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Back in January, Robert Kunis of the Monticello Board of Education listened as consultant Larry Seversky talked about his study the district’s demographics and enrollment.

Monticello CS officials vow to act

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — September 7, 2010 — Monticello High School, currently in the first year of a NYS Education Department-mandated restructuring of its math and ELA offerings, has got some work to do, according to a just-released report.
Monticello Central School officials on Thursday detailed the Joint Intervention Team (JIT) report culled from an April review of the high school’s policies and procedures.
Required by the state because the school has failed to demonstrate acceptable student progress, the six key observations are as follows:
• “Observation and interviews indicate that not all adults accept personal responsibility for students’ performance and long-term success in completing high school.
“Faculty express differing explanations for learning issues and differing expectations regarding students’ potential for learning.”
• “There is a lack of common agreement regarding the definition of appropriate student behavior and effective student management practices.
“Student and teacher focus groups indicate the widespread belief that preferred students receive favoritism.”
• “There is a lack of recognition of the diversity of the student population visually throughout the school or in terms of the curriculum, instruction, school culture, adult/student interactions and individual beliefs.”
• “Across multiple departments, there was evidence of inconsistent teaching and learning practices in terms of implementation of the curriculum, lesson design and preparation, use of agreed-upon instructional strategies and routines, and adherence to formative assessment practices.”
• “Within the data review and through observations, there was inconsistent evidence of differentiation in instructional practices within classrooms and departments.
“... Most observed lessons were teacher-driven, with an emphasis on front-of-the-class teaching.”
• “The culture of decision-making tends to be reactive rather than proactive.
“Structures and protocols for monitoring the implementation, the extent of use and the effectiveness of student-based programming and school-based practices are either missing or inconsistently utilized.”
A variety of recommendations were made in the report, which school officials said are being or will be implemented in this new school year.
In particular, High School Principal Arleene Siegel said the defunct student government will be resurrected, with elections taking place this month.
But, she admitted, “putting systems in place is one thing. Changing the culture ... that’s what we’re here for ... [but] I think change is very difficult for people.”
However, said Assistant Superintendent. for Student Learning Kenneth Newman, change must come.
“We recognize that we really have to roll up our sleeves,” he acknowledged, adding that the faculty have had a chance to see the report and will respond to it in the coming week.
Some board and audience members insisted the administration and teachers follow through.
“Overall, this is not a very positive report,” noted Board Vice President Bob Kunis. “But it’s encouraging, because it enlightens everybody.”
Yet while he lauded the teachers themselves, he wondered if the high school leaders are up to the task.
“Is our high school administration in a position and are the capabilities there to help lead us out?” Kunis questioned. “... The administration has to take a big part of this responsibility.”
Siegel assured Kunis they’re “on the same page,” but Superintendent Pat Michel urged people to avoid placing blame.
“The question is, do we build, or do we blame?” he offered. “We build.”
“We’ve got to get past pointing the finger at this person or that person,” agreed Newman. “We’re all in this together.”
But some in the public were not willing to simply dismiss the past.
“Let’s be for real – let’s love our children enough so that they can get an education,” urged Monticello resident Tom Mack. “... Let’s be strong enough to look the devil in the face and deal with the devil.”
Or, as Bob Bellamy put it, “the teachers seem to have their hands tied many times ... and that seems to come from the top.”
He pushed administrators to “free” the faculty so as to engage the students in learning.
“What do we do to make it exciting for them?” he wondered.
Others in the audience, like Alan Weir and Joshua Jones, noted that parents and people of varying ethnicities need to be included in the restructuring process.
Independent educational expert Kirsten Ruglis, who helped conduct the review and prepare the report, reminded listeners, however, that the report by its nature only focused on the negatives.
“You’ve got lots of things that are going well,” she assured.
Still, there are issues to be addressed, and Kunis, for one, pleaded with administrators to ensure the report becomes more than a paper dream.
“I want somebody to give me confidence that the three or four years that put us in this position don’t become the next one, two or three years,” he pressed.
Michel said the district and its restructuring committee is creating a five-year plan and intends on being proactive.
“If we don’t [change],” he agreed, “it’s our children who will lose.”
The full 10-page report is available online at

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