11/18 Town Hall Information Summary

Good Morning,

Many thanks to the families and community members who joined the HCS leadership team last night during our Town Hall Meetings. The structure for our time together included updates from each of our operational areas.  In effort to provide all of our families access to information shared last night, a summary may be found below.

Continuity of Operations: Mike Bastian, Business Official
Our support staff are working hard within all three operations departments (maintenance, transportation and food service) to continue pushing forward within the current COVID context.  As is the case with private sector businesses, our operations department leaders are dealing with supply shortages.  They have adjusted their ordering practices and have gotten creative to ensure we have the cleaning, PPE, food and mechanical supplies necessary to keep their teams and the school running smoothly.  Kudos to Gary Shafer, Amiee Winterhalt-Levesque and Ray Thomas for their leadership during this unprecedented time.

Food Service Department Updates:
  • Thanks to all HCS parents who completed free and reduced lunch application forms earlier this year.  If you have not done so already, please take a few moments to fill this form out.  Public school grant aid from the federal government is based upon the number of students who qualify for free & reduced lunch, so a full and accurate accounting of eligible students benefits instructional funding and programming at HCS.  The “NYS Free Lunch Form” is available online at honeoye.org on the parent & students page.
  • Please remember that breakfast and lunch are available free of charge to all HCS students the entire 21-22 school year.  We have seen a significant  increase in the number of students choosing school breakfasts and lunch so far this year.
  • Our kitchen staff, led by Amiee Winterhalt-Levesqsue have added many new menu items that have been popular with our students.  The kitchen has recently added fresh raw vegetables to the menu and kids are scarfing those up as well (broccoli and rainbow carrots have been very popular).
  • Please encourage your child to give our cafeteria offerings a try as we will continue to add new recipes and items throughout the year.
Transportation Department Updates:
  • Daily operations are running smoothly.
  • Students are following COVID protocols and expectations on our buses.
  • We were able to provide transportation for all of our fall sports teams while many regional districts were not, in short, we have been fortunate with our great, tight-knit staff to be able to cover more and do it better than many neighboring departments.
  • A new, full-size bus has been delivered and will be going into daily route service at the end of the month.  It is currently getting underbody rust-proofing which extends the life of our buses, thus stretching the taxpayers’ dollar.
  • Keep an eye out for a new Transportation Department website coming soon to www.honeoye.org.  Ray Thomas is hoping to design a site with helpful information for parents to answer frequently asked questions regarding student transportation.
Maintenance/Facilities Department Updates:
  • Our Facilities/Maintenance department staff are working hard to keep our school clean and safe each and every day.
  • We have shifted several facilities staff members and have added new members to our team to catch up with maintenance projects that have been tabled while we have been navigating through the same staffing challenges as other public and private sector employers.  We are almost back up to full staffing in the facilities department so we are looking forward to reaching that status a great deal.
  • Please note that we could still use additional subs across all of our operations departments.  If you are interested in subbing as a cleaner, monitor, bus driver, kitchen worker or clerk/typist, please see our substitute level job vacancies on the Ontario County HR website.  Please note that we are still looking to add one more full-time night cleaner.  Again, you can apply online at the Ontario County HR website.
News from Pupil Personnel Services: Tina Bush, PPS Director 
The Office of Pupil Personnel Services has had a very busy 10 weeks.  Our new School Social Worker, Molly Perrin has joined our team and has hit the ground running in supporting students and staff alike. You may remember last spring, HCS (as well as other school districts in our region) conducted a survey with grades 6, 10, and 12th graders that was sponsored by The Partnership of Ontario County and the Finger Lakes Community School to assess student’s environment, risk factors, social/emotional behaviors and drug use.  This data was important to us as it can be used to gain a snapshot of the health of the youth in our district as well as shape the need statement for any future grant writing and possible funding opportunities from Ontario County.  Some key highlights from the survey are:
  • Almost 50% of students felt that their life had direction and purpose
  • However, almost 50% of students felt sad or depressed most days in the past year
  • And close to 40% of students shared that they participate in sensation seeking activities
A more detailed review of the results will be shared at the upcoming Board Meeting on December 15th. 

In addition, I have had the opportunity to coordinate a grant rollout between HCS, WFL BOCES and Department of Justice School Violence Prevention.  This grant provides training to adults to become Instructors on Teen MHFA and then it is the responsibility of the certified instructors to turn-key the teen Mental Health First Aid to students in Grades 10-12 grade.  Teen MHFA teaches high school students how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders among their friends and peers. The training gives students the skills to have supportive conversations with their friends and get a responsible  and trusted adult to take over as necessary. It is designed to be delivered in six interactive classroom sessions of 45 minutes.  More information will be forthcoming as we determine how this will be implemented in the district.  

Last but not least, our very own CORAL 12:1+1 program had the opportunity to work this Fall with the  Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County (CCE) in supporting the 4-H Camp Bristol Hills Program.  CORAL continues to support their building projects at camp, including our Archery shed, Ropes Course shed, Fishing shed and this year’s replacement of our Day Camp Lodge deck and handicapped ramp.  

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to my office at any time.  
 
Greetings from the Technology Department: Chris Wickham, Director of Technology and Student Learning
We have had a great start to the school year in regards to technology and we are excited to continue to support the technology needs of our students and HCS community. The following serve as a few reminders and updates from the Technology Department:
  1. If you have not already completed the Digital Equity Survey that was sent to you via Parent Square last month, please do so as we are approaching the deadline for submission. The survey is due on Tuesday (November 23) of next week. This is a state issued survey that requires 100% participation and completion for our student body. This translates to completing one survey for every child in your household. The survey itself is specifically looking at devices that are provided by the school district and the internet that is available at your home. If you have any questions related to the survey or if you would like to complete this survey over the phone, please feel free to call my office at 585-229-4132 and I will gladly help you complete the survey in that fashion. A paper copy is also available upon request. Feel free to contact me and request the paper copy as desired.
  2. If your student has any issues with their Chromebook or school accounts (passwords, access to accounts, etc), please continue to have them use the Student Help Form or simply stop by the Tech office which is now located in room 352. If needed, the school can provide a loaner Chromebook until necessary repairs are completed. This loaner device will be turned in daily at the end of the school day or as directed by the librarian or tech office staff. 
  3. Please continue to remind your student(s) to charge their chromebook(s). Students at the secondary level are permitted to bring home their devices and should charge them on a nightly basis. Elementary students have access to charging stations where they place them at the end of the school day. Having a fully charged Chromebook battery will prevent any disruption of learning the following day. 
  4. As we enter the winter season, it is important to remember that we avoid leaving devices in vehicles overnight given the potential of freezing temperatures. Harsh winter nights can cause damage to our devices and are avoidable. 
Please feel free to email me at christopher.wickham@honeoye.org or call my office at 585-229-4132 with any questions or concerns you may have in regards to HCS Technology. I am here to help and support our students, staff, and community members any way possible.
 
Building Specific Updates: Natalie Pfluke, Elementary Principal
Commonly Asked Questions at the Elementary School Level
1- What time of day is the most...we’ll call it ”busy”...at school?
Lunchtime! While we want lunch to be fun and a place where students can laugh and chat with their friends, we also want students to be kind to each other and safe. Although students have been working really hard to adhere to the cafeteria expectations, it’s been a bit challenging because we have been down one monitor all year. We are happy to announce we hired our 4th cafeteria monitor this week, so we are officially fully staffed! We will also be providing training to the monitors on Monday, November 22nd. This professional development will include:
  • Behavior Management and interventions
  • Bullying Recognition and Prevention
  • How to offer positive reinforcement and feedback to students on the spot- and why that is important for improving behaviors in the cafe
  • Appropriate student interactions
  • And coming up with positive behavior incentives
2- What are you doing differently so that students don’t have to quarantine?
We know our kids are doing a fantastic job masking- however, we know that at lunch, students are unmasked, possibly for more than 15 mins, less than 6 feet apart. In our intermediate grades, we were finding that the students having to quarantine were having to do so because of lunch. By now utilizing the LGI, we are able to spread students out so that they are 6 feet apart while eating lunch. When they are done eating, they can mask and move a bit closer to each other- it’s been going really well. We are hoping to introduce games such as Guess Who and Battleship, so that pieces don’t have to be shared.
3- What is going to happen (and we don’t anticipate this) if we have to go remote? 
If HCS has to adjust to remote instruction, we will communicate with the community as soon as possible. I anticipate that there may be a need to have one day to transition, for teachers to gather materials and devices for families to pick up. At the UPK-5 level, all teachers are utilizing Google Classroom, which will allow for a swift transition. Teachers are having students practice logging onto their devices, so that in the event of a closure students are familiar with what to do from home. Students can expect assignments from special area teachers as well. Our tech department is working on renewing our hotspots so that we can offer these to families who have connectivity issues. Again, this is an unlikely event, but we certainly want to be prepared!
4- What is going on in literacy?
If you were to walk into any of our classrooms during ELA you would see students engaged in conversations around high quality fiction and nonfiction read aloud texts- selected by the classroom teacher. During reading workshop, students learn reading strategies and phonics principles in short, focused mini lessons.  Then, they have opportunities to apply that new learning directly to their own independent reading of self-selected books. We talked earlier this year about the new independent reading books that were purchased and distributed to all of our elementary classrooms. Students are loving these selections!
Students may also be responding to their reading, by writing in a journal. Students also meet with the teacher in small targeted groups for Guided Reading, focusing on their individual reading goals.  
5- What is going on with math?
If you were to visit a Bridges classroom, you would see students: 
  • Talking about math
  • Describing observations
  • Explaining methods they are using to solve problems
  • Asking questions- including asking each other questions and having rich discussions...about math!
There are three components to the Bridges curriculum
  • Number Corner
  • Problems & Investigations; and
  • Work Places 
Math is a blend of direct instruction, structured investigation, and open exploration.
 
Building Specific Updates:  Addie Klaehn, Secondary Principal
I want to first take a moment to thank you for all of the well wishes I have received regarding my impending departure from HCS.  I like to think they are sincere and not just a relief to be rid of me, but either way, I am grateful!  In all seriousness, I have to say that my experiences here in this school community have been nothing short of inspiring.  This building has made me the educator I am and has helped me to develop my own set of values and beliefs, and I will be forever grateful for that.  I will carry HCS with me for the rest of my life and look back fondly on the 17 and a half years I spent as a Bulldog.   Regardless of the limited time I have left, there is still work to do, and I will continue to do it.  I want to touch briefly on some of the more pressing concerns and celebrations that we have seen or continue to face at the secondary level.

First and foremost, I would like to address the topic of student behavior and discipline that has seemingly surged this school year.  I think it is important to recognize that this uptick in undesirable behaviors from students is not unique to HCS; it is prevalent across the nation. We can surmise that it has to do with the lingering effects of the pandemic, whether those are due to family illness, financial strain, isolation, or the reduced number of hours in school between March of 2020 and June of 2021. We also know that the school is a microcosm of society at large, and the polarizing political atmosphere seeps into our building in many ways.  As a result of both of these combined, students are quite literally learning how to be together again, how to have respectful disagreements, and how to cope with conflict. I am happy to report that many of the larger social issues that we saw a few weeks ago seem to be on the decline.  We have encouraged students to report incidents, invited them to participate in courageous conversations with counselors and administrators, and facilitated conversations between students to aid in conflict resolution.  Students who make poor decisions, whether they are in the form of words or actions, are facing a myriad of consequences. Sometimes we take a restorative approach, but with each subsequent incident the consequence increases in severity. The consequences that are given out to students are not public knowledge, but I assure you that they exist and will continue to be implemented.

Another subject that has been on the forefront of our efforts here at school is the masking mandate.  We know that this subject is also polarizing, and I am well aware of the fact that many of our families believe we should be taking a stand against this mandate from the New York State Education Department, but I’m not here to debate that.  What I can tell you is that we are constantly reminding students to pull up their masks throughout the day.  When the Department of Health interviews us about exposures, they ask if students are masking with fidelity, and this could very well be the deciding factor when it comes to quarantining students.  Any student who downright refuses to wear a mask in school will be sent home. Fortunately, we have not experienced this yet.  With the arrival of winter athletics, this is something we are all thinking about.  Our spectators, whether they are students or community members, need to wear masks appropriately.  We certainly do not want to close our doors to spectators, but if we cannot demonstrate appropriate mask wearing in schools, we will certainly consider it.

I would like to end on a couple of positive notes. To start, we opened an Academic Recovery Center this year.  This classroom is staffed by a teaching assistant, Mrs. Bendix.  Mrs. Bendix has been kept on her toes supporting students who are struggling with their academics or working on a credit recovery program.  Students are recommended by their teacher to enter the ARC and Mrs. Bendix works with those teachers on a recovery plan.  When they have met success, they return to their regularly scheduled study hall.  The ARC has been instrumental in supporting our students’ academic needs, and we are happy to be able to offer it as a resource for our students.

Lastly, I want to give a massive, heartfelt shout out to the staff at HCS.  These folks have worked tirelessly since the start of the school year, despite being short-handed in nearly every department, including the cafeteria, our facilities crew, and even our instructional staff.  It’s also worth noting that the health office, as you can imagine, has been a rather busy place this year. Mrs. Tonkery somehow remains one of the most positive people I have ever met. What this means is that our staff has been covering the gaps and pinch hitting every minute of the day, stepping in to do whatever job needs to be done.  One thing I have always said about our staff is that they love our students.  They work miracles every day.  I am a realist, and I know that all students sometimes have bad days.  They might not always love their teachers, but they will be loved every day. I know this to be true because I’ve seen it with my own eyes every day for over seventeen years, and I know it will continue to be true even after my time at HCS comes to an end.
 
Note: Our Town Hall Meetings concluded with a Question and Answer segment. There were no questions raised!  

On behalf of the Honeoye Central School District, thank you for your ongoing support and partnership in advocacy for all HCS students. There is no place like Honeoye...  As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns about the information included in this communication, or otherwise.

Warmest regards,
E. Bridget Ashton

Elizabeth Bridget Ashton
Superintendent, Honeoye Central School District
8528 Main Street
Honeoye, New York 14471
bridget.ashton@honeoye.org
On Twitter: @EBridgetAshton