Students at the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District started their first year of school as a merged district today.
Students in the school's kindergarten class had orientation Wednesday, filling their new cubby holes and meeting their new teachers.
"While we've already experienced a great deal of change - it is only the beginning. The merger, and the incentive aid that comes with it, gives us the resources to make great improvements to our educational program," OESJ Superintendent Laura Lawrence said in a news release. "Our first priority is to establish strong relationships between teachers and students and between the school and the community."
Warren Street Elementary School Principal Scott Ziomek chats with, clockwise from top right, sixth-grader Ashlee Cotton, her
sister, third-grader Makiya Smith, and sixth-grader Katie Diener in the lobby before school started this morning in Johnstown.
The merger of the two school districts was approved by voters in December.
Lawrence said the district also will embrace increased rigor and higher expectations for all students and focus on the relevance of the school's curriculum to 21st-century applications.
The district began outlining changes for its schools this summer when a 17-member team of administrators, teachers and board members attended the International Center for Leadership in Education's Model Schools Conference in Washington, D.C. Throughout the school year, the district will continue to work with the center to institute changes in the district's educational program. The district also will work with the Capital Area School Development Association to align curriculum with New York state's new Common Core Learning Standards.
"In the next three to five years we'll begin to see remarkable changes, and our district will become a model for schools for our area," Lawrence said in the release.
Other local school districts also are preparing for possible changes in coming years.
Mayfield Central School District and Northville Central School District are having their own discussions regarding a possible merger.
Northville interim Superintendent Debra Lynker said the school districts will both hold a binding vote to merge the two districts on Jan. 7.
Both districts are planning on holding joint meetings and discussions regarding the merger in the near future, Lynker said, after an analysis of the potential benefits of the merger is done.
"We are waiting for the data and study to be completed," Lynker said.
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In June, in a 307-199 vote, residents of Northville approved a nonbinding "straw poll" on the proposed merger.
Northville voters rejected the proposal in a straw vote in September 2012, but the district put the plan up for a second vote after receiving petitions from the public. Mayfield school voters approved the straw vote last year.
Mayfield Superintendent Joseph Natale said he believes the merger would greatly benefit both districts.
"It is a win-win for kids, it is a win-win for finances," Natale said. "Hopefully, it will create a whole new school district."
Gloversville Enlarged School District will have a new system to try and increase its graduation rates.
The new program, the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program, will reward good student behavior. The program intends to reduce suspensions, absenteeism and truancy in all of the district's schools.
Students in first through eighth grade will participate in a new literacy program on iPads called eSpark. The program uses students' test scores to find individualized apps that will help students improve on the specific skills they need help with.
"In my first year at Gloversville, we made important strides toward getting the school district on the path to success," Gloversville Superintendent Michael Vanyo said. "Getting a strong leadership team in place was crucial and the programs we're putting in place this school year like PBIS and eSpark are going to ensure we continue on that path."
Robert DeLilli, superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District, said the district is currently looking forward to setting up capital projects - though he declined to offer specifics.
DeLilli also said the school is starting the "Learning Project." The program will involve busing Johnstown High?School students for a half-day to the school building on Jansen Avenue. Problem-based instructional sessions there would replace traditional 40-minute periods.
DeLilli also said with the new common core modules and other new standards, he expects the students and teachers to have a lot of work ahead of them.
"I think it is going to be a challenging year," DeLilli said.
Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Superintendent Ray Colucciello said the main focus for his district right now will be raising the standards for education in the school district.
Colucciello said the school will be working with its Annual Professional Performance Review teacher evaluation.
The APPR is an evaluation required by the state where teachers receive an effectiveness rating. A portion of this rating is connected to student performance. In August, Colucciello said the school was sending the evaluation to the state.
Colucciello also said with the new common core standards, much of the work would be raising the students to these standards, as well as explaining those standards to staff and parents.
"It is new, it is uncharted waters, but we are working together with the teachers union and the administration," Colucciello said. "It is a reform effort that will take time to implement."
Steve Tomlinson, superintendent at Broadalbin-Perth Central School District, said the district is finishing up replacing the roofs on several buildings, as well as expanding wireless internet access around the school's buildings. This capital project began last spring, costing about $2 million.
Tomlinson also said the district will implement a new virtual advanced placement course, giving students the chance to earn college credit. These courses already have 87 students signed up, Tomlinson said.
Richard Ruberti, superintendent at the Wheelerville Union Free School, said the school is implementing a Lego Robotics course, allowing students to learn basic math and problem solving by using Legos.
Ruberti also said there will be further work in screening new students to discover any special needs or other issues.
Finally, the school is planning on handling the new common core standards, adding in the new processes and modules as needed.
"Everyone is working for additional resources," Ruberti said.