Volume 51, Issue 4                                                                                                                December 2016 

Message from the Superintendent

Dr. James Ryan, Superintendent and CEO
 
Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES has a long tradition of meeting the educational needs of students with disabilities and their families. Our Special Education Division take on the challenges of the most fragile students with compassion and skill, offering the necessary facilities and expertise for those with the most severe or multiple disabilities. I am continually amazed at our staff's ability to meet the diverse needs of our student population.
 
On any given day, a walk through our Pines Bridge or Walden Schools never fails to impress. The way the classes are organized; the dedication of our teachers, teaching assistants, aides and therapists; and the application of cutting edge assistive technology all come together to create an optimal environment for the students we serve.
 
Consistent with our BOCES Mission, our Special Education Division looks to innovation in the service of our students. For example, at our most recent Superintendent's Conference Day, I had the unique opportunity to observe several of our special education staff members being trained on the use of robots to teach students with autism. The robot, called Milo, is controlled by iPad and has been found to successfully engage students on a number of levels.  It was remarkable to witness the use of this innovative tool by our staff, and thanks to Jennifer Harriton-Wilson and Shelly Fleishman for bringing Milo to our program.
 
In recent years, there has been a trend among local districts to try to meet the needs of their students within their home districts. There can be benefits to returning students to the home district, including a significant ease in transportation, as well as simply being "home." In response to the desire among school administrators and families to keep their students closer to the home district, PNW BOCES offers our school-based programs. Within these programs, we have developed shared, hybrid staffing models consisting of BOCES staff and home district staff working together. A wonderful example of this model is the Mahopac Falls Academy, which provides a small, nurturing middle school environment where kids feel safe and can transition into their home district classes at an appropriate time, if possible.
 
I am extremely impressed with the determination of our Special Education Division to meet district needs through creative, student-centered solutions, whether right here on our campus or out in our component districts. We can all be proud of this approach, which always puts students first.

New Department Expands BOCES' Creative Offerings
   
The new Creative Services Department includes Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lynn Allen, Secretary Karen Fuchs, Graphic Illustrator Tricia Herbold and Video and Technology Specialist Ed Catapano.


Business cards, posters, banners and brochures. School districts need well-designed products to communicate with students, families and the general public. Now area districts have a wonderful new resource for their multimedia and design needs: PNW BOCES' Creative Services Department (CSD).
 
The department consists of Video and Technology Specialist Ed Catapano and Graphic Illustrator Tricia Herbold, with support from Secretary Karen Fuchs and Director of Information Technology Jamie Molina and oversight by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lynn Allen.
 
"Ed and Tricia have continually supported our BOCES in a multitude of different and creative ways, and we are thrilled to have them partner to expand their repertoire of offerings," said Lynn. She added that the new department would collaborate with other departments, especially School Communications, allowing it to offer a full array of creative services.
 
Among the design services that are being offered through the CSD are: business cards, letterhead, posters/banners, brochures, catalogs, palm cards/post cards, custom illustrations and signage design.  Additionally, a full range of video production services is available, in collaboration with BOCES' School Communications Service.
 
While the department is currently in the infancy stage, developing its basic structures and systems, it has already been engaged in a number of exciting projects with the Mahopac Central School District and Somers Central School District.
 
For Mahopac, the department provided a strategic design package that includes business cards, palm cards and posters. The three components have a cohesive look and feel, and the message is similar to the communications built around PNW BOCES' Mission, Vision and Core Values. "Having been in our building many times, Mahopac administrators saw what we had developed and expressed a desire for something similar," said Lynn.
 
The Somers school district recently retained the department to help implement its "No Place For Hate" campaign. The project included the creation of banners that will be placed in each of the district's school buildings.
 
The creation of the new department expands, but does not replace, the services Ed and Tricia have traditionally provided for PNW BOCES' internal departments. There will be no change to Ed and Tricia's availability for the agency's internal graphics and media needs.

"We are extremely excited about the new potential of this department and look forward to all of its contributions to our BOCES as well as our component districts and beyond," said Lynn.
 
 
Biomimicry: From Nature, by Design
At a recent BOCES-led biomimicry activity at George Fisher Middle School in Carmel, students determined whether a living organism had a function that could solve a design challenge.


Sharkskin inspires cargo ship designers to create a surface to which barnacles can't attach. A beaver's pelt leads wet suit designers to create a warmer, dryer product for surfers. The termite mounds of South Africa lead to more efficient building design.

All of these are examples of biomimicry, defined by the Biomimicry Institute as "an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies."

Dorna Schroeter, director of BOCES' Center for Environmental Education, is a member of the Biomimicry Institute's International Leadership Network, a team of professionals from 18 different countries. 

Now Dorna and the CEE are bringing the excitement of biomimicry to schools through direct programming and teacher training.

Dorna believes that it's important for students to be introduced to the concept of biomimicry. "Biomimicry isn't a new idea, but it is now being embraced as a sustainable model," she said.  She calls it "the science of today and the jobs of tomorrow," noting that "it's where manufacturing and engineering are going."

CEE currently offers two biomimicry programs for school districts: an introduction to biomimicry for students from third grade up to high school and a design program suitable for middle and high school students.

"Students are very concerned about the state of our natural world and this excites them because it is a positive approach, a solution-based way of thinking," said Dorna. "Rather than seeing the natural world as a source of stuff, it becomes a source of ideas that can help humans create more sustainable designs and systems."


CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO WATCH THE VIDEO



 
Learn and Go! BOCES' IT Workshops  
Data Manager Michele Wilson led a recent IT workshop in Excel basics.


The students were earnest, and the instructor was patient.  At a recent workshop on Excel Basics, offered by the Information Technology Department, a cross sample of employees from many different departments were learning how to enter and adjust data in an Excel spreadsheet, as Data Manager and instructor Michele Wilson gently went through the steps...numerous times.

Employees are taking advantage of the opportunity to learn new computer skills and brush up on ones they haven't used in a while at a series of IT workshops taught by Michele and Manager of Information Technology Diane Dursi.

"We are bringing back our computer applications training program," said Michele. "People have requested these kinds of classes so they can learn both new and upgraded programs."

The IT department surveyed staff and administrators to learn what programs employees most wanted to learn. The department additionally gauged interest by analyzing Helpdesk requests.

According to Michele, classes in Excel and Outlook are hands down the most popular, due to the fact that they are the applications most commonly used in BOCES programs and departments. Other classes offered this fall include Adobe DC Professional Basics and PowerPoint Basics.

The IT department's newest member, Samantha Jones, has been assisting with the workshops, managing course registrations and materials.

Each class includes a feedback mechanism, and so far responses have been overwhelmingly positive. As a result, another round of courses is planned for the spring.

Convenience is a key to the workshops' popularity. "The fact that the classes are offered for one hour, from 2:30 to 3:30 pm, allows us to reach many different BOCES employees," said Michele.
 
 
BOCES' Mission, Vision and Core Values
Special Education Provides Pathways to Success for Every Student

One student learns how to make appropriate eye contact, while another masters using a switch to select an option. Still another completes a college application.
Success looks very different for each student here at PNW BOCES.

During last summer's Administrative Retreat, plans were put in place to provide professional development that focuses on the agency's core value of Pathways to Success for Every Student. Making sure that students are engaged and understand what they are being taught is the most critical piece of this initiative.

BOCES students range from those with multiple disabilities at Pines Bridge to those  in the Local School Buildings Program. "We have many different types of students, and communication is different for each one of them," said Special Education Coordinator of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Fred Santoli. "We need to ask ourselves whether our students are understanding what we are teaching."

BOCES school administrators and teachers have been actively participating in professional development aimed at creating individualized instruction for different types of learners. Techniques such as Explicit Direct Instruction, or EDI, help teachers create well-crafted and effective lesson plans and provides a framework for improving student comprehension. 

As varied as BOCES students are, and as different as success looks for each one, there are a number of common goals along the way: learning to communicate desires, needs and choices; becoming as independent as possible in daily living and learning activities; advocating for oneself to the greatest extent possible; and discovering one's own pathway to success and developing the skills needed to achieve it.

The focus on Pathways to Success for Every Student "goes to the common root of good instruction, but from different angles for different students," said Csilla Mate, Pines Bridge School Principal and Supervisor of Transitions and Sunshine.


Virtual Suggestion Box

SuggestionBox

 

As part of the  Future of BOCES Taskforce initiative, please be reminded that you are welcome to share your ideas and suggestions  to boost morale and improve our collective work by using our virtual suggestion box. To access the box, go to the BOCES website at  http://www.pnwboces.org/
(click the employees tab and then suggestion box) or go directly to:

 

http://www.pnwboces.org/SuggestionBox/Default.aspx

 

The virtual suggestion box is checked on a daily basis and all suggestions are carefully reviewed and considered. Suggestions of merit that are acted upon are highlighted in the BOCES Reporter.    

 

Thanks again to all those who have used the virtual suggestion box, and keep the new ideas coming! 

 

Staff
Stuff
Staff
RETIREMENTS
Adam Davis, Teacher, Walter Panas High School.  Kathleen Desimone, Teacher, Pines Bridge.  David Stern, Risk Manager, Risk and Safety Management.  

APPOINTMENTS
Ekaterina McGaffey, Teaching Assistant, Walden School. Marguerite Guglielmo, Manager of CEL and HR Services, School Services Building.


December
Birthdays
BDayCake
Guillermo Berrueco, Maria Biagini, Lori Boffi, Gregory Brown, Brian Bucchignano, Christina Burns, Deborah Busatti, Dale Cassone, Laura Collins, Arlene Creighton, Todd Currie, Cynthia Cvitkovic, Adam Davis, Carol Deyo, Lisa Ann Faivre, Michael Feldman, Maria Fernandez-Tapia, Nancy Finsmith, Kathryn Friedlander, Patricia Gallo, Shannon Gaynor, Jean Giordano, Christina Giorgio, Brandy Haight, Lisa Marie Hammel, Christina Hoag, Helen-May Jerolimo, Mary Lamanna, Trulestra Lee, Deborah Lividini,Caterina Lopriore, Justin Lundstedt, Karen Maiolini,Csilla Mate, Dawn Michetti, Victor Morales, John Nagle, Megan O'Sullivan, Lisa Perrone, Ann Quinones-Narcisse, Rhonda Riotto, Mary Russo, Steve Simpson, Christopher Totten, Ronald Warzoha and John Watters.
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BOCES Reporter: Karen Hoffman, Editor; Valerie Laudato, Graphic Designer