Performers can gauge their success by applause or tickets sold. Politicians know their worth from the votes they’ve won. At Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES, we seek feedback from our school districts in a variety of ways all year long including through our annual Educational Programs and Services Advisory Committee meeting.
This year’s meeting took place Wednesday, December 14th at BOCES’ Yorktown campus. Representatives from across the region spent two hours detailing what they believe to be BOCES’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and barriers, all with an eye toward helping the agency improve its services in special education, career and technical education, guidance and professional development.
Among other things, participants praised BOCES for its availability, responsiveness and willingness to help in times of crisis or particular need.
“I talk to Neil Boyle, (coordinator of the Guidance and Child Study Center) at least once a week about some problem that we are having,” said Adam VanDerStuyf, director for Pupil Personnel Services in the North Salem School District. “There’s always a challenge and inevitably BOCES accepts the challenge and runs with it.”
Philip Kavanagh, director of guidance in the Lakeland School District, said he appreciated the expertise and intelligence of the BOCES staff. “I like working with smart people. As an agency, BOCES is smart. It is creative. I can work through any problem.”
“We really appreciate that representatives from our component districts take the time from their busy schedules to give us feedback about our student programs,” said Assistant Superintendent Lynn Allen. “It helps to hear directly from the districts about our strengths as well as those things we need to improve upon and opportunities we should pursue.”
Suggestions for improvement included exploring additional programs for special needs students and increasing means of sharing information about students.
Before seeking feedback, Superintendent James M. Ryan welcomed the group. Allen and other administrators made a brief presentation on some new programs including the culinary arts program at the Tilly Foster Education Institute in Brewster and a robot that is being used to help children with autism.
To thank participants, each attendee received banana bread baked by culinary students and photos taken after the meeting of attendees and their BOCES’ colleagues. BOCES also seeks feedback from its 18 component districts through a variety of advisory committees as well as regular forums for school social workers, guidance/school counselors, ESL teachers, special education leaders and others. All of these interactions support BOCES’ mission of “Service and Innovation Through Partnership” as well as its vision to become a BOCES of the highest quality and its we-can-do-that attitude!