While students enjoy their last week of summer vacation, hudrends of Bedford Central teachers, administrators and staff are back to school, preparing to welcome the district's 4,400 students on opening day next week.
On Thursday, they filled the gym at Fox Lane High School—built in the 1950s when public schools were filled with post-war students and provided new opportunities for minorities and women.
The demographic and political landscape has changed since then, but speakers at the district's opening meeting all echoed themes that resonate with educators in any era: Collaborating to serve the needs of individual students.
In his opening remarks, Superintendent of Schools Jere Hochman emphasized how the combined efforts of the district's unions led to the
"There's a lot of union bashing going on in this country," he said. "In speaking about unions the word that comes to my mind is collaboration. Last year we met with administrators to adopt a new rubric about their evaluations—and what did they talk about? The achievement for every student. We met with the CSEA—they said 'we get it' and came up with new ideas. Last year we met with teachers about the new APPR plan for teachers...we figured it out together."
School Board President, Susan Elion Wollin—herself a Fox Lane graduate—picked up on the theme in her Dr. Seuss-styled speech—which she delivered but credited her husband with writing.
"It's you and your colleagues, and that's no easy go. Moreso than ever, teaching is a tough road to hoe...It's worth to remember, however you engage, they're kids, pure and simple whatever their age...It's a challenge no doubt, whatever your spot—on a bus, in an office, in a classroom or not—our kids are looking to you to, to help show them the world and the way to get through," she quipped.
Assistant Superintendent of Business Mark Betz—whom Hochman called Bedford Central's "renaissance person"—encouraged each member of the district community to step outside of their roles and increase awareness of the areas outside of their immediate responsibility.
"If you only focus on the APPR process as a way to ensure your personal performance stays in the highly effective range, then you'll miss the impact your performance has on your colleages, your school and your district, and how the APPR process can be used to improve instruction," he said.
He went on to urge the audience to become informed about the district's energy savings plan, the needs of special needs and Spanish-speaking students, the upcoming contract negotiations and capital planning.
While the address given by Adam Yuro, president of the Bedford Teachers Association, was not open to the public, he told Patch he discussed a concept called "solution-driven unionism," and how it calls for collaboration at the bargaining table.
"A great example of this can be seen by looking at our recently completed APPR plan," he said. "We were able to do this together with the administration through a democratic process in which all those seated at the table were equal partners." Yuro expressed optimism about using a similar approach to negotiating a fair successor agreement to the teacher's contract this year.
The energy at the opening meeting was felt by teachers and staff excited for next week.
"Today is all about getting started on the right foot," said Colleen Lee Odell, an instructional assistant at . She said she was looking forward to new energy and leadership from Rolando Briceno, the new East House director.
Tom Peterson, a physical education teacher at the middle school, said he'd spent part of his summer working with a curricular model called Innovative Designs for Education, which caters to students' individual differences and provides more choice for students' learning.
"We'll be talking more about the rollout today and how we'll unwrap that for our schools," he said. "I'm excited to see how students take to it."