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School Board moves forward with 'test to stay' strategy

Sat, Jan 15th 2022 07:00 am

By Alice E. Gerard

The Grand Island School District is moving forward with the “test to stay” strategy, which the district has piloted since Dec. 6.

At Monday’s Grand Island Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Dr. Brian Graham said, “The strategy is significant for individuals. It gives parents another choice for their kids to come to school, as opposed to being at home during a quarantine.”

He said that, from Dec. 6 through Jan. 10, the district administered 296 tests, with 293 negative results and three positive.

“This equates to 1,758 instructional hours that students have access to, as opposed to being at home and needing to quarantine,” Graham said.

He explained, “The Erie County Department of Health met with all private, public and parochial schools to announce that the New York State Department of Health and the Erie County Department of Health will now support ‘test to stay.’ As of this week, 17 school districts and 11 private schools are participating in ‘test to stay.’ For students who are in the’ test to stay’ program, a significant change is that students don’t have to test every day. During that five-day period, they will test minimally twice, possibly on the first day and definitely on the fifth day.”

Students in the “test to stay” program will not be permitted to participate in extracurricular activities, Graham said. “New York state prohibits any schools – private, public and parochial schools – that have children in the ‘test to stay’ program to extend their day with extracurricular activities. According to the New York State Department of Health, ‘test to stay’ is only for the academic hours that students are in school. So, it’s very disappointing. We are moving in this direction, and that’s going to be the next focus of advocacy for the superintendents, at least here in Erie County.”

In Other News

•The Board of Education also recognized the achievements of a 13-year-old drag racer and a sixth grade teacher.

Mary Howard, who teaches sixth grade at Veronica Conner Middle School, recently became a National Board Certified Teacher. Certification is a voluntary, advanced teaching credential that goes beyond the required state accreditation that is necessary for teachers.

Howard said, “The process can take up to five years to become a nationally board-certified teacher. During the process, you develop four portfolios with information about yourself. You record yourself teaching two different lessons in two different content areas. You have to prove that you’re an effective and a reflective practitioner. You have to talk about how you use data to drive your instruction. You use that data to modify the instruction that you give in the classroom.

“Unquestionably, the journey is one of self-reflection. It is absolutely one that lets you look at your teaching practice and at what you do with your pedagogy, and grow with what you’ve learned about yourself. The path isn’t easy, and my path wasn’t easy. I didn’t make it all of the way through on the first try. There was a failure and a rejection, and I had to try it again. In the end, the journey is worth the rewards. It was a really great process, and I’m glad that I was able to do it.”

Howard was certified as a middle level generalist. Other certification areas include special needs certificate for special education teachers, individual subject areas, and guidance counseling.

The process is designed to take several years, said Board President Ashli Dreher, who is also a nationally board-certified teacher.

“It really is designed for teacher growth, learning over a number of years, and it is quite a bit of work,” she said. “It says here that there are 2,179 teachers in New York state that are nationally board-certified. We have about 300,000 teachers in New York state. That’s actually a low percentage of teachers that have earned this distinction. It is a very rigorous process.”

•Dreher also introduced Peter J. (PJ) Marston III, who is nationally ranked in drag racing.

“He had nine wins. He is the 2021 Lancaster drag racing champion and the national drag racing champion,” she said. “It says no one has ever won both of those track championships concurrently in any division, so he’s the only one to have done that. There are only two IHRA-sanctioned (International Hot Rod Association) tracks in New York state. Peter won both, making him No. 1 in the state among junior drivers. He won a Gamblers race in West Salem, Ohio, against 60 or more of the top junior drivers from New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. And he traveled to and competed in the world finals in Memphis, Tennessee, and was selected as No. 9 on the drag champ top 10 list for all junior driver divisions across the country in the 13- to 15-year-old age bracket.”

She also pointed out P.J. can qualify for junior dragster status for three to four more years before he has to move on to a full-sized race car.

“Most junior drivers don’t enjoy that level of success in an eight-year career, let alone in one year, and he has a number of years left before he moves on to his full-sized race cars,” Dreher said.

P.J. said his interest in drag racing started when he and his dad went out to “race his little sled. So, I used to go out with him. And then, we watched the juniors one night. I told him that we had to have one. Then we just started doing it. It became more and more of a thing.”

He described his winning season of drag racing as “pretty fun,” and said he is looking forward to continuing to compete.

“It’s going to be hard to do (it) again, so we just want to do the same thing that we did this year,” P.J. said. He added that he has gotten a great deal of support from his parents, Pete Marston Jr., and Sue Marston, as well as from such sponsors as Pinto, Island Pet Lodge, and Chasson Racing Engines.

Dreher told P.J., “We’re very proud of you. There are a lot of students over the years, whether it’s baton throwing or drag racing. I think that we’ve had someone in boxing, but this is quite an achievement, and we are so proud of you for going out there and representing us well. Your parents must be very proud, but we are also proud of you in the Grand Island community and being part of the national stage. Representing your home town means a lot to all of us. Thank you very much and congratulations.”

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