Student entrepreneurs enjoy Mini-Economy Day

Dozens of children and adults clambered over tables in Liberty Elementary School’s cafeteria last week after participating in the school’s annual Mini Economy Day where squishy stress balls, glove buddies, key chains and other products developed and sold by nearly 100 students littered the floor.

But the products were just the most visible part of the mini-economies that students developed in their classrooms over the past months, and while some items may be left behind, their teachers and principals hope the skills and knowledge the students learned will persist.

The mini-economy is a form of economics instruction in which students participate in a classroom economy in order to simulate real world economic activity. In a mini-economy, students earn play money in a variety of ways and spend it at a class market operated by their classmates.

The mini-economy program teaches students about entrepreneurship, economics, and government through establishing a unique classroom currency, performing classroom jobs and starting their own classroom business.

Students determine needed resources and purchase them, calculate expenses and profits, apply for classroom business licenses and even convert between currencies when they come to Market Day, which has its own currency and exchange rate to the classroom money.

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District receives results of water quality testing at LHS

A letter from Superintendent Dr. William Silver:

As you may know, this September Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new law that requires public schools in New York to test all water outlets currently or potentially used for drinking or cooking purposes for lead levels.

Per the law, if the lead level from a water outlet exceeds the state’s action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb), the district will take immediate action to remedy the problem. To put this number into perspective, the NYS Department of Health uses the 15 ppb action level to promote remediation of a water outlet rather than to identify a health-based or exposure level.

Like many school districts around the region, Liberty Central School District test results show elevated levels of lead in several water outlets. At this point, we now have preliminary results for all three schools. The results are available on the district’s website, www.libertyk12.org.

At Liberty High School, 189 water sources were tested and 33 showed elevated levels of lead, most of which were sinks in the science labs.

As a precaution, all of the affected sinks have signs posted on them and all of the drinking fountains have been shut off. The district will collaborate with engineers and environmental specialists to determine next steps, which could include the replacement or remediation of water pipes and fixtures. As a follow-up, additional water tests will be conducted to determine if the replacement/remediation was successful.

The health and safety of students and staff is a top priority for the Liberty Board of Education and school administration. We will continue to test all our school buildings and will keep you updated as we learn more.

According to the EPA, lead in drinking water is rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning. Additionally, human skin does not absorb lead in water so even if water contains lead over the state’s action level, it is safe for hand washing, cleaning, or science applications. For more information about lead levels and drinking water, visit the EPA’s website.

Please be assured we are taking the necessary steps to address the situation and to ensure the safety of our students and staff throughout the district.

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Expressions Café turns cafeteria into a coffee house

Dozens of students, parents and community members enjoyed coffee house treats and the talents of Liberty High School students at the first Expressions Café of the 2016-17 school year on Dec. 1.

Expressions Café is a free, non-censored, open mic night and photography show organized by the Liberty High School Art Department. It is open to all student poets, musicians, artists and performers and seeks to provide a welcome space for artistic expression, experimentation and development across all genres. Artists of all levels and mediums who seek to share their creative work are encouraged to take part.

For more information about Expressions Café and upcoming events, contact Kathleen Lambert-Johansen at KJohansen@libertyk12.org.

“This is the first year in Expressions history that we’ve welcomed so many new performers,” she said. “We want to keep that going!”

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Liberty kicks off school year with teacher, staff convocation

It was standing room only at the Liberty Central School District’s convocation breakfast Wednesday morning. Educators, administrators, board members and staff flocked to the Liberty High School auditorium after a breakfast hosted by the district to celebrate the start of the school year.

The auditorium was a sea of school colors with many audience members wearing matching t-shirts as they filed in, hugging and laughing as they caught up on summer vacation stories.

The morning festivities continued with the teachers preparing classrooms, watching videos, dissecting data from year’s prior, and above all reminding teachers of what they show up at work to do.

This year, as we seek to create strong learners and successful citizens, let’s adopt a vocation mind-set and think about why we do what we do. As educators, influencers, mentors, role models, agents of change,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Silver said, noting that the key to the community’s future lies within (all) its children.

“Our job is to raise the next generation of citizens with the aptitudes and habits of mind to keep our community great. We can do that by creating pathways to graduation, by adapting to students’ needs, by setting realistic goals and holding high expectations for all students, by increasing protective factors, and by adjusting our process toward the desired learning goals.”

Dr. Silver’s full convocation presentation highlighted the following:

• a summary of regents results, separated by subject;
• a 55 percent increase in the number of students taking college-level courses;
• an increase in graduation rate and number of students attending college;
• a four percent increase in graduate rate of students with Advanced Regents diplomas and CDOS certifications;
• an 11 percent increase in NWEA data; and
• the district’s plans to continue this upward trend, with specific attending paid to its recent focus designation.

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Liberty grad reflects on journey at ESL Night

At the district’s tenth annual English as a Second Language (ESL) Night on Aug, 25, Irais Leon, class of 2016, explained how her support system of friends, family and teachers helped her to learn English and excel in Honors courses.

“I start college on Monday,” she said. “I’m going to be a nurse.”

Irais went on to say that parents who speak little or no English can still contribute to their children’s education.

“Please don’t let your children slack off or fall behind,” she said. “Push them. Take advantage of their teachers. Help is available.”

These may have been stark words to contemplate, but Irais’ message was clear – the only way students are able to make it through school is with strong support from school and home.

Her words were met with wild applause and sentiments were echoed by Mrs. Medina, Mr. Hall and Ms. Shamro, who explained that all parents can be helpful in their children’s achievement, regardless of their language or literacy level.

Teachers then gave pledge to the families in attendance that they would do all they could to provide a quality education for their children, but also told them they wanted to partner with families to ensure their child reaches his or her highest potential.

The night was a way for students and parents meet with their principals, teachers and nurses. Particular attention was paid to supports available to help students meet educational expectations and about the school’s procedures and practices. Representatives from PRASAD, Hudson River Health Plan, Sullivan County Adult BOCES, Child Care Council, Literacy Volunteers, Liberty Public Library and the Youth Economic Group were available to answer questions, provide insight and pass out translated materials.

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Liberty students in grades 3-8 see growth in state test scores

Proficiency rate up from previous year

Student achievement in the Liberty Central School District is moving in a positive trend, but local test scores were still below statewide averages on New York state assessments, according to data released by the State Education Department (SED).

In late July, SED released district and school results for the English language arts (ELA) and mathematics assessments taken in spring 2016 by students in grades 3-8.

As in the past, students’ scores on the tests are converted into a scoring range of 1 through 4 meant to indicate their degree of proficiency in the Common Core standards for the grade level. Scores at levels 3-4 indicate proficiency (4 means that a student excels in the standards), while levels 1-2 indicate a student is below proficiency.

Results show Liberty students’ combined levels 3-4 proficiency rates were 19 percent for ELA and 25 percent for math, compared with statewide results of 37.9 percent for ELA and 39.1 percent for math.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bill Silver attributed the district’s positive results to the hard work of students and teachers, increased experience with the Common Core, increased use of technology across the district and changes made by the state in response to parents’ and educators’ concerns.

Although Liberty students’ scores were below statewide averages for proficiency, they did reflect an increase in performance compared to the 2014-15 school year. The district’s proficiency rates for ELA and math increased by four percentage points each.

The district saw a year-to-year increase of in its math and ELA results for nearly all grade levels, however; the state cautioned in its release about statewide scores that “while the content of the 2016 tests and last year’s tests are comparable and similarly rigorous, it is not possible to make direct comparisons of the 2016 results to prior years’ results because of changes to the tests this year.”

It is also important to note that there are additional factors which contribute to the district’s performance, including the number of students who speak English as a second language and the number of students who chose to opt-out of this year’s exams.

As in the past, these state assessments do not factor into a student’s grades for the year. Instead, teachers and administrators look to the assessment results as a way to gain insight into curricular areas that may need to be refined to support student learning.

“While the state may put importance on a given year’s test results, the larger purpose of education is making sure that students have the skills, knowledge and experiences they need to be successful in life,” Dr. Silver said. “Our students worked hard last year and should be proud of the gains they made. These results simply tell us there’s still more work for [the district] to do to help students meet today’s high standards.”

Parents can anticipate receiving information on their child’s individual performance on the assessments in September. For more information, please contact the main office of your child’s school.

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Regents approve new graduation pathway

At its June 2016 meeting, the New York State Board of Regents adopted a regulation that will allow all students statewide the opportunity to graduate with a Career Development Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential added to their high school diplomas.

In the past, the CDOS Commencement Credential was available only to students with disabilities. The credential indicates that students are ready for entry-level employment after high school and have met requirements related to employability skills and career exploration and training.

Students who earn the CDOS Commencement Credential will still need to meet current minimum academic requirements, including earning at least 22 credits and passing four Regents exams (math, science, English language arts and social studies).

In addition, students will need to meet all the requirements for the credential, which can be earned in one of two ways:

• Option 1: Several requirements fall under this option, including preparing a career plan, which includes information about a student’s strengths, career interests and goals, as well as a plan to reach those goals. Each student also must complete 216 hours of career and technical education (CTE) coursework and/or work-based learning (54 of the 216 hours must be work-based experiences) and have an employability profile that rates the student’s workplace skills. In addition, this option requires that students participate in a curriculum based on the CDOS learning standards, which include exploring career options, using academic skills (such as math) in work settings, possessing employability skills (such as the ability to work as part of a team, problem-solving skills and communications skills) and acquiring career-specific knowledge and skills to progress toward gainful employment. Learn more about the standards at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/cte/cdlearn/documents/cdoslea.pdf

• Option 2: Fulfill the requirements for one of the nationally recognized work readiness credentials, such as the National Work Readiness Credential, the SkillsUSA Work Force Ready Employability Assessment, the National Career Readiness Certificate WorkKeys and the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems Workforce Skills Certification System. Learn more at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/CDOScredential-att5.pdf

The credential is available beginning in June 2016 for students meeting all the requirements.

The CDOS Commencement Credential is the newest graduation “pathway” approved by the Board of Regents, complementing students’ options to choose from four other pathways: 1.) arts; 2.) humanities; 3.) biliteracy; 4.) career and technical education and 5.) science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

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Board of Regents extends special education safety net

Certain students with disabilities will be allowed to graduate  without passing all required Regents exams

During its June 2016 meeting, the New York State Board of Regents approved an emergency action that will allow certain students with disabilities to graduate with a Local Diploma after their school superintendents review their coursework and certify the students have met minimum requirements.

This new graduation pathway (dubbed “Superintendent Determination Pathway”) goes into effect on June 20, 2016. The Board of Regents estimates that 1,300 students who wouldn’t otherwise meet graduation requirements will be eligible to earn their diplomas under the new process. An additional 900 students with disabilities who are in their fifth and sixth years of high school may also qualify.

This new pathway applies to students with disabilities who:
• Currently have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and are receiving special education services;
• Have not met graduation requirements under other safety net options (i.e., the “low pass” safety net option or the “compensatory” safety net option);
• Scored at least 55 on the English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics Regents exams or successfully appealed a score of 52 to 54;
• Are unable to demonstrate their proficiency on standard state assessments due to their disabilities;
• Have earned required course credits and passed all courses required for graduation, including the Regents courses that correspond with Regents exam areas (ELA, math, social studies and science);
• Can demonstrate graduation-level proficiency of the state’s learning standards in the subject area(s) where they were unable to pass Regents exams.

In these cases, the school district superintendent will be required to conduct a review to ensure the affected students with disabilities have met the required academic standards to earn a Local Diploma under this new graduation pathway. This is an automatic process; students or parents do not have to make a formal request. School principals and superintendents must sign a document prescribed by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) commissioner that describes the evidence reviewed and the decision rendered by the superintendent and the students and their parents must receive a copy of this documentation. If a student does not meet the requirements, the documentation must note that the student can continue to attend school until the end of the school year when he/she turns 21. A copy of the form must be included in students’ academic records and submitted to NYSED no later than August 31 of the year the affected students graduate.

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Students give school salad bar an A+

Beginning Sept. 7, all three Liberty school cafeterias will include a free salad bar

It’s high noon for Liberty High School students, and it’s time for some tough choices.

Pizza or salad bar?

It’s a no brainer for tenth-grader Jeremy Lieberman, who piled lettuce, carrots and cucumbers onto a plate, topping them with a drizzle of ranch and sprinkle of cheese.

“I love the salad bar; it’s a good change,” he said on Tuesday, June 7 as he joined a long line of students and teachers turning a cold shoulder to the pizza and fries. “I love the new variety of healthy foods.”

That’s good news for Liberty Central School District officials, who announced in February that beginning next year, all students will be able to eat fresh vegetables and fruit from a salad bar courtesy of a grant from Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, the Whole Kids Foundation and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The high school salad bar opened on Monday, June 6. The elementary and middle school salad bars are expected to open in the fall.

“It’s really awesome,” said ninth-grader Maria Racon, whose plate was covered with carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes following a trip to the produce bar. “They have good fruits, vegetables and cheese.”

Stocked with fresh, seasonal produce, from carrots and cucumbers to broccoli and black-eyed peas, the bar is giving Liberty students healthier lunchtime options.

“There’s more variety of vegetables than we had before in the cafeteria,” said ninth-grader Mike Cohen, who was munching on chicken salad and slices of cucumbers and carrots from the bar. “What we had before wasn’t healthy or filling enough, which is something student-athletes look for.” (Mike is a member of the Liberty soccer, indoor track and baseball teams.)

Because the district is a part of the Community Eligibility Provision, meal charges for all students are free. Students do not have to pay to enjoy the a salad bar if selected as his or her main entree. Students can continue to purchase extra food items, such as a double meal or an extra snack or drink, for a fee.

“As a person with a food allergy, I was excited to see the salad bar introduced because it gives me the chance to get lunch for free at the school,” eleventh-grade student Samantha Burger said.

In planning for and implementing the produce bar, Food Service Director Dara Smith said that she and her staff had to work through many dietary concerns and logistics, such as the flow of traffic through the cafeteria before opening the high school’s salad bar.

“We’re using the high school salad bar as a pilot,” she said. “While we’d like to open the elementary and middle school salad bars before the end of the 2015-16 school year, we have to make sure all cafeteria staff are properly trained.”

Beginning Sept. 7, 2016, a salad bar in each school will be open daily.

“[The salad bars] could be the connection between healthy kids and academic improvement,” Liberty Middle/High School Principal Jack Strassman said. “Healthy kids learn better and perform better in school.”

The district also hopes to offer local produce through a farm to school outreach program that is being developed by .

For more information about the salad bar, please contact Dara Smith at (845) 292-5400 ext. 2040.

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Liberty conducts voluntary water test

One water fountain turned off as a precaution; all other fixtures deemed fine

In response to state- and nation-wide concerns about lead in drinking water, the district voluntarily conducted a water test in April. Orange-Ulster BOCES collected water samples from various sources throughout each of Liberty’s three schools, including drinking fountains, classrooms and cafeterias, to test for lead.

During sample collection, Orange-Ulster BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services) recommended that a single antiquated water fountain on the third floor in Liberty Elementary School be shut off. The water fountain was built with a lead fitting that could potentially seep lead into the water.

The fountain was immediately shut off. In its official report, Orange-Ulster BOCES reported that while the district’s water samples were within normal ranges, trace amounts of lead were detected in samples from the one antiquated fountain.

The piping surrounding the fountain was deemed lead-free by Orange-Ulster BOCES, which pinpoints the water fountain as the only source of lead, Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Silver said. The fountain will remain turned off until it and its plumbing can be removed and replaced. Although not considered to pose a threat, a second fountain on the third floor will be replaced so the two units match.

No lead was detected in any other schools or any other water sources at Liberty Elementary School.
Although there is no legal requirement for school districts to test for lead in drinking water, the district tested proactively to ensure students’ safety, especially in light of recent national and local news surrounding elevated lead levels in drinking water, Dr. William Silver said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead in drinking water is rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning. For more information about prevention and risks to lead exposure, please contact your family physician or log on to the EPA’s website.

You may also contact Dr. Silver at (845) 292-6990 and speak with his secretary, Tania DeFrank.

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