It's that time of year again.
Today, more than 2,800 Waterford students will kick off a new school year at the town’s five public schools: , and ; and . And Superintendent Jerome Belair couldn’t be more excited.
“I’m excited, it’s always exciting,” Belair said. “And we are ready, we’re ready.”
The district has several changes this year, including a , a new math curriculum, all new school buses, the return of , middle school TAG as part of the school day, a new breakfast program at Oswegatchie Elementary and on and on. But no school will have endure more changes than the high school, with students moving into the and the Board of Education ready to search for a new principal, after long-time Principal
“I don’t think it is going to be something I’m really going to be thinking about,” Macrino said. “I guess it isn’t really real yet.”
The school district will be one of ten districts in the state to pilot a new teacher and principal evaluation system (), where evaluations will mostly be based on student performance and observations by one’s supervisor. All of Waterford’s buses are new as well as the district signed with a new bus company, and Belair described them as “beautiful” ().
Spring break has also been moved up to April 1 for the entire district to accommodate the move into Waterford High School’s addition ().
We have complied previews for all five schools, after interviewing all five school principals. They are:
Waterford High School
As mentioned, in April Waterford High School students will move into the new addition at the school. Macrino said the move will give the students something to look forward to, and students and staff will be “very, very happy” once they move in.
“It is just a huge difference,” Macrino said. “Once people get into the new building in April, I think they will see it as a nirvana.”
The high school will have freshmen sports , including freshmen baseball and freshmen boys' and girls' basketball. However, based on a recommendation by Athletic Director David Sousa, the high school will now have freshmen girls’ volleyball instead of freshmen softball, as Sousa said there is more of a need in volleyball.
On the academic end, Waterford High School will – for the first time – have all teachers within the core subjects have their planning periods at the same time as the other teachers in their respective core subject, Macrino said. This will further increase the district’s focus on “professional learning communities,” he said.
Additionally, the high school will have a full-time and a part-time literacy specialist dedicated to improving students’ literacy skills, Macrino said. If a student is struggling, the reading specialist will work with the student's teachers to find ways to improve the student’s literacy, he said.
The high school has also ramped up its intervention policies for struggling students, Macrino said. Now, a student who is struggling in a subject will spend his or her study hall working in classrooms of about six kids, where the teacher will focus exactly on where the student is struggling, Macrino said.
Finally, Macrino announced in June that this year will be his 17th and last as the principal in Waterford. Belair said the Board of Education will probably start searching for a new principal in the winter and have one hired in the spring, and possibly have the new person in to meet with Macrino and the staff before the school year ends.
Clark Lane Middle School
Last year, , the middle school’s talented and gifted science program . Now, thanks to some teachers earning the proper certification, it has once again been moved into the school day, Belair said.
This year is also the . Sachs said last summer he spent meeting staff and getting his feet on the ground, and this summer he used that time to grow as a principal.
Specifically, Sachs said he spent the past few months working with Belair and Assistant Superintendent Craig Powers to get a better handle on how to use data like test scores to improve the school.
“I’ve learned to really look at data more carefully, and see how it tells the story of a student,” Sachs said. “It really clicked this summer.”
Sachs also said he was planning to decorate the school’s walls more with visuals celebrating literacy.
Oswegatchie Elementary School
Oswegatchie Elementary School this year will start a new breakfast program, Principal Nancy Macione said, who will be going into her 12th year as principal at the school. The other two elementary schools do not serve breakfast, and Oswegatchie was able to do it after it acquired a grant, she said.
The program will be run by and district chef Diane Houlihan, Macione said. Macione said the school will evaluate the program at the end of the year, and Belair said if it is deemed a success he would see if it is possible to continue it and expand it to the other elementary schools.
Students will give up their morning recess, or at least part of their morning recess, to have breakfast, Macione said. The breakfast will consist mostly of milk, cereal, yogurt, bagels and muffins, according to a breakfast menu provided by Macione.
Quaker Hill Elementary School
From 9 to 9:30 every day, all students at Quaker Hill will read a book of their choice. The new program is a component of the school’s Reading Workshop, and hopefully encourages students to read throughout their life, Principal Glenda Dexter said.
For the program, children will be able to choose their own book, as long as it is at their level, Dexter said. The students will read for 30 minutes, while teachers will conference with the students individually.
“We want for them to take responsibility for their personal growth as readers, and hopefully, they will develop a lifelong appetite for reading and for books,” Dexter wrote in an e-mail to Patch.
Great Neck Elementary School
Great Neck Principal Pat Fedor has worked in education for 39 years, the last 16 of which she’s been a principal in Waterford. And yet the first day still brings some excitement.
“You don’t sleep the first night,” Fedor said. “It is always very exciting.”
The Board of Education recently added a , which cuts the class sizes down from above 20 to around 15. That is a huge help, Fedor said.
“Phenomenal,” Fedor said about the news. “It makes a huge difference.”
Great Neck will have its annual opening day sing-a-long today at 9:30, Fedor said.
Fedor also was quick to compliment , a summer camp put on by the town. The camp was based out of Great Neck School, and , many of whom Fedor had as principal at Southwest School.
“That was the absolute most amazing program,” Fedor said. “It was so great to see the skills we taught (the counselors) in elementary school; caring, sharing and being nice; playing out now that they are counselors.”