Students and staff at Central Valley Academy had a rare treat as New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King visited the district on Wednesday, Apr. 23.
Dr. King stopped in at Central Valley to see first-hand the results of the school merger and to observe teachers implementing the Common Core in their classrooms.
Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Assistant Superintendent Cindy Stocker, Central Valley Board of Education President Steve Coupe and Herkimer BOCES District Superintendent Mark Vivacqua walked with Dr. King as he stopped in five classrooms.
The first stop was Shelly McCarthy’s Life Skills class where students introduced themselves to the commissioner. Dr. King asked what they were working on that day. The students enthusiastically explained that classroom aide Debbie English wouldn’t arrive until later and that they were putting together a list for her, describing what they had done the previous evening. Mrs. McCarthy later explained that this is a daily exercise designed to get students engaged and to improve their socialization skills.
The group moved on to Jeff Mower’s English class where students were discussing the common themes of various characters and events in a wide range of literature. The conversation then broadened to include how some of these themes were present in actual historical events.
Stop three was Karen Guidi’s social studies class just as students finished a debate on gun control. Dr. King asked students about the most compelling arguments for and against restricting guns. Students said school shootings and the need to keep guns away from unstable people were the biggest reasons to consider gun control. The anti-gun comments focused on the fact that school shootings occurred in states with stricter controls as evidence that controls do not stop gun violence. They also cited evidence that the government has reduced funding for mental health programs that could identify and treat people who inclined to carry out gun violence.
Dr. King, then took a moment to ask students about their experiences with the merger. The group identified a new social environment and the opportunity to reinvent yourself and expanded class options as big plusses. Most negatives focused on parents’ unfounded worries, such as the loss of identity, the possibility of fighting between former athletic opponents and heightened competition for top honors in academic and extracurricular activities.
It was on to Jakob Lutke’s Robotics class where students were busy programming Lego robots to automatically maneuver an area without hitting black circles and Styrofoam cups. Dr. King stepped away to speak with students Dan Hectus and Ricky Blais who explained the project and their efforts to tackle the problem.
A last stop took everyone to Health class with Karen Anderson. Ms. Anderson was busy reviewing the negative effects of the many chemicals found in cigarettes, including tar, carbon monoxide and nicotine.
Back in the district office, Dr. King to Mr. Coupe, “I’m encouraged for the merger to have gone so smoothly.”
“Dr. King had a chance to see what our district has accomplished in just one year after the merger,” said Dr. Tangorra.
“We had a chance to privately talk about where we are and how much more we envision for the future. He shares our desires for our children. Our community can take great pride for having the courage and the foresight to blaze a new path in an effort to give our students so much more.”