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September 4, 2013

Students off and running at area schools

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — ONEONTA — School bells ring for many public schools in the the area today, with the balance of those surveyed opening Thursday.

After superintendent’s conference days Tuesday and today, the first day for students in the Oneonta City School District is Thursday. Students at its Riverside Elementary School are benefiting from a couple of recent grants.

Principal Melinda Murdock said support from Walmart, Hannaford, OfficeMax and private providers raised about $3,000 needed to purchase all the school supplies students will need. Instead of putting some students in a position where their parents may not be able to afford the pencils or notebooks needed, “I wanted to level the playing field,” she said. “We were able to get everything they need.”

In addition, she worked with Oneonta City School District technology director Bonnie Nobiling and Riverside librarian Julia Ianello to secure a $17,000 state Educational Technology Voucher program. The purpose is to make sure that students have enough resources to take online tests, Murdock said. About half the funds were used to purchase about 20 units, a combination of laptops and iPads. The balance is used for software.

After the conference day Tuesday, Riverside second-grade teacher Jason Neer was getting his classroom ready. He’s starting his 15th year as a teacher.

“It’s exciting,” he said about the start of school. “You are meeting a whole new group of students,” and there are always changes that can make students and teachers anxious. That’s one thing the class will talk about the first few days.

“It’s a quick process — getting to know each other,” he said.

Having school supplies provided by the school will help everyone, he said. “It will be a nice perk for a lot of students and families.”

He was looking to forward to hearing about the details of the technology grant.

He was encouraged by the opening day presentation by recently appointed Superintendent Joseph Yelich. There are a lot of new things that teachers are dealing with all at one, including the Common Core and a review process — APPR, Neer said. “He (Yelich) reassured us we will all get it done together.”

The technology will be added to the 15 iPads and two laptop carts that students have available, Murdock said. Where the hardware was previously available in the library, this will make it so it can be brought to the classrooms, she said, and it makes it possible for students working in small groups to practice such things as math skills or phonics.

The equipment should be ready by October. With all the applications available for the iPad, it allows for a very specific focus, Murdock said. Even kindergartners can use the hardware to draw letters on the screen and match pictures and letters, and teachers can see how well students did afterward.

“It will enhance the fantastic instruction already in place, and provide more resources for students and teachers in the classroom,” Murdock said.

Following the first of two conference days, she was encouraged by the collaborative feel in the district in continuing to work with the state’s Common Core curriculum. This was also the first year that sixth graders at Oneonta schools are attending the middle school. They had previously been part of the elementary schools. Teachers and administrators have done a good job in making sure they have a smooth transition, she said.