Dear Dobbs Ferry Community Member,
Welcome back to school! The 2014-2015 school year promises some new and exciting changes. On the outside we may look like the same iconic buildings that are a hallmark of our community, but inside the classroom walls teaching and learning look very different.
The increased use of technology by teachers and students has exploded due to unprecedented teacher professional growth and our student 1:1 laptop initiative. For the coming school year, we have expanded the Chromebook program to all students in Grades 5 through 10, following an exceptionally successful pilot in Grades 7 and 9. Student access to computers in our schools has grown significantly over the past three years and the evolution of teacher proficiency in using technology to enhance the instructional program has been exciting to watch.
Perhaps the most important and significant direction in the new school year is the transitioning into the IB Middle Years Program (MYP) which encompasses grades 6-10. The Board of Education spent the better part of two years investigating this preparatory extension of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program that presently provides the instructional experience for 11th and 12th graders. Last year, High School students registered for over 400 IB exams (99% of DFHS students take IB coursework) and more than 30% of our students are projected to receive the full IB Diploma in 2015.
The teachers at Dobbs Ferry High School have been working diligently to design “pre IB” experiences for students in grades 9-10 and are well prepared for a formal shift to the MYP. This past summer, the District’s MYP Coordinator completed her training, High School administrators attended the IB World Conference in Washington, D.C. and teachers across the grade levels worked in teams to continue to create the interdisciplinary units required by the MYP. Students in our Middle and High Schools will notice a gradual, but significant shift in the ways that teaching and learning are experienced in their classes.
In order to accommodate the best instructional strategies for students, the MS/HS School Schedule Task Force has been meeting since the spring to explore new scheduling options and although this work is still ongoing, a number of block schedules are being analyzed to find the “right fit” for our schools’ curriculum programs. We anticipate that this busy committee will have recommendations for the Board of Education by December with a new schedule in place by September 2015.
At Springhurst, scheduling changes are already in place for this September when our Kindergarten students will now be on the same schedule as students in Grades 1 and 2. This will give teachers more classroom time with the kindergartners and give our youngest students more time for Physical Education (two additional sessions each week) library and technology.
For the 2014-2015 school year, we will be increasing our work in the area of Digital Citizenship in conjunction with the District-Wide Dignity for All Students (DASA) Committee. We will be utilizing the many excellent resources available through Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) and hope that parents will support us in our efforts by accessing valuable information on this website. It is important that parents and schools work together to help our young people navigate the responsibilities of their “digital footprint.” We are excited to be planning parent information programs to help parents understand not only the Chromebook initiative, but also how to assist their children in the digital universe.
While the increased use of technology is essential for all students, this is not at the expense of the “Three R’s.” Springhurst is entering the second year of its Fundations rollout, expanding this highly effective phonics and spelling program to include Kindergarten, 1st and now 2nd grade. Springhurst’s prestigious Primary Mathematics program (aka Singapore Math) is also being revamped for the 2014-2015 school year with Springhurst’s adoption of newly released editions of the Primary Mathematics Series that have been thoroughly aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
Next year the Middle School will realize smaller ELA class sizes by reallocating teachers and they will continue to focus on writing. Teachers are also committed to interdisciplinary professional development to integrate writing across the content areas. This work is being led by the Middle School Teacher Leaders in conjunction with the K-8 Literacy Coordinator
In 2014-15, Dobbs Ferry High School will offer several new courses, including IB English SL, Algebra 2/Trigonometry Honors and non-Regents, English 9 & 10 Honors, High School Yearbook, SAT Math, SAT Critical Reading, AP World History, and an expansion of our existing online OC 21 elective program (online courses). In addition, student participation in the science research program has tripled in the past three years as students continue to compete and win awards in competitions such as WESEF, WesRoc, Intel, and Siemens.
With the retirement of two treasured Springhurst faculty members in ELL (English Language Learners) and Music, we are thrilled to have hired talented teachers to fill these key slots. With exciting new opportunities opening at all three schools in the area of music, we are anticipating a “new era” for students particularly interested in band, jazz and the arts. With such a talented and passionate “arts” community in Dobbs Ferry, it is only natural that our schools reflect this important and creative cross-section of our students and their families.
On the facilities front, the Board of Education, along with the District’s Facilities, Finance and Athletics Advisory Committees, worked over many months to formulate recommendations for Capital Projects that will update and improve our School District facilities. Like other homeowners, the District needs to periodically invest in its “school home” to ensure that our buildings and grounds are safe, clean, code compliant and conducive to teaching and learning. At the June 19th Board of Education meeting, the Board voted to move ahead with these projects and seek voter approval to issue a bond to cover most of the cost. A special community vote on the bond will be held on October 21st.
We will be having a Capital Projects Community Forum prior to the vote to familiarize everyone with details of the proposal and will send you more information once that date is confirmed. Because the District is simultaneously retiring debt and taking advantage of unprecedented low interest rates, there will be no significant tax increase for Dobbs Ferry taxpayers. Please visit the School District website at www.dfsd.org to review the “2016 Capital Projects Recommendations” PowerPoint presentation from the Board’s May 22nd work session (click on link in the SpotLight Section).
The Dobbs Ferry School District continues to set a high standard for learning through its breadth and depth of curriculum, inspired teaching and commitment to providing a top-notch education for all students. Our administrators, faculty and staff are committed to fulfilling the “promise of public education” each and every day!
Lisa Brady, Ed.D