BoE Hears Update on Science Curriculum and District Goals, Names Kim Fontana as Next PCSD Superinten

Students from Pawling High School presented their

science research at the Board of Education meeting on April 23.

The Pawling Central School District Board of Education convened on Tuesday, April 23, for a meeting at Pawling Elementary School. The session’s agenda included a presentation on the district’s 5 – 12 science curriculum from science curriculum leaders, as well as an update on the pursuit of district goal 1 and the official announcement of PCSD’s new Superintendent.

Board members heard a presentation from PHS science teachers Ean Titus and Sara Von Burg, who outlined the 5 – 12 department’s efforts as the district continues to pursue the next generation of New York State Learning Standards. “Science is relatable worldwide,” explained Von Burg. “We’re helping our students to become accessible, inquiry-based scientists to improve critical thinking to apply in the future. There’s a lot of motivation and excitement.”

Throughout the district, instructors have been applying 3-D learning, which encompasses science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts in the areas of physical science, life science, engineering design, and earth and space sciences. The concept of “crosscutting” allows students to find relatability across different disciplines. “We want to make science more meaningful and engaging for the students,” said Titus.

To further demonstrate the impact of these advancements to the science curriculum, several students from Pawling High School were present, and Board members and attendees were invited to interact and hear explanations of their research. Student topics included impulse behaviors in young children, fatty-acid oxidation disorders, myocardial infarction, and the carbon cycle. Following student interactions, district officials expressed approval at the level of interest displayed by the presenters. “They showed intense engagement,” said Board President Jeff Asher. “There’s a sense of enthusiasm that just amazes me.”

Several Instructional Administrators updated the Board on the district’s ongoing effort to pursue District Goal 1, which promotes a culture that provides a safe, welcoming, and inclusive climate for all students. These efforts include anti-bullying initiatives, character education, civic engagement, student leadership, family involvement, and school safety.

Board members and faculty honored Dr. Bill Ward ahead of his retirement in June.

To further these goals, school staff members receive Annual Dignity Act updates and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certification, as well as professional development in a culturally responsive and sustaining framework. Students were also shown a screening of the film Angst as part of a mental-health awareness program.

To promote the district’s goals of civil engagement and student leadership, social studies teachers from grades K – 12 have engaged in year-long professional development courses, and instructors have organized a number of programs involving students from the Elementary, Middle, and High schools. Pawling Middle School and Pawling High School also promote peer leadership programs.

Implementation of district-wide school safety plans was also explained to be a top priority, with training at each district building. These efforts focused on evacuation drills, alternate-site reunification, and parent reunification. School Resource Officers are now more visible during recess, arrival, and dismissal, and have been integrated into school programs and serve as community liaisons.

In concluding business, the Board officially announced that Kim Fontana has been chosen as the PCSD’s next superintendent. Fontana has served as the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction for the past five years, and will take over for Dr. Bill Ward following his retirement in June.

In recognition of his service to the district and the community, Dr. Ward was presented with an original watercolor by Pawling educator Ned Reade as a keepsake from his time in Pawling. The painting, a gift from the administrative team, Board of Education, and Dutchess County Superintendents, depicts a school bus traveling along West Main Street in the village. “It’s been a pleasure spending the last six years here,” said Ward. “I feel good about the people that we have here. These things come from all of us, and it starts with the teachers in the classroom and goes all the way to the Board. I want to thank you all.”

Kim Fontana will officially assume the position of Superintendent on July 1. “I feel very honored to have been chosen,” she said. “It will be my absolute privilege to lead. Dr. Ward has given us a strong foundation, and this is a tremendous opportunity for us to build upon that.”