Julia Almodoval wins grand prize in poster contest

Liberty Middle School student Julia Almodoval recently received the Grand Prize winner in the 24th Annual Alcohol, Tobacco, Gambling & Drug Abuse Poster Contest, sponsored by the Administration and Prevention Services.

More than 200 posters were submitted from other students throughout Sullivan County.

The contest was divided in three Grade Categories: Elementary, Middle and High School in both languages English and Spanish.

Julia’s poster was professionally reproduced and distributed in all schools in Sullivan County and New York state.

Cheh earns Presidential Scholarship from RIT

LHS Guidance Counselor Kellie White stands next to LHS student Kelgin Cheh. Cheh is wearing a Liberty red and white Baseball uniform and hat. Liberty High School senior Kelgin Cheh has been chosen from hundreds of applicants to receive a prestigious scholarship from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) that will provide up to $40,000 in support during his undergraduate years.

Kelgin, who plans on studying engineering, will join a group of distinguished students that RIT believes has the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies.

Kelgin believes that this scholarship has been years in the making. A three-sport scholar athlete and musician since the seventh grade, Kelgin says he feels extremely excited and proud that his work is paying off.

Realizing that today’s high school students have to face some serious obstacles when applying to college – such as finances and fierce competition – Kelgin explained the strategy behind his high school course selection.

“I wanted [RIT] to know I was a good applicant,” he said, reflecting on the times he’s eaten his lunch on the go to attend orchestra practice. “I wanted to work hard and prove that I was a well-rounded and highly capable student.”

Kelgin says he encourages his peers to take the time to apply for scholarships, despite “the added weight and stress of applying.”

“It’s worth it,” he said. “[Students] just have to breathe through it as they do it.”

College scholarships come in all shapes and sizes, but last year, over $3 billion in grant funds went unused. There are scholarships out there – even for those who may not qualify for merit, scholar or needs-based scholarships.  Check out this short video to learn about the resources available for finding all sorts of scholarship opportunities.

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Strassman to retire as educator but not as role model

One of Liberty Central School District’s respected educators is hanging up his badge. After 20+ years of arriving early, staying late and greeting students and teachers with a handshake and a smile, revered Liberty’s Middle/High School Principal Jack Strassman will be leaving at the close of this school year.

A fixture in the district for 23 years, Mr. Strassman has always been a spokesperson for Liberty Pride. He bleeds red and white. His students, staff and colleagues love him, have learned from him and will miss him tremendously.

Mr. Strassman started his career in education in 1979. He worked in New York City before joining the Liberty community as elementary school principal in 1995. During his tenure at Liberty, he’s served as elementary school co-principal and middle school co-principal, middle school principal and high school principal before becoming the sole principal of the middle and high school.

Mr. Strassman is the epitome of what it means to do your job with consistency and a genuine love for a school and community. If you were to ask him what his best memories at Liberty were, you’d need to block off an entire day to listen to his stories.

In fact, his office is steeped in Liberty history from top to bottom. In his gallery of Liberty relics, he proudly displays photographs, newspaper clippings, awards and accolades, student artwork and letters, graduation programs, yearbooks, gifts and other memorabilia.

“I just remember having lots of fun and being so proud,” Mr. Strassman said as he flipped through old photos and school memorabilia, recognizing names and faces from 15+ years ago. “I think your best moments are when your school, your faculty, your staff and your students are recognized.”

Everyone remembers the teachers who inspired them to pursue greatness/ Instead, Mr. Strassman remembers the students who inspired him. He reflects often on the classes that he had the pleasure of growing with from elementary to middle to high school. Some of them he’s still quite close with and many of them he hired as teachers.

Now he’s getting ready to retire. But don’t think he’s going sit at home relaxing. Walking, hiking and catching a baseball game are among his favorite activities, but he’ll be doing much more than that. He has plans to hike the red rock canyons in Utah, sample the freshest foods in California and catch some rays in Florida.

With heavy hearts, teachers, students and their families will bid farewell to Mr. Strassman on graduation day, June 23.

What would the MakerSpace look like at Liberty?

Educators at Liberty are reimagining learning environments as innovative spaces for students to get creative and use their imaginations in hands-on learning projects. To that end, the districts proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year would include the creation of Makerspace

The 2018-19 proposed school budget includes funds that would create a MakerSpace – a creative workshop that contains elements found in a woodshop class, science lab, computer lab and an art room – for students in grades K-8.

For several years, there has been a national focus on education and careers related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Most recently, this focus has come to include the arts, resulting in the implementation of STEAM-based programs in the Liberty Central School District.

If the budget is approved on Tuesday, May 15, the district will create three MakerSpace labs for grades K-4, 5-6 and 7-8.

At the heart of the Makerspace movement is a culture of participatory learning. Makerspaces provide both students AND teachers with opportunities to exercise elements of participatory learning, such as:

• heightened motivation and new forms of engagement through meaningful play and experimentation;
• opportunities for creating using a variety of media, tools, and practices;
• learning that feels relevant to students’ identities and interests; and
• co-configured expertise where educators and students pool their skills and knowledge and share in the tasks of learning and teaching.

What would the MakerSpace Lab look like in each school?

Grades K-4:

The elementary MakerSpace would provide a 21st century learning environment for students with resources, to learn, create, and share. The MakerSpace would become a course for grades 2-4 students to replace the traditional computer course.    Students wuld be assigned to the space maker lab one full trimester each year in grades 2-4. The lab will also be open to students during recess periods to continue project work, as needed.  Materials offered would include coding kits, invention kits, literacy kits and every day items and art supplies from batteries, foil and tape to marbles, playing cards and popsicle sticks.

Grades 5-6:

The District’s current library curriculum, described below, is already organized to incorporate technology and STEM strategies, concepts and activities. The items requested will further enhance this curriculum.

Mondays: (Monster Monday) Students work towards being able to find books and other library related resources for academic and aesthetic growth.

Tuesdays: (Tech Tuesday) As our school follows a 1:1 iPad model, our learning target is technology related. Students work towards finding and using reliable, vetted sources of information (i.e. reference eBooks,subject specific databases, almanacs, encyclopedias). Students also learn the importance of technology, specifically computer coding, and how it fits into everyday life.

Wednesdays: (Wonder Wednesday) Our students work towards the skill of paraphrasing. The class is exposed to and discusses a quote by a famous person (i.e. Stephen Hawking, Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou), interprets the quote in their own words, learns about the life of the person, then gives their own thoughts about said quote, in turn connecting it to the famous person’s life.

Thursdays: (Thinker Thursday) Students work on their creative problem solving skills with various STEM activities.

Fridays: (First Chapter Fridays) Students learn about specific authors and are exposed to books by that author.

Grades 7-8:

Activities in MakerSpaces range from technological empowerment to peer-to-peer project-based technical training to local problem-solving to small-scale high-tech business incubation to grass-roots research. Projects being developed and produced in MakerSpaces include solar and wind-powered turbines, thin-client computers and wireless data networks, analytical instrumentation for agriculture and healthcare, custom housing, and rapid-prototyping of rapid-prototyping machines.  MakerSpaces share core capabilities, so that people and projects can be shared across them. This currently includes:

  • A computer-controlled laser cutter, for press-fit assembly of 3D structures from 2D parts
  • A larger (4’x8’) numerically-controlled milling machine, for making furniture- (and house-) sized parts
  • A signcutter, to produce printing masks, flexible circuits, and antennas
  • A precision (micron resolution) milling machine to make three-dimensional molds and surface-mount circuit boards
  • Programming tools for low-cost high-speed embedded processors

These would work components and materials optimized for use in the field, and are controlled with custom software for integrated design, manufacturing, and project management.


Each school’s MakerSpace would be incorporated into its curriculum, allowing every student an opportunity to take part.



Proposed budget maintains programs, upgrades technology

On Tuesday, May 15, residents will head to the polls to vote on a $48,849,113 proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year. This proposed budget presents an increase in spending of $2,936,104 (or 6.40 percent) over the current year’s budget. If approved, it would result in a 2.71 percent tax levy increase in the coming year – below the district’s maximum allowable tax levy limit as calculated under the state’s “tax cap” formula.

Maintaining financial stability

The proposed budget maintains all existing academic programs, establishes startup funds for the creation of an elementary after-school program, and creates positions for a K-8 music teacher; an elementary Academic Intervention Services (AIS) teacher; and a second School Resource Officer position.

Upgrading technology

If approved, the 2018-19 budget would bring several technological advancements to the district. Below is a summary.

  •  All classrooms would be outfitted with a new interactive 4K SmartBoard, a New PC and Document Camera.
  • Personal Computer for labs in the middle and high school would replaced
  • Two iMacs in the middle and high school would be replaced.
  • The district would purchase equipment needed to provide MakerSpace labs elementary and middle schools. The middle school lab would have state of the art equipment capable of making high end designs.
  • The district would have a significant increase in the capabilities of its internal network.  The technology department would begin providing 10GB access to all switch rooms providing more bandwidth for students.
  • The district hopes to improve and increase the capabilities of its computer and network security.  If the budget is approved, the district would implementing a new cyber security system and an enhanced web filtering system.
  • The employee badge system would be upgraded.
  • Door alarms would be installed in the elementary school.
  • The district would purchase an additional hundred iPads.
  • The technology department would upgrade its physical server RAM in effort to provide quicker response times on the computer and iPads.
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Contingent budget would mean $2,680,796 in reductions

If the budget is defeated, the board has three options: present the same budget for another vote; submit a revised budget for a vote; or adopt a contingent budget.

If the budget is defeated twice, the board must adopt a contingent budget, by law. Under the tax levy cap law, if a district adopts a contingent budget, it cannot increase its tax levy from that of the prior year by any amount – a zero percent increase.

For Liberty, a contingent budget will cut approximately $2,680,796 from the proposed budget. The district would be subject to various limits and controls on how the money within the contingent budget is spent, and would have to charge fees for public use of school buildings and grounds.

“If a district must adopt a contingent budget, there can be no increase in the tax levy,” said Interim Superintendent Carol Napolitano. “We’d have to make significant reductions to our program budget should we have to adopt a contingent budget.”

Under contingency, the district would be subject to various limits on how the money within the contingent budget is spent, and would have to charge fees for public use of school grounds.

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Mrs. Lieberman and Mrs. Forshay are this year’s Outstanding Educator and Friend to Education

The Sullivan County School Boards Association recently announced that they’ll be honoring Liberty Elementary School teacher Jodi  Fiddle-Lieberman and Liberty Elementary School crossing guard Harriet Forshay as the recipients of this year’s Sullivan County Outstanding Educator Award and Friend to Education Award, respectively.

Both of these awards honor individuals who have made an impact on the education of children in Sullivan County. Mrs. Lieberman and Mrs. Forshay will receive their awards at a dinner at The Eagle’s Nest on Wednesday, May 30. Cocktail hour will include hot and cold hors h’oeuvres with a cash bar; a buffet dinner and dessert will follow. The cost is $32 per person.

Mrs. Fiddle-Lieberman is a writing teacher and reading specialist Liberty Elementary School. She grew up in Sullivan County and graduated from Liberty High School in 1983. She studied teaching at the University of Albany earning a degree in English. She returned to her hometown of Parksville, four years later in 1987. That September, she joined several of her fellow classmates, who also became teachers.  “I started off teaching the sixth grade,” she said, “I knew I wanted to give back to the community I loved. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of watching so many of my students grow into such wonderful citizens! I like to think that I had a small part in this process.”

Mrs. Forshay, originally from New Jersey, moved to New York nearly 45 years ago. She worked several jobs before coming to Liberty Central School District, including a switchboard operation, data entry specialist at a law office and restaurant manager. She has six children, 19 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren of her own, but holds a very special place in her heart for the students she sees every day at the elementary school entrance. In rain or shine, Mrs. Forshay will be guard our crosswalks with a smile (and a hat)! She says the best part of her job is meeting the students and their parents, sharing stories and singing songs as they come to and from school. She has 372 hats, a number that’s growing thanks to friends and family members, and is taking suggestions for what hat she should wear on May 30.

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Liberty wants to tap one of its greatest assets – you!

All Liberty parents are invited to take the Diagnostic Tool for School and District Effectiveness (DTSDE) Survey beginning April 23. Required by the state for Focus and Priority Schools, the survey asks about leadership and capacity, school leader practices and decisions, curriculum development and support, teacher practices and decisions, student social and emotional developmental health, and family and community engagement.

Keep an eye on your e-mail for a personal invitation and survey link. You can also take a paper survey in English or Spanish.

The survey will be open from April 23 to May 6. School employees and students in grades 3–12 are also being invited to participate.

We administered a DTSDE survey during the 2016-17 and heard from almost 1,200 students, parents, and teachers. We used that feedback to help ensure the district is meeting your needs, and want to learn more about what practices and programs you and your child(ren) will benefit from at Liberty.

The link will also be posted on Facebook and will be sent out through our text messaging system. Paper surveys are available in both English and Spanish in the main office of your child’s school.

Students will participate at school, using their student IDs for access.

All responses are strictly confidential. K12 Insight’s final reports will share only the overall results, not individual responses.

All responses are completely confidential. Help us ensure all students receive an education that opens up a bright, successful future!

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Elementary summer school program no longer offered

The Liberty Central School District will be cancelling its summer learning program for elementary school students and will use those funds to hire a kindergarten Academic Intervention Services (AIS) teacher to offer stronger reading support to all kindergarten students during the school year.

The new AIS teacher will providing reading intervention for Liberty’s youngest students during the entire school year, explained Dr. Augustine E. Tornatore. “This will provide a solid foundation and assist them as they strive to be on the appropriate reading level through elementary school and beyond.

Please read on for a list of frequently asked questions and answers regarding the summer learning program’s cancellation.

Q: What is an Academic Intervention Service and how will that help my kindergartener?

A: Academic Intervention Services (AIS) are services designed to help students achieve the learning standards in English language arts and mathematics in grades K-12 and social studies and science in grades 4-12.

These services include two components:

  • additional instruction that supplements the general curriculum (regular classroom instruction); and/or
  • student support services needed to address barriers to improved academic performance.

Q: What will the new AIS teacher at the elementary school focus on?

A: The unfortunate truth is that once a student falls behind in reading, it is unlikely that he or she will catch up to their grade-appropriate level(s.)

The kindergarten AIS teacher will provide targeted intervention while it is still possible for students to catch up to their peers. When responded to with the proper procedures, this early identification can have a meaningful impact on student achievement.

It is the district’s goal that by addressing and stopping the learning gap that begins to grow in the kindergarten year, the elementary school will be able to better service AIS students throughout elementary school years, leading to success and confidence in middle and high school and beyond.

While not an exhaustive list, the AIS kindergarten teacher will pay specific attention and supports to letter identification, sound identification, rhyming words and high frequency words. The teacher will also offer classes to parents for the purposes of continuing the learning at home.

Q: What about students who are in first through fourth grade and need assistance with their reading?

A: These students will still receive AIS instruction and support. Our current first through fourth grade AIS teachers have an AIS caseload that ranges from 30 to 50 students (the recommended max is 20 students.) The new AIS teacher will help divvy up that caseload, giving students a benefit of more personalized instruction.


Q: Does dropping the elementary summer school program affect decisions on whether to hold a student back a grade?

A: Dropping the program will not affect decisions on whether to hold a student back a grade or advance them. The real goal of summer school is to try to prevent summer learning loss. The school will not retain students because it will not be offering summer school this year.

Q: Wasn’t the elementary summer school effective in preventing the summer slide?

A:  “Summer slide” is the tendency for students to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year. Students who attended our summer program did not show the improvement teachers and administrators had hoped when they returned to school the following year. Now, the district will take a year off to examine how to improve the program. A committee of both grade-level directors and those with expertise in specific subject areas will look at models in other districts to decide how to retool the school’s literacy program so that it serves more students more effectively year-round.

An elementary school student that compared the impact of summer school intervention to AIS reading intervention indicated that the impact of AIS intervention was greater than the impact of summer school intervention and if these same children continue with AIS intervention throughout the year, their reading levels should continue to advance. Details from the study are below:

Student progress (from spring to fall) for students who attended summer school:

  • 21 percent advanced at least one reading level
  • 49 percent maintained reading level
  • 30 percent decreased at least one reading levelStudent progress (from fall to winter) for student who received AIS instruction:
  • 65 percent advanced at least one reading level
  • 32 percent maintained reading level
  • 3 percent decreased at least one reading level

Q: Wasn’t the elementary summer school program widely attended?

A: Last year, 210 elementary school students signed up for the summer school program. Of those 210, only 132 attended the full 16-day program. There was an 18 percent average daily absence rate.

Q: I have more questions that are unanswered. What can I do?

A: Please send your questions to Dr. Tornatore at ATornatore@libertyk12.org. Your answer will be addressed and also posted to this webpage.



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