent, educational advocacy, and leadership development.
We thank you for supporting our schools and look forward to a great school year.