- Superintendent's Blog
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week 2018!Posted by Dr. Paul Padalino on 5/7/2018
Teachers in the Kingston City School District provide so much to the students of this community. It is often said that teachers have the most important job in the world, as they shape the lives and minds of future generations. Teachers inspire and educate, and motivate our students to do their very best. They listen, they coach, and they mentor.
The role of a teacher is multi-faceted. On any given day, a teacher may act as a comforter, a conflict-mediator, a motivational speaker, and more.
Meeting students where they are at, whether their day begins with an arguement with a sibling, a skipped breakfast, or an emotionally traumatic event at home, is essential. People unfamiliar with the profession of education are often surprised by how many different things fall under the umbrella of the job.
Teachers have the unique privilege and challenge to shape the minds and futures of many, and they do so at critical life stages. Elementary teachers introduce young minds to new concepts, and set the attitude children will have towards learning for the rest of their lives. Middle school teachers have the unique task of imparting knowledge on pre-teens and teens during a time when the students are often more focused on their own social development. Our high school teachers face the final challenge of preparing a diverse group of learners, for college, employment, or the military.
To all of our teachers in the Kingston City School District – I appreciate you! Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
Eyes on the Prize: Budget Building and Graduation RatePosted by Dr. Paul Padalino on 4/9/2018
As we craft our proposed budget for the 2018-2019 school year, I sometimes sound like a broken record. Each year I recite the same goal: to balance the needs of our students with our community’s values and ability to pay. What does this really mean?
Every student comes to school with different needs, but if those needs are being met, they will graduate prepared for college, career, or the next challenge in their lives.
Some students come to school hungry, and need to be fed so that they have the ability to concentrate and learn. Some students come to school with diagnoses like dyslexia or autism, and must have an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, tailored to help them meet their goals. Some students come to school bored, waiting to be engaged by a dynamic teacher.
Examining these student needs is at the forefront of the budget planning process. The number of students who need help learning English will drive the amount of bilingual staff workers we hire. The percent of students with learning disabilities will determine the number of special education teachers we recruit.
On a deeper level, our knowledge as educators drives this decision making further. If data is indicating students are suffering from a lack of basic skills (commonly called a learning deficit), the decision to invest in early childhood education programs can help us save money later on, by avoiding costly special education services for students who can bridge their learning gaps at an early age. If our research shows that students are not graduating due to attendance issues, an increased investment in school social emotional programs and support staff can help solve truancy problems.
I am frequently heard asking my administrative team, “Will this help increase our graduation rate?” This it my first litmus test of whether a program or service can truly be of value to students.
I’m proud to say we are meeting the goal of increasing our graduation rates, both overall and within historically under represented groups. To name one remarkable achievement, our black students increased their graduation rates by 22 percentage points last year. Another dramatic increase was by students’ with disabilities, with this group earning a 10 percentage point increase in graduation.
Our overall graduation rate is 83%, and climbing. During this busy budget season, I am reflecting on both our successes and our failures. What helped students? What programs or services were ineffective? Though it still feels like winter outside, budget planning means my eyes are on the prize: June sunshine and our graduating Class of 2018.
Parkland ReflectionsPosted by Dr. Paul J. Padalino on 3/5/2018
As the impact of the Parkland, Florida shooting reverberates throughout America one of the most important questions being asked is, “How can we stop this from ever happening again?”
Locally, we are seeing the ripple effect of the Parkland tragedy, with copy-cat threats on social media shaking the psyches of parents, students, teachers, and administration.
As we review our safety procedures, practice our lockdown and lockout drills, and search for meaningful ways to honor the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we ask ourselves, “Is this enough?”
The answer is, of course, no. It is never enough. No candle-light vigil will do justice to illuminate the tragically short life of a murdered fourteen-year old. And no lockdown drill can truly prepare a student or teacher from the lifelong trauma of an active shooter entering or attempting to enter a school building.
That’s because stopping this from ever happening again isn’t only about safe exit strategies or bulletproof entry ways. It’s not all about high-tech security systems, or armed guards, or metal detectors. It’s a sad reality that investing in these reactive measures is necessary, but it won’t completely solve the problem.
While Congress and the Senate hear about crucial and necessary gun reform legislation, the conversation in education has been, “Is this enough? Is what WE are doing enough?”
Until not a single child falls “through the cracks”, the answer is no.
In his book, Why Kids Kill, Inside the Minds of School Shooters author and psychology professor Peter Langman states that no shooter becomes that way overnight.
In the time that passes between kindergarten and the teenage years, there are opportunities to reach these students. Compassion and connectedness are key. What works for one student, or what will reach one student over another, is different for each time.
Recently, we have increased our efforts to make sure we are reaching more students where it matters. Our partnership with the Teaching Empathy Institute, our work with New York University on culturally responsive education, as well as our ongoing partnerships with the city and the County are among the multitude of partnerships we have to reach kids. We know that we can’t do it alone.
It will take all of us to combat the trauma that our students face. In Kingston, we are fortunate to have a great deal of resources to help students and families. From Ulster County Mental Health, Family of Woodstock, to the Probation Department, to our City recreation centers, to the Boys and Girls Club, to the YMCA, there are many agencies designed to help those who are struggling. The people at these agencies, just like KCSD’s caring staff members, teachers, social workers, nurses, school psychologists, and principals, are what make the difference in young peoples’ lives.
When the people in these programs partner together, I know we can stop young people from falling through the cracks and becoming statistics. Whether those statistics are drug and alcohol abuse, violence, poverty, unemployment, or dropping out of school, I have witnessed the life-changing difference that a caring adult can make in a young person’s life.
Is what we are doing enough? No, not yet. It is a start, but we must move quickly. So, while politicians hear about legislation reforms, and our parents, students, teachers and community members lobby for the changes they feel are necessary, I urge my colleagues in education and human services to remember that we must partner together to ensure every young person receives the care and connectedness they need to thrive in society.
What we are doing is never enough until not a single child falls through the cracks.
The Summer of '17Posted by on 8/8/2017 12:56:00 PMThe summer of 2012 was a vastly different summer for me than the summer of 2017. In 2012, I was just six months into my role as Superintendent of the Kingston City School District. I remember vividly the hard work and long hours that marked the months of July and August, as I worked with the Board of Education to restructure the Kingston City School District educational system in the face of massive budget cuts and decreasing student population. The heat was on, literally and figuratively!Tough decisions were made, and ultimately the Board voted to close four elementary schools. Along with this, we made a commitment to the community that the schools would be repurposed in a manner that would enhance the surrounding neighborhood.Today, I signed a lease agreement with Ulster BOCES to repurpose Anna Devine Elementary School into an alternative high school, I am proud to say we have completely fulfilled this challenge.The first school to be sold and repurposed was the former Zena Elementary School. Kingston students have been able to directly benefit by this transformation, as it is the new home of the Paul Green Rock Academy, offering a performance-based interactive music school for children of all ages. The proceeds from the sale of Zena, as well as the benefit of returning this property to the tax rolls, have also bolstered KCSD’s financial stability.The second school to be sold and repurposed was the former Sophie Finn Elementary School. Thanks to the innovation and collaboration of City, County, SUNY Ulster and School District working together, the former elementary school became an institute of higher learning, as the Kingston-base of SUNY Ulster. Again, our students are directly benefitting from this transformation as it houses the innovative P-Tech program. Community members in Midtown are also served by having access to college courses, just walking distance from their homes.This May, voters approved a creative plan to move the KCSD’s administrative offices into the vacant Meagher school building, and add a prekindergarten center in the same location. This created a double-benefit for all of Kingston. Not only will the District’s current location be sold and add to the continued revitalization of Uptown, the long-term investment of offering prekindergarten to underserved students in Midtown will yield financial benefits in the years to come.In fact, the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs recently found that high quality early childhood programs can yield a $4 – $9 dollar return per $1 invested.The rural setting of Anna Devine, as well as its proximity to the main Ulster BOCES hub in Port Ewen, make it an ideal place for high school students seeking a fresh start. Again, this move directly benefits Kingston students, as they will be among the students receiving an education at the former Anna Devine, aptly named “The Phoenix”. In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a bird that is regenerated or reborn. I’ve seen the transformation Ulster BOCES can make, and am proud to partner with them to create an alternative opportunity for student success.Make no mistake, the summer of 2017 is still full of hard work. Thanks to the planning we did five years ago, the school district is in a much different position. The sun is beating down upon the construction at Kingston High School, as workers busily prepare more than 134,000 sq. ft. of new space for students and teachers to return to in the fall. The Board of Education recently made a critical decision as they accepted a multi-million dollar offer on the Cioni building. In addition, the usual business of curriculum writing, lesson planning, and creating new academic opportunities for our students are all happening in our district. The heat is still on; it is a great summer in the Kingston City School District!
June ReflectionsPosted by on 6/9/2017 1:03:00 PMAs we near the end of the 2016-2017 school year, I am in awe of all we have accomplished in the Kingston City School District. Some progress is easy to see. The KHS Salzmann addition is nearing completion, and will open its doors as a state-of-the-art learning center in the fall. I am grateful for the students and teachers who have endured the arduous nature of on-site construction, knowing this is a gift for many future generations. Thankfully, current students will also benefit from the project. I look forward to celebrating this milestone with an upcoming ribbon cutting ceremony.Other progress is less tangible, but even more important. While our graduation rate is not yet finalized, our students have continued an upward trajectory of achievement. Major progress continues to be made by historically struggling students, including those with learning challenges, and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.Recently, I was honored to attend the Ulster County School Board’s Annual Scholastic Achievement breakfast. It was a wonderful opportunity to chat with our KHS Valedictorian Finnegan Pike, and Salutatorian Michael Liu. Our conversation made me feel optimistic about the future of our country; we are in good hands with young leaders like Finnegan and Michael.Dozens of events are scheduled over the next few weeks, and it can be easy to get swept up in the sheer busyness of it all.Whenever possible, I look for the tiny triumphs of our students and feel the inspiration! At the annual Joe DeFino track meet, I proudly witnessed many young athletes sprinting to the finish line. For some, this track meet represents the first official accomplishment in what will be an impressive athletic career in the KCSD. For others, simply making the cut to participate is an accomplishment in itself.As I look to the future, I am invigorated by the successes in our rearview mirror, as well as the challenges that are ahead. The Cioni building is officially on the market, and plans are fully underway for the renovation of Meagher into an administrative/pre-kindergarten center. Opening the center means we will expand our opportunities to reach young lives. This means the KCSD will reach students at an earlier age and an especially critical time in their development. Once again, we will seek to innovate. We will choose the path that is a challenge, but one that is best for our students.I hope that all of our students and families take a moment to reflect on what they have accomplished during the upcoming moving up and scholastic achievement ceremonies. We have done great work together. For that, I thank you.
Thank You for Passing our Budget!Posted by on 5/17/2017 10:43:00 AMI would like to thank all of our community members who came out and voted in the school budget and Board of Education election. You play a very important role in shaping the future of KCSD schools and the future of our entire community. Our budget was approved with a 65% approval rating. For that, I am grateful.What’s especially exciting is that our proposal to renovate Meagher Elementary School is now a reality. This vacant school building will once again become a center of life and learning, as we transform it into a district Pre-Kindergarten center and our administrative offices. I’m personally looking forward to coming to work each day and seeing our students and families. It will be a daily affirmation of the important mission of public education. It’s also a smart investment in the future of this community. Multiple studies have shown the value of early childhood education in reducing reliance on social services in adulthood, decreasing instances of jail time and violent crime, and decreasing drug use. A relatively small monetary investment early in life will pay dividends later on.I’m also grateful to see that nearly 500 more residents of the KCSD came out to cast their ballots this year than in 2016. Members of the business community expressed interest in this year’s budget vote, as the move to Meagher will return the Cioni administration building to the tax rolls. I hope the individuals that came out to vote this year will continue to play an active role in participating in our school district.I am pleased to welcome back incumbents Nora Scherer (President) Reverend James Childs, Sr. (Vice President), and Trustee Priscilla Lowe to the Board of Education. Re-election of these Trustees is a vote of confidence in the direction of our district. We are excited to continue working together to achieve our goals and improve education for our students.Now, the real work continues. I am energized by this show of support, and will be a good steward of this investment in the education of our students.Once again, thank you to the voters in the Kingston City School District!
Happy National Teacher Day!Posted by on 5/8/2017 3:46:00 PMThe National Education Association has designated May 9th as Teacher Day, and I can’t think of a more appropriate time to thank our hard-working and dedicated faculty for their contributions to our students. Thank you for all that you do, every day.Elite athletes will often say that it is the last 10 kilometers of a marathon race that are the most difficult. When tackling a 26.2 race, squeezing out another 6.2 miles when you have 20 in the rearview mirror might seem easy. Of course, it is anything but. It is during the last miles of a race that our endurance is challenged the most.As we approach the finish line of another school year, many of us are suffering from depleted reserves. The energy and enthusiasm we brought to the table in September is still there, but it is becoming more difficult to muster. At every turn, there seems to be another commitment, and another challenge to meet. From state and local tests, to after-school plays, ball games, and musical performances, to parent-teacher conferences, the days of May and June are truly busy.Still, we push on. An athlete envisions the glory of the finish line, and we can picture the triumph of graduation. When our students walk across the stage with a diploma in hand, it is the ultimate victory.However, it is not only senior year that marks a moment of accomplishment in a child’s education. For every teacher, the victories are different. Learning to read, mastering a persuasive essay, understanding a mathematical concept; each of these accomplishments is worthy of celebration. So just as the marathon runner envisions the finish line to get through the toughest moments on the road, I hope that you can hold a vision of your teaching triumphs in your mind as we journey towards the last day of school.Happy National Teacher Day! Thank you for all that you do in the “marathon” of education!
What Happens on a Snow Day?Posted by on 3/27/2017 11:33:00 AMWith the arrival of spring and warmer weather on the horizon, it’s hard to believe that only a few weeks ago the East coast was hit with one of the largest snow storms we have seen in years. The storm, which was officially categorized as a blizzard, brought on dangerous cold, hurricane force winds, power outages and over two feet of snow.While students were bunkered down safely in their homes, the KCSD Buildings and Grounds team bravely reported for duty. With snow falling rapidly and heavy winds causing snowdrifts upwards of 6 feet tall, crew members stepped into high gear-shoveling, plowing, snow blowing and salting. At Miller Middle School, what would equate to over 1,000 dump trunks full of snow, was hauled away with loaders from the front parking lot alone. That was just one of our ten school buildings that had to be cleared.In addition to the work being done outside, the custodial staff were hard at work inside, making sure buildings were clean and safe for students upon their return. By Thursday, schools were ready to open their doors.The KCSD Buildings and Grounds crew went above and beyond and we are so grateful. Each day, this incredibly dedicated team of men and women are committed to keeping our schools safe and in working order. When faced with challenges, they do not shy away-in fact they prove just how valuable they really are.If you see a member of our Buildings and Grounds team, I hope you will join me in thanking them for their efforts!
December 2016 - ReflectionsPosted by on 12/20/2016 2:51:00 PM2016 has been another year of change in the Kingston City School District, and as December draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect on all the progress the year has brought our students, staff, faculty, and the entire school district community.The KHS Second Century Project is advancing ahead of schedule and is well under budget. The new student buildings no longer look like rudimentary steel shells. In fact, the Salzmann additions are nearing completion, and will be ready to welcome students in September. Although Kingston High School has received the most attention for the upgrades to its campus, throughout our ten buildings there are subtle improvements everywhere. From upgraded bathroom facilities, classroom enhancements, and new window fixtures the changes may be easy to overlook. Still, they are very necessary to maintain the integrity of our buildings and our taxpayer investment. Two very exciting improvements were the introduction of new playgrounds at George Washington and Robert Graves Elementary School, in large part due to the dedicated parent groups that spearheaded successful fundraising drives.Earlier this year, the KCSD welcomed a new director of safety and prevention, Mr. LeShawn Parker. A familiar face to many as a security officer in KCSD, Mr. Parker succeeded Mr. Richard Ballezza, who retired after more than eight years of dedicated service to the KCSD. Another significant farewell came when Ms. Joellen Gibbons retired from her post as assistant superintendent, and we welcomed Dr. Stacia Felicello to fill her (metaphorically) big shoes.George Washington Elementary School was shocked with the sudden passing of Mrs. Debrosky, a beloved special education teacher. The close-knit community at GW rallied around the students and employees closest to this loss, and I was proud to help facilitate the entire KCSD coming together to support them. We truly are a community.2016 was certainly a year of firsts in the KCSD. We held our first digital budget forum, leveraging live-streaming technology and Twitter to engage in a conversation about community priorities. We tackled tough issues head-on when we held our first forum on teen suicide prevention. We proudly cheered on the KHS Choir when they performed at Carnegie Hall, and applauded our KHS Tiger Marching Band when they placed second in the NYS Championships.We took a moment to reflect on the history of our district when more than four generations of students and faculty joined in celebration to dedicate the theatre in honor of beloved educator Wendell A. Scherer.This month, our athletics department continued its legacy of success with five athletes signing letters of intent to play at the college level, and an impressive nine teams earning the New York State Scholar-Athlete Team Award for the Fall 2016 season!Our ever-innovative Kingston High School arts department expanded our district mission of community collaboration with a new Midtown pop-up gallery, supported by the City of Kingston's Economic and Community Development Office.With all that’s been accomplished in 2016, one achievement stands above the rest: our graduation rate. The June 2016 graduation rate for Kingston High School was 84.16, the highest in decades. As we move forward to new accomplishments and new challenges in 2017, we keep our “eyes on the prize” of preparing all of our students for graduation as college-and-career ready citizens of the world.
The Value of PlayPosted by on 12/5/2016 3:24:00 PMA few weeks ago, I attended the ribbon cutting for the new playground at Robert Graves Elementary School. It was great to see the smiling faces of the students when Dr. Parese finally cut the ribbon and they were able to get to the new slides, climbing bars and other things that swing, spin and sway!A few years ago I was able to have the same experience as we opened the new playground at JFK Elementary. And this weekend, parents and community members put the finishing touches on a new space for George Washington Elementary!The value of play cannot be overstated. Research tells us that play is good for both the body and the mind, improving relationship skills and inspiring creativity. And our students will tell us; it’s just plain fun.Over the last four years we have been able to partner with parent organizations, community groups and local government to improve our play areas, build gardens and add exercise space /equipment. This is part of our effort to develop well-rounded, healthy children.Over the next few years we will continue these efforts and partnerships to bring new or improved play areas for children at all of our schools!
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