Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan Review

The Warwick Valley Central School District has developed a framework for decision-making for its future program decisions. The District will utilize a data inquiry cycle to guide its program review. The data inquiry cycle is a series of steps, gaining perspective; preparing data; discovering or uncovering results from the data; meeting, discussing, and adjusting the program for improvement; and identifying next steps; then repeating the cycle as necessary.

Specifically, the District has established a series of Board work session meetings – which are open to the public – to continue its review of the academic program:

View and download the complete, original September 23 presentation here.

The intention of the Board work sessions is to present the program at each level (elementary, middle and high school) and provide a deeper understanding of how the District will utilize the new District data teams.

Work Session News

April 22, 2022: Public work sessions focused on district strategic plan continue with middle school presentation

On Thursday, April 7, 2022, Warwick Valley Central School District presented its third in a series of five public work sessions that are part of the district’s overview of its instructional program. Each work session provides details about and promotes understanding of the district’s curriculum, demonstrating the reasoning behind curriculum decisions, how they are being applied, and how they benefit students.

Work sessions are being held this year for each program level. The April 7 presentation focused on the Warwick Valley Middle School (WVMS) program. Principals and teachers presented the elementary program earlier this year, and building administration and faculty will present the Warwick Valley High School program during a work session in May.

Portrait of a Graduate
The presentation opened with a review of the district’s Portrait of a Graduate by WVMS Principal Ms. Georgianna Diopoulos. The Portrait of the Graduate includes seven essential skills, qualities, and dispositions representing the community’s aspirations for all graduating Warwick students. This person is a “collaborator, communication expert, creator/innovator, ethical and global citizen, resilient person, problem solver, and life-long learner.”
“The district and the community worked closely together to create what we now know as our Portrait of a Graduate, which lays out the qualities we believe a graduate needs to succeed in an increasingly global and interconnected society,” said Dr. David Leach, Superintendent of Schools. “To ensure that our students attain these outcomes, our teachers—at every grade level—are mindful of approaching each lesson, classroom activity, event, and mentoring opportunity with these qualities in mind. We are proud to offer curricula that present Warwick students with unique opportunities to envision and shape a future all their own and access to the resources and support that facilitate such growth.”

Well-stocked classroom libraries – including classic and current titles, in different languages, on varied topics, in all disciplines, across all four grades – are a point of pride at the middle school. There are libraries specific to world language classrooms, math classrooms, social studies, and ELA rooms.
Fifth and sixth-grade students participate in a reader’s and writer’s workshop model developed at Teachers College, Columbia University. It includes independent reading, read-aloud, shared reading, word work, and small group instruction.

In the writer’s workshop, students:

  • Learn they have stories worth telling and information worth sharing, and they can use their writing to persuade others and affect change
  • Self-select their topics, leading to independence
  • Write for extended periods, which leads to increased stamina
  • Collaborate with peers for feedback and assistance
  • Participate in mini-lessons where the teacher offers instruction on a writing strategy or technique to try.

Seventh grade ELA teacher Ms. Amanda Wright explained the benefits of word study instruction, which involves new approaches to vocabulary. She also talked about F & P benchmark assessments.

“These assessments give us incredible insight into what type of reader a student is,” she said. We can change our teaching to be more effective for each student when we know that. “

The district’s approach to math emphasizes conceptual understanding and reinforces that understanding with procedural practice. This approach is much different from the past’s multiple textbook and workbook/textbook models. The middle school program aligns with the same chief instructional resources as the elementary program, which creates an effective continuum of learning from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“Our math program focuses on process over product,” said Ms. Diopoulos. “When we aligned our standards across the elementary and middle school programs five years ago, we were able to give students working textbooks, a formalized vocabulary, and effectively move students from the concrete to the abstract.”

Social Studies
WVMS Associate Principal Mr. Jared Yapkowitz discussed the middle school’s program and how it closely aligns with the high school regents program. The program, which has strong thematic links to the high school program, emphasizes map skills.
“Students in fifth grade deal with world geography, students in sixth-grade look at world civilizations, and students in seventh and eighth grade take on US history,” said Mr. Yapkowitz on the breakdown of topics within the study area.
Teachers have also incorporated constructed response questions (CRQ) into their instruction. These assessment items ask students to apply knowledge, skills, and critical thinking abilities to real-world, standards-driven performance tasks.

“With our science curriculum, we challenge students to learn new concepts and then how to apply them to project-based learning,” explained Ms. Diopoulos. “As with our math curriculum, we aim for process over product. We integrate three key dimensions of science learning into our curriculum – science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts – to help students develop a contextual understanding of the content of science.

Students examine scientific phenomena and how they relate across these three dimensions, giving students valuable skills to be critical thinkers and doers in real-world situations. Adopting and adhering to a new chief instructional resource has guaranteed curriculum across grade levels, and reassessment is ongoing to align the curriculum with current standards. The science curriculum continues to move towards even more experiential, hands-on learning.

Multi-Age Classroom (MAC)
The district wants its students to be able to discuss ideas, think analytically, think critically, and question the world around them. The MAC program at the middle school gets students to inquire about different things, including their own learning and their understanding. The integrated curriculum is a product of collaborative design, and classes utilize reading and writing workshops for ELA.

The program, available in grades five and six, is an extension of the elementary PIE program. MAC teachers incorporate the four PIE cornerstones into an environment wherein students are assigned a homeroom and switch classes throughout the day.

The four cornerstones are:

  • Multi-Age Classroom
  • Family Involvement
    • Creative ways to keep parents involved
  • Integrated Curriculum
  • Nature Appreciation

“Every year, the MAC program has about half fifth graders and half sixth graders, which provides a wonderful opportunity for the older students to become mentors for the younger ones,” said MAC teacher Mr. Robert Kirschke. “It can be daunting to come into the middle school for the first time, but those sixth graders provide comfort and guidance; kind of showing the fifth graders the ropes. It can take a while to get used to the type of work we do, and the older students provide a stable role model for the younger ones, and that helps them along.”

World Language
Warwick Valley is proud to offer Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese in its world language curriculum. The district’s approach to teaching world languages is to give students a contextual understanding of the language, as opposed to delivering exercises for rote learning. This top-down approach stands in contrast to the old bottom-up model, which relied heavily on listening and repeating, as well as memorization, to try and build mastery of a new language. This new approach is intercultural and interdisciplinary, and involves tasks that elicit all three modes of communication: interpersonal, presentational, and interpretive. This model encourages students to take charge of their own learning and explore their interests, with the teacher as facilitator.

Engineering classes extend across all four years of a student’s career at WVMS, and the district applies Project Lead the Way. PLTW empowers students to develop and apply in-demand, transportable skills through real-world challenges. PLTW offers pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science, teaching students technical skills, problem solving, critical and creative thinking, communication, and collaboration. Teachers are provided training, resources, and the support needed to engage students in real-world learning.

“Our four years of engineering see students working in areas we never dreamed of as young people, including green architecture, automation and robotics, design and modeling, and computer science for innovation and makers,” said WVMS Associate Principal Mr. Chris Radon. “Our students have shown themselves to be true innovators, creators, and problem-solvers through their amazing work on projects like designing orthotics, and creating homes from recycled shipping containers.”

Response to Intervention
Warwick Valley applies a three-tiered support model called “Response to Intervention” (RTI) to identify and assist struggling students. Once identified, these students receive help from Academic Intervention Services Specialists (AIS). On tier one, an AIS may advise a teacher on how to handle a student’s needs within the classroom instruction. At tier two, the AIS may enter the classroom for targeted small group instruction. At tier three, the student will meet with an AIS outside of the classroom for a more specialized intervention. A team of teachers from different fields helps teachers make sure that each student is successful in the classroom.

“We have seen this process work incredibly well for many students,” said Mr. Radon. “When you support a teacher by providing the resources to identify the best way to meet a student’s needs, and then meet them, you’re hopeful for great results. We have seen students who received AIS attention in fifth and sixth grade getting ready to head off to high school as thriving eighth graders.”

Their RTI process starts with an initial consultation, then an instructional support team meeting, then the agreed-upon interventions, a follow-up meeting to see how things are going, and figuring out what to do next.

Middle School Counseling
School counseling programs play a positive role in a student’s academic development, college and career readiness, and social and emotional development. Each student in grades six through eight meets with their counselor in person. Counselors also work closely, consulting with administrators, classroom teachers, and school staff, as well as a student’s family when needed. Middle school counselors are involved with class scheduling, crisis response and intervention, peer mediation, social-emotional as well as academic support and intervention, 504s, RTI, and Positive Behavior Intervention Supports, among other things.

Character Education: ROAR
They teach and show how to be a good person every day. ROAR is a positive character development program for middle school students and staff.

  • Respect
  • Outstanding Choices
  • Acceptance
  • Responsibility

Yale RULER: Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, Regulating
RULER is an evidence-based approach to understanding and expressing emotions, developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. RULER supports the entire school community in:

  • Understanding the value of emotions
  • Building the skills of emotional intelligence
  • Creating and maintaining a positive school climate

Clubs and Extracurriculars
“We are proud to provide our students with a broad range of extracurricular activities and clubs that allow them to figure out who they are and what they’re into,” said Ms. Diopoulos. “Being involved in these kinds of things gives students a better understanding of the world around them, and we are fortunate to have so many dedicated teachers who donate their time and free periods to make them happen.”

The middle school offers robust modified sports and music programs, both of which prepare students to continue on seamlessly with their athletic and artistic interests seamlessly into high school. There are special interest clubs for conservation and environmentalism, literature, writing and publishing, and running, among others. The middle school also offers class and community engagement through the National Junior Honor Society and its Student Senate. The middle school chapter of the Warwick Valley Prevention Coalition also gives students a way to be informed and involved when it comes to issues of drugs and alcohol. The group has participated in Red Ribbon Week, participated in a Youth Leadership Academy, and has led community events such as Community Forums, and a successful inaugural Trunk or Treat event this past fall.

Other Areas of Study
The presentation also included segments on Family and Consumer Science, a class where students learn important life skills, including money management and budgeting, how to find a career that suits you, and cooking and sewing. Representatives from the music department discussed the many ensembles available to musicians at all levels, as well as clubs for ukulele, guitar, and specialized string groups.

The art department talked about the growing use of technology in middle school art classes, and highlighted the cross-curricular nature of artist studies in which students engage – learning about an artist from published resources, then combining their knowledge and art skills to create in the style of the artist. The presentation also outlined how things like physical education and mindfulness are being incorporated into the middle school physical education curriculum, which aims to increase students’ physical fitness knowledge and participation.

In closing, Ms. Diopoulos presented student achievement data for ELA and math, drawn from the most recent NYS assessments over a four-year period, 2016-2019. In both content areas, Warwick Valley Middle School students ranked among the highest in Orange County, with many students exhibiting mastery of the subject matter. This collection of data includes high marks for students who have taken Algebra I and Earth Science, two high school freshman courses offered to eighth grade students at WVMS. The students also have the opportunity to take the NYS regents exams for these courses.

November 19, 2021: District continued public work sessions focused on strategic plan with elementary program presentation

Warwick Valley Central School District, on Thursday, November 18, 2021, presented its second in a series of five public work sessions that are part of the District’s overview of its instructional program.

The sessions provide details and promote understanding of the District’s curriculum. Each work session shows the reasoning behind curriculum decisions, how they are being applied, and how they benefit students. There will be a work session for each program level. Thursday night’s presentation – “Elementary Program: Where we were, where we are, where we are going” – focused on the District’s elementary schools.

“The Warwick Valley CSD Portrait of a Graduate encapsulates our collective view of the skills, qualities, and dispositions that a graduate should have to succeed in today’s global society. Significant stakeholder and community input influenced these objectives a few years ago,” said Dr. David Leach, Superintendent of Schools. “To that end, we must provide a coherent, engaging curriculum rich in opportunities that will prepare children for the future, not the past. Of course, quality instruction is critical, but even the most successful pedagogy won’t make up for a disconnected curriculum.”

To ensure that all students reach the Portrait of a Graduate outcomes, the District combines these facets of effective teaching and learning at the elementary school level: Engaging, coherent curriculum; hands-on, experiential learning; authentic, balanced assessment; and a culture for learning.

The mainstay of the District’s literacy program is the reader’s and writer’s workshop model from Teachers College, Columbia University. It is grounded in “cognitive apprenticeship,” where there is a gradual release of responsibility related to instruction from dependence on the teacher to independence of the student.

“Cognitive apprenticeship is how we approach these workshops,” said Literacy Coach Alisa Kadus. “A teacher is giving direct instruction, they are modeling, sharing expectations and what a final product should look like. The apprentice — the student — is observing, practicing; they’re given the tools they need to work, and the teacher provides feedback and support. This is the idea of gradual release: I do (teacher). We do (teacher and student). You do (student). It is a process that really helps foster independence, which is an essential feature of our model.”  

Warwick Valley’s balanced approach to literacy includes components of reader’s workshop:

  • Independent reading
  • Read-alouds
  • Shared reading
  • Word work
  • Small group instruction
    Including guided reading, small group shared reading, and strategy lessons

The District also realized a need to supplement the reader’s workshops with the implementation of word study, which has begun over the last few years.

Word study instruction, involves:

  • Direct, explicit, and systematic instruction in phonics, phonological awareness, vocabulary, and spelling
  • Synthetic (sound-based) and analytic (word-level analysis in addition to sounds) approaches to reading and writing words
  • Independent and collaborative practice

In writer’s workshop, students:

  • Learn they have stories worth telling, information worth sharing, and they can use their writing to persuade others and affect change
  • Self-select their topics, leading to independence
  • Write for extended periods of time, leading to increased stamina
  • Collaborate with peers for feedback and assistance
  • Participate in mini-lessons where the teacher offers instruction on a writing strategy or technique to try

Integrated Curriculum
The District uses integration to provide connections across subject areas. By relating these areas and emphasizing unifying concepts, students are better able to make connections and engage in relevant, meaningful activities that can be connected to real life. Integration can help students develop a deeper understanding of content, while accommodating a variety of learning styles, theories, and multiple intelligences.

“One example of an integrated unit we teach in fourth grade is having students read about the American Revolution,” said Sanfordville Elementary teacher Stacy Fitzgerald, adding that the students are asked to formulate a list of subtopics from their reading that they feel are most significant for further exploration. “They choose the topic that interests them most, they get to collaborate with their peers, discuss their research, and ultimately present their knowledge and their expertise to their classmates. The part they really love is putting themselves in the shoes of someone who lived during the time of the American Revolution.”

The District integrates science, engineering and mathematics into its elementary program, where students are introduced to the Engineering Design Process: Ask. Imagine. Plan. Create. Improve. Two powerful platforms are used: Engineering is Elementary (EIE) and STEMScopes. Together, EIE and STEMscopes equip Warwick Valley teachers with STEAM curricula, professional learning opportunities, and materials needed to implement real-world learning.

“We’re very proud to have an engineering design process that has been in place now for a few years, from our kindergarten classrooms all the way up to the high school,” said Park Avenue Principal Vasilios Biniaris. “The process is: Ask. Imagine. Plan. Create. Improve. We’ve put a lot of focus on our elementary program over the past six or seven years, to really have an integrated approach to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, and we have approached that through the lens of engineering.”

The District’s STEAM program is supported by an instructional technology facilitator in both elementary schools.

Instructional Technology
Technology-rich experiences are important in preparing students for success. The District equips its classrooms with the latest learning technology, as well as experts to properly support and maintain its use. The district-wide network of computers and educational technology allows teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum and instruction.

The District takes an approach to math that emphasizes the importance of establishing conceptual understanding and reinforces that understanding with procedural practice. In grades K-8, the District is now aligned to the same chief instructional resource. Through professional development and this resource, the District expects to foster a stronger number sense in students and provide text rich lessons. The District’s elementary math curriculum focuses on learning environment, reasoning and sense-making, focus and coherence, and formative assessment.

“Students have access to an approach that establishes a really good sense of numbers and how they work. Balancing the conceptual side of learning with its formal and procedural aspects is very important,” said Principal Biniaris. “We want them to get to the place where they can manipulate the symbolism and the algorithms and, more importantly, understand what they all mean. So, making sense of the problems and reasoning are critical in our approach.”

Partners in Education (PIE)
All Warwick Valley students are eligible to participate in the Partners in Education Program (PIE). The four cornerstones of the District’s PIE program are that it is a multi-age approach, provides integrated curriculum, encourages parent involvement, and fosters nature appreciation. Classroom configurations for PIE are Kindergarten; first and second grades; and third and fourth grades. PIE utilizes its faculty for collaborative design of integrated curriculum. This year, a multi-age math resource was introduced that also reflects the goals of PIE.

Response to Intervention
Warwick Valley applies a three-tiered support model called Response to Intervention (RTI) to identify and assist struggling students. The three tiers are core classroom instruction, followed by targeted small group instruction, and then intensive individual intervention. A multi-disciplinary instructional support team supports teachers as they maximize individual student success in the classroom.

“Members of our team include the building Principal, school psychologist — and maybe the counselor — the IT Facilitator, the concerned student’s general education teacher, the reading specialist, and the speech and language therapist. If needed, we will ask an occupational therapist to join,” said Sanfordville Elementary SE Education Evaluator Johanna Fischer. “Our purpose is to support the teacher and pinpoint what’s best required to meet the needs of a particular student who may be struggling.”

Their five-step process includes initial consultation, an instructional support team meeting, carrying out agreed-upon interventions, a follow-up meeting to assess progress, and determination of next steps.

Elementary Counseling
School counseling programs play a positive role in a student’s academic development, college and career readiness, and social and emotional development. Elementary school counselors at the District work collaboratively with administrators, classroom teachers, school staff, and families. Elementary counselors offer lessons on life skills, such as understanding one’s feelings, how to be a good friend, and building self-confidence. They also provide group and individual counseling, crisis intervention, communication and referrals to families and community agencies, positive behavior intervention supports, and more. Counselors also help coordinate the Parenting Workshop Series through Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Report Cards
The District utilizes a report card that  assesses the skills that promote learning. Formerly, report cards were based on a mastery of skills. The current standards-based report cards are aligned to learning standards, and are an excellent way to report a student’s progress. Along with entries in subject areas like reading, writing, math, science, the report cards also look at skills and behaviors that promote learning, such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, working independently, personal responsibility and time management, among them.

“We organized a report card group that worked collaboratively between grade levels to look at evolving our report card model from being focused solely on skills, to aligning with standards,” said Sanfordville Elementary School Principal Johnna Maraia. “We moved to a standards-based model, which clearly assesses if a child is exceeding the standards, or meeting the standards. They may be approaching the standards, and they just may not be quite there yet. Of course, we continue to evaluate and improve the model.”

In closing, Dr. Leach presented student achievement data for ELA and math, drawn from the most recent NYS assessments over a four-year period, 2016-2019. In both content areas, Warwick Valley Elementary students ranked among the highest — and in most cases, the highest — in Orange County.

At the October 21 work session, the Board will review the District report card and other data measures in its closer look at student outcomes. More data teams will be formed throughout the District. Feedback will be sought from students and parents as well as analyzing the student assessment results to guide the District’s decisions on its future program in the data inquiry cycle.