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Oswego Ushers In New School Year

OSWEGO, NY – It was a picture perfect summer day, sunny and warm.

Colton Dryden is greeted by Oswego Middle School Principal Bonnie Finnerty on the first day of school.The only problem for hundreds of youngsters was it was fall and the first day of school. None of the youngsters really seemed to mind summer vacation was history. Hugs and high-fives abounded at all the schools in the district as students greeted old friends.

“Wow, it’s kind of like we never left,” one youngster joked at Riley Elementary School, and then he added, “Except I got a new teacher!”

Oswego Acting Superintendent of Schools Bill Crist echoed the students’ enthusiasm.

“It was an exciting day as we traveled the district visiting schools and classrooms. The enthusiasm of the students, teachers, staff and administration was evident throughout our travels. The anticipation of this day was rewarded with the smiles and energy within each of the school building,” he said. “Students displayed looks of interest, anxiety, eagerness and satisfaction while the teachers and staff showed looks of expectation and focus. The school year is cruising from the pier – full steam ahead!”

School board member Sean Madden helps a youngster on the first day back to school.According to Bill Foley, district clerk, more than 4,200 students walked through the doors as the Oswego City School District commenced the 2008-09 school year, “and everyone appeared ready to go.”

“The Oswego City School District is excited to open its doors to students on Sept. 3. There are many new and exciting initiatives. We have built new programs that focuses on providing support and resources for our at risk learners,” Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Curriculum Cathy Chamberlain said.

At the high school level, the district will have a social worker whose focus is working with families of students that have poor attendance patterns. The social worker will work with families implementing strategies to improve their attendance.

The district will also begin using a program called School Messenger which is an automated software program that communicates with parents when their child is out of school.

Parents can choose to receive a text message, voicemail, email message or phone call, Chamberlain noted.

“This system can also be used to send mass messages to parents to improve communication,” she said. “The high school will also begin a new credit recovery program called Plato. This online system will help students who were not successful in any one of the four subject area. They can therefore keep their number of credits commensurate with their appropriate grade level.”

Colten Dryden was one of the nearly 650 students heading into Oswego Middle School.

“It’s nice to be back and see all my friends, but summer was too short,” he said.

“It’s a great day,” exclaimed Bonnie Finnerty, OMS principal. “We’re ready; the students are all set to go. If you would have asked them yesterday you might have gotten a different answer. But, once they get here and start seeing their friends, they ready to go!”

The district’s staff is prepared for the new school year, Crist noted. He encouraged all district employees to approach the year with a positive attitude and reminded everyone that attitude is critical to relationships, communication and progress.

The entire school body can be seen from the roof of Kingsford Park Elementary in their annual "family portrait."That positive attitude was prevalent as students arrived Wednesday morning.

“We had a fantastic opening. Things were very orderly and organized. There was noticeable excitement and energy in the air with plenty of smiles to be seen by all,” said Charles E. Riley Principal Dr. Randy Richards.”

He credited the custodial staff in making the building ready, adding, “It shines like a new copper penny.”

“Teachers could be seen organizing students, making introductions and planting the seeds for success,” he continued.

Riley fifth grader Natasha Mezza got a hug from her mother, Shari, as she headed off to her first day of classes.

“I’m kind of excited to get started again,” the youngster said. “But, I didn’t want summer to end.”

At OMS, students were joined by staff and teachers at the annual middle school first day picnic.

The annual event is sponsored by the home and school association.

Eighth graders attended together followed by the seventh graders.

At Kingsford Park Elementary School, Principal Mary Volkomer conducted an afternoon assembly.

Seventh grader Arianna DeAngelo gets her lunch at the annual OMS first day picnic, sponsored by the home and school association. Students enjoyed eating outside.“We’re encouraging respect for one another, be responsible and respect for the planet we live on. This year students and staff are committed to the effort as we are purchasing T-shirts which read ‘Waiting for the World to Change?’ and on the back is printed ‘It begins today. It starts with Me.’ This is a way to build personal relationships and be concerned about the environment,” she said.

Immediately after the assembly, the entire student body, joined by teachers, support staff and the principal gathered in the parking lot for the annual picture that provides the feeling of “family” for all of the daily residents of the Kingsford Park Elementary School.

Minetto Principal Dean Goewey summed up opening day the way that every principal dreams of as he said, “The opening of school was smooth and without incident at Minetto. All buses were on time and the students were happy to be here.”

At Riley Elementary School, Natasha Mezza receives a kiss from her mother, Shari, Wednesday as she heads off to the fifth grade.Freshman at Oswego High School were given an additional three minutes; they were released early from each period to allow them more time to move to their next classroom, according to Executive Principal Pete Myles.

This plan will continue for the remainder of the first week of school.

“It was great opening day as it was just the way the first day of school should be,” Myles said. “The ninth graders seemed to be comfortable in their new surroundings and we are looking forward to a year that will bring school spirit and enthusiasm to OHS.”

Chamberlain said, “With our new initiatives that we have in place, continued professional development, and our dedicated teacher and administrative staff, I anticipate continued growth as more of our students meet with academic success.”

Oswego will also be focusing on literacy as it implements a new READ 180 program at both the middle and high schools.

This is an intensive intervention program to help students acquire the skills they need to be proficient in reading, Chamberlain explained.

“The district will be focusing on its new curriculum mapping initiative. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, an international guru on the topic, will kick off the Sept. 26 staff development day. Mapping will begin to formalize the learning path of each individual student,” she said. “It is a vehicle to engage teachers in discussions about what instructional practices have been most successful and to reflect on the content and best practice they use. As we continue to target the needs of each learner we will support and encourage differentiation in instruction.”

The high school will have a Differentiated Instruction Coach who will support and model for teacher strategies for differentiating the instruction in the classroom.

Getting students engaged in the learning process is also a top priority for the school district.

The infusion of SMART boards has helped get this initiative off the ground and running.

This year, teachers will have the support of a certified SMART board trainer.

Emily Oldenburg says goodbye to her father as she begins the new school year.He will work with teachers as they integrate this powerful tool into their daily instruction, Chamberlain said.

“Our over all ELA and Math scores have shown great promise as we have seen impressive gains over the last two years,” she continued “With our new initiatives, continued professional development and our dedicated teaching and administrative staff, I anticipate continued growth as more of our students meet with academic success.”

It was a smooth opening day throughout the district as students returned to their “old hours” for the school day.

Last spring, the bell schedule was changed to address the closing of the Bridge Street Bridge.

However, due to the efficient system that had been put in place the district has been able to return to the regular hours.

The high school and middle school student starting time is 7:25 a.m. and the elementary is 8:45 a.m.

Dismissal for the secondary students is 2:30 p.m. and the elementary release time is 3:35 p.m.