BOE Hears Curriculum Update, Music Program Review

by Tom Walogorsky

On June 5, the Pawling Board of Education met for one of the final meetings of the school year. Central to the agenda were a Curriculum Update from the Pawling Central School District’s Social Studies department, as well as a review of the District’s Music program performed by educational consultant Carol Terry.

The Board first heard from Social Studies curriculum leaders Sharon Pritchard, representing grades 9 – 12, and Nicole Sawotka, representing grades 5 – 8. They were joined by Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Kim Fontana. Specifically, the faculty members sought to outline plans for future curriculum development, as well as changes they will implement to prepare students for changes to the State Regents Exam.

Moving forward, the curriculum leaders will be shifting focus to more inquiry-based learning. This entails posing problems, scenarios, or questions rather than merely presenting established facts to students. This shift will help prepare students for the upcoming changes to the Global History and Geography II Regents Exams. The new format of these exams will feature a short answer response section, an essay concerning enduring issues, and 30 multiple-choice stimulus questions where students will objectively interpret items such as maps, diary entries, or political cartoons.

Both exams will remain the same until January 2018. Following that, there will be a transition year exam until January 2019, which will measure content covering the time period from the year 1750 through the present. From June 2019 until June 2020, students will have the option to take either the transition year exam or the new Global History and Geography II Regents.

Ms. Pritchard and Ms. Sawotka also described the Social Studies Department’s involvement with the community. During the recent school year, they organized several local guest speakers for students at all grade levels. Among these were Dr. Moshe Avital, a Holocaust survivor who spoke to the 8th grade class, and Karl Rhode, a Vietnam veteran and Silver Star recipient who spoke at the high school. These assemblies were well attended and received approval from both students and faculty.

Following the curriculum presentation, the Board heard a report from Carol Terry, an educational consultant from Castallo & Silky LLC. Ms. Terry was hired for a five-day evaluation to provide insight on ways to improve music program enrollment District-wide. Among her recommendations were the re-evaluation of the teacher contract stipulation that no more than 60 students per class be allowed for band and choral performing organizations. Ms. Terry believes that restricting class size is detrimental to the development of a successful chorus and band program. She also recommends that the high school should revamp its scheduling procedures, possibly offering flex schedules for more rehearsal time, or loosened requirements for students to join multiple musical groups such as Marching Band and Pep Band.

Furthermore, Ms. Terry’s report recommended that students at the elementary level be allowed to begin instrumental lessons at grade 3 or 4, as opposed to the current 5th grade entry. This will help students to become as experienced as their counterparts in other districts. Parents she interviewed also expressed interest in performance opportunities for students starting as young as the kindergarten level.

Of her time observing the music program for the Pawling School District, Ms. Terry had only high praise for the students, faculty, and parents that she interacted with. “The district was wide open. Teachers welcomed me into their classrooms. Everyone was so open and wonderful about the possibilities of building this department,” she said. “Everyone is willing to do what they need to do for the benefit of building the children’s education.”