Welcome all Rider students and staff – I am so excited to be here as your new superintendent.
I spent the first day greeting our students, enjoying lunch with our middle schoolers, and visiting some classrooms. There is nothing quite like the first day of school.
Each new school year is a fresh canvas for our students and staff, inviting them to gain new knowledge, nurture curiosity, explore diverse topics and develop innovative thinking skills. Just like the new chapter of a book, the start of school overflows with excitement, countless opportunities and new beginnings.
This year, we are embarking on several new initiatives, including the rollout of our new 4-6 literacy curriculum, Benchmark; free breakfast for all our students; new hires across the district; and additional courses in our buildings.
From the moment I arrived in July, I've observed our dedicated staff from all departments diligently getting ready for the start of school, when our classrooms and corridors are bustling with students once more.
It was a busy summer for all, including myself as I spent as much time as I could meeting with people across the district. I spoke in person with students, staff, administrators, department supervisors, Board of Education members and community partners. Repeatedly, the theme of family emerged in these discussions – the idea that our instructional and non-instructional personnel, departments, teams, and facilities operate and feel like family.
I saw that firsthand during my visits to our Summer Learning and Enrichment Program, which was attended by more than 400 students in July and August, and at the ENL barbecue, where I enjoyed a delicious meal with our staff and ELL (English Language Learners) students. These meetings and visits will continue into the school year as a primary avenue for me to familiarize myself with the individuals and programs here at ICC.
Our summer of preparation for the 23-24 school year culminated in three days of professional learning, uniting staff from all departments. Over those days, what struck me was a group of faculty and staff committed to their own learning and putting forth every effort to ready themselves for the start of school.
As a newcomer, I can see our high-quality district with fresh eyes. I'd like to share some of my observations from my brief time at ICC, examples of what distinguishes our district in public education.
First, the Riders Pathway to Success, the district’s roadmap to instruction, is a tight, data-driven, student-centered approach to targeting interventions and professional development. It creates opportunities and systems of support for all of our students.
Social emotional learning is another top priority at ICC. Our administrators, educators and robust team of school counselors, psychologists and our full-time social worker have embedded this holistic approach into our curriculum to nurture the whole child, meeting both academic and social emotional needs. SEL allows us to create safe and supportive environments where students and staff practice skills like self-awareness, relationship building and responsible decision making.
We also have so many amazing extracurriculars, including in the areas of performing and visual arts, athletics, robotics, student council, hiking, gardening and so much more.
Last year, a remarkable 75 percent of our athletic teams were “scholar-athlete teams,” allowing our High School to be recognized as a School of Excellence by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. In addition, our distinguished Crane Acting Troupe is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. This spring, they will present their 30th spring production. I cannot wait to see what they chose to perform!
I always knew that the Rider community was a wonderful place to live, learn and teach, but I had no idea how strong and dedicated the organization was across each and every department.
I am so proud to be a part of this community and family!
Other articles in this edition:
- Free Breakfast for All Students
- Benchmark 101
- Physics of Food
- Rider Athletics Supervision Partnership
- Successful Summer of Learning
- Staff Return Ready to Learn
- Welcome New Hires
- What's Next in September
Free Breakfast for All Students
This year, we are providing breakfast for free to all of our students when they arrive on campus each day.
As part of the resident-approved 2023-24 budget, the district will cover the breakfast cost for any child regardless of their Free or Reduced-Price Meals Program status. Last year, the district’s Food Service Department served more than 48,600 breakfasts and about 219,000 meals total (including breakfast and lunch).
“Incorporating a free breakfast program at ICC not only ensures all students have access to a nutritious meal to start their school day, it also has many long-term, enduring positive effects,” Assistant Superintendent Lucas Christensen said. “Research shows those benefits include improved academic performance, reduced absenteeism, better concentration and more energy.”
Please note that this offering is exclusively for breakfast. There are currently no changes to our lunch purchasing procedures and pricing. Additionally, we encourage our families to take a look at the details of the Free or Reduced-Price Meals Program to determine if they are eligible. Information and applications are available on our website, as well in the main office in each building. September Lunch Menus are also available on our site.
In recent years, ICC leadership and educators have employed “Science of Reading,” an extensive body of scientifically-grounded research, as a guiding principle for literacy instruction across the district.
This research directed our selection of the Primary School’s K-3 literacy program, CKLA, which was introduced in classrooms last September, and the most recent adoption of the new 4-6 literacy program, Benchmark. The 4-6 program’s rollout began in classrooms on the first day of school.
“I am truly excited to be a part of the rollout of our new ELA curriculum, Benchmark,” Middle School Co-Principal Tim Farley said. “Benchmark was designed with a heavy emphasis on the Science of Reading, incorporating explicit instruction of phonological awareness, vocabulary, language development, fluency, and comprehension. Benchmark also transitions very well from the CKLA program that was implemented in the Primary School last year.”
Using the same comprehensive review process for CKLA, our district ultimately chose Benchmark. This involved generating a list of potential programs with a Questar III literacy specialist, which our internal team of literacy specialists and administrators then narrowed down. After rigorously assessing each program’s strengths and weaknesses, Benchmark stood out due to its strong foundation in the Science of Reading, alignment with NYS learning standards and its synergy with CKLA.
Like with CKLA, the implementation of Benchmark has included training sessions, curriculum work and ongoing support provided by our literacy coach, which will continue into the school year.
“I would like parents to know how much time and commitment we placed on this very important decision,” said 5th grade teacher Jennifer Rickert, who is also the K-5 ELA co-chair. “We, as the teachers, are very happy with the selection of this program, and we are very excited to share it with our children in grades 4-6.”
Physics of Food
Twenty of our High School students have embarked on an exciting journey into the world of food science and engineering in the brand new course, Physics of Food.
In the full-year course taught by science teacher Greg Miller, the group of senior students will tackle intriguing assignments, such as designing their own cookie cutters to maximize efficiency and constructing a movable bridge using edible materials that can hold a specific weight.
“I make many mistakes in the kitchen and learn from them all the time. Food science teaches you how to fix these mistakes if you can,” Mr. Miller said. “I want to empower students to use mistakes as a learning tool.”
This course, among others, was made possible by the completion of the multi-phase, multi-year Capital Project. The project, which concluded in September 2022, included the addition of cutting-edge technology and the creation of the High School's STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Art, Mathematics) wing. The other new technology courses this year are Advanced Materials Processing & Machining, and Robotics & Beginner Programming.
Putting our STEAM approach into action, Mr. Miller and his students will work alongside the Art Department on projects involving chocolate modeling and cake sculptures. They will use brand-new, table-top stoves for this project and others. Additionally, they will partner with the Technology Department to incorporate 3D printing into the course.
“Food is one of those things that brings people together, in a time when we need it more than ever. The pandemic caused students to become isolated and disconnected from each other. I grew up in the kitchen with my grandmother transforming simple ingredients into the things my family loved,” Mr. Miller said.
The High School is also offering Guitar II this year, as well as two new Distance Learning Classes, Child Psychology and Development, and Sociology.
"We know our students' interests and passions are always evolving, just like the world around us," HS Assistant Principal Marcella Sanchez said. "Continuously adding new courses at the High School ensures that the changing needs and ambitions of our students are met so they can succeed academically, personally and professionally."
Rider Athletics Supervision Partnership
ICC’s sporting events provide an excellent opportunity for the entire community to unite, showing off our Rider Pride and supporting our student-athletes.
Our night-time games often draw large crowds, and we love seeing our bleachers filled with fans of all ages, wearing ICC’s iconic blue and white colors.
This year, we have implemented new procedures to ensure the safety of all spectators, especially our younger Rider students in grades K-8.
Increased District Chaperones: The district will increase chaperones to provide additional supervision at evening football and soccer events hosted on our campus.
Supervision Partnership: We ask that all students in grades K-8 be accompanied by one supervising adult for evening football and soccer events hosted on our campus. This will help ensure that all children have the supervision that is needed for a safe event.
Please remember that the ICCSD Code of Conduct applies whenever on campus. As a reminder, night games are generally 90 minutes long, making pick-up at 8:30 p.m.
Thank you for your partnership to ensure that game nights are fun and safe for all!
Successful Summer of Learning
We had more than 400 students attend our 2023 Summer Learning and Enrichment Program! Once again, our team of administrators and educators came together to offer a variety of learning opportunities for students across K-12.
Our traditional summer school program for students across all grades fulfilled a range of purposes, including aiding academic progress, credit retrieval, readying students for standardized tests, and additional support and services for some special education students.
“Our Summer School Program is a vital component of our overall, year-round educational program,” HS Principal Craig Shull said. “It offers our students various opportunities to enhance their learning in areas requiring more support and instruction. We are very proud of our students’ hard work, and the progress and growth they made this summer.”
In Explorers!, our enrichment program, over 165 students immersed themselves in various subjects, fostering curiosity and cultivating skills for innovative thinking. The offerings spanned a wide range of topics, including lego robotics, coding, disc golf, art and mindfulness, and leadership development.
Staff Return Ready to Learn
On August 30, all staff reunited on campus after a well-deserved summer break to start three days of professional learning and their final preparations for the first day of school.
"Our students deserve the very best instructional experience that we can offer and that means thoughtful planning as we launch a new school year," Superintendent Marie Digirolamo said. "The team here is incredibly talented and thanks to their hard work, we are positioned very well as we begin the year."
Our teachers, teaching assistants and other instructional staff completed training sessions centered on literacy, mental health and substance use, executive functioning and team building. They delved deep into our curricula, such as Circles at the High School, Benchmark at the Middle School and CKLA at the Primary School. In addition, teachers and staff spent invaluable time together, meeting across departments, grade levels and with building administrators.
Our non-instructional departments conducted training sessions and collaborated on projects to ensure our buildings and grounds were ready and safe for the return of our 1,700 students and 350 staff members.
Our Maintenance and Facilities team installed brand-new, state-of-the-art ovens in all of our cafeterias. Our Food Service staff were recently trained on the new appliances, which offer more versatility and efficiency during food preparation.
The Transportation Department readied our fleet of 55 buses, which travel approximately 465,000 miles each year, and staff completed safety trainings.
Our Information Technology (IT) Department trained staff on the new projectors in the High School, as well as upgraded staff laptops and Chromebooks to the latest operating systems and delivered them to classrooms district-wide.
Welcome New Hires
Last week, we welcomed our new faculty to ICC! They attended activities and training sessions so they could get to know each other, our team of Rider staff and administrators, and the district as a whole.
This included our New Faculty and Teaching Assistant Orientation, a bus tour around our district, meetings with their new principals and directors, and dedicated time in their new classrooms and spaces.
We filled several positions districtwide and look forward to getting to know our new Rider staff.
Welcome again! We are so happy you are here.
What's Next in September
- Board of Education Regular Meeting: Sept. 12, 7 p.m., High School library
- Back-to-School Picnic: Sept. 15, 5-7:30 p.m., Primary School
- Open House Grades 4 & 5: Sept. 14, 6-8 p.m., Middle School
- Open House Grades 1 & 3: Sept. 19, 6-8 p.m., Primary School
- Open House Grades 6-8: Sept. 21, 6-8 p.m., Middle School
- Open House Grades K & 2: Sept. 26, 6-8 p.m., Primary School
- Open House High School (all grades): Sept. 28, 6-8 p.m., High School
- Spirit Week: Sept 25-29
- Homecoming Game: Sept. 29, 7 p.m., ICC Varsity Field (inside of track)
Dates, times and locations are subject to change.
We invited all of our incoming kindergarteners to visit the Primary School on August 30. Dozens of our newest Lil Riders & parents packed the hallways, where they met their teachers, staff and Principal Andrea Williams. It was a blast!