Superintendent's Update

April 2016

Teacher Appreciation Day: Tuesday May 3rd

Next week is Teacher Appreciation week with Teacher Appreciation Day on Tuesday, May 3rd. All adults in our school system, regardless of their role, are teachers if they influence children. We have a unique staff in their brand of genuine concern for, and pride in, our students. It is inevitable that no matter where I am across the state someone has a connection to District 13 and without exception I am told about the outstanding education their child/children received here. Please take a moment to reach out to someone who has made a difference in your child's life. Providing the very best education and educational experience for our students means that we must simultaneously be engaged in what students need to know and be able to do right now, as well as keeping an eye on the skills and experiences students need to be successful in college and beyond. The world is changing faster than ever and we know that the experiences our students have in school should reflect the dynamic and exciting opportunities that exist in the world. Some of the exciting programming in our district is highlighted below.

Thank you for supporting our schools.

Increasing the Rigor at CRHS

Did you know that CRHS has added AP and UCONN credit courses this year? Currently 8 AP and 4 UCONN credit courses are available. AP courses include: History, Biology, Calculus, US and Comparative Gov, Language and Composition, Chemistry, Statistics, and Oceanography. UCONN credit courses include: English Lit, Drawing, Individual and Family Development, and Modern European History. Did you know that 85% of our graduates went on to higher education last year and 2% went on the join the military?

Unified Foods and Sports

This year CRHS created two opportunities for students who receive special education support to create, collaborate, communicate and problem-solve with their non-disabled peers. A Unified Foods class was created as an elective so that students with special needs and their non-disabled peers could cook and create together. The Unified Sports class coached by Rob Bajores provided students with the opportunity to build their skills, have fun and participate in friendly competition with similar teams from other schools in soccer and basketball. This was an amazing addition to our high school programming and experience.

K-6 STEM Experiences

This year many of our teachers have explored and tried innovative projects with their students. At the K-6 grade levels students have been involved in use of 3D printers at Memorial and Strong, coding at all of our elementary schools, Dash and Dot Robots with a catapult to code, Eco Science Experiments, Cool Circuits, OSOM Learning System, Gravity Maze, and much more! In the 2016-2017 school year, we will be strengthening STEM programming and technology integration at the elementary level.

STEM Program to Begin at Strong Middle School

The 2016-2017 school year will see the start of STEM programming for all 7th and 8th graders. As part of students’ technology education they will be involved in a variety of learning opportunities that involve science, technology, engineering and math. Students will work with a partner or small group in self-directed modules where they will receive guidance and facilitation from the teacher. The units and curriculum design will be provided by Paxton Patterson a company that offers career and technical learning systems, tools, equipment and supplies for STEM, Health Science, and Family and Consumer Science. The work-based units will enhance students’ awareness, exploration and experience in interactive multimedia, project-based learning opportunities.

Readers’ Workshop Model to be implemented across K-6

This instructional approach to teaching reading and writing is widely used in schools across the country and is acclaimed because of its success in developing resourceful readers and writers. Student choice, creativity, and problem-solving are cultivated. The approach which will be used at Brewster, Lyman and Memorial, will provide greater ELA instructional coherence across our district for students in grades K-6. Although some of our elementary teachers have experience with the workshop model, this year all teachers have received initial training and have begun implementing certain parts of the workshop model. Next year, professional development and practice will continue with additional resources including units created by Teachers College, Columbia University.

Professional Development

Supporting teacher growth and development is one of our most exciting, yet challenging responsibilities. We have expanded our approach to supporting adult learning and in particular have invested in developing teacher leaders so that we are helping to support the growth of teachers and other professionals who want to become leaders. Teacher leaders also help to support for everyone’s daily practice. Specifically this year we have a team of teachers who are involved in the CT Association of Schools’ Leadership Academy working on school-based projects as well as Reading and Math specialists and department heads at the high school who are building their coaching skills.

The Durham Fair

This year marks the fair’s 100th year of being a fair (but not the 100th fair because they needed to take a few years off for the wars). To commemorate the day the fair was voted on in 1916, the Durham Fair Association is putting together an event to be held Thursday, June 16th, 2016. The event will consist of a pulled pork dinner, music and a reenactment of the vote held back in 1916. Volunteers are needed to help at the event, specifically from 3:00 – 8:00 p.m. to take tickets, help with food trays and at the drinks table, and clean-up. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Kara Pedersen at (860) 575-5904 or

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Music is in the Air!

After a combined 75 years leading music education and musical performances Dean Coutouridis and Lisa Larsen will be retiring. In addition to their daily teaching schedule, here is an example of some of the highlights of high school Music Program over the last 12 months!

April of 2015: Virginia Beach Festival of Music - Chorus-Band- Jazz Band and Show Choir all received "Superior" ratings. Jazz Band Received First Place (Jazz Category) and Overall Best Jazz Band for entire festival. District 13 presented Vocal Night – vocal groups from 5th grade through high school performed. Senior Arts Night Music Department and Art Department collaborated to present works of Senior Artists and Musicians.

May 2015: All district Instrument and Vocal Ensembles presented Spring Concerts. District 13 Bands grades 5-6, 7-8 and the CRHS Band marched in the Durham Memorial Day Parade.

September 2015: Show Choir, No Refund, Nothing But Treble, Dixieland Combo and Jazz Band Performed Friday and Saturday at the Durham Fair Center Stage.

October 2015: District 13 Hosted Shoreline Music Festival – 20 CRHS Music Students (vocal and instrumental) participated. The CRHS Concert Choir Presented a Halloween Concert.

November 2015: Twelve CRHS Band students participated in the American Schools Band Directors' Association Honor Band Festival Hosted at Simsbury High School. Two Vocal and five Instrumental students auditioned for the Southern Region Music Festival. Mary Grace Fiondella (soprano) and Seth Azevedo (oboe) were accepted.The CRHS Band invited the Durham Nursery Coop to visit CRHS and learn about the band instruments.

December 2015: CRHS Brass Choir performed at the Durham Christmas Tree Lighting Concert Choir and Concert Band presented their annual Holiday Program.

January 2016: Strong and Memorial Schools presented their Annual Winter Concerts. Show Choir and Jazz Band presented their Annual Winter Concert. Two students participated in the Southern Region Music Festival hosted at Middletown High School.

February 2016: The CRHS Jazz Band participated in the Berklee College High School Jazz Festival. The Jazz Band won 3rd place (out of 16 bands in their category) and was offered three 25% discounts toward tuition for Berklee Summer Programs. Concert Choir presented their Annual Italian Cabaret Dinner/Concert.

April: CRHS presented the 1920's musical "Good News".