BoE Hears Social Studies and ELA Curriculum Updates

On Monday, June 3, the Pawling Central School District (PCSD) Board of Education convened at Pawling Middle School for the first of two meetings this month. The Board received curriculum updates from Social Studies and English Language Arts teachers. The Board announced the awarding of tenure to several faculty members.

The Board heard a presentation from Ellen Ramey, K – 4 Curriculum Leader, and Lisa Horn, 5 – 12 Curriculum Leader, regarding the district’s Social Studies curriculum. Ramey and Horn outlined their department’s efforts to implement an innovative K – 12 curriculum to enhance learning in accordance with New York State Learning Standards and district goals.

Among the programs highlighted were projects focused on civic engagement for students. Over the past year, district social studies teachers have worked with Diane Cunningham from the Learner Center Initiative to develop performance-based tasks for students. These included a 5th grade “Call to Action” project which drew attention to issues facing impoverished nations such as Madagascar, and a 4th grade Heritage Project that challenged students to learn about their roots. Several Pawling Elementary students were present at the meeting to read original poems based on a theme entitled “I Am From,” where they would explain how they honor their heritage in their daily lives. Students at Pawling High School were tasked with exploring complex civic issues including gun violence, veteran’s mental health, climate change, and artificial intelligence.

To help students foster community connections, district Social Studies teachers also hosted “A Night of Civic Engagement” on June 11, and students from Joseph Di Rubbo’s Global 10 class traveled to New York City for the annual United Nations field trip. Students also heard presentations from a number of guest speakers, including Karl Rohde of Putnam County Veterans Affairs and representatives from the Dutchess County Board of Elections. Locally, social studies students also worked with the Pawling Resource Center and Pawling Public Radio, and took field trips to the John Kane House, Veterans Day Wall, and Cloverbrook Farm.

The Board then heard an English department update from Darlene Eirish-Schofield, ELA 5 – 8 Curriculum Leader, and Brian Ostyn, ELA 9 – 12 Curriculum Leader. Instructors emphasized community connection initiatives at Pawling Middle School, particularly those inspired by new 6th grade teachers Alyssa Dulin and Jaimie Montebello. 5th grade students researched topics ranging from animal rights to video games, creating written pieces and presentations to defend their stances. Students were also able to hike the Appalachian Trail, and were given a presentation by local author Nancy Castaldo. Sixth grade students participated in an Environmental Action project where their explored local environmental issues, with six students having their work published in The Pawling Record. Seventh grade students began studying the Elizabethan era and examined A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, while 8th graders completed a project that challenged them to write letters on issues that they felt were present in the community. Students also became active in the community, collecting items to be donated to Maria Ferrer Children’s Hospital, raising funds for breast cancer research, and collecting sports equipment for underprivileged youth. Across all grade levels, students also used The Pawling Record to examine issues at the local and county level.

At Pawling High School, instructors emphasized a number of activities that have helped students achieve the district’s vision of literacy. These included a field trip to Tarrytown Music Hall, El Dia los Libros text selection gallery walk, the presentation of original short stories to Pawling Elementary School students, and students starting their own radio show called The Pawling Playback in a partnership with Pawling Public Radio. Throughout the district, instructors also engaged in professional development with Dutchess BOCES, HVBERN, the Jacob Burns Film Institutue, Bold Moves, and Dr. Jevon Hunter from Buffalo State University.

Teachers also highlighted the success of ELA students in the district, citing an impressive rise in scores on the NYS ELA Regents Exam. In 2016, PCSD students ranked 10th out of 13 districts in Dutchess County. In 2018, the district had risen to #2. In addition, Pawling also ranked #1 in 2018 on the ELA Regents Examination for Hispanic/Latino students.

In final business, the Board voted to approve tenure for a number of faculty members, including Deborah VanDoren, Janine Garison, Spencer Goot, Judith Murray, Brian Ostyn, Christine Clisby, and Erin Sutton. The Board also recognized the retirement of cook Pamela Rooney.

The next PCSD Board of Education meeting will be held on Monday, June 17, at 7:30 p.m. at Pawling Middle School, 80 Wagner Drive.