Sunday, December 29, 2013

Season's Greetings 2.0

Over vacation, my nephew- a junior in high school at Charter School of Wilmington (Delaware)- improved the card with some new coding... Now the lights only decorate the tree, not the sky and the hills. He also added falling snow. Take a look-


Snowing Card(Click to see updated code.)

Made using: Khan Academy Computer Science.

Next step.. multiple colored lights, rather than just pink? Someone give it a try?

Happy New Year!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Seasons Greetings!

As you may have heard, December 9-16 was Computer Science Week. BH-BL participated in the "Hour of Code" activity as our High School AP Computer Science students helped teacher Pauline White to introduce nearly 100 middle school students some of the basic elements of computer coding. I was intrigued and I decided to learn a bit of coding myself. I took the Intro to Computer Science lesson on Khan Academy and this was the result! I used JavaScript to create the picture and the message (when you click the picture).  I am trying to get it to allow the user to decorate the tree with lights but I cannot yet figure out how to restrict the "mouseMoved" function to the tree alone! As a result you get pink lights everywhere!  Hey- It's a start! Feel free to try to work on the code and help me out. I will keep at it!

Click here to see the code and work on improving it: Season's Greetings BHBL

Made using: Khan Academy Computer Science.

My learning curve with coding makes the following video even more impressive.  Watch it when you have a few minutes. It's a great connection between computer coding and the season we are celebrating. I hope each of you has a peaceful and relaxing time with your families. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!!


Here is the code I wrote to make the card:

// sky
background(0, 0, 0);
fill(255, 255,255);


fill(255,255, 255);
ellipse (89,323, 322,112);
ellipse (357,306, 256,120);

//move mouse to make lights

var mouseMoved = function() {fill(245, 14, 195);
    ellipse(mouseX, mouseY, 3, 3);

// tree
fill(8, 69, 20);
triangle(200, 100, 300, 300, 100, 300);
fill(66, 8, 16);
fill(51, 51, 4);

//click to reveal message
var mouseClicked = function() {
fill(117, 11, 27);
var f = createFont("cursive", 33);
textFont(f, 46);
text("Season's Greetings", 27, 353);
textFont(f, 20);
text("to the BH-BL Family...All the Best in 2014!", 17, 387);};

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I had the privilege of participating in O'Rourke's 8th Grade Community Service Day yesterday. Middle school teachers did an awesome job organizing dozens of service opportunities for the entire 8th grade class. Seven students and I traveled over to the Crossroads Center for Children, a school in Rotterdam that specializes in teaching autistic children. I watched a young special education teacher named Brian working with his group of 12 little people in his "kindergarten readiness" class. The classroom was filled with tangible kindness and patience. At the same time, lessons were differentiated, many behaviors were seamlessly addressed, and the class flowed beautifully.

My visit reminded me how thankful I am to be part of a profession where we fact we MUST.. mix technical expertise with personal connections and relationships... I see it every day in the classrooms and workspaces of BHBL. I recently observed a high school math teacher who incorporated a rigorous lesson design and instructional technology with humor and caring questions for her students. The other day, I sat behind a bus driver who demonstrated technical skill and caution as she drove, yet told me stories about her riders that made it obvious how well she knew them and how much she cared. 

The examples go on and on... in the last two weeks alone, teachers continued professional development on incorporating Common Core Learning Standards, the Leadership team developed comprehensive instructional program reviews for the Board of Education, working teams were formed for Phase 1 of the Capital Project, our security team and the School Board worked on passing a resolution seeking improvements to the Lakehill Road high school crosswalk, and the IT Leadership team devoted significant time to discussing some exciting ideas related to classroom technology. Amidst all of the technical work, our staff and students participated in a huge community wide Thanksgiving food drive, a great Fall drama production, a robotics scrimmage, a highly successful athletic post-season, and a student-led Veteran's Day ceremony just to name a few things.  

Success in our line of work requires highly technical and precise work blended with heart, enthusiasm, and connection with our kids and with each other. That's a tall order. I am thankful to be able to work with and get to know individuals who fill that order everyday. Connecting with Kids. Connecting for Kids. 

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday with your family and friends. 


PS: A little advice on fixing your Thanksgiving Dinner from Heather Mosall's Kindergarteners. I wonder if you can tell which part of the district each student lives in... :)

Go to the store to get a turkey. The store gets it from a farm. Get a turkey that is as big as the chair. Put it in a big pot and get a squirter to squirt juice on it. Cook it for 50 minutes. Mommy needs to get it out because it is hot. Eat your turkey with rolls, stuffing and rice. -Jayden

Get a bag. Go to the woods. They hide up in trees somewhere. So get a big ladder and go up and get them as fast as you can. Turkeys are fast. Put the turkey in the bag. Put it in the car and buckle the bag up, so the turkey doesn’t go crazy. Bring it home and cook it and eat it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Of Snow Days and Musicals...

Charlton Road in Charlton
at 10 am on March 19

As a kid I remember waking up on winter nights and looking out the window at the streetlight to see if it was still snowing. I remember waking up to Don Weeks on my AM radio, hoping to hear “New Lebanon Central Schools- CLOSED”. As I celebrated the free day off, my “6th grade” self never gave a thought to the kind of intense deliberation that went into each decision to close or delay school. Now I know. :)

I apologize for the late “change in status” of these past two snow days. Believe me, the changes were not made lightly. They were both made from my van on the road, checking conditions, on the phone with (Transportation Supervisor) Rich Hewlett looking at the radar on my cell phone, and listening to weather reports. While both calls ended up being the right decision, it’s not the way it’s supposed to be done!  It leads to inconvenience, I know. I really apologize for that. For some parents it meant leaving work and going back to pick up kids from day care. Some of our teachers had already begun the commute to school.  This will not be the typical method of closing, I assure you.  Rich tells me that in his 10 years here at BH-BL, he cannot remember two back-to-back decisions that were so tough.

It all starts calmly enough… 4:30 text messages between myself and neighboring superintendents, phone calls to the bus garage… booting up the laptop to go to the school closing web page, trying make a call as close to 5:00 am as possible. Remember the dire predictions of the “Storm of the Century” earlier in the winter- the day that everyone closed and we didn’t have a flake on the ground? Well these last two storms were different. At 5:00 am it seemed like they were each about to turn into slushy spring nuisances… but they didn’t!

All day yesterday I asked myself: “why didn’t I just close at 5:00 and save everyone a lot of trouble?  As I thought about it, the answer was clear…as easy as it might be to just close school and hit “snooz” on the iPhone… I just don’t want to close school.  If at all possible, I want BH-BL to be open.

Why?  I know that kids everywhere have spoons under their pillows. I know how great a snow day feels.  I’m sure even a few high school students (and teachers?) wore their pajamas inside-out.  But we really don’t want it to happen! We don’t want to close school.  Not because a snow day isn’t enjoyable- of course it is. Not because we don’t technically have the snow days to use… we do.  We are so reluctant to close school because of the incredible things that happen when our buildings are open. We have so few days! So few days and so much happening… Every closing brings a list of lost opportunities, altered lesson plans, cancelled activities, and countless other great things… that just don’t happen.

I could list a hundred examples of the types of things I don’t want to disrupt with a snow day…. Our recent middle school and high school musicals are perfect illustrations. Last Friday, the snow day almost disrupted the Friday performance of  The Music Man, Junior. This outstanding troupe of actors and actresses put on a first rate production that exceeded anything I have ever seen from a middle school cast. Fortunately the March sun warmed up the roads and the kids played to a full house on Friday night.

With experiences like that in the middle school, it is no wonder that the level of talent we have at the high school is so strong and so deep.  I had the privilege of attending Curtains at the High School on Saturday evening. I had never seen this particular musical before. It was such a clever and complex production. The show actually began with the finale of a western-themed musical (within the musical) called “Robbin’ Hood!”  It was odd to watch a musical begin with a finale and odder yet to see the female star of the fictitious “show within a show” die on the stage…Murdered!  

TheBH-BL Cast of Curtains
The next scene revealed where the plot was headed. The director(Sam Andrew), producer(Kelsey Ward), song writing team (Kent Benwell & Gabby Rao) and financier of the show(Kris Van Nostrand) were pouring over the dismal critical reviews, lamenting the fact that “Robbin’ Hood” seemed to be a flop.  Enter Detective Frank Cioffi (Colin Foster) who announced that he was sequestering the entire cast in the theater and investigating a murder.  A killer was among them! 

In an extremely amusing twist, the detective harbored a lifelong desire to become a professional actor and he seemed as intent on fixing the failing musical as he was on solving the crime.  Of course, several more characters are murdered and several “scenes” are re-written before the detective identifies the killer, realizes his dreams,  and (spoiler alert) gets the girl (Marion Kinosian)!

The cast had the audience (which, by the way, included a very large percentage of high school students) laughing out loud throughout the performance. Each of the main characters pulled off their roles with such skill! Foster’s Boston accent and wide-eyed awe of the professional acting company was completely believable and drew us into the story.  Andrew’s British wit, Ward’s hard-nosed determination, Van Nostrand’s reckless resignation, Kinosian’s innocence and gullibility,  and Benwell and Rao’s emotional pain were played and sung out with passion and perfection. 

The depth of the BH-BL acting talent was further evidenced by the supporting performances of Vince Fulgari, Nicole Schumacher, Jesse Holland, Karl Salvatore, Nik Lombardi, Matt Rigby, Sam Lynch, and Alana Picozzi. The musical featured an ensemble of at least 25 other students as well as a stage crew of 16 that pulled off a series of amazing sets and special effects. Of course they could change the set, talk with the orchestra pit, and boss around the spotlight operator right in the middle of the scenes,  since the whole story took place on a stage!

All in all, Curtains was a complex, daring, and extremely entertaining choice for this year’s musical. The cast and crew, as well as Director Eric Shovah, Vocal Director Jean Foster, Technical Director Chris Lombardi, Orchestra Director Brian Tetlak, Producer Carol Hobday, and Advisors Stephanie Andrejcak and Mialisa Lindholm Herron should be extremely proud.

By the way… I like to think I had a tiny little role in the success of Curtains. The day after the “Storm of the Century”… yes… the first snow day… Director of Fine Arts, Mike Danis, asked me if I would open the High School Building to allow the professional orchestra to come in and practice together because time was short and they really needed to work. We figured out the details and made it happen. I am glad we were able to accommodate that. The orchestra- including several of our faculty members- was fantastic.

One more of a thousand reasons I don’t like to close school.