Orangetown Central School District
Van Wyck Road • Blauvelt, NY 10913 • (845)680-1050 • Fax
Letter from Dr. Mitchell
Revised School Calendar
Letter from Dr. Mitchell
School Security Update
Dear South Orangetown Families:
Welcome to the 2012-2013 school year!
On behalf of the Board of Education, I want to express best
wishes for a successful and enjoyable learning experience for
our students. During the summer district educators have been
preparing for the upcoming year which will be marked by
significant change as a result of several new education laws.
Over the next few months via presentations, correspondence, and
websites, teachers, principals, and central office leaders will
provide details about that which is new at every level.
It is impossible to fully explain in this letter all of the
changes. In general, school districts across the state are now
required to modify current evaluation systems to ensure that
teachers will be assessed according to student performance on
state as well as locally-adopted tests. Last year we prepared
mandated assessments for every discipline and grade. In
September, we will administer “pre-tests” to all students to
gather data for comparative and evaluative purposes at the close
of the school year.
To ensure that our students will be prepared for new assessments
developed by New York State, we have been aligning our lessons
to a national curriculum referred to as the Common Core.
District educators have been working for the past two years to
make the adjustments within a short-time frame. This will change
again in 2014 when New York joins a national testing consortium.
Another new law requires districts to have anti-bullying
measures and training in place, along with related reporting
systems. Because we have been addressing this area for the past
few years, we have had to make few adjustments to comply with
the new law and have provided updates on our website. Other
mandated reforms will be reported over the next few weeks.
While it is important that families have information about these
changes, I cannot open this year without expressing my concerns
about the extent to which formal standardized student testing
will be increased. I assure you that we are making every effort
as a district to comply with the New York State Education
Department’s reform agenda without compromising our values or
the integrity of the quality instruction and development of
learning experiences that transform lives, spark talent, reveal
potential, and, most importantly, inspire. Meaningful learning
goes well beyond test preparation.
I have assured faculty that we will address the new mandates,
especially the expanded testing, as a framework within which we
should be able to stay on target to address locally established
goals. Our primary agenda to understand and address that which
is best for our students remains unchanged.
Five years ago, we identified a set of priorities based on staff
and community input that has served to guide us in our efforts
towards continuous improvement. We remain on the path that we
established back then and continue to review evidence that we
are making progress.
As many of you know, South Orangetown identified these major
Provide Students with Skills for the 21st Century
Address the Diverse Needs of Learners
Foster a Respectful Learning Environment
Enhance Student Literacy
Each of these goals is
accompanied by district and building action plans that are
posted on the SOCSD and building web pages. Updates regarding
events and progress in meeting these goals have been and will
continue to be posted to keep parents informed.
It is important that parents and other caretakers stay current
with what is happening in our schools. When a community is
supportive of education, and parents are involved in helping
children develop the value of learning - informal as well as
formal - children thrive and society benefits.
As we approach these changes, we want families to understand the
benefits, challenges, and costs that accompany them. The
complexity and questions surrounding the reforms need to be
How can we provide a learning experience that builds human
capacity versus one that simply measures it?
How do we ensure that teachers remain caretakers of both
children and the content of their lessons rather than test
technicians and data managers?
How do we ensure that we spend our precious resources on
providing rich and varied learning experiences rather than
building costly assessment systems?
Are we more
likely to foster a lifelong passion for learning within a
high-stakes testing culture or one that asks students to
solve real-world problems, experience learning as play, and
engage in creative and critical thinking in pursuit of an
idea or interest?
I am not opposed to
assessing learning. Students and teachers must be held
accountable for their work; however, I am concerned about the
extent to which it is being expanded and the impact that it may
have on the nature of the learning experience. There are also
questions about the cost-benefit of standardized testing and
evidence that challenges its ability to transform classrooms
into truly transformative learning environments, in spite of
what a set of test scores might seem to reveal.
I believe there is much agreement in our community that
over-testing and a narrow focus on test preparation will be
harmful to not only students in South Orangetown but to any
child in any school that is obsessed by data and the assessments
that are used to collect them. In the last semester of
2011-2012, we sought parent feedback on our work as a school
system. A summary of the results will be posted on the website
and will provide us with a snapshot of the community’s
perspective, as per the 466 respondents. While the input is
valuable, we need to find ways to increase the engagement
between the families of the 3400 students in South Orangetown
and the schools.
I encourage parents to participate in their children’s learning
or find ways to partner with the schools. The PTA is always
looking for volunteers. Information about volunteer
opportunities can be found on our website via the PTA link.
However, most importantly we need parents to support their
children’s learning by having them prepared for each and every
We have many challenges ahead, but our schools are about the
future of our children and the world in which they will be
living and leading. Once again, I ask you to join us in a
partnership to help them to succeed and wish great joy and
health to all students and families as we begin this school
Ken Mitchell, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Tappan Zee High School South Orangetown Middle School
Cottage Lane Elementary School
Elementary School William O. Schaefer Elementary School