From the Desk of Superintendent Kanas: A close up of technology in classroom

Elaine Kanas

Technology in our Schools

At the Jan. 6, Board of Education work session, Dave Casamento, district director of Science and Technology, and a host of our staff and students, presented an up close look at how technology is being used in our classrooms.  

A key point of the presentation was that technology for technology sake is not the goal, but using technology in our classrooms when it can further our student’s learning and understanding is the goal.  

There were so many wonderful examples presented of how, with the community’s consistent support, our technology innovations and implementations are being put to excellent purpose.   

The first topic covered was social media. Director of Secondary Curriculum and Social Studies Danielle Gately and Willets Road fifth grade teacher, Lynn Flynn, along with sixth grade students Sophia Caputo and Krittika Prajapati described the editing project they are doing for the well-known young adults and tween author Erin Downing.  

Sophia and Krittika, along with sixth grader Charlotte Iannone, received a copy of Ms. Downing’s manuscript to read and provide input on her new book, not yet published.  

Through Dr. Gately’s and Ms. Flynn’s educational twitter accounts, the students were initially connected with the author, resulting in this exciting project where the three girls have direct interaction with the author who has been very appreciative of their insight. 

Kindergarten teacher Susan Soliman and first grade teacher Donna Casano shared the many ways that iPADS are being used in the classroom to maximum benefit for our youngest students. 

These students use them to work on ELA, math and other activities in classroom learning centers.  

Fourth-grade teachers Kelly Powers, Holly Conklin and Jill Widyn shared the benefits of Chromebooks in the elementary classroom, highlighting that Google Apps can be accessed both at home and in school for students’ continued work on projects.  Also highlighted were the benefits of using Chromebooks to provide differentiated access for students with special learning needs, including our English as a New Language students. For example, our ENL students can access audio, view movies and visit websites on particular topics of study.  

Teachers also shared the virtual field trips that the Chromebooks provide which make learning topics, including historical study, come to life for our children.  

Students are provided with the opportunity for individualized learning and exploration on a whole class topic.  

For example, we saw that one student researches the clothing and styles of fashion in Colonial America while another student watches a video on Discovery Education about the establishment of colonies  during the 1600s and 1700s and another researches what it was like for children during the colonial time period.   

In these and other grades, students are able to share their work, through Google Docs with the teacher for editing and comments.  Fourth graders Jessica Shaw and Benjamin Krittman shared examples of their research.  

Our elementary library media center, as do our Willets Road and Wheatley media centers, hosts a wide array of data bases for our students to use as they research and build an understanding of topics in a manner that supports critical thinking.  

For example, TrueFlix is used to explore the Iroquois and the New York Colony during the revolution.  The e-Rosen collection provides e-books on New York history, including the native people of our areas and explorers.  

Databases like help students and teachers get to know new authors and old favorites.  

North Side Library/Media Specialist Karen Homer described North Side’s Library Web Site where content is pushed out to classrooms and homes for curriculum support and individual research and reading. Like all our school libraries, North Side is open 24/7 on the web!  

We are fortunate in the District to have two Instructional Technologists and three technology teaching assistants who support full and meaningful integration of technology in the classroom, working closely with our classroom teachers, as well as providing students with the foundational skills they need.  Rochelle Sroka, instructional technology learning specialist at North Side and Kim Kelleher, at Willets Road and Wheatley, shared some of the building blocks of computer technology skills that North Side and Willets Road  students learn that support them as they move on to the upper grades, such as mouse skills, keyboarding, computer systems, file management, coding  and cloud computing. 

North Side students Amany Abdelwahab, Trevor Gucker and Paris Triantafillou and Willets Road students Sarah Hochstein and Emilia Keys helped Mrs. Sroka and Mrs. Kelleher present to the board.

Other examples of technology in action presented to the Board included demonstrations by Willets Road teachers Ms. Flynn, Katerina Skiadas and Diane M. Viola regarding the use of Chromebooks in math and science and Ron Roaldsen’s description of the sixth-grade teachers’ use of Edmundo which allows ongoing assessment of student learning to address student learning needs and challenges.

Willets Road teachers Natalie Brew and Bridget Lennon shared the wonders of the Grades 6 and 7 Digital Science textbook that provide students with science in action, living examples through Discovery Learning.  

Willets Road physical education teacher, David Burke, Wheatley Spanish teacher Mary Martinez and Wheatley music teacher Peggy Ho, prepared slides to show how technology is used not only in math, science, social studies and ELA but also to make learning more accessible in these other important subjects areas.     

A fun highlight of the evening took place when students Katie Gold, Alex Horowitz, and Dean Sheinman  demonstrated their robotics projects built in Danielle Calvagno’s eighth grade Robotics Class. (This class is an implementation of one of our Strategic Plan Goals which was to have a fully implemented 8th grade robotics class.) 

Wheatley math teacher Joe Fina provided slides regarding the new Computer Science and Software Engineering course he teaches this year, again, another Strategic Plan Goal which has us implementing a four-year engineering sequence. 

Wheatley science research teacher, Alexis Blondrage demonstrated the use of Google sheets in teaching data analysis in her science research classes. 

Wheatley English teachers Daniel Burke and Jenna Stein presented on the use of Chromebooks in their English classes.  

They use the sharing features of Google docs and they are communicating and sharing work between students and teachers using Google classroom.  During the Board presentation, Mr. Burke mentioned how the use of these devices exceeded his imagination. He indicated that they use them almost daily and continue to develop new instruction incorporating the devices.  

Continuing to build the District’s capacity to utilize technology effectively in our classrooms and ensure all teachers have the opportunity to build their own technology skills to ensure consistency across programs and grades, we are fortunate that this year’s budget supports Instructional Technology Learning Specialist, 

Audra Beberman, on special assignment to work with our teachers and students to support professional development in this area. Mrs. Beberman outlined the many things our teachers are learning that will enable them to continue to grow and develop their use of technology in their classrooms, to benefit our students’ learning.

To see the full power point of the presentation provided at the January Board of Education Work Session go to > go to School Board on the left side vertical navigation bar > hover on the BOE Meeting Presentations > click on 15-16 BOE Presentations > click on Instructional Technology Presentation (in two parts).  

Thank you to the staff and students who participated in creating the power point presentation and at the Board of Education work session.  

Wheatley Graduation Rate Highlighted

Last week you may have read in the newspaper that the State Education Department recently released a district-by-district breakdown of high school graduation rates.  

The data reflects rates based on students who entered high school in 2011 and graduated in 2015 (on-time graduation).   

Of the school districts in Nassau County, the East Williston School District was cited as having the highest graduation rate at 97.5 percent, with 84.5 percent of those students earning a diploma with advanced designation, which requires additional rigorous course work.  

Congratulations to the Wheatley administration, teachers and support staff for all their efforts in supporting and reaching our variety of learners, helping guide their path to success.      

The Circus Came to Town

The circus came to town, that is, it came to North Side the week of Jan. 10.  What an exciting time for all our elementary school students North Side participated in a five-day residency with the National Circus Project, an educational cultural arts and physical education outreach program.  

Each grade level, in their physical education classes, learned a variety of circus skills from professional circus performers. Learned skills included juggling scarves, balancing feathers, plate spinning, balancing devil sticks, spinning a diablo, spinning ropes, walking on stilts, clown skills and more.  

Our third graders not only used the week to learn circus skills but also to practice for their very own circus performance that was held on Friday, Jan. 15.  

The second graders got to watch the student circus performance live (since next year, as third graders, they will be performing the circus at the end of this annual residency program).  The third graders performance was also live-streamed into North Side classrooms enabling the whole school’s participation.  

Special thanks to our physical education teachers, Meryl Fordin, Herman Lim and Tom Greeley for all their efforts in making this such a successful and fun learning time for all. 


Feb. 2, 3, 4, 2016: Kindergarten Registration

If you have a child to register, or if you know someone who has a child to register, for kindergarten, please note/tell them that registration for the incoming 2016-17 North Side Kindergarten class will take place next month at The Wheatley School in the Library/IMC on Feb. 2, 3 and 4.

A child is eligible for kindergarten next year if (s)he is five years of age on or before Dec. 1, 2016 (a child born during the period of Dec. 2, 2010 through Dec. 1, 2011).  To start the kindergarten registration process and receive a Kindergarten Registration Packet from the North Side School, please call North Side’s main office at 333-6860.  

Additional information can be obtained on the website at > go to Schools on the horizontal navigation bar and click on North Side > go down the vertical navigation bar to Kindergarten Registration Information.

• Children with last names beginning with A-F – register on Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 3:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m.

• Children with last names beginning with G-L – register on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 3:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m.

• Children with last names beginning with M-Z – register on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 3:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m.

Feb. 3 : Mindset – Coffee and Book Talk

Come join the Board of Education for Coffee and a discussion of Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, at the Board of Education Work Session on Feb/ 3.

Members of our staff and high school students will be facilitating small round table discussions.  

If you haven’t had a chance to read the book, you can still join the discussion.  I’ve attached some links below where you can read a few articles and/or view some short videos.  

The book is increasingly becoming an icon in the field of psychology, business and education. It offers important ideas regarding success, attitude and growth, which can help inform a common conversation and partnership regarding our children/students among the school board, staff and families.  

I look forward to seeing you there — a nice chance to get together for a more personal interaction with our community members.  

For information on the book, go to the following links: Mindsetonline; TEDtalk with Carol Dweck; and other links on our website at > scroll down the left side to Mindset Community > hover over Mindset for the dropdown and more information.

March 5, 2016: Family Math Day

As I mentioned in my newsletter last week, Family Math Day will be held on March 5, 2016 at Stratford Road School in Plainview.  Mark your calendars for a fun activity that you can do with your children that is educational to boot.  To make sure you reserve a place early, you can email North Side teacher Lisa Minerva at her corrected email address, or look for a registration site on our website, (District, North Side and Willets Road), to be coming soon.

April 21, 2016: Save the Date for the Annual PTO District wide Grant Dinner

Just a reminder about the East Williston School District’s Annual PTO District wide Grant Dinner and raffle and journal donations.  As I mentioned, this is the third year of what now has become a wonderful annual event!  It is a night when parents and staff from all three schools come together for a fun evening of festivity.  If you didn’t get the chance to go last year, I think everyone who did attend will tell you what a special evening it was. It brought everyone in our community together in a show of such strong support for our schools and children.  For example, many parents shared with me how special it was, among many other special things that evening, to see so many of their children’s former teachers. Also attached to the Save the Date email was a Raffle Donation letter and a Journal Ad/Donation letter. You can access them on our Virtual Backpack.  Mark your calendars for April 21, 2016. Can’t wait to see you there! 

Virtual Backpack Flyer Update

Just a reminder: Please check the VB periodically for the latest postings. (On the district homepage, > scroll down left side vertical navigation bar to Virtual Backpack > click on VB.)

The following is a listing of the new flyers posted on the VB this week:

• North Side PTO Box Top Collection Week – Feb. 1–5.

• Wheatley Senior Class Party Planning letter.

Congratulations & Commendations

Willets Road Spelling Bee Champion Repeat!

Willets Road held its annual Spelling Bee on Jan. 14.  

Classroom spelling bee champions competed in the media center with Willets Road English grade teacher Antonia Laruccia as the host and coordinator. 

Guest judges, Willets Road social studies teacher Patrick Shanahan and Willets Road Principal Stephen Kimmel, helped out. After a competitive bee, it was down to two students, seventh grader Frederick Lin and last year’s winner, sixth grader Krittika Prajapati. Congratulations to our runner-up, Frederick! Congratulations to Krittika, who correctly spelled pneumonia to take home her second Willets Road Spelling Bee championship. 

Good luck at the Long Island Regional Spelling Bee at Hofstra University on March 13.

Congratulations as well to all our Willets Road Spelling Bee participants, English classroom champions in their own right:

5th Grade: Rachel Aquino-Okeke, Sarah Callahan, Daniel Dayter, Ayesha Rashid, Dylan Rosenberg, Aden Saparzadeh; 6th Grade: James Blennau, Joyce Chen, Siddhant Jain, Krittika Prajapati, Lucas Schmuck, Jace Yagoda; 7th Grade: Alexandra Castiglie, Kayleigh Fiorello, Rami Hahami, Jack Keys, Frederick Lin and  Natalie Scudero

A special thank you to Ms. Laruccia and guest judges Mr. Shanahan and Mr. Kimmel!

Congratulations to eighth grade Geography Bee champion.

Seven of our eighth grade students competed in the final round of the National Geography Bee in order to determine who would represent Wheatley in the next round of the competition.

After in-class preliminary rounds, the following seven students qualified for the Wheatley Final Round:

Rahul Ajmera, Emma Blennau, Patrick Brady, Maggie Caroddo, John Lopes, Brenden Resnick and Emily Yagoda. Rahul and Patrick were the two students left standing. 

During this final round, Patrick edged out Rahul (in a tiebreaker!) for the victory! 

Congratulations to Patrick Brady on becoming Wheatley’s Geography Bee Champion for 2016! 

Thank you Dr. Danielle Gately, Director of Secondary Curriculum and Social Studies, for hosting the final round, and to the following Wheatley social studies teachers, Patrick Clarke, Matt Haig and Cindy Schwartz, for supporting this competition in their classroom.

Patrick will take a National Geography Bee written test to see if he moves on to the New York State competition.  

Good luck Patrick.

Congratulations to our Seventh Grade Geography Bee Champion

Ten of our seventh graders competed in the 7th Grade Geography Bee.  

Preliminary classroom competitions resulted in the following students competing for Seventh Grade Bee:  James Dearborn, Benji Gilbert, Sarah Hassan, Layla Jarrahy, Jack Keys, Frederick Lin, Eric Ness, Temitope Oshodi, Ryan Shannon and Peter West.

Congratulations to the seventh grade champion Eric Ness and runner-up Temitope Oshodi! 

Thank you to Willets Road social studies teacher Patrick Shanahan who ran the geography and Willets Road social studies teacher and Dean Joe Coladonato who supported the competition in the classroom.

Eric will take a National Geography Bee written test to see if he moves on to the New York State competition.  

Good luck Eric.

Upcoming Events

Monday, Jan. 25.

• 6:00 p.m. – Board of Education executive session – Wheatley/Administrative Board Room

• 8:00 p.m. – Board of Education monthly business meeting – Wheatley Auditorium

Tuesday, Jan. 26

•  Wheatley Mid-Year Exams and Regents Exams

• Wheatley Mid-Year Experience

• 7:30 p.m. – Wheatley PTO Meeting

Wednesday, Jan. 27

• Wheatley Mid-Year Exams and Regents Exams

• 8:15 a.m.–9:15 a.m. – Wheatley Inaugural Career Fair

• 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. – North Side Principal’s Book Club – North Side Conference Room

• 7:30 p.m. – Wheatley — Driving in the Safe Lane (Juniors & Seniors) – Wheatley Room 450

Thursday, Jan. 28

• Wheatley Mid-Year Exams and Regents Exams

• 7:00 p.m. – North Side Grade 4 Chorus Concert – Wheatley Auditorium

Friday, Jan. 29

• Wheatley Mid-Year Exams & Regents Exams

• North Side Dance-a-thon

• North Side School Spirit Day

• 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. – Willets Road Friday Night Rec – Grade 5

• Wheatley’s Second Marking Period Ends

• Willets Road’s (Grades six and seven) Second Marking Period Ends

Saturday, Jan. 30

• 7:30 p.m. – Wheatley Varsity Revue

Have a Good Weekend

As always, please email me at or call me at 333-3758 with any questions, suggestions and/or any topics you would like to see in this newsletter.

About the author

Elaine Kanas

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