Neshaminy School District / December, 2020
IMPORTANT NOTE: Information in this newsletter is current as of Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020.
Please check the District website or school emails for updates.
Remote Learning Team coaches teachers, students and parents
Adam Lorence, Brian McPeake and Jim Gosser record a video
Little did Neshaminy District Instructional Technology Coach Jim Gosser know how much things would change when he started his new job three years ago, well before pandemics were on anybody's radar. He had always been interested in finding new ways to use technology in his classroom as a science teacher for 18 years. In his new role, he was able to explore new ways to engage students, offer differentiated instruction and share his enthusiasm for technology with his colleagues across the District.
While the District made significant progress integrating 1:1 technology and new educational applications during that time, the onset of the pandemic in March accelerated the process rapidly. After a few short weeks of preparation, teachers quickly moved their lessons online, and a little-known app called Zoom suddenly took center stage. Using Canvas and a number of apps, students and teachers finished out the school year without seeing their schools, or their classmates and colleagues, again.
With the start of the new school year, the District administration decided that in order to truly succeed in this new environment -- instead of just survive -- the use of technology would have to be at the center of everything, and every Neshaminy teacher and administrator would have to be ready to use it effectively every day. To that end, four more coaches were added to help Jim form a Instructional Remote Learning Team. Brian McPeake from Neshaminy HS, Chuck Lumio from Maple Point MS, Katrina Hunt from Walter Miller ES and Adam Lorence from Poquessing MS joined him as "Instructional Remote Learning Coaches" in August. Each brought their teaching experience and love of educational technology to the task, and immediately got to work preparing for the challenges of an unusual school year.
Their first goal was to solidify Canvas as the main Learning Management System for the District and Zoom as the primary conferencing tool. The group prepared training videos for the teachers, support staff and students. A Canvas hotline for parents was set up, which was answered primarily by Mr. Lorence. Mr. Gosser held interactive Canvas webinars. The team set up a Professional Development website, which they loaded with training videos for everything from laptop set-up and Zoom best practices to educational applications and assessment tools. Teachers can access these videos during training days or review them as needed.
The next goal was to create a "virtual presence," shifting away from simply posting worksheets and lectures to creating online classrooms that use engaging, collaborative tools to keep students interested in learning whether they are at home or in class. This means that even when students are attending class synchronously online, they are able to have the same project-based, collaborative experience that they receive in school.
To accomplish this, the Instructional Remote Learning Coaches trained their colleagues in a variety of applications including: Nearpod (a collaboration presentation tool); WeVideo (video creation tool for students and teachers); iReady (a math and reading program that offers individualized lessons and games that vary with a students progress and needs) and a variety of Google and Canvas tools. They spend their days in classrooms working with teachers and students to make sure these tools are working and these efforts are reaching every student.
Under their guidance, teachers who may have never edited a video or set up a live web conference before are now managing multiple media connections at once, creating their own entertaining educational videos and sharing then with colleagues across the District. Teachers and parents can use online tools to track student progress in real time on multiple projects from multiple locations.
Such rapid progress doesn't come without hiccups and adjustments. According to Mr. Gosser, the Remote Learning Team is constantly looking for ways to make the technology easier, more effective and even fun to use. The goal isn't just to get through the current pandemic, but to create tools that will be used now and well into the future to keep students excited about learning whether they are in a classroom, in a cafeteria, on the bus or in their living room at home.
Neshaminy artwork represents PA in White House Christmas Tree display
This year, Neshaminy is very proud that artwork created by our talented students was chosen to be represented in the White House Christmas displays in Washington D.C. The theme this year is "America Celebrates," and the decorations appear on trees on the Ellipse inside President's Park as well as inside the White House. All the United States and territories were represented, and Neshaminy is the only District representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. All the student artists were invited to meet First Lady Melania Trump at the White House on Monday, November 30 and to see the decorations on display. Congratulations to all the students, and their art teachers Syd White, Alicia Luba, Terry O'Neill, and Dr. Stacy Potter for this honor.
Schools step up for holiday help
Gift card bags at Joseph Ferderbar Elementary School
While the pandemic put the brakes on many of the festive traditional in-person holiday fundraisers in our Neshaminy schools this year, it definitely didn't keep the much-needed assistance from reaching District families. Thanks to the efforts of our school counselors, social workers nurses and administrators, scores of families in need were identified and provided with holiday essentials with donations from the school communities, local businesses, police and social service agencies. Here are a few examples of these efforts:
- The Elf Fund at Joseph Ferderbar ES and Poquessing MS prepared bags with gift cards that were distributed in mid-December to 32 families.
- The Poquessing Student Council also collected hundreds of holiday greeting cards to share with seniors in assisted living facilities.
- Walter Miller ES also received enough donations to provide gift cards for 37 families
- Tawanka ES collected donations for 26 families (with 41 children total)
- Maple Point MS collected monetary and gift card donations through their "Give-A-Holiday" program. Students also participated in various fundraisers including Shop with a Cop, the Senior Soiree, and Spirit Week.
- Herbert Hoover ES counselors and nurse collected $25 gift cards for 64 children in need this holiday season, including students who attend Hoover and their preschool-aged siblings. The vice-president of American Overhead Door and Dock (a Hoover parent) donated 100 gift cards through his company and Keller Williams Real Estate donated $3,000 in gift cards.
- Carl Sandburg MS got help with their gift card distribution from the Kiwanis Club, Shop with a Cop and Holy Family Parish.
- At Neshaminy HS, the United Way donated gift cards for 37 students, and additional gift cards were gathered and donated to 75 NHS families.
- The LIVE LIKE PHILLIP FOUNDATION (in memory of Phillip Oseredzuk) hosted a food drive and donated boxes of food and Aldi gift cards. District social workers Barb Furphy and Carissa Vandersluis helped them deliver the food and gift cards to 10 families.
Donations to the Live Like Phillip Foundation drive
Can't stop our music!
Neshaminy HS Symphony Orchestra plays "Greensleeves"
Holiday concerts are just another of the many traditions that were put on hold this year due to social distancing and other safety requirements. But District music teachers still found ways to bring their choirs, orchestras and bands together, even if only virtually.
Several schools held virtual concerts with students performing their individual parts separately which were later joined together in videos that were shared with the school community. The Neshaminy HS Select Choir was scheduled to share a series of individual performances at a community tree lighting, but when that was cancelled they were shared on social media instead.
Board Update: Reorganization meeting held
The next scheduled Board meeting is Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 7 pm in the auditorium at Maple Point Middle School. The meeting will also be livecast on the District website at www.neshaminy.org/meetings.
At the Board reorganization meeting held on December 3, the Board approved keeping member Stephen Pirritano as Board President and John Allen as Board Vice-President. In January, the Board will consider continuing with the plan to extend daily in-person classes to all grades (currently only grades K-4 attend in-person Monday-Thursday). They will also begin the process of considering the 2021-2022 Neshaminy School District budget.
Re-opening information resources
2-1-1 Service: If you are looking for non-educational community resources such as food pantries, housing assistance, help with utility bills, unemployment information or crisis resources, the United Way of Bucks County offers a centralized information service which can be accessed by calling 211, texting your area code to 898-211, or visiting www.pa211.org. This service is available 24/7 and is available in 42 languages.
Meal distribution holiday schedule
The free meal distribution program will continue over the holiday break. Meals can be picked up for any child under the age of 18 on Wednesday, December 30, from 11am-1pm at Tawanka ES, Poquessing MS, Hoover ES and Sandburg MS. The regular weekly Friday pick-up schedule will resume on January 8, 2021. Both the grab-and-go meals and meals served in our school cafeterias will contintue to be free of charge for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year.
Kindergarten registration is now open
Kindergarten registration for the 2021-2022 school year has begun. The process can be started online at www.neshaminy.org/register. Register your child by March 1, 2021 to ensure that they will have a spot in your neighborhood school for the new school year!
Education Foundation holds year-end appeal
The Board of the Neshaminy Education Foundation is actively seeking partners to join them in supporting Neshaminy schools during this challenging school year. The 2020 End-of-Year campaign is under way!
Since 1993, the NEF has supported innovation with hundreds of thousands of dollars in classroom grants and scholarships for graduating seniors at Neshaminy HS. If you or your business is willing to help the Foundation support excellence in Neshaminy schools, please consider joining this drive with a donation of any amount. For more information and to donate online, please visit the Foundation's website at www.neshaminy.org/nef.
Join us and help Build Futures!
Neshaminy School District is looking to fill a number of positions for the 2020-2021 school year including cafeteria and playground aides, food service workers, long-term substitutes and more. Visit our employment website for more information and online application links. Additional opportunities for substitute teachers, instructional assistants, paraprofessionals and more can be found at the ESS website here.
These class pets motivate success
Motivational incentives are a great way to keep students on track in the District elementary schools. The classes with the highest percentage of students completing their tasks on iReady My Path in reading and math at Walter Miller Elememtary School are being awarded class “mascots” for a week. They are stuffed animals of the two iReady characters Plory and Yoop. These students in Samantha Gruener's first-grade class were very excited to have Plory and Yoop back in their room for another week!
Student-made tutorial video goes viral
Alex, a fourth-grade student at Herbert Hoover Elementary, created an excellent -- and very thorough -- video tutorial about i-Ready, the online learning and assessment tool used by our teachers, students and their parents to deliver instruction and track progress. When the video was shared on District social media, the company that created the software, Curriculum Associates, contacted Principal Dr. David Glennon and told him that "our team LOVED it," and tweeted on their official Twitter account, "Wow!!! Please tell Alex this is amazing. We appreciate his insights and expertise! Let him know to keep up the awesome work."
Mystery readers make Fridays fun
Students in Laura Burns' second-grade class at Albert Schweitzer Elementary have a Mystery Reader challenge to solve on their Friday Zooms. The mystery reader sends clues about themselves and they try to guess who it could be from what the kids know about their parents. Then they log onto their online class and find out who it is! The kids love solving these mysteries every week.
Young writers expand their media
Students in Jamie Callahan's fourth-grade class at Walter Miller ES have been creating graphic novels and comic strips to practice their use of story elements in narrative writing. Each student created their own avatar as a character. Using the online platform, both in-person and virtual students are able to collaborate to co-author a graphic novel or use their avatar character's in their own stories. Meanwhile at Maple Point Middle School, writers in Melissa Goldberg's 5th grade class are using online book publishing applications and even video to expand their writing creativity.
Gingerbread project spans the country
Students in Bridget Moore’s kindergarten class participated in a Gingerbread Exchange with other kindergarten classrooms all over the United States. They made a gingerbread craft to send to each school, and received 17 crafts and letters in return! Each time a letter was sent, they marked it on a US map, then searched for a picture of the school and found out how long it would take to drive there.
How the Grinch was convinced
These students in Dianna McDonough's fifth grade class at Maple Point Middle School wrote a letter to the Grinch persuading him to love the holidays just as much as they do. Then they made their own Grinches!
Professionals share their knowledge in speaker series
8th grade science students at Maple Point recently got a chance to meet a clinical laboratory technician from Merck on a live video call. She talked about the clinical trial process, which is something that has been very much in the news for the past few weeks. Students had the opportunity to ask her questions about the process and how it relates to the lab work they are completing in class this year.
The video was hosted by science teachers Dan Winter and Nicole Doster, and is part of an ongoing series that invites outside speakers to share their professional knowledge. Recordings of the sessions are made available for students across the District.
Student Council collects cards for seniors
The Poquessing MS Student Council collected hundreds of holiday greeting cards for local senior citizens isolated in assisted living facilities. The cards brought some much needed happiness to those who need it most.
Poquessing cafeteria doubles as Bingo hall
Thanks to a magnificent idea by Poquessing MS cafeteria staff member Joyce Wert, the school's cafeteria has been transformed into a vibrant, fun-filled, enjoyable (albeit socially distant and safe) Bingo hall. Every Wednesday and Thursday during lunch, nearly 100% of the students participate in a few rounds of good old-fashioned Bingo. Mrs. Wert’s brainchild has become such a hit that teachers, counselors, administrators and Poquessing staff members have lined up to volunteer to be guest bingo callers. Teachers have commented on the amount of positive, joyful conversations they’ve heard students engaged in after leaving the Poquessing Bingo Hall!
"Do Good December" celebrated with a Kindness Calendar at Sandburg
Eighth-grade students at Carl Sandburg Middle School are marking the days toward the the holidays not just with candy, but with acts of kindness. A calendar containing a different suggestion for each day, such as "Look for something positive to say to everyone you speak to," "Contact someone you can't be with and see how they are," or "Leave a positive message for someone else to find," is the centerpiece of an optional activity to promote kindness and empathy. To earn extra credit, the students were asked to complete five of the daily activities, write about how they did so, and even include a photo if possible. A display showcase of the results will be shared once the project is completed.
NHS Club helps replant Idlewood
Members of the Environmental Action Club at Neshaminy HS planted some new trees in the Idlewood preserve behind the NHS campus earlier this month. They have been working to reforest the area, which has suffered tree loss from insect damage caused by the emerald ash borer. They are also collecting tree growth data to help these efforts. Shown here are Alex Cruceru, Emily Riley, Alexis Ocasio, Sam Zercher and Maggie Zercher. The adviser for the club is NHS science teacher Jim Murray.
Got Playwickian? There's an app for that
If you are looking for the latest edition (or posted articles) from the Neshaminy High School newspaper, The Playwickian, you can now read it through a brand-new iPhone app. It was designed with help from the Playwickian staff and is completely free. The app can be found by scanning the QR code at the right, or by visiting the Apple App Store and searching "Playwickian." Android or desktop / laptop computer users can find all the same content on the Playwickian website.
Students take virtual college tours
While the pandemic has shut down many college campuses (and tours for prospective students), Neshaminy students thinking about life after high school are still hungry for information about their future choices. Students in the AVID classes at Neshaminy High School had the opportunity to join virtual tours - and to speak with current students about their experiences. In the session shown above, the in-person AVID students are speaking with students from Rider University in New Jersey. Another 50 students who were not scheduled to be in class that day joined the session via Zoom.
We wish everybody a safe, peaceful and happy holiday!
Dr. David J. Marrington
Dr. David J. Marrington, age 91 of Langhorne, died December 3, 2020.
Dr. Marrington was a graduate of Germantown HS, and East Stroudsburg College. After a stint in the army from 1951-53, he landed a job in the newly-consolidated Neshaminy School District. He then earned a masters in education degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. from Temple University.
He was a much-loved math teacher and administrator in the Neshaminy School District for 40 years, from 1953-1992, where he was at various times, principal of Carl Sandburg and Poquessing Jr. High Schools, and Neshaminy and Maple Point High Schools. He also served as K-12 curriculum supervisor for the district.
Dr. Marrington was a founding member and supporter of the Neshaminy Education Foundation. The Marrington family has requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions in his name can be made to the NEF.
A service will be scheduled at a future date, post Covid-19.
Neshaminy Update is published monthly during the school year and distributed to the Neshaminy community via email and web. To submit comments, suggestions or news items for consideration, please email Chris Stanley, Community Relations Coordinator.
Neshaminy School Board of Directors
Stephen Pirritano - President
John Allen - Vice President
Irene M. Boyle
Adam J. Kovitz
Neshaminy School District
Rob McGee, Ph.D.
Assistant to the Superintendent / Director of Elementary Education
Assistant to the Superintendent / Director of Pupil Services
Donald B. Irwin, Jr.
Director of Human Resources
Assistant to the Superintendent / Director of Educational Operations
Neshaminy School District
2001 Old Lincoln Highway
Langhorne, PA 19047