Budget votes a boost to EWSD programs

Elaine Kanas

Thank you to the East Williston School District Community for supporting and passing the 2015-16 District Budget and the two Capital Project Reserve Propositions.

In addition to maintaining present class sizes, academic programs and all extracurricular activities, to name just some of the benefits your support provides our students, the 2015-16 budget also supports an additional academic support teacher for North Side and a dedicated academic support teacher in ELA and mathematics for grades 5 and 6 at Willets Road; STEM courses to support both our engineering and computer science high school strands; one-to-one technology initiatives in grades 6 through 9; more laptops and Chromebooks district-wide; a new AP Art History class; initiation of a dedicated social science research program; staff development support for further technology integration into all subject areas; reintroduction of the grade 5 intramural program; many safety and security upgrades; new class libraries; additional English as a New Language support; and continued literacy staff development. 

Thank you!

Magic Carpet Ride

Congratulations to the Willets Road Drama Club performers and technical crew who did a great job with their production of Aladdin!  This production is the result of the Willets Road Drama Club which is one of the many clubs and extracurricular activities offered to students before and after school as part of our district program.  Congratulations as well to Drama Club advisor, director and Willets Road 7th Grade English teacher Antonia Laruccia, Willets Road art teacher Melinda Gomez for art direction and Willets Road instructional technologist teaching assistant Jerry Pokrywka for his lighting/technical direction.

Teacher Voicemail 

System is Back

Last week you should have received a school messenger email informing you that all teacher voicemails have been restored.  You can now call a teacher’s direct extension and leave a voicemail.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.  

Vocabulary Instruction and North Side 

In a recent article in Education Week, May 15, 2015, “Students Learn Words by Learning About the World,” some reading experts share their views on what’s critical about vocabulary instruction.  They say it is often how words are introduced and that context can be key.  These experts suggest that children focus in-depth on a particular topic. Doing so provides them with many opportunities to access related vocabulary words about a particular topic that they become expert in.  Catherine Snow, Ph.D., Professor of Language and Literacy Development at Harvard Graduate School of Education, makes the point that the challenge of academic vocabulary is in how it’s embedded in domains of knowledge.  

 At North Side this year, classes in grades K, 1 and 2 have been piloting the resources of Core Knowledge for their listening and learning strand of ELA.  The lessons include teacher read-a-louds, student discussion, vocabulary work and extension activities.  

The lessons are organized into domains.  Each domain centers on a particular topic and the class focuses on that topic for a number of weeks.  For example, this year’s second grade domains are:  fairy tales and tall tales; immigration; westward expansion; fighting for a cause; the Ancient Greek Civilization; Greek Myths; and cycles in nature and insects.  While some of the domains, might at first glance, seem complex for such young students, the Core Knowledge listening and learning strands are built on research that finds students’ listening comprehension outpaces reading comprehension in elementary grades.  

 This year, I had the opportunity to see the Core Knowledge resources in action when I visited the second grade. On one of my visits, the children were excitedly engaged in conversation about the westward expansion while on another visit they were deep in learning about Ancient Greek Civilization using beautifully illustrated oversized picture books to support the teacher led read-a-louds and discussions. 

 Next year, the second grade teachers will be working with staff developers from Litlife to align writing instruction with the domains.  North Side second grade teacher Michael Mazur and North Side teaching assistant Kiki Kyrou’s class recently piloted this integrated approach with a book the students wrote in class, “The Twelve Gods of Mount Olympus:  Who will you choose to honor?”  As they studied the Ancient Greek Civilization and Greek Myths, they also studied persuasive writing utilizing Litlife’s Power to Persuade unit.   After discovering the various ways writing can persuade others to act, feel, or think in a certain way, the students each wrote a persuasive opinion piece to convince others to honor a particular god or goddess that they learned about while studying the Greek Myths.  They sent me a copy of the book they made, asking me to choose which is the most persuasive essay; but I will have to answer back, it will be too hard to choose.  Each student did such a good job! 

Zeus Makes a Visit

to North Side

Imagine the second graders’ surprise to see Zeus (actually assistant principal James Foy in disguise in Ancient Greek robes and sandals) lead them through North Side’s halls this morning to participate in their  very own Olympics out on the North Side field.   Each class of second graders, decked out in the traditional laurel and olive wreath headdresses, represented a different Greek city/state such as Corinth, Athens, Argos, Sparta and Megara.   With the help of North Side physical education teacher Herman Lim with Meryl Fordin and Thomas Greeley and some parent volunteers, the students had a great time participating in various outdoor games.  

After completing both the Greek Myths and Ancient Greek Civilization domains, the second grade teachers thought that the students holding their very own Olympics would be a meaningful and fun culminating activity for all of the second graders.  Congratulations second grade staff, teachers Christopher Campbell, Caryn Farber, Tracy Kasschau, Michael Mazur, Amy Potter and Christine Truskiewicz; teaching assistants Donna Ciorciari, Kiki Kyrou, Ann Simeone and Michael Sanginario; and Principal Jim Bloomgarden and Assistant Principal James Foy on this wonderful and creative learning event.    

Theodore Roosevelt Public Speaking Contest

Theodore Roosevelt believed in working hard, in persevering in the face of defeat, and in pushing to do better and strive harder to accomplish one’s goals. He also believed in developing young people, in challenging them to achieve as much as possible, and in recognizing their accomplishments. In that spirit, the Theodore Roosevelt Association created Theodore Roosevelt Public Speaking Contests, which challenge high school students to develop and give original five-minute speeches on TR’s life and legacy. The Contests build on students’ public speaking, critical thinking and independent research skills, thereby enhancing their academic potential and scholarship, confidence, self-reliance, and leadership abilities.

From the Theodore Roosevelt Association Website: www.theodoreroosevelt.org 

Congratulations to Wheatley sophomores Jakob Gilbert and Lianna Golden who competed and won in the semi-final round of the TR Public Speaking Contest!  Jakob and Lianna now move on to the final round next week.  Lianna’s speech focuses on Theodore Roosevelt’s efforts to transform U.S. coinage to bring about greater national spirit and Jakob’s speech is on how TR overcame adversity throughout his personal and political life to achieve phenomenal success.  Good luck to Jakob and Lianna and special thanks to Wheatley Social Studies teacher, Dr. John Staudt.  I look forward to hearing the speeches next week at the finals.  


Did you know that there are 18 Wheatley students presently touring Peru as I write this newsletter, along with district Spanish teachers Isabel Simoes and Angel Rivero?

The students are experiencing Peruvian culture and history first hand and are also visiting a Peruvian school where we hope to set up an ongoing relationship, not only with our high school students, but also with such activities as penpals and skype visits that can enrich the Spanish study of our younger students in the elementary and middle schools as well.  

The reports from students and teachers speak of everyone having a wonderful and informative trip to date.

I look forward to sharing more information about this enrichment experience for our students when they return home with lots of news and excitement, I’m sure.

Spinal Health

Last week, the sixth grade health classes at Willets Road had two guest speakers provide them with important information regarding spinal health.  I learned a lot myself when our very own Wheatley sophomore Katie Conte and Dr. Diana D’Angelo, a visiting medical professional, spoke about good spinal health and also shared information regarding scoliosis. 

Dr. D’Angelo and Katie shared information from the Health Center at the University of Georgia that may be of interest to all. According to the University of Georgia, did you know that it is recommended that no one carry a backpack that weighs more than 25 pounds?  The optimum backpack weight differs for each student based on individual weight.  

Here is another interesting bit of advice I learned from the presentation … It is much better for spinal health to hold your cell phone in front of you than looking down at it!

Middle School Awards Ceremony

Congratulations to the many Willets Road students who were recognized on the May 21st Award Ceremony.  For a listing of the student-awardees, please visit our website at www.ewsdonline.org > go to the Schools tab > click on Willets Road School on the drop down > click on Awards Assembly on the left side navigation bar.

Science Research Symposium

Congratulations to our students who participated in last night’s symposium.  In addition to the presentations by our senior research students, students in other Wheatley grades displayed their research in the poster session before the senior presentations.  I learned so much about so many topics from engaging in conversation with them about their work.

In an upcoming newsletter we will feature an in-depth article about our science research program and the many opportunities for our students as the research program has continued to grow and mature over the past few years with our students receiving significant recognition.  Special thank you to Science Research teacher Mary Alexis Blondrage, Director of Science and Technology Dave Casamento and the entire science department staff.

Congratulations and Commendations 

Wheatley Junior Recognized as Outstanding Chemistry Student

Last week, in a ceremony at Nassau Community College, Wheatley junior Adena Bernot was recognized by the Long Island subsection of the American Chemical Society for outstanding scholastic achievement in High School Chemistry. An outstanding chemistry student, Adena has demonstrated both exceptional talent and interest in chemistry. She was accompanied to the awards ceremony by her science teacher Laura Gurick.

Congratulations Adena!

Wheatley Senior Named Outstanding Science Student

Congratulations to Wheatley senior Courtney Schwartz who was named Nassau County STANYS Most Outstanding Science Student for Wheatley.   She was honored at The Coral House in Baldwin on May 19, 2015.  

Athletic Updates

Sophomore Teddy Lewis advanced to the final round of the Nassau County Golf Championship on Wednesday, May 20, 2015.  Congratulations Teddy.

Congratulations to the Varsity Boys Track team who came in second place at the Division 4B Track Championships on Wednesday, May 20, 2015.

Congratulations as well to the Varsity Girls Track team who took home fourth place at the Division 4B Track Championships on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. 

Have a Good Weekend

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

Best regards,

Elaine Kanas, Ed.D. 

Superintendent of Schools

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Elaine Kanas

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