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A letter to the community from Superintendent Mark Laurrie

20-Week Update 2017 - 2018

At the conclusion of each 10 weeks in the academic year, I provide the community with a look at what we in the school district have accomplished. Here is a look at what we have done.

As has been widely discussed, we are poised to implement the Healthy Bodies curriculum beginning in elementary schools. A series of meetings for parents of students in grades five, six, prep school, and high school, is being held at various schools. These meetings will share the curriculum, lesson by lesson, and allow parents to be fully informed. Those who choose to do so can opt their children out of lessons as they see fit.

The capital projects we call the Stewardship Project are in the beginning stages. Negotiating a Project Labor Agreement, through which we plan to utilize local labor to the maximum extent possible, is among our current priorities. Construction work on Phase I should begin in March 2019.

Meanwhile, we invite all residents to enjoy the work that already has been done over the years, as the Wellness Center at NFHS is open and welcoming walkers, swimmers, and those who want to use the weight room. Join us Mondays through Thursdays 6:30 pm. to 8:30 p.m. Use Door 3.

One of my identified goals for this academic year is to open our schools to greater community use by instituting an adult education program. This is underway and classes begin soon. There has been tremendous response from the community for this opportunity.

Additionally, plans are being made now to open our first “Schoolseum,” a collection of historical items from schools in LaSalle that will open at LaSalle Prep School in coming months.

Another goal this year has been to study the concept of an International Magnet School, and a committee at Henry J. Kalfas School is working on that.  I also wanted to expand artistic opportunities and to that end, I am happy to say our prep students just concluded their first performance as a Prep Drama Club. They performed Elf., Jr. at Niagara Falls High school. Students and all involved staff members did an exceptional job.

We are making available to our staff training in mental health first aid. This training takes place on Saturdays and teaches how to identify signs of possible mental health issues and how to be supportive and responsive until professional help is arranged. I think this is a valuable training as our communities and our nation continue to struggle with depression, suicide, and the opioid crisis, but certainly anyone can suffer from a range of mental health issues and this training will help ensure our staff is knowledgeable and can assist appropriately. 

For the fifth year, the office of the State Comptroller assessed the fiscal stress level of school districts across the State. Weighing factors that include year-end fund balance, cash position, short-term borrowing and patterns of operating deficits, the fiscal stress report card gives an overall score, which can be compared, roughly, to a credit rating, in that it affects rates at which the District can borrow or bond.   

The District received No Designation, meaning it is in the most desirable category.

For the Comptroller’s report on environmental stress, the District received a score of 30 out a possible 100, where the higher the score means greater environmental stress. Of that number, 25 points were assessed merely by existing in a high poverty community.

Another identified  goal has been full preparation for Computer-base Testing. We continue preparation this year for the grade three New York State English Language Arts assessment.   A technology readiness check was completed by each elementary school before winter break and all checklists were completed successfully as required by the State.  Training will be attended by the instructional coaches and/or assistant principals from each elementary school in early February.

We continue to offer the Expanded Learning Program after school program, which has been very successful. For example, prep school offers math, ELA, Social Studies, Young Authors, Robotics, STEM/Tech, Chess, cooking, mentoring, fitness, recycling, drama, physical education, yoga, and knitting, etc.

We will shortly begin accepting applications for Universal Pre-Kindergarten (age 4) and PK3 (age 3). We will accept all 4-year-olds and 80 3-year-olds, with priority for the youngest students going to low income households. It is my hope to expand PK3 until we can eventually welcome every 3-year-old into school, but this is budget-dependent. 

Other positive new for the youngest students includes this: District grants have been able to off-set the cost of the after-school NF Boys & Girls Club "Enhanced Program" (formerly known as "Latch Key") for ALL NFCSD elementary students.  Through a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club, the fee for this program has been reduced from $75 to $37.50 per month, effective in January. 

I want to congratulate our Scholar-Athletes for Fall; 77 students playing 11 sports were so recognized.

This is just a sampling of what we have been working toward. I thank you for your interest and encourage you read the Your Public Schools newsletter each month for me.