Pearl River School District Superintendent Describes Educational Initiatives for 2019-2020

Pearl River School District Superintendent Marco Pochintesta.

By Barry Warner

“We are off to a terrific start and have lots of new initiatives under way. Probably the most visible and largest scale initiative that is happening right now is the construction project, the capital bond work that is in its second year. We are looking at the near-completion of the athletic fields and that whole complex. Last year we installed athletic turf field and we added to that a new track around the field and new fencing. This summer we added a concession stand, a lavatory building and a new large storage shed. We’re creating a roadway that connects from the entrance down to the athletic field itself and the stadium area. We have lighting along the roadway, handicapped parking down below close to the concession building. So there’s lots of improved resources in that whole area. Last year we also completed work at the elementary schools creating secure vestibules at each of the elementary schools as well as doing work at the high school. So in about a month we’ll be looking at construction of a secure vestibule at the high school. Looking at future work next summer includes renovated areas at the middle school and high school including a science wing and creation of a new art classroom and music wing. So lots of internal improvements also took place in the academic areas of the middle school and high school. The high school will have a new library media center that should be a real showpiece for academic work and research, so we’re excited about that. Thanks to the passing of the budget last May, that’s going to support all of the teaching and learning work that we are engaged in right now. This year we have invested heavily in curriculum development and piloting of new resources In literacy, mathematics, science and technology. Those are the areas we have created a renewed focus, so those are our highlighted areas for our work this year” School Superintendent Marco Pochintesta told the Rockland County Times.

Superintendent Pochintesta continued, “We are after a balanced literacy approach and our teachers are going to be working with a consultant to sharpen our skills on a balanced literacy approach, such as a writers’ workshop modeled after the Columbia Teachers College model. We have unveiled a new serving area in the cafeteria and added brand new equipment in the kitchen where the food is prepared. We added a ‘coffee bar’ in the high school that is an exciting asset. The students can get wraps and snacks and lunch items, but in a different setting. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a focus this year. We have a new committee or a task force that is dedicated to SEL and they started meeting at the end of last year. The group is called PRSELFIE which is the acronym for Pearl River Social Emotional Learning for Individual Empowerment. We added a School Psychologist to our staff which brings us up to 6 or 7. Our team will participate in the Suicide Prevention Walk on Sunday for mental health awareness sponsored by NAMI Rockland.”

Superintendent Pochintesta concluded, “This year we are achieving a one to one Chrome Book Initiative in the middle school and high school and this year marks the completion of that project. All of those students will have personal access to a Chrome Book from grades 5 to 12. We are implementing a new K-7 computer science curriculum and K-3 which will be SCIENCE 21. We are also piloting SCIENCE 21 in grade 4 and following the implementation of the NEXTGEN science standards and our professional development work will support all of these initiatives this year. Music has also had a boost in terms of the resources that are available. Our music teachers will have access to software called Music First that supports teaching and learning for all of our music programs. It allows teachers and students the ability to record themselves and playback to hear their performances and fine tune their work on the instrument they are playing. We are poised to have a great year. One of the nice achievements of the last couple of years is the transformation of classrooms from traditional furniture and design to 21st century learning environments including flexible seating that supports collaboration, critical thinking, creative problem solving and communication. We are making sure that our classrooms reflect that type of teaching and learning thanks to the innovation of our teachers and principals who are not just thinking about how they teach but the spaces in which they teach in and how their students learn. The library media center will undergo a complete transformation so that quadrants of the library will be dedicated to different kinds of work. There will be spaces for collaborative work where students will be conversing with each other, areas for quiet study and research, soft seating areas for students to relax and read or be on a mobile device for research and teaching spaces. We are going from very high stacks of books to a reduced print collection and lower stacks so that the staff will be able to see across the space that is open and vibrant with maximum use of natural lighting”.

A Chromebook is a different type of laptop. Instead of Windows 10, Chromebooks run on Google’s Chrome OS. These machines are designed to be used primarily while connected to the internet with most applications ad documents living in the cloud.

The Science 21 program’s main emphasis is on investigations that are student-directed and relevant to students’ everyday lives. The program’s main focus is on hands-on, inquiry-based science, math, language arts and technology. The first unit deals with science processes and investigative tools while the other units provide grade-appropriate experiences in physical, earth and life science.

The Next Generation Science Standards is a multi-state effort in the United States to create new education standards that are rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education.

To prepare students for the changes in the way we live and work and to make sure the education system keeps pace with what it means to be mathematically literate and what it means to collaboratively problem solve, there is a need for a different approach to teaching and learning. The Next Generation Math Standards indicate that we need content-rich approaches that will serve as a platform for advancing children’s 21st century mathematical skills that include their collaboration skills, their ability to learn from their peers and technology plus their flexibility as a learner in a dynamic learning environment.

The Music First package for band, chorus and orchestra is designed to help students hone their skills in performance proficiency, sight reading and composition. Teachers can use the tools to monitor students’ practice quality, subject-matter comprehension and general progress over the school year.

*Diana Musich, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Community Services contributed to this article.