Convocation Address – 2014

Superintendent Dr. Marion H. Martinez, Binghamton City Schools

 

Good Morning and Welcome to the official opening of the 2014-2015 school year! I’d like to recognize:

  • the Board of Education members in attendance.………….Mrs. Kammerman. (Please stand – Thank you.)
  • community partners { Dr. Lisa Blitz, Lea Webb, Dr. Denise Yull, Mattie Ervin, Carla Murray, Dr. Nicole Johnson, Larry Parham, Glenn McIver, Dr. James Pogue, Dr. Kevin Wright, and Dr. Youjung Lee) If you would please stand – Thank you –
  • City dignitaries {Mayor David, Chief Zukuski, Chief Thomas, Dr. Penna the Youth Success Coordinator, councilors???} Please stand – thank you.
  • Did I forget anyone?

Your ongoing support, genuine collaboration and direct involvement in the school system has made a positive difference. The district has benefited from your involvement and your presence this morning is appreciated. I look forward to continuing our work together.

Our greatest resource is our staff. This year we are welcoming over 30 new teachers and two administrators. (please stand). We are very happy to have you with us. Together, we will continue to focus on the district’s mission of “providing a rich environment for quality learning” where we challenge ALL students to achieve at high levels and provide them with experiences and opportunities that prepare them for success in college, careers and life.

One of the new administrators is East Middle School’s principal, Lori Czeitner. I’d like to compliment the teachers at East for their active participation in all aspects of the hiring process. Their involvement was invaluable.

Dawn Young will fill the new position of Director of Technology. She will work closely with staff to establish benchmarks for student technology proficiency and support the use of new and emerging technology to enhance the instructional program.

We continue to be very excited as we watch the NEW MacArthur School rise like the Phoenix on Vestal Avenue. Last June, students and staff celebrated as a building and hopefully, it won’t be too much longer and they will become whole again.

Another happy, yet sad fact is that all students in Binghamton City Schools will be offered free breakfast and lunch through June 2018. It’s based on the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced meals and Medicaid. The reality is our district has a 75% poverty rate. Hunger is a real issue in our community and while we cannot erase the effects of poverty, we can address holistically the needs of our students in a variety of different ways to impact student achievement.

Many of you have been working with Dr. Lisa Blitz and also heard Dr. Eric Jensen share his research on the effects of chronic stress on students. Toxic stress can negatively impact brain development and contribute to cognitive challenges, poor attention spans, concentration and impaired executive functioning. It also impacts parents. But we, as educators, are not helpless. There are examples all over the country of cities where partnerships with schools, universities, hospitals, churches and community work together to address the holistic needs of children and parents through an integrative approach. We know we must expand the school day by front-loading our early childhood education programs, afterschool and summer enrichment programs, parent outreach, parent cafes, evening coffee hours with parents and parent mentoring programs all while strengthening our relationships with health-based organizations. Our challenge is to engage students in stimulating curricula, authentic learning experiences where they see and understand the purpose for learning. The research is clear about the importance of the relationships we develop with our students and the degree to which we allow them to know us a people.

Already we are seeing the impact of these approaches. Our goal is to increase instructional time by decreasing office referrals and suspensions through the implementation of robust professional development such as Focus on Effective Teaching, Advisory/Conferencing, Teaching with Poverty in Mind, Guided Discipline, Responsive Classrooms, Cultural Competence, restorative justice and Progressive Discipline. We need to challenge our students to achieve at high levels by maintaining high expectations because we know students will achieve the level of our expectation whether it be high or low.

We must sustain our focus and acknowledge the power we do have to address and make progress on the challenges we face.

This morning we are very fortunate to host Dr. Pedro Noguera, world-renowned educator, scholar and researcher. He is a prolific writer having written over 200 research and scholarly articles on urban school reform, youth violence, race and ethnic relations, conditions that promote student achievement and others. He is a professor at New York University, executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. Dr. Noguera is also frequent educational contributor on CNN, NPR and MSNBC.

Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Dr. Noguera.

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