NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Area Realtors went back to school Tuesday for a breakfast meeting to familiarize them with some of the policies, projects, values and philosophies of North Salem schools.
“We’re living in a time of testing,” said Superintendent of Schools Ken Freeston told the Realtors. “The process of ranking students by test scores is appalling. That’s why we started our mission to inspire creative and critical thinking.”
The mission, titled “Problem Solving for Life,” encourages students to think broadly and independently and ties in closely with the community. The program won a first place Magna Award from the National Association of School Boards.
“Our O.P.T.I.O.N.S. [program] has been a great success,” said George Bovino, assistant principal of North Salem Middle/High School. O.P.T.I.O.N.S. is a full-year course that allows seniors to explore careers of personal interest and interweaves community talent and expertise. “Kids who come back after graduation tell me, ‘People can’t believe I’ve already had a full-blown internship.’”
Graduates of North Salem High School usually feel very well-equipped for college, Bovino continued. “Especially when it comes to writing essays and research papers, they feel they’ve been better prepared than their peers.”
Questions from the audience included, “What about before- and after-school daycare? What sort of athletic programs do you offer? Do you have a Special Education program? Where can prospective buyers go to learn more about the schools?”
“We don’t have enough kids for before-school care,” said Pequenakonck School Principal Mary Johnson. “You need a minimum of six. But we do have after-school care at the elementary school until 6 p.m. The Parent Teacher Organization also offers after-school activities and so does the local YMCA.”
“The high school has a very rich athletic program,” said Freeston. “Eighty-six percent of the students are involved in athletics. There are 56 teams. We have every sport except football. We’re too small for football. But we hook up with other schools for football and hockey.”
“Over 90 percent of our athletes are scholar-athletes, meaning they also excel in academics,” added Board of Education President Deb D’Agostino.
“Youngsters are welcome to come and tour the schools,” said Bovino, “even spend the day, go to classes that especially interest them. I could probably name 10 or 15 families who’ve said, ‘I’m moving here because of the Special Ed program,” he added.
D’Agostino said the idea for the Realtor’s breakfast arose when she received an email from a prospective parent asking for some school information. “In the old days, we’d have written something up,” added Freeston, “but this time we decided to start a discussion and ask Realtors, ‘What’s on your clients’ minds?”