Commissioner of Education visits local classrooms

The man who oversees education in New York State visited classrooms in the region to see educational reform in action.

Dr. John B. King Jr., the New York State Commis-sioner of Education, visited Erie 2 Chautauqua-Catta-raugus BOCES program sites and North Collins Ele-mentary School Thursday.

Dr. King observed educators engaging students in lessons infused with Com-mon Core Learning Stand-ards, following the NYS Regents Reform Agenda. He watched on-going lessons and discussions in elementary and special education classrooms in the school.

The Regents Reform Agenda seeks to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college and/or careers. One of the pillars of this reform is the adoption and implementation of Common Core Learning Standards.

This Board of Regents initiative impacts every public school district in Western New York and across the state.

“Dr. King saw evidence of the Common Core State Standards in classrooms he visited. The classes showed a cross-section of different educational programs operating throughout our 27 component school districts,” E2CCB District Superintendent David O’Rourke said.

North Collins and E2CCB Administration were on hand to answer questions and introduce staff and students to the Commissioner.

Walking through the hallways, greeting students and staff, Dr. King entered the classroom of North Collins fifth grade teacher Margie Dintino. The students were working in small groups discussing “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan. The students were eager to discuss the book amongst themselves and with guests in the classroom.

“The story was written about the author’s grandmother and is wonderful,” one of the students told Dr. King. Dr. King sat with the students and asked students specific questions about the text and listened carefully to the students explain their answers.

“I am impressed with the principals’ and teachers’ efforts in implementing the Common Core Learning Standards,” Dr. King said. “I was struck by the ways in which teachers are embracing the shifts of instruction that the Common Core requires. I was really impressed with talking to students who could cite evidence in support of their arguments- evidence drawn from text. It was great to see.”

Just down the hallway, a small group of students were working with math teacher Lisa Sager on improper fractions. Dr. King watched the lesson intently, focused on the student engagement and participation.

“Having the Commissioner in our little corner of the educational world was a great honor. We take great pride in the education we provide our students and the close working relationship we have with BOCES. I am glad he was able to see our student’s in action,” North Collins Central School Superintendent Benjamin A. Halsey said.

“The Commissioner clearly wanted a view of educational reform from the student perspective. He spoke longer with students one-on-one then he did with teachers or administration. I think that was fantastic.” Mr. Halsey said. “Staff and students were most definitely excited. I am sure they wanted to spend more time with him to showcase their hard work and share their opinions on the trials and tribulations of education these days.”

E2CCB has seven special education classrooms in North Collins Elementary School providing appropriate educational programs for students from component school districts in the region.

Students used touch technology to communicate and complete tasks which highlighted the innovation and individualization of the BOCES educational programs. Dr. King engaged classroom teachers in discussion of best practice and challenges.

“It is amazing what teachers are doing with students who face tremendous obstacles. The teachers are very committed to making sure that every day is productive and that students are acquiring meaningful skills,” Dr. King said.

“Dr. King’s visit was about meeting our students and teachers in the classroom, while they engaged in teaching and learning. He asked meaningful questions and spent time in deep discussion with a number of classroom teachers,” Dr. O’Rourke said.

Students in Mark Chadderdon’s classroom were eager to share their knowledge of Native American tribes of the east and west. The students drew information from the text as they showed knowledge of native peoples for Dr. King.

“It was wonderful to see Dr. King engaging our educators and students in discussions about learning in their classrooms,” E2CCB Site Supervisor Tim Lasky said.

After a brief visit with younger students in the library, Dr. King traveled to the W.D. Ormsby Educational Center, an E2CCB campus in East Aurora. The campus serves students from the component school districts of East Aurora, Eden, Holland, Iroquois, Lake Shore, North Collins, Orchard Park and Springville.

E2CCB Career & Technical Education Programs are one- and two-year programs offered to high school juniors and seniors. Ormsby houses CTE Programs in: Animal Care, Auto Body, Automotive Technology, CADD, Conservation/Landscaping, Cosme-tology, Criminal Justice, Culinary Arts, Diesel Mechanics, Emergency Medical Services, Health and Careers, Motorsports Fabrication, Multi-Occupations, Personal Trainer and Small Animal Science. Special Education programs are also located on the campus.

CADD instructor Ronald Pasqualetti greeted Dr. King and introduced him to three alumni of the program who obtained full-time careers after completing the course and internships. Bill McDouglall, Jeremy Zymowski and Dustin Bielecki spoke of their experiences in the program and importance of the “real-world” internships.

Ormsby CTE Programs offer more than 100 internships to students and have college articulation agreements in place for college and career readiness.

Dr. King viewed student portfolios and projects around the room, while engaging the students in dialogue about their work and aspirations for the future.

“It is powerful to see how passionate the students and teachers are about career and technical education. The CADD classroom was very impressive; the students are clearly getting to do exciting work that will lead them to success in college and careers. Meeting the alumni and talking about their experiences and how it relates to what they are doing in the work place is just great,” Dr. King said.

During a luncheon roundtable discussion with CTE students, Dr. King asked students about their choice to attend the CTE programs and sought their insight into ways of increasing interest in career readiness programs.

“This program is my favorite part of my day. I love coming here and wish I could be here more. I enjoy working with students from other schools with the same interest and focus I have,” a Culinary Arts student told Dr. King.

Dr. King spoke to the students about the role of the NYS Board of Regents in education and a growing interest to have full-day career and technical education training programs for students in grades 9 through 12. He also was very interested in efforts to introduce students to CTE programs during middle school through assemblies and site visits with hands-on activities.

Over a lunch prepared by Culinary Arts students, Dr. King listened intently to the student’s suggestions, personal experiences and plans for the future.

“I am always struck by how students will talk about how they are enjoying their academics more because of its integration with career and technical education experience,” Dr. King said.

“Our students were excited to meet Commissioner King and share their information about career and technical programs with him. They are engaged in college and career readiness through their course work at our BOCES programs and were eager to share their thoughts and experiences with Dr. King. I thought the students really talked candidly about their experiences in career and technical education and offered recommendations to expand career and technical education programs for future students.” E2CCB CTE Director Jaime Venning said.

Dr. King was presented with a special gift created for him by multi-occupations students at the center.

“I really enjoyed meeting Dr. King and answering his questions about my education-I have never had an experience like this,” one of the students said.

Dr. King toured programs in neighboring BOCES before and after his visit to E2CCB.

“I am so proud to have Dr. King experience our high quality career and technical education programs and special education programs. I am also pleased he could see the Board of Regents Reform Agenda in action today,” Dr. O’Rourke said.

“We have a commissioner with courage to voice things that people may not want to hear. He has taken advocacy positions on the equity of academic programs, regionalism and distribution of state aid. These issues impact all students in our region,” Dr. O’Rourke said.