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2019-20 School Year Letter from Dr. Shaps

2019-20 School Year Letter from Dr. Shaps


Dear Families,

In addition to joining the rest of the nation in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, the triumph of American spirit, and the quest to accomplish aspirational goals, I spent time this summer reflecting on the introduction of a lesser known 1969 technological achievement, ARPANET – the beginning of the Internet – and how the current technological age has transformed our lives.

As we begin a new school year and focus on preparing students to thrive in a complex, interdependent global society, we focus on our guiding principles and align our programs, pedagogy, and learning experiences to clear measures of what we want students to understand and demonstrate as contributing citizens of the world. Thus, our primary mission is to allow students to acquire the dispositions, habits, and appreciation for lifelong learning that will serve them well beyond high school graduation.

This year, our commitment to foster authentic learning experiences will take shape in several exciting forms. Building on the successful launch of the MHS senior collaborative design studio, 12th grade students will form project teams to solve design challenges and collaborate as computer programmers, engineers, and product designers, creating prototypes and marketing human-centered solutions to address complex problems. At the same time, our Advanced Placement U.S. Government students and journalism students will be at the center of the presidential election, traveling to the New Hampshire Primary to report political stories side-by-side with national political pundits and experts. In partnership with Stone Barns, middle school Family and Consumer Science teacher Taryn Delaney will engage middle school students in the study of food science, connecting what we grow and eat with issues of sustainability, power, and economics. At the elementary level, fifth grade students will engage in field experiences at the Greenburgh Nature Center focusing on food waste prevention, and all elementary students will make 120+ trips to Sheldrake Environmental Center to engage in hands on science instruction in the heart of estuarine and woodland environments.

In keeping with our focus on innovation, rigor, and relevant teaching and learning, we will spend the year examining our middle school program, engaging stakeholders (teachers, administrators, students, and parents) in a thorough needs assessment to identify what we prize, what we wish to pursue, and what we must commit to in order to meet the needs of early adolescents. Middle school unified arts (fine and performing arts, computer science, robotics, design, and family and consumer science) teachers will begin to build foundational pathways to high school elective courses.

To ensure that all students thrive, we must promote learning environments that serve to affirm racial, linguistic and cultural identities, develop students' abilities to connect across lines of differences, and empower students as agents of social change. This past June, in partnership with Courageous Conversation, Board members, administrators, department chairs, guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, and PTA representatives participated in a Beyond Diversity workshop as a means to gain tools to understand the impact of race on student learning and investigate the role that racism plays in institutionalizing achievement disparities. During the course of the school year we will establish a district equity leadership team and partner with Courageous Conversation to implement a long range plan.

Additionally, district and building administrators will partner with teachers, students and families to introduce initiatives outlined in the recently adopted New York State Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Framework and Mamaroneck High School teachers and students will explore the issues of identity, institutional bias, and racism as part of our longstanding partnership with Facing History and Ourselves.

Under the heading of systems challenges, specifically, the combined issues of growing enrollment and instructional space utilization, the Board of Education and administration plan to spend time during the fall revisiting recommendations included in the recently completed Enrollment Task Force Report. I plan to share K-12 enrollment and elementary instructional space utilization data during the Tuesday, September 3, 2019 Board of Education meeting and reinforce the need to plan for growing student enrollment and instructional space challenges at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

We will continue to audit, implement, and improve school security measures to ensure safe learning environments. We are pleased that former law enforcement official Mr. Frank Corona will serve as our District's new Director of Security. Mr. Corona will oversee day-to-day safety operations at all six schools, evaluate safety plans and procedures, and work closely with law enforcement personnel to maintain safe school environments. Beginning in September, we will require all visitors to present photo IDs utilizing the new Badgepass database system to screen for public sex offenders and ensure that visitors are authorized to pick up students as noted in our eSchoolData student information management system. In September, I will update the community on the development and implementation of new safety communication protocols designed to improve communication with parents, students, and staff in the event of a school safety incident, and during the fall we expect to hire a security consultant to conduct an independent safety audit of each school.

The Mamaroneck Board of Education and central administration are committed to promoting thoughtful dialogue and communication with staff, parents, students, and community members. To be as efficient and effective in addressing questions, concerns, or the need for clarification, we will continue to summarize and publish (on the District website) the various issues and topics that are presented to our co-governance team over the course of the school year. We will also set aside time during monthly Board of Education meetings to report out on the range of questions or concerns that are shared by stakeholders.

I expect the 2019-20 school year to be filled with rich, relevant, rigorous, and authentic learning experiences for students as a result of hard work, preparation, and commitment by administrators, teachers, and support staff and of course students themselves.

Thank you for your continued support of the Mamaroneck Union Free School District. Knowing that education is the greatest gift for children, I am grateful and honored to have the opportunity to serve you, the Board of Education, community, and the staff who work tirelessly on behalf of children. As always, please contact me at the District office if I can be of assistance to you as the year progresses.


Dr. Robert I. Shaps
Superintendent of Schools

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