Jonathan Ross Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Dear Members of the Blind Brook Community:
We are at the midpoint of the 2016-2017 school year so I want to take this opportunity to bring you up to date with respect to our administrative reorganization efforts. Last June, I presented a concept to the Board of Education for the reorganization of the Blind Brook administrative team. The plan was developed to create a more efficient and effective School District. Before implementation, the reorganization plan included input from the administrative team based on what they felt would be best for our students and schools, and on my own observations that I had made over a year long period while serving as Superintendent of Schools. I considered feedback covering every aspect of operations, regarding every department, and in each school, as well as the impact on ancillary operations such as facilities, food service, and transportation. I also carefully considered data gleaned from the climate survey administered in the fall of last year.
The primary goal of the reorganization was to create an environment where the intellectual, social, and emotional needs of all students could best be met. By adding to the capacity of the administrative team and making changes to the K-12 counseling program, I was convinced that our district would be in a stronger position to proactively assist students, and support teachers and staff. I am pleased to report that the reorganization has already paid benefits. No more so than in the way in which Mr. Schuelein seamlessly transitioned to Interim High School Principal when Mrs. Lambert was seriously injured in a car accident in mid-September. Since then, he has had to recruit, interview, and recommend three leave replacement teachers and an interim Assistant Principal. He has coordinated school events, and ensured that the high school continues to function in Mrs. Lambert’s absence. His oversight of, and work with the Guidance Department has benefitted our students. They now have greater access to their counselors, and all college advising this fall has proceeded with minimal issues. Mr. Schuelein’s new title and duties enabled him to react quickly. Had he still been the Assistant Principal for both the Middle and High School, it would have been impossible for him to step in and serve as Interim High School Principal as rapidly and effectively as he did.
Mrs. Fredericka Butler our new Middle School Assistant Principal is handling disciplinary issues with thorough investigations and proper communication. Her position allows for a more consistent and thorough approach to discipline at both schools, while allowing other administrators time to attend to their specific duties. She has also started a Character Education Committee consisting of nine teachers and counselors with the goal of creating an effective and sustainable program. She is conducting formal observations of teachers, which as an additional administrator, has resulted in fewer observations by other administrators, thus balancing our obligations under the APPR agreement. With her previous experience in Special Education and counseling, Mrs. Butler brings an experienced outside view that is helping us to serve our students with disabilities and 504 plans more effectively. Mrs. Butler also oversees the Middle School counseling program, and in the spring will begin coordinating testing and creating next year’s master schedule. In the past, the shared Assistant Principal’s time would be completely consumed with these tasks, leaving other duties to be handled by the Principal. Ultimately, this additional position will lead to more effective curricular oversight, more accurate planning for emergencies, more attention to disciplinary response and prevention, and a stronger ability to adapt to future changes and plans for improvement.
Ilana Sitkoff our new Assistant Director of Pupil Services has made an immediate impact in improving student support services related to students with disabilities across the district. Ms. Sitkoff has quickly become a positive and knowledgeable resource for students, teachers, administrators, and parents in many areas. She has spent time in classrooms and meeting with teachers and administrators to ensure that proper services are being provided to students. She has been responsible for interviewing part-time teacher aide candidates, and has been actively involved in the CSE/504 process, including designing the CSE/504 annual review schedule. Ms. Sitkoff has also taken on the responsibilities of the District Accommodations Coordinator, including for the SATs/ACTs. Additionally, Ms. Sitkoff’s experience in crisis intervention, and as a school psychologist, has made her a valuable – and caring – resource across the district, and particularly for students in behavioral or psychiatric crisis in all three buildings.
I am pleased to report that changes made in the High School Guidance Office have already created a net positive for the counselors and for the delivery of their services to students. The start of the school year through November is always the busiest time of year for our counselors as they are diligently working with the seniors. Although the full benefits of the caseload reduction have not yet been felt with regard to seniors, the counselors are feeling optimistic moving forward. The addition of the Assistant Director of Pupil Services has enabled the High School administration to appropriately shift many responsibilities for applying/managing accommodations for tests (ACT, PSAT/SAT, AP) to the Pupil Services office. This has freed-up valuable time for the counselors to meet with their students. Under the reorganized department, counselors will now have increased time to attend conferences and visit colleges. Operations are running more efficiently – specifically the revamped format for our IST meetings and CSE meetings. This has further increased efficiency in the guidance office and allowed more time to be devoted to students. There is an improved flow of communication and access to information in the department, and even a new look and feel to the HS guidance office – one that creates a positive and inviting atmosphere.
In addition to changes in the Guidance Office I am also pleased to report that Rachel Mileo, the new School Social Worker at Blind Brook, has been a district-wide resource for students and families. Also new to Blind Brook is Monique Tricarico, the new Student Assistance Counselor at the Blind Brook High School, and Project SUCCESS and Youth Prevention Coordinator for the Middle and High School. At Blind Brook, Ms. Tricarico is providing prevention services, alcohol and substance abuse counseling, and building-level counseling to any student in need. Finally, under the coordination of Mrs. Pat Renz, and direction of Mr. DJ Goldman, the Community Coalition has re-established itself by reaching out to the various Blind Brook constituencies, securing relationships, and opening communications channels. The Coalition now has an Executive Committee and three functioning sub-committees with goals focused on increased ownership in planning and implementing effective and measurable initiatives.
Jonathan Ross, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools