Volume 51, Issue 9                                                                                                               May 2017 

James M. Ryan, Ed. D.
Moving On, Moving Up
Spring is here, and you can sense the excitement in the air as the school year enters the "home stretch." As we head into the final weeks of the school calendar, there are many different culminating celebrations here at PNW BOCES that are reflective of our incredible diversity of programs. These ceremonies are much more than "feel good" exercises. They represent a true sense of accomplishment for our students and are an enormous source of pride for parents and teachers.
In Special Education, Pines Bridge holds a very unique and heartwarming graduation ceremony for those students who will be leaving our very supportive BOCES program, with many moving on to community-based adult placements. There is a moving-up ceremony for Walden students, and on our Fox Meadow campus, graduates of the Fox Meadow Regional Alternative High School prepare to move on to college or work life.
Our Career and Technical Education Center holds a plethora of culminating ceremonies, from the CTE graduation in June to many program-specific events, such as a senior luncheon for culinary students; a senior breakfast for those in the Child Development & Education program;  the annual fashion show and wedding cake showcase; and the National Technical Honor Society and CTE Awards Ceremony. Additionally, our adult education program holds a Practical Nursing graduation and Adult Literacy graduation and awards ceremony.
Unlike a local school district that holds one high school graduation or one middle school moving-up ceremony, we host a remarkably wide range of year-end events for students who have had highly successful experiences in our programs. I hope you have the opportunity to attend one of these milestone celebrations. They are a true testament to the incredible efforts made by our students and staff every day here at PNW BOCES.

Vision: To Become a BOCES of the Highest Quality
Destination: PNW BOCES!

Members of the Cohesive Design Panel. L to R: Tricia Herbold, Meilisa Arlt, Jamie Molina, Jackie Levine, Joy Myke, Jessie Lebwohl-Steiner, Pat Haynes and Dr. Lynn Allen 
(not pictured: Ed Catapano).

Buildings on BOCES' Yorktown campus have undergone various renovations over the years, but the most recent upgrades to the School Services Building have turned it into a key destination for those planning and attending educational conferences.

"After we upgraded the School Services Building a few years ago and reconfigured conference room space, we were inspired to create a totally new learning environment," said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lynn Allen.

A new collaborative, representative group of BOCES staff members, the Cohesive Design Panel (CDP), was created to align the physical design of BOCES' spaces with the agency's mission and vision. 

IT Director Jamie Molina played a key role in reimagining the building as a "home base" for professionals in the field of education. "Our goal was to transform physical spaces in the building to better reflect the impressive quality of our offerings," he said. "We'd like guests attending conferences or workshops here to feel they've had a memorable experience, beyond any specific program or class."

The CDP explored and implemented a "conference center" feeling throughout the building, and the results are reflected in recent changes to the lobby, the Professional Library and other interior spaces. 

The School Services Building's lobby has a fresh, new look.
So far, the response has been exactly what the planners were hoping for. Ron Clamser, Jr., Mahopac's Assistant Superintendent for Business and Human Resources, said he was "impressed with the new design of the lobby area," adding "the redesign has a very professional look with a casual, comfortable and inviting feel."

"The building's look is new, fresh and professional, resembling that of a conference center," said Lynn, citing design elements including bright lighting, new and unique furniture and brushed nickel signage in the lobby. Upon entrance to the building, visitors now see clean lines, modern furniture and a welcome counter located to one side. 

"The goal is for our workshop attendees to feel comfortable and stimulated to learn when they attend a meeting, conference or training here," said Lynn. "We want them to be proud of our shared facilities and to look upon us as innovators."

Raymond Blanch, Somers Superintendent, noted that beyond the newly designed areas being "inviting to any visitor entering the School Services Building," the furniture incorporated into the new design is highly flexible and "respects the fact that learning is a social enterprise and as learners we build our knowledge through our shared understanding."

The CDP is facilitated by Tricia Herbold and includes Lynn Allen, Meilisa Arlt, Ed Catapano, Pat Haynes, Jessie Lebwohl-Steiner, Jackie Levine, Jamie Molina and Joy Myke.
Superintendent's Conference Days Put the Focus on Learning  
Meditation and mindfulness practitioner Jennifer Simon presented a workshop on Mindfulness Training during the recent Superintendent's Conference Day.

The attendees in the Maple Conference room looked like any other group of professionals -- except for the fact that everybody's eyes were closed. The group was taking part in a Mindfulness Training workshop during last month's Superintendent's Conference Day and members were practicing a guided meditation exercise.
The workshop, hosted by meditation and mindfulness practitioner Jennifer Simon, was an optional offering to help promote health and wellness among BOCES employees. As Director of Human Resources and Professional Development Mike Skerritt explained, during Superintendent's Conference Days, "we try to offer something for everyone."
Superintendent's Conference Days take place four times during the school year. The first one is on BOCES' Opening  Day, and the last is at the end of the year, during which the employee picnic takes place. The two remaining dates, typically landing in the fall and spring, have a professional development bent.
According to Mike, the focus during Superintendent's Conference Days generally falls into three different categories.
First is instructional, where teaching staff is given the opportunity to receive professional development and pursue learning activities that would not be possible to undertake when students are in session.
Then there is the support staff focus, in which business and technology-related topics, along with employee relations, are covered. According to Mike, IT offerings are currently very much in demand, as people continue to look for ways to increase effectiveness and efficiency at work.
And finally, there are staff-wide offerings, such as the recent mindfulness training session.  "We look for things that are 'out of the box,'" said Mike, noting that past workshops have covered topics such as culinary arts, exercise, stress management and organizational strategies.
After she finished leading the guided meditation, Simon explained that just a few minutes of daily mediation can increase cognitive performance, reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Though the session was not part of the day's business-oriented offerings, those results sure sounded like a terrific return on investment.

District Superintendent Dr. James Ryan spent a morning in Jessie Lebwohl-Steiner's art class as part of BOCES' Walk in My Shoes initiative.

Walking in Another's Shoes Helps Build Connections
It's always useful to see things from a different perspective. Here at BOCES, where there are so many different departments and offerings, it can be especially challenging to understand what others do on a daily basis. 

The "Walk in My Shoes" initiative was introduced last year, as a way to bring BOCES administrators together with employees from across the agency to gain a better understanding of what we all do to make our BOCES successful. The initiative was brought back again this spring and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

Superintendent Dr. James Ryan recently spent a morning with Pines Bridge art teacher Jesse Steiner, as students worked on an "ice painting" project. As Jesse and teaching assistant Debra Canzio played music and helped the students with their paintbrushes, Dr. Ryan said "Through an experience like this, I can see firsthand how valuable the interactions between our staff and students are." He added, "So often I'm at meetings talking about programs, budgets and returns on investment. This is an opportunity for me to be here in the school, seeing the excitement our students feel in class."

"We all have our own perspectives tied to our roles," said Jesse. "This experience broadens that perspective and gives us a better understanding of what it takes to make our BOCES work."

On a different morning, Director of Information Technology Jamie Molina could be found alongside Rich Norris, a teacher in BOCES' Local School Buildings Program. Jamie joined Rich as he greeted students getting off the bus at Lincoln Titus Elementary School in the Lakeland school district and then helped out in the classroom, as the students moved through their morning routines. He assisted with an ELA lesson on the SmartBoard and answered student questions about his role at BOCES.

Other Walk in My Shoes connections included Assistant Director of Curriculum and Instruction Fred Ende and Physical Therapist Rhonda Dier; Coordinator of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Fred Santoli and Senior Office Assistant Lisa Perrone; Director of Curriculum and Instruction Marla Gardner and Tech Center teacher Ellen Sugrue-Dolan; and Pines Bridge Principal Csilla Mate and Accountant Stella Marchionna.

"Walk in My Shoes provides a unique opportunity for people to see the great work that others are doing here at BOCES," said Assistant Superintendent John McCarthy. "It's a little bit like 'Undercover Boss,' only without the undercover part."  

Director of Information Technology Jamie Molina joined teacher Rich Norris at Lincoln-Titus Elementary School for the Walk in My Shoes program.
Bringing Character Education to Life
Students in Debra Haggerty's Walden class prepared sandwiches to be distributed to the homeless in New York City as part of a lesson in empathy.

It is one thing to read about fictional characters or even real people who have a made a difference in the world; it's another to take action yourself. In Debra Haggerty's class at the Walden School, students don't just learn about character in theory, they put what they are learning into practice.

Debra weaves character education into her students' day through activities such as morning meetings, where a different character trait is covered every day, or "random acts of kindness cards," which are handed out when a student spots another student behaving kindly.

Recently, Debra's students learned about empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The lesson included reading the book, Bud, Not Buddy, which follows the exploits of a homeless child.

Recalling that teacher aides Michelle Bergmann and Debbie Vertucci delivered food and clothing to the homeless at the Port Authority twice a month, she approached them about getting her students involved.

"Debra set up an assembly line in her classroom," said Michele. "The kids made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the dozens and loved every minute of it." The students were assisted by teacher aide Ana Pascarelli.

By the end of the day Debra's students had prepared more than 50 bags, each containing a sandwich and a cookie. The students also included personalized notes in the bags, which said things like "Hope you enjoy this food," and "Made with love." Evan, a student in the class, said, "It made me feel good to do this because we have empathy for people."

Asked how he might show empathy at school, Evan gave an example of a student who misses a shot in basketball and is upset. "I would tell them 'good try, and don't give up,'" he said.

Earlier in the year the class had learned about perseverance and grit. That lesson was tied in to reading about Helen Keller. "I always try to connect the idea of a character trait to something in literature, history or real life," said Debra. "It makes the lesson come alive." While studying perseverance, each student came up with statements about goals they would persevere to achieve. These included working on social skills, reading and attentiveness.

"What Michele and Debbie have been doing is pretty extraordinary," said Debra, referring to her co-workers' twice-monthly forays into the city to aid those in need. "It was a great opportunity for my students to make that "real life" connection to their class work."
Virtual Suggestion Box
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:

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
Linda Quicci was the winner of the beautiful flower arrangement that was raffled off during the Administrative Professionals Luncheon.

Laura Maiurano, Teacher, Fox Meadow.

Aaron Armisto, Joann Auteri, Fatlume Bakraq, Geraldine Battista, Stuart Binder, Stephen Bonadonna, Rita Brady, Marianne Braun, Erik Cantamessa, Alyssa Cavorti, Joseph Cozza, Lisa DellaCorte, Ada DiCecco, Michael DiTaranto, Bruce Faulkner, Sara Fienup, Jennifer Guiffre, Melissa Healy, Mark Hilpl, Karen Hoffman, Thomas Houlahan, Pamela Hurtado, Samantha Jones, Susan Lembo, Constance Liotta, Gina Lynch, Michelle Maher, Rosa Manrique, Kennyt Manuel Castro, Christina Marsella, Richard Marshall, Taheera Mushatt, Richard Norris, Patrick Phillips, Doreen Poulin, Maria Pryschlak, Paul Purpura, Colleen Rodriguez, Ruth Rodriguez, Kurt Rudolph, Luz Salvia, Dorna Schroeter, Kerry Seidel, Maria Simeone, Michael Skerritt, Jonathan Solomon, Janice Taylor, Elizabeth Thompson, Deborah Vertucci and Joseph Vertucci.

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