Praise, constructive criticism and new ideas were on the menu during the latest Superintendent’s Council lunch.
5th graders Lizzie Hopkins from Weeks Elementary, Ryan Kristof from Bell Elementary and Nora Drexler from Palmer Elementary, along with 8th grader Haley Kohlbach from Windsor Central Middle School and junior Larissa Balachick from Windsor Central High School joined Superintendent Dr. Jason Andrews at Cortese Restaurant in Binghamton to talk about what has gone well this school year and what can be improved.
“The specials - PE, music, computers have been going well,” said Kristof. “The music classes, except for a handful, have been really calm.”
Kohlbach added the mentoring program between Middle School Student Council members and 6th graders has been successful. Hopkins says students at Bell have enjoyed the large number of extracurricular activities available at the end of the day.
As for what can be addressed, both Hopkins and Kristof says a handful of students have made it hard for some substitute teachers when they have had to take over a class. "Some kids just need to see what they can get away with with a sub," said Hopkins.
Andrews asked the students about the impact of the Breakfast in the Classroom program, which provides a free breakfast to students in grades pre-k through 8.
“There is a kid who was always complaining that he was hungry the whole day until lunch, and he got in trouble quite a bit. Now, it’s like he’s a new kid. His grades are a lot better,” said Kristof.
The elementary school presidents gave Andrews a mixed review about some technology in the classroom. They said the Smart Boards in class sometimes don’t work ideally, forcing teachers to shift between their own computers and the boards when making a presentation.
“The Smart Boards will be replaced but it’s a big expense,” said Andrews, who expects the replacement to take place in the summer of 2019 as part of the District’s capital improvement project.
However, the use of Chromebooks has greatly improved the classroom experience. Students do almost all of their presentations on them, using Google Slides.
“It’s a lot more efficient. We can share our essays with other students,” said Kristof. “It’s really been a game changer.”
Other positive areas include the high school advisory periods. Balachick says these allow students without study halls to get extra help from teachers. Drexler also likes the afterschool options at Palmer, saying she was able to get extra help in math which has made a big difference for her.
Kristof had high praise for Project Lead the Way, the District’s engineering pipeline.
“PLTW is the best part of my school day. I count down the minutes to it,” said Kristof. “I like the independent study and how you have to work the problems out.”
Kristof and Hopkins both said that sometimes people in PLTW groups can let others do most of the work then take equal credit at the end. This led to a discussion about the new report cards, which include process grades. These grade students on skills such as work ethic and attitude.
“I like the new report cards. It’s letting kids know if I don’t give 100 percent it could show up on my report card,” said Kristof.
“That’s life. It’s not just about your grade, it’s how you got there,” said Andrews.
As for initiatives moving forward, Drexler would like to see Palmer expand its recycling options and add a composting program. She suggests having cafeteria staff start the composting effort and then have students join in.
Andrews told the students he would bring their thoughts to other administrators and come back with a progress report at their next meeting.
"Having student voice involved in District decision making is critical," said Andrews.
The Superintendent’s Council, now in its second year, will meet quarterly for the rest of the school year.