The senior trip, middle school science experiments, and goals for the rest of 2019-2020 were the focus of conversation during a meeting of the Newfield Central School District Board of Education Oct. 17.

Several students spoke in favor of the senior trip coming up April 30 to May 3, and the board of education voted to approve the event. The students will be going to Ocean City, MD, where they will visit Assateague Island and go on a kayak tour. 

“I’m glad they get to go on one,” said Board of Education Member W. Scott Jackson, who said that when he was in school they did not have a senior trip. 

Jennifer Pawlewicz, Board of Education member, agreed. “I was fortunate enough to go on this trip last year and see bald eagles and horses…and to see the kids connect in such a way was very awesome,” she said. 

The students said there are scholarships available for members of the senior class who have financial hardships. 

In middle school news, science teacher Lauren Hamilton and two of her seventh-grade students, Presley Hanrahan, 12, and Issy Robbins, 12, told the board about some of the work they have been doing in their class this year. 

The curriculum of seventh grade science includes a water filtration challenge, development of deer management proposals, a developmental biology workshop, trout in the classroom and an experimental design project (Hamilton is also teaching two eighth grade science electives: a trout project and Ethics in Science). 

The students have been working on learning the Scientific Method, and the seventh-graders applied this technique to experiments they built themselves and lab reports showing their findings.

Hanrahan and Robbins told the board of education about an experiment designed to find the “germiest” places in school. “Some places are not as germ-y as you think,” said Hanrahan.

The students selected three places on campus to test: the faculty bathroom door, the drain of the drinking fountain in the sixth grade hallway, and one of the lockers in the sixth grade hallway. 

“Once we found the locations, we took a cotton swab and were very careful to make sure not to get our hands on the swab, and then we very gently and lightly swabbed the inside of a Petri dish with agar in it,” Robbins explained. 

The result? Robbins described that after three days one of the dishes had a brown, orangish colored bacteria on it, while the others didn’t have much growth at all—the water fountain drain was the “germiest” by far. 

Hanrahan then pulled said Petri dish out of a bag and showed it to the room of board members, faculty and administrators, who recoiled, then leaned forward for a better look. The dish was spotted with bacteria. 

As Hanrahan held the Petri dish up with a grin, it was clear the students enjoyed sharing the experiment. 

At the end of her faculty report, Hamilton said she has seen a high level of participation in her two eight-grade electives. “We all know that student engagement is so important in helping [students] be successful,” Hamilton said, “so I’m glad to be able to fill their days with things that are meaningful to them and lucky to have administrators that support that.” 

In other school business, Cheryl Thomas, Newfield Central School Board Superintendent, went over some ideas for the district’s goals for the rest of 2019-2020, which the board of education is beginning to formulate.

The ideas were brainstormed through an initial discussion with the district’s administrative team. 

The mental health of both students and staff ranked as the number-one area identified as  in need of attention. Second on the list was student/staff physical heath, followed by academic achievement. 

To address the mental health issue, so far the recommended goals for the district are to provide more mental heath personnel and resources, increase time spent on mental health curriculum in all grades, and to dedicate time in response to intervention (RTI) meetings. 

To encourage a focus on physical health for students and staff, the recommended goals are to work with the district’s wellness committee to provide fun activities to increase physical activity and to participate in farm-to-table programs to provide healthy food. 

To improve student achievement, the district plans to work with a a data coordinator to identify specific areas in need of improvement with a focus on grades kindergarten through eight. 

Other goals are to form curriculum teams to improve curriculum and instruction, better monitor student achievement, and provide opportunities for professional development in growth mindset, instructional practices, progress monitoring, intervention and remediation. 

Toward end of the meeting, Thomas announced that it was School Board Recognition Week, and she and District Business Administrator Debra Eichholtz handed out thank you packets that came with cards from some of the students. One board member noted that one card said “thank you for hiring my teachers.” Many students thanked the board members for the electronic tablets that were recently purchased. 

“Thank you,” said Thomas, “for all for the work you do.”

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