FFCSD examines annual goals

Absenteeism, literacy and academic success tops lists

Fonda-Fultonville Middle School Principal David Zadoorian, left, elementary Principal Darcy Williams and high school Principal Aaron Grady, right, during the school board’s regular meeting on Monday. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

FONDA — Fonda-Fultonville Central School District administrators shared their yearly goals during the Board of Education’s regular meeting Monday, with literacy, attendance and academic success at the top of their lists.

Elementary school Principal Darcy Williams, middle school Principal David Zadoorian, high school Principal Aaron Grady and special education administrator Kristine Dickson each went through their goals for students for this school year and the programs in place to help with those goals.

“We take the board of education’s goals that they have, then I state my general goals to our administrators to discuss what those are about and they as a group brainstorm together and look at goals that we can put forth that are measurable and goals that we can look at, different action plans that we’re putting in place that we can actually tell if we hit our mark or not hit our mark,” said Superintendent Thomas Ciaccio.

One goal for elementary students, Williams said, is to improve literacy by increasing the number of students reading at or above their grade level by 10 percent with the expectation that all students will increase their reading level by at least one year.

“We redefined our literacy committee to make sure that we’re giving teachers the most current research about literacy practices and what is [the] best practice and how they can infuse some of those within their classroom to make sure students are on grade-level,” Williams said.

Another goal of the elementary school is decreasing chronic absenteeism. Williams said she and the school social worker have already begun to make phone calls to the guardians of at-risk students. She said they will also make home visits and send out “nudge” letters.

Zadoorian said decreasing absenteeism was a goal of theirs as well.

The nudge letters include a graph which shows parents how much more school their children are missing than the average student at their grade level.

“We target students who are missing 10 percent of the school year,” Zadoorian said. “Every five weeks those letters go out, so any student missing 10 percent at that point in the year will get a nudge letter.”

He said this year they’re not only going to include absents on those letters, but will also include tardiness.

This year at the middle school, they will also continue the use of the Braves Badge program.

Zadoorian explained the Braves Badge program is when a student has the opportunity to earn a badge every 10 weeks. The badge has the student’s picture on it and it states “every day counts at FFCS.”

“Basically the badge means they had perfect attendance for that 10 weeks,” Zadoorian said. “They can show that badge at any athletic event and get in free. There is a coupon booklet they get to use during the day in the building to do various privileges like wearing a hat for a day and different things like that that kids like to do.”

He said they have also partnered with some of the community businesses such as Stewart’s Shops where students can show their badge and get ice cream.

Another goal at the middle school is to decrease course failures every five weeks on the students’ report cards.

“If a student is failing one course, our goal is they’ll be passing that course within the next five weeks,” Zadoorian said. “If they’re failing two courses, we want them to be passing at least one of those courses over that next five weeks.”

He said a new program the school began last year and is trying again this year is the Student Success Groups. Students who are failing one or more courses get put into groups and meet with a staff member every week and set goals for the courses they’re failing, and creating action steps for those goals.

Grady said it was also a goal of theirs at the high school level.

“Especially the last three years, we’ve been able to create that face-to-face contact with students who are struggling in classes,” Grady said. “We’re going to have targeted academic reviews with students that may have demonstrated a level of success at lower than what we wanted them to be at.”

He said at the high school they have what they call “academic labs,” which are study halls with specific subject area teachers, such as a math lab.

He said there are four for English, four for math, one for social studies and one for science.

Another goal of the high school is to create at least five school and community-based activities or events.

“People don’t seem to want to come to the high school unless it’s a sporting event,” Grady said.

In the special education department, Dickson said they will continue to work toward their goal of 90 percent of their students graduating with a diploma or a commencement credential.

“My goal is for us to consistently be at or above that 90 percent,” Dickson said. “In doing that, we need to continue to implement our programs that are allowing students access to the general curriculum. We work very closely with all of the general teachers across the buildings to make sure our students are in regular classes to get the support they need to be successful.”

She said she would also like to make sure staff has training in autism spectrum disorders.

“We are seeing more and more kids come to us with an autism diagnosis and we need to make sure we’re able to meet their needs,” Dickson said.