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Rumble of Thunder – Looking forward and back

December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays one and all! As you read this, students and staff alike will be about to take a much deserved break for the holiday season. For many, children will be nestled all snug in their beds with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. No matter each person’s beliefs, it’s important that we take time to enjoy the company of family and friends this season and appreciate those around us.

This time of year is also about reflection as we think about the past year and get ready to welcome in the New Year. As I reflect on the past couple years here at Central Valley, there are many reasons to be thankful and proud of all we have already accomplished. First and foremost, we have so many great people at Central Valley working tirelessly to help each one of our Thunder become the best person they can be. At times each of us is sure to feel overwhelmed, but the work we do is so critical to the lifelong success and well-being of our students. The work is never done, but yet each of you continue to do everything you can to help our Thunder to learn and grow. Thank you for all that you do!

Part of that work is the never-ending cycle of curriculum development and alignment. Each of our buildings, departments and grade levels are building the life blood of learning and teaching, curriculum development. A recent post on our website highlights all the work that has happened with math. The same could be said for many other areas. While the work can be difficult, it is necessary if we are to prepare our students for their future beyond the walls of Central Valley.

In order to help build a vibrant and rigorous curriculum, everyone involved continues to work to improve. Professional development is a critical component to building internal capacity for improvement. Our teachers and administrators are leading the way by helping each other with teacher- led professional development. While the past focused on one-day professional development activities with a guest speaker and little follow-up, our teachers are holding their own workshops and collaborating throughout the school year and even summer. A rising tide certainly does lift all boats.

As we discuss professional development, I would be remiss if I did not mention the significant number of teachers working to personalize learning for their students across all buildings. Personalized learning is nothing new as it’s a best practice that focuses on the individual needs and strengths of each child. Personalized learning looks different from classroom to classroom, but is rooted in using what each child can and cannot do to appropriately alter instruction. The number of teachers and administrators who have dived into personalized learning as a best practice with the great results they are seeing is a testament to their desire to help all students achieve.

Digital content and the use of technology can be used as an effective means to increase the efficiency of personalized learning. Less than two years ago, the availability of current technology and wireless capabilities was low. Through the work of our great staff, the MORIC, BOCES and business partners, we now have a robust wireless network that is able to easily handle the instructional demands of one-to-one computing in grades 5-12 and the needs of both elementary buildings. It’s incredible to see how technology based on best learning practices is impacting learning in all of our schools.

While the changes to the placement of grade levels at the elementary schools and transportation may not be liked by some, both have had a positive impact on our students. Before the change in start times, more that 10% of our students were riding the bus for over an hour each morning and afternoon. Following the recommendation of the transportation committee and top-notch work of our administrative team, not a single student is riding the bus for over an hour. This gives them more time to spend with their families and playing. With the elementary realignment, each grade level has been able to collaborate more than ever before to improve learning for all students. At a recent Board meeting, a board member asked the elementary principals how realignment was going. Each only had positive things to say. Nothing is ever perfect, but all are committed to being the best we can be.

Finally, Central Valley has expanded the services we can provide our students. Over a year ago, we applied for and received a grant to provide free breakfast and lunch for all students so that no child has to go hungry. This year we announced our partnership with the United Way with the creation of the Ready for Kindergarten program. This is working to help create connections between the schools, local agencies and our youngest Thunder so that they are ready and able to learn as soon as they start Kindergarten. We expanded our guidance department to meet the greater counseling needs of our students. Starting in January, our CVA students will be able to participate in NNDCC, which is the precursor to NJROTC. Over 100 students have already signed up to participate. All of this is just a sample of the great things happening at Central Valley.

In closing, I hope that everyone takes time over the holidays to enjoy the company of family and friends, to read a good book, to finish or begin something on the to-do list, or simply relax. As always, please let me know if you have a question or concern at either, or 894-9934. I look forward to talking with everyone in the New Year.

Dr. Rich Hughes