January 2021
From the Superintendent

Dear Pawling Families, Students, and Staff,

This has been a challenging time for students, families, and educators. Every single one of us is doing our very best in the context of a global pandemic, rancor and distrust in our national body politic, and the personal challenges that come with emotional and financial strain and loss. Nevertheless, I am immensely hopeful and feel wholly optimistic about our future. Allow me to share with you some of the indications of our brighter days to come.

Our students have shown tremendous adaptability, resilience and persistence. This generation of students will be affected by this pandemic, surely; however, far from all effects are negative. I hope you are able to glimpse some of the ingenuity, passion, and sense of service to the community we get to see every day as you read some of the pieces in this newsletter. Our staff continues to take pride in our ability to maintain a focus on learning, provide a high percentage of in-person learning, and continue to move forward toward district goals. It is far from easy, requiring flexibility, creativity, and persistence from every single staff member. The many gestures of recognition and appreciation from our community for our staff remind us of how important our work is. I want to thank you for recognizing our staff’s commitment to the students we share. It was rewarding to see our teachers featured recently in the Poughkeepsie Journal as they continue to support our students in gaining the critical skills and understanding that help them contribute to civil civic discourse. 

Our health team is launching another systemic protocol to continue to keep our campuses safe with a modest voluntary surveillance testing program. And, I just cannot find the words to adequately thank our community and its representatives on our Board of Education for their commitment to our future, signaled so clearly in our successful capital projects referendum vote. Thanks to the collaboration among staff, students, community, and the diligent work of our Board of Education, we came together to envision the district’s future and passed three Capital Projects propositions that will allow us to continue to keep our students’ health, wellness, and 21st Century Skill-building at the forefront of our mission. Our project team has begun its work and I look forward to updating you as we progress.

This month’s newsletter highlights 20 Time, an outstanding example of personalized learning led by eighth-grade English Language Arts Teacher Darlene Eirish-Schofield. The newsletter also looks at the Technology Department, whose expertise and dedication have allowed us to be fluid and flexible during the pandemic. The IT department’s child-first philosophy and prior planning are emblematic of our approach to education. We continually look to the future to ask how we can address inequality to offer the best education to all of our students. You will also see the evident support of our community, in Pawling Rotary’s special annual visit to our third graders. These stories illuminate just a few of the many members of the Pawling community who are helping us every day build that brighter future.

Thank you for your continued partnership.

Kim Fontana, Superintendent of Schools

Focus on Learning
20 Time
20 Time check-in days have eighth-grade English Language Arts teacher Darlene Eirish-Schofield running, laughing, cheering, and asking her students questions to help move their projects forward. Her students spend 20% of class time pursuing their own passions in a structured environment that supports self-discovery, expression, academic rigor, and exploration.

Some students are learning languages—Korean, Romanian, and American Sign Language to name a few. Jocelin S. is learning Korean because her family enjoys Korean movies. Adrina S. is learning American Sign Language by looking at pictures and watching videos. Alyssa G., who already speaks French with her grandmother, will learn Romanian from a family friend and Duolingo. She chose Romanian so she could understand her sister’s boyfriend and because she knew it would be something that she wouldn’t give up on. It’s this kind of self-discovery that is such a big part of 20 Time. Two students are learning calligraphy. Two others are exploring their immigrant roots by interviewing family members about their experiences.

This is the fourth year that Eirish-Schofield has run the 20 Time program that comes out of an idea from Google, which allowed its software engineers to spend 20% of their paid time on passion projects. Educator Kevin Brookhauser popularized the idea for educators. Eirish-Schofield and Stacy Scofield, former eighth grade special education teachers, attended a series of workshops at Putnam Westchester BOCES and started this program in Pawling four years ago. Following that workshop and visits to other districts, Mrs. Eirish-Schofield has gained notable expertise, presenting on the topic at the National Council of Teachers of English in 2019.

Now, many students learn about the program from older students and siblings and come in with a set idea of what they want to explore. For example, Ian M. came in with a dream to create a series of all-school art contests. Ian met with principal Megan Gleason and worked with Art Teacher Crystal Walters to create flyers, announcements, and a transparent judging system. Since then, the advisors of the yearbook have asked him to run a contest for the yearbook cover! Ian is turning his dream into reality.

Students are allowed to collaborate. Cooper K. plans to rebuild a PC with Matt Z. Another student, Cristina M, who wants to be a teacher, will collaborate with teachers in the building to tutor fifth and sixth-grade students virtually. Everett D. will photograph staff and students to create a collection of photos that “convey the message that through the darkest times, we can still make the best of what we’re given.”

Service is a common passion for these students. Kylie M. chose to crochet bookworm bookmarks for her project, which she sells at Aneu Salon in Pawling. The proceeds go to the Ryan McElroy Cancer Foundation. On check-in day, Eirish-Schofield admired Kylie’s adorable bookmarks and discussed creating a more descriptive point of sale flyer.

While 20 Time is independent, it is also demanding. Students have to make a memorized pitch to their class to get approval for their project. They are accountable with deliverables including a blog, bi-weekly check-ins, and a TED Talk-style presentation to wrap up the project in the spring.
Engineering and Other Real-World Applications in Precalculus Classroom
Donna McGrail's precalculus students completed a project with real-world applications. Students crafted simple clinometers to measure angles of elevation. The students then used trigonometry to estimate the height of the high school building. Surveyors, astronomers, geologists, and engineers are among the professions that use these techniques for indirect measurement of objects.
Terrific Tigers
PHS Senior Hayden Housen Named Science Scholar
Pawling High School Senior Hayden Housen is one of 300 Top High School Scholars named in the 80th Regeneron Science Talent Search More information on Housen’s project: Lecture2Notes: An Automatic Multimodal Machine Learning System to Summarize Lecture, can be found on Ms. Rinaldo's website. https://www.rinaldog.com/symposium.html
Housen and Pawling High School will each receive $2000 to use toward STEM-related activities.
Rotary Club Shares Love of Literacy
Every year, the Pawling Rotary Club gives dictionaries to third graders. In these photos, Board of Education member Dr. Jeffrey Asher and Superintendent Kim Fontana, both Pawling Rotary members, joined in the annual tradition, delivering wrapped books to Mrs. Maaz and Mrs. Bizier's students.
Art Students Celebrate Beauty of the Great Swamp
Artwork, Left to Right: Autumn Earle, Karla Mendez, Madison Cole
Congratulations to Pawling High School students: Autumn Earle (first place), Karla Mendez (first place), and Madison Cole (third place) for their success in the first annual FroGS Great Swamp Celebration Virtual Art Show 2020! These students' evocative landscapes reflect the beauty of the Great Swamp.
Magic Man and the IT All-Stars
Archival photo of Christopher Lee Quiñones with students before the pandemic.
“Prior proper planning prevents poor performance.” So said James Baker, rephrasing with less colorful language an old military saying. According to Technology Director Christopher Lee Quiñones, Pawling Central School District’s prior planning in technology allowed the district to be ready for continuous learning during the pandemic.

“I’ve seen a lot of districts scrambling,” said Quiñones. “We were in a place where we could make good decisions. We have been planning on one-to-one devices for each student at the secondary level for years.”

Quiñones cited the support of district administration and the Board of Education as critical for this planning. “All principals recognized that these tools were necessary and would enhance the educational experience. When we presented our ideas to the Board of Education five years ago, board members were ecstatic about the educational opportunities afforded by new technologies. They dove right in.”

Quiñones said the district’s technology philosophy has always been student-driven. “We ask, ‘what are the needs of the students? How does this help the student?” Quiñones leads the technology team, which includes Tim Wojnar, Joan Roberts, and John Deluca who has just joined the team as IT Assistant.

Third and fourth-grade teacher Stephen Malone said that the whole elementary school calls Quiñones “Magic Man.” “He is a school-wide celebrity,” said Malone. “Someone who is rarely seen but frequently heard from across the hall, and he always magically makes things work. Teachers from other schools are envious of Pawling when they hear how supportive our IT Department is.”

Third-grader Emmie testified to the good fortune of Pawling: “It’s cool that Magic Man fixes all of our computers. He keeps everything in good condition and helps us with technology when things stop working.”

Quiñones acknowledged that the massive shift to remote-learning revealed the widening digital divide in the district in terms of access to the internet and devices. The district works hard to address any gaps and provide the tools to ensure every student has access to online learning.

Superintendent Kim Fontana credited Quiñones, Assistant Principal Michelle Rivas, and High School Science Curriculum Leader and Administrative Intern Sara Von Burg for helping communicate with families and staff. Rivas and Von Burg ran parent information sessions in English and Spanish this fall to assess need and support parents on Google Classroom so that they could support their students.

“We saw an immediate change in engagement,” said Von Burg. “Once parents had the technology, knew how to log-in, and check assignments, we saw improved attendance and engagement. Parents were very grateful.” Von Burg surveyed teachers to find out what they needed and was able to tailor her professional development sessions to address specific challenges including creating breakout rooms for students, monitoring progress, and support for Google Docs and Slides.

In keeping with the IT department’s student-driven philosophy, Von Burg said, “We are on the cusp of a time of great transformation. We can put the students first without compromising the integrity of their education. The result is that students are able to flourish and it’s so beautiful.”
Pictured from left to right: John DeLuca, IT Assistant; Sara Von Burg, Science Teacher; Michelle Rivas, Assistant Principal; Tim Wojnar, Systems Specialist; and Joan Roberts, Data Coordinator.
Tamara-Anne Barbour, Director of Athletics, reports that High School winter sports are continuing although modified to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. “We are providing opportunities for student-athletes to engage in sport and interact with peers through skills and drills and practices,” she writes. “We are offering practices and competition for low/moderate risk sports: Alpine Ski and Indoor Track and Field. We are offering skills for Girls Basketball, Boys Basketball, Ice Hockey, Wrestling, and Dance.”
Indoor Track and Field Team practicing outdoors and using the Pawling Recreational facility.
Middle School Physical Education Teacher Erin Sutton put together 12 Days of Fitmas to keep her students moving through the holiday season. The exercises could be continued through the year for good physical fitness and mental health and wellness.
Digital Backpack
The digital backpack is updated regularly with information from the schools and local community. You can find a link for it under the Parent tab of the homepage. It is also listed on the homepage with the date of the most recent update.
We Are Hiring!
The Pawling Central School District is a great place to work. We have positions open for full-time permanent building substitute teachers and custodial workers. We also have substitute positions open in many other job categories: certified teacher, uncertified teacher, teaching assistant, teacher aide, monitor, bus driver, and food service worker. We also have part-time positions open, such as school monitor. Full-time positions earn excellent benefits. As a team of educators, we never doubt that we are making a difference for our community. PCSD offers walk-throughs and orientations for those thinking about working in schools. Our very best employees are often people who live in our community. Diverse and bilingual candidates are encouraged to apply. See the link below to reach our friendly and helpful Human Resources Team.

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