During the summer of 2021, Whitehall Central School experienced devastating storm damage to the high school building. In a one hour span, four to six inches of rain hit the area that day. Due to significant damage to the high school, it appeared that students in grade 9-12 would have to receive virtual instruction until the spring. The school district was close to completing a building project that provided updated boilers, electrical, gym flooring and much more. Most, if not all, were destroyed and needed to be redone due to the storm. NYSED facilities management worked with the district to rehabilitate the building in an expedient manner to allow the district to open school as soon as they could.
Commissioner Rosa’s visit to Whitehall consisted of a slideshow covering the storm damage to the school, the remediation work done to date that allowed students to return to in-person class, and the empty library where more than 95% of their library books were lost to water damage.
Students, faculty and administration discussed their resilience, construction updates and the efforts Whitehall has taken to continue to improve K-12 achievement. They discussed the benefits of block scheduling and the importance of their advisory period. Louis Pratt, a junior at the school, assisted as tour guide to discuss with Commissioner Rosa that keeping student relationships up as well as how he and other students help form bonds together through participation in SADD (students against destructive decisions) and other organizations benefit student camaraderie.
Commissioner Rosa said of the visit, “I can see how student-centered Whitehall is and that is a very powerful message. Their personal human connection comes across clearly and I can see how the collectiveness shows through. We take back with us [to the Board] knowing your young people are in good hands.”
District Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Jim Dexter, stated, “the commitment of the faculty and staff of Whitehall is most impressive. This is a true community and we are so proud of them.”
At their second stop, the group was welcomed by Dr. Kris Duffy, president of SUNY Adirondack and Early College Career Academy (ECCA) administrators. Commissioner Rosa, NYS Regent Beverly L. Ouderkirk, & Senior Deputy Commissioner, Dr. Jim Baldwin, heard directly from students about the ECCA and PTECH programs. Students from each of the four ECCA pathways (Advanced Manufacturing, Business and Entrepreneurship, Information Technology/Computer Networking, and New Media) discussed how these meaningful programs bring value to their education.
ECCA is a partnership between SUNY Adirondack and the WSWHE BOCES. Students begin in their junior year of high school and are eligible to earn up to 32 college credits, tuition-free, while earning marketable industry credentials and participating in work-based learning experiences. PTECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) is a unique six-year program, for incoming ninth graders, that gives high school students the experiences, practical skills, qualifications and credentials they need to secure rewarding careers in technology-based industries.
Michelle Maddalla, Principal for Innovative Programs at WSWHE BOCES, stated, “one thing I greatly appreciated about Commissioner Rosa's visit was how interested she was in hearing from our students. She was engaged in all of their presentations, asked questions and shared comments afterwards. I think we all feel that our students are the best part of the work we do. I know our students finished that day feeling that Commissioner Rosa saw and valued their experiences and hopes for the future."
The last stop on the school tours was a visit to the Queensbury High School where guests walked through the school and learned about the vision the school had for instructional programs, how they are focused on learning pathways and how that vision came to fruition. They enjoyed entertainment by one of the school bands, a talented choir and orchestra. Project Lead The Way 6th grade students brought devices for the guests to show their award-winning projects.
After spending time with the students, Regional Superintendents came together for a meeting with the Commissioner. To wrap up the day, Commissioner Rosa and Senior Deputy Commissioner Baldwin attended the joint meeting of the Adirondack Area School Boards and the Saratoga County School Boards Association.
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