By LEVI PASCHER
Fulton County Express
A new academic year will commence in Fulton County school districts next week and there will be plenty of changes on hand for students, teachers and parents, district officials said.
Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent Michael Vanyo said major changes have have been taking place since school last concluded, including the hiring of 15 new teachers and preparing staff for a new technology initiative that will provide every student in grades 6-12 with their very own chromebook.
“We’ve done a lot of professional development for teachers this summer,” Vanyo said. “Our technology initiative is moving us to a Google platform. We have been training a lot of our teachers because this year we will be starting the one to one initiative where each student will get a chromebook.”
He said each student in the middle and high school will now be equipped with their own personal computer to help them learn and keep up with assignments both in school and at home.
“We are trying to get that kind of technology into the hands of kids because it can help them with learning,” Vanyo said. “They are going to have access to these devices 24/7 because they will be taking the laptops with them. They will be able to get the things they need no matter where they are doing work.”
He said the iPads previously provided to students at the middle school have since been shifted to the various elementary buildings to bring the technology to more students within the district.
The district will also continue to provide students a solid foundation at Gloversville High School through the Freshmen Academy for incoming ninth graders.
He said freshmen will be assigned a team of core teachers who will work closely with each other and the students to help them transition to high school. Additionally, incoming freshmen will also be introduced to the new career academy which includes architecture, engineering and design classes.
“It’s an expansion of our Project Lead the Way program,” Vanyo said. “It’s a little more rigorous, provides more college credit opportunities to our students and gives them career opportunities with potential internships.”
High school students will also continue to adapt to the schedule change implemented last year with class times in most courses increasing by 40 minutes to provide more learning time.
Vanyo said the district is also looking to continue the Results First initiative which allows each building to seek certain academic targets to make sure both students and teachers are meeting the goals the district desires.
“We will be monitoring those throughout the year and use that information to help improve student achievement,” Vanyo said. “Our number one goal is to continue to work toward improving the graduation rate.”
The district will look to expand on the success of the full-time truancy officer which was increased from a part-time basis last year.
“We saw real improvement last year and we want to get more students in school,” he said.
Vanyo said the district is also in the early stages of preparing for the previously approved $37.8 million capital project.
“We will be doing bidding on the first phase around December with the idea that we could begin construction of the turf field this school year,” Vanyo said.
He said across the district 15 teaching positions were filled over the summer due to recent retirements. He said since summer school ended the teachers and janitorial staff at each building have been busy cleaning and preparing the classrooms for the students next week.
“We are excited about this year because we have steadily seen the growth we’ve been working toward,” Vanyo said. “I think we are really going to be able to expand on what we already started.”
Greater Johnstown School District
The Greater Johnstown School District is still in the process of completing major exterior changes at several district buildings before students return next week, Assistant Superintendent Patricia Kilburn said.
The district started the first phase of the previously approved $39.6 million capital project over the summer which included exterior changes at several district buildings such as new parking, roofing and the installation of new playground equipment.
“They can expect to see some exterior changes,” Kilburn said. “We have new roofing, new playgrounds up and some changes to the dismissal and arrival patterns at some of the schools.”
She said the district will be welcoming some new teachers and returning teachers were busy preparing their classrooms last week for the first day of classes. The district is entering the third year of both grade-level grouping and the Freshmen Academy.
Kilburn said the students and faculty encountered a few unexpected issues when grade-level grouping first started but overall the change has been successful.
“I think a lot of people were seeking the finished product right away,” she said. “It’s been a process and has become more established. We’ve really been able to expand our enrichment opportunities at each of the buildings.”
The previously created “Freshmen Academy” will continue this year for incoming freshmen which allows them to have the same teachers for the primary four core subjects. The program is designed to will help the students transition from junior high to high school.
The district will also be moving the Learning Project previously operated at the Jansen Avenue school back to the high school this year. The Learning Project provides seniors the opportunity to attend half-day sessions in a project based learning environment.
Kilburn said the transition was made to allow other teachers to assist and learn new teaching methods within the high school.
“We are bringing that back to the high school,” she said. “Part of the reason for that is to allow the kids to be involved on the high school campus but we also want that energy to be shared amongst teachers already at the high school.”
The district will also start implementing new video game curriculum for high school students this year.
“The program is called Game On and it’s going to be available at the high school,” Kilburn said. “Children who go into this program will have three different options to explore such as graphic design and story narrative; the business and marketing of video games; and coding or creating the software for video games.”
She said the courses would provide credits toward each participating students high school degree. Kilburn said the pathway has been developed for incoming freshman but some of the classes would also be available as an elective to other students.
Broadalbin-Perth Central School District
The students and parents of the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District will be able to participate in new courses and initiatives starting this school year, District Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said.
The high school will be offering a variety of new classes for students to take this year including AP environmental science, adirondack science, cyber security, SUPA English, SUPA public policy, sports statistics and SAT preparation.
Tomlinson said parents across the district will also now have the opportunity to take new courses themselves through the newly created Parent University.
“It’s an initiative to help us meet our goal of making a stronger connection through parent engagement within our district,” he said. “It’s going to be active in all four of our buildings.”
Tomlinson said the district will offer a series of parent workshops and update the website to provide parents more resources on a regular basis through the new initiative. He said the website changes are still being developed but should be online within the first month of classes starting.
He said some of the workshops have tentatively been scheduled including a session on student anxiety in October; a session in January on technology safety; a session in March on student anxiety created by testing; and a session in April on motivating and engaging students.
“We’re very excited about that initiative,” Tomlinson said. “We think this will be a tremendous resource for our parents as this school year moves forward.”
Tomlinson said due to budget restraints the district will primarily see the continuation of previously implemented programs and initiatives this year. He said the district will continue to offer the same STEM related enrichment programs such as the rocketry, turbine and robotics team opportunities to students.
“We now have 10 robotics teams serving students from fourth grade right on up to the high school,” Tomlinson said. “Our Board of Education is extremely interested in these types of programs that improve the learning experience for the students. What we have today isn’t going to be enough for what our students need tomorrow and we are constantly looking for innovative ways to challenge both our students and teachers.”
Tomlinson said returning teachers are also improving the curriculum offered within the district.
“They have been working on curriculum development and we are working together to do a much better job at aligning our curriculum both vertically and horizontally,” he said.
Mayfield Central School District
There will be several new faces reporting to work within the Mayfield Central School District this year.
The district has hired new staff at the elementary school including Michelle Bowers in pre-k, Brynn Hlozansky in physical education, Nicole Conklin as a reading specialist, Kasie Hepfinger as a math AIS teacher, and Holly Bennett as a special education teacher. Dr. Halley Zanconato will be shared librarian in the district. The district hired Mary Alice Hipwell as the new director of student support services. Elementary students will also be coming back to a new playground that will soon to be dedicated with a ceremony
Several new staff will also be joining the Mayfield Jr. /Sr. High School including: Pam King teaching English 7 and 9; Cynthia Lee teaching secondary math; Dillion Zumbolo teaching math 7; and Christine Goodemote teaching special education at the junior high level.
Northville Central School District
The Northville Central School District will also be welcoming new staff this year.
Some of the new faculty and staff includes: Katie Bogart, secondary special education; Jill Harris, fourth grade; Samantha Boyle moved from AIS Reading to first grade; Deborah Nordyke, AIS reading; and Mary Harrington, media center specialist. Administratively the district will also be introducing Tammy Reidell as the new elementary principal, and beginning in September, Michael Caterina will become the new district facilities manager
The first day of school for all students in Fulton County is Wednesday, Sept. 7.