“Flipped” math classroom a hit in Fulton

By Ashley M. Casey

Two Fulton Junior High School math teachers presented on their new system to teach seventh- and eighth-graders math at the Nov. 12 school board meeting.

Todd Parks and Pamela McHenry explained the concept of the “flipped” classroom, in which students complete guided note worksheets with video tutorials at home and then do assignments in class, where the teacher is there to assist.

Since last year, the two teachers have been using the online calendar Tockify and the website Sophia.org to create the video tutorials. They found inspiration from other teachers’ video tutorials on YouTube, SchoolTube and TeacherTube.

“I love it because students can go at their own pace, so a student who gets it like that can move on, and others can rewind it and watch it again,” McHenry said.

The “flipped” system also has been beneficial to students who have been absent or who participate in alternative education programs.

Junior High principal Ryan Lanigan said the program was working to “meet the diverse needs of the 21st-century student.”

A handful of students and parents gave their testimonial of the flipped classroom as well.

“I’m liking this (system),” said eighth-grader Alex Stoutenger. “You can print out your homework if you didn’t get a copy in class.”

“He’s a type-A personality like me, so that organization is very important,” said Alex’s mother, Angela. “When you have a busy lifestyle as we have, it makes it easier to go at your own pace … It builds your self-confidence.”

School board member Rosemary Occhino, who is a former educator, said she was “so impressed” with the flipped classroom concept.

“You are truly creating students that are college- and career-ready,” she said. “I can’t imagine the magnitude of the excitement of the seventh- and eighth-graders.”

Parks and McHenry said they plan to expand the concept and are working with teachers from other subjects.

3 schools on LAP list

Executive Director of Instruction and Assessment Betsy Conners shared with the board the district’s plan to improve three schools that are on the Local Assistance Plan.

These schools — the Junior High School and Lanigan and Fairgrieve elementaries  — are in good standing with the state, but are in danger of losing that standing if they do not improve academic achievement and  other areas.

Conners said the building teams from each school completed an extensive self-assessment to determine the areas of concern.

The district followed a rubric of five of the state’s “6 Tenets of Effective Schools:” school leader practices and decisions, curriculum development and support, teacher practices and decisions, student social and emotional developmental health, and family and community engagement.

The final tenet deals only with the district level of organization and was not relevant to the LAP discussion.

The district is working with consultant Pete Backus and Oswego BOCES Special Education School Improvement Specialist Tracy Mosher to get the three schools back on track.

Much of the schools’ issues involved students with disabilities, and Conners said that was “just a symptom of a bigger problem.”

Throughout October and November, the district has observed 115 classes and is seeking the school board’s approval of the DSRDRT and the plan to improve the issues identified. The board is set to adopt the plan Nov. 26.

The district seeks to provide more professional development and instructional support, including a new math instructional specialist. Administrators will also meet with the LAP schools monthly to gauge their progress.

Although it was not identified by the state as a LAP school, the district will examine G. Ray Bodley High School’s standing as well.

“We will be, in December, taking our high school through this process, not because they’re on a LAP, but because of the graduation rates,” Conners added.

Other items

Energy report: Representatives from Siemens Industry, Inc. presented their findings for the 2012-2013 energy performance report. Overall, the district saved $274,527 in energy costs by replacing lighting systems, reducing overnight energy use and installing solar photovoltaic panels on the roofs of every school building except G. Ray Bodley High School. The only school that did not exceed Siemens’ guaranteed energy savings was the Junior High School, and the district and Siemens will examine how they can reduce energy usage there.

thy Nichols reviewed the results of the district’s external audit for the previous and current school years.

Last year, pool revenue was not being turned in with the deposit, but the district has determined to leave the “honor system” of a sign-in sheet and money drop box in place despite the minimal risk of losing money.

The district also discontinued a “meal deal” policy in which students who bought a certain number of lunches could get one free.

This year, the district is looking into internal control self-assessments, keeping an eye on the school lunch fund (which lost money last year in part due to a student boycott) and streamlining the employee salary notification process.

Alternative school: Oswego BOCES’ middle school alternative education program is relocating to the Erie Street school. The program will occupy four rooms on the middle floor.

“It’s a nice, old building. It’s got a lot of charm,” said Superintendent William Lynch. “The classrooms are spacious.”

He said other county districts who send students to this program — such as Phoenix, Hannibal, Oswego, Mexico and Central Square — find Fulton’s central location convenient.

BOE appreciation: Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared the week of Oct. 28 through Nov. 1 to be School Board Recognition Week. Lynch said that week fell between Fulton board meetings, so he chose to recognize the board at the Nov. 12 meeting. Board members received cards and gifts from students and school administrators.

Policy updates: Lynch also read updates to the district’s Accident Prevention, Hygiene Precautions and Procedures, and Emergency Plans and School Safety policies. The changes were largely stylistic and included references to community members and not just students and school employees.

Coming up

Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, and three of his Assembly colleagues will host an informational forum on state education reform 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at Baker High School in Baldwinsville.

Three panels — teachers, administrators and parents — will address Barclay and fellow Assembly members Robert Oaks, R-Macedon; Gary Finch, R-Springport; and Ed Ra and Al Graf, two Long

Island Republicans. Community members who wish to speak may bring 10 copies of written testimony to share with the forum.

Lynch said he plans to submit testimony on the Fulton City School District’s behalf.

The next regular school board meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 26 at Lanigan Elementary School.

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