Monti Navigator Tammy Mangus, Superintendent of Schools


Happy December! We have SET our GOALS; we are AWARE of where we stand; we have made plans on how we will GET our GOALS--the natural next step on our journey towards our 2020 vision is COLLABORATION!

COLLABORATION is the art of teaming up to access solutions. Each one of us is the sum of our own experiences, education, training, talents and weaknesses -- a unique puzzle piece that protrudes in certain areas and dips in others. Just like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, we must find ways to interlock our strengths and weaknesses on our path to achieving our goals.

Ideally, each piece slips together seamlessly, but it's not always a comfortable process. As I wrote in last year's Navigator, many people misunderstand COLLABORATION, equating the word with visions of harmony, rainbows and warm fuzzies for all.

COLLABORATION is the shedding of ones own ego and self interests in order to become laser focused on the goals at hand.

It is not a "meeting in the middle." If we meet in the middle of the path, and then we don't reach our destination, what did we accomplish by meeting in the middle anyway? "Meeting in the middle COLLABORATION" leads to frustration, disagreements and poor morale.


  • Know that they won't be right all the time
  • Thrive on feedback
  • Strive for continuous improvement
  • Are focused on results

Don Tapscott gave an incredible example of what true COLLABORATION looks like in his presentation, "Four Principles for the Open World" when he highlighted the starlings of Edinburgh. Each of these birds alone is hardly a force to be reckoned with -- but together, they become an unstoppable force, swooping and sailing in formation to ward off predators, find food and survive. Instinctively, these birds know that the collective mission trumps the individual each and every time.

Parents as Partners

In education, true COLLABORATORS never neglect the most important relationships that we have in the journey to student success: our families.

Parents are our partners. We must begin to develop that rapport and relationship with each one of our students' families from the moment the bell rings on the first day of school and continue to nurture these relationships throughout the school year. The first interaction you ever have with a parent or caregiver should NEVER be to deliver difficult news -- family COLLABORATION is proactive, never reactive.

When a crisis arises, our parents should be our first line of defense. A student should not even have time to walk back to the classroom before a parent is contacted, informed of the situation and asked, "What do you need from us?"

I know that many of our dedicated, innovative professionals are probably reading this with their heads cocked to the side, thinking, "Well, OBVIOUSLY -- how could you think that we don't collaborate with our families as a matter of practice?"

In the past week, it has come to my attention that unfortunately, not all of our staff has been fostering these critical relationships with our parents.

If you have not yet begun to plant the seeds of a relationship with the family of each student in your care, or you're looking for ways to reinvigorate those relationships, I challenge you to do the following this month, as we reflect on COLLABORATION:

  • Every day, send home ONE note with a student highlighting one of his/her positive attributes.
  • Make a list of parents who you have not yet had a personal interaction with this year make contact with each one of them to introduce yourself before winter break is upon us.

Remember, for 180 days out of the year, parents send a piece of their heart into our buildings, entrusting us with the safety, well-being and educational growth of their most precious treasures.

Snapshots of MCSD: November

Attendance matters! Strive for less than 5!

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:

November Absentee Rates:

Staff Absentee Rates:

Chase: 7%

RJK: 5.9%

KLR: 3.9%

Cooke: 3.4%

MHS: 3.3%

Student Absentee Rates:

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

Cooke: 9.6%

KLR: 9.5%

MHS: 8.5%

Chase: 8.4%

RJK: 7%

Clearly, we still have some work to do as we strive towards five.


Our December Spotlight features Monticello team members who are COLLABORATORS! These fine folks, as described by their leadership team, know that COLLABORATION is the key to GOAL-GETTING.

Ann Van Etten and Patricia Yorks, Emma C. Chase Elementary School

"Ann Van Etten and Patricia Yorks are the two Leveled Instruction for All (LIA) teachers at Emma C. Chase elementary school. As such, both Pat and Ann collaborate a great deal with all of the classroom teachers, the teaching assistants, the literary specialist, and the other service providers.

The first critical step is purely logistical. Ann and Pat schedule working with students at times when classroom teachers are not instructing core instruction, when students are not scheduled for a special or lunch, and at a time when some students receive other services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, or counseling. This may sound simple until you realize they each do this with about six sections of students at three different grade levels. Collaboration is key :)

The second step is to collaborate with assessment resources and the classroom teacher about the specific skills each student and/or group of students need. Academic intervention work is not doing more of the same work being done in the classroom or completing work or homework that was not finished. Academic intervention work needs to focus on skill gaps students may have as revealed by broad assessments such as the NWEA, state assessments, class work or other diagnostic tools. This work may not have any direct correlation to the specific lesson work happening in the classroom; but the underlying skill development will be critical for increasing student ability in all areas of future learning.

This collaboration with assessment resources and classroom instructors is another critical process that Ann and Pat make happen for the benefit of all of our students," - Chase Leadership Team

Julia Zanger, Pupil Personnel Services

"Julia Zanger is a master Speech Pathologist. She goes beyond fulfilling her role of Speech Language Pathologist at Kenneth L. Rutherford. Aside, from working to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, and communication deficiencies she develops individual and group programs to address speech problems. Julia has a very professional presence and works closely with her educational team. Julia knows the true nature of collaboration and knows that no tool on its own can solve the problem. Julia spreads her extensive knowledge and her understanding of the unique strengths and needs of the students she serves through her collaborative efforts. Above all, Julia is flexible and lends exceptional support wherever needed. Julia works continuously to create a linguistically rich environment and adds to the structures of many classrooms while providing language tools. Julia’s positive relations with students and fellow members of the faculty is admirable. Julia has created a visual, academic vocabulary flash card set for each first grade classroom to enhance their comprehension of the academic vocabulary used in daily instruction (math, ELA)and on test formats (NWEA, Superkids). Julia has collaborated and consulted with the first grade teachers. Julia created a visual vocabulary set for each Kindergarten classroom to pair with the anthologies studied to enhance and build student vocabulary knowledge and use. Julia knows the power of collaboration and works well in a team toward a common goal: growing our students’ language and communication skills," - Pupil Personnel Services Leadership Team

Carolyn Rojas and Kelly Olsen (a.k.a. Team ROLSEN), Kenneth L. Rutherford Elementary School

"The duo of Carolyn and Kelly work daily with their class to teach kindness and helping your fellow man. Since the start of the school year they have worked with their class to raise money for the survivors of Hurricane Michael, a storm that devastated the Florida Panhandle. The students of KLR, led by Team Rolsen, raised over $247 dollars for United Way Worldwide.

Also, Carolyn and Kelly are running the Rutherford Elementary Backpack food program. Our Backpack program helps ensure students have access to healthy meals during the weekend and return to school ready to learn. On Nov. 10, their class held a food drive at ShopRite of Monticello. They raised more than $130 in donations and two cartloads of groceries for our families. These two ladies work hard to make sure our students understand the value of community and kindness. Thank you both for helping the lives of children," - KLR Leadership Team

Veterans, Robert J. Kaiser Middle School

"In the wake of Veterans Day, we show our gratitude to our RJK staff members who have served our country in the armed forces. From left to right: Juan Genovez, seventh-grade math teacher (Marine Corps), Brigette Nesteroke seventh-grade special education teacher (Army; 9 years), George Grobusch, eighth-grade social studies teacher (US Army in West Germany 1984-1986, US Army Reserve 1986-2007, Operation Iraqi Freedom II 2004-2005), Angelique Corona, main office secretary (Army National Guard 2013- present); Peter Jockel, network technician (Air Force 1978-1982).

RJK Middle School and the MCSD know full well that veterans are the ultimate collaborators, working together to keep our country safe and secure and we thank them for their sacrifices," - RJK Leadership Team

Kim Rock, Monticello High School

"When it comes to juggling many tasks and working with others to get things done Kim Rock is an example of resolute determination. Kim collaborates with a multitude of people within the building and district while also ensuring effective collaboration with our educational and agency partners. Kim is trusted to follow through on accomplishing difficult and complex tasks because she will always collaborate with others if she needs assistance. Kim's distinguished voice is well known as she courageously and tenaciously collaborates, coordinates, and communicates with others to support our mission of graduating our students Life Ready," - MHS Leadership Team

Joana Dutcher, George L. Cooke Elementary School

"Mrs. Dutcher is the Spot Light of George L. Cooke for December. Collaboration is a key element in success. Mrs. Dutcher is an excellent collaborator. She is present in the lives of the students in her class and in the entire building as well as in the lives of her colleagues.

Mrs. Dutcher is a fierce advocate for her students and colleagues. She brings possible solutions to situations that arise and looks for ways to improve the lives of everyone in the district. She does this as a member of the Cooke School faculty and as a member of the district CDEP team. Mrs. Dutcher is passionate about wellness. She is bringing wellness activities and information to the faculty, staff and students of George L. Cooke through workshops that will include Cornell Cooperative Extension discussing Diabetes and Sugars, Essential Oils, Chair Exercises, Healthy Snacks, and Yoga for the Classroom. To help insure the wellness of many, Mrs. Dutcher began the Cooke Backpack program a while ago and it is still running strong! She collects non-perishable food items that can then be distributed and sent to those in need.

If you need a warm, supportive smile or a kind word to increase your wellness, please engage in a heartwarming conversation with Mrs. Dutcher!" - George L. Cooke Leadership Team

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Liberty, Special Programs Department

"The Special Programs Administrative Team is spotlighting its collaborative partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Liberty. Cornell Cooperative and MCSD began collaborating on Monticello hosting a Math and Movement Night back in the spring of 2018. Over the summer, Ms. SueAnn Rita Boyd of Cornell informed MCSD that we had a sponsor, Dryden Mutual Insurance Co. This was great news because with a sponsor, Monticello could host the event for all of its elementary schools in one location for students and their families to attend. It was a great collaborative event that required much planning and several teacher volunteers from the different elementary schools including Maryann Swensen, Tamara Coney and Julie Furman of Chase and Barbara Bitjeman, Christine Foster and Kathleen Mabee of KLR. Between the leadership and collaboration among the Special Programs Administrative Team, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the teachers at MCSD, children from all three elementary schools and their families enjoyed a night of Math and Movement. It was a great time had by all!," - Special Programs Leadership Team


Model Schools 2018-19 Team Member Shannon Follansbee brought back some wisdom about COLLABORATION from the 2018 Model Schools Conference:

"Collaboration and empowerment are keys to success, but it does not happen without establishing trust first, according to Jim Warford, International Center for Leadership in Education, Senior Advisor. The brain chemical oxytocin is shown to facilitate trust and therefore teamwork and collaboration. Seven leadership behaviors that stimulate oxytocin production are:

  1. Showing vulnerability
  2. Giving people discretion in how they do their work
  3. Enabling job crafting
  4. Sharing information broadly
  5. Intentionally building relationships
  6. Recognizing excellence
  7. Facilitating whole-person growth

Schools that trust:

  • Share a common vision
  • Speak a common language
  • Trust one another on a deep emotional level
  • Are comfortable being vulnerable about their weaknesses, mistakes, and fears
  • Have clear team norms, protocols, and processes
  • Are willing to take risks…without guarantee of success

Schools that don’t trust:

  • Don’t have a common vision or language
  • Conceal their mistakes and weaknesses
  • Hesitate to ask for help or feedback
  • Jump to conclusions
  • Don’t help outside their area of responsibility
  • Waste time managing their behaviors
  • Hold grudges
  • Avoid spending time together as a team

To build trust, people must be able to take risks, without a guarantee of success. Trust leads to passionate dialogue around key issues and decisions, and the ability to challenge, disagree and question one another. This collaboration leads to highly effective cultures in schools and classrooms.


We are so grateful for the support of our community who committed to building a brighter future for generations of Monticello students to come with the approval of the Classroom 2020 bond on Nov. 14. We, in turn, are committed to keeping our public informed about this process as it unfolds. Each month, we will release a short video outlining where we currently stand in the process of bringing Classroom 2020 to fruition and where we are going next.


Dec. 5 - MHS Winter Concert, MHS Arnold Packer Hughs Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 7 - The Lieterari Awards (MHS Drama Production), MHS Arnold Packer Hughs Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 8 - MTA Tinsel Trot, Rock Hill, 10 a.m.

Dec. 8 - The Lieterari Awards (MHS Drama Production), MHS Arnold Packer Hughs Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 10 - ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS ONLY: early dismissal for students, professional development for staff

Dec. 11 - RJK Winter Concert, MHS Arnold Packer Hughs Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 17 - Winter Dance Festival Performance for Public - MHS Arnold Packer Hughs Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 24 - Jan. 2 - Winter Recess


We are excited to announce that our new website is set to launch in early January. In the path to creating this new website, the Capital Region BOCES team analyzed a wealth of information, including responses from the web use survey that we conducted last year, as well as from software that analyzes the way users interact with our site. They used this information to build a website that is organized around the needs of our users, is much more streamlined and has a great mobile platform for easier access on the go.

One thing that this new website will NOT have is outdated and obsolete links. Please be sure that before you leave for winter break that you have created backups of any outdated files on the website you may need for any reason. These files will no longer be available once the new website launches.

While the new website is much more intuitive and easier to navigate than our current one, many of you have been interacting with it for more than a decade. Our communications team is working to create materials to release in December so that our community can familiarize themselves with the new site once it launches.


Beginning in January, all SchoolMessenger phone notifications will be recorded using the platform's text-to-speech function, meaning that instead of hearing an administrator's voice on these calls, recipients will instead hear a robotic voice. We are doing so to improve communication to all of our families.

Messages recorded as a "text-to-speech" message are automatically translated into and delivered as the language that is indicated as a student's first language in the system. We all know that there is a strong correlation between student achievement and parental engagement and we are committed to breaking any barrier to student success. For many of our families, language may be one such barrier.

Language should never stand between a student and his or her education. I have always relished adding a personal touch in communication between the district and our families, and in a world that is quickly becoming robotized, I definitely appreciate the connection of hearing a humanized voice at the other end of the line. However, I will gladly lose my voice if it means that even one more family can understand my message.


Keep up with all of the wonderful accomplishments that the young men of the Monticello My Brother's Keeper Program are achieving by reading the third edition of the program's newsletter: The Keeper's Secret.

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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