February: Responsibility

This month, we delve into the life-ready skill of “RESPONSIBILTY.” We often chalk up the definition of RESPONSIBILITY to a laundry list of actions to take towards a specific goal. However, this is not the true meaning of RESPONSIBILITY. True RESPONSIBILITY is about the results, not about the actions. When we take RESPONSIBILITY for a goal, we are committing ourselves to the fulfillment of that goal. The actions are secondary.

For example, many people might envision the “job responsibilities” of a doctor (and his or her healthcare team) as checking vitals, prescribing medicine, fulfilling diagnostic tests, performing surgeries and analyzing results. But that would be incorrect – a healthcare team’s true RESPONSIBILITY is to improve the health of its patients. These are simply the actions that healthcare professionals take that enable them to meet this goal. Taking an X-Ray won’t improve the health of a patient with a bee-sting, but it’s essential for a patient with a broken bone. The tasks change with each patient that walks through the door, but the RESPONSIBILITY remains the same: improve patients' health.

When we think in terms of actions, rather than RESPONSIBIILITIES, we place limitations on what we believe we can and cannot do. As educators, our RESPONSIBILITY is to propel students towards academic success. Whatever actions we take to make sure our students are succeeding are secondary. The important thing is that they succeed.

The good news is that we are progressively improving. I am sure many of you saw my email last week or read the article on the website about our district officially being a district “in good standing,” per our NYSED data results. Kudos to each of you who take your RESPONSIBILITY to keep our kiddos, and our District, moving towards our brighter tomorrow as sacrosanct.

Opt-outs are not an option if we want off-the-chart success

One action that we are able to take towards our RESPONSIBILITY to propel students towards academic success is tracking academic growth.

In the 2017-18 school year, 11.2% of students opted out of the NYSED ELA assessments and 11.5% opted out of the math assessments. Although that is a decrease from our 2016-17 school year rates of 13.6% and 16.7%, respectively, it still prevents us from getting a full picture of the academic growth of our students.

When a runner sets a goal of running a 5K, he or she must know exactly where he or she currently is in terms of speed and endurance in order to plan how to best train for a successful race. Likewise, educators must know where each student stands in terms critical academic skills so that he or she can chart a course for each student based on his or her individual strengths and weaknesses. Educators must also have the ability to measure and evaluate students’ progress on this course towards academic success so that he or she can change direction if and when necessary.

While the initial rollout of the common core learning standards years ago generated quite a bit of controversy, the NYSED and Board of Regents have sought avenues to improvement over a two-year collaborative process with various educators, parents and other stakeholders and have been progressively implementing these new standards since 2017. I encourage any educator or parent who is unfamiliar with these changes to research how these revised standards clarify and improve the testing experience.

We are RESPONSIBLE for building a culture of success

If we want to meet our RESPONSIBILITY of ensuring our students are growing academically, we must commit to building a culture where students feel safe, supported and inspired and where our community feels welcome and engaged. Remember, the "little things" greatly impact the "big things." Regardless of your role here, we all play a part in building this culture – and we have opportunities to build it every day.

How? Here are a few ideas:

If you receive a phone call or an email from a member of the community, and they ask for information about something that is not within your “realm of responsibility,” MAKE it your RESPONSIBILITY to get them or guide them to the correct information. Remember, regardless of what department or building you work in, when you are behind that desk, phone or computer, you ARE the face of Monticello.

If you see an outdated flyer hanging on the wall, trash laying on the ground, or any other situation that is not reflective of a culture of success, correct it.

If you are putting together any sort of flyer, program or other advertisement, please be sure that you are using the correct logo, and that all text is proofread and checked for grammar and punctuation.

Our official logos are available hereNote that you must be signed in to your Monticello email account to access this link. To access a staff directory so that you can appropriately re-route calls and/or emails, please click here.

Remember, every interaction is an opportunity to build this culture. What sort of culture do YOU want to be a part of?

Board Policy Updates

The following policies have been updated over the past two months. Please be sure to review the updated policies on the Monticello website.


5460 Child Abuse, Maltreatment or Neglect in a Domestic Setting: modified to reflect the Commissioner's regulations regarding the posting of the phone number for the Central Register, and how to access the website of the NYS Office of Children and Family Services.

4526R Computer Use in Instruction Regulation - rules and regulations that govern the use of the District's computer network system and access to the internet.

4326 Programs for English Language Learners  - modified to add provisions concerning parent-school communication and partnerships and to conform to new regulations per the Commissioner of Education.

5150 School Admissions -  modified to provide a definition of residence, addressing homeless students, inserting regulatory time frames and adding an extensive, but not exhaustive, list of examples of acceptable forms of documentation.

9645 Disclosure of Wrongful Conduct (Whistleblower Policy) - modified to prohibit adverse employment action against employees who are making a report mandated by law/regulation, including employees who report child abuse, who are specifically granted immunity from civil and criminal liability, but not specifically granted protection from adverse employment action. Also modified to specifically require testing misconduct be reported to the Superintendent or Board of Education, as well as to the NYSED.

Attendance Matters

Attendance matters! We need to be HERE if we expect our students to learn and our students need to be here if they are to learn. We've SET our GOALS: we strive for less than 5 absences, which equates to less than a 3% absentee rate, and we continue to work towards GETTING our GOALS, in part, by staying AWARE of where we currently stand:

January Staff Absentee Rates:

MHS: 3.6%

RJK: 4.0%

Cooke: 3.7%

KLR: 4.6%

Chase: 6.6%

January Student Absentee Rates:

Remember, that five absences roughly equates to less than a 3% absentee rate. Where are we now?

MHS: 12.5%

RJK: 9.7%

Cooke: 12%

KLR: 12.5%

Chase: 7%

We all know that the winter weather is upon us and with it comes all sorts of ailments. Although our absentee rates do slightly increase during this time of year, it is critical that we are all staying aware of how these seasonal increases impact our year-to-date totals so that we can do everything in our power to ensure we meet our goal of less than 5% absentee rate. Remember, if our students are not HERE, they can't LEARN.

Staff Year-to-Date Absentee Rates

Chase: 5.5%

Cooke: 3.5%

KLR: 4%

RJK: 4.1%

MHS: 3.7%

Student Year-to-Date Absentee Rate

Cooke: 9%

Chase: 6.5%

RJK: 7.2%

MHS: 9.1%

KLR: 8.2%

A display at the Emma C. Chase School keeps students and staff motivated and accountable -- how are YOU helping students be HERE?

We are InspirED by relationships

On Feb. 15, we will host our annual InspirED conference. This year, our focus is on building skills to help improve relationships with ALL students and families. Our students come to us each day with a diverse array of needs, capabilities and life experiences – it is our responsibility, as educational professionals and simply as members of this community, to find ways to support, encourage and motivate all students to reach their full potential. Faculty and staff will follow the schedule of the building they work in. Click here to view the schedule.

Some important notes:

  • Please make arrangements with your coworkers to carpool. Parking will be limited, and please remember to factor in the time to walk from your car to the cafeteria/auditorium into your travel plans.
  • All staff must be signed in and seated in the high school auditorium at 7:55 a.m. If you run late, our day will run late – let's keep everyone on track to get out on time.

After the keynote:

  • All instructional staff, including MTA, administrators, nurses, TAs and aides will follow the schedule of the building they are housed in.
  • Transportation, Security, Food Services and Plant Operations staff will follow their respective schedules. Please contact your supervisor for any questions or concerns.
  • Central Office and Clerical staff are invited to breakfast and the keynote, and then will return to their normal work assignments.

Lunch is on your own – please remember to pack a lunch.

February Spotlights

Our February Spotlight features Monticello team members who are RESPONSIBLE! These fine folks, as described by their leadership team, relentlessly lead our District towards a brighter tomorrow.

Harrison Larkin

"Harrison Larkin is one of our social workers at RJK Middle School. Mr. Larkin embodies responsibility as a diligent caring staff member who works to support students. Mr. Larkin supports student understanding and practice of responsibility by having them be accountable for their actions and decisions. He uses data collection and analysis in alignment with procedures to provide the supports students need. His positive attitude and calm demeanor provide comfort and safety to students as they work through their challenges. He takes those skills and applies them to the student athletes he works with on the JV boys basketball team," - RJK Leadership Team

Bethel Woods

"One way to interpret the word, “responsibility” is the state of being accountable. The partnership between Monticello Central Schools and Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is rooted in trust. Bethel Woods can be trusted to exemplify its accountability and love for the arts and humanities by providing several innovative programs to the students of the Monticello Central School District. These opportunities include the E3 – Engage. Experience. Explore, P.L.A.Y. Music and Theater, Project Identity, and Saturday at the Woods programs. We consider ourselves fortunate to have such access to a true and authentic performing arts center as Bethel Woods," - Special Programs Leadership Team

John Larson

"John Larson is a technology instructor that supports Emma C. Chase Elementary School two days per week.

Mr. Larson is an effective communicator, completely authentic, a consensus builder, and a reliable team player when supporting teachers and students. These characteristics make Mr. Larson an excellent collaborator.

Our fourth and fifth-grade students each have a tablet device available and dedicated for their use as part of learning activities. Mr. Larson helps maintain and ensure that teachers and students are able to access required applications and make the best instructional use of each application. Mr. Larson even identified a suspect issue with an application that was subsequently verified and corrected by the developer of the application.

Mr. Larson also collaborates with us about instructional ideas and possibilities that we may not be aware of. Mr. Larson test drives items such as headphones, robotics kits, and coding programs to verify quality and function before making a larger purchase. Additionally, Mr. Larson has secured the donation of a 3D-Printer for our building and Mr. Larson is a major player in our Computer Based Testing process; even presenting to faculty about the use of the “Equation Editor” for the New York State Computer Based Tests.

Finally, Mr. Larson is an expert in freshwater aquarium shrimp. John runs a small mail order aquarium supply business and has collaborated with our third grade to donate and facilitate a freshwater aquarium in Mrs. Andersen’s classroom.

We are thankful for all that Mr. Larson does to support our school and we appreciate that Mr. Larson is an effective collaborator," - Emma C. Chase Leadership Team

Holly Budd and Lisa Hummel

"Communication with our community and families is essential to the overall success at Kenneth L. Rutherford Elementary. Two amazing ladies, Holly Budd and Lisa Hummel, are the first people that our parents and community members speak to when calling or visiting KLR.

Holly Budd, an Administrative Assistant, has worked in the district for three years. She listens to parents and redirects their call to both faculty and staff. She is also responsible daily for scheduling meetings and running the office.

Lisa Hummel, attendance clerk, is a Monticello graduate who has worked here at KLR for almost two years. She works with our attendance officer to help our families get their children to school. Both Holly and Lisa truly make Rutherford Elementary an inviting and welcoming building. These two ladies are always helping families, faculty, and community members when a problem comes past their desk. They always greet anyone who comes to Rutherford with a huge smile," - KLR Leadership Team

Cyrena DeCio

"Cyrena DeCio is an amazing example of responsibility. She sets a high standard for herself, her students, and her colleagues when it comes to being responsible.

Mrs. DiCio is punctual, engaging, supportive and innovative. She exercises these qualities in conjunction with responsibility by volunteering and participating in many ways. Among many things, Mrs. DiCio participates in committee work concerning school safety. She always brings concerns and ideas that are relevant with possible solutions. Mrs. DiCio spends her own time pursuing and participating in professional development, such as Orton Guillingham, to strengthen her abilities and make the greatest difference for all of our students.

In addition, Mrs. DiCio displays responsibility by participating in regular discussions and action planning with the Instructional Coach related to student data. This also happens through her collaboration with teachers during their Grade Level meetings. Finally, Mrs. DiCio volunteers her time as a tutor for struggling students on Saturday mornings. We are thankful and excited that Mrs. DiCio is part of the George L. Cooke Elementary School. Her daily contributions are making a positive difference for everyone. That is what Responsibility is all about!" - George L. Cooke Leadership Team

Linda Wertheim

"Linda Wertheim is a uniquely qualified member of our school team as our School Psychologist. She goes beyond her call of duty each day as she serves a variety of functions at Cooke Elementary School.

Additionally, Linda works with our families of students who attend Hebrew Day School and The Bais Yisroel School to support students’ ability to learn and to identify strategies for improving student achievement.

Linda is very vocal and will share and apply her expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help our children succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. We are proud of Linda’s communication skills and how she fluently collaborates with a variety of community agencies, physicians, and parents.

Being a school psychologist means that Linda is often faced with challenging situations and a hectic schedule. Linda is able to manage her school day schedule in our largest elementary school, Cooke. Linda evaluates students for special education eligibility and folks rely heavily on Linda as a qualified professional to lend support with our students with mental, physical, or emotional disabilities, behavioral issues, and other special needs. Linda genuinely cares and is motivated by the success of our students," - PPS Leadership Team

Ellen Smith

"This month our focus is on responsibility. The responsibilities of the professionals in a school are not just listed in their job descriptions. We all have different roles in the building and in our daily routines. The most important responsibility that we as school professionals have is to our students. We are charged with teaching and supporting academic success, but we are also charged with ensuring that our students have a productive and happy day, even if that means stepping out of our comfort zone.

Ellen Smith is the epitome of responsibility in everything she says, does and models for the students she works with. Ellen shows responsibility by filling in wherever a need is without being asked. Ellen's punctuality and attendance speaks volumes for her work ethic. Ellen is a role model for teaching the most diverse students life ready skills. Ellen takes on many roles in the classrooms that she works in. A big part of the success of the students in the Career Readiness program are due to Ellen Smith.

Our students' lives have changed because Ellen chose to take responsibility to the next level. Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story. Ellen has chosen to take on the responsibility of making her students successful, and for that we should all be grateful!," - MHS Leadership Team

Model Schools Message

by: Amanda Connor

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”

- George Bernard Shaw -

As educators, we have the enormous privilege and responsibility of helping young minds build a better tomorrow. We are challenged with the task of inspiring students to think and ‘be’ in ways that others and themselves, may not deem possible. Some may see this task as overwhelming, time consuming and even unnecessary. However, at the Model Schools Conference we learned how taking responsibility for cultivating relationships, celebrating success, promoting school pride and focusing on social emotional wellness can help students and schools write their own story.

For example...

Huntington Place Elementary School in Northport, Alabama lives by the saying ‘culture trumps strategy.’ They believe that every member of the school community is responsible for being a difference maker. Some of the ways they take responsibility in writing their own story include using social media to brand their school and create their own legacy. They also provide students with opportunities to take on character building roles through a 5th Grade Ambassadors Program. Through this program, students learn about the responsibility that comes with being a role model for others.

Mirror Lake Elementary School in Broward County, Florida believes that self awareness, self management, self expression, social awareness and building relationships leads to the development of responsible thinking and discussion. At Mirror Lake there has been a shift to focus on Social Emotional Wellness. For example, they have implemented an ICON (I Can Overcome Negativity) program for their boys and a FIERCE (Fun Intelligent Energetic Responsible Caring Empowered) program for their girls. This shift in focus and willingness to accept their students social emotional wellness as an important piece of the puzzle has helped teachers capitalize on instructional time, resulting in academic gains!

Classroom 2020 Update

Click the video below for the February Classroom 2020 update.

Why does Monticello rock? Tell us! Our students and staff accomplish amazing things every day. Share your moments of success by sharing them on Twitter with the hashtag #MonticelloRocks

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