Waterford School Superintendent Jerome Belair chose a sailing metaphor for his convocation speech to staff the day before school started. His backdrop was picture of sail boat in Long Island Sound in between two lighthouses. His message: "We’re staying the course and moving toward our next goal."
"We have moved past CMT and CAPT and we’re heading toward Common Core," Belair said. "Our focus moving forward is really now looking very closely at the Common Core standards and what they mean for instruction and how we shift that instruction to put it into focus. You’re looking at a more challenging and rigorous experience for students. All of our kids will be involved in new standardized testing in spring of 2015."
Belair's seafaring metaphor turned out to be a fitting one for the first day of school too, which by all accounts was smooth sailing. That, Belair said, was a welcome relief compared to the past few years, which typically began with a construction update and sometimes with delayed openings because of tropical storms.
"We’ve had a very smooth day," said Belair. "In talking with transportation it was picture perfect this morning. I had a chance to be at Quaker Hill when all the buses arrived and it was like clockwork. The kids were exuberant, the staff was energized, so I think we're off to a great start."
All Hands on Deck
There are a lot of new deck hands aboard this year. The district has four new administrators: a new director of finance and operations, a new assistant principal of Clark Lane Middle School, and new principals of Oswegatchie Elementary School and Waterford High School.
Additionally, the district has hired on 13 new teachers since spring, plus one more who is returning to the school district. "If you look at the last few years, there's been nothing like that. This was a very busy hiring season," Belair said.
A lot of the "new kids" were welcoming students at Oswegatchie Elementary School, which starts the year with seven new teachers under the new leadership of Principal Christopher Ozmun.
Ozmun comes to the district with prior experience as a school principal and, most recently, as the K-12 math and science coordinator for the Vernon School district. Though he worked with all grade levels in his last position, "my heart is with the younger kids," he said.
Now he's at the helm, Ozmun said he plans to hold a fairly steady course. "What I'm really trying to do is build on the success we've had in the past. I came in July and I really talked about hitting the ground learning, learning about the school district, the kids, the community," he said.
"We're all hands on deck," said Ozmun, continuing the sailing metaphor. "We've been here all summer and everything's been running really smoothly, which I attribute to the staff. We've done a lot of work to get ready. Now we're underway."