How Are We Doing?

December 12, 2017

“It’s their can-do spirit; it is not just a tagline.”

That’s what Croton-Harmon’s Karen Gatto, director of pupil personnel, said when asked about the strengths of Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES at the annual Educational Programs and Services Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday.
Gatto’s feedback was music to our ears, especially given the agency’s “We Can Do That” motto. Like former New York City Mayor Ed Koch who roamed the streets of New York asking, “How am I doing,” BOCES seeks feedback from the school districts it serves all year long including through its annual advisory committee breakfast.

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.

Other strengths high on the list were: responsiveness, willingness to problem-solve, and professional development offerings for teachers and school leaders. Under the headings of weaknesses and opportunities, participants sought greater support for elementary-age students who are learning English, support for students struggling with gender identity issues at all ages and therapeutic support for elementary-age students with mental health challenges.

“We look at every weakness as an opportunity and look to make it a strength,” said Neil Boyle, coordinator of the Guidance and Child Study Center at BOCES. “We want you to come back next year and find something that was listed as weakness now listed as a strength.”

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lynn Allen said, “We really appreciate that representatives from our component districts take the time from their busy schedules to give us feedback about our student programs. We consider our district partners to be friends to BOCES.  Not only do they provide us with accolades on what we are doing well but more importantly what we need to improve.” 

Before seeking feedback, District Superintendent Dr. James M. Ryan welcomed the group and thanked them for their participation and partnership. Dr. Jennifer Harriton Wilson, coordinator of Instructional Technology, used a quiz game to make participants aware of new offerings at BOCES.

As a result of the game, participants learned that the Special Education Department is incorporating technical classes at Fox Meadow High School, renovating the Walden School greenhouse and introducing a technology studio to its Life Skills program. In addition, they learned, that the Career and Technical Center is now offering classes in cyber security, drone technology and physical therapy.

To thank participants, each attendee received banana bread baked by culinary students, cookies they decorated during a break in the meeting and notepaper and a pen from our Special Education Department.  BOCES also seeks feedback from its 18 component districts through regular forums for school social workers, guidance/school counselors, ESL teachers, special education leaders and others.
CAPTION:  Representatives of the Educational Programs and Services Advisory Committee gather at PNW BOCES Tuesday to provide feedback on the agency’s services.