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September 25, 2018

Academic Achievement Improves, Leighton Removed From State’s Focus List


OSWEGO, NY – There was plenty of cheering at Tuesday’s (May 19) Oswego School Board meeting. And, it had noting to do with the budget vote or board elections.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Ben Halsey announced that Leighton Elementary School was no longer on the state’s “Focus” list.

From left are: Jamie Sykut (recording the meeting); FLS teachers Kory Donovan and Amy Armett; Pam Dowd, Leighton Home and School Association; teachers Jennifer Symborski and Mary Lisk; and Principal Larry Schmiegel.

From left are: Jamie Sykut (recording the meeting); FLS teachers Kory Donovan and Amy Armett; Pam Dowd, Leighton Home and School Association; teachers Jennifer Symborski and Mary Lisk; and Principal Larry Schmiegel.

“We have been working a long time to improve the academic performance in that building,” he said. “I am very happy to announce that Leighton has officially been removed from the focus group. I would like to congratulate the faculty that has dedicated themselves to this process. It’s been extensive, arduous and tedious work that they have stuck to through a change of administration with (former principal) Julie Burger getting us off in the right direction and (current principal) Larry (Schmiegel) stepping in. Our students have worked extremely hard and of course the families, they are dedicated to Leighton. I commend all of you.”

Schmiegel invited all the members of Leighton to join him in the front of the room as he discussed the school’s progress.

“It is my pleasure as the principal of Leighton Elementary School, to receive this acknowledgement on behalf of the entire school community – our hard-working teachers, TAs, aides, secretarial staff, cafeteria staff, support staff, custodial staff and our bus drivers,” he told the board.

He also thanked Burger “for her hard work during difficult times;” as well as the board of education, superintendent and assistant superintendent and their staffs “for the encouragement the past two years.”

“I would like to thank our community for always believing in us and not giving up on us, even when giving up may have been easier. We believe as a school that Leighton is a great place to learn and to teach and we are honored that our community believes that, too.”

They will use what they’ve learned during the process to remain focused on who they are as a school and who they wish to be, he added.

“We will remain focused while ensuring that students remain at the forefront,” the principal said. “I am honored to serve as principal of Leighton Elementary School and look forward to the many great years ahead.”

Getting off the focus list was something the school has been working hard on since 2012, said Dr. Dean Goewey, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

As luck would have it, the review was last week, he said.

“A comprehensive team of district employees, CiTi administrators and Laura Ryder who works through CiTi as our outside educational expert spent two days at Leighton. It was just as rigorous as any review that you’d have from SED,” Dr. Goewey explained.

They met with parents, students; looked at student work and visited every classroom in the building, he told the board.

The evidence was presented in a comprehensive manner, “rather than just handing us a box of documents.”

The school comprehensive educational plan was written by Burger and her team and was recently revised by Schmiegel and a comprehensive team in what is often a very short turnaround time, Dr. Goewey noted.

“They had very little time to do very hard work, and this school has stepped up to do that,” he said. “The instruction and passion for students and learning by parents and teachers is amazing (at Leighton). We were glad to have had a voice in the decision to remove the school from the focus list.”

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