Teachers paint positive messages on bathroom stalls

Motivational messages of hope, kindness and unity are now artfully splashed across the fifth- and sixth-grade girls’ stalls.

While students were catching up on their homework, teachers and staff from Liberty Middle School were hard at work in the school bathroom.

Educators recently stayed late after work to transform an ordinary bathroom into a positive, uplifting space. Drawing inspiration from social media, the teachers painted positive message on each bathroom stall on the fifth- and sixth-grade floor.

The stall project was the brainchild of the Liberty Middle School Student Council.  The project will continue and art will soon make its way to all of the stalls in the school.

Students, staff participate in Miles of Hope

On Friday, Oct. 19, the staff and students in the Liberty Central School district participated in the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation fundraiser. Students and staff in Liberty’s three school were asked to wear pink and to donate $1 to Miles of Hope.

The official “final” counts are in:

Elementary School: $447.80
Middle School : $222.50
High School National Honor Society: $150.90
Grand Total: $821.20

The students and staff of the Liberty Central School District participate in several fundraisers each year supporting cancer research.

Picture of LES Staff poses during Miles of Hope
LES Staff poses during Miles of Hope
Picture of pink socks for Miles of Hope
“Yes, I do wear pink!”
Picture of students wearing pink for Miles of Hope
Students wear pink for Miles of Hope


Boys soccer players named to All-star Team

Congratulations to Seniors Anthony Cuellar and Vincent Henry, captains of the Boys Varsity Soccer team, on their selection to the Section 9 Class B All-Star team.  Coaches from all 13 teams in the Section, including OCIAA and MHAL schools, vote for the best players in Class B.  Anthony and Vincent received this honor for their exceptional play this year.

Both boys will also represent Liberty in the Section 9 Senior Game to be held at Newburgh Free Academy on Sunday, November 4. Liberty Pride!

District sends goodies to deployed teacher

From Spectrum News:

John Chewens is deployed in the Middle East as a member of the military. He is also a teacher and coach at Liberty Middle School.

His students wanted to show that they are thinking of him, so they’ve collected snacks and coffee and other supplies. School officials say students who don’t even know Mr. Chewens want to send items to show their appreciation.

“Our service men and women, they really put their lives on the line for us,” said said Liberty Central School District Superintendent Dr. Augustine Tornatore. “And this was their way of giving back to him. It really started off as taking a look at sending one care package and it just kind of grew. And we had other buildings in the district involved as well, so we were really fortunate that this has been such a successful endeavor.”

Students sent about 40 letters, and Chewens already received one care package. A second box is on its way, and there are still two more to be shipped.


Read the full article and video interview here. 

District provides relevant, targeted professional development at Conference Day

Providing its faculty with professional development is a priority for the Liberty Central School District, which holds six Superintendent’s Conference Day sessions each school year.

During the district’s Oct. 5 Conference Day, teachers and staff from each school building participated in professional development sessions targeted to their specialty areas.

The day’s lectures, presentations and workshops paid particular attention on two important issues that are both timely and impact safety in schools: active shooter training and bleeding control basics.

The remainder of the day focused on professional improvement topics such as efficient use of technology in the classroom and data collection.

Nine students earn a spot in Jeff Bank calendar

Each year, CAS and Jeff Bank hold a photo contest to select images for the upcoming year’s calendar. As with prior years, Liberty High School will be well represented in the calendar. Ten out of 13 spots have been awarded to Liberty High School student photographers.

Congratulations to the following students:  Ariana AuClair, Faakirah Brimfield, Luke DelValle Lucia Gonzalez, Emily Kinne, Rory Magie, Gabriella Nolan, Brooke Roth and Patricia Scarlett.

The Catskill Art Society and Jeff Bank will hold a public reception to debut the Jeff Bank 2019 Photo Calendar and honor this year’s selected photographers at the CAS Arts Center, 48 Main St., on Friday, Oct. 12 from 6-8 p.m.  All are welcome, and light refreshments will be served. The new Jeff Bank Calendars will be available for a suggested $5 donation to CAS.

Photos of the students’ original work are featured on the district’s Facebook page.

The reward of being kind: a look inside PBIS

It’s Friday afternoon at lunch time. A student remembers it’s “Pizza Friday” and decides to express his inner Usain Bolt by speeding down the hallway to be first in the lunch line.  He’s having too much fun to stop—until a teacher steps out of the classroom and spots him. 

Close up of a slide during the September PBIS assembly

Forgetting the rules –  it happens sometimes.  At Liberty, when an administrator or teacher needs to discipline a student, the primary goal is to teach them, not punish them.

Most students follow the school’s expectations, but are not properly recognized for their good behavior, according to Liberty Middle School Guidance Counselor Michelle Behrman.

That’s where Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, comes in. PBIS is a process for creating school environments that help students succeed with classwork and reach social goals, according to school officials. PBIS is aimed at enhancing practices at each school and changing the culture to make it more positive.

Through instruction, comprehension and regular practice, teachers and staff members at Liberty use a consistent set of behavior expectations and rules, she added. When some students don’t respond to teaching the rules of good behavior, the school will see it as an opportunity for re-teaching rather than punishment, she said.

This support approach, which is primarily fronted by the middle school, allows students and staff to clarify the district’s core values and expectations.

At the start of every school year, students are taught proper behavior in several parts of the building, including classrooms, hallways, bathrooms, recess and even the school bus. For example, at the lockers, voice levels are kept at an indoor recess level. In addition, students are asked to wait their turn, be helpful, use their time wisely and keep to their personal space. In the cafeteria, students are given assigned seats until they demonstrate a clear understanding about the lunchroom rules.

“We start with the values and from there we intentionally set expectations for what kindness looks like in all of these places in our school,” Mrs. Behrman said. “Teachers may even lessons around expectations in the classroom, cafeteria and so on.”

Students who follow the school’s expectations are rewarded throughout the month. A special assembly at the end of every month represents the culmination of another successful month and celebrates students who have gone above and beyond. Students are selected by their teachers in a “caught being good” sort of fashion: for an unprompted yet exceptional display of positive behavior.

The assembly is an opportunity to reflect on the prior month’s goals – what went well and what didn’t – and go over the goals for the upcoming month.

When problem behavior occurs, students receive help to address the issue. If they don’t respond, the intensity of the support increases, explained Mrs. Behrman. Problematic behavior is met with consistent consequences focused on re-teaching the behavior that’s expected of students, she said.

“If things start bubbling up at recess again, at lunch or at the lockers, we will have them redo a certain lesson,” she said. “If small groups of students seem to fall into a pattern, we [the school’s staff] will examine what we can do to help them pivot and get back on track.”

Mrs. Behrman noted this type of intervention is essential when working with young students, rather than assuming they already know how to behave in certain places.

Parents are encouraged to take a few moments to speak with their child(ren) near the beginning of each month to learn more about the school’s monthly goal.

Sept. PBIS Winners


Did you know? Liberty was the first district in Sullivan County to implement a district-wide PBIS initiative.

Sept. PBIS Winners

Building bridges, not walls: students interact with BOE

Board group photoMembers of the Liberty Board of Education stepped out of the meeting room and into the classroom on Friday, Sept. 28 to get a sense of how students and staff are enjoying the new leadership within the district.

The goal of the visit was to observe how the district’s atmosphere has been changing and how the school is preparing students to succeed in a global economy through hands-on learning.

It was a special day for board members, staff and students alike.

The Sept. 28 tour was the first of three Liberty Board of Education visits  that will take place over the next several weeks. The board will visit the elementary school on Friday, Oct. 19 and the middle school on Monday, Oct. 29.

Board President Matt DeWitt and student

And their effort hasn’t gone unnoticed by the school’s administrators.

“[The tour] is part of an approach that offers a much more immediate view than static statistics and enrollment numbers,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Augustine E. Tornatore said, “It’s all part of the district’s goal to further build a sense of community and pride.”

Liberty Central School District Board of Education President Matt DeWitt came to Liberty High School prepared with plenty of questions for students on Sept. 28.

Board member and student

Mr. DeWitt pulled up a chair and sat next to at least ten students in various classrooms over the course of his hour-long building tour and digged down into specifics about their perspective of the district’s changing leadership and atmosphere.

He asked them to describe their latest lesson, whether they had felt more support than they have had in prior years and the role of technology in the classroom.

But Mr. DeWitt saved his most important question for last. It was a query that got to the heart of his role – and the other board members – as an advocate for the Liberty Central School District.

“What can we do better to support you?”

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